International News - Issue 294

Simon Mignolet Will Be Staying With Liverpool Until 2021

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been handed a new long-term contract extension which will keep him at the club until 2021. The Belgium international has come in for criticism at times this season and the news that he will be staying with the Reds for the long term represents a massive vote of confidence in the keeper from boss Jurgen Klopp. Mignolet told "I'm very pleased that I can be at Anfield and a part of Liverpool for a long future. I'm happy to commit my future to LFC. "I know signing a new contract comes with new responsibility. I'm getting older as well and coming into the years where people would say those are the years a keeper is at his best. "I know with a long-term contract, you get more responsibility - and I want to take up that role, because I'm the sort of character that wants to be a leader, wants to speak in the dressing room and wants to help the defence. "I'll try to work hard together with the goalkeeping coach and staff here, who are behind me and have given their confidence with a new contract. "I would like to thank them for that but you can't really do that with words, you have to do that with performances on the pitch and that's what I'll try to show." Having impressed at his hometown Belgian club Sint-Truiden, Mignolet came to England when he was signed by Sunderland in the summer of 2010. His impressive form continued for the Black Cats, and, since Liverpool signed him on a five-year deal in the summer of 2013, he has gone on to make 122 appearances for the Reds first-team. Mignolet recorded more Premier League clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in 2015 but his performances have come under the microscope somewhat this season. He was criticised by fans and the media following last week's 3-3 draw with Arsenal, although Klopp has continued to back the 27-year-old. Capped 17 times by Belgium, Mignolet is likely to be a part of their Euro 2016 squad this summer.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been urged to leave the Blues for Paris Saint- Germain by a former Stamford Bridge star. Costa has repeatedly linked with a return to Spanish side Atletico Madrid since moving to Chelsea in July 2014. Former Stamford Bridge defender David Luiz believes that the Spaniard would be a perfect addition to the French champions and would live to play alongside. “Diego is one of the most clinical strikers in Europe, he would be a welcome addition to any team,” Luiz told the Daily Mirror. “I think PSG have made their intent clear over the last three or four seasons, that we only add the best player. “If Diego decides he has had enough of England and wants a new challenge, of course he would be welcome here. “Diego and I have had our clashes on the field, but you must understand there are two Diego’s. “On the field he is physical, he is confrontational, and he will get in your face that is part of his game. “Off the field he is a good friend, one of the nicest guys you can meet, somebody I would go to dinner with.” Luiz and Costa will set foot on the same pitch in the not too distant future, with Chelsea taking on Ligue 1 side in the Champions League round of 16.

New Swansea City coach Francesco Guidolin is confident he can turn the Welsh club’s season around and save them from the drop. The 60-year-old Italian was on Monday announced as the club’s new head coach after Gary Monk was shown the door last month, with Alan Curtis taking over in the interim. The experienced manager, who has enjoyed a number of stints in Italy, spent the last four years in charge of Serie A side Udinese, leading them to a third and fourth-place finish during his tenure, while also guiding the lies of Vicenza, Bologna, Palermo and Parma to respectable mid and top-half finishes in the Italian league. And he is confident he can do the same in the Premier League with the Swans. “It’s a very good opportunity for me at an important club,” said Guidolin. “At the moment it’s not a good situation for the club, but we have a good team. “In Italy, I helped my team finish in a good position in the table, and that’s what I hope to achieve here at Swansea. “At the moment everything is new to me, so I need three or four days to talk to the staff and players. After that, I will have a precise idea of things.” Guidolin was in the stands on Monday night as Swansea beat Watford 1-0 as they remained in 17th place on the log, with a fixture against Everton on Sunday Guidolin’s first at the helm.

Serbian centre-back Nemanja Vidic has had his contract with Italian ginats inter Milan terminated after failing to feature in a single game this season. The former Manchester United defender moved to Italy at the start of the 2014/15 campaign, starting 23 Serie A matches as the Nerazzurri finished a disappointing eighth in the Italian league last season. A combination of injuries and poor form resulted in Vidic not seeing a single minute of action so far this campaign, with the San Siro club announcing the termination of the 24-year-old’s contract on Monday. “FC Internazionale announces that it has reached an agreement with Nemanja Vidic for the mutual termination of his contract,” a statement from the club read. “The Serbian defender, who joined Inter in July 2014, racked up 28 appearances with the Nerazzurri last season, scoring once. The entire club would like to wish Nemanja good luck with his future endeavours.” A message from Vidic was also included in the statement, with the Serbian thanking the club and wishing them well. “I want to thank the entire Nerazzurri family and Inter fans,” his statement read. “I wish the club great success in the future. Forza Inter!” Italian media suggest a move to the MLS may be on the cards for Vidic, who made over 300 appearances for United, where he won five league titles and the 2008 Uefa Champions League. Inter currently sit third in Serie A, four points adrift of leaders Napoli.

Chelsea are set to complete the signing of Alexandre Pato in time to make his debut against Arsenal, according to reports. The Blues have been in talks to sign Pato from Brazilian club Corinthians in recent days, with Guus Hiddink keen to add to his attacking options. And now the Daily Star says the transfer could be sealed by the end of the week, with Pato in line to make his debut against Arsenal. Chelsea will be paying about £10m for the 26-year-old and the paperwork should be done so he can feature in Sunday’s clash at the Emirates. Arsenal and Tottenham have previously been keen on Pato.

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott feels this year’s Premier League race is the “most exciting ever”, and is confident of his side’s chances of claiming League glory. The Gunners played out a 0-0 draw with Stoke City on Sunday to remain joint-top of the EPL standings alongside Leicester City, with Manchester City a further point back. And their speedster feels this is the most exciting League race for a neutral in a while, and feels his side are looking good so far. "You can't tell what's going to happen this year, it's just so tight,” Walcott said. "With the amount of teams that could potentially win this league, it's probably going to be the most exciting Premier League for a neutral ever. "No one can call it, but we're top and we can be proud of that at this moment in time. The mental strength in this dressing room's the strongest it's ever been.” The England international reserved special applause for in-form goalkeeper Petr Cech, who he believes can help Arsenal win their first League title in over a decade. "When you have the likes of Petr Cech coming in, he just enhances that,” he said. “He's a leader. We've just got to look at him because he's obviously been at the top level and won many things. If we all have the belief he's got, we can push on." Arsene Wenger’s men host reigning EPL champions Chelsea in their next clash on Sunday evening.

Cristiano Ronaldo claims his relationship with former Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez weren’t as bad as reported, yet admits the side are happier under new coach Zinedine Zidane. The Spanish manager was shown the door at Los Blancos at the turn of the year, with reports suggesting he had lost the dressing room and the respect of big-name players, including Portuguese superstar Ronaldo. The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli boss was replaced by French legend Zdane, who has now lead Los Blancos to two successive victories in which his side scored five goals in each. Speaking to reporters after last Sunday’s 5-1 win over Sporting Gijon, Ronaldo admits there is a better feeling amongst the players with ‘Zizou’ in charge, yet downplayed the extent of the reportedly torn relationship with the former Galactico coach. "Zidane has given a push to the team," Ronaldo said. "Sincerely, with some coaches you have more feeling than with others. As with the players, with people. I did my work naturally with Benitez, seriously, thinking in the best for the club, regardless of who was in charge of the team. "I never had a bad opinion about Rafa, he always did the best for Madrid, he sees football in a different way to Zizou. Don't ask me why, but the players have more empathy with Zizou. Don't ask me why." Ronaldo, who came second to nemesis Lionel Messi in the 2015 Fifa Ballon d’Or vote, netted twice in the win over Gijon to take his season’s tally to 27 goals in 26 matches across all competitions.

Chelsea captain John Terry insists he feels as strong as ever as he hopes to extend his contract at Stamford Bridge. In his 700th career appearance, the English centre-back scored a 98th-minute leveller to earn a 3-3 draw with Everton last weekend, as the Blues salvaged a point to remain 14th in the EPL standings. The 35-year-old, who was handed a one-year contract extension in March, says he feels as strong as ever as he hopes to extend his stay at Stamford bridge, as he slammed his critics for labelling him as slow. "When you get to a certain age, there are a lot of people out there who think 'he's 35, going on 36 and maybe his legs have gone',” Terry said. “But I have never had legs, it's as simple as that. "I have never been quick all my career. For me it's lazy journalism from everyone. It just gets in their heads. But physically, I probably feel as good as I've ever felt in the last two or three years. I'm in the right state of mind. I'm still hungry. I want to win and finish my career here. "But I'm not thinking of that. Last year, it was a couple of months from now before things got sorted. For me the most important thing is to get us out of this and up the league table." Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink feels Terry’s quality has not diminished since he last managed at the Bridge seven years ago, and feels he is as reliable as ever at the back. "For me there's not much [difference] between John in 2009 and now,” he said. “For me you would have to underline that with data. "You can say hey, make a test and say he has lost some speed, but I cannot see that. He's fit, he trains well, he takes care of himself, takes a good rest, which you have to do at that age. I cannot see that he is slowing down a bit." 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane was impressed with Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema's efforts in the 5-1 rout of Sporting Gijon, particularly without the ball. Bale opened the scoring last Sunday before Ronaldo and Benzema both struck braces at the Santiago Bernabeu. "We played a very good first half. The start was fantastic because it's not easy to score five goals twice," said Zidane, whose side thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 in his first match in charge last week. "The [front] three are very good and that's no surprise. I'm very happy with their work and not only with the ball, they worked very well defensively. And that's important. "I know what we can do and what we'll do in future. I'm just at the beginning, because what I want is to keep going for a title at the end of the season. We must continue like that. "We want to win games because that decides everything in the end." Bale and Benzema picked up injuries in the La Liga tie, and naturally Zidane is hoping for a swift recovery for the pair. "Karim's is a kick. Bale's is more complicated because it's his calf. "We'll see what the scan says. We hope it's something small."

Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy says he wants to leave the Emirates, having found himself down the pecking order at the London club. The French international signed for the Gunners a year-and-half-ago, but has been restricted to just 22 matches for the Premier league side, and just seven across all competitions this season, with young star Hector Bellerin keeping the 30-year-old on the bench. Struggling English club Aston Villa and Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen are rumoured to be interested in the full-back, who now says he would not mind a move away in search of more regular game-time. "It's true, they are among the teams seeking me,” he told L’Equipe. “I'm currently studying everything but it's not a possibility I have excluded. "Whatever happens, even if it is to return [to Arsenal] this summer and then start again, I have to go this winter. I cannot stay at Arsenal. "[Villa's position] makes you think. This is also why I take my time before deciding. On the other hand, it can also be a great challenge. While they are currently in difficulty, Aston Villa is one of the major English clubs. This is also why I do not rule out this possibility. "[The interest from Leverkusen] is true and it may interest me too. The most important thing is to play in an attractive league." Debuchy’s current deal at Arsenal runs until 2019.

Alan Pardew is confident he can handle the hassle that comes with Emmanuel Adebayor, should the striker sign for Crystal Palace. The Togolese international is a free agent after leaving Tottenham Hotspur in September, but Pardew has now indicated he could sign the player.  “Whenever he has played against me he has been totally committed and he’s a dangerous world player,” the manager says. “You have only got to look at his clubs. For whatever reason there has been a fall-out at Spurs, but he remains a player that can have great impact and would improve us. “And I have had difficult players before, non more difficult than Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle. If I can deal with him, I can deal with Adebayor for sure.”

Southampton have completed the £4-million signing of Charlie Austin from Queens Park Rangers. The 26-year-old netted 18 goals as QPR got relegated from the top-flight last season, and joins the Saints on a four-and-a-half-year contract. “This signing is an indicator of our intent to finish the season strongly and continue the progress we’ve made in the last few years,” Les Reed, Southampton’s Executive Director of Football, told the club’s official website. “Charlie shares that ambition. He has a fantastic goalscoring pedigree, but remains hungry to improve and develop as a footballer – something that convinced him that Southampton is the ideal next step in his career. “Having had a taste of Premier League football and his first call-up to the England squad last season, he is determined to establish himself at the highest level of the game. “Bringing Charlie here is a show of the club’s commitment to its plan for future success through investment in talent with a desire to grow and develop.”