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  • #61
    De ligt wins Golden Boy award

    The teenager claimed the Tuttosport award after receiving the most votes from an international panel.

    Coveted Ajax captain and sensation Matthijs de Ligt has been crowned the 2018 Golden Boy as the most promising Under-21 player in Europe. Linked with LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League titleholders Manchester City among others, the 19-year-old centre-back claimed the Tuttosport award after receiving the most votes from an international panel.

    De Ligt beat Roma winger Justin Kluivert, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, AC Milan forward Patrick Cutrone and Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior to the honour, won by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe last year. Kluivert was previously seen as the leader for the award midway through the voting process, but the Ajax star was recognized by Tuttosport on Monday as the 2018 winner.

    Netherlands international De Ligt – under contract until 2021 – has been a revelation since making his debut for boyhood club Ajax in 2016, establishing himself in the heart of the Eredivisie club’s defence. A first international call-up following last year and De Ligt continues to attract interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Barca reportedly at the front of the queue.

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    • #62
      Chelsea warned fans about chants

      Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck spoke to travelling Blues supporters ahead of Sunday’s match against Brighton to further explain the club’s stance on offensive chants and behaviour.

      The words and actions of match-going Chelsea fans have come under the microscope in recent days following the alleged racist abuse suffered by Manchester City star Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge last weekend, coupled with antisemitic chants sung by a minority of those who travelled to Budapest for the club’s Europa League match against Vidi on Thursday.

      Chelsea issued a statement shortly after the match accusing those supporters who had referred to rivals Tottenham using a derogatory Jewish term at Groupama Arena of shaming the club, and UEFA are currently assessing whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Blues. A decision is expected early next week.

      Buck — who has been a visible presence in the “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich launched in January — positioned himself outside the away entrance to the Amex Stadium alongside Steve Atkins, the club’s head of communications, prior to kick-off in order to talk to Blues fans as they arrived. Buck’s presence was also intended to serve as a reminder to Chelsea supporters that the club, as well as the wider football world, would be scrutinising them closely on Sunday afternoon.

      The match itself, which Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Eden Hazard, passed without any audible offensive chanting or misbehaviour from the away end, and the lack of further trouble at the Amex Stadium was greeted with considerable relief by the club hierarchy. Recent incidents are understood to have dismayed Abramovich, who was granted Israeli citizenship earlier this year and has adopted the fight against antisemitism as a personal cause.

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      • #63
        Klopp lauds ‘nearly perfect night’ over Man Utd

        Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool’s display in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United was one of the best performances of his Anfield reign.

        Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League after second-half substitute Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice within the space of seven minutes.

        Liverpool had taken the lead in the 25th minute through Sadio Mane but were pegged back when an error from Alisson allowed Jesse Lingard to equalise.

        “It was a brilliant start, one of the best performances we had since I’ve been in Liverpool,” Klopp, who took charge of the club in October 2015, told a post-match news conference.

        “For the first half hour we were outstanding, scored only one, but I don’t think anyone expects four or five against this United team.

        “How we played was just perfect. We passed into the right areas and played in behind the lines.

        “Then for half an hour we lost the momentum of the game a bit, they scored, it was more open and I had no problem with the half-time whistle to be honest. Not because United were demanding the game, but because it was more open.

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        • #64
          Klopp lauds ‘nearly perfect night’ over Man Utd


          Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool’s display in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United was one of the best performances of his Anfield reign.

          Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League after second-half substitute Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice within the space of seven minutes.

          Liverpool had taken the lead in the 25th minute through Sadio Mane but were pegged back when an error from Alisson allowed Jesse Lingard to equalise.

          “It was a brilliant start, one of the best performances we had since I’ve been in Liverpool,” Klopp, who took charge of the club in October 2015, told a post-match news conference.

          “For the first half hour we were outstanding, scored only one, but I don’t think anyone expects four or five against this United team.

          “How we played was just perfect. We passed into the right areas and played in behind the lines.

          “Then for half an hour we lost the momentum of the game a bit, they scored, it was more open and I had no problem with the half-time whistle to be honest. Not because United were demanding the game, but because it was more open.

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          • #65
            Van der Sar: De Ligt, De Jong staying in January

            Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar has told media the club will not sell Matthijs de Ligt or Frenkie de Jong in the January transfer window.

            De Ligt, 19, was named European Golden Boy on Monday and has a number of suitors with Juventus and Barcelona linked with a move for the defender, while De Jong is also on the radar of a number of top clubs with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City reportedly keen.

            But asked whether Ajax would be open to selling any of their star players in the January transfer window, Van der Sar told media: “No, no, no. That’s a no. We’re not going to sell a player halfway through the season. No way. If you have financial difficulties you might look at it, but for us no.”

            De Ligt, the youngest captain in Ajax’s history, is aware of the interest in his services but is not paying attention to speculation, and is looking ahead to playing Real Madrid in the round-of-16 of the Champions League.

            “We’ve qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League,” De Ligt told media. “Of course you want to go as along as possible in the tournament. We want to be champions this year. We have to keep improving and keep the pressure on PSV.

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            • #66
              Klopp gets chance for CL revenge against Bayern

              The Bundesliga champions broke the Reds boss’ heart while he was at Dortmund – now he gets the chance for revenge.

              Jurgen Klopp will have smiled when Liverpool’s Champions League last 16 draw was confirmed, that’s for sure. The Reds boss will be given the chance to renew old hostilities in the New Year, with his side heading for a mouth-watering clash with Bayern Munich in February.

              Not the easiest of draws, of course. Klopp would surely have preferred another trip to Portugal to face FC Porto, but all things considered Liverpool can be confident about their trip to Germany. The Bayern of 2018-19 are not the Bayern that Klopp will remember from his time in the Bundesliga.

              Niko Kovac’s side topped their group courtesy of a madcap 3-3 draw with Ajax in Amsterdam on Matchday Six, but the German champions have looked anything but convincing this season. They sit third in the Bundesliga at present, nine points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and having regularly had to deny speculation surrounding their manager’s position. Kovac, a former Bayern player, only arrived in the summer but it would be a surprise if his future in Bavaria was a long-term one.

              Klopp will recognise the quality of Bayern’s players, of course. Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels, for starters, were key figures in his Dortmund team, which won successive Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012 before reaching the Champions League final at Wembley a year later.

              The team that beat them that night, of course, were Bayern, and several of that side remain at the Allianz Arena. The likes of Manuel Neuer, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are still there, though none are in their prime and all have been subjected to criticism at various points in recent months. Bayern’s recruitment, generally, has been average at best since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2016.

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              • #67
                Pepe gifts staff cash after Besiktas exit

                Pepe left Besiktas club staff a cash tip as a parting gesture after agreeing to have his contract with the Turkish club terminated. The former Real Madrid defender’s deal was set to run until June 2019 but he has left with the Istanbul-based club in the process of slashing their wage bill to reduce expenses amid struggles with growing debts.

                Reports in Spain over the weekend had claimed Pepe had covered the wages of several members of staff who had not been paid. While the Portugal international did not make up for unpaid salaries, he did leave an envelope with a large tip as a gesture to the maintenance, kit and cooking staff at Besiktas.

                Pepe enjoyed a close relationship with the staff at the club and has paid out generous tips in the past as well, the source added. Considering the strength of the Euro to the Turkish Lira (1/6.1 on Dec. 17), the payment will serve as a considerable bonus to their monthly wage.

                Pepe ended up leaving Besiktas on good terms with the club and attended the 2-2 draw against Trabzonspor where he bid a final farewell to the fans at the Vodafone Park Stadium. Pepe was one of the highest paid players in the Besiktas squad. The 35-year-old signed a two-year deal worth €9.5 million before bonuses when he joined in 2017 after his Real Madrid contract expired. The experienced centre-back also received a bonus of €4,000 per game.

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                • #68
                  Man United extend Martial’s contract

                  Manchester United have triggered an option in Anthony Martial’s contract to extend his deal until 2020. His contract was set to expire at the end of the season but United have exercised a clause that will see the 23-year-old stay for an additional 12 months. It follows their decision to trigger a similar option in David De Gea’s contract.

                  United are in talks with Martial’s representatives about a longer deal and are confident they will tie down the forward with fresh terms. Martial became unsettled after slipping down the pecking order following Alexis Sanchez’s arrival from Arsenal in January, but has won back his place to become a key member of Jose Mourinho’s team.

                  He has scored seven goals in 13 Premier League games and forced his way back into the France squad after being axed by coach Didier Deschamps for the World Cup. United are also in talks over new contracts for Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Ashley Young. The trio are set to be free agents at the end of the season and can begin negotiations with teams outside England from Jan. 1.

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                  • #69
                    Messi sets another record, wins fifth Golden Shoe

                    Lionel Messi said he never expected to have such a successful career after receiving his fifth Golden Shoe on Tuesday, for being the top goalscorer in Europe last season. The Barcelona forward scored 34 times in La Liga last season to claim his fifth Golden Shoe award, which is one more than Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo has won.

                    Messi pipped Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to the prize after the Egyptian netted 32 times in the Premier League.

                    “When I started playing I did not expect all this. My dream was, obviously, to be a professional, but I didn’t imagine so much,” Messi said at a gala in Barcelona on Tuesday.

                    “This is thanks to hard work and effort and, above all, my teammates. I have the best players in the world in their positions playing beside me and that makes everything easier and lets me win these prizes.”

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                    • #70
                      Solari: Mourinho speculation does not worry me

                      Real Madrid coach Santi Solari rejected the idea he would be worried by speculation that Jose Mourinho could return to Bernabeu, while vice-captain Marcelo said it was “not for me to decide” if the Portuguese manager should return to the La Liga giants in the future.

                      Sacked by Manchester United on Tuesday, Mourinho was Madrid coach from 2010 to 2013, winning the Liga title in his second season, but falling at the semifinal stage in the Champions League in all three seasons. His name dominated a news conference in Abu Dhabi ahead of Wednesday’s Club World Cup semifinal vs. Kashima Antlers.

                      “I have the maximum admiration and respect for all my fellow coaches, especially those who have been at this club and given us joy,” Solari said. “How would I be worried about rumours or speculation about Real Madrid? It happens every day, is just part of our reality.”

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                      • #71
                        Pochettino targeted to replace Mourinho

                        Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is Manchester United’s top target to become the club’s next permanent manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

                        United owners the Glazer family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward called time on Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year reign as manager on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool which left the team 19 points behind the Premier League leaders.

                        An interim manager will take charge until the end of the season — sources have told media that former United players Laurent Blanc and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are both under consideration — but the club will spend the next six months attempting to prise Pochettino from Tottenham as Mourinho’s long-term successor.

                        Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Pochettino attempted to play down the rumours, insisting that his focus remains with Spurs.

                        “You know after nearly five years there’s a lot of rumours that happen in my position here. I cannot answer this type of question because this type of rumours happens in this business, in football.

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