Jurgen Klopp relishing first Manchester United clash as Liverpool boss

Jurgen Klopp has called derbies "the salt in the soup" of football ahead of Sunday’s pivotal clash with rivals Manchester United.

Liverpool head into the game at Anfield three points and three places behind Louis van Gaal's side but can erase that gap with a win and Klopp is looking forward to his first taste of the famed fixture.

Looking ahead to the game, Klopp said: "I love derbies. It is the salt in the soup. They are the best things in football.

Barack Obama, basketteur d'un jour lors du prochain All Star Game ?

Le président des Etats-Unis d'Amérique pourrait participer All Star Game 2017, grâce à une pétition lancée sur la plateforme officielle de la Maison Blanche.
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Depuis la saison 2002-2003, le All Star Game - un week-end de spectacle mêlant entre autres concours de dunks, concours de tirs à trois points et match entre les meilleurs joueurs des Conférences Est et Ouest - comporte un match des célébrités. Parmi les participants des éditions passées on retrouve notamment Justin Timberlake, Jamie Foxx, Ice Cube, Sean Paul, ou encore Justin Bieber et Usain Bolt. Et en février 2017 à Charlotte, après son deuxième mandat présidentiel, Barack Obama pourrait bien y participer.

Une pétition en ligne sur la plateforme de la Maison Blanche

En effet, afin que l'actuel président des Etats-Unis prenne part à ce spectacle, une pétition a été lancée en ligne; et sur la plateforme officielle de la Maison Blanche de surcroît. «C'est votre chance de marquer enfin l'histoire, Mr. Obama. Saisissez-la» peut-on lire dans le document. La pétition est appuyée par le site SB Nation qui se demande, dans une vidéo de présentation du match des célébrités du All Star Game 2016, pourquoi Barack Obama ne figure pas parmi les participants.

Le média américain demande donc à tout le monde de signer le document afin que la question soit étudiée par la Maison Blanche. Pour ce faire, la pétition doit obtenir 100.000 signatures avant le 13 février 2016. Ce samedi matin, un peu plus de 1.300 personnes avaient signé. Arne Duncan, ex-secrétaire à l'Education du président des Etats-Unis s'était illustré en 2014 dans ce match en inscrivant 20 points, un record. Barack Obama est un grand fan de basket-ball. Supporter assumé des Chicago-Bulls, il avait évolué dans l'équipe de son lycée au Punahou High School à Hawaii.

Tirage de l'Open d'Australie : Des pièges pour les favoris

Le tirage au sort de l'Open d'Australie a été effectué vendredi matin à Melbourne. Il permettra quelques confrontations attirantes très tôt dans le tournoi.

30 janvier 2009, Rod Laver Arena, demi-finale. Ça n’était vraiment pas le moment de préférer aller écouter de la musique plutôt qu’aller voir du tennis à Melbourne. Aucune personne ayant suivi, de près ou de loin, ce duel culte de 5h14 entre Rafael Nadal et Fernando Verdasco, n’a pu l’oublier. Un des matches les plus féroces proposés à Nadal, avec ses quelques combats épiques made in Djokovic. Ultra résistant, le Majorquin s’était sorti in extremis des griffes de son compatriote, alors doté d’un coup droit démentiel (6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4). Et voilà qu’en 2016 le même match aura lieu sur le même court, mais au premier tour. Le souvenir suffira-t-il à Verdasco pour se rapprocher de son niveau d’antan ? Pas sûr du tout.
 
Le tirage au sort, effectué ce vendredi en fin de matinée à Melbourne, a aussi permis de se projeter vers quelques deuxièmes tours alléchants. Comme ce Ferrer-Hewitt qui pourrait marquer la fin de carrière du plus fameux combattant de l’histoire du tennis australien, déjà à moitié tourné vers son nouveau rôle de capitaine de Coupe Davis, mais qui sort tout de même d’une préparation physique commando pour honorer son dernier Open. Ou encore ce Federer-Dolgopolov, propice à la création d’échanges supersoniques et super variés.


Une revanche Paire-Tsonga ?
Puis viendra le temps du troisième tour et des premiers affrontements entre têtes de série. L’Australie rêve déjà du Berdych-Kyrgios qui pourrait s’y produire. Les esthètes y espèrent un nouveau jeu de miroir Federer-Dimitrov et la France serait preneuse d’une revanche de l’US Open entre Paire et Tsonga.
 
À moins de deux mois du France-Canada de Guadeloupe, il y aura un France-Canada des antipodes avec Raonic-Pouille et Simon-Pospisil d’entrée. Et l’effrayant tenant du titre ? Il ne devrait pas trop suer avant la seconde semaine. Opposé d’entrée au jeune Sud-coréen à lunettes Chung Hyeon, Novak Djokovic n’aura, d’ici les demi-finales, qu’une seule "chance" d’affronter un joueur l’ayant battu l’an passé en la personne d’Ivo Karlovic. Ce serait en huitièmes de finale. Quant à Andy Murray, son séjour à Melbourne ne devrait être menacé, d’ici les mêmes demi-finales, que par l’éventualité que madame ressente les premières contractions.
 
L’Ecossais, qui a assuré qu’il n’hésiterait pas à rentrer dare-dare pour ne pas rater la naissance de son premier enfant, aura pour obstacles majeurs avant le dernier carré Ferrer, Isner ou Tomic. Rien que de très abordable pour lui.

Van Gaal: United won't wait as long as Liverpool for next title

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal cannot envisage his club having to wait the 26 years Liverpool have had to endure for their next Premier League title.

United is in the midst of a relative title drought having not won the league since Alex Ferguson's last season in 2013, following a trophy-laden 27 years.

Under Ferguson, United won 13 of 23 Premier League titles on offer.

Since his retirement, United have never looked like winning another one, as David Moyes lead the club to a seventh-place finish, while Van Gaal guided the team back into the top-four last season, with the Manchester outfit currently sitting in sixth.

But as United prepare for Sunday's trip to Anfield, Van Gaal said the club would not have to wait as long as bitter rivals Liverpool for silverware, with the latter without a league trophy since 1989-90.

"I cannot imagine that shall happen," said Van Gaal.

"We are in transition but we have the infrastructure and are going the right way."

The two rivals face-off on Merseyside, with Van Gaal having won all three of his previous competitive fixtures against Liverpool as United look to get their top-four charge back on track after a torrid December.

United did not win a game last month, after losing four matches and drawing twice.

"You could still say we have underperformed because Manchester United has to be in the first three in the Premier League," Van Gaal added.

 "The same thing counts for Liverpool."

Jurgen Klopp rejected approach to become Manchester United manager

The German was approached by Ferguson as he moved towards the end of his 27-year reign at Old Trafford but Klopp felt the timing was wrong to walk away from Borussia Dortmund.

With Klopp unwilling to consider a move to England at the time, David Moyes was appointed as United manager.

Klopp left Dortmund at the end of last season and following a brief break from football, replaced Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in October.

"We (Ferguson) spoke," Klopp told the national press. "We spoke not a lot but, for me, it was a lot. It was a big honour, the whole talk, to be honest. But I could not leave Dortmund.

"You are in April and you are in the middle of the planning for next season. You have this player and this player who are coming but then you are not there anymore? That doesn't work. Not in my life.

"I didn't hear about a real offer (from United) but, if there was, I could not have done it. I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things.

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"Maybe that is not smart but that is my way. It was the same at Mainz."

Klopp is a big fan of Ferguson and believes it is one of the "best" things you can do as a manager to sit down and listen to the Scot.

"It's a big honour to talk to Sir Alex,' he said. 'For a manager it's nearly the best thing you can do, to sit there and listen.

"Maybe he is the greatest ever - the John Lennon of football. From my side there is a big amount of respect. What he did is not easy for another manager to do."

Chelsea, West Brom face FA charges

Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion were charged by the Football Association on Friday for failing to control their players during Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. An already feisty encounter boiled over following an off-the-ball trip by West Brom’s Claudio Yacob, who had already been booked, on Chelsea striker Diego Costa. The Baggies midfielder avoided a second yellow card and a dismissal before being promptly substituted by boss Tony Pulis. Albion’s James McClean also clashed with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, while Costa was involved in several skirmishes with Jonas Olsson before reportedly punching a hole in the tunnel wall after the final whistle.

 

 “Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion have both been charged for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion,” a FA statement read. “The charge relates to an incident which occurred in or around the 58th minute of their fixture on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. “Both clubs have until 6pm on 20 January 2016 to respond to the charge.”

Lamine Diack behind IAAF corruption, says WADA commission report

Lamine Diack, the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption that took place in athletics' governing body, an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday.

The commission was delivering the second part of its report, whose first installment in November led to the banning of Russia from athletics for state-sponsored doping.

Diack, who was replaced by Sebastian Coe as president last August, is under investigation by French police for corruption and was heavily criticized by the report.

It said that Diack "sanctioned and appeared to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes carried out by the actions of the illegitimate governance structure he put in place".

The report said the IAAF's governance process was inadequate to prevent corruption, and the checks and balances of good governance were missing.

DOPING REPORT: CORRUPTION WAS 'EMBEDDED' IN IAAF

Track and field's governing body was corrupted from the inside by a "powerful rogue group" led by its president, and they conspired to extort athletes and allow doping Russians to continue competing, a World Anti-Doping Agency probe reported Thursday.

Other IAAF leaders were at fault, too, the WADA panel's damning report said. They must have known of the nepotism that allowed Lamine Diack to turn the International Association of Athletics Federations into a personal fiefdom during his 16-year reign as president, it said.

"It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged," said the report, written by former WADA president Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich.

A key question raised by the report is whether alleged corruption under Diack went beyond extorting doped athletes and infected other areas of IAAF business. WADA's investigators called for a detailed follow-up probe of all world championships awarded by the ruling body for 2009-19, due to evidence they found of possible wrongdoing. That included an indication that Diack, a former IOC member, was prepared to sell his vote in the 2020 Olympic hosting contest won by Tokyo in exchange for sponsorship of IAAF events.

The report made further uncomfortable reading for Sebastian Coe, the British middle-distance running great who took over from Diack in August. Coe was in the audience as Pound sifted through the grim findings and asserted that the IAAF remains an organization in denial.

"The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own," the report said.

Coe is not accused of corrupt wrongdoing. But, as an IAAF vice president under Diack, he was part of its Council, its oversight body, that took a hammering from the investigators' report. The Council "could not have been unaware of the extent of doping" and the breaking of anti-doping rules and "could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism" under Diack, it said.

"It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting ... athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive why was nothing done? Quite obviously there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia."

With a "close inner circle" including two of his sons, Papa Massata and Khalil, and his personal legal counsel, Habib Cisse, Diack led an "informal illegitimate" government that took over the handling of Russian doping cases, opening the door for athletes to then be blackmailed, the report said.

Diack "was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption that took place," the report said. "He sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes."

Installing Diack's sons as IAAF consultants "helped to conceal their clandestine corruption," it added.

Diack also "inserted" his lawyer, Cisse, "into the day-to-day operations" of the anti-doping department's work on Russia. That gave the lawyer access to sensitive information about which Russian athletes were suspected of doping, based on their blood testing results.

That information became "the fundamental building block for the corruption and conspiracy that subsequently consumed the IAAF," the report said.

Working with then-IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, they deliberately stalled cases of suspected Russian dopers, and "their actions allowed dirty Russian athletes to compete and alter the results on the playing field. This conduct has the same effect as a cover-up," the report charged.

Cisse, the lawyer, called the investigation "unfair." Speaking to The Associated Press, he said the commission never questioned him or allowed him to contest any of its findings before publication.

"There's no presumption of innocence," he said. "It's violent accusations without any care."

Lamine Diack was taken into custody by French authorities in November on corruption and money-laundering charges. He is suspected of taking more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to blackmail athletes and cover up positive tests.

French authorities last month also issued an arrest warrant for Papa Massata Diack that was relayed by Interpol and posted Thursday as a wanted notice on the police organization's web site. That could see him arrested if he leaves his home country of Senegal.

Cisse and Dolle also are under investigation in France for suspected corruption.

A contrite Coe later thanked Pound for the hard-hitting findings.

"The whole sorry saga is about cover-up," Coe said. The WADA probe's findings, he added, will help the IAAF with the "very complex, deeply painful process" of recovering.

But Pound backed Coe to stay at the helm of the IAAF, saying he was the best man to lead the organization out of the crisis and restore its credibility.

"As far as the ability of Lord Coe to remain as head of the IAAF, I think it's a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward," Pound said. "There's enormous amount of reputational recovery that has to occur here and I can't ... think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that."

The WADA probe was limited in its scope, focusing essentially on Russian doping and cover-up allegations first aired by German TV in 2014.

But panel member Richard McLaren said police should now also look into how recent past and future track and field world championships were awarded under the Diack regime.

"We think it important that there be a forensic audit," he told the AP. "It's information that we have. We don't have hard evidence, but it's enough information that we think that it bears a serious investigation."

"You are going to have to through financial records, documents, computer records, cell phones," McLaren said.

The report also details a relationship between Diack and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With cases against nine Russian athletes unresolved and the 2013 world championships looming, the report says Diack explained to an IAAF lawyer that he was in a "difficult position that could only be resolved by President Putin of Russia with whom he had struck up a friendship."

Pound said the IAAF should not be disbanded. He said he doesn't believe the federation's problems are as grave as those that have brought down the leadership of soccer governing body FIFA.

When Coe took over the presidency in August, he was lavish in his praise of Diack. The allegations that have since emerged became an increasing source of embarrassment to Coe.

But Pound said he believes Coe had "not the faintest idea of the extent" of Diack's alleged corruption when he took power.

Pound's first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia's track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The investigators suspect athletes from other countries may also have been blackmailed and they may only have so far examined "the tip of the iceberg" of efforts to blackmail athletes, McLaren said.

The report came two days after the AP released details from six years of IAAF internal emails, reports and notes showing a high level of communication between the athletics federation and Russian officials about suspicious test results from the nation's athletes, including plans to cover up some doping evidence.

Spalletti returns to replace Garcia as Roma coach

Luciano Spalletti has returned to Roma to replace Rudi Garcia as head coach.

The 56-year-old managed the Giallorossi between 2005 and 2009, guiding the club to the Champions League quarter-finals and twice to Coppa Italia glory, and is now back at the Stadio Olimpico.

Garcia's departure was confirmed on Wednesday after the Frenchman allowed Roma to slip to fifth in the Serie A table on the back of a run of seven games that featured a single victory.

His replacement Spalletti told asroma.it: "I'm emotional because I understand the value of this city, of the club and of the team. I'm enthusiastic to work with such great people."

Spalletti, who is understood to have signed a one-and-a-half-year contract in the Italian capital, joined Zenit St Petersburg after leaving Roma but has been a free agent since March 2014.

He agreed to succeed Garcia on Wednesday after flying to Miami to hold talks with Roma president James Pallotta.

The American businessman said: "We're extremely happy to welcome Luciano Spalletti back to Roma. He's a prizewinning coach who has a long string of successes behind him.

"We can't wait to work together towards bringing Roma back to where we deserve to be."

Spalletti's first assignment will be leading the Giallorossi - currently seven points behind leaders Napoli - against basement boys Hellas Verona in the Eternal City on Sunday.

Roma have managed to reach the last 16 of the Champions League under Garcia's watch and they will face 2014 winners Real Madrid over two legs in February.

 

FIFA imposes transfer ban on Real Madrid and Atletico

FIFA banned Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on Thursday from signing players in the next two transfer windows for breaching rules relating to registering players under the age of 18.

The Spanish clubs can still sign players in the current transfer window but will be banned from making additions to their squads until after the 2016-17 season. The teams can reach agreements to buy players but cannot register them to play until then.

Atletico Madrid released a brief statement saying it will appeal FIFA's sanction.

"Our club does not agree with the sanctioning ruling from the international football body and is studying the documentation received to lodge an appeal," it said.

Real Madrid had not officially commented about FIFA's ban on Thursday. Last year, the club called reports of a possible ban "false" and said it had "always scrupulously adhered to the FIFA regulations." It also mentioned "its absolute commitment to the defence, protection and the correct and healthy development of minors."

Madrid was not negotiating any new signings but the ban could force president Florentino Perez to scramble to bring in new players. Atletico Madrid, the Spanish league leader, also was not working to add any players to its squad in this window. Both clubs may negotiate deals to bring back players that were on loan to other clubs. The teams can also sell players if wanted.

Barcelona served a similar sanction for 2015 after stalling the transfer ban to enable them to sign players in the 2014 window, including Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Claudio Bravo. The Catalan club signed players such as Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal after the ban took effect again, but couldn't register them until this month.

FIFA said the latest wave of punishments — which include fines of 900,000 Swiss francs ($900,000) for Atletico and 360,000 Swiss francs ($360,000) for Real Madrid — highlight the success of efforts to protect the rights of players.

The players at the heart of Madrid cases featured in games between 2005 and 2014, according to FIFA.

"The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions," FIFA said in a statement.

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