Footy http://www.footy.to/ Your Daily Football NEws Source Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:28:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 10 Things We Learned in the Champions League’s return http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/10-things-we-learned-in-the-champions-leagues-return/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/10-things-we-learned-in-the-champions-leagues-return/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:28:18 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27044

The Champions League has made a thunderous return with a gripping opening round of group matches in the 2020-21 season.

Real Madrid were plunged into further crisis, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had another night to remember at the Parc des Princes and holders Bayern Munich began the defence of their trophy with a commanding victory.

Sportsmail picks out 10 things we learned from the comeback week of European football’s elite club competition.

Don’t listen to Hansi Flick!

That is, unless you are a Bayern Munich player. But on the eve of Bayern’s first group match, a devilishly tricky tie against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, Flick was pleading for patience with his team of Champions League winners.

‘To reach the optimum level as we did recently will be extremely difficult,’ Flick said – pointing to the departures of Thiago Alcantara, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic after winning last season’s Champions League. 

‘As for now, I am fairly satisfied. We have had only one week of training with everyone together… it is a different team from last season.’

The idea that Bayern may have a few extra gears to click into is an ominous sign for the rest of Europe, as Flick’s men ran out 4-0 winners against Atletico at the Allianz Arena. Kingsley Coman got two, while Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso also scored. What a way to begin the defence of the trophy.  

Kingsley Coman celebrates one of his goals in Bayern Munich’s 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid

No Ronaldo? No problem! 

Andrea Pirlo kicked off life as a manager in the Champions League without his talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for the match against Dynamo Kiev as he recovers from Covid-19.

Everyone knows how much Ronaldo loves the Champions League – he and Messi have sent an array of scoring records tumbling in their pursuit of greatness.

But on Tuesday, Pirlo’s Juventus beat Kiev 2-0 without the Portuguese striker. Alvaro Morata filled his place valiantly, netting both goals to hand Pirlo a victory against Kiev manager Mircea Lucescu – the man who handed Pirlo his debut as 16-year-old player at Brescia.

Alvaro Morata stepped up for Juventus in the Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo out

Alvaro Morata stepped up for Juventus in the Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo out

Werner needs support from Chelsea’s playmakers 

A 0-0 draw is a reasonable enough start to Chelsea’s Champions League campaign – Sevilla were tricky opponents – but Frank Lampard would have hoped his side’s home advantage could have counted for more.

In his analysis of the match, Michael Owen suggested that Timo Werner needs more passes that accommodate his desire to play on the shoulder of the last defender and run in on goal. Owen’s comments turned the spotlight onto Chelsea’s attacking midfielders who, against Sevilla, were Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount, to pick out the No 9.

‘He’s always looking to be on the edge,’ Owen said. ‘If they could just find that through ball, he’ll be in.’

Werner has scored three goals in his first seven Chelsea games – two of those coming in Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Southampton. 

Michael Owen said Timo Werner would benefit from more through balls to run onto at Chelsea

Michael Owen said Timo Werner would benefit from more through balls to run onto at Chelsea

Tuanzebe comes of age 

Paris Saint-Germain might not be the dominant European force that they aspire to be quite yet, but a game against their front line of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria is arguably as hard as it gets.

For Axel Tuanzebe, the game also represented a major opportunity to lay claim to a more prominent role in the United setup. 

Before being thrown in at the deep end in France on Tuesday night, Tuanzebe’s last game for United was on December 18 when they beat Colchester 3-0 in the EFL Cup.

Axel Tuanzebe produced a fantastic display as Manchester United defeated PSG 2-1

Axel Tuanzebe produced a fantastic display as Manchester United defeated PSG 2-1

What a difference a year makes. Tuanzebe was outstanding for United, shackling Mbappe and leading the charge to stifle PSG’s heavyweight attack. Marcus Rashford’s goal snatched the three points for United, but the following day Tuanzebe was rightly receiving all the plaudits. Something says it won’t be another 10-month wait for his next United appearance.

And it isn’t the first eye-catching achievement of Tuanzebe’s career, even if United games have been hard to come by.  In 2018, Tuanzebe landed an official Guinness World Record… for the fastest game of Hungry Hungry Hippos ever, completed by clearing the table in just 17.36 seconds!

Tuanzebe won a Guinness World Record for his Hungry Hungry Hippos game in 2018

Tuanzebe won a Guinness World Record for his Hungry Hungry Hippos game in 2018

Chelsea’s Malang Sarr struggles for Porto at City 

Some Chelsea fans might have had a keen eye on Manchester City’s game against Porto on Wednesday night. Summer signing Malang Sarr – a free transfer from Nice – was playing for the Portuguese side, which is where he is spending the season on loan.

Coming up against City’s front line of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan is no easy task, however. Porto took a shock early lead through Luis Diaz in the 14th minute but City came storming back with goals from Aguero, Gundogan and substitute Ferran Torres.

Sarr was in a back three alongside former Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba and veteran Portuguese defender Pepe, but the trio were unable to hold Pep Guardiola’s men back from victory.

Malanga Sarr is on loan at Porto from Chelsea and played against Man City on Wednesday

Malanga Sarr is on loan at Porto from Chelsea and played against Man City on Wednesday

Angelino can’t stop scoring

Former Manchester City full back Angelino is having a great time with RB Leipzig – and at present, he is in a patch of scoring form that puts their strikers to shame.

The 23-year-old scored both goals for Leipzig as they ran out 2-0 winners against Istanbul Basaksehir in the other game in Manchester United’s Champions League group.

Angelino has now scored four goals in his last three games, after also hitting the back of the net in Leipzig’s Bundesliga wins over Schalke and Augsburg.

Defender Angelino has scored four goals in his last three matches for RB Leipzig

Defender Angelino has scored four goals in his last three matches for RB Leipzig

Jota really IS a pressing machine

Jurgen Klopp made an eye-catching triple substitution on the hour mark of Liverpool’s 1-0 win away to Ajax, hauling off his front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for Takumi Minamino, Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota.

It was a smart move, allowing Liverpool to covert to a 4-5-1 without possession to offer extra defensive security. The back-up front three all impressed but it was Jota who particularly caught the eye with his energy off the ball.

Klopp’s assistant Pepjin Linders once described Jota as ‘a pressing machine’ and his appearance at Ajax was as a solid an example as we have seen in his Liverpool career to date to back up his words. His passing was also smart and he created a chance for Georginio Wijnaldum towards the end after a brilliant run forward.

Liverpool have five games in 15 days ahead of them – don’t be surprised to see Jota starting sooner than later. 

Diogo Jota (right) presses hard on Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on Wednesday night

Diogo Jota (right) presses hard on Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on Wednesday night

Dominik Szoboszlai – Salzburg’s next star?

Minamino earned his Liverpool move last January after impressing against Jurgen Klopp’s men for Red Bull Salzburg. Erling Haaland was the diamond of that Salzburg team last year and has reached new heights since signing for Borussia Dortmund in the same window that Minamino departed.

On Wednesday, Salzburg returned to the Champions League with another player catching the eye – 19-year-old striker Dominik Szoboszlai. He scored twice as Salzburg drew 2-2 at home to Lokomotiv Moscow. It takes his tally to five goals in nine games so far this season for club and country – he represents Hungary on the international stage.

Dominik Szoboszlai, 19, has made an impressive start to the 2020-21 season at Salzburg

Dominik Szoboszlai, 19, has made an impressive start to the 2020-21 season at Salzburg

Beware Lazio’s counter-attack

It was a welcome return to the Champions League for Lazio, who were making their first appearance in the competition after a 13-year absence. They recorded an eye-catching 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund but it is the manner of the display that will give opposing managers food for thought in the coming weeks.

The Italian side picked Dortmund off on the counter-attack to a devastating extent on Tuesday night. Lazio only had 35 per cent of possession at home against the Germans, but goals from Ciro Immobile, Marwin Hitz and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro ensured it was a winning return to the Champions League for Simone Inzaghi’s men.

Lazio's slick counter-attacking game saw them run out 3-1 winners against Borussia Dortmund

Lazio’s slick counter-attacking game saw them run out 3-1 winners against Borussia Dortmund

Ansu Fati sets a new Champions League record 

And this is one that neither his team-mate Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will be able to ever beat.

When the Barcelona protege scored the second goal in his team’s 5-1 win over Ferencvaros, he became the first ever player to score more than one goal in the Champions League before turning 18. The strike was already his fourth for Barcelona this season.

Fati turns 18 on October 31. 

Ansu Fati is the only player in Champions League history to score twice before turning 18

Ansu Fati is the only player in Champions League history to score twice before turning 18

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Steven Gerrard hails Kemar Roofe strike as ‘the best goal he’s seen http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/steven-gerrard-hails-kemar-roofe-strike-as-the-best-goal-hes-seen/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/steven-gerrard-hails-kemar-roofe-strike-as-the-best-goal-hes-seen/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:27:18 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27041

‘The best goal I’ve seen live!’: Steven Gerrard hails Kemar Roofe’s incredible long range strike from inside his own half as ‘a moment of genius’

  • Rangers’ Kemar Roofe scored from inside his own half to secure the 2-0 win
  • Steven Gerrard says it’s the best goal he’s seen live since being a professional
  • Tensions ran high as Roofe was booked in the aftermath of his goal celebration 

Steven Gerrard hailed Kemar Roofe’s moment of genius and insisted he had never seen a better goal live than the Rangers frontman’s stunning strike from inside his own half that sank Standard Liege in rain-soaked Belgium.

The Ibrox boss has a catalogue of impressive goals from his playing days but he admitted none stack up to the effort which put the seal on a 2-0 Europa League triumph at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne.

James Tavernier fired Gers ahead from the penalty spot as the Light Blues claimed their first away win in a group-stage clash since Walter Smith’s team beat Lyon back in 2007.

Kemar Roofe’s stoppage-time strike from the halfway line sank Standard Liege on Thursday

But it was Roofe’s incredible effort which has snatched the headlines, and Gerrard insists the former Leeds man deserves his moment in the spotlight.

He said: ‘None of my goals were in that league.

‘I think it was a moment of genius. I’ve been lucky enough to watch it five or six times since the end of the game and it’s the actual build-up and preparation before the strike.

‘He knocks two people off the ball with sheer strength on a very difficult pitch in the worst conditions I’ve seen.

Boss Steven Gerrard says it's the best goal he's seen live since being a professional

Boss Steven Gerrard says it’s the best goal he’s seen live since being a professional

‘Then he manages to take someone on – and to then have the vision and audacity to try the strike in the first place, I just think that’s a moment of genius.

‘And it’s probably the best goal I’ve seen live – and I’ve been a professional since 1998. Unbelievable strike and he deserves all the plaudits for it.’

But Roofe’s celebrations did not go down well with the hosts.

The former Anderlecht striker was booked in the aftermath of his goal but a member of the Liege back-room staff took matters into their own hands as they confronted him at full-time, sparking a touch-line quarrel between the teams.

Gerrard has no idea if that bust-up will see his team get into trouble but says he will talk to Roofe.

Roofe's celebrations did not go down well with the Standard Liege players towards the end

Roofe’s celebrations did not go down well with the Standard Liege players towards the end

‘I can’t control what comes our way from that,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I’d describe it as ugly. I think it’s too harsh. I think it was a little something or nothing.

‘They were disappointed in Kemar’s celebration. OK but Kemar was punished for that and that’s for me to deal with and for me to handle.

‘They are obviously very frustrated that they have been beaten for the first time in six years on their home patch.

‘It’s not nice to lose football matches, especially when you’re the favourites to win them. We can understand the frustrations but it was disappointing. We thought it could have been avoided.’

Roofe’s goal put the seal on a 2-0 victory in the Europa League tie against the Belgians

The final 20 minutes were played out on a swamp as storm clouds deluged the pitch.

But Gerrard was delighted with the way his defensive dam held firm in the final stages.

He said: ‘I had to say certain things at half-time. We needed to be better in possession.

‘I thought our organisation was good and besides a couple of crosses that we allowed to come in, I thought we were OK from a defensive point of view.

‘We needed to show more style and to believe in ourselves more once we regained the ball, so we could keep it for longer periods.

The Ibrox club rode their luck at times in a rain-soaked Liege on Thursday night

The Ibrox club rode their luck at times in a rain-soaked Liege on Thursday night

‘So we had to have a little go at half-time but the first 20 minutes of the second half we were outstanding, more like the Rangers that I like to see with style and a real possession-based approach when we win the ball back.

‘But then obviously the weather changed dramatically and the conditions became unplayable and very unpredictable.

‘It became about who was going to manage the conditions better from there on in.

‘But you have to give the players credit because I think you saw a different side to us in the final 25 minutes. We dug in, we handled the conditions and we thoroughly deserved a big win at a difficult place to come.’

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MARTIN SAMUEL: Greed killed Super Rugby… football is in danger of following suit http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-samuel-greed-killed-super-rugby-football-is-in-danger-of-following-suit/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-samuel-greed-killed-super-rugby-football-is-in-danger-of-following-suit/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:25:35 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27038

It was quite an exciting Champions League draw on Thursday. There were four clubs — Rennes, Krasnodar, Istanbul Basaksehir and Midtjylland — who had never reached the group stage of the competition before. Ferencvaros had not passed this way since the 1995-96 season.

By comparison, last year only Atalanta from Serie A were new — although none of this season’s entries are expected to emulate their feat in making the last eight at the first time of asking.

All were pooled in pot four, bar Krasnodar in pot three, and none are greatly fancied to progress from their groups. One might conclude, then, that it was same old, same old. This, plus the standard avarice, is why there is talk of change.   

FC Krasnodar, of Russia, are one of four new teams in the Champions League this season

The richest clubs, particularly those in mainland Europe with predictable domestic competitions such as Juventus, want more games, qualification guarantees and less opportunity for interlopers.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli even suggested Atalanta should not have been permitted entry last season, despite qualifying by right, and should have been directed instead to the Europa League.

The same would apply, presumably, if a club from outside the established elite — like Everton, or Leicester — ever muscled their way into the Premier League’s top four again.

But from the southern hemisphere arrives a cautionary tale. South Africa has voted to pull its four major franchises out of Super Rugby this season. They will instead seek to enter the PRO14, the league made up of clubs from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy. 

And while Covid-19 and Super Rugby’s uncertain future is the tipping point, this departure has been coming for several years. By far the best competition in club rugby, which began with multiple franchises from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, it has been steadily undermined by format changes and supposed improvements, all undertaken in pursuit of money, but ultimately ruinous to the product. Might Europe’s elite football clubs detect a lesson here?

Super Rugby began in 1996, the year after the sport turned professional, and there had quite literally never been anything like it. Skill levels were off the charts, so too was the scoring.

At the time when England, and much of the northern hemisphere, were still sticking it up the jumper, Super Rugby moved so fast that it drew comparisons with basketball. Yes, defence sometimes took a back seat, but the scores and excitement levels were astonishing.

Teams like Juventus want more matches and less new faces entering the elite club competition

Teams like Juventus want more matches and less new faces entering the elite club competition

In week one: Wellington Hurricanes 28 Auckland Blues 36, Natal Sharks 28 Western Province 21, Waikato Chiefs 27 Canterbury Crusaders 26. The lowest-scoring game still had 22 points, the highest had 74. And on it continued. Week three: ACT Brumbies 40 Auckland Blues 34. Week seven: Otago Highlanders 33 Natal Sharks 32. Week 10: Auckland Blues 56 NSW Waratahs 44.  

It was known as Super 12 back then, and franchises were divided rationally: five from New Zealand, four from South Africa, three from Australia. But greed got in the way. South Africa and Australia wanted a bigger cut, so 12 became 14, and then 15 in 2011 when all three nations were given five franchises, split into three conferences.

By 2016, the tight, elite Super 12 had grown to 18, with six South African franchises and teams from Argentina and Japan. Yet Australia and South Africa were losing players to the northern hemisphere and couldn’t sustain the quality of the Super Rugby brand.

At one stage Australian franchises lost 40 consecutive matches to franchises from New Zealand. Super Rugby, the brightest star in the firmament of the club game, had become boring.

Attendances dwindled, TV viewers deserted. In Australia, A-League football grew bigger than domestic Super Rugby. Franchises from New Zealand have won 17 of the 24 editions.

Super Rugby's decline should serve as a warning to sides wanting a closed Champions League

Super Rugby’s decline should serve as a warning to sides wanting a closed Champions League

And that is how it happens. That is how even the greatest format, the blue riband competition, can be brought low by greed and mismanagement. Plans to remove the meritocracy from the Champions League would be similarly disastrous, because who wants to watch a bad AC Milan or Arsenal team out of their depth, simply because of ancient history?

Who wants to watch the same match-ups over and over again, always knowing the outcome? Who wants to endure an overblown fixture list, full of meaningless walkovers and dead rubbers to decide what we can already safely assume?

In the demise of Super Rugby is a message for football. If there’s a way to build it, there’s a way to destroy it. All that is required are leaders foolish enough to let that happen.

Lookman didn’t fool Gareth 

Ademola Lookman, who was recently angling for a call-up to the full England squad by toying with the idea of declaring for Nigeria, is now with Fulham.

He disappointed for RB Leipzig last season and has been put out on loan. Just as well Gareth Southgate is made of sterner stuff and has never shown any interest in over-promoting a young player as an insurance policy. The same should apply to Tariq Lamptey, courted by Ghana, no matter his brilliant start to the season.

Kane should be nowhere near Wales friendly

Gareth Southgate could argue that it is Tottenham, not England who have played Harry Kane into the ground this season. 

England started him in both their competitive matches, but Tottenham have subsequently used Kane for all but six minutes in the Premier League, for 120 minutes in the Europa League — not including Thursday’s night’s fixture — and brought him on for 20 minutes in the EFL Cup.

Yet Jose Mourinho is right. Southgate has to exercise caution with Kane over the next two weeks, starting with the friendly against Wales on Thursday. He should be nowhere near it. Not in the team, not on the bench. That way, Kane plays against Manchester United on Sunday, then gets the week off before the match with Belgium. 

England must prepare for the European Championship to be played next summer, meaning Southgate’s players will have been going for close on 15 months straight. Kane, particularly, could be spent. Belgium and Denmark are competitive fixtures and England will want their captain. Wales is irrelevant for established players.

In such extreme circumstances, it is hard to comprehend why it even remains a date.

Harry Kane (left) should be nowhere near Gareth Southgate's (right) team to take on Wales

Harry Kane (left) should be nowhere near Gareth Southgate’s (right) team to take on Wales 

Clive wasn’t telling porkies 

Clive Tyldesley has reportedly been sacked from the commentator’s role at Soccer Aid for ‘fat-shaming’ two of the players. One of those offended was Amin Mohamed, who may be better known by his stage name: Chunkz. What image does ‘Chunkz’ conjure in the mind? Probably a person with the physique of Amin Mohamed.

No doubt Tyldesley thought he was joining in a joke rather than creating one. Indeed, if Chunkz did object, it is another reason why comedy in this stupid country is dying. Over to Monty Python at a travel agent in 1972.

Customer: ‘Hello, my name’s Smoketoomuch.’

Agent: ‘What?’

Customer: ‘Smoketoomuch. Mr Smoketoomuch.’

Agent: ‘Well — ha, ha, ha — you’d better cut down a little then!’

Customer: ‘I’m sorry?’

Agent: ‘You’d better cut down a little then!’

Customer [after long pause]: ‘Oh, I see. Smoke too much – so I’d better cut down a little then.’

Agent: ‘Yes. Ha ha ha. I bet you get people making jokes about your name all the time.’

Customer: ‘No, it’s never occurred to me before.’

Why copy Pep? Wilder is true king of defence

The recruitment of Ruben Dias from Benfica takes Pep Guardiola’s spending on defence at Manchester City to £408million in four years.

It is a great irony, then, that the biggest fault identified during his time at the club is of defensive frailty. Sheffield United, meanwhile, let in fewer goals than any club outside the top three last season, only six more than Liverpool.

Chris Wilder’s five-man back line cost less than £5m. So no surprises whose defensive strategies football slavishly follows. Clue: not Wilder’s. At Liverpool last Monday, Arsenal were knocking it about around their own six-yard box in what looked like a bad Manchester City tribute act. 

Ruben Dias joined Man City for £64m taking Pep Guardiola's spending on defenders to £408m

Ruben Dias joined Man City for £64m taking Pep Guardiola’s spending on defenders to £408m

No player, not even the cavalier David Luiz, looks happy to have the ball at his feet in that area against Liverpool’s high press, when often a throw-in halfway up the pitch might be re-imagined as a good outcome. Even when Arsenal did get out it was as much by luck as judgment — yet this tactic is being replicated throughout football.

What is the point in receiving the ball so deep? Further up the field, a player has options. He can go back, move sideways, push forward. Luiz, by contrast, would take the ball in a position where to turn backwards would be a corner, and to pass wide would find a full back hugging the touchline equally trapped. So, forward or bust, and that was where Liverpool stood grouped.

Yet this is Guardiola’s way and no-one dare challenge. Last season’s defence cost in excess of £300m and conceded four goals fewer than Sheffield United. Maybe if Guardiola took to copying what Wilder did everyone would be at it.

There are lots of billionaires in the EFL, why bail them out?

In 2018, Peter Lim was described by Forbes as a billionaire. He owns 40 per cent of Salford City. Peter Swann, who owns Scunthorpe, has estimated wealth in the region of £400m. Michael Eisner at Portsmouth is another billionaire, while Marcus Evans of Ipswich is not far short. 

And these are just a sprinkling of the owners outside the Championship. Not representative of all, but not wholly unrepresentative either. 

As for inside the Championship, the new consortium that owns Barnsley has a collective wealth of approximately £7bn, while the Coates family own Stoke, and Bet365, where chief executive Denise Coates has paid herself £588m over the last two years. Stephen Lansdown, owner of Bristol City, is another in the billionaire bracket, as is Lakshmi Mittal at Queens Park Rangers. 

Peter Lim (left), who has stakes in Valencia and Salford City, has been valued as a billionaire

Peter Lim (left), who has stakes in Valencia and Salford City, has been valued as a billionaire

Operating at more than 10 times the estimated worth of Mike Garlick at Burnley would be the owners of Birmingham, Cardiff, Derby, Nottingham Forest and Preston — and maybe Huddersfield, too. So it is not as simple as pointing to a pyramid, and saying Garlick’s club has to cut costs, to help out Lim at Salford. 

The Premier League has a pyramid, too, and those at the base of it, over by the corners, are much closer to the Championship clubs than those at the apex. They fear going short and empowering hungry rivals who will take their place. They resent the pressure being applied from below over curtailed seasons and relegation. 

Why should they help richer owners who would swap places in a heartbeat? Brentford collected £27.7m from Aston Villa for Ollie Watkins last month. Do they need a bail-out? Norwich, boosted by parachute payments, fought off Barcelona to keep Max Aarons. They can’t be needing further Premier League largesse, surely?

And, no it isn’t the best look, spending £1bn on transfers as the Premier League have done, while clubs below fight for survival. But the BBC can’t survive by getting rid of all the actors to save administrative staff. Cut to a framing shot of Albert Square, empty, and then the titles roll. 

The playing part of the business, those huge expenses, have to be maintained and standards must be kept. Chelsea and Manchester City are still striving to catch Liverpool, Leeds and Fulham want to remain in the division, Brighton and Newcastle fear another flirtation with relegation.

In fact, while recognising the moral imperative, it is easy to see why the Premier League clubs look after number one: so they don’t end up back in the Championship, needing a bail-out.

Norwich held off Barcelona interest in Max Aarons and so cannot be struggling financially

Norwich held off Barcelona interest in Max Aarons and so cannot be struggling financially

Murray not to blame 

Mats Wilander is wrong. Emerging young players are not being blocked by Andy Murray taking up offers of wildcard entries. Any young man of great promise will still find a way in, and there is little more noble in sport than Murray’s stubborn refusal to let arthritic hips decide when he calls it a day. He is not damaging his reputation by trying, he is enhancing it. 

This is no grand farewell tour. Murray doesn’t lark around, he isn’t playing for fun. The French Open draw against Stan Wawrinka was wickedly hard, given it was Murray’s first match on clay in three years, and while he was perceived to be quieter than usual in defeat, that should not be mistaken for nonchalance.

Just to get to here has taken physical courage beyond the realm of common imagination and to watch that man compete again — even if it is just the fight to progress beyond the first round for now — remains one of sport’s great spectacles. Of course Murray merits his place. If the rest of British tennis had his resolve, it would not have been a first round wipe-out in Paris. 

Mats Wilander was wrong to suggest Andy Murray is blocking the path of young tennis stars

Mats Wilander was wrong to suggest Andy Murray is blocking the path of young tennis stars

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Tottenham turn attentions to new deal for Son Heung-min http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/tottenham-turn-attentions-to-new-deal-for-son-heung-min/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/tottenham-turn-attentions-to-new-deal-for-son-heung-min/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:23:29 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27035

Tottenham are prioritising a new deal for Son Heung-min after the attacker’s impressive run of form with South Korean expected to see sharp increase on £150,000-per-week wages

  • Tottenham will turn their attentions to securing the future of Son Heung-min 
  • The Korean has become the priority with the club wanting him to extend deal
  • He currently earns in region of £150,000-per-week but can expect a pay-rise  

Tottenham will turn their attentions to securing the futures of their current squad, with Son Heung-min in line for a new contract.

Spurs navigated a successful transfer window, signing seven first-team players – culminating in last Thursday’s capture of Wales central defender Joe Rodon from Swansea.

But the club will now focus on trying to renegotiate the contracts of Jose Mourinho’s current squad, with signing Son to an extension understood to be a priority.

Tottenham will turn their attentions to securing the future of attacker Son Heung-min

Manager Jose Mourinho wants to make Son's contract extension a priority for the club

Manager Jose Mourinho wants to make Son’s contract extension a priority for the club

The 28-year-old has been a key player for Mourinho – who will hold an inquest into Sunday’s capitulation against West Ham at the training ground on Tuesday – since his arrival last year, scoring 18 goals for the Portuguese.

The Korean’s importance to Tottenham on the pitch has been underlined in recent weeks, Son scoring eight goals in seven games since the start of the current campaign.

Equally, however, Son retains a major significance within Tottenham’s lucrative commercial strategy given his iconic status in south-east Asia.

Son will enter the final two years of his contract at the end of this season. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has an unwritten rule in that he does not allow players to enter the final two years of their playing deals to avoid any possibility of losing them on free transfers.

The forward currently earns in the region of £150,000-per-week, but can expect a pay rise

The forward currently earns in the region of £150,000-per-week, but can expect a pay rise

Christian Eriksen was allowed to enter the final 12 months of his deal last season, Spurs eventually letting the Dane leave for Inter Milan in a cut-price deal of around £17million – way below the playmaker’s market value.

Indeed, Tottenham are keen to avoid any uncertainty regarding Son’s future at the club given his huge importance and the fact he is in the prime of his career.

The forward currently earns in the region of £150,000-per-week, but can expect a sharp increase as Spurs look to cement his position.

The futures of Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela, whose contracts expire at the end of next season, are also likely to be discussed though there is no indication yet that extensions are imminent for either player. 

Meanwhile, Mourinho will today collectively address his squad for the first time since watching his team squander a three goal lead against the Hammers.

The futures of Serge Aurier (pictured) and Erik Lamela are also likely to be discussed

The futures of Serge Aurier (pictured) and Erik Lamela are also likely to be discussed

Spurs were cruising but three goals in the final 10 minutes saw Mourinho’s side snatch a draw from the jaws of victory.

Sportsmail understands the Special One largely kept his counsel in the aftermath of Sunday’s collapse but will hold a debrief with his players – most of whom were off on Monday – on Tuesday in which he will discuss the circumstances surrounding the draw.

Mourinho said after the game that his side were not ‘psychologically strong enough’ to cope with West Ham’s late onslaught but his squad were largely kept guessing on his feelings.

The Tottenham boss will then turn his attentions to preparing his team for Thursday’s Europa League opener against LASK, in which Gareth Bale is expected to make his first start for the club since re-signing on loan last month.

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Ollie Watkins: Aston Villa striker’s rapid rise from non-league to Premier League http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/ollie-watkins-aston-villa-strikers-rapid-rise-from-non-league-to-premier-league/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/ollie-watkins-aston-villa-strikers-rapid-rise-from-non-league-to-premier-league/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:21:29 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27032
Ollie Watkins marked his Premier League debut with a perfect hat-trick against Liverpool last month

When he was sweeping the floor of a non-league changing room, the prospect of scoring a perfect hat-trick against the Premier League champions would have felt like the stuff of fantasy for a teenage Ollie Watkins.

But the 24-year-old had never been one for giving up on turning dreams into reality.

Rejected at his first trial with a professional club, Watkins’ rise to prominence is as impressive as it has been swift, becoming Aston Villa’s club-record signing at £28m.

From knock-back to left-back

Born in Newton Abbot in Devon, Watkins was one of many hopefuls keen to impress during a trial at one of the clubs local to him – Exeter City – but, aged nine, was initially not taken on.

“There was just the feeling he was not ready,” Simon Hayward, head of Exeter’s academy at the time, told BBC Sport.

“The decision was nothing to do with his technical ability. Coming in with us would have meant training three times a week for around an hour and a half, while our games would all involve quite a bit of travel.

Ollie Watkins
Despite his prolific scoring record in recent years, Watkins’ breakthrough at Exeter was as a left-back

“I didn’t think he was ready for the commitment at that age that would come with the academy.”

Hayward and his team kept tabs on the young Watkins and one year later decided he was ready to be a given a chance.

“Luckily I had that time to improve and become a better player,” said Watkins.

While his favoured role was as an attacking left-winger – the position his idol Thierry Henry started in – Exeter were keen for Watkins to develop the other parts of his game as well.

“The academy programme was designed to create players who could play in multiple positions,” Hayward added.

“You never know where an opening is going to come in for your first-team debut and if you have only played one position, then you are very limited.”

As Watkins got older and approached the age players usually started breaking into the first team, he was sent on loan to non-league Weston-super-Mare to gain experience.

“It is a bit like driving – you really learn once you have passed your test,” said Weston-super-Mare’s academy senior phase manager Mark McKeever, who worked with Watkins during his time at the club.

Weston-super-Mare FC's ground
Watkins’ first taste of first-team football came at non-league Weston-super-Mare FC

“Football is a bit similar. You get a real grounding in senior football. He made mistakes but he would always learn from them very quickly. Ollie was a very intelligent player.”

Watkins scored 10 goals in those 25 games but, even then, progression to the Exeter first team was not straightforward.

His first real opportunity with the Grecians came during a pre-season tour of Scotland in 2015.

Watkins was not originally scheduled to go with the first team but an injury to the club’s left-back provided an opening, although he would have to play in a position he was unfamiliar with.

But his willingness to adapt caught the eye and he was later tried out in midfield by then manager Paul Tisdale.

“I think it was a little bit make or break,” said Hayward.

“He was told that he needed to make an impact on the game from a defensive point of view or he wasn’t going to play. All of a sudden, he was the hardest working player in the team week in week out.

“We would show videos to the academy lads of Ollie working his socks off. He would run past three or four team-mates to support an attack and would then be running past those three or four players again to get back and help defend. His work-rate was phenomenal.”

Sweeping floors and making coffees

At Weston-super-Mare, he would help sweep the floor of the changing rooms while, shortly after breaking through at Exeter, it would be his role to make coffees for his team-mates and the coaching staff during away trips.

It was those sorts of tasks he would later say helped keep him grounded, and was a continuation of the work done at the Exeter academy to ensure players developed into well-rounded individuals.

“We wanted decent young men to be coming through the academy,” Hayward said.

“The reality is most of them were not going to make it because of how competitive trying to become a footballer is. Knowing that most were not going to make it we didn’t want football to be the be-all-and-end-all, it was about good people first.”

Watkins could not have asked for a better footballing education.

Between 2014 and 2018, Exeter’s academy graduates earned the club in excess of £5m in transfer fees, with Chelsea’s Sheffield United loanee Ethan Ampadu, and Swansea’s Matt Grimes also getting their grounding at St James Park.

Non-league to Premier League – England next?

Ollie Watkins
Watkins scored 25 goals in his first full season as a centre-forward

In his breakthrough year at Exeter, Watkins scored eight goals in 20 games and followed that up with 13 in 45 games the following season.

A move to Brentford came next and when striker Neal Maupay joined Brighton on the back of hitting 25 goals in the 2018-19 season, Watkins replaced the Frenchman in a more central role.

The impact of that switch was immediate as Watkins matched Maupay’s tally the following season.

“He’s driving the team,” Brentford boss Thomas Frank said after Watkins hit his 25th goal. “Look out there how hard he works – it’s a joy to have a striker like that. He’s a coach’s dream.

“He’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest, working offensive players in the league, and he’s also the top scorer. That’s not a bad combination.”

After marking his Premier League debut in explosive fashion, Watkins has been backedexternal-link to earn recognition from England boss Gareth Southgate in the near future.

Having already turned one dream into a reality through hard work and dedication, it is hard not to see Watkins doing the same again.

Around the BBC iPlayer bannerAround the BBC iPlayer footer ]]> http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/ollie-watkins-aston-villa-strikers-rapid-rise-from-non-league-to-premier-league/feed/ 0 Real Madrid great Guti tells old club to buy Neymar AND Mbappe… as he mocks Griezmann! http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/real-madrid-great-guti-tells-old-club-to-buy-neymar-and-mbappe-as-he-mocks-griezmann/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/real-madrid-great-guti-tells-old-club-to-buy-neymar-and-mbappe-as-he-mocks-griezmann/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:20:28 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27029

‘I’d sign Neymar AND Kylian Mbappe for Real Madrid’: Guti urges his old club to go for ambitious double swoop… and takes cheeky swipe at Antoine Griezmann by saying all he wants is for Barcelona to keep him!

  • The first Clasico of the campaign takes place on Saturday at 3pm UK time
  • Real Madrid and Barcelona have both suffered shock losses in the build-up
  • Zinedine Zidane’s men were also humiliated by Shakhtar Donetsk in Europe 
  • Guti had a suggestion for how Real can improve… and took a swipe at old rivals

Real Madrid legend Guti has revealed that he would like to see his old club sign Kylian Mbappe and Neymar as he mocked Antoine Griezmann ahead of the first Clasico of the season.  

Zinedine Zidane’s side have been in awful form since the international break, suffering a shock 1-0 defeat against Cadiz at the weekend before being embarrassed in their opening Champions League group game 3-2 by Shakhtar Donetsk, who had eight players missing due to positive Covid-19 tests. 

Barcelona meanwhile got back to winning ways with a 5-1 win over Ferencvaros on Tuesday after a 1-1 draw with Sevilla and a 1-0 loss to Getafe in their first two October matches. 

Guti wants Real Madrid to sign both of PSG’s superstars, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe

Antoine Griezmann has not been in the best form for Barcelona and Guti stuck the boot in

Antoine Griezmann has not been in the best form for Barcelona and Guti stuck the boot in

As the biggest game in Spanish football approaches, Guti couldn’t resist a dig at Griezmann, who has been disgruntled by new Barca boss Ronald Koeman’s decision to play him on the right of a three behind Lionel Messi rather than as a No 10. 

‘I’d sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for Real Madrid and for Barcelona I wouldn’t sign anyone, just for Griezmann to stay,’ joked the Spaniard, who won five La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues with Real and made more than 500 appearances for the club. 

Sadly for Real fans, the chances of either of the pair moving to Spain in the near future are slim to none, with the club not making a single signing over the summer as their finances have been severely squeezed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Asked who would be make the difference in the grudge match at the Nou Camp, Guti responded: ‘There are many great players in this game, but I’m going for the youngsters.

‘Surely it’ll be Ansu Fati at Barcelona and Vinicius [Junior] at Real Madrid [who can make an impact]. They’re very talented players who are going to bring a lot to LaLiga.’ 

Guti did, however, tip Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati as a potential Clasico match-winner

Guti did, however, tip Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati as a potential Clasico match-winner

Fati is one of the world’s best teenagers and the 17-year-old bagged his fourth goal of the season so far against Ferencvaros, with Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele also getting on the scoresheet. 

Messi last scored in a Clasico in May 2018 and Koeman acknowledged on Monday that his talisman had not been at his best so far this term, with the Argentinian’s performance against the Hungarian outfit certainly representing an improvement.

Real had the upper hand in the fixture as they won LaLiga last season, keeping out their bitter rivals in a goalless draw in Catalonia before beating them 2-0 at the Bernabeu thanks to strikes by Vinicius Junior and Mariano.

Guti won three Champions Leagues and five LaLiga titles during his time at the Bernabeu

Guti won three Champions Leagues and five LaLiga titles during his time at the Bernabeu

Los Blancos look set to be without Eden Hazard until late November at the earliest as his injury nightmare at the club continues and will be sweating on the fitness of Sergio Ramos after the club captain missed Wednesday’s humiliation against Shakhtar following a knock to his left knee which forced him off at half-time against Cadiz.    

Barcelona’s only likely absentee is Jordi Alba, who hobbled off against Sevilla with a hamstring injury on October 4 and has not featured since. 



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MARTIN SAMUEL: Champions League carve up is in place to reward European elite for their failures http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-samuel-champions-league-carve-up-is-in-place-to-reward-european-elite-for-their-failures/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-samuel-champions-league-carve-up-is-in-place-to-reward-european-elite-for-their-failures/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:18:29 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27026

It would have taken the much-quoted heart of stone not to laugh on Wednesday night as Real Madrid, peddlers of the European Super League, traipsed in at half-time 3-0 down to Covid-stricken Shakhtar Donetsk.

Equally when, in second-half injury time, they thought they had levelled only for the goal to be — correctly — disallowed for offside. Just one thing could have made it better: had any of this mattered.

As it was, Real Madrid lost the first game of the Champions League group stage, and there really is nothing more meaningless; unless it is the fifth or sixth matches of the Champions League group stage with your team already through, or out. 

The Champions League 32-team round of the competition wasn’t designed for excitement, but to give Europe’s elite more matches and the freedom to be useless and still qualify

The 32-team round of the competition wasn’t designed for excitement, but to give the elite more matches and the freedom to be useless and still qualify.

Now imagine how that will play out if UEFA expand this to 36 teams, and schedules of 10 matches each? How many games will Real Madrid be able to lose and make it through then? 

Atalanta got out of their group last season with seven points from six matches, which would equate to four wins in a 10-game format. So if the richest get their way, they might be able to lose six matches in the re-shaped Champions League, and still progress to the knockout stages.

Across the previous five seasons, Champions League groups have included the following results: RB Leipzig 0 Lyon 2, Napoli 1 Liverpool 0, Red Star Belgrade 2 Liverpool 0, Paris-Saint Germain 2 Liverpool 1, Paris-Saint Germain 3 Bayern Munich 0, Atletico Madrid 2 Roma 0, Tottenham 3 Real Madrid 1, Atletico Madrid 1 Benfica 2, Manchester City 1 Juventus 2, Juventus 1 Manchester City 0, Arsenal 2 Bayern Munich 0 and Bayer Leverkusen 3 Monaco 0. 

And what do those results have in common? Each time, the losing team went on to reach at least the semi-finals. In Liverpool’s case, when they won it in 2018-19, they began by losing three of six group matches.

So the elite have already removed as much potential jeopardy as is possible from a competition supposedly worthy of champions, and now they wish to dial it down even more. Worse, they wish to do so using the ‘Swiss system’ structure prevalent in American sports leagues.

It is so called because it was introduced for a chess tournament in Zurich in 1895, but it has subsequently been used in many of the greatest sports: badminton, croquet, curling, Scrabble, Pokemon, the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game and ultimate frisbee.

The Swiss system is utilised when there are too many competitors for a round-robin. Instead, after initial pairings decided by seeding or a draw, opponents are matched according to ability. Winners play winners, losers play losers and, as rounds progress, the ties are decided by those closest on cumulative rankings. 

Everybody does not play everybody, but the schedule is devised for maximum fairness. So that won’t be happening in the Champions League where seeding is invariably used to protect the richest, rather than make them in any way vulnerable. 

Real Madrid were rocked by Shakhtar, but the system means they still have lots of chances

Real Madrid were rocked by Shakhtar, but the system means they still have lots of chances

If each club plays 10 of 35 possible opponents — and not home and away — they might sling in a couple of marquee fixtures for the broadcasters, but nothing will be left to chance. 

This is to guarantee the same old names reach the last 16, as they do now. Last season’s Champions League knockout stage contained 11 of the 16 clubs that had made it through the previous season, and eight of that 11 were present the year before, too. It was 1996-97 when Real Madrid were last not involved in the Champions League knockout round, and that was because the club did not qualify for the competition at all.

Since the Champions League has included a group stage, Real Madrid have never failed to progress once involved. If they are in it, they’re going through: because in Europe everyone plays by the rules of the elite.

As they will again, for while the creation of a closed-shop European Super League may be a hollow threat and more of a negotiating tool, the architects of Project Big Picture are clearing the League Cup out for something, and it is likely to be an expanded European fixture programme. Yet will it fly? People like tournaments they can understand.

One of the reasons the 39th game met such resistance is that it seemed intrinsically unfair that 19 home games and 19 away against the same opponents was being corrupted. Even if first played 20th and second played 19th, all the way through to the point where 10th met 11th, it did not seem right. And 10 matches, five home, five away, with 36 clubs having 36 different schedules will also sit uneasily.

It’s the American system? Few over here understand American systems. Try telling the average football fan that Major League Baseball comprises two 15-team leagues that play by slightly different rules, each made up of three conferences, but clubs from the different leagues do play each other in the regular season. Some of them. 

Zinedine Zidane lost the opening match of their group yet Madrid will likely still qualify

Zinedine Zidane lost the opening match of their group yet Madrid will likely still qualify

So that in 2019, the New York Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays 19 times, the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians seven times, the Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers six times, the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets four times and the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers three times. 

The Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, St Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates they did not play at all. But other teams in their league did. That’s the Swiss system.

Yet, like most of the American franchise models, it does at least strive for fairness. No team has retained the World Series since the Yankees won three straight between 1998 and 2000, and the last seven years has seen 10 different franchises in the final.

That is not the aim of Europe’s elite. Real Madrid have contested four of the last seven Champions League finals and their reaction to the appearance of new faces such as RB Leipzig, Lyon and Atalanta in 2020, has been to agitate for a European Super League by invitation only. 

If they settle for an expanded format instead, it will be skewed once more to favour the wealthiest. The only joy may be that this is one carve-up too many. When the UEFA Cup was in its death throes, one of the decisions that killed it off was a group stage that eschewed the home-and-away format.

To progress, Manchester City played FC Twente and Paris Saint-Germain at home, Schalke 04 and Racing Santander away, and one midweek did not play at all. It was a hopeless format that devalued the competition, while going against the intrinsic fairness of previous schedules.

For it isn’t football’s traditions that have grown stale. Nobody is bored by long-standing rivalries, and the idea you play once at your place and once at theirs. What is stale is this dance of the dead every few years, the same entitled clubs trying to seize a bigger share of the pot, offering nothing truly new, nothing very exciting, no risk, no danger, their fear of failure seeping from every pore. 

But not sporting failure, for they are immune to that. Real Madrid can lose to Shakhtar Donetsk and shrug because they have fixed the system. But the balance sheet, the numbers, they are not good. 

And they created this game, just as they will presume to create the next one. So they really haven’t anyone else to blame.

United debt piling 

Manchester United used to be £203.6million in debt; now they’re £474.1m in debt. 

Look, coronavirus has hit a lot of businesses hard. But just as well it’s the type of debt United and the rest of their elite allies made sure doesn’t concern UEFA’s Financial Fair Play mandarins. 

Otherwise they might be in the tiniest bit of trouble. 

Manchester United's debt has soared to £474.1m amid the coronavirus pandemic

Manchester United’s debt has soared to £474.1m amid the coronavirus pandemic

Liverpool montage strikes questionable chord 

Before Wednesday night’s match against Ajax, and for the second time this week, television viewers were treated to an emotional montage about Liverpool — all Shankly, Paisley and this means more. There was one before the Merseyside derby, too.

Yet as we now know, it’s a club owned by American venture capitalists who would sell the rest of English football, European football or your grandmother down the road if there was a buck to be made. So maybe give the string section the night off.

History points to ‘Spursy’ Spurs

Jose Mourinho was tetchy when told that losing a 3-0 lead at 81 minutes to West Ham was a little ‘Spursy’. He insisted Tottenham’s fragile history was not his concern.

Then again, on the last five occasions that a home side in England’s top division has led a league game by three goals at half-time and failed to win, three times that team has been Spurs.

Even Jose must admit: that’s a little bit Spursy.

Jose Mourinho says Tottenham's history is not his concern, but a pattern is emerging

Jose Mourinho says Tottenham’s history is not his concern, but a pattern is emerging

Wenger sees Rashford’s hunger to reach the top 

There will be an interview with Arsene Wenger in Saturday’s Daily Mail. He talks about his future, about an invitation from Daniel Levy, about Arsenal, loyalty, potato farming and, of course, sumo wrestling. You know, the usual.

He’s also head of global development for FIFA and, as such, an influential guy. When we met he had not long finished a study on the age at which the best footballers begin to stand out. Not just the good players. 

Despite his vast experience Arsene Wenger finds it difficult to predict greatness in football

Despite his vast experience Arsene Wenger finds it difficult to predict greatness in football

Wenger was talking those that travel to the very top: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry. He said that shown a group of promising 18-year-olds, even with a life immersed in football, he could not predict with any certainty who would succeed. Wenger had Lilian Thuram at Monaco at that age.

‘If you had said to me he would make 142 caps, the record for France, I would have advised you to change jobs and write about basketball,’ he said. ‘And I’ve told him that, many times. Having spent my life in football, I cannot predict at 18 who will make it. You can see who will not make it, but the rest is difficult.’

Wenger says the study shows there are two ages of separation. The first is small and occurs at 20. A group will move away from the rest. The next is at 23, and is huge. ‘Those that will make it in the top league, you might see that at 20,’ says Wenger, ‘but at 23 the ones like Messi and Ronaldo go really high up.’

Marcus Rashford is 22.

Wenger believes we will soon see whether Marcus Rashford can become the world's best

Wenger believes we will soon see whether Marcus Rashford can become the world’s best

‘I know,’ said Wenger. ‘And I think about that when I see him because we will soon find out — how high can he go? Can he go to the very top, because the talent is there, you can see it, you can smell it. Will he go as high as we all hope he can go? It is the smallest group that makes it there. If I think about Thuram, he was mentally so strong, a good combination of intelligence and motivation, leading a life focused on what he wants to achieve. This is about the mental side now.’

Wenger was speaking of Rashford the footballer, of course. But given what this remarkable young man has accomplished these last months, and what he might have done with a Government less wilfully cloth-eared, it would appear many of those qualities are already in place.

Now we wait. More from Wenger on Saturday.

Knock knock, who’s there? A farce of a doping probe 

Salwa Eid Naser, women’s world 400-metre champion and the third fastest over that distance in history, has escaped a doping ban on a technicality. 

One of her three missed tests was struck off, after it was revealed a confused doping control officer knocked on the door of a storage room containing gas canisters by mistake.

There was sympathy for the official, with a report stating the numbering on the buildings around Naser’s Bahrain residence were very confusing. It also emerged Naser had not put a phone number on the WADA athlete system and lived in an apartment with no intercom or buzzer. It was almost as if she was trying to hide.

In controversial circumstances, Salwa Eid Naser has escaped a doping ban on a technicality

In controversial circumstances, Salwa Eid Naser has escaped a doping ban on a technicality

‘I’ve never been a cheat,’ said Naser. ‘I only missed three drug tests which is normal.’

Actually, it’s not, although one is reminded of the proverb about ducks. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. 

The same logic might apply to athletes who don’t provide testers with a phone number or a doorbell.

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Martin Keown compares Arsenal signing Thomas Partey to Patrick Vieira http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-keown-compares-arsenal-signing-thomas-partey-to-patrick-vieira/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/martin-keown-compares-arsenal-signing-thomas-partey-to-patrick-vieira/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:17:28 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27023

‘One of the best debuts I’ve ever seen’: Owen Hargreaves heaps praise on Thomas Partey after his first Arsenal start as he says midfielder has passing range of a No 10… and Martin Keown compares him to Patrick Vieira!

  • Thomas Partey made his first start for Arsenal against Rapid Vienna in Europe 
  • The Gunners started their Europa League campaign with an Austrian away trip 
  • Pundits Martin Keown and Owen Hargreaves were quick to praise Partey’s effort 
  • Keown feels the Ghanaian is a player Arsenal have lacked since Patrick Vieira 
  • REPORT: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz inspire comeback 

In his first start for new club Arsenal, Thomas Partey could not have received higher praise, being compared to none other than Patrick Vieira and having Owen Hargreaves label his full debut ‘one of the best I’ve ever seen.’

The midfielder was handed his first start by manager Mikel Arteta in Thursday’s Europa League opener away to Rapid Vienna.

And Partey’s all-action approach to get stuck into the match was immediately noticed by both Martin Keown and Hargreaves, with the Arsenal legend comparing him to the iconic Vieira.

Thomas Partey was widely praised for his impressive performance on his first Arsenal start

Martin Keown has already drawn comparisons with Partey and club legend Patrick Vieira

Martin Keown has already drawn comparisons with Partey and club legend Patrick Vieira

Partey made an explosive start in central midfield, winning balls for his new side while leaving opponents for dead with the use of his power, pace and nimble footwork.

Speaking in the BT Sport studio at half time, Keown and Hargreaves wasted no time in waxing lyrical about the new No 18.

‘I think you know when you see a player immediately add that touch of class, who wants to play and makes things happen,’ Keown began.

Vieira (right) dominated in midfield during his Arsenal days and was one of the league's finest

Vieira (right) dominated in midfield during his Arsenal days and was one of the league’s finest

‘He’s so silky smooth, he’s oozed class and been everywhere.’

In full agreement with Keown’s observations, former Champions League winner Hargreaves added: ‘This guy makes it look so easy. He plays (number) 10 passes as a holding midfielder.’

‘It’s one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen.’ 

Turning his attention to some of Partey’s highlights from the first 45 minutes in Austria, Keown noted instances whereby Partey would collect the ball from team-mates deep in his own half, before driving forward with intent.

Paying the summer signing the ultimate compliment, Keown added: ‘This is where he looks like Vieira for me when he’s travelling with the ball and making things happen.’

Arsenal secured their marquee signing of Partey on deadline day, after paying the player’s £45million release clause directly to LaLiga, meaning Atletico Madrid had no option but to let their asset go.

Speaking alongside Keown, Owen Hargreaves noted how Partey passes like a playmaker

Speaking alongside Keown, Owen Hargreaves noted how Partey passes like a playmaker

The Spanish giants had been keen to retain the services of Partey, though talks regarding a new long-term lucrative contract had reached an impasse – allowing Arsenal to pounce.

Partey, 27, made his Gunners debut recently in the Premier League against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, joining the action as a second half substitute.

The Gunners went on to narrowly lose the fixture 1-0, though have started the season brightly with nine points from five matches so far. 



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Inter Milan winger Ashley Young insists he would ‘walk from Italy’ to play for Watford again http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/inter-milan-winger-ashley-young-insists-he-would-walk-from-italy-to-play-for-watford-again/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/inter-milan-winger-ashley-young-insists-he-would-walk-from-italy-to-play-for-watford-again/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:16:25 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27020

‘If I could go back and play again, I would WALK from Italy right now’: Inter Milan and former Man United winger Ashley Young says he would jump at the chance to return to Watford, having started his career there in 2003

  • Ashley Young insists he would ‘walk from Italy’ to play for Watford once again
  • The Inter Milan winger has become a regular under Antonio Conte at San Siro
  • But the 35-year-old says he would re-join the Hornets if the opportunity arose
  • Young came through the ranks and won promotion to top flight with Watford

Inter Milan winger Ashley Young has insisted that he would ‘walk from Italy’ if he was offered the chance to play for Watford again.

The 35-year-old has become a mainstay under Antonio Conte at Inter following his move from Manchester United but says he would swap the San Siro for Vicarage Road if the opportunity was presented to him.

Young rose through the academy ranks at Watford before going on to make his professional debut in 2003, helping the club reach the top flight three years later.

Inter Milan winger Ashley Young insists he would ‘walk from Italy’ to play for Watford again

And while he achieved a lot of his success later on at United – where he lifted the Premier League and Europa League – it is Watford that will always remain dear to him. 

‘If I could go back and play [at Watford] again, I would walk from Italy right now because it’s what I know, it’s where I come from and it’s what allowed me to be who I am and get where I am,’ he told Watford’s official podcast Golden Tales.

‘It gave me a humble beginning.’

Young won promotion to the Premier League with the Hornets in 2006, where he stayed for one more season before completing a move to Aston Villa.

However, the England international reveals his career could’ve taken many different paths considering the offers he had on the table at the time. 

Young came through the ranks at Watford and helped them win promotion to top flight in 2006

Young came through the ranks at Watford and helped them win promotion to top flight in 2006

Young went on to win several titles at Manchester United but it is a return to Watford he desires

Young went on to win several titles at Manchester United but it is a return to Watford he desires

‘There was interest from West Ham at the time, there was interest from Aston Villa, there was talk of Tottenham,’ he added.

‘My agent coming to tell me about the interest, as a youngster you’re like, “Wow, that’s amazing to hear” of teams of that stature wanting to talk to you. But on the other hand, it was: “No, Watford is my club, I don’t want to leave. I’ve just got promotion with a club I started at when I was 10, I’m not ready to leave.”

‘I know I’m an ambitious person, I know the Premier League is where I was going, bigger clubs, of course, but it’s not where I wanted to go. 

‘I loved everything about the club, to this day I love everything about the club. It’s what I say is home for me.’



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Sevilla’s transfer king Monchi is the secret weapon behind their success http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/sevillas-transfer-king-monchi-is-the-secret-weapon-behind-their-success/ http://www.footy.to/2020/10/23/sevillas-transfer-king-monchi-is-the-secret-weapon-behind-their-success/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 12:15:14 +0000 http://www.footy.to/?p=27017

As Chelsea made their way through £222million of new signings in the summer, Sevilla were doing what they usually do – leaning on sporting director Monchi‘s catalogue of bargains and discoveries and hoping not too many of their players were sold.

The Spanish club brought in winger Oscar Rodriguez from Real Madrid, Oussama Idrissi from AZ Alkmaar, Marcos Acuna from Sporting, and Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona, as well as making Suso’s loan from Milan permanent. They did it all for £59million (€65.5m). Chelsea spent more on Kai Havertz alone, who cost them £71m.

Monchi was ready for the inevitable belt tightening brought about by the pandemic. It helped that last summer he had, even by his high standards and incredibly successful market.

Sevilla sporting director Monchi is the secret weapon behind the club’s success

Under his stewardship, Sevilla have won nine trophies in 10 years on a shoestring budget

Under his stewardship, Sevilla have won nine trophies in 10 years on a shoestring budget

Jules Kounde arrived from Bordeaux for a club-record £23m (€25m). Within one season Manchester City were offering £50m (€55m) for him. His centre-back partner Diego Carlos, signed from Nantes for just £13m (€15m), has also been a huge success.

And at the other end of the pitch Lucas Ocampos was signed from Marseille for just £13m (€15m). He is now a first-team player for Argentina having top scored for the club last season.

Even the duds came good. Luuk de Jong struggled for goals early on but got the crucial ones as Sevilla won the Europa League.

Chelsea made their way through £222million of new signings in the summer window

Chelsea made their way through £222million of new signings in the summer window

All this has come in Monchi’s second spell at the club after a less successful spell at Roma. He was welcomed back with open arms at Sevilla – why wouldn’t he be after overseeing a period in which he turned a £182m (€200m) profit in a decade at the club, winning nine trophies along the way? He even made a masterclass documentary series to show how it’s done.

There were 13 episodes, each lasting 13 minutes because before Monchi became the club’s, and one of football’s most famous, sporting directors, he wore the No 13 shirt as reserve goalkeeper in a Sevilla side that struggled towards the end of the last century.

When he finally hung his gloves up in 2000, he took the reigns of a struggling Sevilla and with his signings turned them into one of the most successful cup sides in the whole of Europe.

‘I think the key to my success is hard work and a closeness to those I work with,’ he said in the first episode. ‘I’m a dressing room sporting director, close to the players and at the service of the coach. 

Monchi shakes hands with Jules Kounde, who arrived from Bordeaux for a club-record £23m

Monchi shakes hands with Jules Kounde, who arrived from Bordeaux for a club-record £23m

Monchi's closeness with players has helped him convince Ivan Rakitic to re-sign for the club

Monchi’s closeness with players has helped him convince Ivan Rakitic to re-sign for the club

‘I may be the one who signs the players but it’s the coach who gives the profile of what type of player he wants.’ 

That closeness to players has helped him convince many to sign and, in the case of Rakitic, to re-sign for the club.

As a player Monchi’s biggest claim to fame was that he had become close friends with Diego Maradona when the Argentine signed for Sevilla. 

When Sportsmail visited him for an interview in 2016 he proudly displayed a picture of himself with Maradona in his club office.

‘I was the last monkey – the least important member of the squad. I was only playing here because it was a first-leg cup game as you can see in the background there is hardly anyone in the stadium,’ he said. ‘Diego was at 30 per cent of his capacity by then but he was still incredible.’

Sevilla's most recent success came in August when they won the Europa League

Sevilla’s most recent success came in August when they won the Europa League

Monchi the transfer window king has long since surpassed Monchi the reserve team keeper.

‘Ask any fan what would you prefer between finishing third or winning a trophy and it’s a no contest,’ he told Sportsmail in that interview. ‘Winning things has a knock-on effect economically anyway because when you win things you are worth more money.

‘The average Sevilla fan values the fact that we have managed the club well financially but no one takes a “what great economic results” banner to the stadium. It’s about the glory.’

After hanging up his gloves up in 2000, Monchi turned Sevilla into one of Europe's elite clubs

After hanging up his gloves up in 2000, Monchi turned Sevilla into one of Europe’s elite clubs

It was about the glory again last season in the Europa League when despite having to face Manchester United in the semi-finals and Inter in the final, Sevilla still came away holding a trophy that they have now won more times than any side in Europe.

This year they go for the big one. 

‘It’s more complicated,’ Fernando said this week. ‘There are no weak sides, every team has special players.’ 

Sevilla have special players too but it’s the man who finds them and signs them who is their biggest weapon.

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