Archive for the ‘AFP’ Category

Keys adds to unprecedented glitz and glamour of San Siro final

Milan (AFP) – American R&B star Alicia Keys will make history by becoming the first artist to sing live at a Champions League final opening ceremony that promises unprecedented glitz and glamour on Saturday.

Record ten-time champions Real Madrid host city rivals Atletico Madrid at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, commonly known as the San Siro, looking for an 11th victory in Europe’s premier club competition. 

An estimated global audience of 180 million people spread over 220 countries will watch the Spanish league giants lock horns in the final for the second time in three years.

Yet fans around the world are set for an enticing, pre-game appetiser thanks to a leading Italian events company that has the formidable task this summer of producing no less than nine major international opening and closing ceremonies.

Along with Canadian company Circo de Bakuza, Rome-based Filmmaster Events will also organise the opening and closing ceremonies of Euro 2016 and the Rio Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

Unlike the opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympics, the Champions League final has never featured a live performance.

Keys is set to sing three of her “biggest hits”, according to the ceremony organisers, but is expected to treat fans to some of her new material when she is joined by 400 voluntary performers during a performance created by world famous events choreographer Wanda Rokicki.

AC Milan and Inter Milan share the San Siro stadium and despite their absence from the competition this season local fans will be given a chance to cheer.

They will be represented by retired club legends Franco Baresi and Javier Zanetti, who will carry the Champions League trophy out on to the centre of the pitch with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

The nine-minute show will end with spectacular fireworks and with Bocelli — who recently sang for Leicester City and their Italian manager Claudio Ranieri upon their historic Premier League triumph — singing the Champions League anthem.

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Mourinho agrees to become Man United manager — reports

London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho has agreed to become the new manager of Manchester United, according to British media reports on Thursday.

Mourinho has been in negotiations with United since Louis van Gaal’s sacking on Monday and it is understood an agreement is now in place for the former Chelsea manager to take charge at Old Trafford.

The 53-year-old is reportedly yet to sign a contract, but official confirmation from United is expected by Friday after the deal was delayed due to discussions over Mourinho’s image rights.

Mourinho is said to have been offered a three-year contract that will pay him £10 million ($14 million, 13 million euros) per season, which is double the salary earned by Van Gaal during his troubled two-year reign.

It was also reported Mourinho, who was sacked by Chelsea in December, is set to be given bonuses that will pay £5 million and £2.5 million respectively if he leads United to the Champions League or Premier League title.

It emerged Chelsea had owned Mourinho’s name as a trademark since 2005 and could demand a six-figure sum from United before his new club can use it to sell merchandise such as toiletries, technology, clothing and jewellery.

There was also a potential conflict between Mourinho’s personal deals and United’s own sponsors because the Portuguese coach has contracts with Jaguar and Hublot Watches, while United’s shirts sponsors are Chevrolet and they also have an arrangement with watchmaker Bulova.

But talks between Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes and United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward are believed to have resolved those problems and look to have paved the way for the controversial and charismatic boss to fulfil his long-held dream of managing the Manchester giants.

Mourinho was seen strolling back to his town house in the upmarket London district of Belgravia wearing a smart black suit and clutching documents on Thursday, and soon after those images emerged it was reported he had agreed the deal.

– True winner –

Assuming there is no last-minute hitch, the former Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto boss will take charge of United for the first time when the club face Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on July 22 on the first leg of two-game tour of China.

However, Mourinho should appear on the home bench at Old Trafford before then because he is due to take charge of an England XI in a charity game for Unicef against a Rest of the World XI on June 5.

Although United legend Eric Cantona this week claimed the acerbic Mourinho, renowned for his negative tactics, was not a good fit, the club’s former defender Rio Ferdinand was quick to welcome his impending arrival.

“I have heard many say the ‘Mourinho way’ is not the Manchester United style of playing football,” Ferdinand said.

“However, the Chelsea team that Jose put together first time round when he entered the Premier League played with wingers and hurt teams with quick attacking play.

“This is a sign he knows how to get a team playing in a way Manchester United fans can look forward to seeing.

“One thing I can tell Manchester United fans is that they have got themselves a true winner in all aspects. His CV shows success.”

After opting against hiring Mourinho when Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, the dismal failures of David Moyes and then Van Gaal have persuaded United owners, the Glazer family, to sanction the hiring of the controversial boss.

Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea came to an embarrassing end, with the Premier League champions languishing near the relegation zone amid what the club called “palpable discord” between the manager and his players.

Yet his record as a serial winner, with 21 trophies including three Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns, persuaded United he was the man to rebuild a squad that grew increasingly disenchanted with life under the schoolmasterly Van Gaal. 

The Dutchman led 10-man United to a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup final and hoped that would be enough to save his job.

But winning United’s first major trophy since 2013 wasn’t enough to make up for the team’s failure to qualify for the Champions League after they finished fifth in the Premier League.

With official confirmation of his appointment still to come, Mourinho is reported to already be lining up new signings.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan, is one target and on Thursday he hinted a move to Old Trafford could be on the cards.

The Sweden striker has left Paris Saint Germain and, asked if there had been an offer from United, Ibrahimovic said with a smile: “If you want action you bring Mourinho.

“I don’t give guarantees but there are concrete offers from the Premier League, so let’s see what happens.”

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‘Special One’ Mourinho lets success and controversy do the talking

London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho talks bluntly, wins big and then everything seems to go wrong.

His reported signing Thursday for Manchester United has bolstered one of the most most stellar CVs in football.

The 53-year-old Portuguese has won eight league titles in four countries with Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea as well as two Champions League titles with Porto and Inter Milan.

But Mourinho has also been ordered out or walked out in various ways when ambition or tensions have taken over.

Building a legacy is an unsolvable puzzle for the man whose remarkable record earned his “Special One” nom de guerre.

Mourinho’s second stint at Chelsea, which ended acrimoniously in December, summed up his career: a period of bedding in, one or two seasons of stunning success and then things fall apart.

“Mourinho burns out his players after a year and a half, at most two years,” said former AC Milan and England coach Fabio Capello just before Mourinho’s Chelsea exit.

Mourinho is never short of job offers however. His tactical acumen, attention to detail and ability to form water-tight bonds with players have made him one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Mourinho has no record as a player. And his brash, arrogant style may not sit easily with everyone. But after working as assistant to Louis van Gaal — whom he succeeds at United — and having unremarkable spells at Benfica and Uniao de Leiria, he emerged as a world-class leader at Porto in 2002.

Porto beat Manchester United on the way to winning the Champions League in 2004 and Mourinho was soon on his way to Chelsea.

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” he declared at a press conference on joining the London club financed by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.

– the Mourinho ‘aura’ –

“Mourinho was the best. For me he was. He brought my confidence to a level it had never been,” said Chelsea great Frank Lampard, who blossomed under Mourinho into one of Europe’s finest goal-scoring midfielders.

“It’s a presence and an aura and a way with people. He galvanises people. His own self-confidence reflects back on his teams.”

Two Premier League titles followed but there was no European success and friction with Abramovich mounted.

Mourinho left abruptly in September 2007 and appeared in June the next year as coach of Internazionale. In his first season, Inter, with Zlatan Ibhrahimovic in the frontline, won the Italian title but lost to Manchester United in the Champions league.

He had stormy relations with Italian journalists — whom he once accused of “intellectual prostitution” — and his rivals. Catania president Pietro Lo Monaco called Mourinho a “big mouth”.

But the Portuguese became an Inter legend in 2010 when they won Serie A, the Italian Cup and beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League final.

Within a week of the European triumph, Mourinho was on the move again to start three boom and bust years at Real Madrid. The team won a Spanish title and the Copa del Rey but relations with star player Cristiano Ronaldo were difficult and Real never hit the heights.

The Portuguese left Madrid by “mutual agreement” just days after the end of what he called “the worst season of my career” in May 2013.

In less than three weeks, Mourinho had signed again for Chelsea.

His first season back saw Mourinho finish a campaign without a trophy of any description for the first time in his managerial career, but he reshaped the team brilliantly.

In came Thibaut Courtois, recalled from a loan at Atletico Madrid, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, and with a galvanised spine Chelsea swept to the league title and beat Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final.

Mourinho said that Chelsea’s title success vindicated his decision to return to “the most difficult league in Europe”, but seven months later, he was gone.

The Mourinho strategy completely unravelled in the early weeks of the 2015-16 season.

Overwhelming favourites to retain the title, they lost nine of their first 16 league games and slumped to 16th place in the table.

Mourinho received trenchant criticism for sidelining team doctor Eva Carneiro, who left the club after being publicly lambasted by the manager for running on to treat a player at a vital moment in a game.

It recalled other dark episodes from Mourinho’s past — the hounding of referee Anders Frisk in 2005, the eye poke on Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in 2011 — and left him with more stains on his reputation.

“Will he be loved?” former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher asked last year. “Chelsea fans undoubtedly adore him. Porto and Inter (Milan) supporters will, too. Yet beyond that? It is debatable.”

Now he joins another great club in need of rejuvenation. Only time will tell whether the Mourinho magic will last longer this time.

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Mourinho and Man Utd go in search of Midas touch

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – In accepting the challenge of attempting to drag Manchester United out of the doldrums, Jose Mourinho will also seek to restore gloss to his own tainted reputation.

The brash 53-year-old Portuguese is a serial winner, having notably won eight league titles and two Champions Leagues, but Chelsea’s spectacular collapse over the first half of this season resurrected old doubts about his ability to deliver long-term success.

The season also provided recurring reminders of Mourinho’s propensity for controversy and the appointment of the self-styled “Special One” is thought to have been approved despite misgivings about the potential for bad publicity at boardroom level at Old Trafford.

Discussing Mourinho’s notorious eye-poke on the late Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova during his time at Real Madrid, Bobby Charlton, a United great and club director, once said: “A United manager wouldn’t do that.”

Louis van Gaal, Mourinho’s sacked predecessor, ultimately paid the price for failing to secure Champions League qualification, but it was the pedestrian nature of the team’s football that provided a lightning rod for criticism during his two-year tenure.

The European game’s arch pragmatist, Mourinho is not renowned for dashing football and his poor record of promoting young players — one area where Van Gaal enjoyed some success — has been held against him throughout his career.

United’s two greatest managers, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, built their success on youth and the club’s fans are unlikely to react kindly if players like 18-year-old striking sensation Marcus Rashford or teenage full-backs Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson abruptly disappear from view.

The controversy stoked by Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, meanwhile, has not yet abated, with United’s new manager potentially in line to appear before an employment tribunal next month over his contentious sidelining of Chelsea medic Eva Carneiro.

Of even greater concern to the United hierarchy will be the knowledge that Mourinho’s second stint at Chelsea generated unsustainable levels of friction in the changing room, with technical director Michael Emenalo citing “palpable discord” between manager and players as the chief reason for his December dismissal.

Speaking earlier this season, former AC Milan and England coach Fabio Capello asserted: “Mourinho burns out his players after a year and a half, at most two years.”

– ‘Siege mentality’ –

But with United having finished seventh, fourth and fifth in the three seasons since Ferguson retired in 2013, desperation to return the club to title contention appears to have trumped concerns about Mourinho’s ability to establish lasting foundations.

Former United defender Phil Neville believes that United’s fans will quickly forgive Mourinho’s caustic tendencies if he brings success back to the club.

“He likes to create this siege mentality and that’s what Sir Alex (Ferguson) did for 26 years,” Neville told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Sir Alex did like to create a cause for the fight, with the media and with other managers. If Mourinho does that at United, the fans will take him to their hearts.”

Mourinho had rechristened himself “The Happy One” upon his return to Chelsea, but in his final months at the club he seemed to wear an almost permanent scowl.

Landing the United job, which he has long coveted, is sure to bring a smile back to his face, but frosty departures at first Real Madrid and then Chelsea mean he will not stride through the door with the same swagger that characterised his initial arrival in England from Porto in 2004.

In addition to the challenges facing him at United, his return to management serves up some tantalising clashes with rivals old and new.

At Manchester City he will cross swords again with Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach, with whom he engaged in a titanic and frequently ill-tempered tussle for supremacy in Spain during his time in Madrid.

Long-time Arsenal foe Arsene Wenger also lies in wait, along with fiery Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Tottenham Hotspur’s rising star Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte, his long-term successor at Chelsea.

His first domestic engagement, meanwhile, will be the Community Shield against the Leicester City of Claudio Ranieri — derided as a failure by Mourinho during their time as rival managers with Roma and Inter Milan, but who now wears England’s championship crown.

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O’Neill ready for Euro decision time

Dublin (AFP) – Martin O’Neill says 90 percent of his Republic of Ireland squad will know their Euro 2016 fate after Friday’s penultimate warm-up clash against the Netherlands in Dublin.

O’Neill was speaking at the FAI National Training Centre ahead of the meeting with a Dutch side that has not qualified for France, during which the Republic manager hopes to move a step closer to finalising his 23-man group.

He had previously said he would name his squad after Friday’s game, but now plans to delay the announcement until Tuesday night’s UEFA deadline, following the game with Belarus in Cork.

Arguably, there are places up for grabs in all areas of the pitch, with O’Neill adamant he’s giving everyone a chance to prove fitness and form.

“I think I will have told quite a number of players that they will be going to France this weekend,” O’Neill said.

“But I think if I was player and I had an opportunity still, and that opportunity was Tuesday night to play, and it was announced afterwards if I’d made it or hadn’t made, I think I’d want to take my chance on that. And I think that’s how the players feel.

“Because some of the players have not played the right amount of football, this is still an international game, on Friday night and Tuesday night, to stake a claim so it’s not a guessing game. 

“If Italy and Belgium and any other nation have decided this is what they’re going with and have left some players out, that is their prerogative. 

“I’m not in it for a guessing game. If a lot of the players had played the amount of football I’d have liked then I might have made my mind up early. I’m not here to have mind games with them.”

– True thoughts –

Midfielders Harry Arter, Stephen Quinn, Eunan O’Kane and Darron Gibson are among those likely to get their chance to shine on Friday, with forward David McGoldrick another keen to push his way in from the fringes, while there remain question marks over O’Neill’s true thoughts on the goalkeeping situation.

Gary Rogers, the Dundalk goalkeeper, was training with Darren Randolph on Wednesday as Shay Given was rested, with David Forde and Keiren Westwood still away on club duties.

One or both of those, along with Hull City midfielder David Meyler, who will play in Saturday’s Championship play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday keeper Westwood, should be asked to join the squad on Sunday.

Kevin Doyle is expected to fly in from the United States for Tuesday’s game at the home of his former club Cork.

“Someone can make a late charge to try and get into the side,” O’Neill said, “Whether you get half an hour, a full game or 25 minutes, do your best.”

James McCarthy, the midfield lynchpin who became ever more important to O’Neill’s side as the qualifying campaign progressed, may not play in either warm-up game, but appears set for a spot in the squad nonetheless.

“I’d be fairly certain that if he wasn’t fit for Friday he could play Tuesday and if he wasn’t available on Tuesday, I would still like to take him as I think he’s going to be ok,” O’Neill said.

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