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Messi skips Argentina friendlies, future in doubt

By Sports Desk,

Captain Lionel Messi will miss Argentina’s next four friendly matches and his future in the team is uncertain , according to local press reports .

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner previously retired from the national side after their 2016 Copa America final defeat by Chile before returning to help them qualify for this year’s World Cup.

The two-time world champions will face Guatemala in Los Angeles on September 7 and Colombia in New York four days later, before two friendlies later in the year against as-yet unnamed opponents.

“Messi will not return this year and there are doubts about his future,” proclaimed Argentinian daily Clarin.

News website Infobae said: “He will take a rest period, but that doesn’t mean he’s quitting.”

“It is the coach who will say, when the time comes, what the situation is concerning Messi,” a team spokesman told AFP.

Lionel Scaloni has been in temporary charge of Argentina since Jorge Sampaoli left after their disastrous World Cup tournament in Russia, where they were beaten 4-3 in the last 16 by France after an embarrassing 3-0 group-stage loss to Croatia.

He will name his first squad for the visit to the United States later this week.

“It’s very personal, Leo must take his time to think about it,” said Carlos Tevez, who is in Barcelona for Boca Juniors’ friendly on Wednesday at the Camp Nou.

“It’s understandable… even if he doesn’t come back. When the international side play, rightly or wrongly, we criticise him. It’s bad for the team and for him… I understand because I’ve been in that situation.”

Messi’s next chance to win his first major international title will be the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.

Moses quits Nigerian football team

By Sports Desk,

Nigeria’s midfielder Victor Moses has announced a stunning  decision to quit international football, choosing his club Chelsea over answering duty calls from Nigeria.

Moses, who is just 27, announced his decision on Wednesday on his Instagram page.

He said he made this decision  to focus on his club career and family.

Moses was part of the Nigerian squad to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and paid pivotal role in Nigeria’s victory over Iceland at the Group stage.

He was born in Lagos on  12 December 1990 and  his parents later took him to Kaduna. After surviving a religious riot, in which his parents were killed, he was taken to England, where he has had a flourishing football career.

He represented England at youth tournaments, playing for the Under-16, Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21, but he thereafter opted to play for Nigeria.

He began his professional  career in the Championship with Crystal Palace, before his performances caught the eye of Wigan Athletic, where he made his Premier League debut in 2010.

After two years, his game had improved to the extent that European champions Chelsea were interested, and he signed for them in the summer of 2012.

Despite ten goals in all competitions during his first season, he spent his second season on loan to Liverpool, his third on loan at Stoke City and his fourth on loan at West Ham United.

He has been capped more than  20 times for Nigeria since his debut in 2012 and was part of the winning squad at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as the campaign in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Here is the full message that he posted on Twitter and his Instagram account:

 

 

Only NFF recognised by CAF and FIFA can sack me, Sanusi insists

By Sports Desk,

Mohammed Sanusi, General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) headed by Amaju Pinnick, on Monday said he could only be sacked by a body recognised by CAF or FIFA.

Sanusi said in Abuja that he would not be bothered by any declaration of his being sacked by any group.

The Chris Giwa-led NFF board had on Sunday said it had terminated the appointment of Sanusi as NFF General Secretary.

“I wonder how a group of people who did not employ me will think they have the power to sack someone they did not employ.

“How can a body that did not employ me sack me? It is only an NFF that is recognised by CAF or FIFA that can sack me,” Sanusi said.

According to the Giwa-led NFF board, Sanusi’s appointment termination followed the enrollment Order 5, page 3 of the Order of the Federal High Court in Jos.

Victor Iroele, Giwa’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, had said on Sunday in a statement that the order was granted to the matter’s first and second applicants.

According to the order, all acts, resolutions and or decisions made or taken by the Executive Committee of the NFF purportedly elected on Sept. 30 2014 were also set aside.

I would have left Chelsea had Conte stayed – Willian

By Sports Desk,

Chelsea winger Willian says there is “no chance” he would be at the club had former head coach Antonio Conte still been in charge.

Conte won the 2016-17 Premier League title with the Blues but was sacked in July after finishing fifth.

His replacement, fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri, won his first Premier League match in charge, 3-0 at Huddersfield on Saturday.

“The manager tells us to play, to enjoy ourselves on the pitch,” Willian said.

“Is it fun to play this way? I think so. We have a lot of players with quality up front, like Eden Hazard and Pedro. Players like that want to play football.

“That’s why he [Sarri] talked about ‘fun’ football [after arriving at Chelsea]. This is what we will try to do this season.”

Brazilian Willian, 30, was linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United this summer but committed his future to the Blues in early August.

Asked whether he would have stayed if Conte had not been fired, he told the Evening Standard: “No chance. No. I’m here because I want to play for Chelsea. I will only leave if Chelsea want me to go.”

Chelsea are at home to Arsenal in their next league fixture on Saturday, and Willian added: “Now we have a different style, that’s why we can create problems for Arsenal.

“Of course, it will be a special game against Arsenal because it is a derby. It is always difficult against them. We have to prepare well during the week.”

Sterling, Silva scores against Arsenal as Man City winning form continues

By Sports Desk,

Bernardo Silva’s second-half stunner helped Manchester City open the defence of their Premier League title with a 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Raheem Sterling gave the visitors the lead inside 15 minutes when he cut inside Hector Bellerin before firing the ball past a near-motionless Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal.

The hosts improved as the game wore on but offered little threat to the goal of Ederson while City were opening up their hosts at will.

Sergio Aguero passed up a hugely presentable chance just before Silva put the result beyond any doubt with 64 minutes gone with a thunderous strike from a Benjamin Mendy cutback.

Mane, Salah scores as Liverpool defeats West Ham

By News Desk,

Sadio Mane struck twice as Liverpool offered evidence of why they are being tipped to push for the title with a 4-0 demolition of West Ham at Anfield.

The Senegalese star tucked home his first on the stroke of half-time before all-but securing victory with a smart shot on the turn on 53 minutes from what looked like an offside position.

It capped a superb attacking display from Jurgen Klopp’s side, who had taken the lead when Mohamed Salah, who notched 44 goals in his first campaign on Merseyside, opened his account for 2018-19 by touching home Andy Robertson’s fizzing, low cross on 19 minutes.

West Ham offered little as their five debutants struggled to gel and Daniel Sturridge rubbed salt in their wounds late on when he knocked home from a corner within seconds of appearing as a substitute. It was the icing on the cake on what was close to a perfect afternoon for Klopp and Co as new boys Alisson and Naby Keita both impressed.

The comfortable victory was the Merseysiders’ 500th of the Premier League era and means they will visit Crystal Palace next Monday evening in buoyant mood. West Ham will need to regroup and continue to familiarise themselves with new faces before targeting their first win under Manuel Pellegrini when they host Bournemouth on Saturday.

 

Rasheedat Ajibade scores as Falconets defeats Haiti

By Sports Desk,

Nigeria’s Under-20 female team the Falconets defeated Haiti 1-0 on Thursday to keep hope alive in their quest to move into the knockout stage at ongoing FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France.

The match played at Stade de Marville in the French city of Saint-Malo saw team captain Rasheedat Ajibade netting the only goal of the match through a first half penalty kick.

The victory which earned Nigeria the maximum three points started at a furious pace but neither side were able to put up any real goal-scoring threat.

It took until the 36th minute to see the breakthrough, with Nigeria being awarded a penalty kick after Anam Imo was fouled in the area by Haiti’s Dougenie Joseph.

Ajibade, who is Africa’s top scorer in qualifying for France 2018, made no mistake when presented with the opportunity and converted what turned out to be the winning goal from 12 yards.

Haiti responded to going behind almost immediately but Nerilia Mondesir was denied by the post after a swift counter-attack.

The Caribbean side continued to push for the equaliser but goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, who was later picked “Player of the Match’’, proved to be equal to every challenge that came her way.

Mondesir and Melchie Dumonay took much of the initiative going forward, looking dangerous at times, but the Nigerian backline, marshalled by Nnadozie, held on for the victory.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the win pushed Nigeria up the group’s table from fourth place after Monday’s opening matches to second place after Thursday’s matches.

Germany, 1-0 winners over Nigeria on Monday, remained firm as Group D leaders after beating China PR 2-0 in the group’s other MatchDay 2 fixture earlier at the same venue.

Nigeria now need at least a draw in their final group phase match on Monday against China PR to be able to finish second and pick the group’s other quarter-final ticket.

Germany face Haiti on Monday at Stade de la Rabine in Vannes in their final group phase game and look sure bets to emerge group leaders, even after a slim loss.

The Falconets can be sure of emerging group runners-up with at least a draw against China PR at Clos Gastel Stadium in Lehon, at Dinan-Lehon, even if Haiti beat Germany.

Ronaldo, Five Madrid players lead UEFA nominees for positional awards

By Sports Desk,

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah have all been nominated for UEFA’s Champions League positional awards, with the list dominated by Real Madrid players.

Madrid won their third consecutive European title with thanks to a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev, Gareth Bale netting a brace.

Bale did not make the cut of players voted for by coaches of the 32 teams from the 2017-18 Champions League group stage and 55 journalists representing each of UEFA’s member nations, with Ronaldo, Messi and Salah the attackers put forward.

Keylor Navas may have his position at Madrid under serious threat following the signing of Thibaut Courtois but is nominated in the goalkeeping category alongside Alisson and Gianluigi Buffon.

Madrid have a clean sweep among the defenders in the shape of Marcelo, Raphael Varane and captain Sergio Ramos, while only Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne – accompanying Luka Modric and Toni Kroos – prevents a similar scenario for the midfielders.

The three nominees for the Europa League Player of the Season award are drawn from the final and continue the Spanish theme.

Atletico Madrid duo Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin have been named alongside Marseille’s Dimitri Payet.

Godin lifted the trophy after Griezmann scored twice in a 3-0 win over the Ligue 1 side in Lyon.

The winners will be announced at the respective Champions League and Europa League group stage draws in Monaco on August 30 and 31.

The three nominees for the Europa League Player of the Season award are drawn from the final and continue the Spanish theme.

Atletico Madrid duo Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin have been named alongside Marseille’s Dimitri Payet.

Godin lifted the trophy after Griezmann scored twice in a 3-0 win over the Ligue 1 side in Lyon.

The winners will be announced at the respective Champions League and Europa League group stage draws in Monaco on August 30 and 31.

I hope Eden Hazard join me at Real Madrid – Courtois

By Sports Desk,

Thibaut Courtois was unveiled by Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu and revealed he would be thrilled to see his former Chelsea team-mate Eden Hazard follow him over to Spain from Stamford Bridge this summer.

Hazard has done little to appease Chelsea fans already angry at the nature of his departure after he admitted on Thursday that he would like Blues attacker Eden Hazard to join him at Real Madrid

Courtois, who was officially unveiled as a Madrid player at the Bernabeu after completing a £35.5million move, said he hoped Chelsea’s supporters would come to understand his decision.

“I want to thank them for the last four years I have been there,” he said. “I had to take the chance (to come back) because my two kids are here. I want to live close to them and see them grow up.

“I know the supporters are maybe not too happy at the moment, but I wish them all the best and I hope they remember me well.”

But, asked about Hazard in French by a Belgian journalist, he said: “Eden congratulated me. He knows it is a dream for me to be here. I would like to be always by his side. He is a great player and if he could come here, it would be fantastic.”

Real have identified Hazard as one of the players who could be brought in following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus this summer.

Hazard hinted he would be keen on a Madrid move after helping Belgium secure third place – along with Courtois – at the World Cup, but Chelsea have insisted that the 27-year-old winger is not for sale.

Arrizabalaga pays £71m release clause, pushes for Chelsea move

By Sports Desk,

Chelsea target Kepa Arrizabalaga has paid his release clause of £71m to La Liga, which allows him to leave Athletic Bilbao and clears the way for a transfer to the Premier League.

The deal would be a world record for a goalkeeper, surpassing the £66.8m Liverpool paid for Alisson in July.

Spaniard Kepa, 23, is being brought in as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois.

Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic, 24, is also set to join Chelsea on a season-long loan.

Kovacic will have a medical on Wednesday.

He has spent the past three seasons at Real after joining from Inter Milan, and played in Croatia’s run to the World Cup final in July.

Real boss Julen Lopetegui said he “expressed his desire” for the player to stay, after his team’s 2-1 friendly win against Roma on Tuesday.

Courtois, meanwhile, has not reported for training and is being linked with Real Madrid.

The Belgium international, 26, was due at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground on Monday, following his involvement at the World Cup.

Courtois has been a Blues player since 2011, when he signed from Belgian club Genk, and was loaned to Atletico Madrid from 2011 to 2014.

“I always say that I’m not talking about players who’re not at Real Madrid,” said Lopetegui, who added current number one Keylor Navas is “phenomenal and an extraordinary goalkeeper”.

Kepa buys his way out

In Spain, a player must buy himself out of his contract. This is usually done by depositing the amount of the buyout clause with La Liga – Spain’s equivalent of the Premier League – to release the player from his contract. The league then passes the money to the selling club.

Kepa is Spain’s number two behind Manchester United’s David de Gea and has one international cap.

He has spent the past two seasons in Bilbao’s first team, making 53 La Liga appearances.

In January, he signed a new long-term contract with Bilbao until 2025, amid interest from Real Madrid.

Kepa is the second big-name player to leave Bilbao this year, after Manchester City signed French defender Aymeric Laporte for £57min January.