Morata is the best player I’ve ever faced – Kimmich

The 23-year-old right-back has lifted the lid on his toughest opponent and who he believes the best player of his generation to be

Bayern Munich defender Joshua Kimmich has claimed that Chelsea forward Alvaro Morata rates as the toughest player he has ever had to face.

Morata has been criticised for his recent performance with the Blues, yet when he played with Juventus, Kimmich felt that he was a tough presence to cope with.

Indeed, he believes the 25-year-old was so good that he rates him higher than the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who he has also faced in Champions League action.

“It was very tough to play against him because he has a very strong body, he is very fast and has a good technique,” Kimmich said, answering questions fans posed to him via Goal. “So it wasn’t easy to play against him.”

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old right-back found it tricky to pick an outstanding player of his generation.

“I think there are a lot of good players,” he said. “Neymar is not that old but he’s not my age. Paul Pogba is two years older than me and Paulo Dybala I think is one year older than me.

“For me, Kingsley Coman is a greater player, but he’s one year younger than me.

“I think we have a good generation with a lot of very good players.”

Kimmich also passed comment on other subjects, such as who is his greatest coach ever and his preference between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Watch the video above to discover his answers.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Alvaro Morata of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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

Man Utd-linked Bale still important to Real Madrid, says Zidane

The Welsh winger has long been linked with a Bernabeu exit, with Jose Mourinho’s side having previously been interested in signing him

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale remains a valued member of his squad despite admitting to doubts over the forward’s durability.

Wales star Bale has only started one of Madrid’s last four competitive fixtures as speculation continues to surround his long-term future, with Manchester United often linked with signing him.

The 28-year-old, who has battled persistent calf and thigh problems this season, did complete 73 minutes in last weekend’s win at Real Betis, before being relegated back to the bench for the midweek trip to Leganes.

However, Zidane insists the former Tottenham man still has a part to play.

“He is an important player. He will always be an important player,” Zidane told reporters on Friday.

“He is training hard, working hard like the rest of my players.

“I want to see Gareth at 100 per cent. I do not want him to get injured again.

“We have got many games coming up and… I am sure Gareth will have an important part to play.

“Hopefully he will not get injured but you have got to be in tip top shape if you want to play every game.”

Los Blancos are on a six-game unbeaten run in LaLiga heading into Saturday’s visit from Alaves, scoring 26 goals in the process.

And Zidane praised his players for turning around their form after a terrible start to their title defence.

“I am proud of the team. Even when things have not quite gone to plan we have shown strong character,” he said.

“It is an impressive tally to have scored 26 goals in six games. We want to maintain this good run of form.”

Source: www.goal.com

Wenger singles out ‘exceptional’ De Bruyne ahead of Carabao Cup final

The Gunners boss has hailed the Manchester City midfielder, who he believes has developed into one of the Premier League’s best players

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has praised Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, claiming that he is one of the biggest strengths for the Carabao Cup finalists.

The Gunners take on the Citizens at Wembley on Sunday, February 25 as Wenger hopes to become the eighth manager to win the English top-flight as well as the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

However, he is wary of the threat posed by the Belgium international, hailing the 26-year-old’s progress in the Premier League since his 2015 transfer from Wolfsburg for £55 million.

“He’s had an exceptional development,” Wenger told reporters. “One of the big strengths of Manchester City is De Bruyne.

“He is a modern midfielder for me, he can be decisive in the final third.

“He works very hard; he is right footed, left footed, a fighter as well. Overall, I am not surprised [by his performances].

“They have so many players that you could think about how to stop that it is better you focus on the team plan rather than any individual.”

Sunday’s final is Arsenal’s eighth in the competition, but they have only won the competition on two of those occasions. Manchester City are playing in their third final in the past five years and their sixth overall.

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

Barcelona are great even without Neymar – Willian

After helping Chelsea to a first-leg draw against Barca, the Brazilian attacker talked up the talents of the LaLiga leaders

Barcelona are still as fearsome as ever even without Neymar, according to Chelsea attacker Willian.

Willian’s 62nd-minute strike was cancelled out by Lionel Messi as the teams played out a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

His Brazil team-mate Neymar may have left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain last year, but Willian believes that the Spanish giants remain one of the finest teams on the planet.

“I think Barcelona are Barcelona, with or without Neymar,” Willian said.

“Of course Neymar is a great player but they have Messi, they have [Andres] Iniesta, they have [Luis] Suarez.

“They have really good players so Barcelona is always Barcelona.”

While he opened the scoring, Willian also struck the post twice during Tuesday’s clash.

And despite Chelsea’s failure to beat Barca, the 29-year-old still believes his team can reach the quarter-finals with a result at Camp Nou on March 14.

“Of course, we can go there and do a great job again. It will be a completely different game,” Willian said.

“To play there is totally different. But I think we can go there with this mentality. We can go there with great spirit and try to win the game.”

Source: www.goal.com

Bayern made mistake selling Kroos but Madrid move was right for him – Sammer

The 28-year-old midfielder has enjoyed even more success since leaving the Bundesliga club, leaving them to regret letting him go after the World Cup

Matthias Sammer has admitted that Bayern Munich made a mistake in selling Toni Kroos to Real Madrid, but feels it has worked out for the best for the midfielder.

Kroos won three Bundesliga titles and the Champions League over his eight-year spell at the Allianz Arena before a reported €30 million move to the Spanish capital in 2014.

The Germany international remains a pivotal player for Madrid almost four years later and gone on to dominate Europe even further as he chases a third consecutive European crown with Zinedine Zidane’s men this season.

Often regarded as one of the game’s top midfielders, the World Cup winner is still sorely missed by former side Bayern, according to Sammer, who says he tried his best to keep him.

“Sometimes there are situations that you have to analyse honestly in retrospect,” the ex-Bayern sporting director said in an interview with Sport Bild , which hosted Kroos as a guest editor this week.

“Who can say they have done everything right in life? Maybe Bayern Munich would have won the Champions League more often with Toni or at least reached the final.

“I can say today that, in my role, it was a mistake to let Toni go. I was sitting on Toni’s couch trying to change his mind.

“I’ve been able to work with him for a long time and have known him since he was 16 or 17.

“His departure didn’t shake Bayern, but when you talk about whether it was good or bad to let Toni go, you have to say it was bad, very bad.

“But for Toni’s personal development and value, the change was definitely the right one.”

Kroos has made 29 appearances in all competitions for Madrid this season, scoring four times, and is contracted to the club until 2022, althoug he has been linked with a summer move to Manchester United.

Source: www.goal.com

James to miss ‘a few days’ of Bayern training with calf injury

The Colombian suffered a calf strain against Besiktas on Tuesday, but his club do not expect him to be out for long

The calf injury James Rodriguez suffered in Tuesday’s 5-0 Champions League demolition of Besiktas is only a “slight problem”, Bayern Munich have confirmed.

James went off just before half-time, with the Colombia international showing few signs of pain as he exited the field.

There were initial suspicions he was withdrawn due to a knock to the head, having looked dazed shortly beforehand after getting struck by the ball.

But Bayern confirmed after the game that the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder felt his calf tighten.

And, following investigations from Bayern’s medical team on Wednesday, they have come to the conclusion he should only need to miss “a few days of training”.

A club statement read: “Bayern midfielder James was not seriously injured in yesterday’s [Tuesday] Champions League game against Besiktas.

“An in-depth investigation confirmed the first diagnosis of the club doctor. The Colombian has only slight problems in the muscles of the left calf and thus has to miss a few days of training.”

Real Madrid Team News: Injuries, suspensions and line-up vs Leganes

Everything you need to know ahead of Los Blancos’ Primera Division clash at Butarque on Wednesday night…

Real Madrid visit nearby Leganes in La Liga on Wednesday in a match that sees Los Blancos make up the game in hand still pending since their participation in the Club World Cup in December.

During their trip to Abu Dhabi, Zinedine Zidane’s side missed one round of the competition and, having featured in the Champions League against PSG last week, they will play the oustanding fixture at Butarque on Wednesday.

Real are 17 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona, but a win or even a draw in this match will see the defending champions move above Valencia and up to third place in the table.

The fixture is also an opportunity for some revenge after Leganes surprisingly knocked Zidane’s side out of the Copa del Rey in January, when Madrid won 1-0 away but lost the return 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to exit on away goals.


REAL MADRID INJURIES


Defender Jesus Vallejo is still sidelined with a muscle problem and midfielder Toni Kroos is also out after picking up a knee injury against PSG that could make him doubtful for the trip to Paris in the Champions League on March 6th.

Marcelo also misses out after limping off in the weekend win at Betis, while Luka Modric is sidelined with a hamstring problem and both of those players will also be doubtful for the game at the Parc des Princes.


REAL MADRID SUSPENSIONS


Dani Carvajal was suspended for the Champions League clash against PSG, but he returned at Betis on Sunday and Zidane has no players banned for the game away to Leganes.


REAL MADRID POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP


With Marcelo out, Theo Hernandez will start at left-back for Real Madrid against Leganes, while Zidane could opt to start Kiko Casilla in goal in order to give Keylor Navas a rest.

In midfield, Isco is in line for a start after featuring mainly from the bench in recent weeks. The absence of both Modric and Kroos means Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez could both feature again on the wings.

In attack, Karim Benzema should return to the line-up after coming on and scoring at Betis on Sunday, while Zidane hinted he may rest Cristiano Ronaldo when he addressed the media on Tuesday. If the Portuguese sits out, Gareth Bale is likely to start in his place.

Real Madrid possible Leganes

LEGANES TEAM NEWS


Leganes are down in 13th place in La Liga, 11 points clear of the relegation zone ahead of their game against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

After kocking out Los Blancos, the capital club saw their Copa del Rey run end at the hands of Sevilla in the semi-finals and have since lost their last two games in the Primera Division: 1-0 at home to Eibar and 3-0 at Girona.

Winger Alexander Szymanowski is sidelined, while central midfielder Darko Brasanac is doubtful.

Source: www.goal.com