Is Leroy Sane’s time at Manchester City coming to an end?

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Manchester City forward Leroy Sane is the latest to be wanted by German champions Bayern Munich as they look to build on their championship winning squad. The 23-year-old has garnered interest with the Bavarians looking to replace the departing Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Continue reading

Pep Guardiola’s time at Manchester City will not be complete without Champions League win

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There has been much praise towards Manchester City after their fantastic league win which they converted into a domestic treble at the weekend. Pep Guardiola’s side won the Premier League, the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup when they destroyed Watford 6-0. That was the joint equal highest score in a cup final since Bury won in 1903 and it is the first time ever that a domestic treble has been won in England.

This is all good news but super rich City and super slick Guardiola are missing one big trophy in the cabinet and that is the Champions League.

Manchester City have never won the competition even in the old style format of the European Cup, the nearest they have been is the semi-finals. It is a trophy that Guardiola as a manager has won two times before and yet both of those were with Barcelona and he hasn’t had his hands around the famous silver trophy since 2011 when Barcelona made light work of Manchester United.

Eight years is a long time in football and despite Guardiola’s successes at both Bayern Munich and City that trophy has eluded him for almost a decade. Guardiola will not want to leave the club without winning it, doing so considering all of the money that he has spent would feel as if something was missing.

If we compared how Chelsea and City have progressed after their big money takeovers, then it is Chelsea who have achieved more in a shorter space of time. Five years after Roman Abramovich took over the club and ploughed millions into the team Chelsea reached a Champions League final and in all it took the club 9 years to win it. City’s takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group commenced in 2008 and therefore the club have had a significant budget for 11 years and have not been able to reach the final of the Champions League.

Of course City are now stamping their authority on the Premier League just as their rivals Manchester United did for the past 20 years before, but football has become more than just winning your own league. Look at Barcelona, PSG and Juventus to see evident of that. Yes all happy teams and their achievements still fantastic but all are aiming for the bigger prize in their owners minds of Champions League glory. Guardiola recently admitted it himself, and it is clear that his legacy at City is going to be judged on it.

On this day: Remembering Chelsea’s Champions League triumph in 2012

It was the greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club. Not for the first time during their Champions League run in 2011/12, the odds were stacked against the west Londoners heading into the final on 19 May: not only did they have to face a formidable Bayern Munich team stacked full of world-class players, they had to do so at their opponents’ own stadium, the Allianz Arena. Yet the Blues once again dug deep and found a way to win, becoming the first team from London to claim the continent’s biggest prize.

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Is there a role for James Rodriguez back at Real Madrid?

He was the star of the 2014 World Cup and the last true Galactico signing. Real Madrid have a habit of picking up the best player from any given major tournament. Take Mesut Ozil, for instance, who shone for Germany at the 2010 World Cup only to make a move to the Santiago Bernabeu that very same summer. Rodriguez was Real Madrid’s 100-pound marlin to show off for the cameras in 2014.

And yet the Colombian never quite settled into his new surroundings in the Spanish capital. He was far from a failure, scoring once every three appearances over three seasons for Real Madrid. James was a La Liga winner during his time there, also winning the Champions League twice. There was just something about the player that Zinedine Zidane didn’t take to, though.

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As we all know, James was shipped out to Bayern Munich on loan with the assumption that the Colombian would eventually make the move to Bavaria permanent. The two clubs had even negotiated a future purchase price of £35 million, which would surely be activated after the initial two-year loan deal.

Now, however, James’ future is up in the air. Niko Kovac is believed to be edging the Colombian back towards Real Madrid, with the Bayern Munich boss leaving the playmaker out of his team for the crunch clash with title rivals Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago. That was taken as a sign that Kovac no longer sees James as a part of his plans for the future.

So would there be a place at Real Madrid waiting for James? Previously, one of the issues for the Colombian at the Santiago Bernabeu was that he occupied one of the three places permitted for non-European Union players in La Liga. Zidane wanted to free up James’ spot for others.

James has recently gained Spanish citizenship, though, and so Real Madrid wouldn’t have to use one of their non-EU places to keep the Colombian international in their squad. It’s certainly true that Zidane needs renewed creativity across his attacking line and so James could come in handy in this regard.

But would James really displace Isco in the Real Madrid first team, though? With Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba widely expected to join the Spanish giants this summer, James would largely be a peripheral figure at the Santiago Bernabeu. A player of his ability should perhaps expect better for himself.

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Sleeping giant Bayern Munich are planning for dominance next season

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The season in Germany is of course not over but it has been an awkward one for the giants of the country Bayern Munich.

Usually dominant in the Bundesliga Bayern simply haven’t had it all their own way this season and have had to play second fiddle to Borussia Dortmund for most of it. True as they go into this weekend Bayern are on top, but that’s only on goal difference. Either Dortmund or Bayern will win the league this season and that looks like it will go right down to the wire.

Bayern’s Champions League exit at the hands of Liverpool underlined that the team needs refreshing. Stars such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, loyal servants are too old and they will need to be moved on in the summer. Nico Kovac the young Croatian manager has been under intense pressure this season with even Arsene Wenger linked to the job. Truth is Kovac has inherited an aging team who at times haven’t always been hungry for success.

The good news for Bayern is that club President Uli Hoeness has promised that the club will spend big in the summer, and he’s not lying. Indeed Bayern have already splashed the cash with the confirmation of Lucas Hernandez for an incredible £68m. Hernandez will join from Atletico Madrid in July and be ready for next season.

It does appear that Hoeness who has been famous in the past for tightening  the clubs purse strings is putting his mouth where the money is and delivering on his promise and Bayern fans will be excited to hear what he had to say. Hoeness recently said: “If only you knew (the names) we have lined up for next season. We can’t make announcements right now. Everyone here would go mad and we still have goals to reach in the current campaign. We’ve saved. We’re well prepared for the summer. Our director of sport (Hasan Salihamidzic) has it all under control.”

Exciting times look to be around the corner for Bayern who have not won the Champions League since 2013, and since the rebranding took place in 1993 have only won the competition twice despite appearing in numerous finals. But also the current domestic season has not been good enough even if they win it, because just being able to win it is very un Bayern like. Think, for example, PSG winning Ligue 1 on the last day of the season.

Bayern mean business and it will be interesting if they will be able to attract the players they want. With Real Madrid reportedly having a huge spending package this summer it could turn into quite a transfer tussle between the two teams this summer- whoever is selling will benefit.

Will Arsene Wenger go out of football with a bang or a whimper?

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Arsene Wenger has been out of football management for nearly a year and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the former Arsenal manager will be finding a new job in dugout anytime soon.

This seems like a sad state of affairs for the Frenchman who won countless trophies in his career, most famously of course for the Premier League side Arsenal. But is this how the script ends for Wenger or will he take one last management job?

Wenger has deserved his years break and has flown to Africa to support George Weah’s football projects, done some media work and this weekend he will present the Coupe de la Ligue trophy to either Strasbourg or Guingamp in Lille. This is all very well but surely there is a burning desire to get back into managing a team.

After all Wenger seemed all go for his next project six months ago, where he said that he would be back in management by the beginning of 2019- that came and went. There were also links to Bayern Munich, which hasn’t at present come off.

The fear is that with Wenger being 69 he will not manage again which seems unfortunate on a lot of levels. Not least because his time at Arsenal just faded from ultimate glory to a whimper, failing even to qualify for the Champions League, and whilst Wenger remains a successful manager it may just be that it is his final years with the Gunners that will be best remembered.

By taking the plunge to manage again he could reinvent himself and it would feel like a fresh move. By not his thoughts will be loyal to Arsenal which he served 22 years and it just could be his line of thinking. But it does feel as if there is unfinished business with Wenger- the problem is that he may not be able to see it.

In recent weeks Wenger has been linked with ‘upstairs’ technical roles at both UEFA and FIFA- again is this really what he wants? Taking such a job may sound prestigious and hands on but isn’t it just akin to putting a once great horse out to pastor?

Whilst Wenger is pushing 70 he is also a man who has kept good health and looks great for his age and mentally aware, that’s why it is also unfortunate if he is to spend his remaining days as technical advisor and not have one last crack in management, if he takes roles with UEFA and FIFA it will feel like a wasted opportunity.

Chelsea can sell Eden Hazard as long as they can keep Hudson-Odoi

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Forget about Eden Hazard, it is clear that the Belgian international does not want to play for Chelsea anymore and looks set to move to Real Madrid in the summer. Hazard not being a part of the Chelsea first team would have seemed crazy a year ago but time has moved on and Chelsea need to think with their front feet, the reason is down to Callum Hudson-Odoi who even at 18 looks like the real deal.

Hazard has been one of the best players in Europe in the last few seasons and will be a loss for Chelsea, but there is no point in the club trying to keep him. True as it stands Chelsea would ideally like to keep Hazard given that they have been handed a two window transfer ban by UEFA- although the club are appealing about that. But at the same time selling Hazard to Real Madrid will generate at least £100m if not more and the Blues have Hudson-Odoi who already looks like a superb talent.

Hudson-Odoi made his debut for England earlier in the week and looked like he had been playing international football for years. Yes it was against Montenegro, but it was away from home against a nation that have made life difficult for England in the past, and yes the youngster will be up against better quality in years to come. But it was his assurance on the ball and confidence that would have taken anyone back, and his future is a bright one in the game.

It is why Bayern Munich came calling, the German giants do not go after English talent so young If they do not spot someone special. At the time Hudson-Odoi was eager to join Bayern, and why not? How many young English players get the opportunities they deserve at the biggest Premier League clubs? But Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has given Hudson-Odoi starts in both the league and Europa League and Hudson-Odoi might just start to see the bigger picture.

That bigger picture is that if Hazard does leave as expected the middle attacking role could be opened up to him and surely it is a position that he will relish. He could even at such a young age be the main attacking player for a club like Chelsea, the biggest fish in the pond so to speak, which should convince him to stay.

What is certain is that the initial £35m that Bayern had offered Chelsea for the player is chicken feed. His value will keep rising, especially if he has a good Euro’s and right now Chelsea are in the position to get the best years out of the player and cash in. The Blues will be hoping that Hudson-Odoi feels the same way and it will be up to Sarri to convince the player to stay and that he will have a very pivotal role in the clubs next few years.

Bayern result shows Liverpool focus is on the Premier League

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It’s been a while since Liverpool had to choose between the Premier League and the Champions League. With the top four the best they could hope for in recent years, the latter took precedence.

For a club with as rich a history in Europe as the Reds, it made sense. A run to the Europa League final in 2016 provided cherished memories for fans that had been starved of anything special for several years.

The run to the Champions League final last season did the same. Thrilling wins over the likes of Manchester City and Roma are still talked about. They were exciting occasions that sit among Liverpool’s best nights in Europe.  Continue reading

How will Liverpool react to losing in the Premier League?

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For the first time this season it finally happened, Liverpool after 21 games lost a game in the Premier League.

It was a fantastic run which saw some fantastic results including only a week ago demolishing Arsenal 5-1. But the run came to an end when the Reds visited the Etihad the home of current champions Manchester City and lost 2-1 in a quite frenetic game of football.

Liverpool still have the advantage in the league and lead by 4 points as they try to win England’s top domestic competition for the first time since 1990. But now that they have lost how will Liverpool react? History has told us it is how you finally react to a loss that defines you as a champion. In the league we will have to wait another week given that cup matches take over England this weekend.

One wonders if that is a hindrance or actually a good thing for Liverpool. On one hand it’s frustrating as the team want to play their next league game, win it, and prove that the City loss was just a tiny blip. On the other hand if they can get a good FA Cup win then that could restore some confidence going into the next league match. So that remains interesting to see.

Liverpool will play Wolves and the game is away from home which could be a tricky 90 minutes for the club. The fact that they have been paired with a Premier League team at this stage of the cup is not to their advantage. But of course they will still be favourites to win. But if they did lose then a serious question will be asked, ‘are Liverpool losing their bottle?’ It has happened before and manager Jurgen Klopp will have to field a strong side and get the victory over Wolves- that match does not take place until Monday.

In the league Liverpool’s next games are against the likes of Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester and the last two games are at home. These are all winnable games for the club, but at the same time, you never quite know in regards to the Premier League.

It seems that February will be a big month for Liverpool where towards the end of it they will have to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League and then follow that up with an away match against Manchester United who have been in terrific form, and the Merseyside derby follows just a week after that.

There is all to play for and of course Manchester City and Tottenham will have to keep winning too, but Liverpool are under real pressure again to produce the goods when it matters. That is how hard it is to win the Premier League nowadays.

 

 

Niko Kovac’s job looks safe at Bayern Munich after shaky start

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Niko Kovac looked like he was out of his depth for much of this Bundesliga season with German giants Bayern Munich. But the Croatian seems to have turned things around at the club after Bayern went on a five game winning run before the traditional Christmas break in Germany.

In the process after being as low as 5th this season Bayern have roared back and are just six points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund. The league does not start again until January 18th.

It has been quite a rollercoaster few months for Kovac with the pressure meter constantly at 10, but the club have responded and it is thought that club directors are more than happy with Bayern’s performances. This is bad news for Arsene Wenger, with the former Arsenal manager having been linked to the club. Jose Mourinho was directly linked also after he was sacked from Manchester United last month.

If anything Kovac has bought himself some time and it seems with Champions League qualification also in his back pocket that he won’t be sacked this season at least.

Kovac has had much to say about the campaign claiming that teams around Bayern have improved and this has been a much tougher season than the last one. Kovac said Bayern’s official website. “I feel we’re the Bayern from the start of the season again, that we’ve restored our ease and confidence – and that the lads are fired up to give it everything and put up a fierce fight against Borussia Dortmund. It was a half year with many facets, very emotional, and certainly not boring. We had many good periods but also had to weather difficult ones. However, taken altogether we’re on a good track, and at the end of the day our conclusion to the six months is positive.”

Kovac continued, “Of course we wished for a good start. We worked very hard for it during pre-season. We dominated the matches. The lads wanted to assert themselves after the arrival of a new coach. The performances in training and in matches were correspondingly strong.”

With Bayern pulling three points clear of 3rd place Borussia Monchengladbach it seems that the league has turned into a two horse race and at least it will be an exciting finish in Germany this season. As for Kovac if Bayern do not win the league his job does look like being in the balance, because 2nd just isn’t good enough for a club like Bayern.

Still after a difficult start at least Kovac has won the first round and is looking good to steer Bayern to silverware this season, against for some, all the odds.