International News - Issue 282



Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone top Chelsea’s wish-list to replace Jose Mourinho

Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone are top of Roman Abramovich’s wish‑list to become Chelsea’s next permanent manager — if he decides to sack Jose Mourinho. The Chelsea coach is under huge pressure to keep his job following the 2-1 defeat to West Ham — Chelsea’s fifth loss in 10 Premier League games — and Abramovich is ready to act should the Blues lose at home to Liverpool on Saturday. Standard Sport revealed earlier this month that Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge will be cut short if the club begin to believe their place in the top four is at risk. Chelsea are already nine points behind Manchester United in fourth place and are on their worst-ever run in the Abramovich era. Guardiola and Simeone have been admired by Chelsea for some time and were considered for the post back in 2013 before Mourinho was eventually appointed. Guardiola opted to join Bayern Munich, while Simeone signed a contract extension at Atletico Madrid. Chelsea will not be able to get either now but, if Mourinho is axed, would consider an interim appointment before making an approach in the summer. Guardiola’s contract at Bayern runs out at the end of the season and is prepared to consider a switch to English football, although Manchester City are also expected to be in the running. Simeone has impressed at Atletico, where he won the League title last year and has kept them challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid despite working under a strict budget. Chelsea could also consider re-hiring Carlo Ancelotti, who admitted two weeks ago that he is ready to return to the Premier League after being sacked by Real in May. The club have tried to give Mourinho time to turn things around and issued a rare vote of confidence after the 3-1 defeat to Southampton three weeks ago. But they warned the 52-year-old that results had to improve and they have secured just one win since then — against bottom club Aston Villa. Ancelotti and Guus Hiddink, who had a three-month reign at Chelsea in 2009 following the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari, would be among the favourites to be offered a caretaker role until the end of the campaign. Even if Mourinho gets three points against Liverpool, he needs a consistent run of form to turn the season around and ensure he keeps his position. His situation has not been helped by more disciplinary problems having been sent off against West Ham on Saturday. The FA will study the match report of referee Jonathan Moss before deciding how to act. However, another fine is expected having penalised him £50,000 just a fortnight ago for saying match officials were afraid to give Chelsea penalties. Chelsea will definitely be punished for a failure to control their players after seven yellow cards were issued, including two for midfielder Nemanja Matic, who was sent off in the first half. They may also be targeted by the Premier League after failing to send anyone to conduct a post-match press conference at Upton Park.

Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney has heaped praise on French youngster Anthony Martial, believing he will be an important player for the Red Devils this season. The 19-year-old has made an immediate impact since joining from Ligue 1 side Monaco, netting three league goals in his first six matches as he won the September Premier League Player of the Month award. "I think he has been incredible, how he has come over to Manchester and started the way he has," Rooney told United Review. "Let's not forget he is still a very young lad as well. To come over with his young family and start the way he has, he deserves a lot of credit.” The England international feels his teammate will be key in United winning silverware come the end of the season. "You can see what a good player he is and he'll be an important player for us from now until the end of the season,” he said. “He is probably the quickest player in our team, if not the quickest in the league." Rooney also reserved special praise for defender Chris Smalling, who has been a mainstay at the back for United this campaign. "He has been incredible," Rooney said. "He is in the top three centre-halves in the world - I think he is that good! "He is a great player and he is developing to become more of a leader of the back four. It is great to see for both United and England, and hopefully that can continue for him and he can help us to be successful."

Chelsea striker Diego Costa feels he has been unfairly criticised for his style of play in recent months, and believes he is the new “bad boy” of the English Premier League. The Spanish striker was banned for three matches following his altercation with Arsenal defender Gabriel in his side’s 2-0 win over the Gunners in September, leading to widespread criticism over his physical approach. Costa admits that his behaviour was wrong, yet feels he is often unjustly targeted, and insists football is a physical game. "The critics have to carry on what they do but they should always be truthful," he told the Evening Standard. "If I do something wrong, I am the first one to accept the criticism, I have no problem with that. "For example, my behaviour in the game against Arsenal [where he earned his ban for raising his hands towards Koscielny] was not the best. I know that, but it was not just me. There was someone else involved. "Many, many times I get kicked, I get elbowed - that’s part of football. It happens on the pitch but I never complain. Football is a contact sport and people have to understand they can’t change it into theatre. "Football has always been a contact sport, these things have always happened. But we are professionals and what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch. So after the game it’s all good. "But if I keep getting banned for three games, it’s going to be hard to maintain my level." The 27-year-old believes he has now taken over the mantle left by former EPL villain Luis Suarez as the League’s “bad boy”. "I think Luis Suarez left this country because of how he was treated and made out to be the bad guy," he said. "Do I feel like I have taken his place? That is crystal clear. It is obvious that there are people after me. If you do something wrong and it makes the papers, then okay, that's fair. "But when people are after you all of the time, when you’re always the headline that’s not fair. I hope they're not after me. I hope it’s not the case. I hope it’s something that’s just in my head."

Spanish police are investigating claims from a La Liga official that he is being put under pressure to blow in favour of Real Madrid in their upcoming game against Barcelona. The first Clasico of the Spanish season is on November 21, and an assistant referee who wishes to remain anonymous has taken his case to sports lawyer Jacinto Vicente Hernandez. Spanish radio station Cadena COPE leaked the six-page document the lawyer submitted to the police that asks the official to make favourable calls for Real Madrid. Vicente says he advised the official to go to the police after he contacted him for advice on how best to expose the alleged corruption. It is reported that a member of the League’s Referee’s Committee is putting the pressure on the official. The match officials for El Clasico are not publicly revealed until a week before the fixture. “Someone let me know about a referee that had a problem and wanted to talk with me,” Vicente told Spanish newspaper SPORT. “You can work out he’s not from Barcelona [as he wouldn’t be allowed to officiate the Clasico if he was], but I was in the city for professional reasons and we arranged to meet there. “He explained everything that had happened and said he wanted to go public about the pressure being put on him because it’s the only way to clean up Spanish football.”

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his side’s recent results have proven that they can win the League title. The Gunners are coming off wins against Manchester United and Bayern Munich, and will go top of the standings should they beat Everton at home today. Wenger is not getting carried away, but says he is impressed by his team’s fight so far this season. “What is the most important for me is to continue to develop as a team, to feel that we grow in the quality of our game,” he says. “We have maybe a better discipline. People reproached us many times, 'Okay, Arsenal play football but they are a bit fragile'. Before, maybe, when we were not dominating completely the game, we were a bit insecure.” He adds: “We are more mature, for sure. Two years ago we were top of the league for a long time. After we lost one or two players, and we lost one or two big games, that was the killer for us. “I feel today we are better prepared. We know, as well, the competition will be long. We have played nine games, there is a long way to go.”

Out-of-form striker Radamel Falcao is in the sights of Italian club Fiorentina, according to reports from the Mirror. The Colombian moved to Chelsea on loan this summer after a shockingly ineffective season with Manchester United in 2014-15, and he hasn't fared much better since the switch. With opportunities at Stamford Bridge drying up, the 29-year-old former Atletico Madrid and Porto man is in search of finding first-team football somewhere. Up step Fiorentina. The paper says Blues boss Jose Mourinho, who wants to strengthen his strike force, would be willing to let Falcao go on a loan to the south in January. However, Falcao's parent club Monaco would have to sign off.

Lionel Messi says he doesn’t play football to compete with Cristiano Ronaldo, but rather to help Barcelona and Argentina win matches. The duo have been the standout players in the world for some time now, and have won the last seven Ballon d’Or awards between them. Naturally, both have again been nominated for this year’s award, but Messi says it’s not about personal bragging rights. “These are things that people say [but] I don’t compete with Cristiano and I suppose he would not compete with me," Messi told Yahoo. “What I want is the very best for my teams and that’s what I am working for.”

Jurgen Klopp insists he is not a miracle-worker and feels all associated with the club should keep calm as he goes in search of his first win as Liverpool coach. The Reds drew their third game in a row with Klopp at the helm following last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton, with the German manager insisting “football is not a fairytale” after his much-publicised appointment. "Football is not a fairytale,” he told the BBC. “Sometimes we write stories like this but it doesn't happen. You see these guys can play football, are technically strong and physically strong but you saw how big the disappointment after Southampton was. "It's only a goal, only a game of football! It's like it's the last thing in your life and we have to calm this down. We can change a lot of things if it's necessary but not all things will work from the start. If you are on something you are not 100 percent better the next day.” The former Borussia Dortmund manager feels he should not be judged on his immediate results, but on what he can achieve over time. "It's not what you can change in a short time but what we can change and take into the next game,” he said. “It's our situation so no problem. We can play Wednesday and that's our next chance."

Aston Villa have sacked manager Tim Sherwood following the Premier League side's poor start to the season. Villa have recorded eight losses - including last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Swansea - and one draw since an opening day victory over Bournemouth. Sherwood's exit sees Kevin MacDonald, who has been coaching the under-21s, take charge of the first team in a caretaker capacity. A club statement said: "Aston Villa Football Club has parted company with manager Tim Sherwood today. "The Board has monitored the performances closely all season and believes the results on the pitch were simply not good enough and that a change is imperative. "However, the Club would like to place on record its sincere thanks to Tim for all his efforts during a difficult period last season and for the many positive contributions he has made to the entire football setup during his time with the Club. We wish him well in the future. "Assistant manager Ray Wilkins, first-team coach Mark Robson and performance analyst Seamus Brady have also left with immediate effect and do so with our best wishes. "A search for a new manager has commenced and the squad will be managed in the interim by Kevin MacDonald." Sherwood succeeded Paul Lambert in February and guided Villa to safety last season, as well as to the FA Cup Final, where they lost 4-0 to Arsenal.  

Arsenal have been fined £60,000 and warned over their future conduct after breaching the FA's football agent regulations. The FA charge relates to the transfer of Calum Chambers from Southampton to Arsenal on July 26th 2014. Chambers joined Arsenal on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee - thought to be around £16m. The England international has since made 39 appearances for Arsene Wenger's side. Arsenal admitted part of the breach but were cleared of any wrongdoing on a separate part, which was found not proven following an Independent Regulatory Commission. Chambers' agent, Alan Middleton, has also been fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct in relation to the same matter. The FA said in a statement that authorised agent Middleton and unlicensed agent Philip Ercolano were both involved in the deal. "Alan Middleton has also been warned as to his future conduct and sanctioned for breaching the FA's football agent regulations in relation to the same matter," the FA said. In a statement Arsenal said: "We acted in good faith throughout in this transfer and had no reason to believe that the player's representative was not authorised to be involved in the transfer negotiations. "The FA fully recognised that there was no intention to mislead on Arsenal's part. We have improved our procedures to prevent this happening again." Middleton said in a statement: "I am pleased that the FA commission found that the only case to answer was a minor procedural error which was a genuine oversight by ourselves and Arsenal Football Club. "As a company we take our responsibilities extremely seriously and it was pleasing to see that the commission acknowledged that at all times we acted in the best interests of the player and cooperated fully with the commission's investigation. "Lessons have been learned and we have implemented measures going forward that would ensure such an error could not happen again."

Phil Jagielka's knee injury is not as bad as first feared, but the Everton defender is still set to miss two months, according to manager Roberto Martinez. The Toffees' captain was substituted during the second half of last Saturday’s defeat at Arsenal after a challenge from England team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Martinez called the injury "very concerning" in the aftermath of the game, but scans have revealed only medial ligament damage. "We feared the worst with Jags [Jagielka] at first," said Martinez, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday's league Cup tie with Norwich. "His medial ligament is affected, but there is no other damage. It's hard to say how long. I wouldn't expect [him to be out for] any longer than 8-9 weeks." Martinez was unhappy with Oxlade-Chamberlain's role in his skipper's injury, and said at the weekend: "To lose Phil Jagielka in such a stupid challenge is disappointing, because the referee has already awarded the free-kick. "It was an unnecessary challenge. Needless. Oxlade-Chamberlain puts his foot up when the referee has already given the free-kick. "It's an unfortunate action. It's not malicious or with any intent. If you have a player who lunges his body to try and stop a ball going over the goal-line and that ends up with an injury, then you take it. But this is frustrating."

Jose Mourinho is facing a touchline ban of up to five matches after he was charged with improper conduct following his half-time dismissal at Upton Park last Saturday. The announcement piles further pressure on the Chelsea boss who has suffered a terrible start and is fighting to save his job. The Chelsea board are understood to be unhappy with the lack of discipline shown by the defending champions who will receive an automatic £25,000 for receiving seven yellow cards against West Ham. The FA today took action against the Chelsea boss after receiving the referee's report from Jonathan Moss. Chelsea coach Silvino Louro has also been charged with misconduct after he was also sent to the stands for entering the field of play to protest Nemanja Matic' s dismissal. Both clubs have been charged with failing to control their players around the time of the Serb's dismissal just before half-time: the West Ham players for pressuring Moss into showing a second yellow and Chelsea players for protesting the red card. Mourinho is in most trouble after he was accused of refusing to leave the referee's room when requested and/or used abusive or insulting language towards the officials. There is no standard punishment for the offence and Mourinho, who has until Thursday to reply to the charge, could be fined if found guilty. There is no suggestion Mourinho touched Moss but the FA could be ready to hand out a heavy punishment given the Chelsea manager's poor recent disciplinary record. But in 2013, the then Blackpool manager Paul Ince was given a five-match stadium ban for ’violently shoving’ a fourth official in an expletive-laden rant, after a match, and last year Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies received a five-game touchline ban and was fined £9,000 for abusing referee Anthony Taylor and deliberately making contact with the official.