Fernando Santos has left his role as head coach of Portugal, bringing an end to a reign which saw him become the most successful boss in the team's history.

The 68-year-old departs in the wake of a World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco, a frustrating end to a terrific spell in charge that saw him lead Portugal to Euro 2016 and Nations League title triumphs.

His departure was confirmed by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), which said in a statement: "The FPF and Fernando Santos agreed to end the highly successful journey that began in September 2014.

"After one of the best participations ever by the national team in the final stages of the World Cup, in Qatar, FPF and Fernando Santos understand that this is the right moment to start a new cycle.

"It was an honour to have a coach and a person like Fernando Santos at the head of the national team.

"The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that this thanks is also made on behalf of the Portuguese people."

Santos departs at a time when doubts remain regarding whether Cristiano Ronaldo will extend his own international career.

The most prolific goalscorer in international football history struggled for form at the World Cup, and with his 38th birthday coming up in February, his days as a force at the top level may be over.

Santos reduced Ronaldo to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games at the World Cup, a 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to Morocco.

While Ronaldo came off the bench in both games, his impact was minimal. Santos later said he had "no regrets" about dropping the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

He still faced criticism from Ronaldo's partner Georgina Rodriguez, who posted on Instagram that the coach "decided wrong", adding: "You can't underestimate the best player in the world and the most powerful weapon you have, just as you can't stand up for someone who doesn't deserve it."

The titles that Santos won with Portugal are the country's only major honours, with a 1-0 victory over France in the Euro 2016 final made all the more impressive by the fact Ronaldo was withdrawn after suffering an early injury.

Portugal then hosted and won the 2019 Nations League finals, defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final, but they lost to Belgium in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

The shock defeat to Morocco prompted Santos and Portugal to part ways despite the head coach having a contract that was due to run until 2024.

Roma coach Jose Mourinho has been linked with the job, having previously expressed a desire to move into international football.

Should Portugal hire Mourinho, they would be taking on one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, who has led Porto and Inter to Champions League glory.

Besides his rich success with those sides, Mourinho has stacked up many more trophies during spells at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United, while he steered Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title last season.

Georginio Wijnaldum has joined Roma's squad for a training camp in Portugal after missing the World Cup with a broken leg.

Wijnaldum joined Roma on a season-long loan in August after spending a single campaign with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The Netherlands international played just 11 minutes for the Giallorossi before breaking his right leg in training later that month, causing him to miss the Oranje's trip to Qatar – which ended with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina in the last eight.

However, Wijnaldum will hope to play a significant role in the second half of the season after being seen out on the pitch at Roma's Trigoria training ground on Thursday.

Wijnaldum then joined Jose Mourinho's squad in travelling to Portugal for a training camp and three friendly matches – against Cadiz, Casa Pia and RKC Waalwijk.

Roma sit seventh in Serie A, three points adrift of a top-four place, ahead of the league's resumption on January 4.

Clarendon College are All-Island schoolboy football champions for the sixth time after producing a stunning 3-0 win over Jamaica College in the Olivier Shield at Stadium East on Wednesday.

The Chapleton based school, who won their tenth daCosta Cup earlier in December with a 3-0 triumph over Central High at STETHS, took the lead in the 20th minute when Marques Reid capitalized on an error from JC goalkeeper Rassico Rose to slot home his 10th goal of the season.

Centre-back Devonti Hodges made it 2-0 just two minutes later with a thunderous strike from outside the penalty area.

With six minutes left, Keheim Dixon put the final nail in JC’s coffin with his 17th goal of the season to secure the title, their first 2019.

 

Netherlands defender Daley Blind has expressed frustration at news of his likely January exit from Ajax quickly becoming common knowledge.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Wednesday how Blind has been given permission to leave the Amsterdam giants on a free transfer.

The club are said to have agreed to smooth the path for his exit because of his long service, which has come either side of a four-year stint with Manchester United.

Blind, 32, is the son of Ajax legend Danny Blind, and began his career in the Ajax youth ranks before emerging into the first team.

After his Old Trafford stay, he returned to Ajax in July 2018. His deal was due to expire at the end of this season, but the 99-cap international now looks poised to depart sooner.

Reports have linked Blind with Belgian club Royal Antwerp, whose director of football Marc Overmars previously worked in the same role at Ajax.

Blind reacted to the news getting out with an oblique message on Twitter, stating: "Such a pity but typical that this is within a day with the 'media'.

"It is also a misrepresentation of things. Sigh.."

Blind, only a substitute in Ajax's last games before the World Cup break, scored for the Netherlands during their campaign in Qatar, netting in the 3-1 win over the United States at the last-16 stage.

One short of a century of Netherlands caps, Blind will hope to remain in favour during Ronald Koeman's second stint as head coach of the Oranje.

Koeman is taking over from Louis van Gaal, whose third spell in charge of the national team ended with a defeat on penalties to Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Royal Morocco Football Federation (FMRF) has lodged a complaint to FIFA over referee Cesar Ramos' performance during their World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

Morocco lost Wednesday's game 2-0 after goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani sent reigning champions France through to a second consecutive World Cup final.

However, there were a number of contentious decisions during the match, with Morocco's players first incensed when winger Sofiane Boufal collided with Hernandez in the France box.

The referee opted to award Les Bleus a free-kick instead of a Morocco penalty before booking Boufal, provoking a furious reaction from Walid Regragui's men.

Substitute Selim Amallah was then dragged down in the France area as he awaited a free-kick delivery, though Ramos once again chose not to award a spot-kick, or even call for a VAR review.

The FMRF said in its statement: "The FMRF has written to the relevant body to review the refereeing decisions that deprived the Moroccan team of two penalties that were indisputable in the view of several refereeing specialists.

"The FMRF was equally astonished that the video assistant referee (VAR) did not react to these situations."

Morocco made history in Qatar by becoming the first African team to reach the final four of a World Cup.

Despite their heart-breaking semi-final loss, the Atlas Lions have a chance to finish the tournament on a high in Saturday's third-place play-off against Croatia.

Right-back Achraf Hakimi remained positive after the France defeat, declaring on Twitter: "We gave it all. The dream of a team, of a whole country, is over.

"But we have to be proud of what we have done. We fought until the last second and we leave with our heads held high.

"We will continue to try and give our all for this nation. Thanks to all Moroccans for your support."

Real Madrid have reached an agreement to sign Palmeiras forward Endrick, with the 16-year-old sensation set to join the Champions League holders in July 2024.

Endrick scored three goals in seven appearances as Palmeiras won the Brazilian top flight in 2022, having become the first player born in 2006 to play a Brasileiro game in October.

The left-footed attacker cannot officially join a European side until he turns 18 in July 2024, but that has not stopped several of the continent's biggest clubs – including Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea – from being credited with an interest in him.

However, Madrid have won the race for Endrick's signature after reportedly offering €70million for his services, while it has been suggested he will sign an initial three-year contract with an option for three further years.

A Madrid statement said: "Real Madrid CF, Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, Endrick and his family have reached an agreement whereby the player will be able to join Real Madrid when he comes of age in July 2024.

"Until then, Endrick will continue his training at Palmeiras. The player will travel to Madrid in the coming days to visit our club's facilities."

Upon his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu, Endrick will hope to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, who both joined the cub in similar circumstances.

Madrid agreed to sign Vinicius and Rodrygo when the duo were aged 16 and 17 respectively, with both going on to play key roles in their 14th European Cup/Champions League triumph last term.

While Palmeiras refused to reveal the financial details of the deal, president Leila Pereira described it as "the biggest negotiation in the history of Brazilian football".

"Real Madrid's proposal is compatible with Endrick's enormous talent and corresponds to the sporting and financial goals that we have established since the beginning of negotiations," she said.

Endrick said: "I thank Palmeiras, the greatest champion of Brazil, champion of America, champion of the world and, forever, the club of my heart, for offering me everything necessary to become what I am today, for helping me to accomplish several of my dreams, and for respecting my desire and that of my family to make another dream come true. 

"Until I join Real Madrid, I will continue to dedicate myself as I have always dedicated myself to being able to offer Palmeiras even more on the field: more goals, more victories, more titles and even more joy for our fans."

 

Former Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper and current ESPN analyst Shaka Hislop believes it will be a long time before CONCACAF elects another Caribbean president after the scandals surrounding former CONCACAF Presidents Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb.

“I don’t anticipate, despite the political strength of the Caribbean nations within CONCACAF, another CONCACAF president from the Caribbean or the CFU for quite some time,” Hislop said during the Caribbean Conference on Corruption, Compliance and Cyber Crime held virtually last week.

“You have two presidents back-to-back, both black men from the Caribbean, both swept up in that scandal and, as a result, I think regionally there was a lack of trust around Caribbean administrators,” he added.

Canadian businessman Victor Montagliani has been CONCACAF president since May 2016.

Trinidad’s Warner served as CONCACAF President from 1990-2011. He was indicted on fraud charges and banned from all football-related activities by FIFA for life in 2015.

US prosecutors allege that from as far back as 1990, he leveraged his influence and exploited his official positions for personal gain.

Among other things, the 79-year-old former football administrator is accused of receiving US$5 million in bribes to vote for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup. 

In November this year, Warner lost his fight at the Privy Council against extradition to the United States on corruption charges.

Webb, a Caymanian, took the reins as head of CONCACAF from 2012-2015. 

In May 2015, Webb was arrested for corruption charges by Swiss police acting at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. That same month he was banned by FIFA Ethics Committee and ,in November 2015, pleaded guilty and agreed to forfeit more than US$6.7 million.

“We are living that legacy; We are still hoping that people take notice of the Caribbean. We are not able to advocate for ourselves and, for me, that is a desperate position for us to be in but that is the position that we have found ourselves in because of the legacies of those two people,” Hislop said.

Hislop, who was born in London and represented clubs like Newcastle United and West Ham United throughout his 15-year career, said he hopes some good comes out of the situation.

“Longer term, I hope that what has happened forces change, not just in Caribbean or Concacaf football, but in world football. Recognizing how easily the system can be perverted and how you need to have those checks and balances to better serve the global game.”

 

The powerful European Club Association hailed the latest setback to the European Super League as "a clear rejection" of the plans of a "self-interested few".

UEFA and FIFA would be acting lawfully by freezing out the proposed competition and its teams, the European Union Court of Justice advocate general Athanasios Rantos said on Thursday.

Formally announcing his non-binding opinion in Luxembourg, ahead of a judgement expected in the new year, Rantos was responding to a request by a Madrid court for a ruling on whether FIFA and UEFA would have the right to take action in accordance with competition law and fundamental freedoms.

European Super League (ESLC) officials have argued such actions should be regarded as anti-competitive and incompatible with EU competition law.

Responding to the opinion from Rantos, the European Club Association (ECA) said the message proposed "a clear rejection of the efforts of a few to undermine the foundations and historical heritage of European football for the many".

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are no longer members of the ECA, having quit when the breakaway was announced in April 2021 and retained an interest in the breakaway getting off the ground even after its dramatic near-immediate collapse.

The nine clubs that fled the Super League project have returned to the ECA fold after withdrawing their resignations from the group. Those clubs are Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan.

The ECA, which represents nearly 250 clubs, said it remained "explicit in its strong opposition towards those self-interested few seeking to disrupt European club football and undermine the values that underpin it".

In a statement, it added: "ECA stands for the responsible, progressive evolution of football and remains steadfast in its belief that in Europe this should be achieved alongside and in partnership with UEFA as the legitimate governing body, together with other fellow professional football stakeholders and European and governmental institutions.

"A great amount of positive reform and progress has been achieved by ECA working in collaborative partnership with UEFA in recent years for the benefit of the entire European football ecosystem."

FIFA also said it welcomed the news from Luxembourg. It backed the opinion that any new competition would need approval from the world and European governing bodies, and that sanctions could be imposed if that was not forthcoming.

FIFA praised the noting by Rantos "of the special nature of sport, including the pyramid structure, which preserves the nature of sporting merit and open competitions accessible to all, as well as the principles of promotion and relegation, competitive balance, and financial solidarity".

Bernd Reichart, CEO of A22 Sports Management, the company formed to deliver the Super League project, believes it can still be realised.

Clubs from across Europe's top leagues would be targeted to be involved, with the concern of those in opposition being that it would weaken existing competitions.

Reichart said: "The opinion of the advocate general is one step in an ongoing case, and we are pleased with the recognition of the right of third parties to organise pan-European club competitions.

"The advocate general made clear that UEFA has a monopolistic position which comes with important responsibilities for enabling third parties to act freely in the market.

"However, we believe the 15 judges of the Grand Chamber who are entrusted with the responsibility to examine this case, will go substantially further and provide the opportunity for clubs to manage their own destiny in Europe."

Bastian Schweinsteiger believes Anthony Martial can become one of Manchester United's "best players" with confidence and the right guidance.

Despite sustaining a hamstring injury during pre-season, Martial has registered four goals and two assists in seven appearances this term.

The forward will hope to feature when United to return to action against Burnley in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.

Schweinsteiger played alongside Martial at Old Trafford for just under two seasons, the latter marking his debut with a stunning individual goal in a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in September 2015.

The former Germany international is confident the 27-year-old can shine under Erik ten Hag. 

"His potential is immense," Schweinsteiger told MUTV. "I remember very well when he arrived at United, and he scored the goal against Liverpool in a special way.

"With him, you need to give him confidence. But you also need to push him sometimes, and then he can be one of the best players.

"But he has to understand that first, and that’s the job of the coaches and also the team-mates.

"If you play with someone like him, you want to see the quality of this player all the time. You expect it because you know what this player is able to do.

"When I played with him, my goal was always to put him in the right position with the ball. So, to give him the ball in the right moments where he can show his abilities the most.

"Like one against one, one against two, with the ball, facing the opponents' goal.

"They are the moments he [is] waiting for, and then he's actually producing. At the end of the day, what matters for him is goals and assists."

Michel Platini is feeling a sense of "pride" at seeing France in another World Cup final and is firmly behind Les Bleus on their march towards history, his lawyer has said.

Although he was a European Championship winner with France in 1984, the golden generation to which Platini belonged could not add global glory to that title.

They stalled in the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, losing out to West Germany both times.

Platini was an organising committee chief when France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998, but by the time of their triumph at Russia 2018 he was serving a ban from football over ethics violations during his time as UEFA president.

Now 67, Platini has recently kept a mostly low profile.

His lawyer, Najwa El Haite, said Platini remained engrossed in France's footballing fortunes.

"He is of course closely following the performance of the France team," she told French broadcaster BFMTV.

"There is a pride, he was very happy yesterday.

"He is not on social networks, he does not communicate, but he is present and fully supports the France team."

France are bidding to become the first team since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to win consecutive editions of the World Cup.

El Haite is a French-Moroccan citizen, and she may have had split loyalties for Wednesday's semi-final as France beat Morocco 2-0 to set up a clash with Argentina for the trophy on Sunday.

She explained how Platini had also been charmed by the Atlas Lions during their surprising run, which saw them become the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final.

"A few days ago, he called me, when Morocco were playing against Portugal. I was honoured that he called me to tell me, 'The Moroccan team played well, congratulations to them'," El Haite said.

"This morning, he sent me a message saying, 'They lost but they played well, I will support them on Saturday [in the third-place game] against Croatia'."

UEFA and FIFA would be entitled to freeze out a European Super League and its competing teams, according to a key opinion published on Thursday by the European Union's Court of Justice.

A calamitous launching of the Super League last year saw 12 teams agree to take part, before most pulled out in a hurry after a furious backlash from fans, politicians and football governing bodies.

The Spanish league has since said it is determined to fend off a new proposition for an elite league, which it has warned would "destroy" the existing structure of the domestic game.

It was revealed in October 2022 that a move was under way to revive the proposals, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus still thought to be keen; however, there remains firm opposition from UEFA, which runs European football, and world governing body FIFA.

The advocate general of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Athanasios Rantos, was responding to a request by the Commercial Court in Madrid to rule on whether FIFA and UEFA would have the right to take action in accordance with competition law and fundamental freedoms.

European Super League (ESLC) chiefs argued such actions should be regarded as anti-competitive and incompatible with EU competition law.

Rantos said in his opinion, which is not binding and will be followed by a court judgement expected in the new year, that: "Whilst ESLC is free to set up its own independent football competition outside the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem, it cannot however, in parallel with the creation of such a competition, continue to participate in the football competitions organised by FIFA and UEFA without the prior authorisation of those federations."

FIFA and UEFA had warned that players and clubs taking part in the breakaway league would be banned from their own competitions.

Six clubs from the Premier League and three each from LaLiga and Serie A initially agreed to join the European Super League, prior to public reaction leading to a rethink.

The opinion from Rantos noted that national federations and leagues would be able to threaten sanctions against clubs entering competitions "which would risk undermining the objectives legitimately pursued by those federations of which they are members".

UEFA said in response: "UEFA warmly welcomes today's unequivocal opinion recommending a ruling of the CJEU in support of our central mission to govern European football, protect the pyramid and develop the game across Europe."

It described the opinion as "an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of the European football pyramid".

UEFA added: "Football in Europe remains united and steadfastly opposed to the ESL, or any such breakaway proposals, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem."

Didier Deschamps was quizzed on whether Karim Benzema could make a sensational France return for the World Cup final against Argentina.

Benzema was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar due to a thigh injury, but it has been reported that he could feature for the holders when they attempt to retain their crown on Sunday.

Les Bleus beat Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday to set up a showdown with La Albiceleste at Lusail Stadium this weekend.

France head coach Deschamps refused to say whether Ballon d'Or winner Benzema may play a part in the final after returning to training with Real Madrid.

He said after a lengthy pause: "I don't really want to answer that question. Next question. I do apologise."

Benzema has made only 12 appearances for Madrid this season due to injury.

Goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani put France in another World Cup final.

 

Theo Hernandez defiantly stated Lionel Messi does not scare France, while Olivier Giroud is intent on denying the Argentina legend a dream World Cup swansong in Sunday's final.

Les Bleus are on the cusp of defending the title they won in Russia four years ago after a workmanlike 2-0 victory over Morocco in Wednesday's second semi-final.

The showpiece fixture will be Messi's final World Cup game and, at least for the football romantics, would be seen as a fitting send-off for one of the all-time greats.

But France will have little time for sentiment as they aim to be crowned world champions for the third time and Milan full-back Hernandez said Les Bleus are not fearful of Argentina's talisman – who was star of the show in La Albiceleste's own last-four triumph over Croatia.

"Now we must think about the final, I am tired but it's so good to win a World Cup semi-final," Hernandez said in quotes reported by Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Now we must recover for Sunday, we are not scared of Messi, but Argentina are an incredible team and we have a few days to work."

Giroud, who during the tournament has become France's all-time leading goalscorer, was part of the side that defeated Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16 at Russia 2018.

In that game, N'Golo Kante – missing in Qatar through injury – was tasked with a man-marking job on Messi, whose five goals at this tournament are matched only by Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe.

Giroud gave little away as to whether a similar tactic will be employed but said the whole collective will do their part to deny Messi the biggest prize of his illustrious career.

"Messi is an incredible player, but we are not going to let him enjoy the best night he can have," he said.

"We want to win this game. We want to win another World Cup – and we will try everything to stop him. 

"But there is not only Messi in that team. They have got great players who work for the team also. I think that is why they are so strong.

"I don't know if we need a special plan. I remember back in the days of 2018, N'Golo was all the game on his back, behind him. But this time I don't know what will be the plan. We will see with the manager."

Milan's Portuguese forward Rafael Leao will be a key player of interest in the January transfer window.

The 23-year-old helped Milan clinched the Italian Serie A title last term, netting 11 goals for the Rossoneri.

According to reports, Leao is unwilling to pen a contract extension with Milan, who failed to meet his demands.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA GET JUMP IN RAFAEL LEAO CHASE

Chelsea have emerged as the frontrunners in the hotly contested pursuit of Milan forward Rafael Leao, claims GiveMeSport's Dean Jones.

Leao enters the final 18 months of his Milan contract in January, with interest also reportedly coming from Real Madrid and Manchester City.

Milan may be willing to let the Portuguese depart in January if they cannot convince him to sign a new deal, rating him at £86million (€100m).

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea's planned mid-year move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku will not be brought forward to January despite a season-ending ACL injury for Armando Broja, reports Fabrizio Romano.

– CBS's Ben Jacobs claims Dusan Vlahovic exiting Juventus in 2023 is a "very real possibility", including a possible January move, with Chelsea among the clubs in contact with the Serbian's representatives.

Real Madrid have joined the race for Netherlands international Cody Gakpo, claims AS. Manchester United are also interested in the PSV forward, who was pursued by Leeds United in the last transfer window.

– ESPN claims Manchester United will enquire with Benfica about the status of Portugal striker Goncalo Ramos, who netted a hat-trick against Switzerland at the World Cup.

Bayer Leverkusen are interested in signing West Ham full-back Vladimir Coufal, claims Sky Sports. The Czech, who is contracted until 2024 with the option of another year, also has interest from two other Premier League clubs.

Police are investigating an incident that saw shots fired at the home of former Reggae Boy Fitzroy Simpson in Swindon, England on Tuesday.

According to reports, the former Jamaica international's house was fired upon by a gunman who reportedly fled the scene before the police were called to the property at 8:15pm.

Upon arrival the police combed the area with a helicopter and a canine unit but the suspect was not located. The search was continued on Wednesday as the area was cordoned off in hopes of finding a weapon or other evidence but none was found.

According to the official Wiltshire police report; “Police were called to an address in Stratton shortly after 8.15pm yesterday evening, following reports of what was believed to be a firearm being discharged in the area.

Firearms officers attended and extensive area searches and house to house enquiries were conducted.

Enquiries remain ongoing. No firearms were located.”

Simpson who represented Manchester city in the Premier League from 1992-1995, also had spells at Bristol and Portsmouth.  He represented the Jamaica Reggae Boyz on 43 occasions, including in all matches during the team’s historic appearance at the 1998 World Cup.

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