International News - Issue 290

Defiant Sepp Blatter To Appeal Eight-Year Ban

Banned Fifa president Sepp Blatter remains in defiant mood, and has revealed he will immediately appeal the eight-year sentence handed to him by Fifa’s ethics committee. Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini have both been banned from football for eight years by the organisation's ethics committee for a controversial payment made in 2011, and will not be able to get involved in any football-related activity until 2023. Yet Blatter, speaking at a press conference after the announcement of his ban, has continued to plead his innocence. "I am still the president", he said. "We have put in this ethics committee to work on the ethical behaviour. "But if they deny an evidence and they try to build up something that is not true because there is a principle. They have to prove it. But something what is not true cannot be proven and if it cannot be proven, cannot be guilty." "I am not ashamed. I regret but I am not ashamed. "I am ashamed about the committee's decision - and that they don't go to the evidence. I tell you they have no right to go against the president. The president of FIFA can only be relieved of his activities by the FIFA congress. "At the next congress, the 27 February, before the election of the new president, even suspended I am president and the president must be first relieved of his duties. "I am a man of principles. I repeat: Never take money you have not earned, pay your debts. Now they are telling me that I tried to buy through Michel Platini, votes for the 2011 elections. No." Blatter says he will take the legal route in appealing his ban, before revaling how he feels like Fifa’s “punching ball”. “The decision has put a new tsunami inside FIFA,” he said. “It has created a lot of damages outside FIFA. My family and friends have been mocked. “We were suspended initially for lifetime - now only eight years. Something is wrong there. “We go immediately once again to the appeal committee, we go to Court of Arbitration to Sport, we go to Swiss (court)“. “I am really sorry. I am sorry that I am still a punching ball. I am sorry I am still a punching ball for FIFA. I am sorry for football. I am sorry for the 400 plus FIFA team members working in FIFA. I am sorry for me, the way I am treated in this vote, the humanity qualities.”

Lionel Messi says he was pleased to continue making history with Barcelona by claiming the Club World Cup for a third time in seven years. Barca beat River Plate 3-0 with Messi scoring the opener before Luis Suarez hit a brace in Yokohama, Japan. The European and Spanish champions became the first triple winners of the competition, adding to their 2009 and 2011 triumphs at the FIFA event. "I'm happy, happy for everything - happy to keep making history with this great club," Messi told reporters. "Let's hope we can just keep winning more, of course. "It's special because it's the World Club Cup and we come out as the best team in the world once again. To win that for another year is really impressive. "The more trophies we can win, the better. We know it's more difficult every year. "We'll try to fight for everything like we do every season, we're really excited about it." The Catalans, who top the La Liga standings heading into the winter break, swept the board in 2015. Luis Enrique's charges also won the Copa del Rey and European Super Cup in addition to their League and Champions League successes.

Chelsea have confirmed the appointment of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink on an interim basis until the end of the season. The former Netherlands boss was earlier tipped to succeed Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, following the Portuguese's sacking last Thursday. The Blues have today confirmed the appointment of Hiddink until the end of the 2015/16 campaign. "Chelsea FC can confirm Guus Hiddink has been appointed first-team manager until the end of the season," the club said on their official twitter page. Hiddink is confident he can change the fortunes of the reigning Premier League champions. The Dutchman enjoyed a successful four-month interim spell with Chelsea in 2009, losing just one game while guiding the Blues to FA Cup victory, and is excited to be back at the Bridge. "I am excited to return to Stamford Bridge," he told the club's official website. "Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world but is not where it should be at the moment.” Despite victory over Sunderland last Saturday, Chelsea are still down in 15th place with just five victories from 17 games, yet Hiddink is confident he can turn their season around. "I am sure we can all turn this season around,” he said. "I am looking forward to working with the players and staff at this great club and especially renewing my wonderful relationship with the Chelsea fans." Hiddink has also revealed his plans to bring former striker Didier Drogba back to Stamford Bridge in a managerial role. Hiddink watched their 3-1 win over Sunderland from the stands alongside owner Roman Abramovich as well as Drogba. The Ivorian, back in London during the MLS break, is now at Montreal impact, having scored 14 goals in 12 games this past season, yet Hiddink is hopeful he can involve the Chelsea legend under his regime. "We would like to get him involved,” Hiddink replied when asked about bringing in Drogba as an assistant. “But he still has a contract with Montreal in the MLS, even though it is the close season for them now. "But we definitely intend to get him involved. We want to get important players involved with the club they care about. Drogba's heart is with Chelsea." Drogba remains a favourite at the London club, having spent two season at the Bridge and helping the side win three Premier League titles, the Champions league, four FA Cups and two League Cups. His contract with the Impact runs until December 2016.

Under-fire Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admits he is worried about his future at the club. Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho with speculative reports suggesting the Portuguese has designs on taking over at Old Trafford. Van Gaal came under more pressure last Saturday as United's shock 2-1 home loss to Norwich extended the club's winless run to six matches. Asked if he feared for his position, the Dutchman said: "Yes of course I am worried about that because I know that belief in a manager is very important, and when you lose the games you play then the belief in a manager shall decrease. That is happening now. I cannot close my eyes to that." Van Gaal said he spoke to his players after the game as per normal, but conceded it was no easy task. "I always say something [to the players]," he said. "Today it was very hard to say something, but I said something that will stay with the players. "I don't think a change of management shall bring direct success." Van Gaal's charges, who exited the Champions League in the group stages, are fifth on the Premier League table with 29 points from 17 matches - nine points adrift of leaders Leicester City.

Bayern Munich have confirmed that Carlo Ancelotti will become their new coach at the end of the 2015-16 season after Pep Guardiola decided not to renew his contract with the Bundesliga champions. Guardiola, 44, is approaching the end of his three-year contract and had promised there will be "clarity" on his plans next week, after club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said there would be a final discussion after the game against Hannover last Saturday. Rummenigge told BILD: "We are thankful to Guardiola for all he gave our club and hope to celebrate more success in the current season. With Ancelotti we have another very successful coach coming to Bayern. We are looking forward to working together." He added on the club website: "We are grateful to Pep Guardiola for everything he has given our club since 2013. I am convinced that Pep and our team will now work even more intensively towards achieving our major sporting goals -- especially as it is now confirmed that Pep is to leave FC Bayern." Former Real Madrid boss Ancelotti -- the only manager to have ever won three Champions League trophies -- had been tabbed to replace Guardiola at Bayern if the Catalan coach decided against prolonging his stay in the Bundesliga, and has agreed to a three-year contract beginning on July 1, 2016. "Carlo Ancelotti has enjoyed success everywhere as a coach and has won the Champions League three times," Rummenigge told the club website. "Carlo is a calm, balanced expert, who knows how to deal with stars and favours a multifaceted style of play -- we were looking for this, and we have found it. We are looking forward to working with him." Ancelotti added: "I am very honoured that I will be coach of the great club FC Bayern from next season." 

Diego Simeone has suggested that he will not leave Atletico Madrid in the summer, as speculation grows over who will become the next permanent manager at Chelsea. Since the sacking of José Mourinho, Chelsea have installed Guus Hiddink as interim manager – the Dutchman will begin starting with the first team this week after attending the 3-1 win over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. However, it remains to be seen who will be in charge next season, and Simeone is thought to be one of the candidates in Roman Abramovich’s thinking. Pep Guardiola is another manager linked with the position, after he announced he will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of this campaign. “Why can’t I be here longer?” Simeone said in El Pais on Monday when asked about leaving Atlético, in an interview conducted before Mourinho’s departure. “Why did I choose a five-year contract? Because I see a club that is ‘virgin’ and Miguel Ángel [Gil Marín, the chief executive] and Enrique [Cerezo, the president] have the ability to open up new sources to strengthen in. It’s not easy to leave Atletico.” Simeone added: “More than a team we are a family, and we are a real family. Obviously we have internal problems, there are players who get angry and who will get angry because they don’t play. I am the father and the grandfather is a role for Miguel Ángel Gil and Enrique Cerezo. “We have a potential that no one has. Oblak, Giménez, Vietto, Carrasco, Óliver, Koke, Correa, Saúl, Lucas, Thomas … 10 young players and the veterans are at the perfect age.”

In-form Leicester City forward Riyad Mahrez has insisted he has no intention of returning to France despite reported interest from Paris St Germain. The Algeria international joined Leicester from Le Havre in January 2014 and has been a revelation for Claudio Ranieri's men, scoring 14 goals - including two penalties in last Saturday's 3-2 win at Everton that ensured the Midlands club will top the Premier League table at Christmas. Mahrez has also contributed seven assists, with his stunning form said to have attracted the interest of Ligue 1 leaders PSG. But the 24-year-old has effectively ruled out moving back to France, telling Telefoot: "When I was playing in Ligue 2 my goal was to continue my progress in Ligue 1. "But now I do not think I will return to France. I do not think I will go."There are rumours, but I feel very good in Leicester, especially as we are first. Marseille have also been linked with a move for Mahrez, despite club president Vincent Labrune reportedly saying players from sides such as Leicester were not worthy of their club back in December 2014. "I do not pay much attention to stuff like that," Mahrez added. "There are people who love you and others who do not like you. "He [Labrune] thinks what he wants."

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola says he has already told the club what he plans to do after his current deal ends at the end of the season. Guardiola is currently in his third season with Bayern, with his contract set to come to an end in June next year. The former Barcelona boss has sp far led the Bavarian outfit to two Bundesliga titles, one German cup as well as the 2013 UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup, while still being in contention for this season's league title, German Cup and UEFA Champions League. Guardiola, who will be turning 45 in less than a month's time, says has already told the club what he plans to do at the end of his current contract, according to Spanish newspaper Marca. "Kalle [Rummenigge] knows absolutely everything," said Guardiola. "The club, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and I have said time and time again that we will say something after our final game in Hannover, and that's how things are going to stay." Bayern face Hannover in a league clash later today, but Guardiola's decision is set to be made public only after their final league clash – against the same opposition – on 22 May next year. "I'm just focusing on Hannover. I've been watching their games." The former Spanish international has been linked with a move to Chelsea, following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, while Manchester United and Manchester City have also been rumoured to be interested in his services.

Manuel Pellegrini is open to staying in the Premier League beyond the end of the season and could be a surprise target for Chelsea this summer. The 62-year-old has no intention of retiring from football and still believes that he has some years left in club management before a final crack at the Chile national job. Sources in Spain say he is a surprise inclusion in Chelsea's list of candidates to be the long-term replacement for Jose Mourinho and even suggest contact has already been made. If Pellegrini ended up at Stamford Bridge it would be an amazing turnaround in fortunes for a coach who was once teased by Mourinho for having been sacked by Real Madrid and then having had to take over at modest Malaga. Pellegrini would have preferred to have extended his time at Manchester City but the likely arrival of Pep Guardiola at the end of the season will see him leave the club. If he wins a major trophy this season then his three-year spell at the club will be counted as a success and there would be a market among other Premier League sides. Diego Simeone remains Chelsea's first choice but prising the Argentinian away from Atletico Madrid is not going to be easy. He has a contract in Madrid until 2020 and the club want to lead them to a new ground in two-and-half-year's time. He also has doubts about how his management ability might be affected by his poor grasp of English.  The Argentinian coach has had an English teacher since being offered the Manchester United job last summer but progress has been slow. Pellegrini has no such problems with the language and he has the Premier League experience that Simeone currently lacks. Chelsea's hierarchy also believe the experienced coach's calm demeanour would suit the club perfectly after so many stormy months under Mourinho.