International News - Issue 281

FIFA have announced the nominees for the Ballon d’Or and the World Coach of the Year awards. 

The awards recognise the best in each category for their respective achievements between 22 November 2014 and 20 November 2015 inclusive. The final decisions will be made by the captains and head coaches of the men’s national teams as well as by international media representatives selected by France Football.  The winners of all of the awards will be announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or as part of a televised show at the Zurich Kongresshaus on 11 January 2016. The list of 23 male candidates has been drawn up by football experts from the FIFA Football Committee and a group of experts from France Football. The list of ten coaches has been drawn up by the Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup and by the FIFA Football Committee, as well as by a group of experts from France Football. The voting period for the awards commences on 26 October 2015 and closes on 20 November 2015 (midnight CET). In the event that insufficient votes (less than two-thirds of all potential jury members) are cast during the voting period, FIFA and France Football may, at their discretion, extend the voting period by one week to allow only those participating jury members who have not yet cast their vote by 20 November 2015 (midnight CET) to do so. On 30 November, FIFA and France Football will announce in a web show the names of the three women and three men, as well as the three coaches for women’s football and three coaches for men’s football, who have received the most votes (without announcing the winners). The three nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award (honouring the most beautiful goal of the year) will be also unveiled.

Men’s Football shortlists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015

The following 23 players (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015: 
Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City), Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/VfL Wolfsburg/Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Belgium/Chelsea), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain/FC Barcelona), Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich), Javier Mascherano (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Thomas Müller (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona), Paul Pogba (France/Juventus), Ivan Rakitić (Croatia/FC Barcelona), Arjen Robben (Netherlands/FC Bayern Munich), James Rodríguez (Colombia/Real Madrid), Alexis Sánchez (Chile/Arsenal), Luis Suárez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona), Yaya Touré (Côte d'Ivoire/Manchester City), Arturo Vidal (Chile/Juventus/FC Bayern Munich). 

The following ten coaches (in alphabetical order) are in contention for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football 2015:
Massimiliano Allegri (Italy/Juventus), Carlo Ancelotti (Italy/Real Madrid), Laurent Blanc (France/Paris Saint-Germain), Unai Emery (Spain/Sevilla FC), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Bayern Munich), Luis Enrique Martínez (Spain/FC Barcelona), José Mourinho (Portugal/Chelsea), Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina/Chilean national team), Diego Simeone (Argentina/Atlético Madrid), Arsène Wenger (France/Arsenal). 

Former France international Djibril Cisse has announced his retirement from football. The 34-year-old, who turned out for 12 clubs across various countries throughout his career, says his body could no longer cope with the demands of the game as he decided to hang up his boots. "The body says stop, now it's over," he told Canal+. "I can't practice high-level football." Cisse, who has been without a professional club since leaving Ligue 1 side Bastia at the end of last season, has played for a number of top-flight teams including Liverpool, Marseille and Lazio, yet was most prolific with Greek outfit Panathanaikos, where he scored 55 goals in 89 matches. The Frenchman was part of Liverpool’s Champions League winning squad in 2005, while also earning an FA Cup winners’ medal with the Reds, as he won 41 caps for his country, scoring nine goals.

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is impressed at how quickly manager Jurgen Klopp has stamped his authority at the club. Klopp oversaw a goalless draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane last Saturday in his first outing as Reds boss. The German succeeded Brendan Rodgers at Anfield nearly two weeks ago, having previously won two Bundesliga titles and guided Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final. "I liked what I saw. Very rarely do you see a manager stamp his authority on a team from day one, but that's what he did," Carragher told Sky Sports. "Over the week since he's had the job, we've been reading about what he is like as a manager – pressing, how much distance they are going to cover. "Transition pressing was a massive thing for Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and it looks like it's going to be a really big thing for this Liverpool team. "These are things you don't see from every team and that is what impressed me in the past from Klopp and we're seeing it from day one." The retired Carragher spent his entire career at Anfield, making 737 appearances for the Merseysiders. 

David Moyes made it clear he has no plans to step down as Real Sociedad coach following the club's 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid last weekend. Moyes, who has been linked with a return to the Premier League at struggling Aston Villa, led Sociedad to a mid-table finish last season. However, Moyes was jeered at Anoeta on the weekend as his team sustained their fourth defeat in eight La Liga matches. "During the pre-season I had contact with clubs, which is normal, because they know my statistics, but my intention is to stay here at La Real," Moyes told AS. "I'm not thinking about anything else. You saw the hard work and determination the players put in, how they fought. "I'm very happy with that and I want to stay, there are no doubts in my mind," added the former Manchester United and Everton manager. La Real are hovering above the drop zone courtesy of goal difference.

Chelsea striker Pedro admits he is finding it tough to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League. The Spaniard netted on his Blues debut against West Brom and scored in the League Cup last month. However, the 28-year-old has largely struggled in west London since his arrival from Barcelona in August. "It's hard. It's very different to what I'm used to [at Barcelona]," Pedro said in the Daily Mirror. "But, little by little, I'm integrating more, adapting with my team-mates and the team and that's the most important thing. "Everything is different, very different to the football I'm used to. I think there are a lot of differences, very physical football, very strong. A lot of players attack and it's always complicated. All the games are competitive and very balanced." Pedro previously played all of his club football for Barca.

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Jose Mourinho admits that Diego Costa started this season out of shape and blames some of that on the food in Brazil. The Brazilian-born Spanish striker has been a shadow of the player who terrorised defences last season, with many blaming a few extra kilos for his struggles. Costa returns today after a three-match game following his antics against Arsenal, and Mourinho is hoping it could prove the turning point for both the player and the team. “He's an honest guy, and a guy that says that is not, for sure, the leader of any ‘mutiny’. He’s the kind of guy who assumes his own responsibility,” Mourinho says. “His weight was a consequence of a bad approach, but also of a difficult last third of the season: suspension, injury, re-injury, not playing, disappointment, not participating in the best period of the season, when you become champions, go on holiday, go to Brazil. The food is much better than here. For a Brazilian, the food in Brazil is divine. “He stayed there at home and came back in bad condition. He could have used many excuses for our bad moment, but he chose himself and his condition as one of the factors. So respect.”

Radamel Falcao is frustrated at his lack of playing time at Chelsea, and is set to leave the club in January - mid-way through his season-long loan move - according to reports. The Mirror have reported that the Colombian striker, on loan from Monaco, is concerned about his lack of playing time and there have been enquiries made to his advisers about his availability. The 29-year-old Falcao has started just one Premier League game for Chelsea, and his spell at Stamford Bridge looks like ended in the same uneventful fashion his loan at Manchester United ended last season. Falcao scored four goals in a 29 appearances for United in all competitions last term. Shortly before completing his move to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had said that he hoped to help Falcao rediscover his killer form. "If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it," Mourinho said in June. "It hurts me that people in England think that the real Falcao is the one we saw at Manchester United."

Emmanuel Emenike has announced his retirement from international football. The 28-year-old striker, the top scorer at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, took to Instagram to announce the decision, and becomes the second Nigeria international in a week to quit after goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. The decision comes a few hours after talk started doing the rounds that he would be dropped by new coach Sunday Oliseh for the World Cup qualifier against Swaziland. “For everybody that thinks I am the problem of Super Eagles, I am using this opportunity to give you a breaking and interesting news that I am no longer a Super Eagles player,” Emenike wrote. “It has always being my pleasure to play and win for the team. I am always proud of my successful years in the team and I am pleased to call it off at this point in order to avoid insults.” 

Spain legend Raul has announced that he will call time on his illustrious career at the end of the season. The 38-year-old is currently playing in MLS with New York Cosmos, and says it’s time to hang up his boots after a career that started 21 years ago at Real Madrid. Raul, who also played for German side FC Schalke, won a number of title with the Spanish giants, including three UEFA Champions League and six La Liga titles. He held the record for goals scored for both Real and Spain until those were surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo and David Villa respectively. “My decision is to retire from playing at the end of this season [in November],” Raul said. “I am fully focused on finishing the season strong and helping the New York Cosmos win the NASL Championship. In the coming months I will decide the next step in my career. “Playing soccer has been part of my life for so long and the decision to retire is not an easy one but I believe it is the right time. “I'm thankful to everyone who has supported me throughout my career and I look forward to playing my final games with the New York Cosmos over the coming weeks.” 

Rafael Benitez has again rubbished reports of a fallout between Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, saying the Real Madrid dressing-room “is much better than people think”. Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, this week described the world’s most expensive two players as ‘complete opposites’, while various media outlets claim the duo hardly talk. But Benitez insists that is not the case, telling Ondo Cero: “There is no problem between Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The both of them are very good players and both want to win. “The Real Madrid dressing-room is much better than people think.”

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has challenged his side to prove their title credentials by beating pace-setting neighbours Manchester City. The rivals will meet at Old Trafford on October 25, with City two points ahead of United and Arsenal after nine games. "I am very happy with the response of my players and I am very proud of the performance," Van Gaal said after the Red Devils bounced back from a 3-0 defeat to the Gunners by beating Everton by the same scorline last Saturday. "I think it was an excellent performance and maybe it is the start of many, many victories. "We have to be more consistent, so next week when we win against Manchester City then we can say, 'OK, now we think maybe about title aspirations'." The Dutchman added: "I am a very happy coach. "I am very proud of the players, it's a fantastic performance. "I think after the defeat to Arsenal we needed that also so therefore it's very important that we won."

Anthony Martial and Mauricio Pochettino have been named the Premier League's player and manager of the month for September. Manchester United attacker Martial netted three goals in his first four games for his new club, while Pochettino guided Spurs to three wins last month, including a 4-1 victory at home to Manchester City. Martial, 19, was under heavy pressure to perform, having cost United an initial £36 million from Monaco on transfer deadline day. "It's a collective honour because we must recognise first our players, all coaching staff and the fans,” said Pochettino. "It's good not just for me but for the whole club. It's very important. Okay it's 'manager of the month' but we need to recognise all people involved in the team. The whole club deserve this award. "It was a fantastic month for us that started at Sunderland, which was a big win, and afterwards Palace and Manchester City. The Sunderland win very important because, after many draws, the team played well but we needed to win, and it confirmed our way. "Also, Palace were a team who played very well since the start of the season. It's true that the headlines will be the win against Manchester City. After you beat them, it was exciting for all, but every victory was very important."

Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata says he is happy to be considered a "luxury player" if that means he provides goals and assists. Mata was voted Chelsea Player of the Year in successive seasons at Stamford Bridge but fell out of favour when Jose Mourinho returned to the club in June 2013. Mourinho suggested Mata's work-ethic in defence was lagging and sold the Spaniard to United in January last year. Mata, however, feels he has reasserted his worth at Old Trafford. "If a luxury player is a player who scores and assists and has good stats – then I’m happy to be a luxury player," Mata told The Times. “I’ve scored as many goals for Manchester United in the Premier League as for Chelsea, but in something like 30 games less. "In terms of scoring and assisting, I'm quite happy with the stats, and stats don't lie. They are facts. "I want luxury players in my team. I like creative players and players who do different things. It’s easy to say certain players are luxuries, especially when you’ve lost a game. "When you lose a certain kind of player – the creative players – always get the blame." The 27-year-old went on to laud the "straight-forward" managerial style of Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal. “I really value his honesty,” he continued. “When someone does something in training that he really likes, he goes over to hug and kiss them — he really does it. “Or he will say in front of everyone, ‘You are the best in training, I'm really proud of how you played,’ to set a a good example to others. “Van Gaal is how you see him in the press conferences, he's like that with us too. "He's honest and straight-forward. He believes in his style of training and way of preparing for games. He's won trophies everywhere he's been and hopefully this season now we know him better we'll win something too.”

Goal-machine Cristiano Ronaldo broke Real Madrid’s all-time scoring record after netting his 324th goal for the club in a 3-0 win over Levante. Left-back Marcelo opened the scoring in the 27th minute and Ronaldo got his record-breaking strike just three minutes later, latching onto Toni Kroos’ pass before firing into the back of the net. Jese Rodriguez added another late on. Ronaldo’s 324 goals have come in just 310 matches for Real Madrid. His career tally for club and country stands at 502 goals in 756 games. The Portuguese has 231 goals in 208 La Liga games and is chasing down Lionel Messi’s record of 289 La Liga goals in 320 games.