International News - Issue 287

Three Fifa Ballon d’Or Contenders Revealed

Fifa on Monday announced the three finalists in line for the 2015 Fifa Ballon d’Or award, with no surprise as to the three nominees up for the award. Winners of the last seven Ballon d’Or trophies Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo make the top three once more, alongside Messi’s Barcelona teammate Neymar, who has enjoyed a fine scoring year for both the Brazil national team and the Blaugrana. All three have banged in the goals over the 2015 calendar year, with Ronaldo – winner of the Ballon d’Or over the past two years - receiving the European golden boot award for most goals scored at club level in Europe, while Messi and Neymar formed a formidable force as Barca won the 2014/15 treble with their Spanish club. A number of players will feel aggrieved to have missed out on the award, including Messi and Neymar’s striker partner Luis Suarez, PSG’s record goal-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as last year’s third-place finisher Manuel Neuer. Neuer’s club coach Pep Guardiola is in line to win the Coach of the Year accolade alongside Barca’s Luis Enrique and Copa America-winning manager Jorge Sampaoli. Along with his Ballon d’Or nomination, Messi is in line for the Goal of the Year award for his mazy run and finish against Atletico Madrid, as he competes against Brazil’s Wendell Lira and Italy’s Alessandro Florenzi, who scored a spectacular long-range strike against Messi’s Barca in the Uefa Champions League. In the running for the Women’s Footballer of the Year is World Cup winner Carli Loyd of the USA, Aya Miyama (Japan) and Germany’s Celia Sasic. Jill Ellis (USA National team), Mark Sampson (England National team) and Norio Sasaki (Japan National team) are in the running for Women’s Football Coach of the Year.

All nominees: 

Ballon d’Or nominees

Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Lionel Messi – Argentina
Neymar - Brazil

Women’s Player of the Year nominees

Carli Loyd – USA
Aya Miyama – Japan
Celia Sasic – Germany 

Puskas Goal of the Year nominees

Alessandro Florenzi – Italy
Wendell Lira - Brazil
Lionel Messi – Argentina

Men’s Football Coach of the Year nominees

Pep Guardiola – Bayern Munich
Luis Enrique – Barcelona
Jorge Sampaoli – Chile national team

Women’s Football Coach of the Year Nominees

Jill Ellis – USA National team
Mark Sampson – England National team
Norio Sasaki – Japan National team

Spanish giants Barcelona may be proud of their two Ballon d’Or nominees, yet are now €2 million poorer because of it. Four-time winner Lionel Messi and nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo once again made the top three list, alongside Brazilian superstar Neymar who makes the cut for the first time in his career. The Selecao forward has scored 70 goals in 109 appearances in just over two seasons in Spain since joining from Brazilian club Santos, who will now cash in on their former player’s impressive form. When signing his contract with Barca in 2013, a clause included in the €57.1m transfer stated that the Spanish club would be required to pay a further €2m if the forward ever secured a place in the Ballon d'Or top three, which he now has. Neymar’s future at Camp Nou has recently been under the spotlight following an ongoing tax evasion allegation involving Neymar and his father, yet the player himself insists he wishes to stay on past the end of his current deal, which ends in 2018. "I've still got years on my contract," he said. "My father has already spoken about my future. We're talking about a renewal because my intention is to do so."

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben is desperate for coach Pep Guardiola to remain in Germany. Guardiola, recently nominated as a contender for 2015 Coach of the Year for leading the Bavarians in Bundesliga domination this year, has been tipped to take over the reins at English big-spenders Manchester City next season, yet his Dutch speedster hopes he won’t leave. “We have one of the best coaches in the world and as many of our players have already said, we all want him to stay,” Robben said. “It is a lot of fun working with him. Tactically he is perhaps the best - and I don't say that just because he’s our coach at the moment. “He is also a perfect human fit with Bayern.” The 32-year-old Netherlands international has himself been rumoured to have wanted to leave Bayern in the past, yet insists he is happy at the Allianz Arena. “I never thought about a transfer [away from Bayern],” he said. “I am happy in Munich; my family is happy in Munich. “My contract runs until 2017. You can't look too far forward in football, but everything is fine at the moment - I hope things continue this way.” Bayern, who have yet to lose in 14 Bundesliga outings this season, take on fourth-placed Borussia M’Gladbach in their next fixture on Saturday.

Current Chelsea Player of the Season Eden Hazard says he is not concerned by his lack of goals, and is confident he will return to his best soon. The Belgian, who has yet to score this season, was used in a different central role against Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday as his side played out a 0-0 draw, and claims he does not mind where he plays as he looks to get back to last year’s form soon. "Me, I just want to play," he told L'Equipe. "It doesn't really matter if it's on the left or through the middle. I try to give it my all. "The debate is down to my productivity this season, which is not as good... well really nowhere near as good as last season. "[Against Tottenham] I played No. 9. I gave everything. Confidence will come back, the goals will come back and, after that, there will no longer be a debate about my position." Chelsea currently lie 14th in the EPL standings after a poor start to the season, yet Hazard has dismissed talk of a rift opening between the players and manger Jose Mourinho, insisting everyone is unhappy following their inconsistent start to the campaign. "When results don't follow, you always try to nit pick," he said. "He's not happy and that's normal when we're not winning. "Us, the players, are not happy either. But there are no problems between us." Chelsea will back themselves for maximum points as they come up against bottom-placed Bournemouth on Saturday.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata feels his side’s six games next month will all be “finals” as the Red Devils look to build momentum heading into 2016. United drew their top-of-the-table clash with Leicester City 1-1 last weekend to end the month of November unbeaten in all competitions with three wins and two draws, yet despite still in the running in their Premier league title chase, United have a must-win encounter against Wolfsburg in the Champions League following their draw with PSV. "November was an important month in our calendar and it leaves a bittersweet taste: in the last 30 days we haven't been defeated, but the last two draws haven't been good for us," Mata wrote in his latest blog. "Especially the one on Wednesday against PSV, because we knew it was a game that we had to win. "Winning in Wolfsburg is almost the only valid result for us if we want to get through. It's not an easy task but we are confident that we can make it to the next stage. The Champions League is a very important competition for us and we want to remain in it.” The Spaniard knows his side head into a crucial period in December, starting with Saturday’s EPL encounter against an unpredictable West Ham outfit. "That game in Germany will be one of the six 'finals' we are facing in a busy December,” he continued. “The next game – therefore the most important one right now – is on Saturday against West Ham. They have had a good start this season and have won more games away than at home. However, as I said, we don't like draws and we want to go back to the victories." Mata then praised record goal-scorer Jamie Vardy, who netted his 11th consecutive goal in Saturday’s draw with the Red Devils. "Congratulations to Jamie Vardy for breaking the record of such a great player as Ruud van Nistelrooy,” he said. “Scoring in 11 consecutive games deserves a lot of credit. Sadly his goal made us drop two points, otherwise we would be leading the table now. "There's still a long way to go, but if we want to fight for the Premier League title we have to win these kind of games..."

Everton manager Roberto Martinez feels in-form striker Romelu Lukaku is “perfect” for the Merseyside club as he continues his impressive scoring form. The Belgian forward was on target as The Toffees drew 3-3 with Bournemouth last weekend, scoring his tenth goal of the season to help his side maintain their top ten spot in the Premier League standings. And his manger was quick to sing his praises, believing he is the ideal man to lead the line for Everton this season. "I think it has always been the case that Rom, with the potential he has, is perfect for us. He is a striker who can do it all," Martinez said. "He has the old-fashioned traits - he can have his back to play, the strength, the power. But he can also run with the ball and is a clinical finisher. You can see from his scoring record what he is. That is why we made a huge investment in him." Lukaku is second in the EPL’s goal-scoring charts, four behind red-hot Jamie Vardy, but at just 22 years of age, Martinez feels there is still a lot more to come. "With Rom what you get is a reliable footballer who always presents an incredible threat,” he said. "But he is still only 22 so he cannot really be compared to anyone. There are not many players who at his age have achieved what he has achieved." Everton take on Crystal Palace in their next League fixture next Monday.

Russia has announced that domestic clubs will no longer be able to sign Turkish players as tensions between to the two countries continue. A Russian warplane was recently shot down by Turkish forces near the Syrian border, resulting in heightened political strain between the two nations which has now spilled over onto the soccer field. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has announced that Russian clubs will be banned from signing any Turkish players in the upcoming January transfer window. "If anyone wants [to sign a Turkish player] during the break, there will not be such a possibility," he told R-Sport news agency. He did however reassure Turkish players currently playing their trade in Russia, such as Rubin Kazan's Gokdeniz Karadeniz (pictured), will not be affected. "Everyone who has an existing contract will carry on working," Mutko said. "They won't be here in the future but at the moment they have contracts and these will not be looked into." Mutko added that Turkish companies that are helping build Stadia for the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be allowed to continue, while also advising Russian football clubs to cancel any winter training camps scheduled to take place in Turkey.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says injuries might force him to dip into the transfer market during the January window. The Gunners have been ravaged by injuries again, with up to five first-team players on the sidelines, including the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Wenger has been a reluctant buyer in recent years, leading to heavy criticism from some of the club’s fans, but that could change if fringe players like Joel Campbell and Mathieu Flamini don’t come to the party. “People like Campbell and Flamini now have a good chance to show what they can do” Wenger says. “Campbell is a good example because he has shown, since he came in the team against Swansea, that he can contribute. He also did well on Tuesday night against Dinamo Zagreb … he has shown he has quality. “But the only danger we have is the combination of the injuries of Arteta and Coquelin, so it will all hang on Flamini and Calum Chambers, who can play there as well. “But I still have enough quality and players, if I did not manage to add to the squad in January, to deal with it.” Wenger also revealed that Alexis Sanchez is downplaying the effects of his hamstring injury in order to return to action as soon as possible. The Chilean limped off during the second half of Arsenal’s draw with Norwich last Sunday after pulling up during one of the Gunners’ attacks. Wenger admitted earlier this week that it was a risk to play the 26-year-old and the fear came true when the former Barcelona man was forced off. However, Wenger’s revealed that he is in a disagreement with Sanchez over the severity of the injury and that the forward is willing to play on. ‘Sanchez thinks it is [just] a kick,’ revealed Wenger. ‘[But] I think it is muscular. If it is, then it’s 2-3 weeks.’

The English Premier League’s top-of-the-table clash between Leicester City and Manchester United ended in a 1-1 draw, yet there is only one man making the headlines after that encounter: striker Jamie Vardy. The Englishman rewrote the history books, opening the Foxes account in the 26th minute to score in eleven games in succession, surpassing United’s very own Ruud van Nistelrooy’s ten-game scoring record. Vardy now needs one more goal to emulate Irishman Jimmy Dunne, who scored in 12 consecutive matches for Sheffield United in the 1930s. 

Nuno Espirito Santo has resigned as Valencia manager following the side's 1-0 defeat by Sevilla in La Liga. Valencia currently sit ninth in La Liga with five wins from their five games, and are five points off the top four. Nuno led Valencia back into the Champions League with a fourth-place finish last season and they currently sit third in Group H, a point behind Gent, going into the final game. Phil Neville is currently an assistant coach at Valencia. Nuno said: "We are all in agreement that the current situation is not good, and that we must all do what is best for the club; this has always been my intention. "I want to thank all the players who I have managed at the club for their work. I also want to thank [club owner] Peter Lim, who is - and will continue to be - a friend of mine, and the fans of Valencia CF. "I ask that the fans continue to support the youngest squad in La Liga.