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Liverpool fans stranded after flights to Kiev canceled

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Close to 1,000 Liverpool supporters have been stranded as they tried to get to Kiev, Ukraine for the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday.

Travel operator Worldchoice Sports had three flights full of fans heading out to Kiev fully booked but just 24 hours before their departure, fans were told the flights had been canceled due to landing spots not being available in the Ukrainian capital on Friday and Saturday.

That issue led to the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, reaching out to the Mayor of Kiev, former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, to try and sort out the problem between the specialist travel company and Kiev’s Boryspil airport. Anderson then claimed he and Klitschko agreed to two more landing spots being available.

However, only one extra replacement flight has since been arranged by Worldchoice Sports and that still leaves hundreds of Liverpool fans without a way to get to Kiev, even though many of the fans on the flight have tickets for the game.

Worldchoice Sports said the following in a statement, with the main issue said to be the size of the aircraft chartered by the company:

“We have exhausted all avenues to try and get landing slots. We have had them from Liverpool airport and Manchester airport and we have applied for slots in the correct manner and timeframe with the authorities. To reiterate this problem IS with Kiev. We have managed to get a three-night flight secured very late in the day. We are currently offering people booked on the two-night stay the opportunity to use this. Despite some reports in the media this afternoon this is the only flight we have been able to secure.”

Both the club and UEFA have tried to intervene and help out where they can but it appears that hundreds of Liverpool fans will miss out seeing their team in a European final due to a complication with landing slots.

FIFA not happy with La Liga’s USA plans

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President of FIFA Gianni Infantino doesn’t seem impressed with La Liga’s plans to play a regular-season game in Miami in January, 2019.

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Barcelona, Girona and La Liga have applied to the Spanish Football Federation to move their match on Jan. 26, 2019 from Girona’s home stadium to Miami, Florida in a bid to attract new fans.

It would be the first-ever La Liga game played overseas, but Infantino isn’t a fan of the idea.

“I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S,” Infantino said in a statement to ESPN. “In football, the general principle is that you play a ‘home’ match at ‘home’, and not in a foreign country. There are procedures in place for these things, so we will wait to receive anything official and then we’ll look into it. There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. In particular, such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.”

With FIFA having to approve the move, is that the end of this?

Probably not, but it is clear that this game would cause plenty of problems as the Spanish players’ union have already expressed serious concerns about moving games to the U.S. and elsewhere to try and grow their global brand.

The head of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has hit out at Infantino about his comments and clearly wants to game to go ahead. Yet U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF, the Spanish Football Federation and FIFA would all have to give it the thumbs up.

“I will remind the President of,  that in the , 3 teams of Canada participate, and he T is the current champion, and also in Canada there is another professional league,” Tebas said.

I see where Tebas is coming from but come on, comparing teams from Spain to Canada  playing games in the USA is a huge stretch. It appears La Liga remains desperate for this idea to work but there’s certainly a lot of schmoozing that needs to be done in the coming months to make a Spanish top-flight game in Miami a reality.

Ivan Gazidis leaves Arsenal for AC Milan

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One of the worst kept secrets in soccer is out: Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis has left the club to join AC Milan.

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Gazidis, 54, will join the Italian giants on December 1, with Arsenal promoting Raul Sanllehi from head of football relations to head of football and Vinai Venkatesham, currently their chief commercial officer, now their managing director.

The former MLS deputy commissioner has been the CEO at Arsenal for the past 10 years, overseeing their move to the Emirates Stadium and trying to help Arsene Wenger bring the glory days back for the Gunners.

With Wenger out over the summer and Gazidis appointing Unai Emery as their new manager, the Englishman was thought to be instrumental in the rebuild of the club. Instead, he’s walked away to join AC Milan.

“For the last 10 years I have been privileged to dedicate myself to this great club. Arsenal is entering a new chapter and I have done everything I can to ensure that it is strongly placed to take on that challenge,” Gazidis said. “This includes world-class facilities and outstanding leaders in every sector who carry the values of the club, including, of course, Unai Emery, Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham in whom I have enormous faith.”

There has been plenty of criticism of Gazidis and Arsenal’s majority owner, Stan Kroenke, as many fans of the Gunners believe they are purely focused on profit off the pitch rather than building a winning team on it.

Gazidis went on to state that although leaving Arsenal was the toughest decision of his life, he believes he can help AC Milan return to past glories.

“Although it is very hard to do – the hardest decision of my life – I believe that, after 10 years, it is the right time for me to step aside to allow new leadership, energy and ideas to take the club forward into this exciting new era. I believe in the positive force of change, both for me and for the club. While this is the most difficult and challenging course for me, I am excited to see what the future holds for this great club.

“After so many years at Major League Soccer and Arsenal, I am now looking forward to joining one of the world’s other great clubs, AC Milan, and working to restore it to its rightful place in football. Until then, I will continue to devote absolutely all my energy until my last day to ensure an orderly transition for the benefit of Arsenal Football Club.”

Why has Gazidis left now? One of the main reasons could be that Kroenke recently upped his stake in the club after Alisher Usmanov sold his shares, and perhaps Gazidis was being moved on as they try to freshen things up throughout the club.

That said, Arsenal and Gazidis have acknowledged the fact that the latter decided to leave the club so it seems like it was his decision.

Report: Raheem Sterling, Man City contract talks stall

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According to a report by The Guardian, Manchester City has not made progress on contract talks with Raheem Sterling.

The 23-year-old signed a four-year deal after moving from Liverpool in the summer of 2015, and that is set to expire in the summer of 2020, meaning he will lose significant value in the transfer market should he reach the final year of his contract. With Sterling costing Man City near $74 million to sign, and the England international enjoying a leap in development under Pep Guardiola, it’s unlikely the club would accept losing him for far less than the value he was acquired for.

However, armed with 47 goals and 48 assists in 144 appearances for Manchester City, plus a strong bargaining position given the ticking clock, Sterling is reportedly asking for a wage increase to $290,000 a week, up from his current salary of $224,000 per week. According to the Guardian report, there is “some distance” between the two parties.

Sterling’s reported demands would put him still below the $330,000 Sergio Aguero makes a week as per the new deal he signed in the winter of 2017, and far below Kevin De Bruyne‘s $460,000 per week handed out this past January. With that value, Sterling would be in the range of David Silva‘s $290,000 per week.

“It’s well-known we’re delighted with him and would like him to continue,” Guardiola said on Friday before the weekend’s win over Fulham. “My club knows my opinion and we share that. After that it is the club and the agent.”

On international duty, Sterling has picked up 44 caps for England, but has failed to replicate the same goalscoring rate he owns at the club level, with just two international goals and none since October of 2015. He does own 11 assists, suggesting he plays a more creative role at the international level, while displaying more freedom under Guardiola’s watch. He has become an attacking force at Manchester City, especially in the absence of the injured de Bruyne. In a starring role this season, Sterling has three goals already in four matches.

Ankle surgery to sideline Jack Wilshere for six weeks

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West Ham midfielder Jack Wilshere will miss significant time after picking up an ankle injury in training that requires surgery, according to reports in England, first from The Guardian.

Wilshere signed for West Ham over the summer after the expiry of his contract at Arsenal, and played the first four games of the season – all losses – before suffering the injury just prior to the Everton match this weekend. 19-year-old Declan Rice came in for Wilshere and the Hammers won 3-1 at Goodison Park.

The Guardian reports that West Ham handed the 26-year-old a three-year contract on the urging of manager Manuel Pellegrini, even though the front office reportedly only wished to offer him a one-year deal due to his injury history. Since appearing in 35 games for Arsenal in the 2010/11 campaign – his first full season with a starting role – he has only topped 20 appearances four times and only reached the 25 appearance mark once since 2012/13.

Pellegrini reportedly developed a personal training program for Wilshere that was meant to minimize the risk of injury. “A lot of you will remember Juventus around four or five years ago, they played with one holding midfielder,” Pellegrini said of Wilshere in late August. “It was Pirlo. And Pirlo is the same as Jack. He has the same characteristics as Jack.”

The Hammers are also sweating on a knee injury that forced Marko Arnautovic out of the Everton match in the 64th minute, replaced by Michail Antonio. West Ham next faces Chelsea on Sunday at London Stadium.