CONCACAF says Adios to Copa Sudamericana

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced on Tuesday that it will no longer participate in Copa Sudamericana, the Americas’ second-best club event.

US, Mexican and Central American clubs have taken part in the Sudamericana since 2005 under a four-year deal with South American football governing body CONMEBOL.

The decision means that Mexican clubs Monterrey and Puebla, which were set to play in this year’s Copa Sudamericana, will be withdrawn from the event.

And while CONCACAF teams will take part in next year’s Copa Libertadores, the biggest club tournament in the Americas, CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said his group will review future play in that event in November.

“We regret that Mexico’s Copa Sudamericana designees Monterrey and Puebla will not participate in the tournament due to CONCACAF?s decision,” Blazer said.

“CONCACAF is committed to the 2010 Copa Libertadores… In November the executive committee will review CONCACAF?s future participation in the Libertadores.”

The move allows the clubs to participate in the CONCACAF Champions League, a second-year regional event.

A swine flu outbreak nearly two months ago in Mexico had South American teams refuse to play Copa Libertadores matches in Mexico, citing health risks, which sparked a threat by the Mexican Football Federation to drop out of other events with South American teams. Cooler heads eventually prevailed.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Di Matteo appointed West Brom manager

Former Italy midfielder Roberto Di Matteo was named manager of relegated Premier League side West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old – capped 34 times by his country but forced to retire because of injury in 2002 – signed a one year rolling contract after a successful spell as coach of League One side MK Dons.

Di Matteo – who was born in Switzerland took the MK Dons to last season’s League One play-offs – replaces Tony Mowbray, who left to manage Scottish giants Celtic earlier this month.

Di Matteo enjoyed a successful playing career especially with Chelsea with whom he won two FA Cups and a League Cup as well as the now defunct European Cup Winner’s Cup.

However, he was forced to retire after never fully recovering from a triple fracture of the leg.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Marseille set to break record for Porto captain

French giants Marseille are set to break their transfer record with a 17.5million euros fee for Porto’s Argentinan captain Lucho Gonzalez, the buying club announced on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old will sign a four year contract with the French club subject to a medical.

Gonzalez, who joined Porto from River Plate during the 2005/06 season, was Marseille coach Didier Deschamps main target.

Gonzalez is the second new recruit since Deschamps replaced Eric Gerets as coach – having signed 20-year-old Cameroon left back Charley Fomen.

The former France World Cup and Euro winning captain – who won the 1993 European Cup with Marseille – also wants to buy a central defender with Bordeaux’ Souleymane Diawara or Galatasaray’s Turkish international Servet Cetin top of his list.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Football fans at Real Madrid welcome Kaka

Real Madrid’s new ‘Galactico’ signing Kaka received a triumphant welcome from tens of thousands of fans as he was presented at the club’s stadium on Tuesday.

“I want to write my name into the history of this club,” the Brazilian midfielder told the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in the Spanish capital, as he showed off his new “number eight” shirt.

The Brazilian, whose full name is Ricardo Izecson Dos Santos Leite, was signed for 65 million euros from AC Milan in early June.

Real president Florentino Perez praised Kaka as “one of the best players in the world”, for his “impeccable behaviour” and as “one of the icons of our time.”

“We want that this club will one day be elected the best in history,” he said.

The 80,000-capacity stadium appeared mostly full for the presentation, with many of the fans waving Brazilians flags.

Kaka, 27, arrived in Madrid earlier on Tuesday with his father from South Africa, where he won the Confederations Cup with Brazil. He later passed a medical exam at the club.

He “is in perfect condition to play football at the highest level,” Real said in a statement.

Another of the so-called “new Galacticos” at the club, Cristiano Ronaldo, was signed from Manchester United for a world record 93 million euros, and will be presented to the supporters on July 6.

Perez returned as president of Real last month.

He first led Real from 2000 to 2006, when it earned the nickname “Los Galacticos”, winning the Primera Liga twice and European Champions League with such stars as Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, David Beckham and Michael Owen.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Swedish champs to face US women´s league stars

Swedish women’s football champions Umea IK will play America’s top club stars in the first Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) All-Star Game on August 30 in St. Louis, the US league announced on Tuesday.

The game will be staged eight days after the inaugural WPS championship game with the all-star starters selected by vote and reserves decided by the coach and WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci.

“Our league is part of the bigger growth of the women?s game at the global level and we wanted to acknowledge that by bringing in a club from outside the league,” Antonucci said.

Three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, a Los Angeles Sol forward who is joint leading scorer in the league, will likely be playing against her former teammates at Umea, which has won seven of the past nine Swedish crowns.

“It is going to be very exciting to play against the best players of WPS,” Umea striker Hanna Ljungberg said. “Naturally we look forward to playing against Marta.”

Tue 30 June, 2009
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United net Valencia

Manchester United said on Tuesday they have signed Wigan winger Antonio Valencia on a four-year contract for a fee believed to be in the region of 16 million pounds (22 million dollars).

“Joining Manchester United is a dream come true for me,” the 23-year-old Ecuadoran told the club website www.manutd.com.

“I have enjoyed my time at Wigan, but I am thrilled to have the chance to challenge for the biggest honours in club football here,” he added.

“Playing in front of 76,000 fans alongside players like Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs will be an amazing experience. I can’t wait to get started.”

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been a fan of Valencia, who spent two seasons with Wigan and helped turn the club into an established top flight side.

“Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan,” Ferguson said.

“I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team.”

Valencia should fill the gap left by Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed for Real Madrid for 80million pounds earlier this month.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Burnley pay record fee for Scottish star Fletcher

Scottish international striker Steven Fletcher became newly-promoted English Premier League side Burnley’s record signing on Tuesday when they agreed a 3million pounds fee with Scottish club Hibernian.

The 22-year-old – capped four times and named young player of the year for last season – had been a target of Hibernian’s Scottish Premier League rivals Celtic back in January but it had been turned down.

Burnley – who earlier on Tuesday signed defender Tyrone Mears for 500,000 pounds from Championship side Derby County – confirmed the capture of Fletcher on their website.

“The highly-rated 22-year-old has agreed a four-year deal at Turf Moor.”

Fletcher’s fee is double the previous record outlay when they signed Martin Paterson and Chris Eagles for 1.5million pounds apiece last year.

Fletcher, who still had four years left on his contract, had been very disappointed when the Celtic offer was turned down and had insisted he wanted to turn his attention to play in England.

Fletcher scored 52 goals in nearly 190 appearances for Hibs and scored Scotland’s winning goal in April’s World Cup qualifying match against Iceland at Hampden.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Saints on verge of nadir after Pinnacle pulls out of deal

Former FA Cup winners Southampton are on the verge of going out of business after The Pinnacle group – which included legendary Saints player Matt Le Tissier – withdrew their interest in buying the club on Tuesday.

Pinnacle’s interest waned once the Football League – the body that oversees the clubs outside the Premier League – insisted that they could not appeal against a 10 point penalty imposed last season which will see them start next season in League One minus 10 points.

This was imposed once the 1976 FA Cup winners – whose highest ever league finish was second in the old First Division in 1983-84 season – parent company went into administration in April.

The Administrator Mark Fry is now hoping to sell to another buyer and is understood to be in talks with a Swiss consortium.

Le Tissier confirmed on Tuesday the group has withdrawn from negotiations – amid fears that the club may now be only days away from going out of business.

“We’ve been trying ever so hard but we’ve been banging our head against a brick wall,” Le Tissier told BBC Radio Solent.

“I’m very sad, but hopeful that Mark Fry can find someone to take over the club. Everybody’s worried, we’ve all been working very hard but it’s getting to the point where it’s very desperate.”

Fry hinted last Friday that if no bids were forthcoming by the end of this week, he would have to consider winding the club up.

A statement issued on behalf on Mark Fry in response to Pinnacle’s withdrawal read: “We remain hopeful that a sale of the club will be completed in a short period of time.

“It is a complex transaction which involves numerous stakeholders and a satisfactory solution for all parties is not simple to achieve.

“It is positive news that the football club should be in a position to pay the wages this week.

“We are working to a very short timeframe but wish to reassure everyone we are working round the clock to ensure the club’s survival.”

Once a club has entered insolvency proceedings, the Football League must approve any takeover for the club’s League share to be returned, allowing them to play in the League and its associated competitions.

Last summer, the League refused to allow Rotherham, Bournemouth and Luton to begin the season unless they accepted points deductions following spells in administration – Luton failed to overcome such a heavy penalty and were relegated at the end of the season from the league.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Czechs sack freshly-appointed Straka

Incoming Czech Football Federation (CMFS) head Ivan Hasek on Tuesday sacked Frantisek Straka as national coach only a month after the latter’s appointment on a temporary basis.

“I thanked him for his work and told him the CMFS would not be keeping him in his post,” Hasek told reporters.

Straka, who replaced Petr Rada, also fired on the back of poor World Cup qualifying form, had arrived on a short-term contract which expired Tuesday.

His only match in charge was a 1-0 friendly win over Malta on June 5.

The Czechs currently stand just fourth in qualifying Group Three, seven points off the top place finish which guarantees a place in next year’s finals.

Hasek and Straka were teammates at Sparta Prague and also played for the national team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Hasek has previously been quoted as preferring to get Slavia Prague handler Karel Jarolim on board as national coach.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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Irish teen Daly joins Greek club Aris Salonica

Greek first division club Aris Salonica announced Tuesday that they had handed a two-year contract to 19-year-old Irish striker Ian Daly.

No financial details were revealed.

Daly has played for Manchester City junior teams and has been a member of both the under-17 and under-19 Irish national teams.

“I am very happy to have come to a major club with fanatic supporters. This is an opportunity for me to show off my talent,” Daly said.

Tue 30 June, 2009
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