Ballon d’Or: Cristiano Ronaldo wins over Lionel Messi & Manuel Neuer

Cristiano Ronaldo is officially the world’s best player for the second straight year as he received the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or.

The Real Madrid and Portugal forward was awarded FIFA’s top individual honour over Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Ronaldo, 29, took home the award for the third time in his career, after also winning it in 2008. He and Messi have been the only players to receive the award since then, with the Argentine earning the honour for four straight years from 2009-2012.

The Portuguese earned 37.66 percent of the votes, while Messi edged Neuer, 15.76 to 15.72 percent, for runner-up.

Ronaldo set a record by scoring 17 goals in last season’s Champions League, guiding Madrid to their 10th title, the long-awaited La Decima. He scored twice in the semifinals against Bayern Munich and the crowning goal in the final against Atletico Madrid.

This season, he has scored a remarkable 26 goals in 16 games in La Liga, and an additional five goals in six Champions League games.

Ronaldo did have a relatively disappointing World Cup, scoring once in three games as Portugal were eliminated in the group stage after failing to beat Germany and the United States.

Earlier in Monday’s ceremony, tennis star Rafael Nadal addressed Ronaldo in a video message, saying: “I want to congratulate you on the year you’ve had. I consider your drive and desire to improve on a daily basis a fantastic example for the younger generations.”

Neuer was a key part of Germany’s run to the World Cup title, and received plaudits for his consistent willingness to leave his penalty area to clear loose balls.

Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the World Cup after scoring four goals and playing a decisive role in taking Argentina to the final. He also became the all-time leading scorer in La Liga (259 goals) and the Champions League (75 goals) last year.

The Ballon d’Or was presented solely by France Football until 2009, and the publication joined with FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award from the 2010 edition.

All three Ballon d’Or finalists were also named to the FIFPro World XI earlier on Monday.

Read more at ESPN

FIFA goal of the year: James Rodriguez beats Stephanie Roche for Puskas award

Colombia’s Rodriguez has won the FIFA goal of the year award for his World Cup strike against Uruguay, beating Irishwoman Stephanie Roche.

Netherlands striker Robin van Persie was third for his diving header against Spain in the World Cup.

Roche, who scored a stunner for Peamount against Wexford in the Irish top flight, had hoped to be the first female winner of the Puskas Award.

She landed 33% of the public vote to Rodriguez’s 42% of the 3.3m cast.

She tweeted afterwards: “Very Proud to receive 1.1million votes. Congrats to James. A fantastic experience & thanks to everyone (across the world) for your support!”

Rodriguez’s control and volley from 25 yards in the last-16 tie was enough to win the award. The 23-year-old, then at Monaco, was the top scorer in the World Cup and joined Real Madrid after the tournament.

Roche’s spectacular effort in the Bus Eireann Women’s National League was in front of an estimated 95 people on 13 October 2013.

She received the ball with her back to goal, took a touch on her right foot, flicked the ball over a defender’s head with her left foot and then swivelled and volleyed home from outside the box.

Manchester United striker Van Persie was shortlisted for his stunning equaliser during the Netherland’s 5-1 rout over Spain in Brazil last summer. He met Daley Blind’s crossfield pass with a 15-yard header that looped over a despairing Iker Casillas.

Read more at BBC Sport

FIFA: Prince Ali to challenge Sepp Blatter for presidency

FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein will challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter for the leadership of world football’s governing body.

The Jordanian Prince, 39, will stand as a candidate at FIFA’s presidential election on 29 May, where Blatter, 78, will seek a fifth term of office.

Prince Ali said: “It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport.

“The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA.”

Prince Ali, president of Jordanian football since 1999, said he had been encouraged to stand by colleagues.

“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change,” the Asian Football Confederation’s vice-president said.

“The world game deserves a world-class governing body – an international federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance.”

Prince Ali, also head of the West Asian Football Federation, was one of a number of officials who called for the publication of ethics investigator Michael Garcia’s report into allegations of corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Uefa president Michel Platini is said to be “pleased” that Prince Ali has decided to enter the race and will attempt to get the Jordanian as many votes as possible in Europe.

FIFA has suffered a number of damaging corruption allegations during Blatter’s 17-year reign.

Last month, former England captain Gary Lineker described the way FIFA was running world football as “a farce” after the governing body became embroiled in more allegations of World Cup bidding corruption.

Read more at BBC Sport

Football: FIFA and Sepp Blatter in secret talks about president’s future

Secret talks between FIFA officials and Sepp Blatter have taken place over his future as the president of football’s world governing body

The discussions, involving representatives from a number of football confederations, are understood to have started in October 2013, at the celebrations for the English Football Association’s 150th anniversary.

Blatter has since confirmed his intention to stand in May’s presidential election and seek a fifth term of office.

However, with the 29 January deadline looming for candidates to declare their interest, there is mounting concern amongst several FIFA executives over the governing body’s future direction and leadership.

Speaking in Manilla earlier this month, Blatter reaffirmed he has support from five of the six confederations that constitute FIFA.

But BBC Sport has been told the recent crisis within the governing body, stemming from an investigation into alleged World Cup bidding corruption that culminated last week in the resignation of ethics committee investigator Michael Garcia, could yet have far-reaching effects.

Garcia quit citing a lack of independence in FIFA’s judicial processes and his belief the organisation’s culture was beyond reform.

Speaking to BBC Sport, one source described 78-year-old Blatter as being increasingly “weary” following years of fire-fighting multiple scandals, a hectic work schedule and the acrimonious fall-out from the decision to award the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

FIFA sources have also spoken of how, in light of recent events, a number of potential challengers are now weighing their candidacy options.

Read more at BBC Sport

Football: FIFA World Cup report: Michael Garcia findings to be released

Fifa executives have unanimously agreed to publish a “legally appropriate version” of a report into allegations of World Cup bidding corruption.

However, world football’s governing body insisted Russia and Qatar will stay as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments respectively.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he asked the executive committee to vote in favour of publishing the report.

“We have always been determined the truth should be known,” he said.

“That is, after all, why we set up an independent ethics committee with an investigatory chamber that has all necessary means to undertake investigations on its own initiative.”

So far only a disputed summary of Michael Garcia’s 430-page report into the bidding process for the forthcoming World Cups has been published.

Releasing the full report – which is likely be heavily redacted to preserve witness confidentiality – is a change in Fifa policy.

However, it will only be released once ongoing investigations into five individuals are completed.

The governing body had originally resisted pressure from both report author Garcia and others to publish the full report.

The American lawyer resigned on Wednesday after his appeal against the published summary of his report by fellow Fifa ethics committee chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert was dismissed.

Garcia said the findings released, following his two-year investigation into allegations of corruption, were “incomplete and erroneous”.

Read more at BBC Sport

FIFA: Investigator Michael Garcia resigns in World Cup report row

FIFA’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has quit in protest over the handling of his report into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The American lawyer cited a “lack of leadership” at the top of football’s world governing body.

Garcia said he lost confidence in the independence of German judge Joachim Eckert, an ethics committee colleague.

Uefa president Michel Platini said: “We wanted all transparency but this is a new failure for FIFA.”

The head of European football spoke out as Garcia resigned a day after FIFA’s appeals panel rejected his challenge of Eckert’s summary of his report.

“It is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end,” said Garcia.

Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup, while Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament

Garcia’s findings were released as a 42-page summary of the 430-page report.

He said the summary was “erroneous” and complained to FIFA, which said his appeal was “not admissible”.

Read more at BBC Sport

Football: Fifa goal of year: Stephanie Roche, Van Persie or James Rodriguez

Ireland’s Stephanie Roche has been shortlisted for FIFA’s goal of the year.

Roche’s strike for Irish women’s club Peamount United in October 2013, which has had almost three million views on YouTube, helped earn her a professional contract with French club ASPTT Albi.

She is shortlisted alongside Colombia’s James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie, of the Netherlands.

Both of their goals came at the 2014 World Cup.

Users of Fifa.com and francefootball.fr will be able to vote for their favourite of the three goals. If Roche wins the vote, she will become the first female to earn Fifa’s Puskas award. The winner will be announced at the world governing body’s annual awards in Zurich on 12 January.

Reacting to her inclusion in the final three,Roche tweeted:  “Yessssss!!!! Come on!! So happy right now, thank you to EVERYONE who has voted for me. Oh and if you could keep voting please!”

Stephanie Roche’s Goal:

Speaking about her goal against Wexford Youths in a BBC interview last week, Roche said: “I had my back to goal and had the first touch with my right foot. With the second touch I flicked the ball over the defender’s head and then turned and with my third touch volleyed the ball into the net.”

The goal, watched by an estimated 95 spectators, would have remained only a talked about phenomenon but for the fact the Wexford Youths team manager had arranged to have the game videoed.

“Most of our games aren’t filmed so I was lucky enough in that respect,” Roche added. “My manager Eileen Gleeson got the DVD off the Wexford Youths manager, then edited the clip and put it up on YouTube and it all went from there.”

Former Republic of Ireland great Paul McGrath and ex-England stars Rio Ferdinand, Gary Lineker and Matthew Le Tissier were among those who marvelled at Roche’s skill after viewing the grainy footage of the goal.

Dubliner Roche, 25, represented the Republic of Ireland Under-17 team as a 14-year-old and since making her senior international debut in 2008, has gone on to accumulate 28 caps.

She is up against Real Madrid’s Rodriguez, who netted a sensational volley from outside the area for his country against Uruguay at the World Cup.

James Rodriguez Goal:

Manchester United’s Van Persie also makes the shortlist for his diving header for the Dutch in their World Cup opener against Spain.

Robin van Persie Goal:

Read more at BBC Sport

Football: Neuer joins Ronaldo and Messi on Ballon d’Or shortlist

Manuel Neuer could become only the second goalkeeper to win the coveted award

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer have been announced as the three names on the final shortlist for the 2014 Ballon d’Or.

FIFA originally announced a list of 23 players – drawn up by its football committee with the help of French magazine France Football – in contention for the award five weeks ago.

That has now been whittled down to three, with Real Madrid forward Ronaldo the hot favourite to win the award for a third time, and a second successive year, at a ceremony in Zurich on January 12, 2015.

Ronaldo and Barcelona striker Messi have had a duopoly on the award since 2008. Messi won the award four straight years from 2009-2012, while Ronaldo won it in 2008 and 2013.

World Cup-winning Germany and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer completes the shortlist, though he is an outsider to become only the second goalkeeper to win the award – the other being Dinamo Moscow’s Lev Yashin in 1963.

The award was presented solely by France Football until 2009, and the publication joined with FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award for the 2010 edition.

In addition, the nominees for the FIFA Puskas Award for the ‘most beautiful goal of the year’ were announced.

The final three are: Stephanie Roche for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in October 2013; James Rodriguez for Colombia against Uruguay at the World Cup; and Robin van Persie for Netherlands v. Spain which was also at the World Cup.

Read more at ESPN

Football: Garcia attacks report on own corruption investigation

FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia has attacked the report on his investigation into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, saying he will appeal against it.

Garcia said the 42-page report, written by Joachim Eckert – the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s independent ethics committee – “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the investigatory chamber’s report.”

“I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee,” the former US Attorney said.

FIFA issued a short statement in response, in which it said only: “We take note of reports mentioning a statement issued by Michael Garcia.

However, for the time being Fifa has not been officially notified of this statement and is therefore not in a position to further comment on this matter at this stage. We will follow up in due time.”

FIFA had previously said the Garcia report could not be published in full for legal reasons.

His intervention means he has effectively dismissed the conclusions that FIFA has drawn from his two-year investigative process.

Britain’s FIFA vice president, Jim Boyce, said it increased the case for as much of his report “as is legally possible” to be made public.

Boyce told Press Association Sport: “In view of the fact Michael Garcia has now stated he is not happy with the findings and is to appeal, I await with interest to see what further disclosures will be made.”

Eckert’s report cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption in their winning bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The document said no proof was found of bribes or voting pacts in an investigation that was hampered by a lack of access to evidence and uncooperative witnesses.

The FA hit back at the report, which heavily criticised England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup, saying it does “not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved”.

The report turned much of its fire on England’s conduct, saying it had “damaged the integrity of the ongoing bidding process.”

However, former England 2018 chief operating officer Simon Johnson dismissed the conclusions as a “politically-motivated whitewash.”

“I am not sure how we can have confidence in the outcome of this report,” he said. “The headlines today end up being about the England bid when it should be about how it has exonerated Qatar.

“In relation to England’s bid, I was satisfied at all times that we complied with the rules of the ethics code. We also gave full and transparent disclosure to the investigation, which many others did not do.”

Read more at ESPN