Emery set to succeed Wenger as Arsenal boss – reports

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London (AFP) – Former Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery looks set to become Arsene Wenger’s successor after 22 years as Arsenal manager, the BBC reported on Monday. Emery, 46, won Ligue 1 and four domestic cups in two seasons in the French capital before departing earlier this month. However, the Spaniard paid for his failure to get PSG beyond the last 16 of the Champions League in his two seasons at the Parc des Princes. “Emery emerged as the unanimous choice following a recruitment process in which all candidates were spoken to,” said the BBC. PSG had previously reached four consecutive Champions League quarter-finals following the Qatari takeover of the club in 2011, but Emery oversaw a humiliating defeat to Barcelona in the last 16 a year ago, losing 6-1 at the Camp Nou after a 4-0 win in the first leg. The club then committed to spending 400 million Continue reading "Emery set to succeed Wenger as Arsenal boss – reports"

Cazorla to leave Arsenal in June

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London (AFP) – Santi Cazorla will bring the curtain down on his injury-ravaged Arsenal career when the Spanish midfielder leaves at the end of his contract in June. Cazorla hasn’t played for Arsenal since suffering a serious Achilles injury in October 2016. In a bid to return to action, he had 10 separate operations and a skin graft after he lost eight centimetres of tendon in his right ankle. The 33-year-old, who was signed from Malaga in 2012, made 180 appearances in six years with Arsenal, scoring 29 goals in all competitions. Cazorla was widely regarded as one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League when he was at his peak. He helped Arsenal lift two FA Cups, scoring a sublime free-kick in the 2014 final against Hull to spark Arsenal’s comeback from two goals down to win 3-2 at Wembley. Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: Continue reading "Cazorla to leave Arsenal in June"

Former Sunderland star Gibson avoids prison over drink driving

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London (AFP) – Former Republic of Ireland and Sunderland star Darron Gibson has been spared prison despite admitting a second serious drink-driving offence. Gibson’s contract with Sunderland was terminated in March after he smashed his Mercedes 4×4 into a taxi and five parked cars while on his way to the club’s training ground. The 30-year-old wept during the hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, where it was said he had used sleeping tablets and drunk from a litre bottle of vodka the night before the crash. A roadside test recorded him having 105mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath – reduced at the police station to 95mg – when the legal limit is 35mg. Gibson had already been banned from driving in 2015 when his car hit three cyclists while he was over the limit. In the latest incident, Gibson, who also played for Manchester United and Everton, knocked a taxi’s
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Wigan owners confirm sale to Hong Kong consortium

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London (AFP) – Wigan’s owners confirmed the proposed sale of their shareholding in the League One champions to a Hong Kong-based consortium on Monday. The Latics have been owned by the Whelan family since 1995, but the International Entertainment Corporation has now agreed to buy their majority stake. The offer depends on Hong Kong Stock Exchange approval, as well as consent from the English Football League. If the deal goes through, the new owners will take charge of a club that will go into the Championship next season after Paul Cook’s side won promotion from the third tier. Wigan, relegated from the Premier League in 2013 after winning the FA Cup days earlier, spent eight seasons in the top tier thanks to the investment of Dave Whelan, who bank-rolled their rise from lower league obscurity and funded the construction of a new stadium. Formers sports retail tycoon Whelan, 81, ceded
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Belgian Nainggolan announces international retirement after World Cup snub

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Milan (AFP) – Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan announced Monday he was calling time on his international career after being overlooked for the Belgium World Cup squad. The heavily tattooed 30-year-old has played 30 times for his country and is popular with supporters, but his relationship with coach Roberto Martinez has often been strained. The Spaniard flew out to Italy over the weekend to explain his choice. “Unfortunately and very reluctantly my international career comes to an end,” Nainggolan wrote on Instagram. “I’ve always done everything I could to represent my country. Being yourself can irritate people. “From this day on I’ll be the number one fan.” The absence of Nainggolan, who scored twice for Roma in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool this month, was the biggest surprise in the 28-player list that will be reduced to 23 before the tournament. Belgium face England, Panama
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Inter striker Icardi left out of Argentina World Cup squad

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Buenos Aires (AFP) – Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi, the joint-leading scorer in Italy this season, was a notable omission from Argentina’s 23-man World Cup squad named by coach Jorge Sampaoli on Monday. Icardi scored his 29th Serie A goal of the season on Sunday as Inter pipped Lazio to a Champions League place, but he was one of 12 players cut from a provisional 35-man squad revealed last week. The 25-year-old made his Argentina debut in October 2013 but spent four years in international exile before he was recalled last September for the final four World Cup qualifiers. 23-man squad: Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United/ENG), Willy Caballero (Chelsea/ENG), Franco Armani (River Plate) Defenders: Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla/ESP), Federico Fazio (Roma/ITA), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City/ENG), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United/ENG), Nicolas Taglafico (Ajax/NED), Javier Mascherano (Hebei Fortune/CHN), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon/POR), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino/ITA), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica/POR) Midfielders: Ever Banega (Sevilla/ESP), Lucas Continue reading "Inter striker Icardi left out of Argentina World Cup squad"

Beckham nemesis Ozalan candidate for Erdogan party in Turkey polls

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Istanbul (AFP) – Former Turkey international footballer Alpay Ozalan, who famously taunted David Beckham in a Euro 2004 qualifier, is one of several personalities from outside politics standing for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party in June elections, it announced Monday. Turkey will on June 24 vote in presidential and parliamentary elections and parties are now submitting the names of candidates to the authorities. As well as Ozalan, other ruling party candidates for MP from sport include former world wrestling champion Selcuk Cebi and recently retired Supersport motorbike racer Kenan Sofuoglu. Ozalan, who played some 90 times for Turkey, is well remembered in Britain for his notorious October 2003 clash with Beckham in a tense Euro qualifier in Istanbul. The English player was awarded a penalty but then struck it sky high over the crossbar after slipping just before contact. A gleeful Ozalan then went up to Beckham and poked his Continue reading "Beckham nemesis Ozalan candidate for Erdogan party in Turkey polls"

Derby boss Rowett wants to talk to managerless Stoke

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London (AFP) – Derby manager Gary Rowett has asked his Championship club for permission to speak to Stoke about taking charge of the relegated Premier League side. Stoke are searching for a new boss after Paul Lambert left last week in the aftermath of their slide into the Championship. Rowett, a former Birmingham and Burton manager, has been in charge of Derby since March 2017 and led the Rams to the Championship play-offs this season, only to lose to Fulham in the semi-finals. Derby said in a statement on their website: “Derby County Football Club can confirm that Gary Rowett has asked for permission to speak with Stoke City regarding the vacant manager’s position at the bet365 Stadium. “The club is now in discussion with Stoke regarding the matter and will update our supporters in due course.” The post Derby boss Rowett wants to talk to managerless Stoke appeared
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Moore hopes Albion appointment proves an inspiration

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London (AFP) – Darren Moore claims his appointment as West Bromwich Albion manager will be an inspiration to ethnic minority coaches, as well as aspiring British bosses. Moore was only the second manager in the Premier League, alongside Chris Hughton at Brighton, to represent a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) group before Albion’s relegation at the end of the season.  There are currently just three BAME bosses in the top four divisions, with that number due to drop when Keith Curle leaves Carlisle shortly. Moore has been given the Baggies job on a permanent basis after making a strong impact as interim manager following Alan Pardew’s dismissal in April. He steered West Brom to victories against Manchester United and Tottenham, as well as a draw against Liverpool. Those impressive results staved off relegation until the last week of the season and gave renewed hope to the club’s fans
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Russia prepares for World Cup drone attack

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Moscow (Russia) (AFP) – Russia will reportedly deploy jamming devices used in Syria and the war in Ukraine to defend World Cup stadiums against a drone attack. The threat of terror has been a prime concern for organisers of the June 14 to July 15 football showpiece. Russia has been hit by a string of suicide bombings since winning the right to host the world’s most watched event in 2010. Some have been blamed on militants from the north Caucasus with ties to the Islamic State group in Syria. Russia’s military bases in the war-ravaged Middle East nation have also been targeted by deadly drone attacks this year. The possibility of someone using the increasingly ubiquitous devices to drop a bomb on a stadium is one Russia’s defence ministry is not taking lightly. Moscow’s RBK news site said army chief Valery Gerasimov issued orders in February to set up jamming Continue reading "Russia prepares for World Cup drone attack"

Klopp seeks fitting finale to long road to Kiev

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Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is quietly confident his side can upset the odds by preventing Real Madrid from claiming a third consecutive Champions League title on Saturday, to cap a stunning season engineered by the German. Klopp’s men started their Champions League campaign in a playoff against Hoffenheim just to make the group stages back in August. Now, after plundering 46 goals in 14 games, Liverpool have made it back to the Champions League final in Kiev for the first time in 11 years. “I don’t want to talk about confidence, but we feel good and think we deserve to be where we are because the boys really showed up in all the different games,” said Klopp on Monday. “It was a very exciting journey so far and now we want to bring it to the best possible end.” By contrast, Madrid are featuring in their
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Hazard targets title to hint at Chelsea stay

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London (AFP) – Eden Hazard dropped a hint he is willing to stay at Chelsea next season as the FA Cup winner set his sights on more silverware. Hazard scored the first-half penalty that fired Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley. The 27-year-old has two years remaining on his current contract with the Blues, but last week the Belgium playmaker admitted he wanted to see who Chelsea signed in the close-season before agreeing to a new deal. That sparked renewed talk that Hazard would consider leaving Stamford Bridge, with Real Madrid among the clubs interested in his services, following Chelsea’s failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League. But Hazard’s role in Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph — the first time he has won the competition — might have given him pause for thought as he targeted the Premier League title next Continue reading "Hazard targets title to hint at Chelsea stay"

Liverpool can beat Real if they conquer their nerves – Alonso

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Madrid (AFP) – Xabi Alonso believes Liverpool can beat Real Madrid and be European champions but only if they cope with the pressure of playing in a Champions League final.  Alonso won Europe´s premier tournament with Liverpool in 2005 and Real in 2014, having spent five years playing for both of this season´s finalists.  Real are no strangers to this stage of the competition. They have reached three of the last four Champions League finals and won them all, with Saturday´s showdown offering them the chance for a third consecutive triumph.  Liverpool, meanwhile, are without a single player to have experienced a match of this magnitude. Only their coach Jurgen Klopp has gone the distance in Europe, with Borussia Dortmund, who were beaten by Bayern Munich in 2013.  “They have to prepare for the game very well because Real Madrid have all the experience,” Alonso said, Continue reading "Liverpool can beat Real if they conquer their nerves – Alonso"

England defence coach Gustard joins Harlequins

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London (AFP) – Premiership club Harlequins confirmed the appointment of England defence coach Paul Gustard as their new head of rugby on Monday. Gustard, 42, will take up his new post with the club after England’s tour to South Africa next month, replacing John Kingston. “Harlequins is delighted to announce that England defence coach Paul Gustard will join the London club as head of rugby, following the conclusion of England’s summer tour to South Africa,” the club said in a statement. Former Leicester, London Irish and Saracens flanker Gustard has worked alongside England head coach Eddie Jones since January 2016 and is under contract with the Rugby Football Union until after the 2019 World Cup. “Opportunities like this don’t come along very often,” said Gustard. “To be given the chance to lead a club as rich in talent, heritage and support as Harlequins is hugely exciting. “My relationship with Eddie Continue reading "England defence coach Gustard joins Harlequins"

Italy football shakeup offers hope to Juve’s rivals

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Milan (AFP) – The shakeup in Italian football promised by Roberto Mancini following the Azzurri’s World Cup flop has offered hope to Juventus’s rivals that it could impact the Serie A next season. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri met with club bosses on Monday to discuss his future contract and potential summer signings after claiming a fourth league and Cup doubles in as many years in Turin. Napoli challenged Juventus for much of the season but the Turin giants again came out on top by a four-point margin to extend their dominance for a seventh consecutive season. The 2017-2018 Serie A season was overshadowed by the drama playing out within a national side in tatters after their shock failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon, defender Andrea Barzagli and midfielder Daniele De Rossi —- three players who helped Italy to Continue reading "Italy football shakeup offers hope to Juve’s rivals"

Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

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Madrid (AFP) – Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad, announced on Monday.  Morata paid the price for a disappointing debut season in the Premier League as Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno up front, along with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.  “The decision is always difficult because of the talent of the players we have,” Lopetegui said. “We have opted for three other players who had different assets and including four players up front was not something we wanted to do.”  Two more Chelsea players also missed out as Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas were not included in the 23-man group.  Morata’s absence was the stand-out decision, however, even if it was not an entirely surprising one given the 25-year-old’s dramatic dip in form.  After scoring seven goals in his first seven games for Chelsea, a Continue reading "Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad"

Pogba evasive over Manchester United future

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Paris (AFP) – Paul Pogba has refused to rule out a move away from Manchester United, hinting at strains in his relationship with Jose Mourinho after a difficult season at Old Trafford. The £89 million ($119 million) France international has had a tricky second season back at United, being left out of the side or substituted early many times. On other occasions manager Mourinho has publicly questioned his contributions, while transfer talk refuses to die down. Asked by French television station Canal Plus if he would remain a United player, the 25-year-old declined to give a cast-iron commitment. “You can never be sure of anything,” he said. “But contractually, it’s sure, yes. “I can never look far into the future. It also depends how it goes with the club, how things work out.” Pogba also discussed his relationship with Mourinho, saying the pair did not have to have the Continue reading "Pogba evasive over Manchester United future"

Belgium leave out Nainggolan for World Cup

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Brussels (AFP) – Belgium have left midfield creator Radja Nainggolan out of their World Cup squad, coach Roberto Martinez said on Monday. The absence of Nainggolan, who scored twice for Roma in the second league of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool this month, was the biggest surprise in the 28-player list that will be reduced to 23 before the tournament. Belgium face England, Panama and Tunisia in Group G at the World Cup. The heavily tattooed 30-year-old has played 30 times for his country and is popular with supporters, but his relationship with Martinez has often been strained. The Spanish former Everton manager said: “It was a sad and difficult decision. He is a player with a lot of class and he was voted Roma’s best player, but I’ve made my decision for purely tactical reasons. “I have put in place a specific system that works. I can’t use Continue reading "Belgium leave out Nainggolan for World Cup"

Iraq to host first international football tournament

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Baghdad (AFP) – Iraq is to host a West Asia Football Federation championship in the southern city of Basra in November, the first international tournament to be staged in the country since the 1990s. Iraqi authorities late Sunday hailed WAFF’s invitation to host the tournament, following the decision in March of world football’s governing body FIFA to lift a three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football. Iraq is now “eager to organise a major footballing event and to show that it is ready at all levels”, Iraqi Football Association spokesman Kamel Zaghir told AFP, confirming Basra would host the tournament between 12 Arab countries. For years, Iraq has been busily building and upgrading stadiums and campaigning for its return to the international fold. FIFA’s decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the ultra-modern stadium in Basra on February 28. Iraq has not played competitive internationals on
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Cahill urges clarity over Conte’s Chelsea future

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London (AFP) – Chelsea captain Gary Cahill has called for “the uncertainty to be put to bed” over the future of Antonio Conte, with the Italian widely expected to be on his way out of the club.  The Blues beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final on Saturday as Conte won his second trophy in English football after capturing the Premier League title in his first campaign. The former Italy and Juventus manager has been embroiled in a turbulent campaign marred by his feud with the club’s hierarchy over their failure to back his transfer plans. Conte is also said to have infuriated several Chelsea stars with his intense personality and regimented training sessions. Cahill believes a decision must be made one way or the other so Chelsea, whose fifth-placed finish in the Premier League means they miss out on Champions League football next season, can prepare Continue reading "Cahill urges clarity over Conte’s Chelsea future"