International News - Issue 303

Has Mourinho Signed A Pre-Contract Agreement With Manchester United? 

Jose Mourinho has reportedly signed a pre-contract agreement to join Manchester United, with the former Chelsea manager due up to £15m in compensation if he is not appointed by the club by 1 June. The Portuguese has been out of work since his sacking by Chelsea in December but has been persistently linked with Louis van Gaal’s job at Manchester United. Last week, Mourinho said he wants to join a new club in the summer after “reading and listening to a few lies” about his future. According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, a source from his agent Jorge Mendes’s company Gestifute has now confirmed the 53-year-old has already signed an agreement to move to Old Trafford last month, although United still reserve the right to change their mind. “If United do not sign the final contract [with Mourinho] before 1 May, they must pay £5m; if by 1 June he’s still not signed, they shall pay another £10m,” read the report. “May is the key, because it’s the month in which the vast majority of the signings of players are closed and the plans formed.” El Pais claim that the clause has been included because senior figures at Old Trafford, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, are not entirely convinced that Mourinho is the right man to succeed Louis van Gaal. The report also states that Real Madrid are also interested in hiring him to replace Zinedine Zidane but Mourinho would prefer to move to United.

Romelu Lukaku has hinted he could depart Everton, with the striker admitting he does not want to leave in a fight if he does decide to move on from Goodison Park. Lukaku's stock has continued to rise this season as he desperately tries to lead Everton to the Champions League, though the club have not been able to keep up with the Belgium international. The 22-year-old has scored 18 goals - only less than Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane in the Premier League - but Everton continue to struggle this season, sitting 12th in the table and 12 points adrift of the European places. And with Lukaku determined to test himself in the Champions League, his future could be away from Merseyside. "I don't want to leave in a fight, if it happens," he said. "I won't say this or that – it is going to be good for me personally and for the club. They were the ones who believed in me at the time nobody believed in me, and gave me a platform to perform. "I have tried to repay them with good performances, but I have an agent who deals with the interest. I do not want to be bothered with it. I just want to play my football." "We have 10 more games to go and we are not at that point yet. We can turn it around and I will give everything to turn it around. If I didn't then I wouldn't care about the game against Chelsea," he said. "I will do everything to take my team forward to glory. Now we are almost there. But in the league, we have to play better." Lukaku added: "I am 23 this summer. I have been playing since I was 16 and never had a taste of the Champions League. It is going to be seven years. You think about it – if it is going to happen. Champions League football is really the next step. "Playing every three days is something I really enjoy. At one point, we were in the Europa League and we were playing constantly, it was enjoyable. You travel, you play a hard game, you have a good result, play well, it gives you confidence to play well in the league – you play well in the league. People acknowledge that you’re performing. "I have respect for every player, but those that do it every three days, scoring goals and winning games, giving their maximum? I take my hat off. It is not easy. When you play in the Premier League, the most competitive league, it is physical, tactical, technical, every single game, and then you have to play in Europe where you have to adapt to another type of football but you still perform. Every player wants to do it. It would be nice."

Italy coach Antonio Conte has refused to entertain talk of a possible agreement to coach English club Chelsea next season. The out-going Azzurri boss last week announced he will step down from his current position following June’s European Championships, with talk rife that the former Juventus manager will be heading to Stamford Bridge next season. Yet talking for the first time since his announcement, Conte insists he has not given thought about his future or a move to England as he remains focused on his current task with the Italian national team. "[Moving to] England? I am not fascinated by anything right now. I am focused on the national team," he said. "This experience helped me to improve myself. “It has been a fantastic and extraordinary experience, I’ve always envied coaches who represented Italy. "Now it's my turn, and I'm happy. We'll try to work as usual." The 46-year-old felt it was the right decision to announce his departure now, and says he will listen to hear before considering future options. "I was, quite rightly and correctly from all points of view, asked to clarify my position before the Euros, as the contract would have expired automatically," he said. "I thought well and pondered the decision and from the moment I was 100 per cent sure of what I felt inside I informed [FIGC president Carlo] Tavecchio – the person who wanted me here and chose me. I informed him of my decision in a calm manner." "I was conflicted because it's difficult to leave a group which is working so well. “I will listen to my heart, like I did when I accepted the Italy job." Conte is in camp with the Italy side that are preparing to take on Spain and Germany in upcoming friendlies this month.

In-form Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane is eyeing Alan Shearer’s Premier League goal record as he hopes to continue scoring for years to come. The England forward netted twice in his side’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth last Sunday, taking his season’s tally to 21 goals while moving two clear of Jamie Vary at the top of England’s goal-scoring charts. The 22-year-old now has 45 League goals in 79 matches played, and although some way to go to match the legendary Shearer record of 260 career goals in the EPL, Kane is already talking up the prospect. "It's a lot of goals and I'm still a long way off but Shearer was an idol of mine growing up, to see how many goals he scored was incredible," the Spurs man told reporters. "I take it season by season. I don't like looking too far ahead because you never know what can happen. "But is it good to aim for? Definitely, they're the goals you dream of. "When you're a younger player, you watch them scoring goals week in and week out, so to be doing that now is a dream come true." Kane’s brace on the weekend means he has now scored more than 20 goals in two consecutive seasons, joining only four other Englishman in Shearer, Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler to have done that in the past, for which he feels most humbled. "If I can be a role model or if I can maybe make another manager play a young player coming through, rather than buy a player, that's incredible,” the home-grown talent said. "I think sometimes managers like to buy players because they're more experienced from abroad when they've got players under their nose that will give everything to the club they've been brought up with. "The more people get chances at a young age, I think you'll see more talent coming through as we have done this season."

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has broken Gary Linekar’s scoring record for the most goals scored by a British player in Spain’s La Liga. The Welshman’s goal in Real’s 4-0 victory over Sevilla took his tally to 43 goals in 76 games, one more than former England striker Linekar’s record of 42 goals in 103 games for Barcelona between 1986 and 1989. “I’m very happy. This new record gives me joy and now the important thing is to improve,” Bale said.

Top British scorers in La Liga

43 - Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) 
42 - Gary Lineker (Barcelona)
33 - John Aldridge (Real Sociedad)
24 - Steve Archibald (Barcelona)
16 - Laurie Cunningham (Real Madrid)
15 - Alan Campbell (Racing Santander)
13 - Michael Owen (Real Madrid)
13 - David Beckham (Real Madrid)

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says Champions League qualification is in their hands after their 1-0 victory at Manchester City. United triumphed in the Manchester Derby thanks to teenager Marcus Rashford’s first-half goal, which follows the brace he scored on his debut against Arsenal a few weeks ago. Van Gaal is proud of the progress his team is making after a gruelling set of fixtures that included two legs against Liverpool in the Europa League. “I have said in advance that we must win this game [against City] and we have done it, so I am very happy because otherwise the gap was too big if they won,” Van Gaal said. “Or a draw is still four points, eight matches to go, so then it should be very difficult. “Now it is in our own hands, I think. We have to win our games, we have more home matches than away matches. We don't lose so much at Old Trafford so we have a big chance [to finish in the top four].” The Dutch manager was delighted with Rashford’s performance against their city rivals. “My players have fought to the end with cramps - Marcus Rashford could still run with a cramp. I have never seen that! “Rashford is very quick and [Martin] Demichelis looked like the years are catching up with him. He was a very good defender, he was my centre-back in Bayern but that is the life of football.”

Bayern Munich have tied down defender David Alaba with a contract extension that will see him remaining at the club until 2021. The Austrian international has been a stalwart at the Allianz Arena since arriving at the club's youth structures in 2008. Still only 23-years-old, Alaba's previous deal was set to expire in 2018, however, The Bavarians have jumped at offering him a new three-year extension or his exceptional displays in recent years. “David Alaba is an FC Bayern youth product, so we are especially delighted at his signature today, keeping him here at least until 2021,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club's website. "He is one of the players who gives our current team its character. The way he plays, but also how he conducts himself away from the field, are the embodiment of FC Bayern. "He will continue to be one of the cornerstones of our team in the years to come.” Alaba becomes the fifth player to sign a long-term extensions with the German champions, after Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Thiago all extended their deals this season. “I’m proud that I’ll continue to play for my club. I grew up at FC Bayern and I’ve experienced unbelievably wonderful moments here," he added. "We’re all hungry to add further trophies to the ones we’ve already won.”

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard will leave the club at the end of the season to join Colorado Rapids. The 37-year-old American, who has lost his first team place to Joel Robles in recent weeks, has penned a three-year contract with the MLS outfit. "I will remain an Evertonian for life. This will always be my team and my club," Howard told Everton's official website. "To play the amount of games that I have and to be focused for so long, a lot goes into it, so I would be remised to not continue to support this team that I love." Howard has made over 400 appearances for the Toffees since his arrival at Goodison Park in the 2006/07 season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says no-one is "unsellable" and he will not stand in anyone's way should they feel a desire to exit the club. With a number of players shining at the Anfield club so far this season, particularly Brazilian international Phillipe Coutinho, it could be a matter of time before some of the big clubs come knocking. Asked whether he would be willing to let go of the stars in his squad such as Coutinho, Klopp says he would rather sell than deal with unsettled players for an entire season. "Everything is okay at the moment but nobody in the world - maybe only Lionel Messi - is unsellable," Klopp told reporters. "There is always a situation. I come from a club where the best players are always picked by other teams and in the end you have to accept a few things. You always need to have a Plan B or a Plan C. "If a player comes to me and says he doesn't feel comfortable and wants to leave because of our style of play or because he can make more money elsewhere, then you always have to start thinking. That's all I can say on this. "Coutinho, [Roberto] Firmino, so many players are very special. You could go through the whole squad. But if a player wants to go to another club then I'd always be open to it because I don't want to have a player in my squad who doesn't want to be in the squad. "These are problems you don't need during a season. A player is never good enough for you to have to cope with problems like that for an entire year."

UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw: Champions League holders Barcelona will meet La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid, while Bayern Munich will face Benfica in the quarter-finals of the UEFA showpiece. Newly-crowned French champions Paris Saint-Germain have been pitted with fellow big-spenders Manchester City. Spanish giants Real Madrid are up against German outfit Wolfsburg. The match-ups were decided by a draw in Nyon, Switzerland last Friday, with the ties scheduled to take place on 5/6 and 12/13 April.

Quarter-final ties:

Wolfsburg vs Real Madrid
Bayern Munich vs Benfica
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester City

Europa League quarter-final draw: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will face former club Borussia Dortmund, while Europa League champions Sevilla are up against Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals of the second-tier event. Villarreal were pitted with Sparta Prague, and Braga will take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the other last-eight fixtures. The match-ups were decided by a draw in Nyon, Switzerland last Friday, with the two-legged ties scheduled for 7 April and 14 March.

Quarter-final ties:

Braga vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs Sparta Prague
Athletic Bilbao vs Sevilla
Dortmund vs Liverpool

The Belgium national football team have cancelled training on Tuesday after the deadly attacks in the capital Brussels. There have been multiple fatalities after two explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport in Brussels in an apparent suicide attack - and a third blast hit the Maalbeek Metro station in the city. Belgium are due to host a friendly against Portugal next Tuesday at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. A tweet from the Belgian team's official account, @BelRedDevils, read: "#tousensemble, our thoughts are with the victims. Football is not important today. Training cancelled." English Premier League players, including Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, have conveyed messages of alarm and support through Twitter. Belgium centre-back Vertonghen wrote: "Can't believe I'm reading these things again...", while Mignolet tweeted: "#Zaventem" in reference to the location of Brussels Airport. Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj added: "Horrible to see what is going on in Brussels #Zaventem". Elsewhere, Dedryck Boyata of Celtic wrote: "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims #zaventem"