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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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Marquinhos

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Marquinhos is going to go down as a legend with PSG no matter how his career ends with the current Ligue 1 champions. It feels like he has been at the club forever commanding the back four. The truth is he is still only 25 and has seen players come and go including one of the very first stars for PSG- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and yet here he is having enjoyed his 6th season with the club.

In the European Fantasy League rankings for Ligue 1 defenders Marquinhos finished in joint 2nd place with Malang Sarr of Lille and got 70 points from his value of 7.5m. He played 30 games and so is still seen as an integral part of the team and he was able to help with 13 clean sheets as PSG conceded 24 goals for the whole season in Ligue 1.

Marquinhos in true Brazilian style for a defender even contributed to some goals. He scored 3 this season and assisted in another two. He received 2 yellow cards and 1 sending off for the season.

His final ranking was such that he finished in 20th place for defenders in all the major European leagues.

The Brazilian started the season off in solid fashion earning 5 points as PSG kept a clean sheet in their 3-0 win against Caen. However in the next five games Marquinhos went through a rough period, where PSG were winning but conceding goals which was hitting him as a defender and in those five games he earned no points. Indeed because two goals were conceded against Nimes, even though PSG won that game 4-2 he ended up with -1 point for that period of time.

However after those games Marquinhos picked up a huge 21 points in his next 3 matches including scoring 9 points when PSG beat Amiens 5-0. He kept a clean sheet and also scored a goal, this is the most points that he would earn in a single game all season.

Towards the end of the season there was another bout of non consistency as PSG ran away with the league and when it was confirmed the club struggled to stay focused especially when they exited the Champions League to Manchester United. It meant that in Marquinhos’ last five games he ended up with a total score of -4 points, as PSG kept conceding silly goals and were losing almost on a weekly basis.

For Marquinhos the job was done though and yet another Ligue 1 title came his way. It was also an improvement on the previous seasons score when he managed 52 points, and surely he would have earned more points had PSG remained on their game until the end of the season.

Marquinhos remains an important player for PSG and even more than that since he gets on with his job and isn’t looking for a move away he is very respected at the club.

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Which players are leaving Manchester United as a free agent?

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Without a doubt, Manchester United will be one of the main clubs that will be going all out within the summer transfer window, when compared to the other sides in the Premier League and in the whole of Europe. Following the embarrassing season they have experienced through both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they will now look to make a huge statement off the pitch.

However, the full attention happens to be just on the hopeful incomings, rather than the players that may leave on a free transfer and those individuals whose services are no longer needed. With a lot of deadwood still remaining at the club along with the team’s squad depth being really thin, a lot of planning and top recruitment is badly required in order to have a successful summer window.

Here are the three United players that will potentially be leaving on a free transfer…

Antonio Valencia

After spending ten long years at Old Trafford, Antonio Valencia will be leaving the club at the end of June with the full appreciation of the Manchester United supporters. From playing consistently as a winger to being utilised as a makeshift right-back over the last couple of years, the Ecuadorian never failed to wear his heart and passion on his sleeves despite being regarded as a very limited player.

Majority of people will be content with the displays he has produced but some will be unsatisfied with how he failed to reach his true potential as a dominant and effective winger. The 33-year-old went on to make just fewer than 350 appearances in all competition, whilst winning the league on two occasions, the EFL Cup on two occasions, the FA Cup as well as the Europa League in 2017.

Juan Mata

Whether he stays or leaves, Juan Mata’s time at both Manchester United and Chelsea will be seen as quite underrated as a whole, purely because of how he played out of his natural position and how it prevented him from being at the heart of each attack. Even during his time out wide on the flanks, he was still able to create chances for the team whilst also getting the best out of his team-mates.

On the other hand, the attacking midfielder could make a return to Spain and do quite the job for the likes of Sevilla, Valencia or even Atletico Madrid, who are always looking to improve in the league and in Europe. At the end of the day, many will be unsatisfied with how Juan Mata went through four United managers, who failed to play him in his best role, which is behind the forward.

Ander Herrera

The one player that will be leaving on a free transfer that has shocked the Premier League experts and most importantly the United fanbase is no one other than Ander Herrera. A complete midfielder who has always been effective and consistent on the pitch, and is also seen as quite the type of vocal leader when necessary, which is something that the current squad is lacking from top to bottom.

Overall, some of the folks will not be too angry with his departure as he apparently wanted £200,000 a week, which does seem extortionate for someone who does not play regular football. However, when the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba are on a lot of money whilst not proving to be consistent or reliable enough, you could see why Herrera cheekily demanded a massive pay rise.

Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Angel Di Maria

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PSG became champions yet again in Ligue 1 but their superiority isn’t just confined to their front three players of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani and that was underlined this season with how brilliant Angel Di Maria has been for the side.

The Argentine who loves to play out on the wing scored 12 goals and assisted in a further 11 goals in the league this season. To put that into perspective he was responsible for just over 20% of PSG’s goals in Ligue 1. In the European Fantasy League rankings Di Maria is 1st in his position and beat off competition from Florian Thauvin who was the only other midfielder who could compete with him. Di Maria finished on 96 points and Thauvin finished on 95.

Di Maria has been at PSG for the past four seasons and after a difficult period with Manchester United in the Premier League he has really settled into life at Parc des Princes creating goals and scoring important ones. Just counting his league goals this season was also Di Maria’s most successful with 12 league goals that is his highest of his career surpassing the 11 goals he got last season and doing so with one less game played. His overall ranking with all midfielders combined would be 11th.

Di Maria had a consistently good season for PSG and his best game was against Marseille when he scored 2 goals and assisted in another in a 3-1 win. He earned 9 points in that match and the only thing that let him down was losing 2 points for getting a yellow card. The game before that PSG had won 4-0 against Dijon and again it was Di Maria who got man of the match, with a goal and an assist and he earned extra points given that his team kept a clean sheet.

Di Maria’s best form was towards the end of the season with his best month being March where he was averaging 8 points a game. He also had a strong April and May.

What is also interesting is when we look at his value and remember that the season before he was worth 12m to buy for your team. This season he went down to just 9m and ended up being one of the best performers in Ligue 1 where in the end he was ranked in 3rd place. Only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe had better seasons in the rankings.

Di Maria who is now 31 doesn’t look like he will be leaving PSG anytime soon and his best years could still well be ahead of him, certainly if this season is anything to go by it appears that the player is getting better.

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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.

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo was upstaged by Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella

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In Italy Juventus and in particular new signing Cristiano Ronaldo had it all their own way once again. Winning the league with weeks to spare and an 8th successive title. Ronaldo seamlessly joined the club from Real Madrid last summer and became the first ever player to win a Premier League title a Spanish one and then an Italian league. But there was one trophy he wasn’t able to get and it may have been his most jarring- the top goal scorer award which went to Fabio Quagliarella.

A former Juventus player himself Quagliarella now plays for Sampdoria and had a fantastic season scoring 26 goals in all and winning the trophy for top goal scorer. But what has been even more impressive about the player is that he seems to be getting better with age. His 26 goals are the most he has scored in a season and he is now 36. Indeed the season before he netted 19 goals which is his 2nd best campaign.

Of course Ronaldo will be content with a Serie A league title in his debut season but as everybody knows the Portuguese player loves statistics and loves scoring goals and one has to wonder if not landing the prize as top goal scorer has left a bad taste in his mouth?

Or is it simply that Ronaldo is running out of gas? Ronaldo’s haul of 21 league goals is his worst since he was in the Premier League playing with Manchester United in the 2008/09 season. While that sounds shocking he has only played 30 games this season in the league, the last time that happened was in the 2013/14 season with Real Madrid where he was able to score 31 goals, 10 more than this season.

Ronaldo is 34 and it would only be natural that his level would go down, or simply it could be a different manner of things. We should remember that he went the first few weeks of the season without scoring for Juventus, even though he had some superb chances and sometimes was simply unlucky. Purists will point to the fact that Italian football is better defending and seen as an art in the league and that is the reason that Ronaldo has scored his lowest tally in the league in a decade.

It will be fascinating to see how Ronaldo reacts next season, for now Juventus will be massive favourites to win another league title, their 9th in a row perhaps? And that will mean that Ronaldo will get plenty of chances to score goals, maybe he just needed that first season to fit in.

 

 

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.

Lionel Messi must not be made out to be the scapegoat when his teams lose

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When Barcelona or Argentina win that usually means that Lionel Messi has been at the heart of the result, if he hasn’t scored a hat-trick then he scored a goal and if he hasn’t scored a goal then he influenced the game by assisting the winning one. The best player of his generation is everywhere in a game, but that can’t always be the case of course, even if he goes quiet once or twice a year.

The problem for being so great and getting praise is that when it all goes wrong you get the other side of the stick which is that the blame seems to lie on you. When Argentina lost the World Cup Final to Germany in 2014, Messi was blamed, he became the scapegoat for the loss but surely it was the only explanation as to why Argentina failed to become the first South American side not to win the World Cup in the region. In truth Gonzalo Higuaín’s shocking miss was the real blame as Germany went onto win the match 1-0.

Last summer Messi had a quiet World Cup but he was in a side who could not defend. It meant that they were failing the game before Messi could find the right balance in the game to get his own style together. When Argentina actually took the lead against France in the round of 16, Messi looked the most shocked, and of course France would go on to win the game 4-3. The final score made it look close but it really wasn’t.

Recently in the Champions League for Barcelona, Messi was hailed yet again as a masterclass as his one man show was just too much for Manchester United in Spain. Again at home in the semi-final v Liverpool Messi was simply too good and scored 2 goals as Barcelona won that game 3-0. But the tie was not dead far from it and Liverpool won the 2nd leg 4-0. Messi was devastated of course and the blame was put all on him.

In reality even at Anfield when Liverpool were far the superior team Messi created four decent chances. Barcelona’s best chance fell to Jordi Alba who really just needed to shoot, at that stage one goal from Barcelona could have killed the game. However Alba decided to pass to Messi who look puzzled given that he knew Alba was in the much better position. The reliability on Messi is too much within the team and it showed once again at the most crucial point.

Of course Messi fails sometimes, he is only human, and it can be frustrating to watch a star player not be able to turn it on. But blaming just Messi is near pathetic, lazy and short sighted. You win as a team and lose as one, as for the Liverpool defeat Ernesto Valverde the Barcelona coach naturally has to take quite a lot of the blame, if anything he failed to motivate his players in the right way at one of the most difficult grounds in Europe.

 

Have Manchester United made a huge mistake giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager’s job?

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Let’s admit it we all believed that Manchester United made the right decision in sacking Jose Mourinho in December and bringing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After coming into the team the Norwegian with a smile wider than Manchester embraced the ethos of the club and they went on a 10 game unbeaten run which included knocking PSG out of the Champions League, the good times had returned to Old Trafford, or so we thought.

Since signing a 3 year permanent contract Manchester United’s form has dipped so bad, that it is worse than Mourinho’s first three months of the season and would place the club in 19th place in the league. A 4-0 loss at Everton was supposed to be the worst pick of the bunch. But how about drawing at bottom club Huddersfield or better still losing at home to Cardiff by 2-0 who had already been relegated themselves. It was Cardiff who were the first team to be beaten by Solskjaer’s United side winning 5-1 away from home just before Christmas, how things had changed.

One has to wonder if United have not performed a classic knee jerk reaction. Should they have waited until the end of the season to make a judgement whether Solskjaer was the right man for the job?

Mourinho no matter how talented as a coach he is had to go, he was never the perfect fit for the club that much was evident. And yet he left with the memory of winning the Europa League, the Carabao Cup and placing United in their highest position of 2nd since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Indeed since Mourinho was sacked United have taken backwards steps and will not be playing in the Champions League next season which has got to hurt.

Many would put the blame at the players, and it is clear that half of the first team squad could be sold on in the summer. Quality players who are simply not performing well for the club week in week out. Once the new manager syndrome eroded and the club dropped their first points under him, the confidence was taken from them like a sweet shop owner who forgot to lock the doors adjacent to a school.

What United have done in the cold light of day is replace a world class manager with a proven track record and trophies with a manager who wins trophies with Molde in the Norwegian league. Had Ole never played for United then he would never have been considered and this seems like the most fatal mistake for Ed Woodward and his United staff.

This isn’t to say that the future looks bleak. After all with a clear out of players that could do the club good, but the problem is that they will want to attract the calibre of players that are at Champions League level, a competition they are not in. Next season sadly looks like being a long and testing one for the club and it will be fascinating to see if Solskjaer can prove his doubters wrong and bring the results in.