Chelsea have officially agreed the signing of Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic after the German club announced that a €64m (£58m) deal is in place for the United States international to move to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.
The 20-year-old American, who was due to be out of contract at Dortmund, immediately becomes Chelsea's player but will remain at Westfalenstadion until summer. There is no 'loan fee' payable by Dortmund to keep him for the next six months.
"It was always Christian's dream to play in the Premier League," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told BVB.de as the arranged transfer was confirmed.
"That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract. In this context, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid by Chelsea, given the low contract maturity," he added.
Zorc also remains in little doubt that Pulisic will continue to give his all for Dortmund in the remaining six months of his time with the club as they fight for the Bundesliga title.
"Christian Pulisic is a perfect character. I am sure that in the coming months he will do everything in his power to bring his high quality to the team and to achieve his sporting goals with his team-mates Borussia Dortmund," he said.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1998, Pulisic has previously briefly lived in England for a year as a young child before returning to his native USA. After developing under the eye of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system, he joined Dortmund as a 16-year-old in February 2015 and made his first team debut just under 12 months later.
He later went on to become a regular in the side, playing 85 games across 2016/17 and 2017/18, also establishing himself as a generational star of the United States national team.
Injury worries and competition from emerging England starlet Jadon Sancho had seen Pulisic struggle to match his previous Dortmund impact during the first half of this season.
Bayern Says No to €100m for Cristiano Ronaldo
The president of Bayern Munich has revealed why the Bundesliga giants weren't interested in a €100m deal for sign Cristiano Ronaldo last summer.
The Portuguese forward joined Juventus from Real Madrid after a nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, during which he won the Champions League four times and two La Liga titles. Ronaldo cemented himself as one of the greatest players of all time during his career in Madrid, but continued disagreements with Florentino Perez meant he would leave the club under somewhat of a cloud.
However, Bayern president Uli Hoeness has admitted that the Bundesliga side wouldn't have made a move for Ronaldo in the summer, due to the prohibitive price tag for a player of his age.
Speaking to Bild as quoted by AS, Hoeness opened up about the club's lack of interest in the Portuguese goal scorer.
He said: "He is 33 years old and it would have cost €100m, we would have done it with our eyes closed for that amount if he were 24 years old."
Bayern's loss appears to have been Juventus' gain though. On the pitch, there was never any doubt as to whether Ronaldo would be worth it, he's scored 11 goals and pitched in seven assists across all competitions this season as Juve look to compete on multiple fronts.
The Turin club appear to be adjusting to life with Ronaldo perfectly, they are top of Serie A by eight points and are yet to lose a game this season.
Mourinho £91m Man Utd Bid for Serie A Defender?
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has refused to discuss rumours linking him with a move for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, neither confirming nor denying reports of a £91m bid.
United were heavily linked with a number of centre-backs during the summer, with the likes of Jerome Boateng, Diego Godin and Harry Maguire all reportedly targeted by the Red Devils. The club failed to strengthen in the position, but Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to sign a new defender in the immediate future.
Speaking after United's 2-2 draw with Southampton on Saturday, Mourinho refused to discuss the rumours of a £91m bid for the Senegalese defender. He is quoted by the Manchester Evening News as saying: "I cannot answer to your question.
"If is true, if is not true, I cannot answer to your question. Maybe your question is the first one about the market and maybe the next press conference I have two more questions, and maybe the next press conference I have three more. The only thing I can tell you is Koulibaly is a Napoli player. And I don't speak about players from other clubs."
In October. reports from Italy emerged suggesting that Napoli have rejected an offer of around £80m for Koulibaly, with the club said to be holding out for an offer of at least twice that value. Real Madrid and Barcelona were both linked with the defender, and the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal have also been touted as potential suitors for Koulibaly in the past.
Since joining Napoli in a £7m deal in 2014, Koulibaly has developed into one of the world's finest defenders. He was a key player under former manager Maurizio Sarri, using his unique blend of physicality and technical ability to assert himself as an elite defender. During the summer, there were rumours that Koulibaly would follow Sarri to Chelsea, but he remained in Naples.
He has played every minute of Carlo Ancelotti's young reign at Napoli, helping the Partenopei to second in Serie A. Koulibaly has also been a vital player for the side in the Champions League, guiding Napoli to positive results against both Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.
Italian Super Cup Will Be Played On January 16th in Saudi Arabia
Serie A have confirmed that the Supercoppa Italiana will be played in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on January 16th, with a kick off time of 18:30.
Earlier this summer it had been confirmed by Italy's governing body that three of the next five iterations of the fixture would be played in the country, after agreeing a deal with Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority (GSA) that was reported to be worth around €7m.
It was understood that 90% of that fee would go to Juventus and Milan respectively, with the remaining 10% going to the league.
At the time, as quoted by SportsPro, the Lega Serie A chief executive Marco Brunelli declared:
“The confirmation of an important market like Saudi Arabia to host this match testifies the appeal that Italian football exerts all over the world. The promotion of our brand goes through these agreements, necessary to favour the arrival of new investors in our championship.”
And now, as reported by Goal, the league have declared in an official statement: "The race for the award of the Italian Super Cup 2018/2019, the 31st edition of the trophy, will be held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), at the 'King Abdullah Sports City Stadium', Wednesday 16 January 2019, beginning at 20.30 local time (18.30 Italian time)."
The game is traditionally contested by the winner of the Scudetto and the winner of the Coppa Italia, much like England's Community Shield and Spain's Super Cup. However, with I Bianconeri triumphing in both in 2017/18, the spot has been given to beaten cup finalists Milan.
Next year's edition will be the tenth time the game has been played abroad, following previous excursions to Qatar, the U.S., Libya and China.
Inter Striker Mauro Icardi Voted Best Player in Serie A for 2017/18
Inter striker Mauro Icardi has been voted as the best player in Serie A for 2017/18 by the Italian Players Association.
The Argentinian striker had been in red hot form throughout the 2017/18 season for the Nerazzurri and finished as the joint top scorer in Serie A. He struck home 29 goals in 34 appearances and has started his current campaign just as brightly, notching eight goals in 11 appearances.
As per Football Italia, Icardi received the most votes from the members of the Italian players association (AIC) at the Gran Gala’ del Calcio ceremony to earn the accolade of being the named best player in the Italian top flight.
Icardi was also awarded the prize for the best goal of the season for his sumptuous back heel strike against Sampdoria, but the Inter captain claimed that wasn't even his best goal of the season and that his strike against AC Milan in the Milanese derby was even better.
Icardi was also included in the Serie A team of the year, which included a included stars from Inter, Juventus and Napoli such as Joao Cancelo, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Also included in the team of the year was Liverpool's keeper Alisson, who impressed sufficiently during the 2017/18 season with his former club Roma to be voted ahead of the likes of Gianluigi Buffon.
Meanwhile, Juventus manager Max Allegri walked away with the award for the best manager of the season after his display of domestic domination with the Old Lady.
UEFA Confirms VAR Will Be Used in 2018/19 Champions League Knockout Stages
UEFA has confirmed that Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be implemented for all of the matches in this season's Champions League knockout stages.
It had been confirmed at the September meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee that VAR would be introduced in time for the 2019/20 competition, but they have been in discussions about bringing it forwards after good progress in training and testing.
After their latest meeting, UEFA has confirmed that VAR will be introduced in time for this season's Champions League last 16, which kicks off on 12 February 2019.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: "We are ready to use VAR earlier than initially planned and we are convinced that it will be beneficial for our competitions as it will provide valuable help to match officials and will reduce incorrect decisions."
Having initially been the subject of widespread scepticism, VAR is now an integral part of the modern game in many countries. It was introduced in the Bundesliga and Serie A last season, following by La Liga and Ligue 1 this year.
It was also successfully implemented at the 2018 World Cup, and the Premier League voted last month to use VAR from the 2019/20 season onwards.
UEFA will look to use VAR in all of its competitions going forwards, including Euro 2020, the 2020/21 Europa League and the 2021 UEFA Nations League finals.
Ten European referees officiated games with VAR at the World Cup and all of them have been appointed to Champions League matches so far this season, so they will be well-versed in how to use the technology.
As it is used currently, VAR can be used to review goals, penalty decisions, straight red card decisions and cases of mistaken identity.
UEFA Announce 32 Team European Club Competition
UEFA's executive committee has officially approved the creation of a third European club competition, beginning in 2021.
Discussions have been in place for some time regarding the possibility of introducing a brand new European competition to the footballing schedule which would offer more teams the opportunity of being able to play in Europe.
As reported on UEFA's official website, the competition, currently being referred to as 'Europa League II', will run in tandem with the existing Champions League and Europa League, featuring 32 teams at the group stage.
In a similar format to the Europa League, there will be an additional knock-out round before the round of 16 between teams ranked second in their groups and the third-ranked teams of the Europa League groups.
The 'Europa League II' will not effect the schedule of either the Champions League or the Europa League as games are set to be played on Thursday afternoons.
One team from the Premier League will earn themselves the opportunity to compete in the brand new competition, with the eventual prize for winning being the chance to feature in the Europa League for the following season.
Speaking about the decision to approve the new competition, UEFA's president Aleksandar Ceferin said: “The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before.
“There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages. This competition was borne out of ongoing dialogue with clubs through the European Club Association.
"Inclusive competition means more matches for more clubs and more associations."
The 2016 European Championship was a resounding success, and preparations for Euro 2020 moved a step forward as the qualifying groups were drawn on Sunday. England, drawn in Group A, must now ready themselves for the likes of the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Germany, who were in Pot 2 as a result of their UEFA Nations League relegation, will be competing against the likes of The Netherlands and Northern Ireland for qualification. Italy find themselves doing battle with Bosnia and Herzegovina, whilst Spain will be keen to overcome Sweden and Norway.
The 55 competing nations were divided into ten groups, with half of the groups containing five teams and the other half containing six. The four Nations League semi-finalists - Switzerland, Portugal, Netherlands and England - were all guaranteed to be in a five-team group.
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the finals, whilst there is also four play-off spots which are available through the Nations League play-offs.
Reigning champions Portugal will do battle with Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania and Luxembourg as they seek to retain their title. Led by talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, they will be be keen to replicate their previous success.
World Cup winners France, featuring the likes of Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, will face Iceland, Turkey, as they look to further assert their global dominance.
Euro 2020 Qualifying Draw in Full:
| Group A
||England, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo
| Group B
||Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
| Group C
||Netherlands, Germany, Northern Ireland, Estonia, Belarus
| Group D
||Switzerland, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Gibraltar
| Group E
||Croatia, Wales, Slovakia, Hungary, Azerbaijan
| Group F
||Spain, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Faroe Islands, Malta
| Group G
||Poland, Austria, Israel, Slovenia, FYR Macedonia, Latvia
| Group H
||France, Iceland, Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Andorra
| Group I
||Belgium, Russia, Scotland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, San Marino
| Group J
|| Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Greece, Armenia, Liechenstein
The first round of matches will take place between 21-23 March 2019, and the qualifying stage will conclude in November. The four Nations League finalists will not be in action on either matchday two or three, as they will be competing in the finals of that tournament in June.
The tournament will be held across 12 different countries, with England's Wembley Stadium hosting both of the semi-finals and the final.
What has been an awful year for Martin O'Neill as Republic of Ireland manager ended last week when he stepped down from the top job after a run of bad results and horrible displays. His last game in charge was away to Denmark last week which in a strange way was very ironic, because in the second leg of the play offs for the 2018 World Cup it was Denmark who came to Dublin and thrashed Ireland five one, it was after that game that it started to all go downhill. The fall out from that defeat was massive and in my opinion Martin should have possibly gone then. Relegation from their group in the Nations League signalled the end for O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane. Keane himself had caused a few problems during the summer when he had a row with Harry Arter and Johnathon Walters as the pair sat out training. After that incident O'Neill stood by his assistant Keane and in my opinion he was wrong to do so, in the modern game it will always go wrong when players get abused by management and in this case it led to Arter making himself not available for selection for one game. Although Keane and Arter sorted out their problems later on, the damage had been done. This was just one issue out of many issues that led to O'Neill,s departure, but it was the manner of which they got a draw away to Denmark last week that finished it for me. After a boring nil all draw in which Ireland never had a shot on goal,the manager announced in his press conference that he was happy with the way things were going and was looking forward to the qualification for the European Championships in 2020. Now everyone knows Martin is good with the media but this was a step to far, he was fooling nobody and after a phone call from chief executive John Delaney the manager stepped down, the words mutual consent were used but effectively those words tend to mean your sacked. Looking back over his time in charge O'Neill did a relatively good job with the players available to him and the 2016 European Championships was a great time to be an Irish supporter, but that time passed and things rapidly went downhill. One other big influence on the decision to remove O'Neill was also the fact that the fans were starting to vote with their feet and leave the Aviva Stadium with plenty of empty seats.
The dust had hardly settled on the news that O'Neill was no longer the manager when it was announced that the new man coming in was Mick McCarthy on a two year deal. Mick is expected to sign a contract over the coming days and he is expected to involve Robbie Keane in some role as part of his management team. As we all know this will be Mick,s second stint as Ireland manager and in my opinion it is a great appointment. During his last spell as Ireland manager the style in which his team played was exciting and the fans believed in him. Unfortunately his last tenure came to an end in the fall out from the famous Roy Keane carry on in Saipan. Although he did not go as a direct result of Saipan it rumbled on and he was on a loser with a couple of bad results. The general feeling on the ground now is that this is a good appointment and it certainly has the fans talking.
One interesting footnote to all this coming and going at the top level is the fact that the FAI have offered the Under 21 job to Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and it is been reported they would like Stephen to step up to the top job in two years time when Mick steps aside. Now on paper this sounds like a great idea but I feel the FAI may have made a huge blunder by letting this news leak out to the media. If you look at the overall picture the question has to be asked that if Stephen Kenny has a bad run as Under 21 manager how in the name of god can he be expected to step up to the top job. Or what if Mick McCarthy comes in and does an unbelievable job and brings success to the role, does he then walk away ?. One thing is for certain though, the next couple of years are going to be very interesting in Irish football.
Ancelotti Open to Napoli Return for Edinson Cavani
Carlo Ancelotti has refused to rule out a Napoli return for Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani amidst increasing rumours about his future.
Cavani enjoyed a prolific career whilst playing in Naples, scoring 78 goals in 103 appearances and establishing himself as one of the best goalscorers in Europe. The Uruguayan then joined PSG in 2013 and has further cemented his place amongst the top forwards in the world, bagging 124 goals in 173 games for the French giants.
Speaking to Radio Kiss Kiss as quoted by Football Italia, Ancelotti dropped a hint that he may be interested in coaching Cavani at some point in his career.
“I’ve coached many champions, but I still haven’t coached Cavani. Never say never. You can never say ‘no’ to champions…”
The veteran Italian manager left PSG prior to Cavani's arrival, and it's clearly something that's stuck with Ancelotti, whose response seemed to indicate there could be some interest in bringing Cavani back to Naples.
Whilst there doesn't appear to be anything concrete in the rumours that have circulated around Napoli and Cavani for years, the Uruguayan has less than two years to run on his current PSG contract. The forward will turn 32 in February of next year, and he'll be aware that time is running out if he wants to make a return to Serie A with Napoli.
It's unclear where Cavani would fit in the current Napoli set up, but adding a goalscorer of his quality would only be a positive thing if the club wish to challenge the dominance of Juventus in years to come.