Sports

Criminal proceedings against Valcke

 Posted by at 3:00 AM
Mar 182016
 
Valcke became secretary general at Fifa in 2007

Criminal proceedings have been opened against former Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke, Swiss investigators say.

Valcke was put on leave last September after football’s governing body said it had “been made aware of a series of allegations” involving him.

The 55-year-old Frenchman was later banned from football for 12 years.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said it is now investigating Valcke for “various acts of criminal mismanagement”.

It added the criminal investigation related to the “matters investigated by the Fifa Ethics Committee” which led to Valcke’s ban last month.

He has not been arrested but was questioned by investigators who carried out searches on Thursday.

Valcke was sacked by Fifa after it investigated allegations of misconduct relating to sales of World Cup tickets.

His lawyer said his client had done “absolutely nothing wrong”.

But the inquiry heard as well as his involvement in the World Cup tickets sales, from which he allegedly sought to privately benefit, he also attempted to sell TV and media rights to a third party in a cut-price deal.

The inquiry also heard Valcke routinely used a private plane for personal use “and caused considerable financial damage to Fifa”.

Fifa finances revealed

The Swiss attorney general’s statement came on the day it emerged Valcke was paid 2.1m Swiss francs (£1.5m) by Fifa last year.

The organisation’s annual financial report also showed disgraced former president Sepp Blatter earned 3.63m Swiss francs (£2.59m).

The salaries were released for the first time as part of new Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s commitment to transparency.

Infantino was elected last month with a mandate to clean up the corruption-plagued body.

The financial report also showed Fifa lost $122m (£84m) last year.

“These results stand as a cautionary tale of what can happen if we lose sight of the primary responsibilities of our mission, and if we fail to take the necessary steps to protect our organisation against wrongdoing,” said Infantino.

“Fifa’s healthy financial reserves, built up when the sun was shining as a prudent insurance against unforeseen risks, have served to further stabilise the organisation, and to give us the breathing space we need to put things right.

“This strong financial position overall means we are more than capable of weathering the current storm.”

Blatter appeals against Fifa ban

Blatter, 80, was Fifa president from 1998 until being forced to stand down last year. He was found guilty by Fifa of ethics breaches over a $2m (£1.3m) “disloyal payment” to former Uefa head Michel Platini.

He was subsequently given a six-year ban from football.

On Thursday it was confirmed the Swiss has now taken his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Platini, who was also banned for six years, launched his own appeal bid with Cas last month.

Both men deny wrongdoing. They claim the payment, made in 2011, related to a gentleman’s agreement made in 1998 for work carried out by the Frenchman when he was a technical advisor for Blatter.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Mar 172016
 
Danny Drinkwater has been a key figure in Leicester’s rise to the top of the Premier League this season

Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater has been named in the England squad for the Euro 2016 warm-up games against Germany and the Netherlands.

It is the 26-year-old’s first call-up to the senior national team.

Roy Hodgson’s team travel to Berlin to face world champions Germany on Saturday, 26 March, then host the Dutch at Wembley on Tuesday, 29 March.

Tottenham full-back Danny Rose and Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge are also included in a 24-man squad.

But Wayne Rooney is left out as he recovers from a knee injury.

Clubs represented in England squad:

  • Tottenham and Liverpool: 5 players
  • Everton: 3
  • Man City, Leicester, Arsenal and Southampton: 2
  • Chelsea, Man Utd and Stoke: 1

Drinkwater, a former Manchester United youth team player, has been an influential figure in the stunning rise of Leicester, who top the Premier League table with eight games to go.

“What he’s done has been evident to everybody,” said Hodgson. “He’s had a fantastic season, but even last year we were aware of him.”

Drinkwater’s Premier League stats:

  • 1199 successful passes
  • 80 tackles
  • 46 interceptions
  • 4 assists
  • 1 goal

Hodgson added that the competition for a place in England’s midfield is “quite fierce” but said it was a good opportunity to see if Drinkwater “can reproduce the quality that he’s shown for Leicester”.

Hodgson says he “deliberately ignored” Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs and Everton full-back Leighton Baines in favour of Rose and Ryan Bertrand.

Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, 34, was overlooked in favour of Drinkwater but Hodgson said he could still make the squad for the finals in France.

England squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City).

Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur).

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Analysis

BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty:

Drinkwater is the stand-out name in Hodgson’s squad for the friendlies against Germany and The Netherlands – a reward for his outstanding role in Leicester City’s dream season.

While Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri often describes attacking pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez as “the pinnacle of the iceberg”, Drinkwater has anchored the midfield with reliability and no little ability.

He has a real chance to push his claims for a midfield holding role in England’s Euro 2016 squad, with Jack Wilshere sidelined and Michael Carrick surely now out of opportunities.

Dele Alli may be in contention for that position but Drinkwater can make a late bolt for inclusion if he impresses.

Like club-mate Vardy, he has been rewarded for patience, persistence and honest professionalism, having had loan spells at Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, Watford and Barnsley before establishing himself at Leicester.

Rose is another who will hope to make his mark, while Hodgson takes the chance to assess if Sturridge is worth the gamble of taking to France.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Mar 172016
 
Nemanja Vidic (left) likes the idea of Ryan Giggs (right) becoming Manchester United manager

Former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic believes the club will have a tough choice to make between Jose Mourinho and Ryan Giggs if they decide to replace Louis van Gaal as manager.

Van Gaal is contracted until the end of 2016/17 but has come under pressure during a disappointing season at Old Trafford.

United legend Giggs and ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid manager Mourinho have emerged as two of the frontrunners to take charge if and when the 64-year-old Dutchman leaves.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC at his home in Milan, in his first interview since retiring, Vidic says former team-mate Giggs understands the workings of United after nearly three decades at the club, but rates Mourinho as one of the game’s best ever managers.

“I like the idea of Giggsy, but Mourinho has had success in the past,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s a hard choice. Is Giggsy ready or not? He knows. The club knows. I believe they will have an honest conversation.

Van Gaal (centre) has a year left on his United contract

“I want someone who knows the club and does the best for the club. I shared a dressing room with him. I know he will do that.

“Mourinho plays football in a certain way, that is well known, but I definitely respect Mourinho as a manager. He is one of the greatest ever, along with Pep Guardiola and Sir Alex Ferguson.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Vidic also:

  • Said he received approaches from the United States and England before announcing his retirement in January
  • Revealed he is in the process of earning his coaching badges and hopes one day to manage in England
  • Called former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo “an example for how football players should train and live”
  • Said the pressure of the David Moyes era was “twice the pressure we had under Ferguson”
  • Said he believes the emerging young players at United can turn the club’s fortunes around

Why retire?

Vidic’s contract with Inter Milan was ended by mutual consent on 18 January

Vidic announced he was ending his playing career in January, 10 days after he had been released from his contract by Inter Milan.

He received offers to join Major League Soccer, while there was interest in him from elsewhere, including a tentative approach from a club in England.

However, after suffering major knee and back injuries, the Serb never contemplated extending his career.

“It was the right time,” he said. “I didn’t think I could give 100%. It was better not to push, play longer and make myself even more hurt.”

He explained he did not want to return to England, a place he had given “the best years of my career”, and “not perform in the same way I did for United”.

Vidic at United:

  • Premier League titles: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013
  • Champions League title: 2008
  • League Cup titles: 2006, 2009 and 2010
  • Fifa Club World Cup titles: 2008

Vidic is still getting used to retirement. He has chosen to remain in Milan with his wife and children and has even started to learn how to ski – something he could not think about when he was still a player.

Offers of television punditry work have come in but in the long term he is keen on following former United club-mate Gary Neville into management.

A future United manager?

Nemanja Vidic said Ferguson believed in his players even when they had doubts

Vidic has completed his A and B Licences and is looking at beginning a Pro-Licence course next year, possibly at the FA’s St George’s Park national training centre.

“I started doing my badges four years ago,” he said. “At the time I was playing for Manchester United and working with probably the best manager ever in Sir Alex Ferguson.

“He asked a lot from his players, but he believed in them. If he said something, I could see it in his eyes that he believed it. Even when I might not believe, he did. It was his greatest strength.”

Sir Alex on Vidic:

  • “How many centre-halves can you name who actually like defending? Vidic liked it. He loved the challenge of sticking his head in there. You could tell that the thrill of contesting those 50-50 balls animated him.”

Vidic believes management is “something I think I can do well”, adding: “I would like to try to be a manager in English football.”

Does that mean United?

“It is a dream. If you ask any United player if they want to be manager one day, they will say ‘yes’, but I am a long way from that.”

Memories of Moscow?

Terry slips and misses from the spot

The greatest night of Vidic’s career came in the Moscow rain on 21 May, 2008, when United prevailed on penalties in an all-English Champions League final against Chelsea.

“I thought we had lost,” said Vidic, recalling John Terry striding up to take the fifth spot-kick, knowing Chelsea would win if he scored.

Instead, Terry slipped as he put boot to ball, his shot hitting the post and sending the shootout to sudden death.

“It was between me and Giggsy who was next,” says Vidic. “I was stood next to him thinking: ‘Please say you are going to take it’.”

Giggs did – and scored. Then Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka and the Champions League was won.

Looking at a picture of the wild celebrations, Vidic spots something.

“See this blood on Anderson’s head? That is my teeth. We were jumping all over the place, he hit me in my tooth and caught his head. Crazy.”

The best professional?

Ronaldo spent six seasons at United before joining Real Madrid

Between 2007 and 2009, Manchester United won three Premier League titles, a European Cup, the Club World Cup, a League Cup and two Community Shields.

They also reached a final and semi-final of the Champions League and a final and a semi-final of the FA Cup.

It represents the most concentrated spell of success in United’s history.

Cristiano Ronaldo contributed 91 goals over those three seasons and won the Ballon D’Or in 2008.

“Cristiano was a funny guy,” said Vidic. “He liked to laugh and make jokes. Even to take jokes.

“Sometimes he didn’t take them happily, but he was still pushing for them. He loved to dance, which was great for the dressing room.

“But he was also one of the best professionals I ever saw. He was committed to football. He had big expectations for himself and wanted to achieve great things. That drove him to train hard to improve. For that I respect him a lot.

“There were a lot of very talented players – better than I was – but they were not committed to football.

“They would not give 100% of their capabilities. They don’t work outside of the training pitch. That is why Ronaldo did what he did. He is an example for how football players should train and live.”

Life under Moyes?

Moyes won the Community Shield in his first game as United manager – Vidic was captain

It is less than three years since Vidic lifted the Premier League trophy for United in Ferguson’s last season at the club, but it’s fair to say neither has come close to scaling those heights since.

For United, the downward spiral has been worse than envisaged. David Moyes, Ferguson’s replacement, lasted just 10 months before he was sacked. United went on to finish seventh that season.

So what went wrong?

“We felt the new manager would get time,” said Vidic. “But after one month, the pressure started.

“It was twice the pressure we had under Ferguson. People questioned David Moyes – and now Louis van Gaal – in a way they never would have done before.

“Moyes changed certain things. Some players asked why. But that is a natural reaction. The media said it was a problem. It was never a problem. He tried hard, but it didn’t happen. The pressure increased even more.

“When you are manager of a club like United, in the time we live, no one gives anyone time to achieve anything.

“Those outside forces created a bad energy. When that happens it reflects on the team and the fans and it becomes a problem.

“So, for all the years of success and good memories, I have this one: Finishing seventh. It was a bad way to leave the club.”

The future for United?

Rashford, 18, scored four goals in his first two United games

United sit sixth in the Premier League with nine games left in the season and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.

With three United-supporting sons at home, Vidic still watches events at Old Trafford with keen interest and believes there have been signs of recovery, particularly with youngsters such as Marcus Rashford coming through and playing for the first team.

“It is a hard time for United, not to be challenging,” he said. “All clubs come to this situation. Then it is important to see some lights.

“In the last few matches, you can see the potential of the young players. They are the lights. But you also need the trophies. That is when you wonder which way you should go.

“These young players should definitely be given a chance, but you also need experienced players who have won these trophies already.

“It is complicated. It is easier to talk about that actually doing it. But I hope they soon get back on track and be what people expect, which is challenging for the league title and the Champions League.”

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Mar 172016
 
Arsenal went out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the sixth consecutive season

Barcelona have “two or three players who transform normal life into art”, says Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners went out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the sixth straight season after a 5-1 aggregate loss against Barcelona.

The La Liga side’s front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were all on target.

“In the final third, Barcelona’s passing accuracy and creativity is exceptional,” said Wenger.

Relive Barcelona’s victory here

Match report: Classy Barca too good for Barca

‘At 1-1, Barca were wobbling’

Arsenal’s Champions League exits in the past six seasons have come against Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich twice, Monaco and AC Milan

Arsenal missed numerous chances in the game, with Danny Welbeck hitting the woodwork and Alexis Sanchez twice coming close.

Having also gone out of the FA Cup in a shock defeat against Watford last weekend, the Premier League is Arsenal’s only hope of a trophy this season. They are currently 11 points behind leaders Leicester with a game in hand.

Wenger feels the result could have been different if they managed to add to Mohamed Elneny’s crisp effort in the second half.

“I felt, at 1-1, they were wobbling and insecure,” said Wenger. “We could not take our chance to score the second goal to put ourselves in a good position.

“We created plenty of dangerous situations and the quality of our game was good. When we lost the second goal, we lost the edge.”

‘Pleasure for others, suffering for me’

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have scored 111 goals between them this season

Messi’s delightful dinked finish took his tally to 37 for the season in all competitions, while Neymar netted his 28th and Suarez now has 46 after his superb volley against the Gunners.

“We played against a team who has the best strikers I have seen,” added Wenger. “The three together are absolutely exceptional.

“From nothing, they can create a chance, especially Messi. He didn’t miss a first touch, no matter where the ball came from.

“At some stage in our sport, we must admire art and they have two or three players who transform normal life into art. I respect that and I believe it is pleasure as well. For me, is it suffering.”

How Arsenal’s season has unravelled

Back in early January, Arsenal fans were dreaming of a trophy-laden season.

The Gunners were top of the Premier League, safely into the Champions League last 16 and making progress into the FA Cup fourth round.

But conceding a late leveller at Liverpool on 13 January proved the catalyst for a dreadful run of form.

Wenger’s men have managed to win just two of their nine Premier League matches since, leaving them well adrift of leaders Leicester.

If falling away in the title race is not hard enough for Gunners fans to take, their misery has been compounded by a double cup exit in the space of four days.

Failing to overcome a two-goal deficit against Barcelona may not have been a surprise. But, following Sunday’s home quarter-final defeat against Watford, it has done little to ease mounting pressure on Wenger.

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed

Mar 172016
 
Bayern are unbeaten in their last 10 home European games

Bayern Munich fought back from two goals down to beat Juventus in extra time, dramatically progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals.

With the tie poised at 2-2 after the first leg, Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado scored to put Juve in command.

Robert Lewandowski’s header gave Bayern hope but Juve looked to have seen them off until Thomas Muller’s 90th-minute goal forced the match into extra time.

And a buoyed Bayern finished in style through Thiago and Kingsley Coman.

The hosts – who had dominated possession to little effect in normal time – played with more urgency after Muller’s lifeline, with the introduction of substitutes Coman and Thiago playing a key part in the turnaround.

Juventus will not only have to come to terms with falling so close to the finishing line, but the pill will be even more bitter knowing that the player who inflicted the killer blow was Coman, a talented teenager on long-term loan at Bayern from the Bianconeri.

The 19-year-old Frenchman made three assists in Bayern’s 5-0 thumping of Werder Bremen in the league at the weekend and was once again influential when he replaced the ineffective Xabi Alonso after an hour.

Classy Barca too good for Arsenal

Juve perfection – but not for the full 90

Juventus have won all but one of their last 19 Serie A games and not conceded in the league for nearly two months, but despite such impressive form Massimiliano Allegri maintained his team would have to enjoy the “perfect game” to beat opponents who had won their last nine European home games by an aggregate score of 36-4.

For the majority of the match they met Allegri’s demands. They pressed Bayern high up the pitch, forcing the home defence into rushed, uncharacteristic errors.

Paul Pogba scores for Juventus

Even in the face of wave after wave of red-shirted attacks in the final 15 minutes, the Bianconeri’s defence seemed to have enough knowhow to carry the team home, restricting the hosts to hopeful shots.

But Muller struck after a fine Coman cross to give an enthralling match an added twist. Coman played a part in Bayern’s opener, too – his dash to the byline prevented the ball from going out and he then fed Douglas Costa, whose drifted cross towards the far post found the clinical Lewandowski.

Bayern rattled, Juve in control

Last year’s runners up showed remarkable resistance in coming back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the first leg – Bayern boss Pep Guardiola said his respect for the Italians was even greater as a result – and they had clearly learned from the mistakes of Turin.

On a number of occasions Juve were able to bisect Bayern’s defence with one pass. Manuel Neuer, in particular, looked harassed by Juve’s high-tempo style. He gambled and lost early on, rushing off his line and allowing Stephan Lichtsteiner’s shot to ricochet off him into the path of Pogba, who side-footed home into an unmanned net.

Bayern are the only team to score against Juventus in the last two months

The offside flag then came to the German goalkeeper’s rescue. Alvaro Morata put the ball in the net after a poor clearance from Neuer, and replays would later show that disallowing the goal was the wrong decision.

But the visitors did double their advantage and did so with panache. The impressive Morata sashayed through the middle, beating a host of defenders and unselfishly feeding Cuadrado, who jinked inside the box before arrowing the ball in at the near post.

The Italians were dominant and on course to knock Bayern out in Guardiola’s final season in charge, but then the Catalan made substitutions which changed the course of the match.

A dream ending for Guardiola?

Guardiola has won three successive Bundesliga titles and are two-points ahead in the league this season, but defeat in the last 16 on his last hurrah would have been regarded as a failure.

Winning the Champions League with Bayern for the first time would complete his legacy with the Germans before his departure to Manchester City in the summer.

But his men were below par for the majority of this match and will have to improve if the Spaniard is to secure the send-off he craves.

The quarter-final draw will be made on Friday and Guardiola has the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and future employers City as potential last-eight opponents.

Bayern have made it to the semi-finals in five of the last six seasons

‘Win welds us together’

Bayern boss Pep Guardiola: “To score four times against an Italian team when you trail 2-0 is a big deal. It was a great game for everyone. We played last season’s finalists and we knew they are a great team.”

Bayern captain Philipp Lahm: “This win brings us closer together, it welds us together. It was important to see that everyone, everyone on the bench was pushing us. We need the whole squad, every player of the team, if we are to be successful.”

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri: “We played a great game against a team that has extraordinary players. We played with a lot of personality and should have made it 3-0 when we had the chance.

“We should have been more careful with those last crosses but I am proud of my players.”

Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed