Hamburg desperate to keep hold of Korean starlet

Hamburger SV have rejected speculations linking forward Heung-Min Son with a summer move to English Premier League.

The 19-year-old has managed to hold on to a regular starting berth this season despite his fragile age, and his solid showings haven’t gone unnoticed.

Newcastle United were one of the clubs that showed interest in the young Korean, whose agent subsequently confirmed that his client could leave Imtech Arena at the end of the season.

Nonetheless, despite the heavy speculations surrounding the youngster, Hamburg sporting director Frank Arnesen has vowed to keep hold of the promising forward.

“He is good. We won’t sell him,” Arnesen was quoted as saying in Bild.

Son joined Hamburg youth academy from FC Seoul in 2008, but had to wait a couple of years before making an official debut for the Red Shorts.

In spite of starting the season as a back-up forward, the Korean international has amassed a total of 26 Bundesliga appearances this term, scoring 5 goals in the process.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Garcia lauds Lille display

Lille boss Rudi Garcia hailed his side after their 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

An Eden Hazard penalty and a late strike from substitute Nolan Roux gave Lille the three points, but Garcia will not let his squad rest on their laurels.

“We now have four cup finals to play,” Garcia told reporters.

“We knew the gap at the top (of the table) could be cut, but for now we’re focusing only on our difficult game at Nice in midweek.”

“We were strong mentally, especially as the way the second half was going. We didn’t panic after conceding early in the half.

“We showed cool heads to turn around the situation, and this result is a good step towards the Champions League.”

Garcia then went on to praise match-winner Roux.

“Nolan did us a lot of good as a substitute as he started to get in behind their defence and stretch their back line,” he said.

The three points for Lille take them eight clear of fourth-placed Stade Rennes and just two behind PSG, who trail leaders Montpellier by five.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Podolski´s Arsenal move confirmed

FC Cologne striker Lukas Podolski will join Arsenal at the end of the season for an undisclosed fee, the Bundesliga club have announced.

Club chairman Claus Horstmann revealed that Cologne had offered the German international new terms on his contract, but a transfer to the Premier League club was agreed upon instead.

“We deeply regret his step, which is not a decision against FC but for the good of his own career,” Horstmann said in a statement.

“FC Cologne were prepared to extend Lukas Podolski’s contract on the basis of a competitive offer.

“Nonetheless, this early transfer decision offers scope and planning security for the next season. We will jump at this opportunity to reinvest these transfer earnings back into our team’s quality and into the promotion of our youth squads.

“Lukas has helped the club in many difficult situations. Lukas has left a mark on FC Cologne’s reputation and we feel the need to thank him for numerous great football experiences at Cologne.”

The striker has been linked heavily with the Gunners in recent months, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger publicly stating his admiration for the former Bayern Munich player in March.

And the 26-year-old Podolski has thanked Cologne fans before his switch to the Emirates Stadium.

“The move to Arsenal provides a great opportunity for me to gain experience in international competitions at a European top club,” Podolski said.

“I have made this decision not against FC Cologne but for this great opportunity and the good of my own individual development.

“This was not an easy decision for me at all, as FC Cologne, our fans and the city are something special for me.

“I will always carry FC Cologne in my heart. We need to pool our strengths now and have to be fully focussed on our survival in the Bundesliga.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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City will be hard to stop if they win title, says Evra

Patrice Evra believes Manchester City will become a force in English football if they were to win their first Premier League title this year.

Manchester United currently lead the table by three points, but if they were to lose to their local rivals in their eagerly anticipated clash on Monday they would surrender top spot to them.

And the Frenchman is adamant that he and his team-mates must halt Roberto Mancini’s side before they become too powerful.

“Beware. If City start winning it will be hard to stop them,” the defender said.

“We have to stop them before they start, because they can go far. That’s how a big team starts, the first trophy they win.

“They won the FA Cup last year and if they win the league they’ll get too much confidence.

“If they win the Premier League, a page is turned and it’s a revolution, and revolutions have always been about Manchester United.”

Evra feels the onus is on him and United’s experienced players to step forward and lead from the front in Monday’s clash at the Etihad Stadium.

The 30-year-old believes if Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were to prevail and win their 20th top flight title, it would be the most satisfying win to date.

“If you play for Manchester United, if you’re a leader or a captain, it’s to play in a match like this. You have to accept your responsibility,” he said.

“Whether it’s me, or someone like Ryan Giggs, if you ask them which title they will appreciate the most, it will be this one.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Bierhoff holds high hopes for Germany

Oliver Bierhoff feels that Germany deserve to be ranked as one of the favourites for the 2012 European Championship.

Joachim Loew’s side finished third in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after their hopes of a fourth title were dashed by eventual winners Spain in the semi-finals.

Germany have been placed in a difficult group for Euro 2012 alongside the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark but team manager Bierhoff believes Loew’s side have matured over the past two years and will feature prominently at the tournament.

“Today we have a squad that is better and has more depth,” Bierhoff told Kicker. “We are much further along than in 2010, because we have players like (Mesut) Oezil, (Sami) Khedira, and (Holger) Badstuber who have really established themselves with their current clubs and learned a lot.

“There are so many good German players that are coming to the national team having won major titles.”

However, Bierhoff knows that victory is far from guaranteed given the quality of the opponents at the Euros.

“We all expect Spain and Netherlands to challenge and I think that this will be a tournament for the biggest football nations,” he said. “But I also think that Poland will play a role.”

Germany kick off their campaign against Portugal on June 9 in Lviv.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Sauber joins forces with Chelsea

Formula One team Sauber have announced they have entered into a partnership with English Premier League giants Chelsea.

Sauber’s cars have had ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘True Blue’ written on their engine covers at Formula One grands prix in China and Bahrain this season.

The official deal between the two parties was confirmed on Monday, meaning Chelsea’s logo will appear on the Sauber cars for the first time at next week’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“A partnership like this between Formula One and Football has never existed before in this form, yet there are numerous commonalities and possible synergies,” Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn said.

“In either case we are talking about team sport at the highest – and international – level. The Sauber F1 Team and Chelsea FC are dealing with many of the same sporting and commercial topics and we want to strengthen each other in these areas.

“We are looking forward to exploiting these opportunities, and we congratulate Chelsea on making it to the final of the Champions League.”

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay believes both teams have similar values and is looking forward to the benefits the partnership will bring.

“This is an innovative partnership that will see a football club link up with a Formula One team like never before, bringing together two of the world’s biggest sports and uniting our fans,” Gourlay said.

“We felt that this Swiss team, the fourth oldest of the existing teams, reflects our own ideals perfectly. In a year when Chelsea celebrates 20 seasons as a Premier League team, Sauber does so as a Formula One team.

“We share many philosophies when it comes to how the respective organisations are run, from the development of young talent to constantly striving for success.

“Sauber’s philosophy towards grassroots development has produced some of the best drivers in F1, which mirrors our dedication to develop promising young football talent through our Academy.

“This partnership will benefit us both greatly, with the potential to create unique commercial opportunities. It is a shared vision to unite the two most attractive sports in the world.

“We look forward to working closely with the Sauber F1 Team and wish them the very best of luck for the remainder of the Formula One season.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Afellay thrilled to be back on the pitch

Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay was ecstatic after making his return to competitive action after seven months out with a knee injury.

The Dutchman tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a training session on September 22 last year but featured as a substitute in Barca’s 7-0 rout of Rayo Vallecano in their La Liga clash on Sunday.

Afellay was both relieved and thrilled to be back on the field, though he insisted that he never doubted he would don the Barca jersey again this term.

“You know the moment will come some day but you don’t know when,” the Netherlands international said.

“I’m so happy to return. I just want to play football. I’ve worked hard during the team’s training sessions and I’m very pleased (to be back).”

Meanwhile, Afellay expressed his disappointment at coach Pep Guardiola’s decision to stand down at the end of the season, but argued that the Catalans have the ideal replacement in current assistant boss Tito Vilanova.

“It’s a shame because Pep for me is one of the best coaches in the world,” the 26-year-old attacker said of Guardiola.

“But Tito is about equal because they have worked together many years and I think we will continue just the same.”

Afellay, who has been capped 36 times by his country, joined Barca from PSV during last year’s January transfer window.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Can the Beautiful Game of Football Pave the Way to Peace?

The most unlikely team on earth just announced their roster at darfurunited.com

Darfur United consists of refugees from UNHCR camps on the Chad-Sudan border. With minimum support, they have about six weeks to pull off a miracle. They are preparing for the Viva World Cup, to be held in Iraqi Kurdistan this June. Many of the teams admitted to the tournament never get a chance at the Viva’s Nelson Mandela Trophy due to funding or political issues.

The Viva Cup was set up in 2006 for those who are excluded by definition or resources from FIFA. The idea is to demonstrate that marginalized peoples can exist through sports competition. Darfur United continues pro level practices in the excruciating heat of Camp Djabal with no guarantee that the means will appear for them to make their journey.

Darfur United

Darfur United Team - Courtesy of i-ACT

The team is made up of determined players who fled their homes as young children. They survived “scorched earth” attacks on their villages in Sudan nine years ago and have been living in refugee camps since then. Representing over 280,000 Darfur refugees, these top players from different tribes and twelve different camps have united to restore the dignity of their people on the pitch.

When the Viva Cup acceptance was announced one refugee exclaimed, “Now we are part of the world.” It was a rare moment of jubilation for the camps.

Here is what volunteer Coach Brian Cleveland had to say about the team:

“I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for the players to leave their families and obligations for two months so they can make Darfur United a reality. Now that is true sacrifice.

Darfur United Team

Darfur United in full practice - Courtesy of i-ACT

“Some of our guys have wives and children back at their camps. They may be the bread winner that supports the family. Most of our players are teachers back at their camps. Most already have close to nothing, other than the family members who weren’t lost or scattered in the process of fleeing their homeland. They’re willing to sacrifice all of that to give the people of Darfur something to be proud of, someone to root for, and above all else hope for the first time since 2003.

“These 15 men will represent all of the Darfuri people who have been displaced from their homes and utterly ignored by their own government, and be the platform to tell the story of Darfur on an international stage. Can a soccer team help pave the way to peace? It’s been done before. A lot of people just see it as a game, but this game has changed history time and time again. That’s what makes it so beautiful.”

Visit Darfur United for more information – http://darfurunited.com/

Darfur United from iActivism on Vimeo.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Mourinho lines up swoop for Ibrahimovic; Robben nearing Bayern exit

Mourinho lines up swoop for Ibrahimovic

Real Madrid are planning an ambitious bid for Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to El Confidencial.

Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho is not entirely satisfied with his options in attack and he is looking to sign a new centre forward.

According to El Confidencial, the Portuguese coach is eager to bring Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Santiago Bernabeu.

The Spanish newspaper claims that Mourinho called the Swede to ask him if he was interested in a possibility of joining Real Madrid and received affirmative answer.

Nonetheless, los Blancos could have difficult time persuading Milan chiefs to part ways with their most prized asset.

The Rossoneri would only negotiate Ibrahimovic’s sale if they get a star player or two in exchange and that is where Real back-up players Kaka and Higuain come into picture.

Milan are still interested in bringing the Brazilian playmaker to San Siro, whereas they have also expressed interest in signing Higuain, meaning that they could be ready to consider an offer from Real if one of the two or both players are included in the deal.

Robben nearing Bayern exit

Dutch winger Arjen Robben has made a decision not to sign a contract extension with Bayern, according to Bild.

The highly rated winger has a contract until June 2013 with the Bavarians and he has been negotiating a new deal with the club chiefs for a while now.

However, Bild claims that the negotiations have been called off and that the player has reached a decision to leave the club at the end of the season.

Namely, Robben is very disappointed with the way the club chiefs have handled the incident involving Franck Ribery and is now determined to leave Alianz Arena.

With DFB Pokal and Champions League finals in front of Bayern, the Bavarians will do everything they can to persuade the player into signing a new deal so as to keep the good atmosphere in the squad before the season finale.

Nonetheless, it appears that Robben has already made his mind and that he will be leaving the German giants come end of the season.

Quagliarella signs new Juve deal

Juventus have announced that striker Fabio Quagliarella has signed a new contract with the club on their official website.

The player, who had two years left on his previous deal, has signed a one-year extension that ties him to the club until June 2015.

The 29-year-old joined Juventus in a €10.5 million deal from Napoli last summer, after spending a year on loan in Turin.

His career at Juventus Arena has been plagued with injuries and he was even tipped to leave the club at the end of the season, but the club have shown confidence in his abilities by offering him a new contract.

After struggling to get some playing time in the first part of the season, the highly rated forward has seen his stock rise of late, having started three of club’s last five games.

Quagliarella has made a total of 21 Serie A appearances this season and scored 4 goals in the process.

For more news about football transfers and rumours, visit our Transfer News section. To view all football transfers for 2011/12 season, visit our Soccer Transfers section.

Mon 30 April, 2012
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Benayoun concedes RVP reliance

Arsenal’s Yossi Benayoun has admitted his side have been over-reliant on skipper Robin van Persie for goals this season.

The Dutchman notched his 28th Premier League goal on Saturday against Stoke and has scored nearly half of the Gunners’ 66 league strikes this season.

Benayoun feels the other members of Arsene Wenger’s side need to start contributing more but conceded it is too late in the season to make a telling impact.

“We have two games to go and I concede we have been over-relying on him in terms of goal-scoring but that’s difficult to change now until the end of the season,” Benayoun said.

The Israeli international has likened the situation to Fernando Torres’ free-scoring form during his time on Merseyside and believes the two players are very similar.

Benayoun also feels that Arsenal must do their utmost to keep the Dutchman at the club for the foreseeable future amidst rumours of interest from Real Madrid and Manchester City.

“I was lucky to play with some of the great strikers in my career and Robin at the moment is one of the best in the world,” he said.

“It was the same for me when I was with Fernando and he was on fire at Liverpool, scoring a lot of goals. For me, they are at the same level – two of the best strikers in the world. They are very similar because you can look at their record of scoring goals.

“Fernando at Liverpool, he scored in a lot of goals, especially when he had a player like Stevie Gerrard playing behind him helping him.

“With Robin, we know we must give him the ball to the right place and he will score like he has done all season. Everyone knows it’s important to keep him. Each club wants to keep their best players and Robin is our best player.”

Mon 30 April, 2012
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