La Liga: Best 11 Players of Week 24

The Pressure is mounting on Atletico Madrid  as they have seen their once 10 point gap at the top cut down to 3 points although Diego Simeone’s side does have a game in hand. Atletico lost for the first time at home this season and have won just once in their last four games. Real Madrid can smell blood and we are certain to have an exciting finish to the season.

Barcelona were stunned at home as they could only draw 1-1 against Cadiz. Lionel Messi had opened the scoring but it wasn’t enough and Barca are 8 points behind Atletico with the same games played.

Sevilla are the best in form side in 4th place but Real Sociedad has regained their form and they have won 3 in a row and are chasing Sevilla down for 4th place.

It was another exciting week in Spain and we will take a look and see if any of your chosen players made the final cut.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 7pts

Real Madrid are on the hunt for the league title and Thibaut Courtois was on hand as Real Madrid beat Valladolid only 1-0 in a very tough game for the club. Courtois has now kept 11 clean sheets this season.

Defender: Antonio Barragan- Elche 7pts

Antonio Barragan is hardly a house hold name and he now has a total of 5 points as he was minus points before. But the player had a great week as he kept a clean sheet as Elche beat Eibar 1-0 and he also assisted in the only goal of the game.

Defender: Jorge Andujar Moreno- Levante 5pts

Jorge Andujar Moreno had a memorable game as Levante became the first club to beat Atletico Madrid at their home as they won 2-0. Moreno was solid in defence as Atletico had no less than 11 shots on target and he played his toughest game of the season, this is for sure.

Defender: Tono-Levante 5pts

Tono linked up well in defence to help to beat the number 1 team in Spain, Atletico Madrid. Tono has only started 5 games, but he had one of his best of his career so far and earned 5 points with his first clean sheet of the season.

Defender: Aissa Mandi- Real Betis 5pts

Aissa Mandi has been with Real Betis for a few seasons now and is becoming a veteran in defence. Mandi kept his sixth clean sheet of the season as Betis beat Getafe 1-0. Mandi’s value is 6.5m.

Midfielder: Portu- Real Sociedad 6pts

Portu started the season very strong, but he went a little quiet by Christmas but the player looks back to his best now and Real Sociedad beat Alaves 4-0 at the weekend to recover from their 4-0 loss against Manchester United in midweek. Portu scored the last goal.

Midfielder: Casemiro- Real Madrid 6pts

Casemiro scored yet again for Real Madrid and has proven to be one of the most important players for Zinedine Zidane’s team. Casemiro scored the only goal as Real beat Valladolid 1-0.

Midfielder: David Silva- Real Sociedad 6pts

David Silva still has that magic touch and the midfielder was involved in not one but two assists as Real Sociedad beat Alaves 4-0. Silva has 4 assists so far and 24 points for the season.

Midfielder: Alex- Cadiz 4pts

Alex scored a last minute penalty to give Cadiz a memorable point at Barcelona as the teams drew 1-1. He now has 21 points for the season and has been one of Cadiz’s best players so far.

Striker: Kevin Gameiro- Valencia 4pts

Kevin Gameiro scored only his 2nd goal of the season but it was an important one as Valencia beat Celta Vigo 2-0 and it was Gameiro who scored the winner goal.

Striker: Lionel Messi- Barcelona 4pts

There would be disappointment for Messi and Barcelona as they could only draw at home 1-1 against Cadiz. However Messi scored the opening goal which was a penalty and that was his 16th goal of the season. He is now joint top alongside Luis Suarez.

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Is it the end of the line for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?

Are Manchester City in decline? Not exactly but there is a sense that the club need to hit that F5 button and refresh and that could mean waving good bye to Pep Guardiola.

Two significant things happened in the summer that seem to have led to the Manchester City that we have now. One was influential midfielder David Silva leaving the club for Real Sociedad. Silva had been with City for 10 years and it seemed that him leaving was a natural step to take in his career. But the gap hasn’t been filled by Silva’s invaluable experience and in some games this season it has looked telling.

The other is that one senses City still have a hangover from their Champions League exit last season. Now had they exited the competition in a normal year this would have taken place back in April. This being the year of the pandemic the quarter finals were played of course only in August. And after knocking out Real Madrid in the previous round it seemed inevitable that City would overcome Lyon to reach the semi-finals. But while the game was very close Lyon did a number on City and Guardiola was outnumbered and out manoeuvred but a Ligue 1 side who failed to even qualify for Europe for this season.

That Lyon loss just seems to have got under the skin of Guardiola, it is just one game, but a defeat in that manner in the Champions League feels like a bug that just cannot be shaken.

Let’s make no mistake Guardiola was brought into City to win the Champions League and countless trophies. But City do not look like a side who are going to win this league in this. Pep’s 5th season. If they don’t then he has won 2 league titles from five. This is a fantastic return for most clubs, but the bar is so high with what Guardiola demands and the money spent on the club in that time period so much that actually a 40% winning return doesn’t seem that impressive in league titles.

To suggest that Guardiola has failed at City if he ends this season without silverware feels like a step too far. One must remember that under Guardiola Manchester City have won 8 trophies, however five of those have been split between the League cup and Community shield. His best season was in 2018/19 when he completed the magical domestic treble of winning the league title, FA Cup and League Cup. That season was also memorable for how City fended off a relentless challenge from Liverpool.

Under Guardiola City have recorded records and played some of the greatest football England has seen. He has created so much in such little time albeit with deep pockets but at the same time you still have to know the right players who are going to come into the side and get the job done.

Guardiola has loved to open the cheque book too and some of his signings have been real gems for the side like Benjamin Mendy, Ederson the goal keeper and Barnardo Silva have done good jobs. But can one say that Riyad Mahrez has shone consistently since his arrival from Leicester? Rodri is a good player but one would expect more of the club record signing.

There has been a tendency at City and it can work for a club with such a budget to, in theory, throw money at the problem but that doesn’t always work, and perhaps we are seeing that this season.

Who could have thought that a team managed by Guardiola would be in 13th place after 8 games. True one could say it is early in the season but over 25% of the season has been played. Also the way Liverpool have rose the bar means that they won’t be dropping many points this season. And unlike last season City have two more rivals that have emerged in Tottenham and Chelsea. When one can think that winning the title for City is beyond them, one could even stretch that idea and wonder if they will finish in a top 4 position?

Presently City do have a game in hand but that would only take the club up to 8th and they would be 5 points behind the leaders. Now that isn’t a big gap and of course there is time to catch up but the problem for City as aforementioned is the new threat of Tottenham and Chelsea together with Liverpool.

At the moment there shouldn’t be alarm bells just yet for City but if they can’t make in roads up the table and put pressure on the top 2 by the Christmas period this could end up being a long hard season for such a fluent and brilliant side.

So failure for Guardiola at City seems to be over-hyping what is happening at the club but whisper it when you consider the money spent, the value of the team estimated to be at £1 billion and the quality one normally associates with Guardiola, his time at City may just be looked at as the manager who under achieved with what he had.

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How Jokin Aperribay and Imanol Alguacil have guided Real Sociedad to the top of La Liga

Take a look at the La Liga table and the team sitting on top are none other than Real Sociedad. The club from the Basque country are showing their best form since they almost won the league title in 2002/03 after an epic battle with Real Madrid. But what chance does the club have now of repeating that challenge and maybe going one step further?

Club owner Jokin Aperribay will be celebrating 10 years as president and though they haven’t always been memorable at a team like Sociedad a lot of work must go on in the background to see the benefits down the line and that seems to be paying off this season.

Real Sociedad really are a throw back in time to when teams did not spend millions on the latest talent. Sure Sociedad have dipped into that arena once or twice but the clubs core values are simply to promote from within and their youth system is of utter importance.

A few years ago Aperribay said: “When they come to the first team it’s incredible news, these players come up through our system and know our colours, they understand our community and they are willing to push that and work hard and be part of the community and understand why we are here.” This is a reinforcement of promoting from within something that has all but died with most European clubs and especially the elite and it is a refreshing method.

The choice of coach at the club then shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Imanol Alguacil is Sociedad through and through. The 49 year old started his career at Sociedad playing for the B team and spent a total of 9 years with the club in the 1990s. His managerial career has followed suit and he has only been in charge of either the Real Soceidad B team or the senior and that has been ongoing since 2011.

Imanol as he is widely known by just his first name in Spain stands for everything that Sociedad represent. A local that played the majority of his career with the club and is now coach- Sociedad’s ethics simply wouldn’t have it any other way. And for this season especially Imanol’s inner workings of the club and the backing of the president are seeing all of that hard work rewarded.

There is real quality in the side and leading the fantasy rankings is Remiro the goalkeeper who already has 28 points and has kept 4 clean sheets and only conceded four goals since the beginning of the season.

Attack is good too in the form of Mikel Oyarzabal who has scored 5 goals and assisted in a further 2. Portu has been a rock in midfield and he also has a total of 28 points and has scored four goals and assisted in another two and these are players that are regularly making the best La Liga team of the weekends.

One of the most important players for Sociedad is arguably David Silva. Though he is coming to the end of his career the talented player- a legend for Manchester City and much missed in England has impressed for his new club. But what else would one expect from one of the best players of his generation in the last decade. The move felt like a surprise but Silva is obviously content and the experience that he can bring to the side just in the dressing room really can’t be measured.

Presently Real Sociedad sit in 1st place with 17 points and have won 4 games in a row. Even though Real Madrid are just a point behind and have a game in hand what is encouraging is that Sociedad are scoring goals. It really is the best way to measure a team. The club beat Celta Vigo last weekend 4-1 and before that put another four goals past Huesca. In all they have scored 14 goals in their past four games and have 18 so far this season which is easily the most in the league.

How far can Sociedad go this season? We should know more by Christmas but their main rivals at this time will be Real Madrid and the emerging Atletico Madrid.

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5 of the best La Liga transfers during the window

The summer transfer window is now closed around Europa and Spanish La Liga clubs have made a lot of business during the summer and first couple of weeks of the 2020-21 season.

New arrivals were landed as late as deadline day on Monday and managers have a fortnight to put their new plans in place due to the international break.

Here’s a look back over the transfer window to five players we believe could have the biggest impact on your fantasy team this season:

1. Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
The Uruguayan had a quiet end to his career at Barcelona by his standards but showed he still has it with a brace in his 12-minute Atletico Madrid debut in the 6-1 thrashing of Granada.

Luis Suarez may be considered a gamble for your fantasy team because he will set you back £10.50m, but with Diego Costa seeing a lack of game time and Joao Felix not putting up the goals in his first season, the 33-year-old could quickly establish himself as Diego Simeone’s main goalscorer.

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Lazio season preview: Will the Aquile fly again in 2020/21?

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It’s time to go again already? Well yes, and Lazio are actually arriving late to the party.

Simone Inzaghi’s men are back in action on Saturday when they hop across the Mediterranean to Sardinia to take on a Cagliari side led by former Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco.

Lazio’s delay in getting underway was down to the fact that their week one fixture with Atalanta was postponed by 10 days; La Dea were allowed some extra preparation time due to their late 2019/20 finish on Champions League duties.

Where were we?

Lazio’s 2019/20 campaign was a story of two parts: pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus. Continue reading

David Silva’s Real Sociedad move just another compelling La Liga storyline

It was the move nobody saw coming, not least Lazio who believed they had agreed a deal with David Silva with a medical even scheduled for the Spanish midfielder in Rome. Indeed, Real Sociedad caused waves with their announcement on Sunday evening that Silva had signed for them ahead of the 2020/21 season.

This is quite the coup for La Real. Silva has been one of the game’s most prolific and gifted playmakers for the past decade or so, earning his place as a Premier League legend over 10 years at Manchester City. Silva is held in such high esteem that City plan to erect a statue of him outside the Etihad Stadium next year.

He might be 34 years old and into the twilight of his career, but Silva was a key player for Manchester City right up until the moment he left at the end of his contract. He still has plenty to offer and Real Sociedad will be the beneficiaries of that. He will lift their midfield and creative play to a higher level.

It was already at a high level after the successful loan signing of Martin Odegaard, with the Norwegian marking himself out as one of La Liga’s best young talents over the course of the 2019/20 campaign. Odegaard has now been recalled to the Santiago Bernabeu, though. Silva is an exceptional replacement.

This should see Real Sociedad continue their development as one of the most exciting, exhilarating teams in the Spanish game at this moment in time. Last season saw La Real made great progress under head coach Imanol Alguacil and the signing of Silva should allow them to continue that.

While Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid might have occupied the top three places in La Liga for another season last term, there are plenty of storylines at a lower level to hold interest. Silva’s arrival at Real Sociedad is another of them. Unai Emery’s appointment at Villarreal and his signing of Dani Parejo from Valencia is another.

Real Sociedad have been building something for a few years now. They boast a number of exciting young players and experienced veterans who give them a good balance. Silva could become the player who makes them tick, though. The player to take them that little bit further. One wonders if Lazio will be watching.

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David Silva produces a dramatic U-turn to shun Lazio and join Real Sociedad

David Silva has created some brilliant swerves and dummies in his time on the pitch but he may have just pulled off his best yet, and it required not even kicking a ball. The Manchester City legend who was always leaving at the end of the season has decided at the eleventh hour to join La Liga’s Real Sociedad even though he was expected to sign for Serie A outfit Lazio, and the Italians are furious about his decision.

The problem with Silva’s change of heart is because he neglected to tell Lazio of his decision, apparently simply not returning their calls as he focused on signing on a free for Real Sociedad.

Lazio’s sporting director Igli Tare said: “I learn about David Silva’s transfer to Real Sociedad. I have great respect for the player, but not for the man.”

But why has Silva decided to join Sociedad? At least on paper it looks like the midfield maestro has chosen the weaker team. Lazio really improved this season and at one point were giving Juventus a run for their money for the title before eventually fading away. Lazio will also play in next seasons Champions League.

As for Sociedad they had a decent season themselves by their standards and finished 6th and have qualified for the Europa League. Sociedad look a club on the up and that together with the prospect of returning to his home country seems to have been too much to turn down. A sixth placed club from last season wanting your services at 34 was the carrot that Silva was after and he is sure to fit into the side and maybe even gain more regular games than he would have at Lazio.

It has been an emotional week for Silva even if he didn’t show the best etiquette to Lazio and he told Manchester City fans: “I look back and it’s clear I could not have made a better decision than to accept City’s proposal to join their project back in 2010. Manchester City and I have grown together. In 10 years, I have developed personally and professionally. I have celebrated many victories and titles and lived through epic moments.”

Silva then added:

“I have seen my lovely child, Mateo, born and I have even started to feel comfortable under heavy rain! City are a fantastic family. I won’t ever forget the way they threw themselves into helping me when I suffered the hardest moments of my life, offering me support and empathy.”

Silva will be hoping that he has some more magic left in his boots for Sociedad to have a successful season and build on the last one. Dropping down from the Champions League to Europa will be worth it for the international great to finally return to his home country to play out his days.

David Silva could be worth adding to your fantasy team for the new season ahead. Check out his statistics and value.

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Breaking down Lazio’s Mercato Needs

Lazio will be making its highly anticipated return to the Champions League next season and will be eager to hit the ground running in Europe’s elite competition. Simone Inzaghi’s men surprised Italy this season, springing an unlikely title challenge, but ultimately fell short. In many ways, their lack of depth hurt them late and caused the Biancocelesti to drop unnecessary points. With Lazio competing on three fronts next year, Igli Tare and Claudio Lotito will use this summer to retool the side and offer Inzaghi more flexibility.

According to recent reports, Lazio are in the market for another striker. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa formed a deadly duo in the final third this season, but Lazio lacked quality depth when either was out of the lineup. Felipe Caicedo finished the season with nine goals but left a lot to be desired at crucial moments while Bobby Adenkanye failed to break through Inzaghi’s starting eleven.

Lazio have since been linked with former Real Madrid striker Borja Mayoral. In recent times, however, Fenerbahce’s Vedat Muriqi has emerged as the favorite up front. The Kosovo international will reportedly join Lazio for 18 million euros and will give Inzaghi some much-needed depth.

Beyond Muriqi, Lazio are closing in on SPAL’s Mohamed Fares for the left wingback role. Jony struggled to make an impact when called upon while Senad Lulic is beginning to slow down out wide. As a result, reinforcements are needed to offer Lazio some width and pace in the wide areas. Jordan Lukaku never got going in Inzaghi’s system and could very well be on his way out this summer. Fares is already familiar with Serie A and was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for SPAL. At eight million euros, Fares could offer Lazio great value, similarly to Manuel Lazzari down the right-hand side.

While Fares and Muriqi offer depth and will largely be used in rotation, Lazio have set their sights on a huge free agent signing. Manchester City’s David Silva is reportedly heavily considering moving to the nation’s capital and joining forces with his compatriot Luis Alberto in the middle of the park. The duo will undoubtedly form one of the league’s most creative midfield units and will thrive supplying Immobile and Correa.

Silva may be approaching 35 years old, but the Spaniard could offer Lazio another season or two at the highest level. Lazio struggled to break sides down towards the tail end of the season and could benefit from Silva’s presence in their lineup. The former Valencia man, however, is currently weighing an offer from Qatar and will give Lazio his final answer shortly. In any case, Silva would be a major coup for Tare and would offer the side a wealth of experience going into the Champions League.

Fares, Muriqi, and Silva would represent a phenomenal summer for Lazio, but if Inzaghi’s men want to take the next step, they arguably need another centreback. Francesco Acerbi, Luis Felipe, and Stefan Radu formed an uncompromising trio at the back this season, but they could benefit from an injection of youth.

The Biancocelesti were previously linked to Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla, but the defender is now Inter bound. In many ways, the Verona man is an ideal profile for Lazio and would have refreshed their rearguard. Beyond Kumbulla, Lazio could inquire about Juventus wantaway Daniele Rugani. The former Empoli man desperately needs a move away and could rekindle his best form away from Juve. In any case, another defender would help reduce Acerbi’s workload significantly and tighten up their back three ahead of Thomas Strakosha.

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Manchester City say goodbye to their player of the decade

The 5-0 victory over Norwich City was the last match in the Premier League for David Silva, who is leaving The Etihad after 10 years in the sky blue jersey.

The Spaniard has played a staggering 434 matches for Manchester City in all competitions, more than any other in the club’s history, recording 77 goals and 122 assists and managed to win 14 trophies: four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, five League Cups and three FA Community Shields.

With 309 appearances in the last 10 seasons in the Premier League he has the second most behind the goalkeeper of their Manchester rivals, David de Gea, who has played four.

Over the past 10 years, many great players have passed through the squads of Pep Guardiola, Manuel Pellegrini, Brian Kidd and Roberto Mancini, but no one has been more consistent and impactful as David Silva. The Citizens fans could always count on Silva to make an impact when it mattered.

“Of course I am very proud,” he told the club website. “To win so many titles and the way we won it. I am a lucky guy. I have had a lot of nice moments, and this one as well, the last one. I will miss everything – even the weather as well. I’m going to miss working every day with these amazing people. They have made my life much easier. It was emotional and I love all of them.”

Before the final farewell with City, Silva has the chance to challenge for the Champions League trophy, the only one that is missing in his glittering career. City play Real Madrid on at the Etihad in the second-leg of the last 16 clash, after they won 2-1 on at the Santiago Bernabeu in February.

“I hope we can win it,” he continued. “It’s a shame that we can’t play with the fans here, but of course, the safety of the people is the most important thing.”

The English fairytale for Silva began with the transfer from Valencia in 2010 when he signed a four-year contract with City, but stayed much longer. After a decade at the club, the 34 year old will possibly return to Valencia and has been linked with a move to Villarreal in La Liga. Also, Al Sadd’s in Qatar, where his fellow countrymen Xavi and Santi Cazorla already play, is also thought to be an option.

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Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.