By DAN KARELL
Sepp Blatter and FIFA are feeling the heat, a little more than 24 hours after the U.S. Department of Justice and their Switzerland counterparts raided FIFA’s personnel and offices.
Blatter held an emergency meeting with the leaders of all six FIFA confederations, a FIFA spokesperson confirmed, while reports are growing that Blatter has rejected calls for him to stand down or even move Friday’s FIFA presidential election.
“There was a meeting today with the president [Blatter] with the representatives from the confederations to discuss the current situation,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told reporters.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Swiss police officers arrested seven individuals in cooperation with the U.S. DoJ, and at the same time, police officers raided the offices of FIFA for information surrounding the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.
Since then, UEFA has called for a postponement of the presidential election, but FIFA has reiterated its desire to hold the election as scheduled, as well as to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Here are some more stories to start your Thursday:
BENITEZ ANNOUNCES NAPOLI DEPARTURE
Rafa Benitez’s tenure as Napoli manager is coming to a close.
After two seasons in charge, the Spaniard will coach his final game for Napoli this Sunday at home against Lazio, after he confirmed his own departure from the club at a press conference on Thursday.
“My contract with Napoli was a two-year deal,” Benitez told reporters. “A contract that will end on Sunday after the game against Lazio.”
Benitez and Napoli are fighting this weekend to hold onto fourth place with Fiorentina charging right behind them, only two points back.
The news of Benitez’s departure adds to the speculation that the former Real Madrid youth player and youth coach will be appointed as the successor for Carlo Ancelotti, who was let go on Monday.
RIVER TOPS CRUZEIRO, OWN GOAL HELPS INTERNACIONAL PROGRESS IN COPA LIBERTADORES
It may just be on the club level, but Argentina gave Brazil another gut-punch in the Copa Libertadores.
On the road at the Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto in Belo Horizonte, River Plate stunned defending Brazilian champion Cruzeiro, 3-0, to win the quarterfinal series between the two sides by a 3-1 aggregate score.
A wide-open Carlos Sanchez started the scoring for River with a goal in the 20th minute, and Jonathan Maidana made it 2-0 just seconds before the halftime break. Forward Teo Gutierrez, who set up the first goal, then put the finishing touches on the victory with a beautiful curling finish just inside the far post in the 52nd minute.
Elsewhere in Copa Libertadores action, Brazil’s Internacional advanced at Colombian side Santa Fe’s expense thanks to a late own goal by Santa Fe substitute Baldomero Perlaza in the 87th minute. Internacional substitute Rafael Moura curled in a free kick from the right corner flag and a deflection off the head of Perlaza put the ball into his own goal, sending Internacional into the next round.
Real Madrid made an official statement on Thursday to clarify that they’ve never spoken with Paul Pogba or his agent Mino Raiola over a possible transfer from Juventus to Madrid. (REPORT)
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti has reiterated his desire to stay at PSG and win the club a UEFA Champions League title. (REPORT)
Arsenal are interested in Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yueng. (REPORT)
Schalke 04 duo Tranquillo Barnetta and Christian Fuchs will both leave the club this summer on free transfers. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Do you see Blatter backing down to UEFA’s requests? Would Benitez be the right manager to take over at Real Madrid?
Share your thoughts below.