‘Carlo would have continued at Madrid despite surgery’ – Ancelotti’s wife

The Italian coach will need to “recharge his batteries” after back surgery but could have remained in control of the Blancos

'Carlo would have continued at Madrid despite surgery' - Ancelotti's wife

Carlo Ancelotti’s wife, Mariann, has admitted that her husband would have remained at Real Madrid had the club not decided to sack him on Monday – despite the coach’s insistence that he has to take a one-year sabbatical for medical reasons.

The Italian coach penned a three-year contract when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2013 and enjoyed a stellar debut season in Spain, winning the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

But despite lifting the Club World Cup last December, Ancelotti was dismissed after Madrid finished second in La Liga, having failed to defend their European crown.

Ancelotti subsequently revealed that he required surgery on a longstanding back problem and would thus be taking a year out of the game.

The 55-year-old’s wife, though, has now claimed that the former AC Milan boss would have stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu were his services still required.

“If Real had wanted, Carlo would have continued,” Mariann told Vanity Fair. “But it did not happen and Carlo wants to recharge his batteries here in Madrid before making a decision about which club will be his next.

“We wanted to take advantage of the possibility to get to know places in Spain that we have not been able to visit up to now – museums, restaurants etc.

“In addition, we are going to have a new member of our family shortly and we look forward to the arrival of Alessandro, our daughter Katia’s son.

“Additionally, the people of Madrid are incredible. They have supported us a lot and they have transmitted their respect to us and the enormous appreciation that they have for Carlo.

“We are very grateful to the people for their affection and loyalty.”

Ancelotti, who is being openly pursued by Milan, will go under the knife in Canada this summer.


‘It’s like something out of a mafia movie’ – Wenger, Prince Ali and the world reacts to Fifa corruption scandal

Tuesday’s shocking news sparked outrage throughout the footballing fraternity with some figures even likening Fifa to the mafia

'It's like something out of a mafia movie' - Wenger, Prince Ali and the world reacts to Fifa corruption scandal

The football world was rocked on Tuesday when Swiss police swooped to arrest and detain, pending extradition to the United States, seven football officials on federal corruption charges related to Fifa.

These included current Fifa vice president and Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb, as well as Conmebol president Eugenio Figueredo.

An international law enforcement collaboration resulted in morning raids at the Hotel Bauer au Lac in Zurich where officials were staying ahead of the 65th Fifa congress which will decide the Fifa presidency on Friday.

The arrests, together with further news that Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, led to outrage throughout the footballing fraternity.

The controversy was only further exacerbated when world football’s governing body’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter de Grogorio addressed the press. He insisted that not only was it FIFA who initiated the proceedings and was the damaged party, but that there would be no re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and no postponed re-election of the Fifa presidency.

HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who is challenging Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency, was one of the first to react to the news.

“Today is a sad day for football,“ he lamented in a press release.

‘A sad day’ | Prince Ali (right) is set to take on Blatter for Fifa presidency on Friday

A statement from Europe’s governing body Uefa read: “Uefa is astonished and saddened by the events which have taken place earlier today in Zurich and is now waiting for additional information.

“An informal meeting of the Uefa Executive Committee will take place this afternoon in Warsaw prior to the Uefa Europa League final.”

The Chairman of the English Football Association Greg Dyke was also deeply disheartened: “We should stress this morning’s developments are very serious for FIFA and its current leadership.

“As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead The FA will be voting for him. However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances.

“Clearly things are changing very quickly and our delegation to the Fifa congress in Zurich, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do about it with our colleagues in Uefa when we meet tomorrow [Thursday] morning.”

Mafia | Delaney said the Fifa raids are like something from a gangster film

Football Association of Ireland CEO John Delaney was absolutely scathing in his criticism of Fifa.

“It seems like something out of a mafia movie,” he told RTE Radio One.

“Nothing would surprise me with Fifa, that’s the sad thing. When you wake up this morning and hear those events, it’s shocking and very saddening.

“The awards of World Cups are always covert and then there are independent reports that we don’t get to see. We’re told we’d get redacted versions and we don’t get those.

“There is always controversy around Fifa and it’s governance and the one person who has always been at the head of that is Sepp Blatter and he has to take some responsibility for that and that’s why I said yesterday that we wouldn’t be voting for him.”

England legend and BBC presenter Gary Lineker was even more damning of the governing body and Blatter.

“There can’t be a more corrupt, deplorable organisation on earth than Fifa. The house of cards is falling. Time for change!,” he tweeted.

“If Blatter had even a crumb of dignity remaining, he’d walk away now, creep back to his lair, sit in his armchair and stroke his cat.”

The president of France’s LFP Frederic Thiriez told Europe 1 that he was “deeply shocked and saddened at how these arrests would send out a terrible image of football.”

As the political world attempted to make sense of the scandal, Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas told Bild: “The fans have a right to demand that light will be shed on these events thoroughly. Corruption must not have any space in football.”

Former DFB president Theo Zwanziger told Rheinische Post: “It’s a big cesspool. The problem won’t be solved if Sepp Blatter gives up the presidency. The problem is Fifa’s system. There are too many people who enrich themselves.”

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger commented on the scandal in his pre-FA Cup final press conference.

“Fifa? It’s embarrassing. You wonder what the FBI is doing in there,” he remarked before stressing that he didn’t wish to add any more until the “whole inquiry is finished.”

IRS: “This is a World Cup of fraud and we are issuing Fifa a red card”

US Justice Department, FBI and IRS officials conducted a press conference outlining American charges against those individuals implicated in latest Fifa scandal

IRS: "This is a World Cup of fraud and we are issuing Fifa a red card"

The unfolding scandal which has engulfed Fifa has been described as a “World Cup of fraud” by the chief of the Inland Revenue Service’s (IRS) criminal investigation, Richard Weber.

The IRS chief has vowed to “issue Fifa a red card” following the indictment of 14 individuals by the US Justice Department for corruption.

Weber was speaking alongside new US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in New York on Wednesday where the indictments against Fifa officials past and present as well as five businessmen accused of wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering were unsealed.

Current Fifa vice president and president of Concacaf Jeffrey Webb, fellow Fifa vice president Eugenio Figueredo, Fifa executive committee member-elect Eduardo Li and former Brazil FA chief Jose Maria Marin were among those named by US prosecutors as suspects in the scandal which has rocked Fifa.

“Many of the individuals and organisations we will describe today were entrusted with keeping soccer open and accessible to all,” Lynch said.

“They held important responsibilities at every level, from building soccer fields for children in developing countries to organising the World Cup.

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and protect the integrity of the game.

“Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves. This Department of Justice is determined to end these practices; to root out corruption; and to bring wrongdoers to justice.”

Jeffrey Webb | One of the officials arrested on Wednesday

The charges brought by the Americans relate in large to broadcast and commercial rights for major tournaments over the past two decades and which continue to the present day with the 2016 Centennial Copa America in the US estimated to account for some $110 million (€100m) in bribes.

“Beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials, including the then-presidents of two regional soccer confederations under Fifa – the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, known as Concacaf, which includes the United States, and the South American Football Confederation, or Conmebol, which represents organized soccer in South America – used their positions of trust within their respective organisations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.

“For instance, in 2016, the United States is scheduled to host the centennial edition of the Copa America – the first time that tournament will be held in cities outside South America. Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110m – nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved.”

Acting US attorney in the Eastern District of New York, Kelly Currie said: “All of these defendants abused the US financial system and violated US law. And we intend to hold them accountable.”

Currie also named directly the current Fifa vice president and Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb who, he said “used his position of trust” to “solicit and collect bribes from sports marketing executives who needed his support to get contracts.”

The FBI director, James Comey, declared that the game of football had been “hijacked” but nonetheless “this hijacking is being met with a very aggressive prosecutorial response in order to change behavior and send a message.”

Swiss authorities carried out seven arrests at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on Wednesday morning where Fifa delegates had been gathered ahead of the 65th Fifa Congress due to take place on Thursday and Friday.

The US is seeking the extradition of all seven arrested at dawn in Zurich as well as Nicolas Leoz, the former Conmebol president, Jack Warner, the former president of Concacaf, and the five businessmen with no official Fifa positions who have been implicated

Webb among officials arrested on Fifa corruption charges

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice has detained and will attempt to extradite seven delegates who were in Zurich ahead of the Fifa Congress on suspicion of accepting bribes

Webb among officials arrested on Fifa corruption charges

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has confirmed that Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb is one of 14 people indicted for racketeering, fraud and money laundering following dawn raids in Switzerland.

An international law enforcement collaboration resulted in a 6am swoop at the Hotel Bauer au Lac in Zurich where officials were staying ahead of the 65th Fifa congress.

Police covered those detained with bed sheets as they led them to waiting cars, but now the DoJ has confirmed the names of those indicted along with information relating to the charges set to be brought against them.

“A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.  The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today,” explained a DoJ release.

“The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of Fifa, the organisation responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the Fifa umbrella.  Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of Concacaf, the continental confederation under Fifa headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses.”

The other leading figures to be indicted include former Conmebol president Nicolas Leoz, ex-CBF chief Jose Maria Marin and current Fifa big-wigs Edoardo Li, Julio Rocha and Eugenio Figueredo.

The world football governing body’s president Sepp Blatter was not arrested, but Swiss police – working in tandem with the US Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) – revealed six figures are set to be questioned over fraud allegations following Wednesday’s initial arrests.

“By order of the FOJ, six soccer officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday and detained pending extradition,” a statement from Zurich police confirmed.

“The US authorities suspect them of having received bribes totalling in the millions of US dollars. The FOJ’s arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the US authorities.

HOTEL CLAMPDOWN | Fifa officials at the Baur au Lac residence in Zurich were arrested on Wednesday

“The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day.”

Zurich police confirmed the extradition process will begin immediately, subject to appeal.

The timing could not be more striking, with Blatter up for re-election as Fifa president on Friday – an election he is favourite to win against opponent Prince Ali bin al Hussein, who was reticent to pass judgement on the arrests.

“Today is a sad day for football,” the Jordanian said. “Clearly this is a developing story, the details of which are still emerging. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Ronaldo hasn’t beaten a defender for months – Sacchi

The Portugal international has maintained his impressive goalscoring standards but the iconic former AC Milan boss says he is out of form

Ronaldo hasn't beaten a defender for months – Sacchi

Former AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi claims it has been months since Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo was able to beat a defender.

Ronaldo scored in both legs of the Champions League semi-final defeat to Juventus but has failed to find the net in three of his last four Liga matches.

Sacchi, who also spent 12 months at Madrid as sporting director between 2004 and 2005, claimed the Portugal international has been a long way from his best in recent weeks despite having already scored 55 goals this season.

“It’s been three months since Cristiano Ronaldo got away from an opponent,” Sacchi said on Mediaset.

“He scores, because he’s a fighter, but he’s not in form.”

Ronaldo, who scored from the penalty spot in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw that saw Madrid eliminated at the semi-final stage, hit 10 goals in 12 matches in this season’s Champions League.

The 30-year-old Ballon d’Or holder has found the net 42 times in just 33 Liga appearances this season, though his goals look unlikely to secure Madrid the title as Barcelona need just one victory from their final two games to secure the Spanish crown.

Though they claimed the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup, failure in domestic competition and the Champions League has left Carlo Ancelotti’s future at the club in serious doubt.

No titles this year – mediocre Madrid get what they deserve

A pale shadow of the 2014 side, Los Blancos’ failure to claim a trophy at the end of this campaign highlights a number of fatal flaws in their expensive armoury

No titles this year - mediocre Madrid get what they deserve

Real Madrid’s Undecima dream has died. Last season’s Champions League winners have stumbled their way through this competition in the knockout stages. They were playing with fire – and on Wednesday they finally got burnt.

Madrid had scraped past Schalke despite an embarrasing 4-3 defeat at home to the German side in the last 16. They then edged out 10-man Atletico with a sole strike in 180 minutes of last-eight football. And they have now been beaten in the semi-finals after twice failing to overcome Juventus. It is difficult to conclude that they deserved better.

Just like against Valencia in La Liga on Saturday, Madrid threw everything at their rival late in this game as they sought to stay in the hunt for a major trophy. But now, as then, it wasn’t quite sufficient and in the space of five disastrous days, any hopes of winning a title at the end of this season have evaporated.

It shouldn’t have been this way. Madrid created chances to win the first leg, but lost it due to defensive indisicpline. And they also wasted opportunities to score an all-important second goal in the decider after Cristiano Ronaldo gave them the lead from the penalty spot.

But in the end they simply weren’t good enough.

Iker Casillas could have done better with Alvaro Morata’s crucial strike, his weak hands making contact but failing to stop the forward’s fierce drive.

Ahead of the club captain, Real’s static defence allowed Morata space and time to tee up a shot after Iker had initially punched clear. It wasn’t all his fault and blaming the much-maliged skipper would be unfair as he also kept them in it with a super save from Claudio Marchisio later on.

Title-winning teams are built on strong defences and Ancelotti’s men were shown up in both games here – just as they were against Schalke in the last 16.

But further forward, Gareth Bale missed countless chances, firing high and wide when he should have hit the target. That will hardly help his fragile confidence and whereas the Welsh winger popped up with key strikes to win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League last season, he is very much a villain in the current campaign.

Ronaldo should have done better with a couple of first-half efforts as well, causing frustration on one occasion when – unusually – he opted to cross when he should have shot.

A lack of balance in midfield has also cost Madrid. Sergio Ramos, so poor in Turin, was kept in defence this time but Madrid have badly missed the injured Luka Modric, who was watching on nervously from the sidelines.

In his absence, Real started with Isco, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos in a midfield three. The first two are more adept at playing off or behind a striker, while the latter is not a holding midfielder. Square pegs, round holes.

The final analysis is that Real remain a very strong side, but this year’s version is not quite up to the superb standards of last season’s vintage. Missing Modric through injury, with Bale misfiring, Karim Benzema not fully fit and Casillas struggling for confidence, this team currently has too many problems. And when it mattered most, the world’s priciest squad looked thin and inadequate.

The summer sales of Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria have hindered their hopes. The Basque gave Madrid much-needed balance in midfield and has not been replaced, as Asier Illarramendi, Sami Khedira and Luca Silva have all tried – and failed – to fill his sizeable shoes. Di Maria, meanwhile, was key with his bursting runs from deep, his sacrifice in defence and ability to keep on going when others were too tired – as proven in the Champions League win against Atleti last term.

So it’s not all Ancelotti’s fault. The Italian may not have the opportunity to put things right in 2015-16 and will probably take the blame for Madrid’s disappointing decline in the second half of 2014-15, having racked up a record 22 victories in a row before Christmas.

“I give my thanks to the players,” Ancelotti said afterwards. “There is no point talking about the future now. We have two league games left and we have to finish the season as well as we can. Then we will talk about the future.” And he added: “I would like to stay.”

But whether he stays or goes, there is plenty to address at Real right now – be it for Carlo or yet another new coach. Back to the drawing board.

‘Ronaldo and Casillas will leave Real Madrid’

Former Blancos goalkeeper Agustin Rodriguez is in no doubt that the future of the duo lies away from the Santiago Bernabeu

'Ronaldo and Casillas will leave Real Madrid'

Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas are “certain” to leave Real Madrid, according to the club’s former goalkeeper Agustin Rodriguez.

Casillas’ future has been the subject of speculation following his patchy form over the past 12 months and persistent rumours linking Madrid with Manchester United’s David de Gea.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, has often cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks and has upheld a blackout with mainstream media in recent weeks.

Agustin is adamant that Madrid fans can expect both players to leave the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season, despite the club suggesting contrary.

“I think Iker Casillas is going to go, genuinely. And Cristiano, too. I’m certain on that,” the 55-year-old, who spent 10 years at Madrid, told Radio Marca.

“We’ll see in the news that comes out next Wednesday.”

The European champions take on Juventus in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, having lost the first leg 2-1 in Turin