Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Real Madrid make it 1,000 European goals with thrashing of Basel

Real Madrid make it 1,000 European goals with thrashing of Basel
The Spanish giants opened the defence of their Champions League crown with an emphatic win at the Bernabeu - and made history in the process
Real Madrid have become the first side to score 1,000 European goals, reaching the landmark during Tuesday's 5-1 thrashing of Basel.
Madrid were in complete command by half-time, establishing a 4-1 lead thanks to an own goal from Marek Suchy and efforts from Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez. Derlis Gonzalez's goal was of little consolation to the Swiss.
The game drifted in the second half but Madrid's night was capped by a fifth goal - the club's 1,000th in continental competition - from Karim Benzema 11 minutes from the end.
The France striker played a lovely one-two with Ronaldo before hammering a left-foot strike in off the bar.
The result will come as a huge relief to a Madrid side who have won just one of their opening three La Liga fixtures.

Madrid need 'big attitude' to win the Champions League again - Modric

Madrid need 'big attitude' to win the Champions League again - Modric
The former Tottenham star is optimistic about his side's chances of defending the trophy after their thrashing of Basel
Luka Modric believes Real Madrid have what it takes to successfully defend their Champions League title so long as they remain humble and show "big attitude" as a team.
The titleholders beat Basel 5-1 in their Group B opener at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday evening and the Croatian midfielder is optimistic about his side's chances of going all the way again.
"There's a long way to go. No team has won two Champions League titles in a row," Modric told the official Uefa website.
"Hopefully we can be the first, but we need to go game by game. Be humble and play every game with a big attitude, that's the only way.
"To play as a team, we can go far, hopefully to win again, but it's a long way to go."
Madrid were beaten 2-1 by Atletico at the weekend and Modric has stressed that it was important for their confidence to bounce back with a win in European club football's elite competition.
"It was important for us to start the Champions League well and get a good result after the disappointing result against Atletico.
"It was important to start well, win the game, score goals and get back the confidence that we'd maybe lost a little bit.
"There's no reason to lose confidence; we played well, especially in the first half an hour, and we need to build on this and continue to grow in the next games."

Boos got to Casillas, says Ramos

Boos got to Casillas, says Ramos
The Real Madrid skipper was jeered by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd, much to his team-mate's disappointment
Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas' recent abuse from the Santiago Bernabeu crowd has affected him, according to Sergio Ramos.
The European champions have endured a difficult start to the season, losing two Liga games, including a 2-1 home reverse to city rivals Atletico Madrid at the weekend.
Casillas' performance in the derby drew the ire of the club's fans and Sergio Ramos believes that it was only natural that their jeers would affect his team-mate, though the 33-year-old goalkeeper was cheered in the 5-1 win over Basel.
"I will not get into a debate, it would be stupid. Above all is the club and we focus on that," the defender told AS.
"Iker can live with it, he knows that he can't please everybody. He is not a robot and the whistles affect him.
"We are professionals and we understand that people were aggrieved because they have turned up here and felt disconnected.
"But people should also be sensitive and understand that we like to play in a comfortable and supportive environment. Tuesday had everything but we liked that the fans were happy."
Madrid put their Liga form behind them against the Swiss side in the Champions League and Sergio Ramos now expects their form to pick up.
"We thought about the things we have done wrong and we now expect to go on a winning streak," the versatile defender added.

we'll bounce back; says Wilshere

Jack Wilshere: Believes Arsenal will bounce back from the Dortmund loss
Jack Wilshere insists Arsenal will recover after being defeated by Borussia Dortmund in a disappointing start to their Champions League group campaign.
Ciro Immobile and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck in a 2-0 victory for the Bundesliga club, but the winning margin could have been greater at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night.
In what was seen as Arsenal's toughest fixture in Group D, the performance has raised concerns over their ability to make any meaningful impact in Europe this season.
Adding to the defeat is the ankle injury that forced Wilshere off in the closing stages.
Arsene Wenger played down the severity of the sprain, but a more informed assessment is expected ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Aston Villa.
"We'll bounce back. Our next Champions League game (against Galatasaray on October 1) is at home and hopefully we'll get the three points," Wilshere told the London Evening Standard.
"It's never nice to lose a game - we wanted to come here and win - but that was our first Champions League group game.
"We have got five more so we have an opportunity to try and get 15 points and that is what we'll try to do.
"It hasn't quite clicked for us yet but we've got a lot of quality players and I'm sure it'll come right.
"It was disappointing against Dortmund. They are a good team and we have got to be a bit smarter when we come to places like this, with their gameplan - they wanted to press us high up the pitch and we let them do it in the first half.
"We started the second half quite brightly in the first couple of minutes and then unfortunately it was the same thing again on the counter attack and then the game is over.
"We knew what they were going to do. We should have played maybe a little bit longer in the first half than trying to play our football in our half of the pitch because once you lose it there, they are straight onto us.
"We had a few chances and even at 2-0, Danny had a chance and if he had scored that maybe the last 10 minutes would have been a different game."
Wenger will hope to have full-backs Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers available for Villa after they missed out against Dortmund through injury and illness.

Fabregas and Costa key to CL chances

Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas: Partnership flourishing
Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are fast becoming the Premier League's most productive partnership but must now do it in Europe, says Adam Bate.
History has a way of filtering the noise and distilling lengthy stories down to their essence.
The narrative of the 2012-13 Premier League season, for example, will always be that Manchester United bought Robin van Persie from Arsenal and promptly won the title.
In a sense, the story was that simple. Van Persie featured in all 38 matches, scoring 26 goals to make the difference for Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the Scotsman's final season in charge. His strikes alone accounted for 27 of United's points that year.
Just four games into the 2014-15 campaign and already the buzz about Chelsea's summer signings is threatening to become the story. After finishing just four points behind Manchester City last year, Chelsea went out and bought Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. The impact has been stunning.
"It's true they're the best players," said Eden Hazard, the player who shouldered much of the burden at Stamford Bridge last term. "Costa can score every game and Cesc is one of the best midfielders in the world."
It feels like Hazard ought to be accused of overstating. And then you consider Costa's start. The striker arrived with a considerable reputation but could hardly have expected to prove his worth this emphatically so quickly. Seven goals in four games.
'Not normal'
It's the best ever start to a Premier League career in terms of goals scored and even Jose Mourinho seems shocked.
"Seven goals in four matches surprises me, because it's something that is not normal," he said at the weekend. "But he's comfortable in the team.
"The team was built in a way where we were waiting for a certain type of striker. I think now everybody knows Chelsea did the right thing waiting for him. Chelsea did well by waiting and waiting for the right one."
The contribution of Fabregas has been no less remarkable. Creativity from deep was another quality Chelsea lacked last season but the Spaniard has addressed that issue in style. He began with two assists on debut at Burnley and has continued to make things tick since then.
While Costa has work to do in chasing the 31 goals Luis Suarez managed for Liverpool last year, Fabregas seems certain to break records when it comes to assists.
Steven Gerrard ranked top with 13 of them in 2013-14. Fabregas has already provided six for his Chelsea team-mates.
"To play with Fabregas is the dream of every striker," Mourinho told Chelsea TV earlier this month. "The guy sees the movement, sees the pass, is not selfish, makes always the right choice."
That link-up with Costa is improving all the time. The provider and the finisher.
Fabregas has directly assisted three of his international team-mate's goals, including two in Saturday's 4-2 victory over Swansea. It's the sort of pairing that could prove too much for the Premier League.

On Wednesday, they will hope to repeat the trick as Chelsea begin their Champions League campaign by hosting Schalke at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho might have openly targeted the domestic crown this season but European glory is seldom far from his thoughts.
Just this week he admitted to still having sleepless nights over a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty miss in the competition versus Bayern Munich three years ago. As for the 2005 'ghost goal' exit to Liverpool, mention Luis Garcia in his general vicinity and expect trouble.
Mourinho is a manager who defines himself by his Champions League triumphs and will likely feel another is overdue after four semi-final exits in a row. He's not alone. Mourinho's high-profile summer acquisitions also have unfinished business in the competition.
Costa scored eight goals en route to the final with Atletico Madrid last season only to limp off in the early stages of the game in Lisbon. "It was my responsibility and obviously I made a mistake because I had to switch him as early as I did," said coach Diego Simeone.
Costa still came within moments of claiming a winners' medal only for a late Sergio Ramos header to crush Atleti dreams and deny the forward the perfect end to his stay at the club.
Fabregas came almost as close to glory with Arsenal in 2006 and could count himself particularly unlucky given the chronology of events. The Gunners were leading Barcelona 1-0 with a quarter of an hour remaining when Arsene Wenger substituted him in favour of Mathieu Flamini.
Within minutes, Samuel Eto'o equalised before Juliano Belletti netted the winner soon after. Fabregas joined the reigning champions in 2011 but proved unable to do better than the last four in each of his seasons in Catalonia.
Together, Mourinho, Costa and Fabregas will attempt to shrug off these recent disappointments, and in a group that also includes Sporting and Maribor there will certainly be expectations that they can prolong this season's Champions League adventure into the spring.
Indeed, with Chelsea's first four European fixtures immediately preceding Premier League games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, there might even be a temptation to rotate the squad for the Champions League ties.
Whatever Mourinho decides, there seems little doubt who the Chelsea boss will be building his team's hopes and dreams around this season.
Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas - just four games in and already making a persuasive case as the most productive partnership in English football.

Tevez at the double in Bianconeri cruise

Juventus 2-0 Malmo: Tevez at the double in Bianconeri cruise
The Argentine struck twice in the second half to edge Massimiliano Allegri's side past a resolute Swedish outfit on Tuesday night
A second half double from Carlos Tevez gave Juventus a 2-0 win over Malmo as they kicked off their Champions League campaign in polished fashion in Turin.
The 30-year-old lifted the frustration inside Juventus Stadium to end a 14-game barren run in the competition - which stretched back five years to a clash with Porto while playing for Manchester United - as Juventus went top of Group A.
His first came in the 59th minute, as he coolly fired home after a perfect backheeled pass from Kwadwo Asamoah, while the second arrived in the last minute via a curling free-kick.
Massimiliano Allegri's side controlled possession in the opening half but a lack of quality in front of goal saw group stage debutants Malmo hold them at the break.
Tevez finally proved the difference, though, and the scoreline could have been even bigger had Fernando Llorente's close-range effort not been disallowed for offside by the assistant referee.
It was a tough evening for the Swedes in Turin, and their plight may yet get even worse after a second-half injury to top scorer Markus Rosenberg.
While Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo were both missing for the hosts through injury, Allegri was able to call on Giorgio Chiellini after injury and suspension, but the defender had little to do in the opening half.
Instead, all the action was at the other end as Juventus toyed with their opponents.
Paul Pogba, Llorente and Asamoah all failed to convert chances, with the latter appearing all over the pitch in an impressive display that only lacked a goal.
The Ghana star had the clearest chance of the opening period in the 19th minute when he met Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross, but his header sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Tevez's first effort on target was then easily saved, before his strike partner Llorente was denied by a deflection.
The Spaniard received a pass from Pogba inside the penalty area and held off two defenders with his back to goal before spinning to shoot, but his effort struck a defender and was diverted away for a corner.
With half-time approaching, the deadlock should have been broken as Lichtsteiner was released behind the Malmo defence. He squared a low cross to the back post but his team-mates failed to anticipate it and the danger was cleared.
The second half appeared to be going the same way as the first when the defender saw two crosses well blocked, but a minute shy of the hour mark Tevez finally opened the scoring.
Having played a pass into the penalty area, the Argentine striker received a superb return ball from Asamoah before stroking it past goalkeeper Robin Olsen to end his Champions League drought.
Llorente thought he had doubled the lead a minute later when he tapped in a Lichtsteiner cross from close range, however the assistant referee's flag denied him.
Low crosses from Patrice Evra and Lichtsteiner saw Juventus go close to doubling their lead but when Pogba miscued a spectacular effort from outside the penalty area it seemed they would have to settle for a one-goal advantage.
With seven minutes remaining Olsen produced a heroic save to deny Llorente before Malmo, who had rarely been out of their own half, were caught on the counter-attack by substitute Alvaro Morata.
The youngster was felled by Filip Helander on the edge of the penalty area and from the resulting free-kick Tevez curled home his second in style to get Juve off to a winning start.

Liverpool will learn; says Gerrard

Captain Steven Gerrard says Liverpool must “learn to crawl before we can walk” after scraping past Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets in their Champions League opener.
Gerrard scored a dramatic injury-time penalty after Mario Balotelli's first goal for the club in the 82nd minute was cancelled out by substitute Dani Abalo eight minutes later.
After a five-year absence from the tournament it was not one of the classic nights at Anfield but Gerrard promised there was better to come.
"We are very relieved. It was very important to start the competition off with maximum points," said Gerrard.
"I don't think it was a very good performance from ourselves but we have managed to take the three points, which is vital.
"I think we will get better as the season progresses.
"We have a lot of new faces trying to find their feet and settle in and there is a lot of expectancy on us because of how well we performed last year but it will take time to get back to that level - hopefully sooner rather than later.
"Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk."
Balotelli’s goal was a memorable moment for the Italy international. And Gerrard says the striker will go on to score plenty more after converting a smart chance in front of The Kop to open his account following a £16million move from AC Milan.
"I think it will be the first of many," he added.
"I thought he worked his socks off. You look at strikers and sometimes when it is not going their way they sulk but he was relentless and he stayed in there and that one good chance which came his way he took and it was a great finish."
Gerrard also had praise for young full-back Javier Manquillo, on loan from Atletico Madrid, whose run forward drew the foul from goalkeeper Milan Borjan to win the penalty.
"He has done very well since he came in, not just last night, but that is what type of defender he is: front foot, aggressive, very attacking," said Gerrard.
"He got rewarded by being brave and ambitious, even being down that end of the field - a lot of full-backs would have been staying back trying to get a draw out of the game.
"He chased down a lost cause and we got rewarded for it."
Ludogorets coach Georgi Dermendjiev refused to blame keeper Borjan, who was only signed at the weekend after suspension and injury ruled out his first two choices, for conceding the penalty.
"The goalkeeper was upset after the mistake. That is natural but we have a very good team atmosphere and his team-mates and I told him after the game that it is not a big mistake and everything will be fine in the future," he said.

Souness backs Chelsea and City

Manchester City and Bayern Munich: Meet in the group stages again
Graeme Souness believes Chelsea will win their Champions League group - and reckons Manchester City could make it as far as the semi-finals.
After Arsenal and Liverpool began their 2014-15 Champions League campaigns on Tuesday night, Manchester City prepare to get theirs underway with tough games against Bayern Munich and Schalke respectively.
Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness has been giving his verdicts on the sides ahead of the games...
Bayern Munich v Manchester City, Sportmasta
Are Manchester City more concerned with the Champions League than the Premier League this year? I don't think so.
Manuel Pellegrini would take either of those trophies right now and you can’t cherry-pick and say you would focus on the European Cup over the league or vice versa. These are big clubs that carry big squads and their supporters expect them to make an impression in both competitions.
There's not a great deal of difference between the first choice and second choice players in lots of positions, so that will mean they will be stronger in the domestic competition. I don't see that issue as a real handicap to them.
However, I don’' know why they have failed to get beyond the last 16 in Europe because they certainly have the players to do better. It's a mystery to me – and it will be to the coach as well.
I would expect Manchester City to finish second in their group, behind Bayern Munich, but I can still see them making the semi-finals if the draw is kind to them.
Roma are also in the group, but Italian football is nowhere near as strong as it used to be and I think City will finish second – although I wouldn't rule out them winning it.
Manchester City went to Munich last season and got a result and so they can go there with some confidence. I don't rule anything out.
But with Robert Lewandowski now in their ranks, you would have to say that Bayern Munich are stronger this year. Toni Kroos is a loss to them and they need Bastian Schweinsteiger to stay fit.
But there's no doubt about it, even if you take Kroos out of a squad, putting Lewandowski into it makes them stronger. Of all the strikers that changed clubs, he was the man to get this summer.
I think Bayern can go on and win the Champions League again. You can give them the Bundesliga now, but Pep Guardiola has to get them to the final in Berlin next year.
I would fancy Bayern Munich to win on Wednesday night, but would I be surprised if Manchester City got a result? No I wouldn't.
Chelsea v Schalke, Sportmasta
People ask me if Jose Mourinho has changed his style this season and I would say no.
If Chelsea draw Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich then he won't be frightened to go there and have a plan B – and he has a better plan B than anyone else.
He's not worried about what people say afterwards if he goes away from home and produces a dull, drab 0-0 draw. He's not concerned and it doesn't bother him.
They have conceded five goals in their last two league games, but I still think it will be either Chelsea or Manchester City that has the best defensive record come the end of the season.
Chelsea will win what looks like a very easy group and the beauty for Jose Mourinho is that he won't always have to field his strongest team in Europe.
In the later stages of the group he will have the luxury of being able to leave out some of his players, which means he can have one eye on the Premier League. That is an enormous advantage.
I don't think he would consider leaving out Diego Costa for the Schalke game because they are the main rivals to finish first in the group and Chelsea will want to damage them, especially at home. As long as Costa is not carrying any sort of injury, I don't see him being rested.
Chelsea will win this game. I won't say it will be comfortable, but they will win this game and their group.

Juventus have learnt our lesson; says

Tevez: Juventus have learnt our lesson
The striker is convinced the Bianconeri will not tumble out of the Champions League at the first hurdle for the second season running
Carlos Tevez has insisted that Juventus have learnt their Champions League lesson after easing past Malmo with a 2-0 win on Tuesday.
The Bianconeri struggled in Europe last season but with new coach Massimiliano Allegri having replaced Antonio Conte in the hotseat, they started their campaign on the continent  in comfortable fashion thanks to a double from the former Manchester City forward.
The Argentine, who had not scored in the Champions League since 2008-09, dismissed suggestions he had become weighed down by his European drought, preferring instead to focus on the goals of the team as a whole.
"My lack of Champions League goals wasn't a problem really," he told Sky Sport. "The most important thing for me is the victory.
"It will be a difficult group, we learned the lesson of last year. I'll try to improve my level of goalscoring during the season.
"I am getting into deeper positions, but that is also a problem as I cannot reach the goal. I need to improve on that." Juventus' two-goal win in Turin sent them top of Group A on goal difference ahead of Olympiakos, who pulled off a surprise by beating last season's finalists Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
“We knew it would be a difficult group. Some journalists like to think it’s easy, but we know from last year that nothing is easy," Tevez added, referring to Juve's group stage exit behind Real Madrid and Galatasaray in 2013-14.

Trophies way off for Arsenal; says Merson

Paul Merson says Arsenal will struggle to win trophies this season if they continue to perform as they did against Borussia Dortmund.
Arsene Wenger's side endured a disappointing start to their Champions League campaign in Germany as goals from Ciro Immobile and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw the 2013 finalists run out comfortable 2-0 winners.
Dortmund mustered 23 shots on goal compared to just one for Arsenal and Merson was alarmed by the frailties throughout the side.
"It was poor, simple as that. They were well beaten all over the pitch from one to 11," he said.
"They got closed down, they weren't allowed to play and they let the other team play. You could turn around and say Danny Welbeck could have had a hat-trick because he had three good chances, but Dortmund had nine or 10 good chances. That's not good enough, not for Arsenal.
"We were sitting here beforehand saying they could win the league… but watching that they were a 'gillion' miles away from anything.
"Something has to change because this happens at least four times a season. This is not a one-off; this happens four or five times a season."
Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger struggled to explain the below-par display but argued fatigue might be a factor as the match came three days after a crunch Premier League clash against Manchester City.
Young defender Hector Bellerin made his debut following injuries to Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy, but Merson said Arsenal should have assembled a squad that can fight on all fronts.
He said: "No excuses. I know they had a hard game on Saturday, of course they did, but if you're going to win the Champions League, that's the nature of it.
"In Premier League football you play on Saturday or Sunday and then you play on Wednesday. That's the way it is and the way it has been for the last how many years. I thought they were well off the pace.
"I wouldn’t say it was the defensive absentees because it wasn't their fault in my opinion. They were left exposed with no protection. I don't care if you’re Maldini, one of the best ever, if people run at you left, right and centre it's going to be very hard to defend. I don't make any excuse for that.
"They’ve probably got about 11 midfield players at Arsenal and they're all roughly about the same. There's nothing really different. You can reel them off: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil… they are all players that are exactly the same."

AC Milan wanted me for a long time; says Van Ginkel

Van Ginkel: AC Milan wanted me for a long time
The Dutch midfielder is thrilled to be playing for a club who have been long-term admirers but hinted that he still hopes to have a long-term future at Chelsea
Marco van Ginkel says AC Milan had been trying to sign him for a long time before eventually securing his signature in the summer.
The Netherlands midfielder has not been able to secure a regular place in the Chelsea first team after spending the majority of last season out injured and joined the Italian side on loan for a season on deadline day.
Van Ginkel says the Serie A club have been long-term admirers, but hinted that he was still hoping for a future at Stamford Bridge after no purchase option was included in the deal.
"AC Milan wanted me for a long time and did everything to get me," the 21-year-old said to sportmasta.
"That is good for a player to know. We play with two attacking midfielders and a defensive one. I think I am more of an attacking one.
"I think Italian football suits me. Milan is a great club, even though we won't play in the Champions League this year, so I am fine here.
"Right now I am focused entirely on Milan, but I'm happy with the fact that Chelsea didn't put an option to buy in the loan."
Milan face an away trip to play Parma on Sunday having impressively defeated Lazio in their opening game

Diego Costa not Chelsea's only threat, says Aogo

Diego Costa not Chelsea's only threat, says Aogo
The 27-year-old is full of respect for the Premier League outfit and has made it clear Schalke's injury problems should not be an excuse
Schalke defender Dennis Aogo has warned that there is more to Chelsea than Diego Costa ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.
The Spain international has been in sublime form in the opening weeks of the 2014-15 campaign, netting seven goals in four Premier League appearances, but Aogo believes Jose Mourinho boasts several world-class players to whom the Germans must play close attention.
"In Germany we have seen [Diego Costa] has had a great start to the season, but it's not just him," Aogo told reporters.
"The whole team is playing very well and they are not top of the Premier League for nothing.
"We are a playing against some of the best players in the world here so we don't need any extra motivation.
"Who is to say that we won't have a great day and compete at the highest level..."
Schalke are without a number of first-team regulars due to injury, but Aogo has insisted this should not be an excuse.
"Our captain [Benedikt Howedes] is missing, but we also have quite a few more players missing.
"Of course it is not easy but the players on the pitch have to stand up and compensate for that situation – and take responsibility. We can't just sit here and feel sorry for ourselves – we have to give our best on the pitch and try and make up for that."

Bayern must aim for Champions League final: says Robben

Robben: Bayern must aim for Champions League final
The Dutchman is full of ambition as the Bavarians prepare to take on Manchester City in their Group E opener
Arjen Robben has stressed that a team of Bayern Munich's stature should always be aiming to win the Champions League.
The Bavarians were eliminated in the semi-finals in 2013-14 after winning European club football's elite competition the year before and Robben is desperate to bring back the trophy to Munich once more this term.
"Bayern Munich should be aiming for the Champions League final again," Robben told Sportmasta.
"You always have to be careful and make sure you don't get arrogant, but you must have that ambition with the team Bayern have.
"You simply don't start your European campaign with the ambition to make it to the quarter-finals or perhaps a bit further.
"Of course, it's extra special because the final is in Berlin. That stadium suits us quite well. I won three out of four DFB-Pokal finals there.
"The further you go into the competition, the closer you get to the final, but I still enjoy the games in the group stages as well. It's something completely different with the Champions League hymn and the evening games."
Bayern open their Champions League campaign with a home game against Manchester City on Wednesday

United missed out. says Guardiola

Thomas Muller: Among those said to have been interesting Manchester United
Pep Guardiola says Manchester United 'don't have enough money' to tempt top talent away from Bayern Munich.
Several high-profile performers were linked with exits at the Allianz Arena over the summer, with former Bayern boss Louis van Gaal reported to be been on taking them to Old Trafford.
Toni Kroos was among those considered to be a top target for United and he did move on in a big-money deal, but ended up at Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller were also said to figure prominently on United’s wish list, but the trio never came close to walking out on Bayern.
Guardiola claims that is because Bayern never opened the transfer door, with the trio fully committed to his project in Germany and unfazed by reported interest from a side that spent around £150million during an elaborate reshaping of their squad.
The Spanish tactician said ahead of a meeting with United’s arch-rivals Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday: “They don’t have enough money.
“I saw they spent a lot of money. It’s good for my friend Louis.
“It’s part of the game. All of the clubs in the world want the players of another club.
“It depends on the player. If the player wants to play, he will play. If he wants to stay, he will stay. We have seen it many times.
“Manchester United want these players, but they decide to stay here and we are happy.”
United had to spend big in the recent window after suffering a humbling fall from grace – one that Guardiola believes should act as a warning to other European heavyweights.
He added on a club that finished seventh in the Premier League last season: “It’s a good lesson for the big clubs.
“They think ‘we arte unbeatable and strong’ and they are not here. Maybe the next season they are out.
“That’s why football is magnificent. Every single week you have to be ready. Every week you have to show you are ready. A bad 45 minutes and you’re out.”

Akpom, Dauda and Aneke: Building a new Nigeria squad with top talents

 Chuba Akpom
Six players who Stephen Keshi should call up to solve some of the Super Eagles' current problems
By David Atana & Sam Praise
Following Nigeria’s disappointing Cup of Nations Qualifying results, it’s clear that something needs to change for the Super Eagles. A change of coach, a change of leadership and a change of tactics are all popular ideas, but what about the players?
Nigeria are not short of talent, yet the Big Boss has been guilty of persisting with consistent underperformers over the last 18 months.
In this feature, three Goal Nigeria writers each propose two uncapped players that they’d like to see incorporated into the squad in the near future.
Comment below and let us know which of those listed you’d like to see acknowledged by Keshi. Also, tell us the names you’d like to see given a chance in the famous green shirts and we’ll respond to your selections in coming editorials.
Godswill Elohor & Chuks Aneke
Godswill Elohor
The Super Eagles have not achieved stability in the right-back spot for some time. Chidi Odiah held down the fort admirably, but since his exit from the national team set-up, the void has been filled gamely by Efe Ambrose.
However, the Celtic man is very much a centre-back playing out of position and often struggles by the touchline going forward, often preferring to cut into the centre of the field where there’s more space. The rise of Godswill Elohor is set to change all that.
The youngster, who left the shores of the country at a young age, is highly rated in the Barcelona youth ranks. Physically imposing and mature beyond his years, he captained the Blaugrana’s U-19 team to victory in the UEFA Youth League last season.
His integration into the Super Eagles would address an immediate need, and give the team attacking balance on the right.

Chuks Aneke
Just like Elohor, a call-up for 21-year-old Chuks Aneke would solve a headache that Stephen Keshi has failed to in his reign: the right person to complete the midfield three. In recent qualifiers, especially against Congo in Calabar, the Super Eagles struggled with staticity in the middle with a trio of Ramon Azeez, Ogenyi Onazi and John Obi Mikel.
If the Big Boss intends to persevere with his 4-3-3/4-2-1-3 hybrid, then Aneke is perfect for the farthest forward position of the three. Standing at 6’3, his physical attributes dovetail nicely with supreme technique. The former Arsenal youth player has been compared with IYaya Toure by Arsene Wenger, and while the ability is not quite the same yet, the style sure is.
His range of passing, forward-playing inclinations from midfield and scoring touch (he notched 14 for Crewe Alexandra on loan last season from midfield) would give the Eagles a different, and more dangerous dimension.
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Moses Odubajo & Abiola Dauda
Moses Odubajo
It was March this year when I had the good fortune to watch Moses Odubajo play in the flesh. Here was a player, they had told me, who was destined for great things.
They weren’t wrong, the winger fired home an 82nd minute goal to secure a victory for his side, Leyton Orient, against Colchester United.
At the time, the Os looked good for promotion, heading into the game in top spot in League One.  The London side faltered, however, and missed out on the Championship.
Odubajo was clearly good enough for the third tier and after a bidding war between various sides, was eventually snapped up by Brentford.
The Nigerian has taken to life on a grander stage like a duck to water; already he has scored twice, contributed one assist and been named Man of the Match on one occasion. Only 21, there is a lot more to come—there’s no reason why he couldn’t be an exciting back-up option on the right with a view to the future.

Abiola Dauda
Following Nigeria’s defeat to the Republic of Congo and their goalless draw with South Africa, calls have returned for La Liga hotshot Ike Uche to be returned to the national team.
It’s understandable to see where the clamouring comes from. Uche is a fine poacher and bagged 14 goals in 19 starts last term. He’s already averaged a goal-a-game in Spain so far this season.
However, despite his qualities, it’s fair to say that, at 30, the striker is a short-term option at best. Similarly, even if he does patch things up with Stephen Keshi, he remains a loose cannon and a potentially divisive influence.
Might Abiola Dauda be an altogether safer option?
The 26-year-old managed 11 goals in 24 appearances with Red Star Belgrade last term and was in ferocious form this weekend for new club Vitesse Arnhem.
The Eredivisie can be a propitious division for a player with a turn of pace and an eye for goal, and if Dauda’s fine form continues, he would be an ideal candidate for a phone call from the Glass House.
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Carl Ikeme & Chuba Akpom
Carl Ikeme
With Vincent Enyeama excused from international duty against Congo, things fell apart. Austin Ejide’s inability to challenge the Number One has resulted in the over-reliance of the Lille shot-stopper.
Could Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Carl Ikeme be the answer?
The keeper, who signed a three-year deal in June with Wolves, broke the 90-year club record for most clean sheets in a season as they stormed back to the Championship last term.
Standing at 6’3’’ (1.91m), the 28-year-old has the repertoire to give Enyeama a run for his money—in good spirit, if I might add.

Chuba Akpom
18-year-old Akpom, who like Ikeme was born in England, has continued to impress with Arsenal, and with the way he’s been banging in goals (the latest being a brace for the U-21s against Aston Villa), a first-team reward is not far off.
With Emmanuel Emenike struggling, latterly, to supply the goals for Nigeria, it is of great importance that Keshi uncovers new, diverse offensive options.
Having been schooled under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger since the age of six, rising steadily through the youth system at Arsenal, and then branching out on loan to Brentford and Coventry City for further experience, Akpom’s young shoulders have been drilled astutely. 
The young, energetic, composed forward truly deserves examination by the national team handlers, certainly before England come calling!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Championship Chat: say Cellino at fault

Massimo Cellino: Decision to appoint David Hockaday could cost Leeds
James Dixon blasts Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino and the Watford players - and reviews the Championship deals in the transfer window.
The Sky Bet Championship is often overlooked for the glamour and glitz of the Premier League, but there's much to be celebrated in the second tier as we find out in this weekly Thursday column.
The race for promotion, and the bid to stay in the second tier, is likely to be as competitive as ever, as we examine all the key talking points from the weekend, and also take a look at what's to come in the matches ahead.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the story comment box, below, or follow me on Twitter here.
To see all the latest Championship goals, click here.
Manager merry-go-round in full speed

The signs of strain have already begun to emerge in the Championship, and last week the pressure came to a head.
With the closing transfer window in the background, some Championship bosses were being given a strong vote of confidence by the owners, while others were on the way out.
The league's ruthless nature re-emerged yet again as more managerial victims were claimed, for different reasons, as both Leeds and Watford were forced to begin the search for new men at the helm.
After a torturous 70 days in charge, Leeds owner Massimo Cellino finally put an end to what he must have thought would have been a low-risk and cheap experiment, with the sacking of head coach Dave Hockaday.
As Joe Urquhart wrote in last week's Championship Chat, the news comes as anything but a shock. The former Forest Green boss had become a dead man walking even before the humiliation of a 2-1 defeat to West Yorkshire rivals Bradford City in the League Cup.
Disregarding Hockaday's record and the performance of his team, I completely agree with Joe's argument last week that he simply wasn't fit for the task at Leeds, and would argue the blame lies solely at Cellino's door.
When a new owner takes over a club it is imperative that they get things right first time. Clearly Cellino has experience of running a club having been in charge of Serie A team Cagliari - running it in harmonious fashion is another matter entirely. He should have realised that ensuring the club has the right man to lead it is of the utmost importance.
As a Blackburn Rovers fan myself I've witnessed first-hand bungling new owners installing a yes-man instead of looking to experience and instilling confidence in the fans. The wrong initial decision can cost you the faith of loyal supporters and you lose them forever.
What Cellino hasn't accounted for is what would remain of his, and more importantly, the club's reputation after his doomed attempts with Hockaday came to an end.
What sort of manager would want to work under such conditions?
Former West Brom boss Steve Clarke is one of the favourites to take over the Yorkshire club, but why would he consider undoing all the hard work he has done in his career in a risky return to work which will see him involved in a power struggle where he will inevitably lose out.
Leeds United has a fantastic worldwide reputation and is one of the few Championship clubs that, with the right backing, could make a strong return to the Premier League. As it stands, it's hard to see past this season's struggles.

In contrast, Beppe Sannino's departure was much more difficult to predict with the club sat second in the table, just one point behind leaders Nottingham Forest.
Like Leeds, the Hornets also have Italian owners in the the Pozzo family. Run in a typically Italian model, former technical director Gianluca Nani was in charge of transfers while the head coach is responsible for the day-to-day matters with the squad.
As Keith Andrews revealed in his Football League blog this week, the timing of his departure was unexpected but could have been due to a restriction on his power.
But considering Sannino's experience in a long line of Italian clubs it's hard to believe the trouble emanated from his relationship with the technical director - in fact, as his parting statement from the club's website would suggest, he was happy with the squad that was assembled.
"I took over a very talented squad when I arrived - but they were boys in many ways," he said.
"I'm proud of what we have achieved and I have no doubt that the squad now, who look very much like men who know exactly what they must do, are very capable of getting promotion from this tough Championship league."
Rumours of discontent among the squad have been rife, with the unrest appearing to come to a head during the recent 2-0 victory at Rotherham when Lloyd Dyer ran halfway across the pitch after scoring a goal and shouted at the Watford bench, seemingly in the direction of his head coach.
On the back of an impressive start to the season, this must be one of the most disturbing instances where player power has been the main contribution to the downfall of a manager.
Despite the appointment of Oscar Garcia, who is a relatively experienced manager at Championship level, the departures of Sannino and Nani in such a short space of a time make me feel uneasy, and on the back of this wholesale change in approach could drastically backfire on the owners.
Mixed results in transfer window

With the departure of such high-profile managers, the closing of the summer transfer window became a mere distraction in comparison.
And after the initial big waves made earlier on in the transfer window that saw the Championship transfer record smashed with Ross McCormack's £11million move to Fulham, the league's clubs have been very measured in their dealings.
The west London club have endured by far the worst window based on their results so far, and Felix Magath has failed to address the lack of experience running through the core of the side.
Fulham apart, the rest of the relegated teams have done well, considering the circumstances, with both Cardiff and Norwich reducing their wage bills while keeping the majority of the squad together and bringing in some useful additions.
After initially being critical of Wigan's transfer activity, I've been impressed with their deadline day business. The Latics have made great use of James McArthur's £7million transfer fee to bring in three decent midfielders in Adam Forshaw, William Kvist and Emyr Huws, with Uwe Rosler also bringing in a much-needed forward, Andy Delort on deadline day.
Elsewhere, Stuart Pearce identified the lack of pace in his Nottingham Forest side when he took over the reins and has used the window expertly to transform the club into an impressive attacking outfit.
Britt Assombalonga and Michail Antonio have started the season in excellent form, however the signing of the season has to go to Charlton's Igor Vetokele.
The forward's five goals have moved Bob Peeters' side into sixth, which can't be underplayed after the Addicks finished 18th last season, with the Angolan international enjoying a flying start to the campaign following his move from Copenhagen in the summer.

Leeds job not for all says Gary Rowett

Elland Road: Leeds United looking for new boss

Gary Rowett explains why some managers may be put off the Leeds job and reveals why he has given up watching YouTube clips of foreign players.
Burton Albion followed up their Capital One Cup win over QPR with a 2-1 victory at Mansfield on Saturday that took them top of the Sky Bet League Two table.
In the third edition of his exclusive new weekly column for TEAMtalk, as part of our Football League Focus every Thursday, Gary reveals he was able to enjoy a remarkably stress-free transfer deadline day on Monday - and also gives his thoughts on the situation at Leeds United, who are looking for a new manager after sacking David Hockaday.
Van Gaal needs time: Last week, Gary explained why Louis van Gaal needs time at Manchester United and why 3-5-2 can work well.
Transfers explained: In his first column, after a transfer row led to the exit of Tony Pulis, Gary discussed how business is done at League Two level.
Life's a beach

The interesting thing about this last week has been the tranquillity of it.
Normally you're scratching around like crazy on the last day of the window but our approach was not to panic or feel like we had to bring someone in because that's what the fans want on deadline day, everyone wants to see two or three new signings.
But after planning all summer, to feel like you have to do lots of business on the last day is daft.
I can understand some of the top clubs, where the market is slightly different, waiting until that last day when better deals can be struck depending on other clubs getting players at the last minute which dictates which players are available.
But transfer deadline days don't have as much of an effect in the lower leagues. You look at how many permanent deals were done and there weren't that many at our level.
I actually spent transfer deadline day sat on a beach with Cornwall with my family. I decided to take a slightly different route to transfer deadline day!
If business needed to be done I had my phone, but fortunately for us it went to plan and was quite a relaxing day.
I've been in the position where you feel like you've got to get someone in or a couple of bodies in, and I'm not suggesting I always planned to escape on transfer deadline day, but I didn't feel the need to be in the office making 4,000 phone calls.
Loans important in League Two

The one bit of business we did do on the last day was making Stuart Beavon's loan deal permanent but that was something we'd worked on previously and was by no means a last-minute deal.
It was an excellent move by us, though, because it meant that not only have we secured a fantastic player on a long-term basis but also that we've freed up an emergency loan place for when the window opens in a week's time.
We've only got two players on loan at the club at the moment, and with our squad as it is we just felt it was right to let deadline day pass and wait for a week, for when we already have our targets.
There's always a bit of a snowball effect on the back of the players brought in by the bigger clubs but also the Financial Fair Play rules and Premier League 25-man squads.
All of that means that more players of better quality get pushed down the divisions. There's been a big improvement in the quality of football at the top end of League Two and bottom end of League One as a result.
We've certainly targeted players, League One footballers and Championship footballers, that have become surplus to requirements and are looking for a new challenge further down.
We've tried to do that without compromising our key indicators for players - our preference is for young players that have played at a higher level and have got that hunger and desire to get back there.
There are a lot of players coming down from the top level but it's about finding the right ones that we feel are not going to view playing in League Two as a come down.
It's very easy to fill your side with lots of good players but the key word I always use is synergy. We always look for that little bit of synergy between the players, their characters, and what they all want to achieve.
If you look at the likes of Adam McGurk and Lucas Atkins, they are both 25 and have played in League One but come down to League Two because we've sold them the ambition of the club.
If the character of the player is right and you do enough homework - and those two are classic cases - you know they will give their heart and soul to whichever club they play for.
Foreign market a minefield
Even though we had a quiet end to the window, I was offered players left, right and centre, but I've started to limit the trawling through YouTube watching clips of foreign players you've got to work out.
There are that many foreign players available, that many players keen to come over to this country, that sometimes if you're not careful you end up watching a whole day's worth of clips of empty stadiums.
If you're going to sit through hours of footage a week on the basis that you might find a good player every two years, does that become a waste of time?
Also, these clips can make any player look good. If you watch me in training now at 40 years old I'm sure you might find three or four clips that make me slightly enticing to someone.
I'd probably be stood still and without the ball but I'm sure I could look good enough for someone to take me on trial.
The other problem is that you have no idea about their character unless you get them over, and nine times out of 10 you've got to share some of the cost of getting them over.
Then, if you want to sign them, even if you can get them for minimal wage, you've then got to find accommodation. We haven't got a club house where we can just put people in so you have to consider either renting somewhere for the player or putting them in a hotel, which is obviously very costly.
So it's becoming more and more difficult to take a player from the foreign market that you don't know anything about and turning that into a professional contract.
It is very easy to be bogged down by calls for trials but at this level you have to focus on your immediate market, which is Under-21 games that are fairly local, and players you already know about.
Big job ahead for next Leeds boss

I've spoken to quite a lot of people who've worked with Dave Hockaday or know him, and they've all said he's a very good coach, they've all extolled his virtues as a coach.
Still, I'm sure most people were slightly surprised that he got the Leeds job in the summer because you assume they will go for a high-profile manager that has managed at a high level, like most Championship clubs do.
Leeds is a big club, they want success there and they want it quite quickly, so I wasn't surprised that Dave lost his job after what I had read in the press.
But I'm sure he would have understood the situation at Leeds when he was given the opportunity to manage the club, and I'm sure he doesn't regret having a go.
It's a difficult scenario for anyone going into the job next, and as a manager you have to understand the environment you're walking into.
It's a very continental approach to running a football club, but there is no right or wrong way. More and more clubs are going down the same route.
If you're joining a club that has got a director of football, and transfers are not your remit, then you have to accept that and you have to coach the team as well as you can.
But I think the vast proportion of managers, and I would be one of them, would certainly prefer to have an opinion on transfers. You would like to push your philosophy and the way that your team plays otherwise you're just coaching a team.
For some people that's fine and something they would enjoy doing without the pressures of actually having to be the manager in some ways.
The problem is that you're going to be judged on the success of the team, and it might not be all down to you.

Keshi replaces Vincent Enyeama with David Obiazor

Keshi replaces Vincent Enyeama with David Obiazor
The El-Kanemi goalkeeper becomes the latest fresh invitee to the Super Eagles for the Afcon qualifier against Congo on Saturday after Enyeama’s last minute withdrawal
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has invited El-Kanemi goalkeeper David Obiazor for the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo on Saturday after permission from captain Vincent Enyeama.
"We have been monitoring the Nigerian league and we see that the keeper of Elkanemi is a talent that is why we want to give him a trial. We will see how it turns out when he comes to camp,” Keshi said.
The other goalkeepers called up by Keshi are Austin Ejide and Chigozie Agbim.
Ejide is expected to captain the Nigeria team as they begin their defence of their Afcon title won in South Africa last year.

Ronaldo sees United future

Cristiano Ronaldo: Open to Old Trafford return at some stage
Cristiano Ronaldo is 'happy' at Real Madrid but admits that returning to Manchester United is part of his plans for the future.
The current holder of the prestigious Ballon d’Or is tied to a long-term contract at Santiago Bernabeu and has every intention of honouring that agreement.
Talk of a second spell at Old Trafford refuses to go away, though, with Ronaldo’s profile having rocketed during six successful years in England between 2003 and 2009.
That stint delivered eight major trophies, including three Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League crown.
Ronaldo has never sought to hide his affection for United since packing his bags for Spain and maintains that an emotional homecoming is a distinct possibility.
The 29-year-old forward told the Sportmasta: “I love Manchester; everyone knows that – I have said it many times. Manchester is in my heart. I left many good friends there, the supporters are amazing and I wish I can come back one day.
“I am happy here in Real Madrid and have four more years, but in the future you never know because they treated me unbelievably there.
“I really did love being at Manchester United.
“Believe me, they will be a good team again. I’m sure of it. It is a great club.”
United have endured their struggles of late, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement having left a gaping hole at the heart of the club that is yet to be suitably filled.
Ronaldo is, however, convinced that better times lie ahead, with new boss Louis van Gaal having spent big over the summer to bring exciting match-winning talent to the Theatre of Dreams.
“This can happen. Bad moments and good moments,” said Ronaldo.
“Manchester is passing through a bad moment. Last year it was a horrible season and this year they haven’t started well either.
“But I do think they did well to buy (Angel) Di Maria and (Radamel) Falcao. I think the team will be much better. I want to see them better because it is such a fantastic club and they deserve to be better.
“Falcao is a very good signing. He is a very good player.”

Erico: Enyeama’s absence a wake-up call

Erico: Enyeama’s absence a wake-up call
Former Nigeria goalkeeper, Joe Erico has admitted that the absence of Vincent Enyeama in Saturday’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo is an opportunity for other Super Eagles goalkeeper to prove their worth.
Enyeama has been granted leave for the two opening matches of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers on September 6 and 10 due to family reasons.
Erico popularly called Jogo Bonito during his active footballing days pointed out other the absence of the Lille custodian will only help other goalkeepers in the national team justify their invitation.
"Enyeama’s absence is never a disadvantage.  The other goalkeepers should come on board because they have been working together along,” Erico told Sportmasta.
"I don’t see anything wrong in his absence because I think it should be an opportunity for other goalkeepers to show what they can do.
"And as for the game on Saturday, all the Eagles need to do is to ensure maximum victory but mind you, they will have to play very well because a win at home is very vital baring in mind that the  Congolese are not pushovers.
He also said Stephen Keshi’s decision to lead Nigeria against Congo and South Africa despite not having his contract issue sorted out will have no negative implication on the performance of the team on Saturday.
"Keshi is still doing his job. His future as Nigeria is not an issue here because he is serving his fatherland.
"Against Congo, I don’t see that causing any distraction because I’m very optimistic that at the end of the day, things will be sorted out in his favour,” he concluded.

Tino's Toon offer

Tino Asprilla (l): Offered to help his former side Former striker Tino Asprilla has offered his services to Newcastle, while Jay Spearing is being investigated by Bolton after a trip to Ibiza.
  • Wayne Rooney admits England must improve in all areas if they want to get their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign off to a good start in Switzerland on Monday.
  • England's soggy display against Norway proved a turn-off to television viewers with audience figures showing almost four million more people chose to watch the Great British Bake-Off than Roy Hodgson's men labour to victory.
  • Fulham boss Felix Magath admits he could lose his battle to keep Patrick Roberts if a Champions League club make a bid for him.
  • Harry Redknapp has accused some of England's players of not caring about the team.
  • Joel Campbell's agent has vented his frustration after Arsene Wenger chose to keep the winger at Emirates Stadium.
  • Argentina boss Gerardo Martino described Manchester United new boy Angel Di Maria as one of the top five players in the world.
  • Pablo Zabaleta limped out of Argentina's friendly win in Germany in a worrying development for Manchester City fans.
  • Unwanted duo Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic have been included in Manchester City's Premier League squad, along with John Guidetti.
  • Kolo Toure believes he will be given the chance to impress Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers this season despite sliding down the pecking order.
  • Everton legend Graeme Sharp has praised the aerial ability of forward Steven Naismith.
  • Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has bought the rights to rename Rangers' Ibrox Stadium for just £1.
  • Tino Asprilla has offered Alan Pardew the opportunity to add him to the Newcastle backroom team as "striker coach".
  • Newcastle are ready to circulate Jonas Gutierrez's name when the Football League loan window opens next week.
  • Resolving the future of Connor Wickham is now at the top of Lee Congerton's Sunderland to-do list.
  • Soccer Management Worldwide still hoping to strike a deal to buy Birmingham.
  • Kieran Richardson is enjoying working under Roy Keane again at Aston Villa after admitting that the Irishman saved his career from spiralling out of control.
  • Wolves manager Kenny Jackett says an emotional return to Watford was never on the cards.
  • Despite overseeing one of the more successful transfer windows for West Brom, Jeremy Peace has called for the deadline to be brought forward to the start of the season.
  • England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate has backed West Brom coach Alan Irvine to bring the best out of Saido Berahino.
  • Kenny Jackett insists he is at Wolves for the long haul as he was nominated for Championship Manager of the Month.
  • Midfielder Graham Dorrans has given West Brom another injury scare ahead of their Premier League game at home to Everton.
  • Stoke's Oussama Assaidi says he is ready to be eased straight into Mark Hughes's first-team plans after recovering from back-to-back serious knee injuries.
  • Tim Sherwood believes Tottenham's failure to sign another striker during the transfer window could cost them a top-four finish.
  • West Ham fans have clubbed together to pay a fine given to a pitch invader who took a free kick during the team's clash with Tottenham last month.
  • Fulham defender Tim Hoogland has told supporters to trust Felix Magath's judgment in the market.
  • Fernando Torres knew the writing was on the wall for him at Chelsea the moment Diego Costa arrived at Stamford Bridge.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson is urging Swansea City to keep up the pace after their flying start to the new Premier League season.
  • Danny Gabbidon has been called into the Wales squad for Tuesday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Andorra after Sam Ricketts withdrew through injury.
  • Joe Allen has admitted it is no surprise to see Swansea flying high under Garry Monk
  • Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic's remarkable long-range goal against Southampton last season has earned a place in the Guinness World Records book.
  • Southampton spent almost as much money in the latest transfer window as they did in the previous four combined - yet the club still turned a profit in the market this summer.
  • Hull defender Alex Bruce has withdrawn from the Northern Ireland squad to face Hungary on Sunday, with his wife due to give birth to their second child.
  • Casper Sloth looks "as bright as a button" will be a real asset to Leeds, says Neil Redfearn
  • Esteban Cambiasso is already having an impact at Leicester, midfielder Danny Drinkwater has revealed.
  • Burnley manager Sean Dyche has been reassured that he will have money to strengthen his squad in January.
  • New Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Steele admits the chance to compete with and train alongside his childhood hero Paul Robinson was too good to turn down.
  • Bolton have launched an internal investigation after photos of captain Jay Spearing on holiday in Ibiza emerged on social networking sites.
  • Reports in the US suggest former Wanderers skipper Zat Knight is speaking with MLS side Colorado Rapids.
  • Celtic and Scotland keeper Craig Gordon is bracing himself for what could be the most testing month of his career.
  • Virgil van Dijk is on course to make his international debut - despite having to leave Holland's training base for the birth of his first daughter.
  • Celtic are expecting to learn the fate of an appeal to sanction the loan signing of John Guidetti from Manchester City.
  • Rangers defender Darren McGregor insists he is happy to keep playing at right-back but sees his future with the club at centre-half.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Mistakes that Keshi cannot afford to repeat with Nigeria

Mistakes that Keshi cannot afford to repeat with Nigeria
After all the drama that followed the Super Eagles’ elimination from the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Stephen Keshi looks set to continue as Nigeria boss.

For many, the Big Boss remains the best choice for the job as a result of his impressive first stint with the team. There is a sense that the former defender has unfinished business with a crop of players that he has cultivated and developed.

In truth, such an opinion is not by any means misplaced, as the former Togo national team coach had succeeded in transforming the fortunes of a team once considered by their own supporters as being unworthy to bear the 'Super Eagles' nickname. Taunts of ‘Super Chickens’ have become much rarer under Keshi.

Who, among Nigeria fans could easily forget that memorable evening when a little-known Sunday Mba poked the ball home to hand his compatriots the continental trophy and give Nigeria her first major trophy in over 19 years?

Similarly, at this year's World Cup in Brazil, Keshi equalled Dutchman Clemens Westerhof's Last-16 feat, repeating the team’s greatest-ever showing in 1994 and 1998. This achievement placed Keshi side-by-side with a man considered by many as the national team's best coach to date.

Keshi might have earned himself a place in the hearts of many Nigerian football fans, but this does not by any means indicate that his success with the team was not affected by his few shortcomings and mistakes both technically and tactically.

If the 52 year old wants progress, certain errors must be avoided.

The manager's decisions are often hard to understand for fans

Throughout Keshi's three year stay with the Super Eagles, he has often made the mistake of not wanting to let go of some under-performing players. Simultaneously, he often refused to give other players a chance to prove themselves, often supporting this decision with the excuse of wanting to maintain team unity and understanding.

He persisted in sticking with the same faces match after match during the qualifying stage of the 2013 AFCON and only invited new players when the tournament was on the horizon.

Little wonder the team struggled to find rhythm in their first three matches at the competition.

Both Ikechukwu Uche and Ezekiel Imoh were overlooked for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil despite having scored more goals together than three of the strikers that Keshi took to the tournament.

Ramon Azeez was only drafted into the team few months to the World Cup regardless of the fact that he was already an integral part of La Liga side Almeria for over three months before the Super Eagles’ last match in 2013.

Despite Hope Akpan and Kenneth Otigba, for example, impressing regularly for their clubs during the 2013/2014 season, both players were not called up to the national team for any of the World Cup qualifiers or friendlies. Instead, Keshi opted to go with familiar faces, even though some areas of the team obviously needed reinforcements.

While Algeria successfully processed the nationality switches of several players who have proved pivotal to their success, Keshi demonstrated a reluctance to cast his net deep into the diaspora. As fans watch Reuben Gabriel, once again, let an opposition attacker pass him by, people can’t help wondering whether there are better options out there.

There are!

Reuben Gabriel | Becoming a symbol of Keshi's stubbornness

Moving forward, Keshi must make the most of the resources at his disposal and ensure that the Super Eagles consistently use their best players for competitive matches.

Secondly, it is important that Keshi begins to make the most of friendly matches and starts to treat them as an important aspect of the team’s preparation.

At both the Championship of African Nations and the African Nations Cup, Keshi's teams started poorly but managed to gel and find their shape during the course of the competition.

This trend could easily be traced to gaffer's failure to effectively utilise the numerous friendlies and tournament qualification matches to arrive at his best possible formation and tactics.

It was a similar story at the World Cup, where the team looked lacklustre during their 0-0 opening draw with minnows Iran. The Super Eagles’ uninspiring performance in this game came as little surprise following their disappointing friendly showings against Scotland, Greece and the United States.

If he can begin to see the error of his ways and make amends, then there is no reason why Keshi cannot guide Nigeria to the African title in Morocco in 2015. Retain the title, and Keshi could comfortably call himself the Super Eagles’ greatest-ever coach.

If he continues to repeat the mistakes of his reign to date, however, then Nigeria may well be heading to North Africa in hope, rather than expectation.

Arsenal's Carvalho move fails

William Carvalho: Nearly joined Arsenal on deadline day Arsenal failed to land William Carvalho on Deadline Day, QPR still want Jermain Defoe and Man United will sign Kevin Strootman in January
  • QPR midfielder Joey Barton is set to be offered a new contract despite the signing of Sandro.
  • Benfica and Joel Campbell's agent are fuming at Arsenal after a deadline-day move fell through.
  • New England captain Wayne Rooney has been "awful" for Manchester United this season and should be dropped, says former Red Devils defender Paul Parker.
  • Manchester United are lining up a move for Roma's Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman.
  • Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi claims Argentina winger Angel Di Maria wanted to join the Ligue 1 club before his move to Manchester United.
  • Chelsea will look to secure the long-term future of Thibaut Courtois this month, with the club eager to conclude discussions over a new contract.
  • Robin van Persie has rubbished claims that his knee problems prompted Manchester United to sign Radamel Falcao.
  • Wayne Rooney says the signing of Radamel Falcao is a statement of Manchester United's intent but admitted he does not know his role in the team.
  • Barcelona have stood firm in their defiance that Liverpool only received £65million for the sale of Luis Suarez.
  • Liverpool have agreed personal terms on a one-year deal with 32-year-old former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
  • QPR have not given up on former England forward Jermain Defoe and will make another bid in January.
  • Manchester United have agreed a deal with Ajax to sign teenage prodigy Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
  • Arsenal offered Sporting Libson £12.5m AND Joel Campbell for William Carvalho on deadline day.
  • Micah Richards rejected an improved contract at Manchester City in an effort to revive his career in Serie A at Fiorentina.
  • French winger Hatem Ben Arfa is likely to have played his last game for Newcastle United after joining Hull City on loan.
  • Manchester United's transfer spending could continue in January, with Roma's Kevin Strootman a likely target.
  • Jack Wilshere urged England team-mate Danny Welbeck to snub Tottenham in favour of a move to Arsenal.
  • Tom Cleverley 'begged' Paul Lambert for a second chance to join Aston Villa on deadline day.
  • Tottenham will make a fresh move for Southampton forward Jay Rodriguez in January.
  • Liverpool striker Fabio Borini's demands scuppered a move to Queens Park Rangers.
  • Queens Park Rangers will try again to sign Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe in January.
  • Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has two games to save his job at St James' Park.
  • Manchester United are trying to fast-track Radamel Falcao's clearance so the striker can face QPR on September 14.
  • Fabio Borini faces being frozen out at Liverpool after failing to move on deadline day.
  • Huddersfield are set to confirm the appointment of Chris Powell as manager today.

Am not feeling pressure says Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal: Manchester United boss has no regrets about taking the job
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal insists he has no regrets about taking the job at Old Trafford this summer.
The 63-year-old looked certain to take charge at Tottenham before the call came from United.
Van Gaal has endured a miserable start at United as his team have picked up just two points from their opening three league games and were thrashed 4-0 in the Capital One Cup by League One MK Dons.
But the former Bayern Munich coach claims he expected the task at Old Trafford to be a tough one when he accepted the post.
And Van Gaal is adamant he was never going to refuse the United job because of the club’s prestige.
"No, I don't regret taking this job," he told the Daily Mirror. "Yes, it is a massive job I have taken on at Manchester United. I realise that.
"And the situation is not worse than I thought - I knew what I would find on my plate.
"I could have opted for an easier job. If I had gone to Tottenham, the job would not have been as enormous as here at United.
"I could have easily gone to Spurs. But I chose the biggest challenge of all the jobs in football. And I really wanted to join the number one club in the country, not Tottenham.
"Financially, Tottenham was kind of as attractive as Man United. But, in my eyes, Man United is still the number one club in England, Tottenham really is not."
Van Gaal will be hoping he is given more time than predecessor David Moyes, who was dismissed just 11 months after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson as United failed to qualify for the Champions League last season.
The Dutchman has been impressed with the backing of the United board, as his poor start at Munich led to a crisis meeting with Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness.
Van Gaal said: "My start at Bayern was just as bad as my start with Manchester United. But the big difference was that at Bayern I had already been called in for a major showdown with Uli Hoeness, who wanted an explanation.
"And what have United done? They have just bought more players for me. They kept buying players.
"They are supporting me. That is a sign of trust in the manager. I feel that. I feel their trust and belief in my ability.
"It is not just a matter of believing in my football philosophy, but in me as a person too.
"Do I get worried when I look at the league table now? Come off it. That means nothing. We have only just started.
"And the facts are that I have never let any clubs down. I have won things. I have given those clubs success. And that is exactly what I will do here at United."

Strootman next on LVG wishlist

Kevin Strootman: Has been heavily linked to Manchester United
Man United's summer spending looks set to continue into January, with Roma star Kevin Strootman understood to be Louis van Gaal's main target.
Having spent over £150million on new recruits as part of his Old Trafford rebuilding mission, Louis van Gaal continues to consider targets for the coming transfer windows, with Strootman understood to be one of his main ones.
Many of the morning's national newspapers claim that Strootman could join the club in the January transfer window, provided the two clubs can agree a fee of around £30million.
The Roma midfielder was a key part of van Gaal's Netherlands World Cup squad for the summer, before an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury in March put paid to his hopes.
The injury forced van Gaal to reconsider his playing system with the Dutch, before he finally settled on the 3-5-2 formation which dominated the tournament, and which he has since began to utilise at United.
Van Gaal has long been an admirer of Strootman, and has previously discussed the chances of signing him at Old Trafford.
"Strootman I can judge, but he has been injured for more than six months," van Gaal told reporters in late July.
"We have to wait and see how he comes back. It's not so easy to come back out of an injury, so we'll wait and see."
However, Roma, who Strootman joined from PSV for around £13.5million in July 2013, have demanded a stunning £79million fee for the Dutchman.
Strootman would be the latest in a long line of big signing at Old Trafford.
The spending began with two deals in two days, as first Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m) then Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m) came through the door.
A month followed before the next addition, but Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon, £16m) finally joined in August, before the British transfer record fee was broken with the purchase of Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria (£59.7m).
Transfer deadline day proved to be busier, as Falcao (Monaco, loan) and van Gaal and Strootman's Dutch compatriot Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m) completed a hectic summer.
United currently sit 14th in the table, with van Gaal still waiting for his first competitive win as manager heading into the international break.

Ronaldo's veiled dig at Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo's apparent sly dig at Lionel Messi and Man United's Luke Shaw hitting back at his critics feature in the latest Sportmasta Likes.
Sportmasta Likes is our new blog focused on the lighter side of football that we will update every time we see something that makes us smile.
Whether it's with a great goal, unbelievable save, incredible miss, amusing Tweet, hilarious quote or genius chant, we want to remind you that football really isn't that matter how badly your team is doing.
While we here at Sportmasta Towers constantly have our eye on the beautiful game, we also want you to get involved, so get sending in your video clips, pictures and links - and you might just get featured on the blog.

Monaco 'regret' Falcao's Man Utd move

Monaco 'regret' Falcao's Man Utd move
The Champions League hopefuls are disappointed with the departure of their star player, but claim they had no other option but to allow him to leave
Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev has admitted that the Ligue 1 outfit would have preferred to hold on to Radamel Falcao, but they felt it would have been wrong to deny the Colombia international his transfer to Manchester United.

The prolific attacker joined Monaco from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2013, but his impact was limited in his first season at the Stade Louis II side due to a serious knee injury sustained in January this year.

Irrespective of his recent fitness woes, Falcao was consistently linked with a move away from Monaco this summer and he eventually signed a one-year loan deal with United on Monday.

"I regret Falcao's departure, particularly for our fans," Vasilyev told reporters.

"However, we felt that from the moment the player had expressed his desire to join Manchester United, it would have been wrong to block his transfer."

The 28-year-old, who missed this summer's World Cup in Brazil due to his knee injury, netted 11 goals in 20 Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco in 2013-14.

Arsenal, Liverpool & Juventus wanted Falcao too, reveals father

Arsenal, Liverpool & Juventus wanted Falcao too, reveals father Radamel Falcao's father has revealed that Juventus, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City also attempted to sign the Manchester United striker this summer.

The Colombia international eventually left Monaco for United on deadline day of the summer transfer window, but Falcao's father Radamel Garcia has claimed that Louis van Gaal's side faced stiff competition from a number of European top teams.

"Juventus, Manchester City and Liverpool all wanted him as well, and even Arsenal made a late approach," he told Sportmasta. "Fortunately, he has now joined Manchester United. They are a great team."

The 28-year-old was also heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, but the Santiago Bernabeu side eventually opted against signing the prolific striker.

"Real Madrid? When you have money and go to the market to buy a shirt or pants, you have to decide whether you buy them now or not. Real Madrid eventually opted not to do so and there's not much you can do about that.

"Plus I got the feeling that there were quite a few conditions if they wanted to sign him. We have to accept how things went.

"We are very grateful that Manchester United came along. United are England's most important team and one of the strongest economic powers in football."