Chelsea announced that Rafael Benitez had been appointed their interim first team-manager until the end of the season after the European champions sacked Roberto di Matteo. The 52-year-old former Liverpool boss travelled back from Abu Dhabi to his Merseyside home on Wednesday. He is expected to arrive in London to meet his new players after training. The Spaniard has signed a deal until the end of the season, but it is understood the contract includes an option for a further year. A Chelsea statement said: “The owner and the board believe that in Benitez we have a manager with significant experience at the highest level of football, who can come in and immediately help deliver our objectives.
The two-time Uefa Manager of the Year comes with outstanding pedigree.” Rafael Benitez began his managerial career in his homeland, most notably at Valencia where he built a reputation as one of Europe’s top coaches by winning the Spanish League twice and the UEFA Cup. He then spent six years at Liverpool and led them to their fifth European Cup and an FA Cup. Reports in Holland suggest that former Netherlands midfielder Boudewijn Zenden, 36, who spent three years at Chelsea until 2004, will be Benitez’s assistant manager. Zenden played under Benitez at Liverpool for two years from 2005. Benitez is Chelsea’s ninth manager since Roman Abramovich became owner in 2003. His first match in charge will be Sunday’s game at home to Manchester City, with Chelsea four points behind the league leaders. Benitez left Liverpool by “mutual consent” in 2010 after the club finished Premier League season in seventh place, their worst since 1999. However, days later, he then took charge of Inter Milan only for his spell in charge of the Italian giants to last just a matter of months. Benitez quit Inter in December 2010 after calling on the club to back him or sack him in the upcoming January transfer market following the team’s FIFA Club World Cup final win over Congolese side Mazembe in Abu Dhabi.
In between all that, Di Matteo joined the ever-increasing list of men to be ruthlessly sacked by Abramovich, who is now on his ninth manager in a little over eight years. It would be no exaggeration to say Benitez would be the least popular of his appointments judging by the reaction of Chelsea supporters on social media. However, given the break clause in Benitez’s contract, whether he gets beyond the next seven months could be in doubt.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has wasted no time in hitting out at old foe and new interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez. The former Liverpool boss replaced Roberto Di Matteo who was sacked on Wednesday after eight months in charge. Benitez won the cup with Inter soon after taking over and could do so again with Chelsea next month. The Manchester United manager had a fractious relationship with Benitez during the Spaniard’s time at Liverpool. They fell out over Ferguson’s refusal to sell Gabriel Heinze to the Anfield outfit, and even more spectacularly in 2009, when the Scot suggested Liverpool would be affected by nerves during the Premier League title run-in. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says Rafael Benitez is “very lucky” to be named Chelsea boss ahead of the Club World Cup. Benitez’s astonishing response was to deliver a series of “facts”, backing up his belief that Ferguson benefited from more favourable treatment from the Football Association in his dealings with match officials.
As it turned out, United did win the title and within 12 months, Benitez had gone. He soon succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan but Benitez did not last long there either, even though he won the Italian Super Cup and the Club World Cup in his short San Siro stint. Not that Ferguson evidently holds much store by those achievements. Ferguson said: “On his CV he could have two world championships and nothing to do with the construction of the teams.” The Club World Cup is contested between champion clubs from all six of the world’s continental confederations. Ferguson added: “Rafael Benitez is very lucky. Jose Mourinho won the treble at Inter; Rafa took over and they won the world title without having to do anything. It is strange how it happens and sometimes you wonder if it encourages chairmen at football clubs to make changes because they think ‘if we get a new manager we’ll win the next two or three games. There is a mutual dislike between the two men which will make the next few months fascinating, even if United are not due to meet Chelsea again until the beginning of May.” “Everyone feels for Roberto Di Matteo,” said Ferguson. “The biggest disappointment for me is in two weeks’ time they are going to play in the Club World Cup. You would have thought they would have waited two weeks to give the guy a chance to win a world title. That’s why I really feel disappointment for Roberto.”
Benitez, 52, who was involved in several disputes with Ferguson during his spell at Anfield from 2004-2010, won the Italian Super Cup and Club World Cup during a six-month reign at Inter but was sacked in December 2010 and has not been in a managerial post since.
Wayne Rooney will captain England in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino in front of a capacity 90,000 crowd at Wembley. The 26-year-old has inherited the armband due to regular captain Steven Gerrard’s suspension following his sending-off in the last qualifier against Ukraine and because of a knee injury suffered by official vice-captain Frank Lampard. Rooney, who has 76 caps for England and missed the opening two Group H matches after suffering a nasty cut playing for Manchester United, captained his country in a friendly against Brazil three years ago. “Frank had a scan earlier in the week,
He tried to train apart from the team on Wednesday morning and he still felt a problem with his calf. There has been a slight tear. It’s not a major problem but the best thing if for him to go back to his club and receive treatment on a daily basis. We will reassess the situation on Sunday.” manager Roy Hodgson confirmed. After that it was seen as a straight fight between Rooney and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart for the honour, and the Football Association has now confirmed Rooney is the man. He has captained England just once before, in a friendly against Brazil in Doha in 2009. “I enjoy working with Wayne, we had a good Euros, I was disappointed of course when he got that terrible gash and I was even worried it would keep him out not only of the September games but also of the October games.
Luckily he has made a quick recovery and will certainly captain the team in the first one.” manager Roy Hodgson told reporters on Thursday. Rooney is aware of the importance of putting on a good performance against a side ranked joint worst in the world, at 207, alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands. “This is something I’m really proud of. It’s a big challenge for myself, and I’m excited. Hopefully we can cap the day off with a good victory.The fans since I’ve been involved with England have been fantastic, It’s a great honour, something I’m really proud of and a big challenge for myself and hopefully we’ll cap the day off with a good victory.” Rooney said. “I think it’s magnificent, it shows how fantastic the support is, we are very happy with it and concerned not to let them down,” manager Roy Hodgson added.
Manchester United & Manchester City news:
Joe Hart is still eager to improve despite being hailed as the best goalkeeper in the world by England colleague Wayne Rooney and Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. After the game, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney described Hart as the best goalkeeper in the world. Joe Hart believes Wayne Rooney is next in line to captain England. “It’s a special honour for some special people to say some nice things, but we move on. In goal, you can be the worst in the world two days later.” said Hart. Goalkeeper Hart has been mentioned as a possible stand-in but Rooney, who has captained the side once before, is keen to take on a more senior role in Roy Hodgson’s group.
But the 25-year-old, speaking ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier with San Marino at Wembley, admits he is determined to scale even greater heights. Hart said: “It’s nice people say nice things but things are easily said. You’ve got to remain level-headed. If you don’t, it’s a big slap when you do something wrong. Then people are going to say bad things about you but that’s football. You can’t go too far one way or the other or you leave yourself vulnerable.” Goalkeeper Hart has been mentioned as a possible stand-in but Rooney, who has captained the side once before, is keen to take on a more senior role in Roy Hodgson’s group. He added: “I’ve not thought about it at all. How the captain is chosen is the manager’s decision. I’ve got a big responsibility to keep my place in the team for club and country. If I do get the nod, I’ll try and give as much as I can in terms of helping the team. But I think it’s between Wayne Rooney and Wayne Rooney if we are going to go on experience and how captains have been chosen in the past.” And the City No 1 knows even a side as lowly-ranked as San Marino are capable of causing a keeper embarrassment. Hart admits concentration is paramount as the solidity of the City and England defences means he has long spells when not called into action. He said.”It’s just not often that I get much opportunity to make many saves because City are so solid at the back,Concentration is always key. International football is not often ‘you have a go and then we’ll have a go’. It’s a chess game. I imagine, like most teams when they come to Wembley, San Marino are going to try and get people behind the ball.”
Hart admitted: “I’m still trying to improve. I hate to say it but I am getting a bit older now so I have to get in a bit earlier and prepare my body a bit differently. I just know every day I want to be the guy you can rely on. I want to be the best. I want to work hard on saving every shot. Pretty simple really. I’ve got no silly targets like I need to win this and I need to do that. I need to keep working hard, keep my love and passion for the game and hopefully good things will come.”
Stoke City boss Tony Pulis has called on the Football Association to punish Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for simulation. Pulis believes Suarez was guilty of diving in the second half of his side’s goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday. Stoke boss Tony Pulis condemned a blatant dive by the Uruguayan striker towards the end of the 0-0 draw as ‘very, very disappointing’. Pulis said: ‘You have got Suarez falling over in the box second half which was really, really disappointing. ‘I think that should be highlighted, as I have said before.’ By contrast, Pulis had nothing but praise for Suarez’s team-mate Glen Johnson for his reaction to an earlier clash. He added: “There was a challenge in the first half in front of us, Jon Walters and Glen Johnson both went up for a header, it was a proper old-fashioned challenge.
The FA is unlikely to sanction the player as it only takes retrospective action against unseen red card offences and not offences which might have earned a booking. But the Uruguayan may claim Stoke centre-back Robert Huth was guilty of stamping on his chest early on in a game in which six Stoke players were yellow carded. Pulis added:’Glen Johnson did absolutely fantastic, just bounced back up on got with the game, it was a proper, proper challenge. I went over to him and said “well done, brilliant” – not only did he play exceptionally well but his behaviour was fabulous.’ “We are disappointed with the amount of bookings that we got and we are disappointed that maybe one or two of the Liverpool players weren’t booked,”Suarez is a fantastic player with great ability.
He is a handful and he is the one player we are frightened to death about.” said Pulis. “Glen Johnson did absolutely fantastic, just bounced back up on got with the game, it was a proper, proper challenge. I went over to him and said ‘well done, brilliant’ – not only did he play exceptionally well but his behaviour was fabulous.”
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has complained to referees’ chief Mike Riley about some of the decisions against his side this season, including a lack of penalties in Suarez’s favour. He said: ‘I haven’t seen the incident so I can’t really comment on it but whatever Luis does there will always be a problem, whether it’s media, referees or whatever. I thought he was terrific today, some of his movement and combinations.” Rodgers was frustrated by the draw but praised his side, in particular his younger players for the way they stood up to the physical challenge Stoke provided.
El Clasico La Liga News : A brace each for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ensured that the first league Clasico of the season ended in a 2-2 draw. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were both in scintillating form as Barcelona and Real Madrid played out at Camp Nou in the first Liga Clasico of this season. There was nothing to separate the Ballon d’Or hopefuls as after giving the visitors the lead, the Portuguese earned his side a point following a brace from the Argentine superstar. FC Barcelona walked away from the first La Liga Clasico of the season with a point on Sunday night as Lionel Messi’s brace was cancelled out by two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo. The first proper chance of the match fell to Karim Benzema in the 13th minute, but thankfully he totally miss hit a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. Real Madrid took the lead on 23 minutes, exploiting the Blaugrana’s makeshift backline to find Ronaldo open on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and the Portuguese forward did exceptionally well to score at Victor Valdés’ near post.
Yet the Blaugrana were unperturbed at the other end of the pitch and they secured an equaliser when Pedro’s cross looped into the air following a pair of deflections. In his eagerness to head the ball away, Pepe misjudged the flight of the ball and Messi, who was lurking in the box, beat Iker Casillas as it dropped behind the defender and fired into the back of the net. You won’t see a more precise freekick than the one Messi bent perfectly into the corner to make it 2-1 in the 62nd minute. Leo was tackled hard from behind from Alonso, who must have been worried about a second yellow, but the Argentine made them pay the ultimate price with a stunning freekick, which is a skill he has really worked on the last year and it’s paying massive dividends. However, Barcelona only held the lead for five minutes as Ronaldo equalised on the 66th minute after beating the offside trap. Despite injuring his shoulder on a high bicycle kick attempt, Ronaldo made it 2-2 only 4 minutes after Barça took the lead. Barcelona did have chances to win the game, as Martin Montoya’s long-range effort rebounded off the cross-bar, but on reflection, a draw was probably the fairest result. Tito Vilanova’s 100% league record may have come to an end, but Barca remain unbeaten and eight points ahead of Los Blancos headed into the international break.
Mourinho said after the game that you can’t choose between them and that “I think it should be forbidden to say who the best player in the world because these two are from another planet.” The press would seem to agree. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi match each other in El Clásico with two goals each. Each team now has a draw, a win and a loss each from encounters this season.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has warned his players they must keep their cool at Anfield on Sunday when his side take on Liverpool. Clashes between the two sides are usually heated affairs with six red cards in the last 11 meetings.Liverpool and United clashes have been famed for their atmospheres, which can lead to players getting carried away on the pitch.Nemanja Vidic has been United’s biggest culprit with three red cards against Liverpool in the last four years – including two at Anfield. “We’ve had a lot of players sent off at Anfield.
But I don’t think the games have ever got out of hand,” Ferguson said.”It’s going to be meaty, competitive, and we expect that. But I just hope our disciplinary record is good.” “There’s a great atmosphere, fantastic, and the kind of atmosphere you want to be involved in. “It does get emotive, but you just have to handle that,” he said. There is also the added spice this time as Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra are likely to go up against each other again following last season’s fall-out between the pair.
Ferguson praised the atmosphere at Anfield but has warned his players they must be able to keep their focus on the pitch despite what may be happening in the stands. The United manager will want his side to keep eleven men on the pitch as they go in search for their first win at Anfield since 2007, when they beat Liverpool 1-0.
Manchester United defender Phil Jones faces up to eight weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury. Jones suffered the injury in training earlier this week and was sent for a scan which has confirmed he requires an extensive period of rehabilitation. The defender was crocked in training this week and adds to manager Alex Ferguson’s defensive worries as Chris Smalling is also sidelined with a fractured metatarsal. A statement issued by the club read: “Phil Jones has had surgery on a knee meniscus tear sustained in training that will require six to eight weeks’ rehabilitation.” It is desperate news for the 20-year-old, who is yet to make an appearance this season.
He missed United’s opening three Barclays Premier League games and the start of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign, but Jones’ return to training was supposed to be the prelude to his comeback. Now he is out until November and will miss England’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland next month, as well as league games with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. He will also be unavailable for the Red Devils’ opening three Champions League group matches. Even when he has recovered, Jones’ lack of match fitness may prove a significant problem in regaining the form which at one stage saw him compared to Duncan Edwards during an exceptionally encouraging debut campaign following his big-money move from Blackburn in 2011. Meanwhile, United are on the trail of 17-year-old Morocco youth international Hicham Khaloua. But they face competition from Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid for the attacking midfielder, who plays for Almeria. United’s spies watched him hit a hat-trick for the Spanish club’s youth side last week.
Arsenal have failed to reach an agreement with England winger Theo Walcott over a contract extension, but talks are ongoing. The 23-year-old, whose contract expires in 2013, wants to stay and is willing to continue negotiations. Walcott, 23, and his representatives had been preparing to continue negotiations beyond Friday’s 11pm transfer deadline on a new deal for the player, having rejected the club’s first two offers. However, despite interest from Manchester City and Liverpool they feel under no pressure to agree to a move away from the club by Friday with so many factors in their favour.
It is understood Walcott has been offered an improved five-year deal worth £75,000-a-week. City have already made it clear they are chasing another winger, after selling Adam Johnson to Sunderland. He has scored 42 goals in 222 appearances and won 28 England caps during his time at the club. Walcott contributed 12 assists in the Premier League last season, many of which were for Robin van Persie. Van Persie moved to Manchester United for £24m on 17 August, three days before Alex Song joined Barcelona. The feeling from Arsenal’s side is that they cannot allow the player to leave for a relatively small compensation next July when his contract expires and he would be entitled to a lucrative Bosman free transfer. That has been the long-held fear at the club and yesterday’s threats to sell him for £11m appears to be a last-ditch move to apply pressure to the player to sign. Arsenal waited until after the campaign began to open dialogue with Walcott’s representatives. They feel they have enough cover in wide positions if he is sold, with Lukas Podolski, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrey Arshavin and 17-year-old Serge Gnabry all available to manager Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal would like to keep the player but at the moment the two sides are far apart in their valuation of Walcott’s worth to the club, with the player seeking a £100,000-a-week deal. Arsenal regard that level as too much relative to what he has achieved so far at the club.
Real Madrid have signed on Tottenham Hotspur’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric for the next five seasons, the Spanish club announced on Monday. Luka Modric has been unveiled as a Real Madrid player after they hammered out a £33million move for the midfielder.
Spurs will receive £27m from Real, plus another £6m in various add-ons. The fee is a blow for Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, who was holding out for a figure in the region of £35m-plus. ‘Real Madrid C.F. and Tottenham Hotspur have reached an agreement for the transfer of player Luka Modric, who will be with the club for the next five seasons,’ the team said in a statement. The two clubs have also agreed a new ‘partnership’ that, according to Spurs, will see them ‘working together in respect of players, coaching, best practices and commercial relationships.’ “I’m very happy, honoured and proud to be at the biggest and best club in the world. I’m very excited,” Modric said. “Luka has been a terrific player for us and, while we preferred not to part with him, we are pleased that it is to Real Madrid, a club with which we now look forward to sharing a long and productive partnership,” said Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez Rodriguez added: “We are delighted to welcome Luka and look forward to working closely with Tottenham in the coming years.” The Spanish club said it expected him to play a key role.”Real Madrid has signed a very talented and creative playmaker for the midfield,” they said.
Modric joined Tottenham in 2008 in a £16.5m deal from Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb. He made over 150 appearances for the London club, scoring 17 goals. ‘An attacking player capable of assisting his teammates and delivering with great judgement, added to which he has a great capacity for work and sacrifice for the sake of the team,’ Real Madrid said.