Bulgaria’s most successful club CSKA Sofia will relaunch from the third division following their financial crisis, the domestic football union (BFU) said. The decision marks a spectacular fall from grace for CSKA, who have won 31 league titles and reached three European semi-finals in happier times between 1967 and 1989. Last month, cash-strapped CSKA and three other teams were denied licences to compete in next season’s Bulgarian professional championship and European competitions. There were speculations Bulgarian soccer could be restructured and the domestic second division will accommodate CSKA but local authorities said the licensing procedure is complete and changes in professional divisions cannot be made. “CSKA can only play in the amateur championship,” the BFU said in a statement. CSKA accepted their fate and their new bosses said the club will waste no time to return to the Balkan country’s top divisions. “We don’t even think for a moment that we’ll not return to professional football,” former Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov, who was appointed as CSKA’s sporting director, told a news conference on Tuesday. “It’ll be the end for CSKA if we don’t win a promotion.”
Sulley Muntari has had his contract with AC Milan terminated by mutual consent, the Serie A club announced on today. The Ghana midfielder made just 12 Serie A starts for the Rossoneri this season with his last appearance on March 7 and had another year left on his contract. A statement from AC Milan read: “AC Milan and Sulley Muntari have reached a mutual agreement to terminate the contract that tied the player to the club. “AC Milan would like to thank Muntari for his dedication and professionalism during his years at the club and wish him all the best for the future.” Muntari joined AC Milan in the summer of 2012 from city rivals Inter and is expected to return to the Premier League this summer. Everton are among the clubs keen to sign Muntari, who can now join as a free agent. The 30-year-old played for Portsmouth in 2007-08 and spent six months on loan at Sunderland in 2011.
Former Arsenal forward Gervinho was clearly desperate not to join Abu Dhabi side Al Jazira – or else he just really wanted his own private beach and helicopter. The 28-year-old managed to scupper a move to the Middle East outfit by reportedly making some outrageous demands. According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Gervinho’s “obscene demands” were so high that the deal collapsed under the weight of his requests. The paper reported that Roma and Al Jazira reached an agreement over a €13million transfer – only for the player’s wish list to bring it to a screeching halt. The Ivorian, who has impressed for Roma over the last two seasons in Serie A, has been repeatedly linked with a move away from Italy over the summer. But it seems that unless a club is willing to part with a private beach and a chopper, he is going to stay exactly where he is. The exact details? Apparently Gervinho asked for a helicopter to be at his disposal at all times, along with accommodation for his entire family. Oh, and a beach to call his own and a number of plane tickets to travel back and forth to the Ivory Coast. Gervinho still has three more years on his contract at Roma, but it’s going to be very interesting to study the small print when he signs his next deal, wherever it is.
The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff will host the 2017 Champions League final, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday. The Friends Arena in Stockholm will be the venue for the 2017 Europa League final. It will be the first final of UEFA’s flagship competition to be held in Wales, but the 12th time it will be staged in the British Isles, with seven previous finals at Wembley, three in Glasgow and one in Manchester. The Millennium Stadium, which is owned by the Welsh Rugby Union, opened in 1999 and staged the English FA Cup finals from 2001 until 2006 while Wembley was being rebuilt. It has a capacity of 74,500 and staged soccer matches during the Olympic Games in 2012. It will be the second major UEFA showpiece staged in the Welsh capital after the Cardiff City Stadium provided the venue for the European Supercup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at the start of last season. The Friends Arena in Stockholm opened in 2012 and the Europa League final will be the first UEFA club competition final to be staged in Sweden, which hosted the 1992 European Championship. UEFA also announced that the 2017 Supercup match, the European club season curtain-raiser between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League will be staged in Skopje in Macedonia. The venue for the 2016 Champions League final is the San Siro in Milan and the Europa League final will be at St Jakob Park in Basel.
Manchester United have made a £28.6m bid for Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. The Red Devils believe the 29-year-old wants to leave Real after they failed to offer him an extension to his contract, which expires in 2017. The Spain international has made 445 appearances for the Bernabeu club. United manager Louis van Gaal wants defensive reinforcements to help his team improve on last season’s fourth-place Premier League finish. Ramos joined Real from Sevilla in 2005 and scored their injury-time equaliser in their Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid in 2014. He has 128 Spain caps and was in the starting line-up as they won Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.
Guus Hiddink has left his position as Netherlands head coach after just 10 months in charge. The 68-year-old began his second spell in charge in August and had a contract until the end of Euro 2016. Hiddink lost five and won four of his 10 matches in charge and leaves his position with the Dutch third in their Euro 2016 qualifying group. They are five points behind leaders Iceland and three adrift of the Czech Republic in Group A. “I am sorry that it went this way,” said Hiddink. “I thought it was an honour to again coach the Dutch national team and I wish my successor, the staff and the players every success on the way to the European Championships in France.” The rest of the coaching staff – including assistant Danny Blind – will remain in place. Hiddink’s Netherlands defeated Spain 2-0 in a friendly in March, but suffered defeats to Iceland and the Czech Republic to damage their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016. The top two finishers in each of the nine qualifying groups, plus the highest-placed team finishing third will automatically qualify for the finals in France next year. They will be joined by the winners of four play-off ties contested by the remaining eight third-placed teams. Dutch Football Association (KNVB) director Bert van Oostveen said: “I regret this development. Unfortunately, the results of Guus’s work were not immediately visible for everyone.” The former Real Madrid, PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea coach has also managed Australia, Russia, Turkey and South Korea in a 28-year career.
Former AC Milan and Nigeria defender Taye Taiwo is keen to find a route back into top-level action despite 14 months of inaction. His last game was in April 2014 for Turkey’s Buraspor, but his contract was ended a year later by mutual consent. “I know I can still play for another top club and that’s why I’ve been training hard to stay fit,” the 30-year-old told BBC Sport. “There are good possibilities in Italy, France and Netherlands so we’ll see.” Taiwo’s biggest success came during a six-year stint with French side Marseille, his first European club which he joined in March 2005. Taiwo won the French Ligue 1 title in 2010; back-to-back French League Cup in 2010 and 2011 as well as the 2010 French Super Cup. He made over 200 appearances for the club, scoring 21 goals before joining Italian giants AC Milan in 2011. He struggled to establish himself in Italy and then spent six months on loan at QPR in 2012 before the move to Buraspor. Taiwo made his debut for Nigeria in 2004 and played at the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. But he won the last of his 59 caps for Nigeria in a 0-0 Nations Cup qualifier with Rwanda in February 2012. The left-back says playing club football is his main goal rather than playing for the Super Eagles again. “Even when I was playing regularly in Ukraine and Turkey I never got a chance with Nigeria,” he said. “In football you have to arrange your priorities and my immediate target is to get back to club football. “As a Nigerian I remain a big fan of my country and that will never change.” Taiwo featured in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship where he was voted the third best player at the tournament in the Netherlands behind Lionel Messi and compatriot John Mikel Obi. He also played for the Super Eagles at the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament in South Africa.
Tottenham’s Brazil international midfielder Paulinho, 26, who joined the Lilywhites from Corinthians for a fee of just under £17m in July 2013, has moved to Guangzhou for a reported £9.9m on a four-year contract, the Chinese club have confirmed. They are managed by former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and are currently third in the league standings as they seek a fifth successive Super League title.
Goal keeper Petr Cech has completed his move from Chelsea to Arsenal. Cech has also written a letter to Chelsea fans, admitting he thought he would “finish his career” at Stamford Bridge. However, after losing his starting position to Thibaut Courtois, he says he had to move on for “new challenges” because he is not at the stage of his career where he is happy to sit on the bench. The Czech adds that he “couldn’t be more proud” of what he achieved during 11 years at Chelsea but it is “time to begin a new adventure”. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says Petr Cechis “one of the outstanding keepers in the world” after the Czech joined the Gunners from Chelsea for an undisclosed fee. The 33-year-old made over 400 appearances during 11 years at Stamford Bridge, winning every major club honour at least once and the Premier League Golden Glove award on three occasions. “Petr Cech is a player that I have admired for a long time and I am very pleased that he has decided to join us,” said Wenger. Cech added: “When Arsene Wenger spoke to me about his ambitions for this club, and how he saw me as part of this team, the decision was clear.”
Chile’s Gonzalo Jara will miss the rest of the Copa America after being given a three-match ban for an incident in which he appeared to poke his finger against Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani’s backside. South American football governing body Conmebol said the defender was being suspended for “unsporting behaviour”. Jara has also been fined $7,500. The incident happened during Chile’s 1-0 quarter-final win last Thursday. Cavani was given a second yellow card after he slapped Jara, who went unpunished, in retaliation. Former West Brom and Nottingham Forest defender Jara’s ban means he will miss the semi-final clash with Peru on Monday and, depending on the result of that game, either the final or third-place playoff. He will also be suspended for Chile’s first match of the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.
Justin Gatlin became the fifth-fastest 200m runner in history as he won Sunday’s final at the United States Track and Field Championships. The 33-year-old American, who has served two doping bans, recorded a time of 19.57 seconds in Oregon. It bettered the 19.68 he ran in May which, at that stage, was the best in the world. “I wanted to go out and make a statement, and that’s what I did,” Gatlin said. Gatlin has been the dominant sprinter in 2015, having also achieved the quickest time in the 100m (9.74).
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in a newspaper interview on Saturday that he will not stand as a candidate to remain the head of world football’s governing body at a special elective congress of member associations which he called for earlier this month. “I am not a candidate, I am the president. And I want to hand over FIFA in good condition,” the 79-year-old told Walliser Bote, a Swiss newspaper in the Valais region where Blatter is from. The comments come a day after Blatter told Swiss daily newspaper Blick that he had not resigned, attempting to distinguish between stepping down and giving up his mandate at the as yet unscheduled special congress. A FIFA source later told Reuters that meant that Blatter still intends to stand down as FIFA president. In Saturday’s interview, Blatter played down his lame-duck status and highlighted the reforms that he hopes to push through. “I will use all my strength and inspiration until my last working day to bring this ship back into safe harbour,” Blatter is quoted by Walliser Bote as saying. A spokeswoman for FIFA said the quotes were accurate. Although Blatter has said on several occasions that he will not stand again for president his comments about his intention to step down in the wake of the corruption scandal have been treated with scepticism by his critics. “While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA,” Blatter told a news conference on June 2. “This is why I will call an extraordinary congress to be held as soon as possible, for a new president to be elected to follow me,” he said. Before starting his fourth mandate in 2011 Blatter said it would be his last term in office, but later changed his mind, saying that numerous federations had asked him to stand.
Unbeaten middleweight boxer Anthony Ogogo will fight for the first time in a year after recovering from injury. The 26-year-old, who won bronze at London 2012, has had two operations to fix an Achilles problem. The Briton will return to the ring on Saturday, 18 July in Berlin against an unnamed opponent. “I now feel fitter than I’ve ever felt and ready to send a wake-up call to the middleweight division,” said Ogogo, who has won all of his professional bouts.” Ogogo, a former junior world champion, has also announced he will be joint-promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and German organisation Team Sauerland. “I am incredibly excited by this new partnership and cannot wait to get back in the ring,” he added. Ogogo was born to an English mother and Nigerian father. His full names are Anthony Osezua Ojo Ogogo.
Argentina striker Carlos Tevez has completed his move back to Boca Juniors from Italian champions Juventus. Tevez, 31, started his career at Boca before leaving in 2004 and returns to Argentina after nine years in Europe. Former Manchester United, Manchester City and West Ham forward Tevez struck 20 Serie A goals last season and had been linked with Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Paris St-Germain. Juventus had already replaced Tevez with Mario Mandzukic from Atletico. Boca Juniors confirmed the transfer while Tevez was on the bench for the Copa America quarter-final against Colombia. Shortly after the announcement was made, Tevez came on to score the winning penalty in a shootout to send Argentina into the last four. Boca president Daniel Angelici said: “It is a day of joy and great satisfaction. The return of Carlos Tevez in an extraordinary moment of his career is fantastic news for all partners and supporters of Boca and Argentine football. The presence of Carlos will give another leap in quality to the great squad we have.” Tevez, who has won three league titles in England and two in Italy, scored 38 goals in 110 games during his first spell at Boca, where he won the league in 2003 and was voted South American Player of the Year for three straight seasons. He left for Brazilian side Corinthians before the 2005 season, and moved to West Ham the following year.
West Ham sign French midfielder Dimitri Payet from Marseille on a five-year contract in a deal reportedly worth more than £10m. The outstanding 28-year-old joins the Hammers on a five-year contract, with a further one-year option. Blessed with superlative technical skills, exceptional vision and an inventive range of passing, Payet operates to great effect from his preferred central attacking midfield position, and is sure to add eye-catching flair and creativity to Slaven Bilic’s side. Payet, who becomes West Ham’s third senior summer signing following the captures of Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph, is looking forward to bringing his formidable talent to the Barclays Premier League. Payet said the Club’s determination to bring him to east London played a huge part in him deciding to end his hugely successful spell in French football.
The player spoke to Joint-Chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold and new manager Slaven Bilic before putting pen to paper on his West Ham contract. “West Ham really showed me that they wanted me to come, both the Joint-Chairmen and the manager,” Payet told whufc.com. “That’s very important for me. I was also keen to sign up to a clear project. West Ham’s is very interesting and matches perfectly with my ambitions. “Firstly I spoke with the manager, who really wished for me to come here and had been watching me a lot. He made it clear that he wanted me to sign and that too was important in my choice. “I’m an attacking footballer so for sure I like attacking football and that they’re counting on me to help achieve that gives me a sense of responsibility. The fact that I’m here is also down to that. “I’m very happy to be here. It’s true that it’s taken a little while but that’s normal, negotiations are like that. But now that it’s done, I’m very happy.”