Manchester City do not fear anybody in the Champions League, claims Dzeko

Edin Dzeko has insisted that Manchester City will not be fazed by their tough draw in this season’s Champions League.

The Premier League champions have been drawn alongside three other title holders in the shape of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group D this season after facing Bayern munich and Napoli last term.

But the Bosnia international is confident that Robert Mancini’s side can progress to the knock-out rounds after being eliminated at the group phase last year.

He told SportSport: “We were in the group of death last season and now we are in it again.”

“The group will be great to watch, but not so great to play in. But we know what we are capable of and we don’t fear anybody.

“I believe it will be a tight race and it will be interesting to see who will go to the next round.

The former Wolfsburg striker believes that Roberto Mancini’s side could go on to win the competition if they qualify from the group, but admits Real Madrid are obvious favourites to go through.

He added: “Whoever finishes first and second in the group will be big favourites to win the competition. I hope we don’t make the same mistakes as last season.

“Who are the favourites? Real Madrid, of course.

“I can’t wait for the opening match at Santiago Bernabeu.

“That will be a great spectacle and I hope that we can show in Madrid what we are capable of and how strong we are.”

Official: Lassana Diarra joins Anzhi on four-year deal

Anzhi Makhachkala have announced that they have completed the signing of Lassana Diarra from Real Madrid on a four-year deal.

The midfielder initially appeared to be heading to Russia on a season-long loan, but the cash-rich outfit have now confirmed that he has joined on a permanent switch, along with forward Nikita Burmistov from Amkar Perm.

“The signings of these footballers totally correspond to the strategy of our club achieving top aims,” CEO Ayvaz Kaziakhmedov told the club’s official website.

“We are confident that, together with Lassana and Nikita, the club will fight for the most prestigious titles.”

Anzhi were keen to add some more experience to their squad in order to fight for honours, and coach Guus Hiddink sees the France international as the ideal addition to his midfield.

The 27-year-old joined Madrid from Portsmouth in January 2009, and quickly developed into an important first-team member at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, he has since lost his spot in the starting XI and was deemed surplus to requirements by head coach Jose Mourinho.

Diarra had also attracted the interest of AC Milan, but the Serie A side eventually opted to sign Nigel de Jong instead.

'I already knew about Cristiano Ronaldo's statements and they don't surprise me' – Jorge Mendes

Cristiano Ronaldo no festeja

Cristiano Ronaldo / Getty

Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has insisted that he always knew about his client’s shock admission that he was unhappy with life at Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old stunned the football world after claiming he was left saddened by a ‘professional issue’ at the club after refusing to celebrate his two goals in the 3-0 Liga victory over Granada on Sunday.

Speculation has intensified over the past 24 hours as to what prompted Ronaldo’s comments, but his agent has since released a statement to clarify both his and the player’s position on the matter.

“Following [Monday’s] reports published by some media outlets, which claim that I have been surprised and bothered by the statements made by Cristiano Ronaldo, I clarify the following,” he began.

“Firstly, Ronaldo’s declarations are based on reasons that are the best of my knowledge. It is at the discretion of Cristiano whether he discloses them or not.

“Secondly, these statements have not surprised me and, much less, caused me any discomfort. The relationship that binds me to Cristiano Ronaldo means he will always count on me with total solidarity.

Meanwhile, former Portugal winger Paulo Futre dismissed the notion that Ronaldo’s statements were motivated by money, instead claiming his discontent could be down to a possible lack of support following his failure to win the 2011 Ballon d’Or.

“I left Madrid this morning and the radios [in Spain] are crazy,” the ex-AC Milan and Atletico Madrid star told reporters.

“They say Ronaldo said what he said because he wants to renew his contract and make more money, but I don’t believe that.

“He did not win the Ballon d’Or last year and, perhaps, he did not feel the full support of his club.”

Will he stay at Real Madrid? Possible return to Manchester United? Goal.com experts debate the Cristiano Ronaldo crisis

Cristiano Ronaldo no festeja

Cristiano Ronaldo / Getty

Will he stay or will he go? Why is he sad? Just what is going on inside the mind of Cristiano Ronaldo?

The Portuguese forward stunned Real Madrid on Sunday, just four days after beating Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa. Ronaldo scored twice in the 3-0 Liga win over Granada, but refused to celebrate the goals and later revealed he was unhappy, claiming that the club knew why.

So with speculation mounting over the possible reasons behind his unhappiness and uncertain future at the Santiago Bernabeu, Goal.com consulted several experts – Goal.com International’s Deputy Editor Carlo Garganese, Spanish Football Writer Ben Hayward and the Spanish site’s Madrid correspondent Albert Pinero – to discuss the finer points of Ronaldo’s fall-out with the capital club. Below are the highlights of today’s discussion.

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       OUR EXPERTS SAID:

Ben Hayward: “I don’t believe it’s a wage issue exactly, but about feeling wanted. Cristiano led Real Madrid to La Liga last season and is the undoubted star in a team which ended Barcelona’s stranglehold in Spain in 2011-12. He claimed as recently as June that he is keen to spend the rest of his career at the Santiago Bernabeu, but believes he deserves more support from the club’s hierarchy, especially in the build-up to the Ballon d’Or.

“Cristiano thinks he would be the worthy winner of football’s prestigious individual prize, but while Messi is pampered and protected at Barcelona, the Portuguese feels he is often left open to criticism at Madrid and believes some senior figures at the club would prefer Iker Casillas to claim the award. None of that has gone down too well and although I still believe he is unlikely to leave, expressing his apparent ‘sadness’ will likely help him strengthen his position at Madrid. Because he is the one player they simply cannot afford to lose.”

Alberto Pinero: “One of the main reasons for the Cristiano Ronaldo sadness could be that he still has not renewed his contract with Real Madrid. And this summer, other players like Di Maria, Arbeloa, Albiol and even Mourinho have done so. Real Madrid and Ronaldo have been long privately negotiating the renewal of his contract, but have not yet reached an agreement. Mainly, because the law has changed in Spain, and from now, Cristiano Ronaldo be taxed 52 per cent of his salary when before it was only 23%. Ronaldo is under contract until 2015, and if Real Madrid renew his contract now, they may have to pay up to €30 million each year while they are paying about €15m now. And they are unwilling to do so – at least not yet.

“Ronaldo is likely to have said publicly that he is sad only to push president Florentino Perez, and so renew early. But Perez is not used to speaking publicly, so it seems unlikely this could turn into a public battle.

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       OUR EXPERTS SAID:

Ben Hayward:
“I am not sure it’s the underlying factor but I do believe it’s an issue. Ronaldo likes and needs to be the main man, much like Mourinho in a way. While Jose has demanded dominance off the pitch, Cristiano wants complete control on it.

“So even though Cristiano and Iker appeared best buddies as they celebrated La Liga together at Cibeles in June, there has been some friction between Ronaldo and Casillas for a long time and I believe Ronaldo feels the club should be backing him wholeheartedly in the race to beat Messi to the Ballon d’Or.”

Carlo Garganese: “If you ask me whether I think Ronaldo should win the Ballon d’Or, then I say that he deserves to. He was the most decisive player in club football last season, had a great European Championship, and when all things are taken into account I believe he did more than his main rivals Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and the media-promoted Iker Casillas.

“However, as we have seen in the past, politics plays an important role in deciding who wins the Ballon d’Or. In 2010, Wesley Sneijder deserved the prize, but the political climate was against him. It is possible that politics may work against Ronaldo also. If he doesn’t have allies within Real Madrid as an institution, and they have decided to back Casillas – as it has been speculated in some quarters – then his chances of success decrease significantly.”

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       OUR EXPERTS SAID:

Ben Hayward:
“This was very much a European award and I believe the judges were keen to hand the prize to a player who had shone at Euro 2012. Yes, Ronaldo was excellent in Poland and Ukraine, but Iniesta was the outstanding performer over the whole competition and deserving of the accolade. The Ballon d’Or, however, will be less Euro-oriented as votes come in from all over the world.

“Also, it will be several months after the conclusion of the Continental competition. So I don’t think Iniesta will win that one. For me, it will be between Messi and Ronaldo and while I may be wrong, I just feel the Argentine’s superior scoring stats may win him more votes.”

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       OUR EXPERTS SAID:

Alberto Pinero:  “I do not think Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Real Madrid now, with it being September 3. It true that he is sad, it is true that he has no allies now at Real Madrid, but it is impossible to leave the club now. If his problems are not solved this season, no one knows whether he will leave next summer. But for now, in Madrid, the information there says that his problem is not because another club has made an offer and want to sign him.”

Ben Hayward: “The problem with Ronaldo is his price tag. There are only a handful of clubs in world football willing to pay the kind of money Madrid will likely be asking for the Portuguese. And one of those clubs is Madrid themselves. In Spain, the other one is Barcelona and Cristiano will never play there. In England, meanwhile, there is obviously talk of a return to United but as things stand, I just can’t see them paying that kind of money – especially for a player who will be 28 next February.”

Carlo Garganese: “There are only around a handful of clubs in world football who can afford Ronaldo’s transfer fee and wages. These are Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG, Anzhi, and potentially some Chinese clubs.

“A transfer to Barca or Man City would be unlikely due to Ronaldo’s time at rivals Madrid and United respectively. He is still too young to transfer to Russia or China, he is such a competitive player that it is hard to imagine him moving to a place out of the limelight. This leaves Chelsea and PSG. Chelsea would not represent much of a new challenge to Ronaldo.

“If the Italian clubs were financially healthy, then a transfer to a Juventus, Milan or Inter would represent something fresh for Ronaldo – the chance to emulate Mourinho and win the league in all of the three major European championships. But this is not the case.”

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       OUR EXPERTS SAID:

Alberto Pinero:
“Jose Mourinho gave a press conference after the match against Granada, but he didn’t know then what Ronaldo had said. So far, he has not commented publicly on this outburst yet. It’s hard to believe he would punish him publicly. In these two years, Mourinho has always defended Ronaldo. Always. “Do not touch Ronaldo because I will not allow you to do it” he told the journalists one day in a press conference. Moreover, Mourinho was the first to say publicly that the Ballon d’Or 2012 should go to Ronaldo. Their relationship is great, and certainly he won’t punish him publicly.

“Also, Mourinho is famous for being the leader of the team in training, so it’s certain that Mourinho will fuss over Ronaldo to make him feel his best. We don’t know now whether Ronaldo will get back to having a good relationship with Marcelo, or if Real Madrid will defend only him in the race to win the Ballon d’Or. But surely Mourinho will try. He will try Ronaldo to stop being sad and persuade him to continue his career at Real Madrid. Because without Ronaldo, both Real Madrid and Mourinho have less of a chance to win titles.”

Ben Hayward: “The timing of this incident isn’t great for Real Madrid because Ronaldo has now linked up with Portugal and will be away for over a week. That means they won’t be able to address the issue immediately, but it does mean both parties will have an opportunity to cool down. You can bet that Mourinho will be in touch with Cristiano as well in an attempt to defuse the situation. And when he returns to Madrid, I expect the forward to agree a brand-new contract within the next few weeks.  To me it doesn’t seem like anything the two cannot put behind them and, as I said in my editorial this morning, Ronaldo will realise that he is in the best place to challenge for the top trophies in Spain and Europe. The marriage isn’t over yet then, but like any relationship, it needs work from both partners in order to blossom. The two went from the highs of beating Barcelona to the lows of Sunday night, in a very short space of time, but I am sure there are happier times ahead for player and club.”

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Read the entire debate here!

La Liga Team of the Week: Cristiano Ronaldo and Adriano make the cut

With Atletico Madrid’s trip to Betis put back until the end of September, the third round of La Liga had just nine games instead of 10. Here, Goal.com looks at the best players on show over the weekend.

In goal, Diego Alves makes the team for the second time this season, despite ending up on the losing side as Valencia went down 1-0 at Barcelona.

At the back, Anderson Conceicao is included following his fine performance in Mallorca’s 1-0 win over Real Sociedad, while Carlos Marchena is back in after another impressive display for Deportivo La Coruna in the Galicians’ 1-1 draw against Getafe. Adriano completes the three-man back thanks to his brilliant winner in Barcelona’s Camp Nou clash against Valencia on Sunday, which also saw the Catalans keep a clean sheet.

In midfield, Javi Hervas came off the bench to impress for Sevilla, although he was unable to inspire the Andalusians to victory as they were held to a goalless draw at Rayo Vallecano. Meanwhile, Michel is included after coming off the bench to inspire Levante to a 3-2 win over Espanyol, in which he scored the winning goal. There’s also a place for Athletic Bilbao’s Markel Susaeta, who produced an excellent performance and scored as the Basques secured their first Primera Division win of the season with victory over Valladolid. And last of all, Nacho Camacho makes it in after extending Malaga’s fine start to the campaign with the only goal of the game at Zaragoza on Saturday.

Further forward, Cristiano Ronaldo makes it in after scoring twice in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Granada on Sunday, while Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas also makes it in after scoring the club’s first home goal on their return to top-flight football, in the 2-0 win over Osasuna. And Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz completes the line-up as he netted in his side’s 2-0 victory at home to Valladolid.