International News - Issue 307




Jose Mourinho Approached By Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain have made an approach to Jose Mourinho to become their new manager this summer, according to reports. PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi is understood to have instigated the approach to Mourinho - via his agent Jorge Mendes - immediately after PSG's Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City last week, having grown frustrated at the club's lack of progress in Europe under Laurent Blanc. Sky Sports report that Mourinho's preference is to wait until the end of the season and monitor any developments at Manchester United, although he does consider PSG a credible choice for his return to management and is considering his options. Mourinho is known to have a friendship with Al-Khelaifi, which pre-dates the Qatari's ownership of PSG. Al-Khelaifi has tried to appoint the 53-year-old as manager twice before, and remains convinced the Portuguese is the man most likely to achieve the club's ambition of winning the Champions League. Last week, Al-Khelaifi could not hide his disappointment after PSG were knocked out of the Champions League by City, and admitted Blanc took a "tactical gamble" by playing a three-man defence in the second leg, which they lost 1-0, eventually going out 3-2 on aggregate. The manner of the defeat was branded a "fiasco" by sports newspaper L'Equipe, and despite the fact Blanc signed a new two-year contract in February keeping keep him at the club until 2018, Al-Khelaifi now wants Mourinho to replace him this summer.

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association for his behaviour following his red card against West Ham last Sunday. The sanction relates to his reaction following his second-half dismissal in the Foxes' 2-2 Premier League draw with the Hammers on Sunday. Vardy opened the scoring in the first half but was shown a second yellow card early in the second for simulation and contested the decision with referee Jon Moss before leaving the field. The 22-goal striker could miss more than Sunday's match with Swansea for title-chasing Leicester if he is found guilty of the charge. Chelsea striker Diego Costa was involved in a similar case last month when he received an additional one-match ban for his reluctance to leave the pitch following a red card in the FA Cup against Everton. He was also handed a £20,000 fine and a warning as to his future conduct. Leicester have also been charged with failing to control their players after Moss awarded the Hammers' an 83rd-minute penalty. The FA is also studying comments from West Ham's Andy Carroll after the forward hit out at Moss following his decision to award Leicester a stoppage-time penalty. Leonardo Ulloa scored to rescue a draw and extend Leicester's lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points, which Tottenham reduced to five with victory at Stoke on Monday.

Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham will keep fighting to pressure Premier League leaders Leicester City after their 4-0 victory over Stoke. Harry Kane and Dele Alli scored two each as Spurs swept Stoke aside at the Britannia on Monday night, closing the gap on Leicester to five points. The Foxes dropped points against West Ham last Sunday, and Pochettino was proud of the way his players dealt with the situation to take advantage of their rivals' slip. "It was a great game and I'm very pleased with the performance," Pochettino said. "The players deserve full credit for this game because it was difficult from the beginning. "We are still fighting. Our dream is to fight and put pressure on Leicester and I think it was fantastic, the performance and the result. "It was a tough game and Stoke wanted to win from the beginning. I think we showed our personality, character and good qualities. "It was one of the performances that you feel more proud of because the players played with character to deal with the pressure to try to catch Leicester. It is never easy but we showed big character. "We showed hunger and passion, and we showed we enjoy our game. It is fantastic to work with them every day. I feel fantastic and very happy because I have a squad that feels the passion for the game and they deserve the praise and full credit for the season."

Antonio Conte wants to win trophies "straight away" at Chelsea, and his style is exactly what the club need next season, insists Cesc Fabregas. The Italian will leave his national team post in the summer to join Chelsea, replacing interim manager Guus Hiddink. Chelsea, out of contention for the top four, may struggle to attract Europe's finest players without the lure of Champions League football, but Fabregas says Conte will not use any excuses and will want instant success at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard said: "From what I've heard, and it's probably proved by so many professionals talking about him, he's disciplined, he's a winner and he's a competitor. "That's what we need. Someone that will always be on our back to push us and make us work hard, teaching us new things; the things he wants to do and achieve. "All I know is that he wants to win straight away. No more transition, no more excuses. He wants to win and for that we'll have to be prepared from day one." Conte won three Serie A titles with Juventus before resigning in 2014 and the guided the Italian national team to an unbeaten European Championship qualification campaign, winning seven and drawing three of their 10 matches. Italy have been drawn in Group E for the finals, along with Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland, and Chelsea fans can get a glimpse of his playing style in the summer, which Fabregas revealed he has already studied. "I love football and I've been studying a little bit what he does with his previous teams. I played against his Italy recently and it's really interesting. "You can see that he loves offensive football and you can see that tactically his teams are so well organised." Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December after last season's Premier League champions suffered a poor first five months to the season. But Fabregas insists the players at Chelsea let Mourinho down, and that the Portuguese manager's biggest downfall was handing too much freedom to the squad having won the league by eight points last term. "A lot has been said, and many wrong things about that situation. I love Jose and consider him even my friend, we still keep in touch now and some of the things said were unfortunate. "I think his biggest problem was that he trusted us too much. He gave us more holiday because we were champions, he believed in us more, trusted us more, and we let him down. The whole team, all the players. "That was the main reason why at the end he had to go. And for that, myself and all the team, will feel bad for him."

Chelsea are one of a number of clubs interested in Fulham's highly sought-after striker Moussa Dembele. The 19-year old is out of contract at the end of the season and was at Stamford Bridge on Saturday for Chelsea's 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City. Dembele came close to joining Tottenham during the January transfer window and even underwent a medical but the deal collapsed because Fulham insisted that they be allowed to keep the forward on loan for the rest of the season. The Frenchman joined Fulham from Paris Saint-Germain as a 16-year-old in 2012 before making his debut the following year against West Ham in the Premier League. Dembele has scored 16 goals in all competitions for Fulham this season, including 14 in the Championship. Chelsea are in the market for reinforcements up front in the summer as their loan agreements for Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato are set to expire, leaving Diego Costa and Loic Remy as the club's only recognised strikers.

Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini feels Pep Guardiola’s early announcement as next season’s coach may have de-railed his side in their Premier League fight. Soon after the Spaniard’s announcement as new City coach next season at the beginning of February, the Citizens suffered two consecutive League losses against Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, while also being humbled 5-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup. And current coach Pellegrini feels the decision to announce Guardiola as his successor, and the doubt it may have caused in many of his players’ minds, might have cost them the League title. "Of course for different reasons we lost important games in February, against Leicester and Tottenham -- two games which do not allow us to be involved in the title," the Chilean told the Daily Mirror. "I am frustrated because we never expected to lose those games at home against Leicester and Tottenham. But there are a lot of reasons why those things happened, it's not normal in the way we are going to finish the season. "At the start of February there was news about the change of the manager, about players who will not continue here next season, about a lot of things that involved the minds of all the players. "We had those defeats at home, but now we are stable again and very happy to finish playing the way we have in these last games. "It's not easy for the players when you read in newspapers all things that will happen next season - all the players who will go out, all the players that will come in. It's not easy for the players to focus their mind.” City have however enjoyed a solid run of late and are unbeaten in their last five matches, sitting third in the Premier League standings while booking a Champions League semi-final date with Real Madrid next week. "I think the merit of this squad is always that it had a lot of character, personality,” Pellegrini said. “We never give up, we continue in the same way, and I hope we will see in the future in the Champions League - I am sure this team, playing in this way, can play in the final. "In February, we were involved in all the competitions and we were forced to leave the FA Cup. "We must try to finish now playing this way, trying to be as near as possible at the top of the table, trying to play the final of the Champions League and we will finish a good season if we win two titles."

Mario Balotelli has no desire to return to Liverpool when his loan deal with AC Milan expires in June. The Italian striker joined the Reds in August 2014, but failed to impress and was farmed out to Milan after just one season on Merseyside. "I want to stay at Milan," Balotelli told Mediaset Premium. "I do not want to return to Liverpool. I was never happy at Liverpool. "Plus Milan have the money." Balotelli, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2018, has only scored once in 17 league games this campaign. However, the 25-year-old feels his performances have improved of late. "I am finally starting to feel better again," he added. "I have been in fine shape physically for two or three weeks and my performances on the pitch have been proof of it."

Serie A leaders Juventus have once again re-iterated their stance in wanting to keep French sensation Paul Pogba at the club. The 23-year-old was the topic of much transfer speculation last year, yet remained with his Italian club where he has enjoyed another fine season, netting 10 goals and providing 13 assists in 44 matches across all competitions thus far. And with his name in the spotlight once more, Juventus general manager Beppe Marotta has again insisted that Pogba is not leaving Turin. "We made a clear decision on Pogba last year," Marotta told RAI radio. "He is going to be a key element for years to come. He's happy with us, he's grown and he's become a champion, and this is his natural habitat. "Of course, you have also got to consider when it comes to the transfer market that we as a club don't want to sell our best players on the one hand, and that the players want to stay on the other." Moratta also insisted that coach Massimiliano Allegri’s future belongs at the Juventus Stadium, with the former Milan coach’s tenure up at the end of the current campaign. "Our job as a club is to support our coach in his work on a daily basis and we did this with [former Juve boss] Antonio Conte and we have done this with Allegri," Marotta said. "This coach deserves a great deal of credit for having succeeding in establishing a balanced dressing room after stepping into large shoes. He's given [the players] the right motivation and is developing their game. We are as satisfied as he is." Following last Sunday’s 4-0 win over Palermo, Juve now have a nine-point advantage atop the Serie A standings with five matches left in the season.

Three Leicester City players have been nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award. Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez head the list, having guided the Foxes to the brink of a miracle English Premier League title. Also on the list in West Ham United midfield maestro Dimitri Payet, Tottenham Hotspur hotshot striker Harry Kane, and Arsenal’s assist king Mesut Ozil. Kane has also been nominated for Young Player of the Year, where he is joined by Spurs teammate Dele Alli, Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland, Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, and Everton duo Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery is pleased to once again be contributing to his side’s success as he eyes a Champions League semi-final berth. A recurring ankle injury meant the Frenchman missed five of Bayern’s six group stage matches in the competition, yet has played in their last three knockout stage matches, including last week’s narrow 1-0 win over Benfica in their first leg quarter-final showdown. Ribery acknowledged that it was a tight affair, but was particularly pleased to have received praise from coach Pep Guardiola after the match. "We wanted to go out and play a great game against Benfica," the speedster told UEFA.com. "We played really well and we won without conceding. It is the Champions League – there are no easy games. “It's always flattering and positive when a manager says good things about you," he added. The 33-year-old says he is definitely back to his best following his long injury lay-off, and is thrilled to be able to contribute on the pitch once more. "It was a very tough time for me when I was injured for such a long period," he said. "Now I'm lucky enough to be playing again and rediscovering the pleasure of playing. It was very hard for me mentally. Now I'm back with the team and on the pitch. I'm really enjoying it and very happy to have got back to my best so quickly."