‘Hazard should play 90 minutes’ – Courtois surprised at Conte’s Man Utd substitution

The Chelsea goalkeeper wants to see his Belgian team-mate play the full match where possible after he was withdrawn in the second half at Old Trafford

Thibaut Courtois admits he was surprised to see Eden Hazard substituted by Antonio Conte during the 2-1 defeat at Manchester United.

The Blues slipped out of the Premier League’s top four after goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard earned United the points following Willian’s opener.

Lingard’s winner came two minutes after Hazard had been substituted by Conte, with Pedro coming on for the Belgium international.

Chelsea were then left without their most creative spark when chasing the game and Courtois has aired his surprise at his compatriot’s withdrawal.

“I have no explanation for the substitution,” Courtois told Belgian outlet Play Sports. “I did not expect it, but it’s the manager’s choice. He’ll explain it. I can’t look into his head.

“Of course, you want players like Eden 90 minutes on the pitch. He can always bring something extra.”

Conte has been under pressure in recent weeks, with the Blues struggling domestically. Chelsea are currently fifth in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and 19 behind leaders Manchester City.

Speaking after the defeat at Old Trafford, Conte suggested that Hazard had failed to maintain his high standards in the second half and that his withdrawal was merely a tactical decision.

“No Hazard [is not injured], no,” he told a news conference. “It was a tactical decision.

“You have to keep the same performance for 90 minutes, we didn’t have a great balance, and every single player has to try to work with the ball, without the ball, otherwise we lose our balance.

“I think he’d finished his energy because the first half he ran a lot. The second half he started the same way, but when I see a player is a bit tired, my task is to find a different solution.”

Meanwhile, Courtois was left deflated by the defeat at United, which came on the back of a 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona in the Champions League when Chelsea had also taken the lead.

“After our goal, we conceded a counter-attacking goal just like last Tuesday but in the second half we had less of the ball, but even then we should never have lost this match,” he said.

“If you do not do the small things well in top matches, you lose, which is what happened.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 13: Eden Hazard of Chelsea walks off after being subbbed during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on January 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Source: www.goal.com

Gareth Bale equals David Beckham’s record with 116th Liga appearance

The two Madrid favourites have made an identical number of appearances in the Spanish top flight, although Bale holds the edge in their head-to-head

Gareth Bale has equalled a record previously held by David Beckham after appearing in his 116th La Liga game.

The Wales international, 28, started for Real Madrid against Espanyol in Tuesday’s clash.

And in doing so, he reached a mark that only Beckham had previously managed.

Bale now shares the record for the most Liga appearances made by a British player, which Beckham had previously set while also playing for Madrid in 2007.

The former Tottenham man moved to Madrid in 2013 in a world-record transfer, and in his first season scored in the Champions League final as the Merengues lifted the much sought-after Decima.

In total he has scored 61 goals in a Madrid shirt, compared to Beckham’s 13.

Bale also boasts a far more impressive win ratio than the ex-Manchester United idol, having finished on the winning side 79 times, 13 more than Beckham.

Source: www.goal.com

Giroud reveals Arsenal regret he intends to resolve at Chelsea

The France international remains determined to get his hands on the Premier League title having crossed London without a winners’ medal to his name

Olivier Giroud admits to having left Arsenal with “unfinished business” and is determined to right his Premier League wrongs with Chelsea.

The France international brought a five-and-a-half-year stint with the Gunners to a close during the January transfer window.

A deadline day switch saw him cross London, with Chelsea acquiring a proven performer who had plundered more than 100 goals for their local rivals.

Giroud was, however, to leave Emirates Stadium with just three FA Cup winners’ medals to show for his efforts and he is eager to land English football’s biggest prize after trading red for blue.

“I don’t know if we can really call it a regret but I have a little feeling of unfinished business because I would really have liked to have won the Premier League with Arsenal,” the 31-year-old told SFR Sport.

“You don’t just wipe away five-and-a-half years like that. I have said it often enough – it was my ultimate goal.

“Having said that, it’s not over, I’m still in the Premier League, now I’m at Chelsea. For this year, I think it’s over for the title, but next year, we’ll come to it with great ambitions.

“I still want to win it before I end my career.”

He has already opened his account for new employers, in an FA Cup clash with Hull City, but still has plenty to prove if he is to see regular game time and chase down his ultimate goals.

A 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in their latest outing has dropped the Blues out of the Premier League’s top four, while a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter means Antonio Conte’s side face the unenviable challenge of having to score at Camp Nou in the return date on March 14.

 

Chelsea’s French attacker Olivier Giroud looks on during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on February 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: www.goal.com

Chelsea to offer Hazard massive raise

 

Chelsea ready new contract offer for Hazard

 


Chelsea hope to keep Eden Hazard in London by offering him a new contract with a massive bump in wages, according to the Daily Mail.

Hazard’s current contract runs through 2020, but rumours continue to circulate that he desires a move to Real Madrid.

And the Blues are hoping a new deal, which would see him earn wages of £300,000 a week, would be enough to entice the former Premier League Player of the Year to stay.

 
Source: www.goal.com

Figo demands time for under-pressure Real Madrid boss Zidane

The Merengue coach has attracted criticism as a result of the team’s recent struggles, but his old team-mate is adamant he is right for the job.

Luis Figo believes some of the criticism levelled at Zinedine Zidane this season has been unfair, suggesting Real Madrid’s detractors have forgotten his previous achievements too quickly.

Zidane enjoyed a brilliant start to his coaching career at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading Madrid to Champions League success within five months of replacing the sacked Rafael Benitez in January 2016.

He then guided Madrid to a Champions League and LaLiga double in his first full season in charge, helping the club become the first to win Europe’s elite competition in its current guise for two straight years.

This term things have been somewhat more troublesome, with Madrid’s transfer activity coming under criticism and they head in to Tuesday’s away league clash with Espanyol 14 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

And, although Figo acknowledges pressure is something every Real Madrid coach needs to accept, he is adamant his former team-mate is the right man for the club.

Speaking to Omnisport, Figo said: “The coach of Real Madrid is always under pressure and you know that you depend always on results.

“But sport is like that. For me, you can win every year. But since he picked the team, I think he did fantastic, great.

“But the problem normally in football is it depends on what you do in the last games.

“People forget very fast what you achieved in the recent past. But I think the people are happy, the players are happy with him and that is the most important.”

Part of the reason Madrid are so far behind Barca this season is the form of Lionel Messi, who has been sensational, scoring 22 and setting up another 12 in 25 LaLiga appearances.

And his impressive performances have not escaped Figo, who lauded him as “one of the greatest of all time”.

“It’s amazing what he is achieving and I think every time he doesn’t surprise us because he makes amazing things every game,” Figo added.

“So this is very beautiful what he does in terms of football and his career. He’s one of the greatest footballers of all-time.”

Source: www.goal.com

‘Neymar was asking for trouble!’ – Amavi blames PSG star for injury

The Brazilian forward is facing up to a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a broken bone during a feisty Ligue 1 encounter with Marseille

Neymar has been accused of “looking for things” during Paris Saint-Germain’s clash with Marseille, with his actions ultimately resulting in a broken metatarsal.

The Brazilian forward was forced from the field in tears on Sunday as Ligue 1 leaders PSG sought to see out a 3-0 victory over arch-rivals.

He had been subjected to eight fouls during an outing cut short 10 minutes from the end, with the 26-year-old having already entered the contest as the most fouled performer in Europe’s top divisions.

While there is no suggestion that anybody has ever intended to cause Neymar harm with the rough treatment, Marseille defender Jordan Amavi has suggested that the South American often asks for trouble.

He told RMC following a feisty encounter with PSG: “We played normally against Neymar. I found him looking for things [fouls].

“I am just telling you what I saw on the pitch. He waited for us to press and then released the ball at the last minute.

“What did he expect? Personally, I do not know, I think he was looking for things though. He reaped a little of what he sows.

“Everybody knows that he has the talent, but he waited for us to press before releasing the ball.”

It has already been reported that certain Marseille players warned the match officials during the game that they were growing tired of Neymar’s antics.

It was eventually a rather innocuous coming together with Bouna Sarr which did for the talented forward , though, leaving him writhing on the deck and awaiting a stretcher.

Post-game analysis determined that a broken bone had been suffered , although PSG head coach Unai Emery has denied his star player needs surgery, as was first feared.

Quite how long Neymar will be sidelined for remains to be seen, but it seems likely he will miss important fixtures in an ongoing Ligue 1 title bid and the second leg of a Champions League last-16 encounter with Real Madrid .

Source: www.goal.com

‘I’ve proved myself!’ – Man Utd striker Lukaku expects more respect for scoring exploits

The 24-year-old has been in impressive form for the Red Devils this season but feels the criticism he receives is a bit too much

Romelu Lukaku feels he has proved his ability as a striker and believes he deserves greater respect for his goalscoring exploits.

The striker has netted 22 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United following his £75 million move from Everton in the close season.

Lukaku, 24, is two goals short of a century in the Premier League in his career, having also excelled for Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion before a spell at the Toffees.

The Belgium international played a key role in United’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday, equalising soon after Willian’s opener for Chelsea.

That strike was his first against a top-eight side in the league this season, and although he insisted recent criticism had no effect on him, Lukaku expects more admiration.

“I started playing when I was 16. Year in, year out people expect 20 goals from me. I’ve been doing it for 10 years straight so I think I’ve proved myself,” he told reporters.

“You expect a bit more respect but it’s the situation we’re in. I don’t listen to it. I just want to improve and show the people what I can do on the pitch.

“As long as I win and lead my team to winning that’s when I will be really satisfied. As a football player, I don’t play for the individual. A lot of big players that we recognise today in the game are players who have won something and I want to be [the same]. The road is still far ahead but I’m ambitious and I’ll work every day for my team to win – I’m not thinking about myself.

“I can still improve everything about my game. I’m 24 and I think I have a lot of years ahead of me before my prime so I’m never satisfied. I always want to improve and get better and it’s a nice challenge.

“I think I have got a nice record. I’ve scored a lot this season and I just want to keep going. I know that I can improve and I want to improve and really work hard. I want to win trophies. We are still in the fight in two competitions. It’s not going to be easy but it’s a nice challenge.”

Ex-Anderlecht star Lukaku had the chance to return to Chelsea in the summer instead of heading to Old Trafford, but he is happy and believes he made the right call.

“When I make a choice it’s with my head and my heart,” he added.

“I made the right choice for me. As you can see, I’m in a good situation. I’m with a manager and players who push me every day. The challenge is there to win and it’s something that I wanted.”

 

Soccer Football – Champions League – Manchester United vs CSKA Moscow – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – December 5, 2017 Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Source: www.goal.com

Ronaldo: I want three more Ballon d’Or awards but would be happy if I retired now

The Real Madrid star remains at the pinnacle of the world game and has achieved everything he wants, but he is sure he can keep going for a bit longer

Cristiano Ronaldo says he has achieved all of his dreams in football, but would like to win the Ballon d’Or another three times before he retires.

The Real Madrid star was named the best player on the planet for the fifth time in 2017, pulling level with Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo already has four Champions League and Club World Cup trophies to add to his Premier League and La Liga winners’ medals accrued in his sensational periods at Manchester United and Madrid.

And while the 32-year-old feels he would be perfectly happy in life if he were to retire from the game immediately, he believes he can still achieve a great deal more before he does call time on his career.

“I never dreamed of winning the Ballon d’Or five times,” he told Desimpedidos. “If I had to finish my career now, I would be super happy… [but] if I won another Ballon d’Or, two or three more times I’d be delighted with life.

“Even if I don’t win, I’ve already won five… but I still have the confidence and the strength to compete for the prize… it depends on the titles we win this year.

“Everything I dreamed of, I achieved.”

After guiding his national team to Euro 2016 glory last season, Ronaldo is preparing to lead out Portugal in their World Cup campaign in Russia this summer.

Although he feels his side are not looked upon as favourites to win the title, Ronaldo still has hope heading into the tournament.

“We are not the favourites, we have to be honest,” he added.

“There are teams with more names, like Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina… but in football everything is possible.

“We are going to try to advance from the group stage, then we’ll see. The main objective is the first phase.”

Source: www.goal.com

Why Bayern may be tempted into selling Lewandowski to a Madrid or PSG

By ditching his agent, the Polish captain has made sure that talk of his future will dominate discussions from now until the end of the season

Robert Lewandowski’s decision to part company with long-time agent, the ex-Poland international Cezary Kucharski, last week has brought in its wake a torrent of speculation as to what the Bayern Munich striker’s motivations for such a move might be.

Lewandowski has entrusted Pini Zahavi to sort out his next move. The Israeli is now 74 and does not have an extensive list of clients on his books. Instead he has re-emerged on the scene as a facilitator of record-breaking transfers. He was involved, for example, in the deal last summer which took Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee.

While a contract renegotiation with Bayern for Lewandowski cannot yet be ruled out, it remains at best a distant possibility. His current deal runs until the summer of 2021 by which time the Poland captain will be touching on his 33rd birthday.

That, one imagines, would be far, far too late in the day for him to make a move to another super club in the shape of Real Madrid, PSG or one of the Premier League heavyweights. Zlatan Ibrahimovic did manage to secure a move to Manchester United at 35 but he did not even last a season before a knee injury put an end to his career at the top level.

Lewandowski boasts an enviable injury record and you would struggle to find a striker in better physical shape but, even still, 33 these days is regarded as too advanced an age to warrant long-term investment. It is likely that Lewandowski has change on his mind and the sooner the better.

He has been a consistent goal scorer in Germany for Bayern – and Borussia Dortmund for that matter – but has often found himself at odds with Bayern’s top brass over the club’s direction. Last summer in an interview with Spiegel, which was not authorised by the club, Lewandowski let rip.

He criticised Bayern for their failure to keep pace with the spending at the other super clubs around the continent. It was, for a first-team player at a club which is very, very careful about the messages its players send out, an astonishing outburst and one which not so much hinted but signposted a clear dissatisfaction at how the club’s transfer policy was being run.

Another quote from the same interview might also prove to be instructive in the months ahead.

“One should stop superimposing such emotions [loyalty to one club] on to professional football,” he said. “Loyalty is a beautiful word, a wonderfully romantic image and in private life it’s an important value. But in top sports other parameters count – success and money.

“The power structures in football have changed massively in recent years. If a player really wants to change clubs he can usually push that through.”

Lewandowski joined Bayern under Pep Guardiola in order to win the Champions League. That hasn’t happened and Lewandowski is frustrated by it. By ditching Kucharsky, Lewandowski has signalled his intent. If they don’t win it this season under Jupp Heynckes, he may well have in mind going somewhere else to achieve that goal.

He has given Bayern three-and-a-half seasons of top-level service. He has won three league titles, with a fourth imminent. He has scored 139 goals in 181 matches. He is rightly respected worldwide as the game’s greatest No.9.

That Neymar transfer changed the landscape in terms of transfer fees and salaries, and there has been a suggestion that Lewandowski’s new contract – signed in December 2016 – no longer represents his market value. Therefore, he is entitled to go out and get it.

It would be a wrench but from a cold-blooded business perspective the time might also be right for Bayern to consider cashing in. If Lewandowski sees out his days at Bayern – an eventuality which nowadays would come in at high odds – then it is assured that they will get no money at all for him.

And the more a contract runs towards its expiry, the more a price goes down. Lewandowski has more than three years on his contract right now and so Bayern would be asking for his full value. And, if Neymar is worth €222 million and Philippe Coutinho worth somewhere in the region of €140m, how much do you think they could get for Lewandowski?

Bayern are in the process of replenishing the team. Signings like Niklas Sule, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are designed to drastically reduce the average age of the squad and cashing in on Lewandowski would give them the opportunity to stock up in two or maybe three positions while at the same time sourcing a replacement.

It was the deal of the century getting him in for free in the first place but any new player they get in his place is going to cost them.

Timo Werner would appear to be a Bayern player-in-waiting. He may have had a difficult start to 2018 – as have his club RB Leipzig – but when on form he has the ability to lead the line even at a club like Bayern.

So Bayern may consider themselves at a crossroads with Lewandowski. Do they keep him on as he is – on the same money and with the same expiry date? Do they renew and give him a pay rise, as he turns 30, 31, 32 with his peak potentially narrowing all the time? Or do they take the risk and put him out to the market?

Lewandowski himself has laid his cards on the table by ditching his agent, over the next few months it’ll be time for Bayern to show their hand.

Source: www.goal.com

Pogba being treated like a bouncer by single-minded Mourinho

Signed to be the centrepiece of the new United, the £89m man is suffering at the hands of a manager who wants to harness his power, not his finesse

Jose Mourinho gave the BT Sport reporter Des Kelly a hug in his Champions League post-match interview on Wednesday. Why? Des asked him about Scott McTominay, who started against Sevilla, rather than Paul Pogba, who didn’t. It gave Mourinho the opportunity to wax lyrical about all the things the young midfielder could do while at the same time hinting at the things Pogba could not.

“He did everything well,” the Manchester United manager said of McTominay’s display in the last 16 first leg. “He put lots of pressure on Banega, which was important to stop him to play. He was always comfortable – simple, safe in possession. I think he was brilliant.

“But I have also to say that in my opinion the midfield started really well. And then when Herrera came out Paul made a big effort to go into that dynamic that we need. And I think he had also a positive performance.”

There you have it. The 21-year-old making only his second Champions League start was “brilliant”. Pogba, a veteran of Champions League and European Championship finals, and with four Serie A title and an £89 million price tag to his name “made a big effort”.

It clearly demonstrates the attitude Mourinho currently harbours towards the most talented player in his squad. He wants him to do things – like press Ever Banega and play simple, safe passes deep in midfield – that would seem to run contrary to his skillset.

He doesn’t want Pogba to be United’s Mesut Ozil – as his attributes suggest he could be. He would appear to have little interest in unlocking his creative potential. Rather, he wants another Nemanja Matic. In the midfield position, he demands discipline, destruction and caution in possession. And he wants Pogba to do it for him.

Mourinho looks at Pogba and maybe sees a player who should be good at those things. But appearances can be deceptive. Just because Pogba is a big, powerful man, it doesn’t mean he is best deployed as a bouncer.

Nor in any sane universe should he find himself behind McTominay in the pecking order. It is nothing short of insulting for a player of his standing to be told to sit and learn from an apprentice with no more than 20 games played in his senior United career.

Pogba should feel more aggrieved by his latest demotion than the one he suffered under Sir Alex Ferguson before he decided to walk out on a free transfer to Juventus. Back then, it was Rafael and Park Ji-sung keeping him out of the team for a home defeat against Blackburn Rovers which seemingly swayed Pogba – and agent Mino Raiola – into thinking the player’s future lay away from Old Trafford.

Now Mourinho is attempting to do with Pogba what he has done with more than one United player since turning up at Old Trafford.

The 2004 and 2010 Champions League winner has a very clearly defined strategy in how he wants his teams to defend. Once those fundamentals have been taken care of, then the team can start thinking about how the goals are going to come. Everyone has a job in this defensive structure and everyone will follow it or else risked being dropped.

It is not a case of Mourinho fitting a shape around the abilities of his player but the players fitting around the shape. Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all been victims of this aspect of Mourinho’s management style. If a player will not do the exact job he asks, the player will be banished, no matter what he cost.

Subjecting Pogba to this technique, however, is to misinterpret the kind of player Mourinho has on his hands. Pogba is not the type who should be shoehorned into a broadly reactive style of football. He is one who should be the focal point in a positive, attacking team.

Mourinho’s pre- and post-match press conferences in Sevilla were dominated by speculation over Pogba’s place in the team and it’s easy to figure out why. Mourinho feigned exasperation over those questions but has got to accept that scrutiny of that kind of decision comes with the territory.

It was accepted at the outset of Mourinho’s regime that Pogba was going to be the centrepiece of the New Manchester United – a long-term investment to construct a team around. Less than two seasons later and it is clear that this is not the case. For now, Mourinho regards him as a luxury player – not to be trusted in the highest-profile European match of the season.

It gives a glimmer too into what direction Mourinho sees United heading. He has added not only Pogba but Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to his squad but it appears he is putting together what will eventually be a functional, counter-attack machine when it takes its final shape.

It is a pretty rudimentary prospect and one which – perhaps – falls short of expectations on this club given its status as the world’s richest by revenues. All that money and this is where Mourinho wants to take them.

There is undoubtedly a need to spend big again this summer in order to get United up a level. But it’s inevitable that if Mourinho gets his way there’ll be more Matics than Pogbas arriving and within that system there will always be a space for a McTominay, who will press, harry and destroy exactly like his manager tells him. 

Source: www.goal.com