Van de Beek would fit Real Madrid’s new policy better than Pogba

It has been one of the transfer sagas of the summer, but the closer the deadline looms the less likely it appears that Paul Pogba will become a Real Madrid player. Zinedine Zidane has spoken warmly about the Frenchman, the player himself has made clear his desire to join, but Manchester United have refused to budge.

Indeed, the Old Trafford outfit’s valuation of Pogba – around £150 million according to reports – has priced Real Madrid out of a move in a summer window in which they have already splurged £300 million on new players. This has led them to reportedly look at other midfield options.

Donny Van de Beek is one of those options. He was one of the breakthrough stars of Ajax’s run to the semi finals of the Champions League last season, turning in a particularly impressive performance against Real Madrid in the round of 16. Maybe it was then that Zidane first thought about the prospect of the Dutchman in his team.

With Pogba out of reach, at least for this summer, Real Madrid are treating Van de Beek as their secondary target. However, the 22-year-old would arguably fit their new transfer strategy better than Pogba. If the Spanish giants are building for the future then Van de Beek represents this better than the Frenchman.

Of course, the signing of Eden Hazard from Chelsea is something of an outlier here. The Belgian is 28 and in his peak years. Looking past Hazard, though, Real Madrid have prioritised the targeting of young players who have yet to reach their peak. Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, Rodrygo… the strategy has been clear.

Van de Beek would fit into this.. At 22 years old, he is already considered one of the best central midfielders in the game. Real Madrid could build around him for years to come, especially with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric seemingly fading as forces at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Pogba is a different sort of player to Van de Beek. Jose Mourinho wanted him to be an anchoring midfielder when Pogba has always found his best form further up the pitch. Would Zidane liberate him in this way or make the same mistakes Mourinho did during his time at Manchester United?

It feels like Real Madrid have one last big signing in them this summer. Some will see their failure to land Pogba as an embarrassment, such is their status as the ‘Galacticos,’ but Van de Beek might actually turn out to be a better option, but in the short and the long term.

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Christian Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s Philippe Coutinho

Real Madrid aren’t always the most discreet in their transfer business. When they want a player, the world tends to know about it. Take their pursuit of Eden Hazard over a number of years, for instance. There was no element of surprise left by the time the Belgian actually completed a move to the Spanish capital this summer.

Their pursuit of Paul Pogba is another saga which has played out in front of everyone, with Manchester United still holding firm in their £150 million valuation of the player. Real Madrid, according to reports, are unwilling and unable to pay that amount for the French midfielder and so it’s becoming increasingly likely Pogba will stay where he is for at least another season.

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For a long time, it has been presumed that Christian Eriksen would be Real Madrid’s alternative to Pogba. The Dane has already confessed his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer and the Santiago Bernabeu outfit are believed to be long term admirers. Rumours continue to swirl.

But where would Eriksen fit in at Real Madrid? He is a very different type of player to Pogba. It’s easy to see where the Frenchman could be accommodated in Zinedine Zidane’s side – on the left side of a midfield three – but Eriksen isn’t someone who likes to drive forward with the ball. Instead, he is the player who picks the final pass.

He usually does this from a position on the left side. Sure, he drifts into the middle, sometimes dropping back into the centre of midfield, but his position as it reads on the team sheet is on the left wing. He might not be a winger in the traditional sense, but that is his best place.

Real Madrid don’t have room for another left-sided attacker. They were already well-stocked for options (Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez) before this summer and now they have added Hazard to their squad. How would Zidane possibly fit Hazard and Eriksen into the same side without moving one of them out of position?

Eriksen would be a signing for the sake of a signing much like Philippe Coutinho was for Barcelona 18 months. The Brazilian arrived at Camp Nou without an obvious role to play, with Coutinho now likely to be sold this summer after failing to make much of an impression. Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s very own Coutinho should he leave Spurs for the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Manchester United aren’t doing enough to sell wantaway star Paul Pogba

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And so with just over a month to go until the transfer window closes firmly shut Manchester United still have Paul Pogba on their books, and the question has to be why?

Pogba has seemingly always had that link with United starting off his early career at the club only to be sold onto Juventus and then brought back by Jose Mourinho for a reported £80m. Pogba’s career simply has not taken off at United despite the odd game of brilliance, he has never brought consistency to his game, quite simply Pogba and United do not fit.

And yet when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December it really did seem like a connection had been made and that Pogba would be able to stay with the club. His performances completely turned around and he started to become the star of the team that everyone had hoped for when he first signed. Alas that ended when United started losing again and then Solskjaer started criticising and that was it, Pogba, the professional reverted back into his woe is me shell.

The biggest surprise is that United have not sold him yet. Why is this? Even Pogba wants to leave. One reason is probably that they want their money back at least on a player that cost a kings ransom. That isn’t happening and United will have to accept that Pogba’s value has gone down alongside his poor form, and he is a year older, all that combined means that Juventus who will probably take him back will not want to shell out more than 60m for his services. Juventus themselves are locked in talks with Ajax wonderkid Matthjis de Ligt and he could cost the old lady upwards of 70m, and so budgets are budgets, and they won’t be able to afford to pay too much for Pogba.

The hype surrounding Pogba is a strange one then, what is it that attracts big clubs to him? One answer could be his pace, his strength and his confidence- he lights up a team and the dressing room. But his technical skill for a player that commands such huge transfer fees and attention is a quite shocking.

The solution is simple Pogba needs to be sold, and if United want to talk to him and try to convince him to stay with the club they would be taking a step backwards. United are a proud club and if one of your players doesn’t want to play for you you need to act quickly and sell. For now it feels that United are dragging their feet over this- accept the price cut and move on.

Juventus Turn to Bosmans to Shore up the Midfield

Following a poor season, the Juventus brass identified the midfield as a problem area and immediately snapped up Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer. Since Arturo Vidal’s departure, Juventus have lacked enterprise in the middle of the park and have been crying for help. Realizing the Welshman alone wasn’t enough, Juventus turned to Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Paul Pogba. Both midfielders are reportedly willing to join the bianconeri, but their astronomical price-tags are proving to be major obstacles as of right now.

As a result, Juventus have since turned their attention to Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot. The Frenchman’s contract is set to expire, and will shortly join the Italian champions on a five-year deal. Since breaking onto the scene in Paris, Rabiot has established himself as one of the most highly-rated talents in football, and will offer some much needed technique to Juventus’ stuttering midfield. However, the only concern with the Frenchman have been some recurring disciplinary issues that have kept him out of the side.

Equally capable of playing in front of the defence, or on the left of a midfield three, Rabiot will slot in nicely alongside Miralem Pjanic, and Ramsey. At just 24 years old, the Frenchman will only improve, and will get to work under Maurizio Sarri, a manager notorious for his ability to get the most out of technically-gifted midfielders. Under the former Napoli tactician, expect Rabiot to play higher up the pitch, near the opposition’s box.

This past season, Massimiliano Allegri often fielded Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can alongside Pjanic, and it often lead to uninspiring displays from the Italian giants. While both are accomplished professionals and offer something in their own right, neither has the ability to progress the ball in the final third and are limited as creators. The addition of Rabiot and Ramsey will go a long way in the final third without sacrificing defensive solidity, and is a good first step at rectifying the midfield.

Without counting excessive signing-on fees and agent bonuses involved in these deals, their acquisitions don’t take away from Juve’s existing budget, allowing them to bolster their side further. In recent times, Juventus have emerged as front-runners for Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, and are ready to table a 70 million euros bid for the defender. In addition, they are also offering the Dutchman 12 million euros a season, in order to fend off interest from PSG and Barcelona.

While de Ligt’s signing may not be directly linked to Rabiot and Ramsey’s arrivals, these free transfers definitely allowed Juventus to reallocate their budget towards the Dutchman and make him a priority once the opportunity presented itself.

Considering Manchester United are demanding upwards of 120 million euros for Pogba, and Lotito is playing hard-ball over the Serbian international, adding Rabiot on a bosman may prove to be the injection Juve needed in the midfield. After all, if it means they can also sign de Ligt, one of Europe’s elite defenders in addition to two midfielders, who says no?

It appears that Juventus, for the first time in four years, will be able to field a complete midfield capable of going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite. And if de Ligt just happens to be behind them, all the better for Sarri and co.

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If Real Madrid can make one more big signing, who should they target?

Real Madrid have wasted little time in overhauling their squad this summer. It became apparent fairly early on last season that fundamental change was required at the Santiago Bernabeu and so this transfer window has been a long time in the planning. Nonetheless, the speed at which Real Madrid have acted in signing players has been remarkable.

The calendar hasn’t even crossed over into July yet and Real Madrid have already spent close to £300 million on new players. They signed Eder Militao from Porto and left back Ferland Mendy from Lyon. Teenage forward Rodrygo was signed from Santos with Luka Jovic also added to the squad after a sensational season with Eintracht Frankfurt. And, of course, they finally managed to lure Eden Hazard, a long term target, from Chelsea.

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Despite all this, Real Madrid don’t appear done. The Spanish giants continue to be linked with a number of high profile targets, with a new name added to the list on a weekly basis. Financial Fair Play (FFP) means Real Madrid cannot spend much more, but there is a belief that they have room for one more big name, big money addition. So with that in mind, who should they target?

Zinedine Zidane’s most pressing need would seem to be in the centre of midfield. One of Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric is expected to leave the Spanish capital this summer with Kroos and Modric in particular starting to fade. The latter has been frequently linked with a move to Inter Milan while the former has attracted Premier League clubs. Marcos Llorente has already been sold to Atletico Madrid.

This has led to links with Paul Pogba, a player Zidane has openly admitted to being a fan of. The Frenchman wants out of Manchester United this summer, but with the Old Trafford outfit reportedly demanding £160 million for their prize asset he could be out of Real Madrid’s reach. Christian Eriksen is another option. He too wants to leave the Premier League.

Real Madrid could instead choose to strengthen their defensive line even further, with Sergio Ramos’ future still up in the air. Kalidou Koulibaly has been mentioned as a potential target, although most intriguingly the Santiago Bernabeu club have apparently entered the race as late suitors for Matthijs de Ligt.

Of course, there are other matters for Zidane and Florentino Perez to attend to before the start of the new season. Gareth Bale, for instance, has become a thorn in their side, particularly with the Welsh winger unwilling to leave on loan. Kroos and Modric’s futures have also to be resolved. Marcelo could also leave.

But if Real Madrid do truly have the money to make one more big addition this summer, they must plot carefully. Pogba would fit the bill, but they may have to move on quickly given the price tag hanging around his neck. It might not about who would be best for Real Madrid, but who they can get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paratici, Barzagli and Allegri comment after winning awards

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Juventus’ coaching search rages on in Italy and the sporting director Fabio Paratici chimed in after receiving the Gentleman’s award: “We need to be patient, we are making our evaluations, but we have clear ideas in mind. I feel the pressure from the fans, but it is really a pleasure. I am a supporter first and then an executive. Players like Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Andrea Pirlo are heroes, they are the champions I was the most attached to. I think this accolade suits my club in every aspect, from the first team to the youth ones. I have had the massive fortune of working in a top club, where there are big possibilities and you get to work with great footballers.” Continue reading

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.

EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 37

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There are just 2 games left in the Premier League and all options are open. Who will win the league? Manchester City or Liverpool? City lead by just 1 point and the answer looks like it’s going down to the final game. Both have of course qualified for the Champions League.

However 3rd and 4th is still up for grabs, and Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United will do battle for those places. Then there is the curious place of relegation. The final place is down to Cardiff and Brighton, one of them will be going down- more will be revealed this weekend.

Below we take a look at the fixtures for this weekend and predictions.

Everton v Burnley

Everton have been in good form for the last 2 months now and at home they have won their last 3 games in a row and unbeaten in 4. Burnley have also been in good form, but they should be outclassed for this game. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been brilliant this season for the club and he could get on the score sheet. Everton to beat Burnley

Bournemouth v Tottenham

Tottenham will start as favourites but they lost against Ajax in midweek in the Champions League, and their focus will be on the 2nd leg. If they are not on the ball they could lose this game the good news is that Bournemouth’s form has collapsed and they have been very poor. Tottenham to beat Bournemouth

West Ham v Southampton

West Ham have gone their last two matches unbeaten and last week they became the first ever team to beat Tottenham at their new stadium. Southampton are safe and have lost just one game in their past four. Shane Long can give the Hammers a lot of problems and we are expecting the spoils to be shared here. Draw

Wolves v Fulham

How ironic that Fulham have been brilliant since they have got relegated and have won their last 3 games in a row. This game though is a big stretch for them away to Wolves. Wolves are going for a 7th place finish and the likes of Diogo Jota could be the difference. This has the potential to be a big score for the home team. Wolves to beat Fulham

Cardiff v Crystal Palace

This is it for Cardiff, they must win this match. They are at least at home, and they have had a mixture of being unlucky and poor in recent months. If Cardiff lose they will be going down. As for Palace they have won 4 of their last 5 away games and just look like quality. Cardiff have not beaten Palace since 2012, this might be a very close match. Cardiff to beat Crystal Palace

Newcastle v Liverpool

Liverpool have a terrible record at St James’ Park at the same time if they lose or even draw this game their league title will be in jeopardy. Newcastle are safe and in decent form, winning 4 of their last 5 games at home. Liverpool are in brilliant form, but will have the 2nd leg of their Champions League game against Barcelona on their mind too. Rafa Benitez obviously loves his former club- and they have the better quality at the end of the day. New PFA player of he year Virgi van Dijk will also want to put in a performance. Liverpool to beat Newcastle

Chelsea v Watford

Chelsea’s major criticism in the second half of the season has been focus because they have the quality. If they don’t focus here they give up a top 4 place. Of course a few days later they have the Europa League. Players such as Gonzalo Higuaín and Olivier Giroud have to step up. Chelsea to beat Watford

Huddersfield v Manchester United

Manchester United look like they will miss out on a top 4 place after their poor form of the last month. Having said that playing Huddersfield represents the perfect chance for them to win and score goals and reinstall confidence. Paul Pogba has been under a lot of criticism lately he should try and relish this opportunity to score and help his team in what should be an easy victory for the club. Manchester United to beat Huddersfield

Arsenal v Brighton

This game will be attack v defence and even though Arsenal come here having lost their last 3 games in a row we expect Unai Emery’s side to get back on track and win this match. Arsenal still remain a very strong side at home with just 2 defeats all season, but this match could be settled by one piece of magic. Mesut Ozil to step up? Arsenal to beat Burnley

Manchester City v Leicester

If Liverpool beat Newcastle they will be 2 points clear at the top for the whole weekend as this match takes place on Monday evening. Leicester under Claude Puel beat City earlier in the season, but now City are at home and will be massive favourites to get all three points. They are sure to start quick and Sergio Aguero will be a danger throughout. Manchester City to beat Leicester

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Fred is starting to adapt well at Man Utd, and will only get better

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Manchester United’s lack of midfield depth and quality is quite concerning compared to the top teams in the Premier League, especially when you’re a meant to be either challenging for the league title or finishing in the top four, despite the situation they have found themselves in at the moment.

However, central midfielder Fred, who they spent over £50million on to bring to Old Trafford last summer window from Shakhtar Donetsk, has started to show bright moments here and there as he has began to gain a good understanding with the likes of Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof.

Over the last couple of months, he has shown his range of passing to shift the ball out at a quick pace to making the interceptions and tackle in the middle of the pitch when required. On top of that, he has shown some good awareness of when to drop deep to build-up the play from the back to progressing possession into the final third, something that is not done often by the midfielders.

For sure, many of the Premier League experts and pundits will see the Brazilian international as one of the flops of the season, purely because he couldn’t get into the team on a regular basis and when he did, he was unable to stamp his mark on the game or dominate the midfield and the opposition.

Having made 17 league appearances, with 13 of them being from the start of the match, Fred will have understood his debut season may not have gone down as he had predicted and will be one of the players hoping that the club have a massive overhaul in the summer. If this is to happen, a solid backline and a natural winger may allow him to play with more freedom and protection around him.

To be fair to Fred, a number of midfielders that have arrived at the club over the last couple of years or so have struggled to get going within the side’s style of play. Morgan Schneiderlin is often seen as the perfect example, someone who was once seen as one of the best holding midfielders at Southampton, but had failed to replicate the demanding performances in a Manchester United kit.

Meanwhile, both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Matic have been seen as the ideal individuals that could fill the void that was left by Michael Carrick, a player that was a regular starter for the club for many years as he kept the side ticking through his intelligence as well as his composure on and off the ball. This instantly sums up the ongoing matter at the club, where they have found it really difficult to replace the players who have been loyal servants and very vocal season by season.

The questions have been raised about the future of Fred, purely because no one in the dressing room is totally safe following another unconvincing and horrendous season in all competition. On the other hand, the pre-season tour as well as the next campaign will be the defining moment for the Brazilian international and his time at Old Trafford, whether he goes on to prove the manager and his critics wrong, or he ends up having an average season and falls down the pecking order.