As the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine rumbles in Eastern Ukraine, six soccer players have refused to return to the highly volatile region.
Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra and Ismaily all play for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar but have all voted against returning to the highly-volatile region ahead of the new season.
After Shakthar played French side Lyon in a friendly over the weekend, the six aforementioned refused to get back on the plane to Donetsk. The city is currently being controlled by pro-Russian rebels but the Ukrainian army are trying to gain control of it.
Simply put, it’s not a safe place to be.
Donetsk is located less than two hours away from where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian rebels on Friday. Ahead of the new Ukrainian season the club still doesn’t know where it will be playing its home games, as a neutral venue must be organized.
The six players in question are all from South America, five from Brazil and one from Argentina, and the club’s billionaire owner Rinat Akhmetov has issued the following warning.
“If they don’t come then in the first instance they will suffer,” Akhmetov said in a statement on Shakhtar’s website. While also going on to state that refusing to fulfill their contracts could cost the players “tens of millions of euros” in compensation payments to the club.
There is also a twist as Shakhtar’s Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu blamed super-agent Kia Joorabchian as the players did not return to Ukraine. According to Lucescu, their agent Joorabchian turned up in Lyon and took the players away. Shakhtar believe Joorabchian wants to make all the players free-agents and profit from them signing new deals at other clubs. The likes of Costa have been linked with a switch to Manchester United.
With Shakhtar set to play in this seasons UEFA Champions League and the Ukrainian season set to begin this weekend, plenty of question lie ahead as to how safe it is to play soccer in the Ukraine.
Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi both spent some time as potential Arsenal players in the summer rumor mills, but will the former’s move to Juventus keep the latter from the Emirates Stadium?
As we wait for official confirmation that Juventus has purchased Higuain from Napoli for $103 million, it seems Napoli is aiming to replace him with Icardi. Football Italia says Inter has rejected an offer of $22 million plus Manolo Gabbiadini that would send Icardi to Naples.
[ MORE: Messi back, blonde at Barca ]
Gabbiadini has 20 goals in 60 matches for Napoli, but Icardi is among the hottest properties in the world. The 23-year-old Argentine is signed through 2019, and the fee is obviously going to be quite high, but Napoli is ready to spend money that others may not.
Many players have been rumored for the “fourth chair” behind Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez in the Barcelona attack orchestra, but could the issue be settled with a reserve from Atletico Madrid?
Luciano Vietto, 22, is being linked with a $24 million move from the Vicente Calderon to the Camp Nou. AS says personal terms are the only obstacle remaining, and Vietto would have a lot to prove in Barcelona. After belting 20 goals for Valencia in 2014-15, Vietto found the net just thrice in 28 matches last season.
Atleti could use that money, according to Marca, as Diego Simeone’s bunch reportedly believes it can pry Diego Costa from Chelsea. The Brazilian-born Spanish international has massive success at Atleti before moving to North London, and Simeone has not quit on the idea of bringing him back “home”.
Also, we’re just going to leave this right here, with the lone add-on that Aaron Schoenfeld is tearing it up for Maccabi’s rival.
Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.
That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.
[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]
That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.
Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.
The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.
[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]
Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.
From Sky Sports:
“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.
“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”
No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.
Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.
Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.
[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]
A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).
They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:
“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”
Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.
Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.