International News - Issue 298

Joel Matip To Join Liverpool Next Season

German club Schalke have confirmed that central defender Joel Matip will join Premier league side Liverpool at the end of the season. “Joel Matip will join Liverpool at the end of the season,” read a Twitter post released by Schalke, confirming the rumours that the defender would be heading to England in July. Matip, who can play in either central defence or midfield, as well as full-back, came through the youth ranks at his current Bundesliga outfit, before making his debut in 2009. Schalke general manager Horst Heldt said he could no longer convince the Cameroon international to remain at the club, with widespread interest from abroad. “At the end all Schalke efforts were in vain, to convince the 24-year-olds from a stay at the club,” he said. “We have since May last year had many intensive discussions, both with Joel and his advisor. It was soon clear that factors would be decisive for Joel’s decision we ultimately could not influence.” The player himself released a short statement, saying he’s only leaving for a new adventure elsewhere. “I always said that I would leave Schalke for only one reason: To go somewhere new,” he said. “Therefore, joining another Bundesliga club never came into consideration. Although my decision is definitely not easy, I am convinced that now is the right time to take this step.” The 24-year-old has made 26 appearances for Schalke this season, scoring four goals as his side sit fifth in the German league standings.

Barcelona striker Neymar has had a tax evasion appeal rejected and his assets worth an estimated $50-million have been frozen by Brazilian authorities. The Sao Paulo federal court ruled back in September that Neymar’s assets should be frozen after the player, his family and related businesses were found guilty of evading $16m in Brazil taxes while he still played for Santos. Neymar’s appeal has now been turned down and he will no longer enjoy the use of his private jet, yacht and other assets. Iagaro Jung Martins, an auditor with Brazil's federal tax agency, told the Associated Press that Neymar isn't likely to go to jail if he pays what he owes. “He can still appeal that decision, but it is a step forward,” Martins said. “Nothing changed to what was in place last year: if he pays what he owes, the case is closed. Our legislation isn't too harsh.”

Reports in England suggest that Manchester United are planning an audacious £60-million bid for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It is reported that the Gabonese striker, who has been on fire for Borussia Dortmund this season, is the Red Devils’ number one transfer target, and that he will be offered in the region of £200 000-a-week in wages. Arsenal have also been credited with interest, as has Liverpool, where Aubameyang would reunite with his old Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp.

French right-back Mathieu Debuchy has revealed that Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger blocked his move to rival club Manchester United, leaving him “disappointed” and “annoyed”. The French international found himself down the pecking order with the London club, and was thus loaned out on January deadline day to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux for the rest of the season. However, reports had suggested that Premier League outfit Manchester United were keen to bring in the defender, who has now revealed that it was his manager’s decision to block that move so as not to assist a rival team. "I was disappointed, obviously. If I had the chance to go to Manchester United it would have been magnificent". "Unfortunately it wasn't the case. I discussed it with the coach too, who said that obviously he couldn't help out a rival. "Yes, I'm a little bit annoyed with him. It's his choice." Debuchy made just two league appearances for Arsenal this campaign, citing his lack of promised game-time as the main reason for his move away from London. "I came back well this summer, I had a good pre-season," he said. "I was able to talk to him [Wenger] to know my future at Arsenal. He said that I would have game time and that we would discuss it in December. Unfortunately, I didn't have this game time." Since arriving in France, Debuchy has already started three Ligue 1 games for his new club, who lie ninth on the table.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata admits his side may have to look at qualifying for next year’s Uefa Champions League through the back door – by winning the Europa League. The Red Devils’ inconsistent league form continued over the weekend as they were beaten 2-1 by Premier League strugglers Sunderland, leaving them fifth in the standings, six adrift of Manchester City in the last Champions League-qualifying berth. "The only way to get to a better position is by working hard for the next game," Mata wrote in his weekly blog. "There is no other way. Mourning is useless now; besides, there are still many games to play and many things can happen this season." Manager Louis van Gaal stated that his side’s qualification into Europe’s premier club competition may now fall only on winning the Europe League – with the winner’s gaining automatic entry – and his Spanish midfielder is starting to agree. “First of all, our participation in the Europa League … I understand this is not the best possible situation, but it is what it is, and our goal is to keep advancing so we can have the chance to lift this trophy, which would come with a double reward,” he said, referring to the qualification into the Champions league. “My personal experience tells me that, if we work for it with excitement, it could be a positive way to finish the season, as I lived three seasons ago [with Chelsea]. “At the moment we face Midtjylland, the current champions of Denmark, now third in their league. Step by step.” Mata says he understands the fans’ frustrations, but asked for them to continue backing the club. “I understand and share your frustration but, once again, the way to overcome the defeats and the complicated moments is, in my opinion, by standing united, working hard and never giving up,” he said. “Thank you for your support.”

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique feels it was not a historic night for his team despite their 6-1 thumping of Celta Vigo last Sunday. The Spanish giants were at their superb best once more on Sunday night, as a Luis Suarez hat-trick, combined with goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic, secured all three points in a magical display of attacking talent which saw the Blaugrana maintain their three-point lead at the top of the La Liga standings, with a game in hand. Yet their coach feels it was just another “normal’ day for his star-studded outfit. "I don't think it was a historic night," he said. "It is a very nice night because we have beaten a great team. "But it has just been a normal night. Historical? No. It will be historic when we claim titles. "I'm sorry, but I don't think anything special has happened. I'm used to seeing them train and there they are even better. "Maybe I'll have to watch the replay, because the tension has seen me interpret the game in another way. "But I have seen my players do even more spectacular things than tonight." Making headlines on the evening was a cheeky penalty which Messi passed for the on-rushing Suarez to finish – a goal reminiscent of Johan Cruyff’s antics in the past. Yet Celta Vigo coach Eduardo Berizzo insisted it wasn’t disrespectful, but a clever ploy by the Barca attackers. "The penalty was dispatched in a different way, nothing else," the Celta coach said. "The forwards of Barcelona are voracious in attack. But they play in the same was as always, and are respectful to their opponents. "The penalty was within the rules. The goals hurt me more than the way they are converted." It has been reported that the penalty was taken in that way as an ode to Cruyff, who is currently battling cancer.

Tottenham Hotspur laid down a serious marker signalling their title ambitions following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over rivals Manchester City at the Etihad. A cagey first half produced no goals, yet the game burst to life just eight minutes into the second stanza with a debatable penalty, as fullback Danny Rose’s cross struck a jumping Raheem Sterling on the arm. Star striker Harry Kane stepped up to fire past Joe Hart to give the visitors the lead, netting his 16th League goal of the campaign. City almost immediately struck back as Yaya Toure’s thunderous free-kick rattled off the crossbar and out, as the Citizens went in search of the equalizer. It would eventually come in the 74th minutes as Nigerian teenage sensation Kelechi Iheanacho continued his impressive scoring form, coming on off the bench to level matters after good work by Gael Clichy down the left. It was the Nigerian’s seventh goal in his last 11 matches for City. Yet just as City had their tails up, Spurs struck back with six minutes left on the clock, Erik Lamela threading through Christian Eriksen who slotted home in what proved to be the night’s winning goal - his side's fifth league win on the trot. The win takes Spurs back to second on the Premier League log, two adrift of leaders Leicester City, while City remains fourth, six points behind the Foxes.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has rubbished reports linking Raphael Varane with a move to Manchester United. Media reports this week have suggested Jose Mourinho will take over at Old Trafford next season, and that the 22-year-old defender would be one of his first targets. Varane was signed by Mourinho during his time at Real, but Zidane says he has big plans for the player. “Of course it is normal Mourinho would want to sign Raphael,” ‘Zizou’ says. “He knows him well, he brought him here to the club. But I want Varane to stay in Madrid. He is the future of the club.”

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets has made Manchester City sit up and take notice with his comments regarding Pep Guardiola. Guardiola has already been confirmed as Manuel Pellegrini’s replacement for next season, having announced his decision to leave Bayern Munich. And now Busquets, who got his Barca break under the former Spanish midfielder, has talked up a potential reunion. “I always said that there are only two people who can change my decision to play for Barcelona – one is my wife and the other is Guardiola”. “It’s clear that I have a big debt with him and it would be an honour to work with him again. But he knows that my club is Barcelona; I don't think he'll ask me to work for him.”

Juventus sensation Paul Pogba has revealed that Barcelona star Lionel Messi gave him advice when the two met at last month’s Fifa Ballon d’Or ceremony. Pogba, 22, has been Juve’s rising star in recent years as he was voted into Fifa’s FIFPro team of the Year, and ended 15th in the Ballon d’Or voting, as Messi took the prestigious award for the fifth time. Pogba has now revealed that he had a pleasant conversation with the Argentine, and was touched by his words when in Zurich. "He really touched me because he came to me himself." "I'm the youngest and, out of respect, it should have been me that went to him, but he saw me and he came over. "We talked and he's really a good guy. He gave me some advice... that's all." The young French international says he was proud to mix it up with the best in the business, yet knows he still has achieved very little in the beautiful game. "I didn't think I'd get there so soon but it's what I wanted," he said of being named in the team of the year. "It's a motivation for me. I'm not going to get a big head. I've done nothing in football. "I haven't won the Champions League - I've won the Scudetto but I'm nothing for the moment."I still have to develop, to learn. I'm going to try and do things that few in the world have done ... try to win the Champions League, try to win the Euros. "I don't like resting on my laurels... I always want more." Pogba has scored six goals and provided nine assists in 33 games for the Bianconeri this season, with his side on a 15-match win-streak as they top the Serie A standings.

Barcelona wing-back Dani Alves has named his toughest opponent – and it’s not who you would expect. The Brazilian has faced some of the world’s best players in La Liga – the likes of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo – but says Liverpool’s James Milner always gave him grey hairs. Alves faced the England international in UEFA Champions League ties against Manchester City. “I have faced many, but the most annoying was James Milner.” “He follows you forward and follows you backwards. It’s very difficult because he attacks you and defends you, and then attacks you and defends you again.”