Fantasy Football News

Man City mustn’t stand still in this summer’s transfer market

Manchester City have set a new precedent at the top of the English game over the past two seasons, registering a combined 198 points over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns, collecting two Premier League titles. No team has dominated the English top flight like they have of late.

It’s difficult to envisage how Pep Guardiola’s side can possibly improve on what they have achieved over the past two seasons. And yet there are still some deficiencies to be addressed this summer. In terms of personnel, they could afford to strengthen in some areas before the start of the new season.

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There have been rumours. Atletico Madrid Rodri was deemed to be their number one target. Tanguy Ndombele has also been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium this summer, although Tottenham Hotspur now seem to have skipped ahead of City in the race to sign the Lyon man.

Ben Chilwell has been mentioned, as has Aaron Wan-Bissaka as doubts around Man City’s current full back options persist. More recently, it has been reported that Joao Felix is edging closer to the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit, with City thought to be willing to loan the teenager back to Benfica for at least one season.

Despite all this speculation Man City have yet to make a single move this summer. The clock is already ticking with the Premier League’s transfer deadline two weeks before the rest of Europe’s. Some have started to suggest that City don’t need to make a signing or two before that deadline passes.

That would be a mistake, though. With Liverpool only getting better with every season under Jurgen Klopp Man City cannot afford to stand still this summer. The Etihad Stadium side have done that before as Premier League champions, both under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, and have been made to pay the price.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that history could repeat itself if City start the 2019/20 season with the same squad, especially if Liverpool spend big again this summer. What’s more, Guardiola is still to deliver on the objective he was hired on the basis of on the first place. City are still some way from being European champions.

The best teams always seek to improve on past results no matter how impressive they are. Man City’s results over the past two seasons could barely be more impressive, but that doesn’t mean that they will continue to be impressive indefinitely. City, as they have done in each of the past few years, must spend.

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Why would Mohamed Salah want to leave Liverpool?

There was a time not so long ago when Liverpool couldn’t keep their best players when the big clubs, namely the two Spanish giants, came calling. It happened when Barcelona came calling for Luis Suarez and again when they identified Philippe Coutinho as their top target last January. It even happened as long ago as the early 2000s when Michael Owen was lured to Real Madrid.

A lot has changed since then. Liverpool are European champions after winning their sixth Champions League title earlier this month. Not for decades have things been so bright at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp taking the Reds back to the top of the sport after a long, long time in the wilderness.

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And yet there are still reports that Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s best player and top goalscorer, is planning a move to Real Madrid, not this summer but the next. The Egyptian is currently under contract until 2023 only signing a new deal with the Anfield club last summer. Liverpool don’t need to sell him.

These reports that Liverpool chiefs have been made aware of Salah’s intentions and are making plans to try and persuade the forward to stay for the long term. But why would he want to leave in the first place? Are Real Madrid really a more attractive proposition than Real Madrid are right now?

The Spanish capital will always be attractive to elite level football players, but Klopp has built something special at Liverpool. They will be at the top of the English and European game for years to come and what’s more, despite their Champions League win this season there is still a sense of unfinished business after their failure to clinch a first ever Premier League title.

Salah is a central part of what Klopp has built. Would he be as integral to things at Real Madrid? Players, even superstars like the Egyptian, are treated as disposal at the Santiago Bernabeu. Just ask Gareth Bale about how difficult it is to satisfy the notoriously difficult Madrid fanbase and media.

Real Madrid isn’t even necessarily a place where Salah would clean up in terms of silverware. They have won just two league titles in the past 11 years compared to the eight Barcelona have swept in the same timeframe. While Liverpool got their hands on the biggest trophy in club football this season, Real Madrid ended up with nothing.

Football moves in cycles and right now Liverpool are at the very least on an equal footing to Real Madrid in the food chain. Not so long ago, Salah’s desire to move to Spain would have been understandable. No longer, though.

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Have Real Madrid forgotten about Vinicius?

Real Madrid tend to get their man, even if it takes a few years. Eden Hazard had long appeared destined to one day pull on the famous white jersey of the Spanish giants with the Belgian finally making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It’s a move that had been a long, long time in the making.

Of course, Real Madrid still have a void to fill after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Not just in terms of goals, but in terms of stardust. They need players who can handle the weight of carrying a club of such stature. Hazard certainly fits the bill in that regard.

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But positionally and tactically, did Real Madrid really need Hazard? He is a left-sided attacker and it’s on the left side where Zinedine Zidane’s side are strongest. They have Marco Asensio, but more notably it’s where Vinicius Junior made himself the brightest teenage talent in Spanish football last season.

Indeed, the Brazilian was the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season. He was a revelation for Real Madrid, becoming their most important player for a spell between the turn of the year and Easter. Were it not for injury he might well have done more to save Real Madrid’s campaign.

It was expected that Vinicius would hold down a starting place next season, but will that still be the case now that Hazard has been signed? Can Zidane find a way to fit both the Brazilian and the Belgian into the same team? If he can’t, could the money used to spend Hazard have been used elsewhere?

Real Madrid had a number of positions to fill this summer. They needed a centre forward and got one in the form of Luka Jovic, signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after an excellent season in Germany. They needed a left back and got one in the form of Ferland Mendy, signed from Lyon.

Zidane also needs a central playmaker, with Real Madrid linked with both Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. Might it be the case that Hazard becomes more of a central force so that both he and Vinicius can be accommodated in the same side? He has, after all, played that role on occasion for Belgium.

Real Madrid needed players who could perform here and now. But they mustn’t neglect their future in the process of overhauling their team. Hazard represents the here and now, while Vinicius represents their future. The challenge for Zidane is to look after both.

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Two scenarios behind AC Milan’s decision to keep Suso

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Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like Suso would be on his way out of AC Milan this summer. Instead, following a meeting between the Rossoneri and the player’s agent on Thursday, it looks like the Spaniard will remain. However, what is behind this sudden change in strategy?

Of course, no one can question the decision to keep Suso if you look at his quality. In recent years, he’s been one of the best players for the Rossoneri, getting good numbers despite his usual ups and downs during the course of a season. However, will he even be usable in Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation next season? Continue reading

Juventus announce Sarri as their new coach

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It took longer than anticipated, but Juventus finally have their new coach: former Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who has reportedly penned a three-year, €18M contract. Sarri is coming off a third-placed finish with the Blues and recently won the first trophy of his career by beating Arsenal in the Europa League final. It took a small financial compensation in order to release him from his deal with the English club. Despite the relative success of his tenure, Sarri butted heads with the players and the management and was never embraced by the fans during his time in London and at some point was at risk of being axed mid-season. Continue reading

Bernardeschi opens up and Buffon weighs in on Juventus matters

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Federico Bernardeschi continues to be one of the most talkative players and his interview to Fashion Illustrated was published yesterday: “I became a man at Juventus, one that tries to learn and improve every day. The passion for football is innate. I was told that I was already chasing after the ball at three, it was love at first sight and I can consider myself lucky now since my job is my greatest passion and enjoyment. I am interested in fashion and music too.”

On his career: “When I was eight, I commuted almost every day to practice in the Empoli’s youth academy. My parents and I made big sacrifices. I saw it as something entertaining, but it was a lot of travel. Continue reading

AC Milan’s summer revolution: taking a look at the new management

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In the last few weeks, a lot has changed for AC Milan. After missing out on the Champions League once again, although this time they came really close, it was obvious that a revolution was needed.

To make a long story short, the decision of both Gattuso and Leonardo to leave the club had a significant impact on the outcome of the Rossoneri’s new management, which after weeks now seems to be as good as done. In addition to these departures, with UEFA and FFP bearing down their throat, a change in strategy was needed.

With CEO Ivan Gazidis at the helm, the new management was formed. Paolo Maldini, who during the past season worked alongside Leonardo, was officially named as the club’s new technical director yesterday. In addition to the former captain, yet another legend was appointed by the Rossoneri: Zvonimir Boban. The Croatian was favoured by Maldini, taking the role as the Chief Football Officer, leaving his job at FIFA.

In other words, Elliott (the owners) are not messing about, giving it a second go after their first season with the club nearly ended in glory. Obviously, the departure of Leonardo wasn’t ideal, especially with regards to the transfer market, though his honest approach will also be missed.

So, what can AC Milan expect from his replacement, Boban? Well, as it seems, he’s very straightforward and direct in his approach, which often reflects in his work. This is something that the San Siro side certainly needs: clarity. In addition to this, his friendship with Maldini will hopefully keep them on the same page, avoiding any internal conflicts.

Of course, the management is far from complete, with at least two important positions left to fill: the manager and the sporting director. As it seems, however, Milan have already found their men, and only the official announcement is missing. For the managerial role, it’s expected that Giampaolo will be revealed on Monday, as he was officially let go by Sampdoria today.

In regards to the sporting director role, former Roma director Frederic Massara is in pole position for the job, having left the Giallorossi earlier this month. Perhaps, as Milan decided to announce two new additions to the management in Boban and Maldini, they might do the same on Monday, thus revealing both Giampaolo and Massara.

For once, the entire Rossoneri management seems to be on the same page, which is a huge relief, to say the least. Furthermore, it consists of qualified people, something which Milan have lacked over the years. Given how things are developing on the transfer market, which will be looked at in a separate piece, one can only hope that the San Siro side are actually on their way back.

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Juventus or Real Madrid? Where will Paul Pogba end up?

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It is no secret that Paul Pogba has not enjoyed the greatest of times at Manchester United and the Frenchman looks set to leave the club this summer, but who for?

Reports have suggested that Fabio Paratici the sporting director of Juventus is in London and having talks with Manchester United representatives about Pogba joining the club. Actually he would be re-joining since United bought Pogba from the Old Lady back in 2016. What has been interesting is that if Juventus do buy Pogba then the player has spent his footballing career switching from these clubs alone, since he started his professional career with United back in 2010.

One wonders if Pogba’s indecisions and playing back and forth for the same clubs sums up his career thus far? The midfielder remains an enigma- a delightful player to watch on the ball and fearsome coming forward but his total inconsistency marks him out to be a player that may well end his footballing career as simply a footnote in the history of the game.

Alongside Juventus’ interest seems to be another and that is Real Madrid who are rebuilding this season after a chaotic last one. Los Blancos have already spent near to £300m on acquiring five players including Eden Hazard and it is thought that coach Zinedine Zidane would love to work with Pogba. Pogba himself may feel that a fresh change is needed from returning to Italy again. One thing is clear and that is United could do with offloading a player that they already know could fetch the club upwards of £100m and release funds to invest in players that want to play for the club and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Keeping with United they have upscaled their interest in Crystal Palace player Aaron Wan-Bissaka who impressed this past season as the Eagles finished strongly. But the talking price seems to be spiralling out of control and one figure has the Palace player at £70m. For now he is on top of Solskjaer’s list and United agree to that sum it seems highly unlikely that they won’t get their man.

West Ham raised eyebrows by purchasing the exciting 23 year old Pablo Fornals. The attacking midfielder cost the Hammers just £24m which is seen as a bargain in today’s football. He comes from Villarreal and even though he had an average last season he is seen as a very good prospect and will add attacking flair to West Ham’s forward line.

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Matthaus links Rodriguez to Juventus and Higuain’s future update

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Lothar Matthaus revealed in an interview to AS Colombia that he believes James Rodriguez will move to Old Lady after chatting with the player: “I met him during the celebration for the last Bayern title and talked about everything, from Colombia to the history of football. I think he will join Juventus: he is very close with Cristiano Ronaldo, they are in touch and the Portuguese would like to bring him to Turin. James is a great assist man and they do brilliant things together.” Rodriguez will leave Bundesliga as the club did not pick the €45M option to buy him, so it will be up to Real Madrid to decide his future. He has often been linked to the Madama in the past, but in recent weeks he appeared way closer to Napoli, which is helmed by his former coach Carlo Ancelotti. He scored 15 times and provided 20 helpers in 67 apperances in the last two years in Germany. Continue reading

De Ligt is right to delay the decision on his future

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At just 19 years of age, Ajax’s Matthijs De Ligt has already shown himself to be a true leader of men.

Mature beyond his years, he commands his team with the authority of someone much older.

But the fact is that he’s still a kid.

And FC Barcelona will do well to remember that in the immediate future, whilst the player makes the most important decision of his professional career.

Continue reading