Van Persie refuses to sign new Arsenal deal

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie has announced that he will not be signing a new deal at the club.

The 28-year-old, who has a year left on his current contract, confirmed that he had met with manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

But he revealed that they disagree on the way the club should move forward.

“I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract,” the Dutchman wrote on his personal website.

The striker had previously kept quiet over his future and refused to commit to a decision until Wednesday.

The Dutchman, who joined Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004, added: “I love the club and the fans, no matter what happens. I have grown up and became a man during my time with Arsenal FC.

“Everybody at the club and the fans have always supported me over the years and I have always given my all (and more) on and off the pitch. I am very proud of being part of this fantastic club for the last eight years.

“As soon as Mr Gazidis is back from his two-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments.”

Van Persie ended last season as the English Premier League’s top scorer with 30 goals, helping the Gunners to a third-placed finish.

Reigning champions Manchester City have been linked with a move for the prolific frontman, while European heavyweights Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are all thought to be interested.

Manager Arsene Wenger stated the importance of keeping Van Persie at the club earlier this month but the 28-year-old Dutchman has decided against prolonging his deal.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s only threat – Maradona

Former controversial Argentine player, Diego Amando Maradona has singled out Real Madrid Striker and former Manchester United forward man; Cristiano Ronadlo as the only threatful player Paulo Bento has on his squad wearing Portuguese national team jerseys for Euro 2012, claiming that Portugal has one of the weakest line-ups in the tournament.

The loud Argentine who was formerly the coach of his country’s national team expressed his belief Portugal will struggle in the European Championship to make an impact if at all there will be any, as Coach Paulo Bento has arguably one of the weakest sides in this tournament.

Portugal will be having their first acid test against Germany today, while Netherlands take on Denmark in the other Group B fixture.

Now coaching Al Wasl, Maradona tipped the Seleccao to crash out at the first hurdle, pointing out that Cristiano Ronaldo is their only player who can make the difference as Portugal got qualification through playoff to be in EURO 2012.

Moreover the national team has not been enjoying the support their followers since the squad messed up at home against Turkey despite having Ronaldo on ground; this tells you that Ronaldo cannot do it alone if he lacks vibrant support from all corners, Maradona said.

Commenting on the Netherlands versus Denmark game which is also slated for today, he said the Oranje men will too much Denmark to curtail or handle as very few national teams can match their prowess on-field in terms team and player to player talent.

Ronaldo should be compensated with Ballon d’ Or ahead of Messi – Mourinho

Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid Manager who got in his kitty his first La Liga title with his team said he feels that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to be awarded the next Balloon d’Or Player of the year award and not Lionel Messi.

Messi who has won the World best player award back to back became only the second player in history to win three successive times last January after Michel Platini who the football legend and the present UEFA President won from 1983-1985.

Mourinho said he feels that the former Manchester United player’s contribution formed a very huge part of their success this season which part of it is the team winning of the La Liga title, so he believes that Ronaldo should be a worthy winner when the awards come around again.

Although Ronaldo’s 46 league goals fell four short of Messi’s remarkable haul as the Argentine claimed the Pichichi and the European Golden Shoe.

And for that reason Mourinho believes his 27-year-old compatriot should be rewarded by FIFA when Ballon d’Or voting takes place.

In Mourinho’s words “Cristiano has to win the Ballon d’Or, not because he has been the top goal scorer, he was that already last season, but because his goals delivered a title.

“Messi scored 50 goals that weren’t worth anything, in the same way that Cristiano scored 42 last season that didn’t stand for anything. He hasn’t been able to win the Pichichi and I believe he should be compensated with the Ballon d’Or.”

Meanwhile, Mourinho has again reiterated that winning La Liga with Madrid was toughest he has ever won. The 49-year-old Portuguese has now won seven championships in four different countries after collecting two league titles each with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan. But he believes overcoming Barca has been the biggest challenge of his career.

Raul leaves Schalke 04, Metzelder unhappy

Christoph  Metzelder; one of Schalke 04 main defender expressed his unhappiness in clear terms on the departure of Raul Gonzalez from the German club, he said he is disappointed at the striker’s decision to leave the club at the end of the season.

Metzelder could not hide his feelings as he spoke on hearing the news of the striker’s departure.

Raul Gonzalez, 34, on Thursday announced after rejecting the offer handed to him by Schalke 04 for an extension of contract and said he will be continuing his career outside of Europe and this news has not made the club management and other players happy as it was seen as a big blow to the plans laid down by the management of the club for the new season.

Metzelder said he believes that the Spaniard’s departure is a heavy blow for the club, but insisted that it will open the door for new players to prove their worth.

‘Raul has been looked at in Schalke 04 with great respect by other players coming up in the club and he will pass in the history of the club as someone who made a large contribution to the success of the club and he will be solely missed because of his quality of play on field ‘said Metzelder.

The former Spain international Raul, who joined Schalke in 2010

The Spanish footballer before deciding to leave Schlake 04 plays as a striker for the German Bundesliga club and has scored 20 goals in all competitions this season.

Raul spent most of his career playing for Spanish club Real Madrid and is the club’s all-time top goal scorer.

The Spaniard is a three-time winner of the UEFA Champions League and has long been the competition’s all-time leading goal scorer.

He left Real Madrid on 25 July 2010, having scored 323 goals in 741 appearances to join Schalke 04

 

With Real Madrid, he has won several honours, including further La Liga titles in 1996–97 (scoring 21 La Liga goals), 2000–01 (scoring 24 La Liga goals), and 2002–03 (scoring 16 La Liga goals in a campaign truncated by a bout of appendicitis).

From 1998 to 2002, Raúl and Real Madrid also won three UEFA Champions League trophies in 1998, 2000, and 2002. For most of this time, Raúl struck up a prolific scoring partnership with Fernando Morientes and later Ronaldo.

Raúl took over the captaincy of Real Madrid when Fernando Hierro was transferred in 2003, a responsibility he held until leaving the club in 2010.

Despite appearing in two finals, in 2002 (in which he scored) and 2004, Raúl never lifted the Copa Del Rey.

Bayern edge Madrid in UCL semi final first leg

Bayern Munich put a leg in next month’s Champions League final at their Allianz Arena home after star striker Gomez hit a late winner to earn a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s men in Tuesday’s semifinal first leg.

France winger Franck Ribery gave Bayern an early lead while Real’s Mesut Oezil equalised before Germany striker Gomez hit the 90th-minute winner ahead of next Wednesday’s return leg at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium.

“We knew Real are capable of scoring lots of goals and it’s a pity we conceded one,” said Bayern’s goal-scorer Ribery.

“We’ll have some chances in the return leg and we have to make the most of them.”

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was delighted with his team’s performance as they fought until the end.

“All in all, we deserved to win,” said the Bayern coach.

“Madrid started well, but we took command and played very cleverly.

“I had said we would play with passion for 90 minutes and the players did just that.

“A great compliment to my team, they ran very hard and played a great game. They gave everything.”

Real coach Jose Mourinho is however confident his side can overturn the deficit in the second leg and progress to the final.

“We have the second leg to come and it’s not like we have to make a historical comeback, what we have to do is very achievable,” said the ex-Chelsea boss.

“If we win at home, we are there.

“I am optimistic we can return here to play the final.

“It’s the first defeat in this Champions League for us but it’s not one that leaves me with negative feelings.”

The Bavarians preserved their remarkable record of having never lost at home to Madrid, with nine wins and a draw in their 10 meetings in Munich since 1976.

“It’s a pity that we conceded a goal at the end as until then we had defended well, but it’s over now,” said Real captain Iker Casillas.

“We also managed to score which is obviously very important.

“We both had chances and we have to score at home in the second leg now, simple as that.”

Bayern are now in pole position to return to Munich for this year’s Champions League final on May 19, when they will face either holders Barcelona or Chelsea, who meet in the first leg of their semifinal on Wednesday.

Both teams started at full-strength, with wingers Ribery and Arjen Robben either side of Toni Kroos behind Gomez in Bayern’s attack.

Mourinho opted to start with France’s Karim Benzema as striker in front of Oezil, who was flanked by Argentina’s Angel di Maria and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.

After Ribery had seen a penalty appeal turned down, he then fired past Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas from close range on 17 minute after Madrid failed to deal with a Kroos corner and the ball fell kindly to the Frenchman.

The goal injected some confidence into the Bayern attack as midfielders Kroos and Luiz Gustavo got the better of their Real opponents, while Bastian Schweinsteiger forced Casillas into a diving save.

Bayern picked up two first-half bookings, with both defender Holger Badstuber and Robben earning cautions, but neither will miss the second leg.

The visitors got back on level terms just seven minutes into the second half.

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer managed to save Ronaldo’s shot, but when Benzema fired the ball back across goal, the Portugal star teed up Oezil for a simple tap-in as Neuer watched on helplessly.

Having squandered several chances and had a penalty appeal turned down, Gomez finally found the net in the 90th minute after Bayern captain Philipp Lahm squared for the German star to bundle the ball home from close range.

A brawl was quickly thwarted after a harsh tackle on substitute Thomas Mueller by Real’s Brazilian defender Marcelo who was shown a yellow card for his action much to the chagrin of the Bayern fans.

 

Barca, Real reocrd wins ahead of Classico clash

The famous el-Classico comes up next week and both teams involved (Barcelona and Real Madrid) recorded wins to boost their morale ahead of the Champions League semis and the clash that might decide where the title will be heading come the end of the season.

Pepe (in White) tackling Barcelona's Mecurial Messi

Leaders Real Madrid will have a four-point advantage over chasing Barcelona when they meet at the Nou Camp for the second ‘Clasico’ of the campaign in a week’s time after the arch rivals both won in La Liga on Saturday.

Real, whose Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo broke his own Spanish record with his 41st goal of the campaign, came from a goal down to beat second-from-bottom Sporting Gijon 3-1 at the Bernabeu, before Lionel Messi equalled Ronaldo’s mark with both goals in Barca’s 2-1 comeback win at Levante in the late kickoff.

Real’s victory also meant Jose Mourinho’s side equalled the club’s Spanish record of 107 goals scored in a season set under Welsh coach John Toshack 22 years ago.

With five matches left, Real have 85 points, with Barca, who have trimmed six points from their arch rival’s lead in the past month, on 81, 29 ahead of third-placed Valencia, who play at Espanyol on Sunday.

 

Barcelona wins to mount pressure on Madrid

Defending champions Barcelona upped the pressure on leaders Real Madrid on Tuesday as they moved to within a point of their bitter rivals after a 4-0 thumping of Getafe.

Two goals from Alexis Sanchez, one from Pedro Rodriguez and Lionel Messi’s 39th in the league this season gave Barca a 10th consecutive league victory after another near perfect performance by the Catalans.

In the 22nd minute the home crowd chanted the name of Eric Abidal, the French international who on Tuesday underwent a liver transplant, in recognition of the number 22 shirt he wears as part of Barca’s squad.

Real can restore their four point advantage if they beat Atletico Madrid on Wednesday – they have not lost to their city rivals since 1999.

The clash between Barca and Madrid on April 21st in the Camp Nou has become increasingly important as the Catalans have reduced the gap on Madrid from 10 points to only one in less than a month.

Barcelona dominated Getafe throughout, controlling possession with their usual passing game and goalkeeper Victor Valdes summed up the situation on the final whistle.

“Our work is done here, lets wait and see what Madrid do tomorrow night in their game,” he said.

However coach Pep Guardiola was cautious about talking about his team’s title chances.

“All we can do is think about our games, we have a big game away to Levante at the weekend and then a Champions League semifinal, we have to focus on those games and nobody elses,” he said.

Andres Iniesta had the game’s first chance when his shot was tipped over by Miguel Angel Moya in the Getafe goal on 12 minutes.

A minute later and Barca were ahead. Iniesta started the move on the left for Messi to chest the ball into the path of the Chilean Sanchez who made no mistake from 20 yards out.

On 17 minutes the lead was almost doubled when Xavi Hernandez had appeared to finish perfectly a neat passing move only for Argentinian centre-half Cata Diaz to scoop the ball clear on the goal-line.

Barca continued to dominate but did not add to their lead until just before halftime when Iniesta supplied Messi with a delightful back flick for the Argentinian to finish with a powerful shot.

On 72 minutes Alexis doubled his tally heading home an inch perfect right-wing cross from youngster Isaac Cuenca.

Two minutes later and it was another header from Pedro who rounded off the scoring when he was quickest to meet a right-wing free-kick from Messi.

 

Barca draws as Bayern, Chelsea and Real record wins

Bayern Munich put one foot in the Champions League semifinals with a 2-0 win at Olympique Marseille and holders Barcelona edged closer after a 0-0 draw at AC Milan on Wednesday.

Barca dominated possession at the San Siro and had a number of chances but Milan, eyeing away goals in the last-eight second leg at the Nou Camp next Tuesday, missed equally good opportunities through Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Lionel Messi’s spectacular run of goal-scoring came to an end amid resolute Milan defending as Barca, who had a good penalty appeal turned down, failed to score for the first time in the Champions League this season.

Striker Mario Gomez put Bayern ahead just before the break when his first-time shot fooled reserve goalkeeper Elinton Andrade and Arjen Robben added the second on 69 minutes.

Marseille’s Stephan Mbia was lucky to stay on the field for a forearm smash on Gomez and the French side, wilting domestically, will have to be even more fortunate to turn the tie around in Munich next week.

Real Madrid triumphed 3-0 at Apoel Nicosia and Chelsea won 1-0 at Benfica in Tuesday’s quarterfinal first legs.

 

Real draw at Villareal, cuts lead to six points

Real Madrid saw their lead in La Liga cut to six points on Wednesday after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Villarreal and ended the match with two players sent off.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 33rd goal of the season in the 62nd minute, but Marcos Senna equalised with eight minutes remaining.

Things got worse for Real as Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil were both red-carded in the closing moments while coach Jose Mourinho and assistant Rui Faria were sent to the stands.

Barcelona had defeated Granada 5-3 on Tuesday to keep their title hopes alive with superstar Lionel Messi taking his career club goals tally to a record 234.

Villarreal, who are now four points from the relegation zone, had the better of the first period against Real.

They had a number of chances to take the lead, the most notable when Iker Casillas saved well on 20 minutes after a Sergio Ramos slip allowed Nilmar to bear down on goal.

Villarreal’s dominance was so evident that Mourinho made a tactical change in midfield on 28 minutes replacing Lass Diarra, who had picked up a yellow card, with Jose Callejon.

The home team then had a strong claim for a penalty turned down on 37 minutes when Alvaro Arbolea appeared to pull the shirt of Neymar at a corner.

The game was becoming increasingly scrappy when on 61 minutes Ronaldo and Ozil exchanged passes, the latter with a delightful back-flick, for the Portuguese star to round Diego Lopez in the Villarreal goal and put Madrid ahead.

Madrid were now in control and four minutes later Javier Camunas had to make a goal-line clearence with his head after Sami Khedira hooked the ball towards the net.

Villarreal did not look like equalising until Hamit Altintop fouled Joan Oriol on the edge of the area and Senna stepped up to convert the free-kick from 20 yards with eight minutes left.

In the aftermath of that decision, Mourinho was sent to the stands and then a minute later Sergio Ramos was dismissed for a second yellow card.

It was his 14th red card as a Real Madrid player.

Ozil was then given his marching orders with a direct red for protesting.

The game finished with nine-man Madrid desperately looking for the winner but it was not forthcoming and they had to be content with only a point for the second time in four days.

Earlier, third-placed Valencia slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Zaragoza with the rock-bottom club taking the three points despite finishing, like Real Madrid, with only nine players.

Pablo Hernandez put Valencia ahead, but two goals from Antonio Galdeano ‘Apono’ gave Zaragoza some hope of escaping relegation.

The victory was deserved for a Zaragoza team who had Pablo Alvarez sent off on 20 minutes for a foul on Aritz Aduriz when he was the last defender.

Franco Zuculini received his marching orders with three minutes remaining for a second yellow card.

The result means Zaragoza are finally within touching distance of the rest of their struggling rivals after a number of weeks adrift, only two points behind Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander.

Levante battled back from a goal down to beat Real Sociedad 3-1 and move just three points behind Valencia.

Carlos Vela put Sociedad ahead after just five minutes, but Jose Barkero replied almost immediately from the penalty spot against his former club when Inigo Martinez tripped Morroccan Nabil El Zhar.

Arouna Kone then powered home a right footed shot just before the interval to give his side the lead.

Real Sociedad had midfielder Gorka Elustondo sent off on 57 minutes for a second yellow card before Xavi Torres stabbed home from close range in the last minute to wrap the game up.

Gijon lost 3-2 at home to Mallorca for who Alvaro Gimenez got the winner with 13 minutes remaining.

Colombian forward Radamel Falcao grabbed two goals for Atletico Madrid to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 and improve their chances of European competition next season.

Javi Martinez grabed a late consolation but the home side deserved the victory against a Bilbao side that has now lost three league games since their Europa League heroics against Manchester United began.

Falcao now has 19 league strikes for the season.

Messi breaks Barca goalscoring record in 5-3 win over Granada

Lionel Messi’s stunning hat-trick set a Barcelona scoring record of 234 goals as the La Liga champions won an action-packed home game against Granada 5-3 to close within five points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid on Tuesday.

With his sixth league treble of the season, the Argentine World Player of the Year also set a Spanish record of 54 goals in all competitions with more than two months of the campaign remaining and overhauled Cristiano Ronaldo to top the La Liga scoring charts on 34 goals, two more than the Real forward.

Still only 24, Messi is well on the way to earning an unprecedented fourth straight World Player award and achieved his latest scoring feat after becoming the first man to net five goals in a Champions League match earlier this month.

Tuesday’s haul took his tally to an incredible 17 goals in his last seven games for his club.

“I am sorry for those who want to occupy his throne but this lad is simply the best,” Barca coach Pep Guardiola told a news conference.

“Michael Jordan dominated his sport, Messi does the same in football. There’s nothing more to say.”

Real Madrid play their game in hand at Villarreal on Wednesday and have 71 points from 27 matches. Barcelona, chasing a fourth successive title, have 66 from 28 games.

Xavi’s neat volley from Messi’s headed assist put Barca ahead in the fourth minute at a rainy Nou Camp and Messi doubled their lead shortly after to match Cesar Rodriguez’s 60-year-old club scoring mark of 232 goals.

Isaac Cuenca’s deflected cross fell to him on the edge of the penalty area and he stroked the ball low into the net off the left-hand post.

Barca seemed in complete control but Granada pulled a goal back 10 minutes into the second half when Diego Mainz nodded in from a free kick and the visitors grabbed a shock equaliser from the penalty spot seven minutes later after Daniel Alves fouled Daniel Benitez.

Guilherme Siqueira kept his nerve amidst the whistling to beat Victor Valdes and make it 2-2 before Messi restored Barca’s lead just over 20 minutes from time.

Racing clear from an Alves pass, he lifted the ball over goalkeeper Julio Cesar before Barca substitute Cristian Tello made it 4-2 in the 82nd minute when he followed up Messi’s angled strike.

The unstoppable Argentine completed his hat-trick four minutes later, his 234th Barca goal in official matches, and in an eventful finale Alves was shown a second yellow card and dismissed for a handball in the area.

Siqueira beat Valdes from the spot for a second time as Granada became the first team to put three goals past Barca at the Nou Camp since Villarreal in 2009.

In the earlier kickoff, Osasuna missed a chance to climb above Levante and Malaga to fourth and into the Champions League qualifying place when they were held 0-0 at home to Getafe.

 

Real Madrid completes signing of highly rated Diocesano youngster

Real Madrid has completed the transfer of promising youngster Jorge Franco from Diocesano for an undisclosed fee.

The 18-year-old attacker has been in impressive form for his club’s youth team and had also attracted the interest of clubs such as Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Nevertheless, he has now opted to join Real Madrid instead, and is delighted to move to the Blancos at the end of the season.

“Playing for Real Madrid is a dream. I never imagined that my dream of playing for the best club in the world would come true. I can’t ask for more,” Franco said to Marca.

“I’m living on a cloud right now. So many great things have happened this season. I never thought I would be able to score 26 goals in one season. I owe this all to Diocesano, who gave me confidence again.”

Messi tops football rich list ahead of Ronaldo and Beckham

Lionel Messi has been named the highest paid footballer in the world, trailed by England’s American based star, David Beckham and Real Madrid’s Portuguese star in third position.

According to France Football, which is set to release figures for the best paid players in the world on Tuesday, Barcelona forward Messi raked in €33 million last year from wages and sponsorship deals.

LA Galaxy midfielder and former England captain Beckham, for so long the game’s top earner, came in second on €31.5m, while Real Madrid star Ronaldo collected €29.2m in 2011.

Elsewhere, Samuel Eto’o, who made a lucrative move from Inter to Anzhi Makhachkala last summer, is fourth on the list, with Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney fifth.

Wealthy Premier League outfit Manchester City have two players in the top ten, with Argentine forward Sergio Aguero and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure sixth and seventh, respectively.

The only other club represented twice is Madrid, with Ronaldo’s team-mate Kaka ranking ninth.

Elsewhere, it is worth noting that Chelsea misfit Fernando Torres, who finally got back amongst the goals at the weekend, netted €16.7m during his disastrous first 12 months at Stamford Bridge.

There is not a single player based in Serie A in the top 10 but there is one representative from the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich skipper Philipp Lahm.

THE LIST
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)                                     33m
David Beckham (LA Galaxy)                               31.5m
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)                      29.2m
Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi)                                           23.3m
Wayne Rooney (Man United)                            20.6m
Sergio Aguero (Man City)                                   18.8m
Yaya Toure (Man City)                                        17.6m
Fernando Torres (Chelsea)                                 16.7m
Kaka (Real Madrid)                                              15.5m
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)                         14.3m

The amount was rated in the generally accepted currency of the European Union member countries.