Items filtered by date: December 2017 - FinalWhistleGhana.Com

Barcelona have received one of their biggest boosts in their transfer planning as it emerged that Jose Mourinho's Manchester United will not join a bidding war for Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann.

The Catalan club are still looking at ways to improve their squad in the upcoming transfer windows and one option the technical staff have picked out is Griezmann, who they were previously linked to after Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain.

Since then, Griezmann's reluctance to leave Atletico Madrid whilst they were under a transfer ban made a deal impossible.

Nor would it have been easy to bring him to Camp Nou if he had been ready to move, as Manchester United were keen on the French international last summer.

In fact, the situation in the summer was matter of United being more interested than Mourinho.

Mourinho likes the idea of having Griezmann in his side, but was not convinced by the price at which he would come, unlike many other staff behind the scenes.

That is part of why the Red Devils will not return to the bidding, either this January or in the summer, if Griezmann does leave Atletico.

Such a development now makes Barcelona the favourites in the race for the forward.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu faces a complex situation, though, with Philippe Coutinho also on the table as an option, despite Liverpool's refusal to negotiate.

In spite of the negative responses so far, Barcelona will continue to push for an agreement with the Merseyside club.

Given that both players will come at a cost, likely at least 100 million euros each, it is unlikely that the club will sign both Coutinho and Griezmann and at one point a decision will be required.

Neither would cost less than that figure and to finance such a deal it is likely that players who are not involved under Valverde would have to leave at a good price.

Another complicating factor is the formal complaint submitted by Atleti to FIFA relating to the club's contact with Griezmann without permission.

Published in World Football

he historic milestones arrive regularly these days for Arsene Wenger and, as he prepares tomorrow night to equal Sir Alex Ferguson’s record of 810 Premier League games, it was somehow fitting that he should blend his reminisces with a pointed riposte at another great nemesis.

Jose Mourinho had complained on Boxing Day that Manchester United’s vast spending since he became manager was inadequate and, in digesting that observation, Wenger’s grin spoke volumes. The Frenchman’s greatest team were of course ultimately toppled by Mourinho’s Chelsea side, with the Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein then describing Roman Abramovich as “parking his Russian tank in our front garden and firing £50 notes at us”.

It was the biggest single external change in Wenger’s Arsenal tenure and it has been compounded since 2007 by the arrival at Manchester City of another multi-billionaire benefactor.

“I have always had one team at least – sometimes four – who were richer than I was, so I learned to cope with that,” said Wenger. “I will not start to complain now. What is most important is that you deal with your own situation and, yes, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United are richer than us.

“People don’t want to know about that. They want you to win the games. We still have to find a way to be successful.”

Wenger’s managerial strategy has been rooted in certain core values and, in reflecting with rare depth upon the past 21 years, he regularly came back to that same theme. “I think it’s been a conjunction of many things,” he said. “Loyalty, dedication, hard work and the sacrifice of your life. That’s what it demands.

 

“Also luck because I was in a club who trusted in me through good and bad. I didn’t miss one game in 21 years, which means you need to be healthy. I stayed here as well  because I am at a club where I can identify with the values.”

These values can be surmised as playing with an attacking identity, giving young players their chance and acting also with a certain level of respect and integrity.

Part of the context for this was how Wenger was a direct victim previously of match-fixing in French football and his suspicion that doping is a significant issue in elite football.

“We live in a society that is more demanding, more individualism, more opinionated, less stable,” said Wenger. “The overall problem in Europe is that the respect for basic things has been lost or is weaker than 20 years ago.

“But as well you have positive things. People are better informed. People have more knowledge of the game. In every single job, people are questioned more.

“Overall, it is more the decor that has changed. The core of the game is the same. That means human beings putting their effort together to achieve something.”

Wenger’s first match at Arsenal was a 2-0 win at Blackburn. “I banned all the chocolate that the players had before the game and, when we drove to Blackburn on the coach, the players chanted, ‘We want our Mars Bars’,” he said.

 

“If someone had told me I’d still be here now, I would have said, ‘You’re absolutely mad, absolutely no chance’. Every game is such a gamble. It’s Russian roulette. You think, at some stage, the trigger will hit you. It’s unbelievable.”

Wenger’s methodology has always rested on an extraordinary confidence even in flawed players. “The ultimate goal is to make people happy; that is the proudest thing you can have,” he said. “What is the most important quality in this job – and something that people rarely talk about – is to believe in human beings.

“You’re not naive. You know all the strengths and the weaknesses and how sometimes people can be selfish or mean. If you are paranoid, don’t choose this job because you have every reason to become more paranoid but you still have to believe that there is a light in every human being that you can get out. You must have that strength of belief in human beings that always takes over at difficult moments.”

Ahead of returning to Crystal Palace, one such moment was in the corresponding fixture last season when Wenger’s position looked in severe peril following a 3-0 defeat. “When you lose a game there is always a big focus on the negative side,” he said. “If we watch again this game against Palace, you will see it was not as bad as everybody said. Don’t be carried away by all the negativity. When you win it’s the same. People will say it was absolutely fantastic but you watch again and you made mistakes.”

 

The Palace game was followed by a change in system to 3-4-2-1 that has again now been temporarily abandoned in preference for 4-2-3-1. It has meant Sead Kolasinac losing his place and an extra attacker. It was suggested that, deep down, Wenger really prefers to play with an additional attacker and his reply pretty much summed up by the previous 809 games.

“Four at the back?” he said, with a smile. “In my heart, I prefer with one defender.”

 

Published in World Football
Thursday, 28 December 2017 00:00

PEP - I WANT OPONENTS TO PLAY

Pep Guardiola admits he prefers opponents "to play" after Manchester City secured a 1-0 win at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling's first-half strike was enough to hand City their 18th straight win in the Premier League, extending their lead at the top to 15 points.

City dominated for large parts of the match, recording 21 shots to Newcastle six, while also enjoying 78 per cent of possession.

Opposing manager Rafael Benitez was forced to defend Newcastle's approach to the game at St James' Park, and while Guardiola said he would prefer other teams to attack, he conceded his outlook on defending is not one shared by many others in the game.

"I would like the opponent to play, for football itself and for the spectator, for everybody. But every manager can decide whatever he wants," Guardiola told Sky Sports after the match.

"You have to find and search for a way to attack them when they defend with 11 players in the box, when a striker goes with our holding midfielder, and there are nine or 10 players there waiting for a throw-in or free-kick or corner.

"I cannot judge them. But I think attacking in that situation would create enough chances to score a lot of goals.

"It's always a belief that the best way to defend is far, far away from your goal. Most people think completely different, but that's why football is magnificent.

"When the ball is close to our goal, we are in danger. The last minute, for example, the ball was in our half, but when they are defending in their own goal, it's easier for us.

"We are happy with a lot of clean sheets. We have started the second round [of the season], 18 games left, we're going to see how many games we need to be champions."

Newcastle's improved showing after the break made for a nervy finish, with Dwight Gayle sending a header narrowly wide for the hosts after City failed to pull further ahead.

Guardiola said that while such hairy moments are to be expected, he feels his City side created enough chances to be home and dry before half-time.

"We deserved to win by far. It's not easy when the opponent doesn't want to play. They defended well, and deep. It's not easy when this happens," Guardiola added.

"We created enough chances in both halves, we were involved the Newcastle rhythm and that's why it was a little more complicated.

"We created chances. At half-time it could have been three or four, or 4-1, because Kyle [Walker] is slipping.

"But it's okay. When you have won 18 games in a row, you have to live 10 to 15 minutes in that way. But we are so happy."

Published in World Football
The AC Milan head coach wants his team to prove their Coppa Italia win over rival Inter was no fluke
 

Gennaro Gattuso said "perhaps I am the worst coach in Serie A but I always want to win" as the AC Milan head coach called on his team to prove their derby victory over Inter was not a fluke.

Milan advanced to the Coppa Italia semi-finals thanks to a 1-0 win against neighbours Inter after extra time on Wednesday.

Teenage sensation Patrick Cutrone was the hero again for struggling Milan, the 19-year-old scoring in the 105th minute to settle the quarter-final fixture at San Siro.

Former Milan midfielder Gattuso was happy with the victory as it gave the Rossoneri — 11th in Serie A following just one win in six matches – some breathing space.

"Perhaps I am the worst coach in Serie A, but I always want to win, even playing in the garden with my son," he told Rai Sport. "I want my lads to prove that what I saw tonight was not a fluke, then we'll take it one game at a time.

"Now there are two difficult games coming up in Serie A and we need points to climb the table. I didn't see much difference between this performance and the defeat to Atalanta. Some might call me crazy for saying that. We had the game with Verona in hand too until we conceded the first goal like dummies.

"This is a team that does well until it runs into the first hurdle and today we overcame the hurdles."

Gattuso added: "We were coming off a negative period, so this game was fundamental.

"I knew from day one what I was going into with the Milan job. It's a big club that won for many years and changed a lot of players recently. We are struggling, but this side has quality and was at times missing that bile. We showed tonight that we can battle it out and then the quality emerges.

"I want to compliment all the lads. I won everything as a player, but as a coach I'm well aware that I'm just starting out. I worked in Cyprus, at Pisa, I've been through it all, but I am happy at Milan and the club is planning things very well.

"In January I'll turn 40, so I still think like a player, believing that with hunger and a sense of belonging, you can go far. I don't hold back, if I have something to say to someone, I'll say it to their face. There's a lot of work to be done, we'd be hypocrites to say this victory resolves all our problems, but it does give us some breathing room."

 

Published in World Football
Thursday, 28 December 2017 00:00

MBAPPE - I ALMOST SIGNED FOR MADRID

Mbappe was linked with Madrid all summer before moving to Paris.

Paris Saint-Germain’s striker Kylian Mbappé has undoubtedly been the great revelation of 2017 in the European football. The French player signed for PSG from Monaco initially on loan, in a deal that will ultimately cost the club a fee in the region of €180m.

During the summer, Mbappe was also linked to Real Madrid, and now, four months later, he revealed how he came to his final decision to join the Ligue 1 side.

“There were a lot of rumours, it is true that we talked, but it is all in the past for me and also for Real Madrid, I guess. Now I play for PSG and I will defend these colours by 100 per cent,” said Mbappé to Spanish Sports Daily Marca.


One of the main reasons for the 19-year-old striker going to the Parisians was that he was born in the French capital.

“It is as a kid from Madrid has the chance of playing for his team and decides to go to another place, another country. No, I wanted to play for PSG and I am very happy to see how the things are going,” added Mbappé.

In addition to the rumours that linked him to European champions, whom PSG face in the Champions League Round of 16, it was also highlighted that Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was his idol, after meeting him during a visit to Real Madrid’s facilities a few years ago.

However, although the French star admitted that he adored Ronaldo when he was a kid, he insisted “it is over now”.

“I have already played in great stadiums, but never in Santiago Bernabéu. It will be my first time and I would like to see it from inside the day before the match, observe it quietly and prepare myself well for the match.

“The team who win the knockout is going to be a clear favourite to win the Champions [League]. If we are able to beat Real Madrid, the rest of the teams will fear us. If Real Madrid do it, the same.”

 

Published in World Football

NABY KEITA is fed up at RB Leipzig and wants to move to Liverpool when the transfer window reopens, according to a leading German football expert.

Keita, 22, agreed a move to Liverpool over the summer but has to wait until July 2018 to make it.

But Lee Price, who has written two books on the Bundesliga, claims Keita is desperate to change the terms of the deal.

That follows Leipzig being dumped out the Champions League while a title tilt hasn't got off the ground.

"The Naby Keita transfer saga had appeared to resolve itself – the midfielder was due to move to Liverpool in the summer, and that’s that," Price exclusively told Express Sport.

"But the Guinean himself might have a say in the matter.


"Leipzig’s novelty is wearing off – they’re fifth in the Bundesliga this season, and have been demoted to the Europa League, where they face a tough tie against Napoli.

"For Keita, the challenge has almost gone, and he ideally wants to move to Liverpool now.

"The player doesn’t intend to rock the boat hugely in Leipzig, and is relishing the winter break in Germany, but his camp is expected to push for a move upon his return to training in January."

Keita was Jurgen Klopp's No 1 target throughout the close season but he was left frustrated as RB Leipzig said he was going nowhere.


However, Liverpool were so desperate to get their man they entered talks in a deal which would see the player join a year later.

Keita had an exit clause of £48million in his contract but Leipzig were prepared to negotiate to secure an additional premium, taking the fee potentially beyond £50m.

Liverpool had earlier bids of £57m and £66m in an effort to force an immediate sale.

The huge fee is the highest the club have ever paid.

Published in World Football
Monday, 25 December 2017 00:00

Charlie Austin banned for three games

Southampton striker Charlie Austin has been banned for three games by the Football Association for violent conduct.

Austin caught Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl in the face with his boot in Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw.

The 28-year-old, Saints' leading scorer this season with six goals, will miss games against Tottenham, Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

He suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced in the 79th minute.

Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino said the injury could keep Austin out for "a couple of weeks minimum".

But whatever the seriousness of the injury, the ban means Austin will not be available until their FA Cup tie at Fulham on 6 January.

Austin, who scored the opening goal against Huddersfield, accepted the charge of violent conduct but argued the suspension was excessive, which was rejected by an independent panel.

Lossl was bleeding and needed treatment after the challenge, which was not seen by the referee or his assistants but was caught on video.

Huddersfield boss David Wagner said after the game: "I will never say someone likes to hurt an opponent on purpose but to be honest it looks like this is the case. It should never happen.

"It looks very ugly from my point of view. I was a striker and I know Jonas was on the ball, so what you have to do is not touch him."

Pellegrino said: "I didn't observe any intention on the part of my player. I don't think Charlie went intentionally at this moment."

 

Published in World Football

Once the excitement is over, Christmas can become a bore.

That was the case for Valencia manager Marcelino - but of a different kind.

The Spaniard, 52, was driving home on Christmas Eve when his car collided with a wild boar on the motorway.

The incident took place between Logrono and Bilbao in northern Spain.

Marcelino was "given the all-clear" after being checked over at hospital.

Published in World Football

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