Thursday, 11 January 2018

What a waste of money 24-year-old has played a bit-part role under Antonio Conte and is in need of a fresh start ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup
Prior to his £33 million transfer to Chelsea, Michy Batshuayi was one of the hottest prospects in European football.
He would go on to make just a single Premier League start in his debut season in the English top tier and would eventually be offered to a host of clubs over the summer transfer window by Antonio Conte, though vowed to fight for his place. Despite his restricted playing time, Batshuayi scored five goals in 239 minutes - an average of a goal every 48 minutes - and refused to read into the claims that he was not cut out for a starring role at Chelsea.
Marseille were ready to take their former forward back on loan, while at least 10 Premier League clubs offered a temporary home, but Batshuayi again refused to give into the pressure.
His confidence is admirable but isn't shared by his manager, who has worked extensively with the striker to develop his understanding of what is required.
Michy Batshuayi Chelsea
Batshuayi has made just two Premier League starts this season, with another five coming in cup competitions. And, to the striker's credit, he has scored seven goals this term in 20 bit-part appearances. However, his overall contribution is significantly short of what Conte requires from his leading frontman and the Italian's preference to push Eden Hazard into a makeshift 'false nine' role over selecting Batshuayi is telling. As was Conte's push to sign Fernando Llorente in the summer as an understudy to Diego Costa.
"He has to show me that he's better than Morata, or than Hazard. It's very simple,” Conte said earlier in the season. “But don't forget that Michy this season is playing more than last season. Last season he didn't play. He didn't play and I think this season, if you consider his injury for a month, he had his chance."
Batshuayi Conte PS
And Batshuayi was offered another chance to make a mark ahead of Chelsea's Carabao Cup tie with Norwich on January 6, with Alvaro Morata dropping to the bench and Hazard missing out through injury. Batshuayi offered little, however, and was eventually replaced by Morata in the second with the home support mocking the Belgium international as he left the pitch.
With an eye on the Russia World Cup this summer, Batshuayi is increasingly in need of regular playing time to restore his reputation as one of the most promising forward's in Europe.
Batshuayi is a player who hit double figures in goals in the four seasons prior to joining Chelsea, with his final campaign at Marseille ending with 23 in all competitions. His season and a half with Chelsea, then, can be fairly marked as a stain on an otherwise promising career to date. Still 24, Batshuayi now has a decision to make if he is to retain his status ahead of Roberto Martinez selecting his Belgium side for the World Cup.
"I was a player, I understand if someone is worried about the World Cup," Conte said previously when asked about his plans for fringe players in the winter transfer window. "I understand [if they want to leave], but at the same time it’s very important to keep players very happy to stay here, to work with us and I think this must be our priority."
Michy Batshuayi
So what next for Batshuayi?
 while a move to West Ham has also been suggested. Chelsea are unwilling to let him leave without a replacement, however, regardless of how a move away would benefit all parties.
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Sevilla's proposition is an attractive one, with European football in hand and currently sitting fifth in the Liga rankings. Vincenzo Montella's side recognise that Chelsea need a replacement before sanctioning a loan move, however, and are therefore also looking at both Stevan Jovetic of Monaco, who spent part of last season at the club, and Everton attacker Sandro Ramírez. The decision is up to Conte, though, and he risks scuppering Batshuayi's development by not pulling the trigger.
“Michy is a young player," Conte said. "He has to work very hard to improve himself. But he's doing this. I'm happy with his behaviour and his commitment. But I have to make the best decision for the team."
With Conte's mind made up and having had little change from persevering with his goal of being Chelsea's leading striker, now is the time for Batshuayi to cut his losses and look to make a short-term impact elsewhere.

Barcelona announce €11.8m Yerry Mina signing Colombia international had been scheduled to arrive in the summer, but a deal has been pushed through that sees him go to Spain now
Barcelona have announced their second signing of 2018, with defender Yerry Mina joining La Liga's leaders from Brazilian side Palmeiras for €11.8 million.
Mina has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the Catalan giants.
A deal for Mina had been set up for after the World Cup, but Barcelona were keen to complete an early move for the defender, who made clear his desire to join Ernesto Valverde's side.
The table-toppers said in a stement: "Yerry Mina now comes to Barca with the opportunity to continue developing as a footballer following his move to Europe. Without a doubt the Colombian has the potential to make it."
EN Emirates Yerry Mina
The Colombia international will strengthen Barcelona's defensive options as Javier Mascherano is reportedly expected to leave Camp Nou in the January transfer window, with Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune reportedly keen on the experienced Argentine.
Mascherano has started only six La Liga games so far this season, with Thomas Vermaelen typically selected by Valverde as Gerard Pique's partner in the absence of the injured Samuel Umtiti.
Umtiti has also been linked with a transfer away from Barcelona, with Manchester City and Manchester United among the clubs linked with triggering the France centre-back's €60m release clause. Gerard Pique, however, has said he is sure the France international wishes to stay with the club.
Barcelona have already added to their squad this month, having finally completed a long-awaited move for Brazil international Philippe Coutinho.
After a string of failed bids for the Liverpool playmaker in August, Barca have agreed to pay a reported club-record fee of €120m for the Brazil international, who signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Camp Nou.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

EXTRA TIME: Mohamed Salah reacts to Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona Egyptian forward dropped a message for the Brazil international who completed a big money move to the Camp Nou this week
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has revelled in the short period he spent with Philippe Coutinho before the Brazilian completed a switch to Barcelona on Monday.
Coutinho joined the Catalan giants for a £145 million record fee that will keep him at the club until 2023.
After hitting 12 goals and eight assists in 20 games in all competitions for Reds this season, the former Espanyol and Inter Milan player ended his five-year stay at Anfield.
And Salah who joined Jurgen Klopp's men from Roma in June relished his partnership with the Brazil star and wished him luck in his 'new adventure'.

£650m spent, but academy star Lingard is Man Utd's best player right now Red Devils youth product has not always convinced the Old Trafford faithful but has been in a rich vein of form of late
At most clubs, the scorer of three key Wembley goals including a wonderful strike to win the FA Cup would go down as an immediate club legend. However, Jesse Lingard has had to fight longer and harder than you might expect just to be accepted as a preferred starter for the majority of Manchester United fans.
In many ways, Lingard is the archetypal success story by which United fans judge their club. They want to see local lads brought through the system and given the chance to thrive in the first team, and the attacker has done exactly that having risen from a seven-year-old wannabe to a senior England star over an 18-year spell with the Red Devils.
But having taken a considerable time to string together a consistent run of stand-out performances following his first-team break-out in 2015-16, Lingard had become something of a figure of fun in some quarters until his recent upturn in form which has seen him net eight goals in 10 games as a number 10 in Jose Mourinho’s side.
Jesse Lingard Manchester United Derby
And his spell of prominence could not have come at a better time when you consider that Mourinho was left scrambling for an alternative to the failing Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the main creative attacking slot in a United squad costing £648 million. With the Armenian having struggled after a bright opening month and Paul Pogba needing to partner Nemanja Matic in the midfield hub due to Ander Herrera’s poor form in 2017-18, Lingard suddenly became the manager’s go-to guy as United began to fall adrift of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
“I think he is comfortable in the positions he plays,” said Mourinho after Lingard got the all-important 84th-minute opener in Friday’s FA Cup win over Derby County.
“I think he is improving with the progressive style of the team. The team is playing progressively in a different way which makes him feel like a fish in the water and he is in this moment where everything goes right for him.”
Jesse Lingard stats Manchester United
Mourinho’s reward for his faith in Lingard has been remarkable, with Lingard not only adding goals but also demonstrating some of the incisive running that United have lacked from the number 10 position for long stretches of the past few seasons. While Pogba has made the most obvious difference to United when on form, Lingard has been their key man more often than not of late. Having previously been seen by many as little more than the Frenchman’s dancing side-kick on social media, Lingard has outshone his more esteemed former academy team-mate over the winter months.
From match-winning braces against Swansea City and Arsenal to his game-saving double as a substitute against Burnley, the Warrington product has bailed out United time and again. It is not by accident that he has scored in each of his side’s last five wins away from home, with goals of great quality and precious timing helping to ensure that United’s inconsistent season hasn’t taken a turn for the disastrous.
Jesse Lingard Ashley Young Paul Pogba Arsenal Manchester United Premier League
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It is right that there remain question marks over his long-term credentials for a starting shirt given some of the remaining flaws in his skill set, but that should not lend itself as a stick to beat him with in the present day since he is United’s star player right now. Mourinho will doubtless have additions in mind for the forthcoming transfer windows in Lingard’s position, but the very fact that he hasn’t airlifted in an emergency signing so far this January reflects positively on the 25-year-old’s impact over the past couple of months.
Lingard’s promotion to first-choice number 10 is unlikely to be a permanent solution given United’s spending power, but the very least his recent run has done is to ensure he has a say in the allocation of squad positions for a season or two to come.
At United, more than any other club, there is always a place for a hard-working local lad and Lingard has worked harder than anyone to prove his ability to compete for one of the most prized starting spots in world football.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Ferdinand trolls Gerrard as Liverpool legend backs Coutinho sale

Rio Ferdinand was quick to rub Steven Gerrard’s nose in it after the Liverpool legend was questioned about Philippe Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona.
The long-running saga was finally brought to a close on Monday lunchtime when the Brazilian superstar completed a £142million move to the Nou Camp.
Although Gerrard predicted back in 2015 that Coutinho would eventually end up at Barcelona, the former Reds skipper admits he is struggling to come to terms with the sale of the club’s talisman.
Speaking on BT Sports, Gerrard said: “I’m still digesting it as a Liverpool fan.”
Ferdinand, so often Gerrard’s opponent on the field, was quick to troll the Anfield legend by asking him: “You feel sick?”
Gerrard continued: “I’m not surprised it’s happened – Liverpool fought very hard to keep him and fought hard to keep him until the summer.
“But when a kid has a dream – and Philippe was desperate to join Barcelona – it’s very difficult to stop him.

“But there’s no doubt about it – Liverpool will miss him. He’s a wonderful player, a wonderful person, and truth be told, he hasn’t down-tools, so I respect his decision.
“But Liverpool will go on, they’ve got big money for him and I’m sure they’ll replace him with the right people.”

‘I’ve never killed someone’ to be a deliberate attempt, the midfielder was quick to play down the action and expressed relief as Binuyo survived his scorcher
Go Round FC’s Vincent George relives the scary moment that saw Kwara United player Lookman Binuyo slump after his clearance - from a corner kick - was met by the player’s face.
The Omoku outfit and the Harmony Boys locked horns in the opening fixture of the Nigeria National League Super Four tournament [the decider of the second division overall winner] at the Agege Stadium on Sunday evening.
Moments after the interval, the Kwara outfit were awarded a corner kick, the cross was headed out and in an attempt to clear his lines further, the midfielder’s forceful attempt clattered into the face of an onrushing Binuyo - who was bent on sending the ball back into the danger zone.
The player slumped, thus, needing the help of medics for minutes before he was okayed to leave the pitch.
“No, it wasn't deliberate,” George told Sportmasta.
“I was very scared because I've never killed somebody and I was very upset with myself.
“I felt sorry and I pray he gets better very soon,” he added.
The Omoku outfit won their Kwara counterparts 4-2 after a less adventurous 90 minutes that ended in a goalless stalemate.
And George, one of the four Go Round Players to convert their spot kicks, explains how he was able to keep his calm from 12-yard out after second half’s near-death incident.
“I felt relaxed because I'm very good at taking penalties. It was very easy for me despite the earlier incident. I just had to erase it from my mind because I saw the guy was alive,” he continued.
“Well, Kwara United are very good and I've never seen them play before or played against them. This is my first time of watching them and they are a very good team.
The former Garden City Panthers player will be making his maiden appearance in the Nigeria Professional Football League after helping his side finish second - behind Heartland - in the NNL Southern Conference last season. And he talks up his expectations: “I’m looking forward to playing good games, I excel and looking forward to the national team.”
Go Round will face the winner of Heartland on Tuesday evening and the left-footed midfielder has stated his readiness for the tie.

The 18 players to have scored just one Premier League goal for Man Utd

Manchester United have possessed some of the greatest goalscorers in Premier League history, but what about the players who scored just once for the club in the competition?
There are 18 players in total to have scored once and only once for United in the Premier League. It’s an eclectic list, made up of long-serving defenders and Academy graduates who had limited opportunities but also several players who really ought to have scored more than just one.
You can make up your own minds about which ones they are…
Eric Bailly
Bailly looked delighted when he scored against Swansea City earlier this season but was prevented from running to the touchline by Romelu Lukaku, who “tried to waste time”.
Laurent Blanc
Inspired to bag his only Premier League goal after Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous “lads, it’s Tottenham” half-time team talk.
Jesper Blomqvist
The one name from United’s starting XI in the 1999 Champions League final that you always forget. Blomqvist played for 10 clubs throughout his career. At six of them he only scored one league goal.
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Matteo Darmian
We’re not quite sure how Darmian is still at Old Trafford given he seems to have been linked with a transfer in every window since he joined three years ago.
At least his volley against Crystal Palace was the “best goal” of his career.
Mame Biram Diouf
A goal on his Premier League debut against Burnley earned the forward only four more appearances in the competition in a United shirt.
Chris Eagles
The final goal in a 4-2 win at Everton was as good as it got at United for Eagles, who joined Ross County in November in a transfer which earned him an inclusion in our list of players we can’t believe are still going.
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Rafael scored five, that’s all we’re saying.
Keith Gillespie
Gillespie scored in a 2-0 win over Newcastle which knocked Kevin Keegan’s side off the top of the table before going on to join said Kevin Keegan’s side three months later. Awkward.
Josh Harrop
One goal in one appearance for United as Harrop scored against Hull on the final day of last season before rejecting a new deal to instead join Preston.
Gabriel Heinze
In three years at Old Trafford Heinze managed to squeeze in a debut goal against Bolton, a Player of the Year award, an injury which kept him out for a whole season, getting knocked out by Roy Keane and a failed transfer request to join Liverpool. Great work.
Henrik Larsson
The thought of Larsson in his pomp spearheading United’s attack is quite scary. Few players have made such an impact on a club in such a short spell.
Paul Parker
105 league appearances over five years for the Red Devils for Parker, who we spoke to last year.
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Nick Powell
Do you remember Nick Powell? What a time to be alive. He’s got 11 goals in 22 appearances for Wigan in League One this season, to be fair.
Marcos Rojo
We have no idea whether Rojo is actually a centre-back or a left-back and we equally have no idea whether he’s actually any good or not. What we do know is that he scored the opener in a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth last season.
Giuseppe Rossi
Somewhere in an alternate universe Rossi is still banging them in for United having become Italy’s record goalscorer. Sadly, us mere earthlings will just have to make do with the final goal in a 3-1 win at Sunderland on his Premier League debut and curse his injury-ridden knees.
Morgan Schneiderlin
We were convinced Schneiderlin was going to be good at Old Trafford. He wasn’t really, was he?
Bastian Schweinsteiger
If only he’d come to England sooner.
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Jaap Stam
Stam scored his only goal for Manchester United in a 6-2 victory over Leicester City, after which Foxes boss Martin O’Neill declared: “All things considered we did very well.”

Bakary Sako can have a great impact for Crystal Palace says Roy Hodgson 26-year-old proved once again of his striking prowess against the Seagulls and the gaffer is convinced by the effort
Crystal Palace manager, Roy Hodgson has declared that Bakary Sako will continue to be needed following his eye-catching performance in the FA Cup on Monday night.
The Mali international levelled proceedings for the Eagles - with a superb 25-yard strike - after they went down to Brighton and Hove Albion in the first half. But a late goal from Glenn Murray ended their campaign in the competition.
The winger has been impressive playing as a striker and has scored three of his five goals from that position this season.
But he has found regular playing time hard to come by with Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha ahead of him in the pecking order.
The English tactician is, however, confident that the former Wolverhampton Wanderers player has proven that he deserved a starting place in the squad.
 “He’s proven that he’s capable of a regular starting place,” Hodgson told club website.
“He faces competition from Benteke and Zaha but it’s good to know that he’s there as well. We’re going to need him; our squad is so unbelievably thin and it’s been thinned even more.”
Sako will be eyeing a starting place when Palace welcome Burnley to Selhurst Park for their next English Premier League encounter on January 13.

10 of the best photos as Coutinho seals £142m Barcelona move

Philippe Coutinho became the third most expensive player in the world on Monday as Barcelona completed his signing for a fee of £142million.
As Coutinho completed his medical and was introduced to the Camp Nou faithful, lets have a look at some of the iconic moments from his first day as a Barcelona player.

All smiles from the midfielder

Coutinho can’t contain his excitement at joining the Spanish giants as he becomes teammates with superstars like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. After missing out on the move last summer, the Brazil international was delighted it could be done this month.

A role model already

Coutinho engages in conversation youngsters as he experiences the Camp Nou for the first time as a Barcelona player. A moment that these children will never forget.

Just smile and wave, Phil

Coutinho waves at the Barca faithful welcome their new superstar. A moment that a number of supporters will never forget as they got to see the Brazilian in the famous shirt.

Another successful moment for the club

The Barcelona Chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu holds up the shirt with the clubs new £142m man. Coutinho is rumoured to wear the number 14 shirt – currently held by former Liverpool player Javier Mascherano.

Phil enjoys the moment on the pitch

The midfielder laughs whilst engaging in some conversation with the Barcelona fans and the media who turned out for his announcement.

It’s a perfect fit!

The kit fits for Coutinho who has been waiting to put the Barcelona jersey on for several months. However, injury might delay his debut for a number of weeks with Espanyol a possible opponent – a former club for Phil.

Bartomeu and Coutinho full of smiles

The Barcelona board are delighted with their latest acquisition and can’t wait for Coutinho to get started in Spain.

Kind words from the President

The Barcelona president addresses media after completing the signing of Coutinho and expresses his delight at finally getting their man.

Coutinho speaks next…

Coutinho speaks to the media and explains his decision on joining the Spanish giants and how it has become a ‘dream come true’ for himself and his family.

Ready to light up La Liga?

Coutinho takes it all in as he finally becomes a Barcelona player after spending five years in England with Liverpool.