International News - Issue 309




Leicester City Crowned 2015/16 EPL Champions

Leicester City have completed one of the most remarkable triumphs in sporting history by winning the 2015/16 Premier League title. The club's first top-flight championship in their 132-year history was sealed following Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Monday night, meaning they have an unassailable seven-point lead at the top of the table with two games left to play. Claudio Ranieri's side missed the chance to claim the trophy on Sunday afternoon when they could only draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford - but they needed to wait just over 24 hours for their title glory to be sealed. At the start of the season, Leicester were 5000/1 outsiders to become champions after flirting with relegation for most of last season and they were playing in League One as recently as 2009. But the appointment of Ranieri as manager last summer heralded an incredible title charge with star players Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy being named Player of the Year by the PFA and the FWA respectively. Leicester will receive the trophy following their final home game of the season against Everton on Saturday evening and are set to receive a Guard of Honour from last season's champions Chelsea when they visit Stamford Bridge on the final day.

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher believes Mousa Dembele will not play again this season after being caught eye gouging Diego Costa. Tensions flared during Monday's Premier League clash between Chelsea and Tottenham when Danny Rose upended Willian causing Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to enter the field to separate the players. As the two sets of teams joined in the fracas, Spurs' Dembele was caught on camera pushing his finger into the eye of Chelsea's Costa. Referee Mark Clattenburg did not see the incident but replays appeared to show the referee's assistant, Simon Beck, looking straight at the pair. Carragher believes the FA will take retrospective action over the incident, as they did when Dembele's team-mate Dele Alli was banned for three games for punching West Brom's Claudio Yacob last week. "It is shocking," Carragher said on Monday Night Football. "The man he (Dembele) is up against, Costa, how many times has he been seen doing things like this? That's the end of Dembele's season, there is no doubt about that." Carragher was also scathing of Beck and believes the linesman 'bottled' the chance to punish the Tottenham midfielder. "He can't not have seen that," Carragher added. "There is no doubt Mark Clattenburg has been lenient and I don't mind officials being lenient in big games. But incidents like that, the linesman is looking straight at it and he froze and has bottled his decision."

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has been named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year for 2015-16. The 29-year-old has been outstanding for the Premier League leaders, scoring 22 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions for the Foxes. He said: "It's a great honour to win such a prestigious award and to have my name added to a list of previous winners that includes some unbelievable players. Thank you to the Football Writers' Association and to everyone that voted. "Thank you, also, to my team-mates, who are the reason I've been able to achieve anything. It's been an amazing season for all of us at Leicester, based on team-work, not individuals, which you can see in the voting. Vardy, who was playing non-league football with Fleetwood four years ago, broke the Premier League record for scoring in successive games earlier this season. He surpassed the total set by Ruud van Nistelrooy by scoring in 11 straight matches from August 29 to November 28. Vardy, who made his England debut in June 2015, scored his first international goal in March against Germany in Berlin, before bagging his second three days later against the Netherlands at Wembley. The winner of Footballer of the Year is voted for by FWA members - a group of around 400 football journalists. This year is the first time a Leicester City player has received the award in its 69-year history. Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard won the 2014-15 award, while Luis Suarez picked up the trophy in 2013-14 while at Liverpool.

Burnley secured an immediate return to the Premier League as Sam Vokes’ goal earned a 1-0 victory over QPR on Monday. Having seen Brighton held by Derby earlier in the afternoon, Burnley knew that victory at Turf Moor would see them promoted with a game to spare. They were made to work hard for the points but got the decisive goal in the 61st minute when Vokes flicked David Jones' free-kick into the far corner. Alejandro Faurlin almost denied Burnley when his long-range effort struck the post, but Sean Dyche's side held out and will return to the Premier League after being relegated last year. The win moves Burnley two points ahead of Middlesbrough and Brighton, with only one of them able to get into the automatic places as they meet at the Riverside on the final day. The Clarets' promotion charge has been built on the back of a lengthy unbeaten run from Boxing Day which they stretched to 22 games against QPR, even though they were not at their best.

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez insists ex-teammate Lionel Messi has never disrespected any opponent on the pitch, insisting the Argentine never cheats. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has in recent months been accused of play-acting, with Atletico Madrid’s Felipe Luis claiming the Barca superstar receives preferential treatment from referees. Yet former teammate Xavi says Messi is not that type of player and never cheats. "Messi is a good person," Xavi told beIN SPORTS. "He is always nice, he is honest and he does not cheat. "He has never disrespected anyone on the pitch. His behaviour is exemplary.” Xavi added that the Argentine does not like losing and hates missing out on games. "He is a humble guy, who is very professional and hates to lose,” he continued. "He is the best player in the world in all aspects. I told him to get more involved and he now does it naturally. "He is addicted to the ball. He is sad when he cannot play."

Cristiano Ronaldo believes the affection Zinedine Zidane shows towards his players is what’s making him a good coach for Real Madrid. Real’s coaches change like the weather but star man Ronaldo, who recently lifted some pressure off Zidane with a vital UEFA Champions League hat-trick against Wolfsburg, hopes he will stay for a long time. “We feel his affection. We know he's in a period of adaptation, but things have come together very quickly and I'm really happy for him,” Ronaldo told UEFA media. “I always admired him as a player, and now as a coach as well, for how he behaves, how he deals with the players. He’s a coach who I would like to see stay at Real Madrid.” Madrid are still in the La Liga title race sitting a point behind leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid heading into the final two games of the season.

Jose Mourinho is expected to make a decision on his next job this week, with Manchester United a viable option if he is convinced that the structure at the club is in place to allow him to succeed. There is interest from United in Mourinho succeeding Louis van Gaal this summer but nothing has been agreed yet and a deal would be contingent on the former Chelsea manager being given the kind of assurances that he has long sought about stability at the top of the club. He has other options open to him but has made clear that he wants to begin work at a new club as soon as the season ends. Whether the United job fits the bill or not will be Mourinho’s decision and he will apply the usual due diligence to the kind of offer he has made. As in the past when he has made major career decisions, he is likely to speak to contacts of his own in the game with experience of United before deciding whether it offers him the best platform to work. There is no instinct on Mourinho’s part to take a job because of the status associated with the club. Certainly United’s history is not a factor in his decision, as was the case in all his big moves since he began management with Benfica in 2000. His sole focus will be the current-day organisation and personnel at the club and how well suited they are to success on the pitch. The next couple of days are crucial for the 53-year-old who has made it clear since his sacking from Chelsea on Dec 17 that he would not be prepared to allow negotiations over a new job to drag on into the summer. He feels that to give himself the best possible chance of succeeding in whatever new job he takes he needs the full extent of pre-season to prepare and organise his squad, as well as sign players. As for discussions over salary, they are expected to be much less complex. Managers at Mourinho’s level have a threshold they are expected to be paid – in his case currently around £10 million to £12 million annually – and that is regarded as non-negotiable. Mourinho does not consider his value to have fallen since the end of his time at Chelsea, and would point to the two trophies won in the two full seasons of his second spell there. Mourinho is understood to be keen to get back into management, which was his immediate plan when he was sacked by Chelsea. He soon accepted that was going to be difficult during the rest of this season, and with no appetite from United to sack Van Gaal mid-campaign, Mourinho feels that he no longer wants to wait on a decision on United or any other of the options available to him. Van Gaal has been insistent that fulfilling the final year of his contract at Old Trafford is still a possibility, and that it was the club who originally asked him to sign a three-year-deal rather than just two.  Manchester City’s defeat by Southampton meant that United’s draw with Leicester City was a point gained in the race for fourth place with Van Gaal’s team four points behind City with a game in hand.

Captain John Terry is hopeful of remaining at Chelsea as he reaches the end of his contract at Stamford Bridge. Terry indicated in January that he would not be offered a new deal at the club, where he has played his entire career, though his future remains unclear with incoming manager Antonio Conte not arriving until after Euro 2016. But the 35-year-old, who has played over 700 times for Chelsea and has won four league titles and the Champions League, is hopeful of playing for another couple of seasons. Chelsea maintain Terry could yet be offered a one-year extension, the club's policy for those aged over 30, but the defender could accept a lucrative offer to play in America's MLS, China or the Middle East. He told Fenners on Soccer AM's Boot Room: "I've got a couple of years left. Definitely I intend to keep playing, hopefully that's at Chelsea, but if not it will be somewhere else. "I am definitely feeling good physically and I intend to play as long as I can. As a professional footballer you're a long time retired, so I think not only for myself but for all of us we should get the most out of it and enjoy it while it's there." Terry remembered how he would clean boots for the likes of Dennis Wise, Eddie Newton and David Lee in the mid-1990s at Chelsea, and says younger players are nowadays far too detached from senior members of the squad. Asked by Fenners whether young players should still be cleaning boots and performing duties, Terry said: "I think so, and it's the interaction as well, you'd have the responsibility firstly of cleaning the players' boots and making sure they're in the skip ready for the next game. "Nowadays it's all on the kit men. The academy boys and the reserve boys are over in another building. The separation is too much for me. "If I was the FA or PFA, I'd go back to have them doing boots and a little bit of duties. That would be the one for me."

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has verbally agreed a new five-year contract with Tottenham. The Argentine has been a huge success since arriving at White Hart Lane in 2014, steering Spurs to fifth in the Premier League and the Capital One Cup final in his first season before masterminding their title challenge this campaign. That success has led to speculation he could be tempted away from north London, with Manchester United and PSG touted as potential destinations, but after opening talks with chairman Daniel Levy several months ago, he is now ready to sign a deal which would keep him at the club until 2021. "It was an easy decision when you feel the love of the people and the potential of the club is massive, so why change?" he said. "We create a good atmosphere on the training ground and I think we can achieve big things in the future. I believe in this project and this club. I want to stay here. "We have not signed yet but we have reached the verbal agreement to stay here for the next five years. "It is a good moment to tell you, for all to know that my future is here. I am very happy. It is for many reasons I stay." Spurs are due to move into their new 61,000-seater stadium in 2018-19 and Pochettino hailed a bright future for the club. "Tottenham have unbelievable potential. We created after two years here a great group of players," he added. "We have a very strong squad, young, with potential to be a top team. The staff and the supporters are unbelievable, there is massive potential, why not stay here?" Pochettino took over with Spurs in turmoil after the 2013/14 season, which saw them sack Andre Villas-Boas in December 2014 before Tim Sherwood took over in a tumultuous short spell. After losing to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley, Pochettino initiated a summer clear-out in 2015, with Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, Aaron Lennon and Paulinho all leaving the club. New signings Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli have since both proved instrumental in Spurs' superb season and although Monday's 2-2 draw at Chelsea means they won’t win the title, they look set to return to the Champions League in their final season at White Hart Lane before they spend a year away while the ground is redeveloped.