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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Transfer News: Are Tottenham finally ready to spend money and buy Lo Celso?

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The transfer window in the Premier League opened up on May 16th and so far it hasn’t seen many players coming in but has seen quite a few leaving. There is a lot of work at Manchester United to be done and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realises this and has acted accordingly. Two players have already been released in Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia and we should expect more in the coming weeks.

West Ham have been very active in juggling up their squad and have released 8 players which includes Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. They have also got Roberto the goalkeeper from Espanyol on a free as a back up.

A couple of legends of the Premier League will play no more in England in Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who will become player/manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht. Petr Cech’s last game was in the Europa League final for Arsenal and he will hang up his gloves and join Chelsea’s goalkeeping coaching team.

The big news this week regarded Tottenham and their reported pursuit of Giovani Lo Celso. The North Londoners have reportedly bid £53m for the midfielder who was on the books of PSG but was then loaned out at Spanish club Real Betis, who bought the player only in April.

With Tottenham buying no new players in the last two transfer windows this would signal the clubs first purchase in over a year. However whether Tottenham will get their man is up for debate given that Betis have him under a release clause for £88m. It is understood that the club would listen to offers though in the region  of £75m but that is still over £20m what Tottenham have bid. And to further make things complicated for the club other Premier League sides have shown an interest in the 23 year old.

The connection could be a good one though for Tottenham fans hoping that their manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club next season given that Lo Celso is Argentinian. But this could end up being a war of words between Pochettino and club chairman Daniel Levy. If we remember a few weeks ago Pochettino hinted that he needed assurances from the club in order to stay with them, and surely one will be to bring in quality players this summer in the form of Lo Celso.

For Real Betis they would be looking at massive profits. They purchased Lo Celso only in April for about £20m, and if they did accept Tottenham’s bid they would have made a massive £33m profit in one month. Though it looks likely they will hold out for more and Tottenham will need to make a bigger improved bid.

The good news even if Tottenham fail with Lo Celso is that the club have revealed their purchasing power and that they will be buying players this summer, which must come as a relief for any Tottenham fan.

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Are Newcastle about to become the next Manchester City?

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There isn’t a whole lot of love for Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley, from the current manager Rafa Benitez to the fans there has been friction between the ‘three’ which has caused problems on the pitch as well as off. Now that could be set to change in a massive way as reports suggest that Mike Ashley will sell the club for around £350m.

Of course we have been here before and it was revealed just last year that Ashley almost sold the club to Sheikh Mansour who of course went on to purchase Manchester City and the club never looked back.

But this time it feels more concrete more real and unless something dramatic happens in the coming days it seems that now is finally the time that Ashley will sell his beloved club, a team that he has supported for his whole life. But what will leave fans and the football world flabbergasted is that Ashley looks set to sell the club to Shiekh Khaled.

Shiekh Khaled is a cousin of Shiekh Mansour and the thinking is that if Khaled does take over the club that the Magpies could end up being one of the big teams of the Premier League.

Newcastle have had to endure a torrid time in recent years and it has been almost 25 years since they nearly won the league which was scuppered in the heat of the moment when Alex Ferguson’s mind games got the better of the then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan and the club blew a 12 point lead. Since then it has been a battle without any trophies and one wonders if a new era could be taking shape at the infamous club.

What is certain is that manager Rafa Benitez who has been incredibly loyal to the club after coaching them in the Championship could leave the club at the end of June when his contract runs out. No one at the club wants that given that the Magpies have to stabilise. It is thought that if Khaled does take over the club that he wants to keep Benitez as manager, which would be good for the club.

As far as how much the Premier League has changed it all started when Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003. That signalled the end of Arsenal and Manchester United’s reign of the English league. A few years later it was Manchester City. As we enter a new decade could it be that Newcastle will join them? Will Khaled change the history of the club? This summer will undoubtedly be one of the biggest of Newcastle’s in some time.

It’s an all English affair in the Champions League and Europa League

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Even after the first leg of the Champions League semi finals were done and dusted it seemed like a distant dream that we would see an all English Premier League final, the first since 2008 and only the second one.

Hopes were raised given that Tottenham and Liverpool had been separated in the draw but still the favourites to get through were Barcelona and Ajax, after all Barcelona had just made light work of Manchester United and were on form and Ajax had their best team in over 20 years.

When the first legs finished form looked good. Ajax had gone to London and beat Tottenham 1-0 and Barcelona had beaten Liverpool 3-0 in Spain. Those matches both looked over, and then football went crazy or to put it a better way, it just went berserk. Belief took hold, first from Liverpool who scored 4 goals as Barcelona played like their B team and Jurgen Klopp’s team won 4-0 and went through.

However Tottenham’s comeback was even greater, because they didn’t score first in Holland and indeed went a further 2 goals behind. Now Tottenham needed 3 with 35 minutes left and Lucas Moura scored a hat-trick, I mean let’s face it we won’t see the likes of this again, not from 2 different teams in the same season at that very crucial stage.

So Tottenham will play Liverpool in the final which will be the 6th time teams have played each other from the same country. The bad news for Tottenham is that on every occasion the favourites have won. At the same time maybe just maybe Tottenham’s name is on the cup this year. Historically it would be more significant if they won it given that it would be their first time. For Liverpool they have not won it since 2005 and since becoming the Champions League the club have appeared in 3 finals, this will be their 4th.

As for the Europa League final Chelsea will play Arsenal. Arsenal have not won in Europe for 25 years so this would be quite an anniversary for them. As for Chelsea they have had an excellent standard in Europe this decade winning the Champions League in 2012 and then the Europa League in 2013. And they will probably start as slight favourites, although never underestimate Unai Emery who has already won the Europa League with Sevilla 3 times in a row.

What do these final appearances say for the Premier League? After all no team had won from England in the Champions League since 2012 and the competition has only been won by a Premier League side four times- 2 for Manchester United and one apiece for Liverpool and Chelsea.

It says of course that the standard has improved and that this season whatever happens won’t be a blip with such utter domination in both finals. English and Premier League football looks like it is back on the map after being away for almost a decade.

Is Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha really worth £80m?

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Wilfried Zaha the Crystal Palace striker has said that he wants to play Champions League football next season and Palace are not going to stand in his way. However the only catch is that they value the player at around £80-£100m and will not let him go for lower than that, but is Zaha really worth that figure?

There is no doubt that on his day the 26 year old packs a punch and is a decent player but in a world where football transfers have gone a little mad, Palace’s fee for such a player seems absurd.

One has to ask how did Palace come up with such a figure? Zaha has no major trophies to his name. He did win the Community Shield with Manchester United, a club he played a total of 4 games for before moving to Crystal Palace. In his career which has lasted for 10 seasons he has never scored more than 10 goals in one season which seems like a poor return on striker. Yes true sometimes he has been deployed as  winger but even so, this doesn’t seem befitting of  a player rated so costly by Palace.

From a total of 340 games the least we could expect from an £80m player would be 100-130 goals. But Zaha has scored 53. He will be best remembered for his time with Palace where he has been there for 5 seasons and played 180 games, his goal return is 35.

In a few words that is a poor return and does not suggest that Zaha is Champions League material. True with a better attacking team Zaha should be able to improve, he may even get to a 1 goal in 2 games ratio, but at 26 he hasn’t shown even in one season the potential that he believes he has. His dream is to play in the elite competition but there would not be one team outside of England who would be willing to pay more than £30m for him.

This is a reality of the situation and it is why Palace would only listen to offers from Premier League clubs. But who will take the risk, Chelsea, Tottenham? As it stands Manchester City and Liverpool look covered in that department

Good luck to Zaha he deserves a crack at the Champions League in a better team, but to suggest he is worth what the Eagles have said is simply not justified. What happened to the players that had bagged trophies and had that experience of winning, or if nothing else were scoring hatful of goals. Palace want to cash in, and this is what this really boils down too.

Liverpool must continue on their path of relentless improvement

In any other season, with the exception of last season, Liverpool would have been champions. In fact, had they registered their tally of 97 points in any other Premier League campaign besides the last two, Jurgen Klopp’s side would have been the strongest in the history of the division, at least numerically.

Liverpool fans don’t need another message of consolation reminding them of just how unfortunate they were to finish such an astonishing season second to Manchester City. There has been enough of those over the past couple days. This doesn’t help to ease the pain in any way.

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The Anfield side must use that pain to continue to improve, though. Of course, they still have a Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur to look forward to, but when that matter has been settled and pre-season begins again there will be no doubting Liverpool’s aim for the campaign ahead – win the Premier League title.

Last year, they identified deficiencies in their squad, in goals, at centre back and in the centre of midfield, and so Alisson Becker, Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho were all swiftly signed for something close to a combined £200 million. All three players have since delivered on their promise, even if Fabinho took a little longer to find his feet at his new club.

It’s this sort of ruthless drive that will be required again this summer if Liverpool are to draw Manchester City in at the top of the English game. They could still use another centre back, for instance, so they aren’t so reliant on Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren when Joe Gomez isn’t available. Matthijs de Ligt has been linked, with the Dutchman certainly fitting the bill of a signing that screams ambition. The Ajax teenager might, however, be an unrealistic target with Barcelona expected to complete a deal soon.

Depth is also required in the attacking third. Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge have performed adequately enough in the recent absence of Roberto Firmino, but there has been an element of fluke to their goals. Liverpool must look to add depth, perhaps in the form of someone like Thorgan Hazard or Timo Werner, not just to provide options, but to press existing attackers to new levels. Liverpool’s season might have ended in disappointment, but they must use that to go even further next season.

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Jurgen Klopp has eradicated Liverpool’s inferiority complex

What value can be put on belief? It is one of those great sporting intangibles, along with team spirit and character, but anyone who doubted its worth at the elite level of football had their views challenged by what happened at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Statistics tell the tale of a game Liverpool deserved to win. They had more shots than Barcelona on the night and claimed a greater share of the territory despite the Catalans boasting a larger share of the possession. But what Jurgen Klopp’s side did on Tuesday night cannot be quantified in such a way. It was down to something else. Something that’s a bit more difficult to grasp.

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For years, decades even, this great intangible seemed to be against Liverpool. Even when Anfield bore witness to great teams, like the ones assembled by Rafael Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, there was a gnawing sense of fatalism that all to frequently seeped into the players on the pitch. Their challenges almost always ended in glorious failure.

Of course, might contest that Liverpool’s recent successes have come as the result of a never say die attitude – see Istanbul and that Steven Gerrard stunner against West Ham in the FA Cup final. But even in these moments, Liverpool possessed an inferiority complex. If anything, these comebacks only served to accentuate further their complex. They saw themselves as underdogs.

There was something different about Liverpool’s Champions League semi final turnaround against Barcelona, though. Klopp’s men felt slighted by the heavy defeat suffered in the first leg. They believed themselves to be Barca’s equals and that shone through in the way they took the game to the Catalans on Tuesday night.

In the context of this season’s Premier League title race, Liverpool are still underdogs. They have pulled off countless comebacks, scoring several late goals to keep themselves within touching distance of Manchester City at the top of the table. With just one game left, Liverpool are just one City slip up away from being crowned English champions for the first time in a generation.

Liverpool already have a Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur to look forward to. In that game, they will be favourites. In years gone by, that might have posed them a problem, given their inferiority complex. Under Klopp, however, Liverpool have eradicated that mindset.

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Vincent Kompany reminds us all of Man City’s narrative

After Manchester City’s crucial win over Leicester City on Monday night, a win which put Pep Guardiola’s side within touching distance of a successful Premier League title defence, a debate broke out on social media. It focused on what is widely perceived to be a bias from the mainstream media against City. Or rather, to be more accurate, towards Liverpool.

To say there is a bias, that journalists, reporters and broadcasters are actively rooting against City, is false. However, it’s true that Liverpool’s story has received more coverage this season. That is purely because as defending champions Man City’s tale isn’t as compelling as Liverpool’s, who are chasing a first league title in 29 years. Journalists are always biased towards a good story.

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However, with tears rolling down his cheeks having struck a thunderous winner against Leicester City, Vincent Kompany, City’s man of men as commentator Peter Drury labelled him, reminded us that the Abu Dhabi-owned side are also working on a narrative of their own.

By winning against Brighton on Sunday and then against Watford in the FA Cup final, Man City would become the first ever English team to win a domestic Treble. In any other season, that would be the defining narrative playing out in the mainstream media, on the back pages and in the news bulletins.

For Guardiola, it would be a crowning achievement. Not so long ago, many claimed that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss would find things tougher in England. That he wouldn’t be able to dominant in the way he did in Germany and Spain. Guardiola’s struggles in his first season as City boss backed this theory up.

Since then, though, he has made a mockery of these suggestions. There might not be the romanticism to City’s story that there is about Liverpool’s, but Kompany’s emotion after his winner on Monday night served as a reminder to all that the Anfield side aren’t the only ones with an historic achievement on the line.

The sheer efficiency of Guardiola’s Man City side means the coverage of their success is somewhat more level-headed, but that doesn’t mean there is any less respect for them when placed alongside Liverpool. What City have done over the past two seasons has been unprecedented, but perhaps for a moment we should allow ourselves to get syrupy about their achievements just as Kompany did on Monday night.

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Liverpool should hijack Dortmund’s Thorgan Hazard deal

There’s just something about the name, it seems. In a summer set to be defined, in transfer market terms, by Eden Hazard and his expected move to Real Madrid from Chelsea, the Belgian isn’t the only member of his family to be on the move. Indeed, Eden’s younger brother Thorgan Hazard is also the subject of much speculation.

The 26-year-old admitted last week that he has agreed personal terms on a move to Borussia Dortmund, meaning the two clubs must now come to a financial agreement to make the deal official. That last step might be the most difficult one, though. Borussia Monchengladbach won’t be keen to sell their best player to one of their biggest rivals.

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Liverpool should make the most of this opportunity to hijack Dortmund’s deal for Hazard. The Belgian international might not be good enough to command a starting place in Jurgen Klopp’s team, but he would give the Reds the sort of depth they need.

Assuming Liverpool don’t lose one of either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah, Hazard would be a substitute at Anfield. But he would be more than that. Under Klopp, the Reds have made great progress over the past few years, particularly over the last two seasons. But they cannot afford to be complacent.

Manchester City will spend again this summer and so Liverpool must keep up. City already hold an advantage in the myriad of attacking options they boast. When Raheem Sterling is injured or is in need of a rest, they have Leroy Sane to step in. When David Silva is out, they have Bernardo Silva. And Riyad Mahrez.

Some competition for the likes of Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah would be healthy, would help keep them sharp. If Liverpool are to miss out on the Premier League title this season, as looks likely at this moment, their development won’t yet be complete. They mustn’t rest in their progression.

With Klopp at the helm, Liverpool have acted boldly, spending money where it needed to be spent. When they needed a centre back, they signed Virgil Van Dijk. When they needed a goalkeeper, they signed Alisson Becker. Next season, they must broaden their attacking options and Hazard would fit the bill. His move to Dortmund hasn’t been rubber-stamped yet. There is still an opportunity for the Reds there.

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Was Andrew Robertson more deserving of the PFA award than van Dijk?

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Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk won the PFA award a few days ago and not many people involved in the game and fans could really disagree with that result. Given that the award is voted by professional players it simply added even more weight to the fact and in the process van Dijk has become the first defender in the Premier League to win the award since Chelsea’s John Terry back in 2005.

Still some were surprised that the award was not given to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling instead who has grown from a very good player to a World class one. He got bizarrely in the end the Young player of the year, which given he is 24 just seemed odd, and he has been around of course for many years. It felt like a sympathy vote in the second thought- but alas that argument is for another day.

Another argument that we can put to one side is why would an award celebrating the best players of the season be handed out before the season has ended? van Dijk no matter how good he has been may end the season empty handed. An argument could be that the next 2 games will not yield a different and superior player but these voting cards were given out in mid March with still 10 games left to play. Thus a player should not be judged on 75% of the season- again an argument for another day.

But something that should not be overlooked is the fact that van Dijk’s team mate Andrew Robertson was. Robertson has been superb this season and was last season too for the Reds. It is interesting why he was overlooked given how solid he has been and given that fellow ex professionals rank him so highly. Phil Neville once said that Robertson was the best left back in the world. Maybe that was a stretch, but he has arguably been the best defender in the Premier League for this season.

Robertson has had a personally brilliant season and that is reflected also in the Premier League fantasy rankings. In the defenders Robertson is currently in 1st position with 114 points and is beating van Dijk by 3 points. While both players have been rocks in defence it also worth noting that Robertson has yet to score a goal- van Dijk has 3, but at the same time Robertson is not employed to score goals. However he has incredibly assisted 11 times this season to van Dijk’s 2.

One could be cynical and say that van Dijk got the awards nod because of the huge transfer fee involved when Liverpool bought him from Southampton for £75m in January, 2018. That fee attracted instant pressure on both the player to perform and manager Jurgen Klopp- had he for example taken a gamble? In contrast Robertson joined the Reds for under £10m.

Big performances from big fee players have always attracted positivity just like they do in the negative sense when it all goes wrong, and let’s be fair van Dijk has been superb in the Premier League this season. It is also hard to argue with professional footballer players whether a certain player deserves the award or not.

Let’s just say that Robertson was unlucky this season, perhaps in the future he will get even more credit if his performances remain the way they have been.