5 potential destinations for Mauro Icardi

South Korea coach Bento regrets mistakes in loss to Brazil

Mauro Icardi’s future at Inter Milan is up in the air after a series of comments from his agent and wife, Wanda Nara. He has been stripped of his captaincy and dropped from the squad.

However, there will be no shortage of suitors for the prolific Argentine who has scored 122 goals in only 210 games for Inter.

Chelsea

Chelsea currently have Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud as options up front although the former is currently on loan at the club. 

There is uncertainty over the future of Maurizio Sarri and if the Italian is sacked, then there is no chance of the Blues will signing Higuain on a permanent deal given his age. Whereas Giroud has managed to find the back of the net just 11 times in 47 games for Chelsea.

In addition to the strikers currently at the club, Chelsea also have Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi out on loan. However, Chelsea’s search to replace Diego Costa will continue next summer and Mauro Icardi, a previous transfer target for the club, could be the man to end their search for a proven goalscorer.

A potential move for Icardi hinges on Chelsea’s ability to secure Champions League football for next season and also on their managerial situation.

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich currently have one of the best strikers in the world in Robert Lewandowski. However, the Pole was open to leaving the club at the end of last season. Although he chose to stay at Bayern beyond the summer, the striker who turns 31 at the start of next season could be on his way out.

Lewandowski revealed that he felt that the bosses at the club didn’t support him enough after he was widely criticized for not scoring in a few important games.

If Lewandowski does leave the club, then Bayern will need a world-class striker to fill that void and if Mauro Icardi is on the market, then the Bavarians don’t need to look any further. However, if Lewandowski opts to continue at Bayern, then a move for Icardi can be ruled out.

Juventus

Juventus is on a quest to constantly improve their squad despite dominating the Serie A for many years and a major reason behind that could be to win the elusive Champions League title.

Juve have signed players such as Giorgio Chiellini, Miralem Pjanic and Matti De Sciglio from rival Serie A clubs. So, signing Icardi from rivals Inter Milan won’t be an issue for them. Icardi has been linked with a move to Juventus in recent weeks and Juventus director Fabio Paratici admitted the club made an enquiry for the forward.

If Juve signs Icardi, it will be interesting to see how the club will fit both him and Ronaldo into the same XI without losing the team’s balance. Remember, when Ronaldo signed, Juve had to ship Higuain off to accommodate the Portuguese superstar.

Barcelona

For three years, Mauro Icardi was on the books of Barcelona and he was a prolific goal scorer at the youth levels for the Catalan club. In 2011, he left the club to sign for Sampdoria to enhance his first-team opportunities.  

Icardi later claimed that his decision to leave Barcelona was the right one and he has proved that by scoring 133 goals for Sampdoria and Inter combined.

Barcelona need to replace Luis Suarez in the near future as the Uruguayan is already 32-years-old and showing signs of age catching up to him.

Icardi is a player who is familiar with the club’s philosophy and he could prove to be a fantastic replacement for Suarez and he also has the likes of Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho creating chances for him.

Real Madrid

Unlike the other four clubs mentioned above, Real Madrid are in dire need of a proven goal and their search for a world class striker is not dependent on the departure of another one.

Real Madrid opted against replacing Cristiano Ronaldo last summer and that has piled up a lot of pressure on the current crop of players. Karim Benzema is 31-years-old and still splits the opinion of a vast majority of fans while Gareth Bale, who turns 30 in July, is injured quite often or doesn’t perform consistently. 

Chances are that there will be more than one marquee signing at Real Madrid next summer and the Los Blancos can sign any player they want including Mauro Icardi.

5 youngsters who have played the most minutes in the last two years

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The CIES Football Observatory recently published its study on the most experienced young players born in or after 1998 currently playing in Europe by weighing the domestic league minutes played by the footballers during the last two years according to the sporting strength of the employer teams. Here are the top 5 players from his list. 

#5. Dayot Upamecano

In the fifth position is RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano with a CIES rating of 49.46. Upamecano narrowly beats the defending Golden Boy award winner, Matthijs de Ligt, who has a CIES score of 49.31.

Upamecano, who was born in 1998, has played professionally since 2015 for Liefering, Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig.

The Frenchman is a key player for the Bundesliga side that’s attempting to establish itself as a regular Champions League side. Despite impressing at club level, he is yet to make his debut for the France senior team but it would only be a matter of time.

#4. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool’s academy groomed the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen in the late 90s but since then, academy products haven’t had the impact the club would have hoped for but the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold could start a new era.

Alexander-Arnold made his first-team debut in 2016 but he mainly played as an understudy to Nathaniel Clyne in the 2016/17 season. The following season, an injury to Clyne gave the youngster a chance to shine and he has won many admirers with his excellent displays.

In fact, Arnold has been so impressive that Clyne sought a loan move away from Liverpool in January in search of first-team opportunities.

The England international played 33 times last season scoring three goals and has featured in 24 games so far this season for the Premier League contenders.

CIES has given the Liverpool man a score of 50.43.

#3. Houssem Aouar

France won the World Cup in 2018 and they have a plethora of young talent coming through which will definitely help them in defending their title in 2022. Olympique Lyon’s Houssem Aouar is one of three Frenchmen in this top 5 list and he has been given a score of 52.68 by CIES.

Aouar only made his first-team debut nearly two years ago and he only played five games by the end of the 2017/18 season. Following the departure of Corentin Tolisso, not only did Aouar receive more playing time but he also inherited the symbolic number 8.

The 20-year-old played 44 games last season for Lyon in all competitions and this season, he has already played 34 games.

Despite his meteoric rise, Aouar, like Upamecano, is yet to make his senior debut for France.

#2. Kylian Mbappe

Any list featuring the best young players in the world is incomplete without Kylian Mbappe.

He enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2016/17 en route to helping Monaco win the Ligue 1 title and since then, he became the second most expensive player in the world, a World Cup winner, he scored 45 goals for PSG and scored ten goals for France and has won numerous individual and team honours.

Why did Mbappe choose to join PSG?

CIES has given Mbappe a score of 65.42 which is quite high but only puts him second on the list despite already playing over 160 games for both club and country.

#1. Gianluigi Donnarumma

With a CIES score of 73.66, Gianluigi Donnarumma tops this list even though the other four players were born in 1998 while the Italian was born in 1999.

Donnarumma is still only 19-years-old but he has already played 151 games for Milan and ten more for the Italian national team.

The teenager has been Milan’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper since the 2015/16 season when he was only 16-years-old. As a result, he plays almost every game for the club and tops this list with a significant lead over Mbappe in second place. 

Have Liverpool already put the tie against Bayern Munich out of their reach?

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Liverpool and Bayern Munich played out an entertaining 0-0 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash at Anfield. This leaves the second leg in Germany evenly poised but recent history suggests that Liverpool may have put the tie out of their reach already.

Before the first leg at Anfield against the Bavarian club, Jurgen Klopp made it loud and clear that he wants the fans to back the team to the hilt and push them towards a victory. According to Klopp, the Anfield crowd can take his team from 100% to 140%.

The gaffer’s comments may seem like an emotional one but there is more to it than meets the eye.

For any team, it is important to win their home matches in knockout stages to enhance their chances of moving forward and that’s given. However, for Liverpool, it has become a necessity based on the evidence of their performance in away matches.

The dreaded form away from home

Liverpool’s first taste of European football under Klopp was way back in his first season when he led the Reds to the final of the Europa League.

The Reds already played two group stage games before Klopp took over and in the remaining four group stage games, Liverpool won two and drew two. Out of those four games, there were two away games at Rubin Kazan and Sion – Liverpool won the former and drew the latter game.

The win away at Kazan would prove to be Liverpool’s only win away from home (including the final) during the entire campaign. In the knockout stage, Liverpool drew their away legs against Augsburg, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund; and lost against Villarreal in the semifinal. To top it all off, Liverpool also lost the final against Sevilla.

Liverpool didn’t play in any European competition in 2016/17 but in 2017/18, they returned to the Champions League and romped to the final.

‘I’d buy a ticket’ for Liverpool vs Bayern – Klopp

In the group stage, Liverpool won their away fixture against Maribor 7-0 but drew against both Sevilla and Spartak Moscow. The draw against Sevilla was embarrassing as Liverpool led the game 3-0 at half-time.

In the knockout stage, Klopp’s men dealt a 5-0 trashing to Porto in their own backyard and followed it up with a 2-1 away win over Manchester City in the quarterfinal. However, since beating City at the Etihad, Liverpool hasn’t won a European match at any other venue other than Anfield. In fact, they’ve lost all of their matches away from home or at a neutral venue.

This poor run started with a 4-2 defeat to Roma in the second leg of last season’s semifinal which was followed by a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev in the final.

This season, Liverpool were drawn in a tough group with PSG, Napoli and Red Star; and the Reds managed to lose all of their away matches. Not only did Liverpool lose, but they were also totally outplayed in those games. They also found the back of the net once in these three games and that goal was from a penalty.

Bayern’s home ground, Allianz Arena, is not an easy place to visit even though the Bavarian side isn’t in their best of form this season. This is a ground at which they’ve beaten the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in recent years.

The envious home form

Liverpool’s form at Anfield is a stark contrast to their away form. In home games under Klopp in European competitions, the Merseyside club is yet to taste defeat. In 16 home games including the recent 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich, Liverpool has won 12 games, drawn four, scored 41 goals, conceded only 11 goals and kept ten clean sheets.

Klopp’s side has defeated European giants such as PSG, Manchester City, Manchester United, Napoli, Roma and Borussia Dortmund at Anfield so far.

‘I know Lewandowski and Hummels’ – Klopp on working with two star Bayern Munich players

Considering Liverpool’s contrasting home and away form especially in the recent fixtures, one can’t help but wonder if the Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich is already out of their reach?

FIFA 19 Ratings Refresh: 5 top Bundesliga stars to receive an upgrade

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The Rating Refresh for Bundesliga players in FIFA 19 has been revealed and EA Sports opted against giving players downgrade first up. However, some of the league’s biggest stars have received upgrades and here are our top 5 players from the Bundesliga to receive a rating upgrade.

Jadon Sancho – 72 to 78

Jadon Sancho moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 in search of first-team opportunities and he has received plenty at the German club. His rise to fame at such a young age has caught the attention of many young English players and now, more and more young English players are moving abroad to enhance their chances of playing top-flight football.

Sancho was given a FIFA 19 rating of 72 when the game released and it was apt for the quality he showed during the 2017/18 season. This season, however, he has been a crucial player in Dortmund’s push to reclaim the Bundesliga title and has contributed with seven goals and nine assists so far while averaging a goal or an assist every 84.9 minutes.

In Europe’s top 5 leagues, only Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and Joshua Kimmich have more league assists than the 18-year-old winger at the moment.

This season, he made his senior debut for England even before playing for the U20 and U21 sides. In addition, he has eight goals and eleven assists to his name in all competitions at club level. Form like that deserved an upgrade and he received the biggest upgrade among the Bundesliga players this season with a +6 boost.

Thorgan Hazard – 81 to 83

Thorgan Hazard has lived under the shadow of his more successful brother Eden throughout his career but this season, the Belgian has hit new heights and is being linked with a big-money move elsewhere.

The 25-year-old has been Borussia Monchengladbach’s best player this season and his performance has helped them climb to third in the league table this season with an outside chance of fighting for the title.

In the league alone, he has nine goals and seven assists to his name and in all competitions, he has 12 goals and eight assists in only 22 games.

Hazard’s original FIFA 19 rating was 81 and he was classified as an ‘LM’ but after the ratings refresh, his rating has gone up to 83 and his position has been changed to RW.

Timo Werner – 83 to 84

There has been a lot of speculations in the newspapers in recent months on the future of Timo Werner and they will continue in full force as long as the German keeps up his current form.

The Leipzig forward has already found the back of the net eleven times in the Bundesliga and in all competitions, he has 14 goals and two assists in only 23 games.

The German international already had a good rating of 83 when the game came out and based on his form in this season, EA Sports has rewarded him with a plus one upgrade.

Joshua Kimmich – 85 to 86

When FIFA 19 released, Joshua Kimmich was the game’s highest-rated right-back with a rating of 85 and now, he has been given a plus one upgrade for his impeccable performances.

The German international has chipped in with one goal and thirteen assists this season in all competitions for Bayern so far. Ten of his thirteen assists have come in the league and no player in Europe’s top 5 leagues have more assists than him at the moment. He is in good company at the top of the assists table with a certain Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard!

Kimmich has predominantly played as a right-back this season, but he has also played in midfield for the Bavarian side.

Marco Reus – 85 to 88

Marco Reus only had a rating of 85 when FIFA 19 released and understandably so as he was plagued with injuries in recent years. However, he has managed to remain fit for the most part of this season and spearheaded his side’s title challenge.

The Dortmund captain has 17 goals and eight assists to his name in 27 games across all competitions so far this season. In the league alone, he has 13 goals and six assists with an average of 87.5 minutes per goal or assist. His Bundesliga goal tally is only bettered by Luka Jovic (14) of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Reus has hit peak form under Lucien Favre, his former manager at Gladbach, and has also changed his position from the left wing to a central attacking midfielder. The fact that the 29-year-old has scored so many goals from midfield is simply outstanding and one of the reasons why his FIFA 19 rating has gone up to 88!

An XI of players Juventus signed on a free transfer

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Juventus confirmed that Arsenal midfielder, Aaron Ramsey, will join the club next summer when his contract expires. FOX Sports Asia picked an XI of the club’s best free transfers which features six FIFA World Cup winners.

Goalkeeper – Neto

Neto left Fiorentina in 2015 and joined Juventus as an understudy to Gianluigi Buffon. He was at the club for two seasons but only played 22 times in all competitions. However, he left Juve after winning five trophies.

The Brazilian left Juve to join Valencia for whom he serves as the first choice goalkeeper. His impressive form for the La Liga side earned him his first cap for Brazil in 2018 despite competition from Alisson Becker of Liverpool and Ederson Moraes of Manchester City.

Centrebacks

Fabio Cannavaro

Fabio Cannavaro had two separate stints with Juventus. The first was between 2004 and 2006 but following Juve’s relegation due to the Calciopoli, he left the club to join Real Madrid.

After three years with Real Madrid, Italy’s World Cup winning captain returned to Juve as a free agent. His second stint started well but after an injury midway through the season, his form dropped to such a level that Juve did not offer him a contract extension.

Emre Can

Emre Can is not a centre-back by trade but he has played in a three-man defence during his first season with Liverpool with some success. Also, the German is too good to exclude from this list but there is no spot for him in midfield as you will soon see.

Can joined Juventus in the summer of 2018 although Liverpool was keen on keeping him. The 25-year-old had a slow start to life in Italy but his form has picked up recently.

Lucio

Also in defence in this XI is Lucio – another FIFA World Cup winning defender.

Lucio joined Juve on a free transfer in the summer of 2012 after leaving Inter Milan where he won the treble in his debut season.

Although he came to the Turin club with a huge reputation, he got little playing time ahead of the defensive trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli. He only played four times in Juve colours before his contract was terminated by mutual consent in December 2012.

Honourable mentions – Robert Kovac and Oleg Mellberg

Wingbacks

Dani Alves

Dani Alves was allowed to leave Barcelona for free in 2016 although he had a contract which ran till 2017. The Brazilian opted to join Juventus and in his only season at the club, he played 33 games, scored six goals, provided six assists and added two more winners’ medal to his collection.

Alves joined PSG after only one season and the Parisian club’s monopoly in France has helped him become the most decorated player in European football history.

Kingsley Coman

Okay, Kingsley Coman is not a wingback but we had to find a place for the Frenchman in this XI.

Coman joined Juventus on a free transfer from PSG in 2014 but he only played 22 times for the club in all competitions and scored once before moving on a two-year loan to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2015.

The Frenchman has matured into a world-class winger at the Bavarian club and at the age of 22, he has already won thirteen trophies including league titles in France, Italy and Germany. Incredibly, he has won a league title in every season of his professional career so far.

Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo

Juventus’ best free transfers have been midfielders and we start with one of the greatest free transfers of all-time – Andrea Pirlo.

Pirlo was deemed surplus to needs at Milan and was released at the end of the 2010/11 season. Juve signed him up without a hint of doubt and the Italian orchestrated the start of their dominance in Italy.

In addition to winning seven trophies with Juventus, Pirlo was named the Serie A footballer of the year in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Paul Pogba

In 2012, Paul Pogba left Manchester United upon the expiry of his contract as he wanted more first-team opportunities which he wasn’t getting under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Pogba made an instant impact in Italy and in his four seasons with Juventus, he played 178 games, scored 34 goals, won eight trophies, was named in the Serie A team of the Year in three consecutive seasons and was also the highest assist provider in the league in his final season.

The Frenchman left Juve to rejoin Manchester United for a then world record fee of £89.3 million.

Sami Khedira

Sami Khedira is one of six World Cup winners Juventus signed on a free transfer although Pogba won the World Cup after he left Juventus. 

Khedira joined Juve in 2015 after winning seven trophies as a Real Madrid player. He has already matched that tally with Juventus in fewer seasons and will surpass that tally at the end of the ongoing season.

Aaron Ramsey

Completing this outstanding midfield is Aaron Ramsey – Juve’s latest coup.

Ramsey has been an Arsenal player for over a decade and has won five trophies with the club. The goalscoring midfielder has played 357 games for the club scoring 61 goals but was surprisingly not offered a new contract at the club.

The Welshman will join Juventus next summer and will reportedly earn an eye-popping £400,000 per week!

Striker – Fernando Llorente

With the inclusion of Fernando Llorente, there is a player who won the World Cup from 2002 to 2018 in this XI.

Llorente joined Juventus in 2013 after nine years with Athletic Bilbao where he scored 118 goals in 333 games.

The Spaniard played 92 times for Juve and scored 27 goals while winning six trophies. Interestingly, he played for Juve once in the Serie A in the 2015/16 season before joining Sevilla in the summer of 2015 but he was still eligible to get a winners’ medal!

Best XI featuring signings of this season

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Now that we are more than halfway across the 2018/19 season, there is enough data to judge the best summer signings from Europe’s top 5 leagues. Take a look at the best XI featuring players who were signed this season.

Goalkeeper – Alisson Becker (Liverpool)

Liverpool currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League and a key reason behind this drastic improvement is their summer signing Alisson Becker.

The Reds fans were crying out for a top-class goalkeeper since Pepe Reina left in 2013 and the fans finally got their wish last summer when the Brazilian number one arrived for a then world record £66.8 million.

Alisson has kept thirteen clean sheets in his first 25 Premier League games and has adjusted to the demands of the league very quickly.

Fullbacks – Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City) and Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund)

The most difficult decision had to be made in the fullbacks department as Joao Cancelo of Juventus and Lucas Digne of Everton have proved to be exceptional buys but they have been denied a place in this XI by Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira and Borussia Dortmund’s Achraf Hakimi.

Pereira cost Leicester €25 million in the summer but he has arguably been the best right-back in England this season. The Foxes man has played out wide on the right wing in a few games but he has predominantly played as a right-back and proved to be a menace with his dribbling and well-timed forward runs. He has scored two goals and assisted three more this season in the league alone for Leicester. 

The left-back in this XI is the on-loan Real Madrid player Achraf Hakimi. Hakimi joined the Bundesliga club on a two-year loan and started the season on the bench with the veterans Łukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer preferred. However, he has worked his way into the starting XI and has predominantly played down the left side.

The Moroccan who was named the CAF Youth Player of the Year in 2018 has three goals and seven assists to his name in all competitions this season.

Centre-backs – Issa Diop (West Ham) and Francesco Acerbi (Lazio)

West Ham made a plethora of signings last summer and Łukasz Fabiański and Felipe Anderson have hogged most of the limelight with scintillating saves and spectacular goals, respectively. Amidst all this, the 22-year-old Issa Diop has helped shore of the Hammers defence even though his centreback partners have constantly changed.

He has started and played 28 games for his new side this season already and only Anderson has started more games for the London club this season than the French defender.

The other centre-back in this XI, Francesco Acerbi, once had a failed stint with Milan which lasted only for half a season. Now, he’s a crucial member of the Lazio side that’s fighting for a Champions League spot with Milan.

The Italian who overcame testicular cancer while he was at Sassuolo joined Lazio in the summer as a replacement for Stefan De Vrij.

Acerbi has started all but one of Lazio’s games this season in all competition and the only game he missed was due to suspension. In addition to helping Lazio maintain a decent defensive record, the 30-year-old has also scored three important goals.

Midfielders – Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (Arsenal) and Arthur Melo (Barcelona)

Borussia Dortmund’s forwards like Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer and Jadon Sancho have hogged most of the limelight as they push for the Bundesliga title. However, a key reason behind the good season they are enjoying is Axel Witsel.

Witsel returned to Europe in the summer after playing in China and has been orchestrating the play for his new side this season. In the league, he has a 93.2 pass completion rate and wins 1.7 aerial duels per game. In Champions League, he has bettered those numbers with a 94.5 pass completion rate and 1.8 aerial duels won per game.

His ability to spot a threatening forward run and play a neat forward pass has helped Dortmund’s quick forwards.

Arsenal fans have often criticized Arsene Wenger for not signing a defensive midfielder and in the first summer after his departure, the club addressed a key area of concern by signing Lucas Torreira.

The Uruguayan’s tenacious displays in midfield have seen him being labelled as the best signing in the Premier League this season. 

Every 90 minutes in the Premier League, the diminutive midfielder averages 2.7 tackles won, 1.6 interceptions and 1.3 clearances. His positional sense and ability to break up play has been a huge help for the miserable Arsenal defence.

It’s not easy to replace a midfielder of Xavi’s quality but Barcelona may have finally found his heir in Arthur Melo.

The Brazilian isn’t a goal scoring midfielder nor does he possess a good assists tally but his ability to retain possession in tight space, bring the ball forward from midfield and the skill to draw defenders out of position and create space is exceptional.

Most impressively, the 22-year-old has a pass percentage of 94.5 in the La Liga so far this season. Melo is expected to miss a few weeks through injury and this will be a huge blow for the Catalan club with two Clasicos coming up. 

Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Felipe Anderson (West Ham) and Krzysztof Piątek (AC Milan)

It’s hard to fathom that Cristiano Ronaldo is 34-years-old now. The Portuguese international has continued his impressive goal scoring record in the Serie A after moving to Juventus last summer.

Ronaldo is currently the top-scorer in the Italian top-flight this season with 17 goals and in addition, he also has six assists to his name which is only two fewer than the highest assists tally in the league. 

Ronaldo is joined in this XI by another Serie A superstar, Krzysztof Piątek. Piatek moved to Genoa last summer and scored 19 goals in 21 games for the club before moving to Milan in January.

The Pole already has three goals in as many games for Milan including a brace against Napoli in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.

Completing this XI is Felipe Anderson who is the second West Ham player to make the list and also yet another player associated with the Serie A.

Anderson took a few games to adapt to the Premier League but he has been a major factor behind West Ham’s improved form in recent months. The Brazilian hasn’t let the Hammers miss Marko Arnautović who has been in and out of the side due to injury.

The former Lazio man has scored eight goals and assisted three more goals for his side so far this season in the Premier League. His impressive form has earned him five ‘man of the match’ awards already in his debut season in the Premier League.

FIFA 19 Ratings Refresh: 5 stars who should get a downgrade

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The FIFA winter ratings refresh rewards the best performing players with an upgrade but it also takes gives a rating downgrade to the players not living up to expectations. These five superstars are sure to get a downgrade in FIFA 19 based on their performance this season.

Alexis Sanchez – 87 to 85

A year has passed since Alexis Sanchez made his switch from Arsenal to Manchester United and he has scored only five goals in 35 games across all competitions for United. 

The Chilean looks like a shadow of his former self and bereft of confidence. His form has improved slightly under Ole Gunnar Solskjær but one of the highest paid players in the world should be starting regularly and not be benched by much younger players.

Sanchez’s FIFA 19 rating dropped from 89 to 87 when the game released and it should drop further when the new ratings roll out. At present, his 87 rating his higher than what EA Sports has given to the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Marco Reus, Sadio Mane, Leroy Sane and Roberto Firmino.

Radja Nainggolan – 85 to 84

Radja Nainggolan made a shocking switch from Roma to Inter in the summer and the Belgian midfielder was expected to add the necessary quality to the Inter midfield to help them fight for the Scudetto. However, he has been one of the worst signings of the season.

Nainggolan has started just ten Serie A games for his new club so far and has scored just three goals in 20 games across all competitions.

Late in December, Inter suspended their £34 million summer signing for disciplinary reasons.

At present, Nainggolan’s FIFA 19 rating of 85 makes him one of the Top 100 rated players in the game but that will no longer be the case when he gets a deserved downgrade.

Marco Asensio – 85 to 84

It’s an injustice that players like Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Marco Reus were given the same FIFA 19 rating as Marco Asensio when the game was released.

Asensio’s initial 85 rating was debatable but based on his performance this season, there is no doubt that the Spaniard is rated far too highly.

Since he’s only 23-years-old and has a bright future ahead of him, it is unlikely that EA Sports will give him a huge downgrade but a rating drop to 84 is deserved after scoring once in 17 La Liga games this season. The Spaniard has been so poor that he has been overshadowed by 18-year-old Vinicius Junior.

Diego Costa – 85 to 83

In January 2018, there were several big money transfers. Virgil van Dijk’s move to Liverpool, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s transfer to Arsenal, Aymeric Laporte’s move to Manchester City and Diego Costa’s return to Atletico Madrid. While the first three transfers have worked out perfectly, Costa has proved to be a disastrous signing.

The Spaniard returned to Atletico Madrid after a fallout with Antonio Conte and scored only seven times in 23 games across all competitions in the second half of last season.  As a result, his FIFA 19 rating dropped from 86 to 85.

This season, he has scored only four times in 15 games and his poor performance forced the La Liga club to sign Alvaro Morata on loan from Chelsea. Costa will get a downgrade and it will be a significant one.

Mesut Ozil – 86 to 84

Mesut Ozil was once rated 89 on FIFA but his gradually dropping standards has reflected in the game and he was downgraded from 87 to 86 when FIFA 19 came out.

The German has been an outcast at Arsenal this season under Unai Emery and was unable to secure a move away from the club in January.

He featured in 17 games for the Gunners this season but only managed to rack up four goals and two assists in those games.

It looks increasingly unlikely that Ozil will feature for the Gunners again and a combination of form and lack of playing time will result in a notable downgrade in his FIFA 19 rating when the ratings refresh is revealed.

 

Read also: Five players who should get an upgrade after FIFA 19 Ratings Refresh. 

FIFA 19 Ratings Refresh: 5 players who should get an upgrade

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The annual FIFA winter ratings refresh is around the corner and there will be many players earmarked for a rating upgrade. Irrespective of who gets an upgrade or not, these five players are sure to be on the upgrade chart.

Virgil van Dijk – 85 to 88

Liverpool has conceded only 15 goals in 25 Premier League games this season and this much improved defensive form from the Reds this season is largely due to the colossal Virgil van Dijk. 

The Dutchman has started every Premier League game for Liverpool this season and is a major contender for the PFA Player of the Year award.

Van Dijk was given an 85 rating when FIFA 19 released which is good but not good enough for arguably the best defender in the world at the moment. Perhaps the most underwhelming stat of the Dutchman is his 67 passing but when the winter upgrade rolls in, his passing statistic will surely go up along with his overall rating. 

Son Heung-min – 84 to 86

Son Heung-min has been away on international duty twice this season and yet, he has 10 goals and five assists in 14 Premier League starts this season. Incredibly, he is the seventh highest goalscorer in the Premier League this season. 

The 26-year-old has undoubtedly been Spurs’ best player of the season and has scored some crucial goals which have put them in contention for the Premier Leauge title.

Despite scoring 39 goals for the North London club in the previous two seasons combined, Son was given a rating only 84 in FIFA 19. To put things into perspective, players like Marco Asensio, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa, Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil were rated higher than the Korean.

Son should get a rating boost of at least two in the winter upgrade with better ratings for his agility, composure and stamina.

SON WATCH: Son Heung-min vs China

Nicolas Pepe – 75 to 80

Nicolas Pepe of Lille has been one of the revelations of the ongoing season and he has scored 16 goals and assisted seven more in the league this season to help his club climb to second in the table.

Pepe’s goals tally is bettered only by PSG’s Edinson Cavani and his assists tally is also bettered only by the Parisian club’s Angel Di Maria.

The Ivorian only had a 75 rating when the latest edition of the game came out but that rating is sure to increase. He deserves a rating of at least 80 but quite often, EA Sports doesn’t give such a huge rating boost to a player in the winter upgrade. 

Marco Reus – 85 to 88

Marco Reus’ 85 rating in FIFA 19 was apt when the game released as the German international has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. However, this season, he has been a figure of consistency for Borussia Dortmund and is leading their title challenge. 

Reus has 13 goals and 9 assists for Dortmund in 19 Bundesliga games this season. His goals tally is bettered only by Luka Jovic and his assists tally is only behind Jadon Sancho and Joshua Kimmich. 

The 29-year-old’s incredible form deserves a rating boost of at least three and his new winter card will also see his position change from ‘LM’ to ‘CAM’.

Reus scores for the second week in succession

Krzysztof Piątek – 70 to 78

Krzysztof Piątek’s 70 rating in FIFA 19 is actually what he deserved as he had only moved to a top European club at the start of the season and very few players would have expected his meteoric rise to fame. 

Piatek has scored 14 goals in the Serie A this season which is only bettered by three players. He scored 13 of those goals for Genoa and one for Milan on his Serie A debut for the club. 

His superb performance for Genoa earned him a big money move worth €35 million in only a few months and that’s a testament to his performance this season. 

Piatek’s form has been rewarded with improved in form cards by EA Sports and he will also be rewarded with a significant upgrade in the winter rating refresh. It is hard to see his rating climb to the 80s but he should be given a rating of at least 78. 

5 January transfer window rumours that might happen in the Summer

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There was no shortage of transfer rumours during the January transfer window but very few have actually happened. However, some of the major transfer talks from January 2019 might happen in the upcoming summer transfer window.

Timo Werner to Liverpool

Liverpool has an attack loaded with talent but the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri cannot match the quality of the first-choice front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

The contracts of Sturridge and Origi will run out at the end of the season which means Jurgen Klopp will have to find a top quality player to rotate with his current front three and preferably someone who can operate in more than one position. Enter, Timo Werner.

Werner has been a target for Liverpool for a while now and it looks like the Reds are favourites to land him in the summer given the fact that the German international is yet to sign a new contract with Leipzig.

The 22-year-old is capable of playing as a striker and a left-winger which gives Klopp more flexibility. However, the most alluring fact is that he has scored 56 goals in 100 games for Leipzig and nine in 23 games for Germany.

Kalidou Koulibaly to Manchester United

Manchester United has been linked with a host of centre-backs since the 2018 summer transfer window but no move has materialised yet. It looks like Ole Gunnar Solskjær is content with the options currently at his disposal and a move for a world-class centre-back will have to wait till the summer.

The most obvious target for United is Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly who has arguably been the best defender in the Serie A in the last two years. The technically brilliant and athletic defender was the subject of bids from many clubs according to Napoli but the Serie A club gas done everything in its power to keep him till next summer at least.

That being said, Koulibaly is 27-years-old now and will be yearning a move elsewhere to win trophies. In addition, the racism issues he has faced in Italy make him want to move away from the country. He is friends with Paul Pogba and a union with a friend in a new and challenging league could interest the Senegalese international. 

Eden Hazard to Real Madrid

The Eden Hazard to Real Madrid saga started in the previous summer transfer window and could drag till the next summer transfer window.

Hazard has been flirting with Real Madrid constantly even though he started the ongoing season brilliantly. However, Chelsea’s drastic dip in form in recent weeks, as well as the dream of playing for the Los Blancos, could finally force him to seek a move away.

Real Madrid has struggled this season following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and they will be hoping to sign a new talisman next summer to be able to challenge on all fronts.

Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, said that Hazard should leave if he wants to.

“Eden is 28. If he wants to go, I think he has to go. Of course, I hope the opposite, I hope he wants to stay here. He has the potential to be the best player in Europe at the moment.”

Matthijs de Ligt to PSG or Juventus

The futures of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie De Jong were up in the air in January and only the latter’s has been resolved this month.

De Jong was strongly linked with a move to PSG at one point but Barcelona have a deal in place to bring him to the club next summer. Having lost one of Ajax’s prodigies to the Catalan club, PSG will do everything in their power to land de Ligt next summer.

The Parisian club isn’t the only top European club hoping to land the Dutch defender. A host of Premier League clubs, Bayern Munich and most notably, Juventus, are also in the race to secure the Golden Boy of Europe.

De Ligt will cost a fortune and very few clubs can afford the coveted 19-year-old.

Isco to Manchester City

Isco was an indispensable member of the Real Madrid starting XI under Zinedine Zidane and even started ahead of both Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio in he 2018 Champions League final.

The Spaniard was expected to be a key player for Real Madrid under Julen Lopetegui but the manager’s sacking followed by the appointment of Santiago Solari has left the player in a tough spot. Solari doesn’t fancy Isco and has often left him out of the matchday squad.

The 26-year-old has plenty of admirers including archrivals Barcelona. However, if Real Madrid is willing to sell the player in the summer, then Pep Guardiola will do everything in his power to bring the player to Man City.

Isco was a target for Man City back in 2013 when Manuel Pellegrini took over as manager. He is still a target for the Citizens given their need for midfield reinforcements and a long-term replacement for David Silva.

5 players who became managers and signed their former teammates

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Many players turned managers have coached their former teammates like Zinedine Zidane and Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid. However, very few have signed a former teammate and that has happened thrice this season.

Diego Simeone and Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres started his career at Atletico Madrid where Diego Simeone had two separate spells as a player. During Simeone’s second stint between 2003 and 2005, he shared the dressing room with Torres who was also the club captain at the time.

After Simeone hung up his playing boots and became a manager, their paths crossed for the first time when Simeone’s Atletico Madrid beat a Chelsea side featuring Torres in the UEFA Super Cup in 2012.

In January 2015, Torres’ loan spell at AC Milan was cut short and he moved to Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on loan before the move was made permanent. Torres played for Atletico in 160 games under his former teammate and scored 38 goals while also winning the UEFA Europa League in his final season with the club.

Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas

Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas were fan favourites at Arsenal and both players left the North London club for Barcelona. However, the former is remembered fondly by the Arsenal fans while the latter is hated by many Gunners for joining rivals, Chelsea.

Henry and Fabregas shared the dressing room at Arsenal for four years between 2003 and 2007 before the former left for Barcelona. Although Henry was a crucial member of the ‘Invincible’ squad of 2003/04, Fabregas did not make an appearance in the league that season for Arsenal despite playing thrice in other competitions and scoring once.

The Frenchman took his first managerial job in October 2018 when he was appointed the Monaco manager and in January 2019, he signed Fabregas from Chelsea on a free transfer in a bid to keep the Ligue 1 side in the top flight.

Fabregas made his Monaco debut in a 1-5 home defeat to Strasbourg and that will be his only appearance for Monaco under his former teammate as Henry has been sacked after only three months in charge with the club placed 19th in the league.

Steven Gerrard, Jermain Defoe and Jon Flanagan

Steven Gerrard took charge of Scottish Premier League giants, Rangers, in the summer and he has done a thoroughly impressive job with the club on a limited budget this season.

Gerrard made a few shrewd signings and used his connections at Liverpool to get both Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria on loan. In addition, he also signed his former Liverpool teammate, Jon Flanagan, on a free transfer in the summer.

Flanagan famously played a key role in Liverpool’s unlikely title push during the 2013/14 season and shared the dressing room with Gerrard at Anfield for a few years.

In January 2019, Gerrard signed Jermaine Defoe, his teammate with England and the veteran arrived from Bournemouth on an 18-month loan deal to help Rangers push for the league title. Incredibly, Defoe scored on his debut for Rangers which meant he scored a debut goal for 5 of his last 7 clubs.

Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole

There were a lot of comparisons between Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard during their playing days and it looks that comparison could continue into their playing career as Lampard is also enjoying a fantastic debut season as manager.

Lampard used his connections at Chelsea to sign youngsters Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount on loan in the summer. In January, he signed his former Chelsea and England teammate, Ashley Cole, on a deal that runs till the end of the season.

Derby Count is chasing promotion to the Premier League this season and the Rams’ fans will be hoping that Cole’s experience can make a substantial difference to the defence that has conceded several cheap goals this season.

Roberto Mancini, Siniša Mihajlović and Juan Sebastián Verón

Roberto Mancini notably represented Sampdoria and Lazio as a player and he shared the dressing room at both clubs with Siniša Mihajlović and Juan Sebastián Verón.

At Sampdoria, Mihajlović played with Mancini between 1994 and 1997 before the latter left for Lazio. Veron, on the other hand, only played one season with the current Italy manager at Sampdoria.

After Mancini moved to Lazio in 1997, both Mihajlovic and Veron followed him to the club in 1998 and 1999 respectively. They shared two and one seasons respectively with Mancini at Lazio before the Italian moved to his final club, Leicester City and retired at the end of the 2000/01 season.

Interestingly, while Mancini and Veron were playing together at Sampdoria, Veron claimed Mancini tried to attack him in the dressing room after an on field argument.

Nevertheless, after Mancini was appointed Inter Milan manager in 2004, he signed both players for a period of two years. Mihajlović joined on a permanent deal and Veron on a loan basis. In those two years, Veron and Mihajlović won the Serie A title in 2005/06, the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa Italiana once.

Top 5 clubs with the most number of world record-breaking transfers

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When PSG signed Neymar, they became the 25th club to break the world record transfer fee and it was also the 48th time that the record fee was broken. But which clubs have broken the transfers record the most number of times?

#5. Sunderland – 4 times

Believe it or not, the English club with the most number of record transfers is Sunderland. Yes, the same Sunderland that’s playing in the third tier of English football after back to back relegations.

That being said, all of Sunderland’s record transfers were in or before 1950. Their first was in 1904 when they paid £520 for Sheffield United’s Alf Common. Funnily, in the same year, Newcastle United broke Sunderland’s record when they signed Andy McCombie from Sunderland!

The Black Cats’ other record transfers are Warney Cresswell for £5,500 in 1922, Bob Kelly for £6,500 in 1925 and the famous Trevor Ford for £30,000 in 1950.

#4. Juventus – 4 times

From 1952 to 2000, the transfer record was broken 23 times and 18 of those transfers were made by seven different Italian teams. It goes without saying that Juventus is one of those clubs and their first record transfer was in 1957 when they signed the Argentine, Enrique Omar Sivori, from River Plate for £93,000.

In 1968, Juve became the first club to pay half a million pounds for a footballer when they signed Pietro Anastasi. The Old Lady’s next record transfer took 22 more years but it was worth the wait and money as they signed Italy legend, Roberto Baggio, for £8 million.

Juventus’ final world record transfer was two years later in 1992 when they paid £12 million for Gianluca Vialli to Sampdoria.

#3. AC Milan – 4 times

Milan’s first record transfer was in 1954 when they signed Uruguayan forward, Juan Schiaffino, from Penarol for £72,000. Their next record transfer came 33 years later in 1987 when they signed Ruud Gullit for £6 million from PSV Eindhoven.

In 1992, something interesting happened. The world record fee belonged to Juventus initially for their transfer of Roberto Baggio for £8 million in 1990. Milan broke it in 1992 by signing Jean-Pierre Papin for £10 million but in the same year, Juventus reclaimed the record by signing Gianluca Vialli for £12 million. Milan then toppled Juventus once again in the same year when they completed the signing of Gianluigi Lentini for £13 million from Torino.

#2. Inter Milan – 4 times

Just like Juventus and AC Milan, Inter Milan has also broken the world record transfer fee four times but Inter’s most recent record-breaking transfer was in 1999 while it was in 1992 for the other two Italian giants.

Inter first broke the bank in 1961 when they signed Spanish international, Luis Suarez, from Barcelona for £152,000. This record was broken two years later by Roma but Inter reclaimed top spot in 1967 after the arrival of Harald Nielsen from Bologna for £300,000.

The Nerazzurri’s next record transfer was 1997 when they signed Ronaldo Nazario from Barcelona for £19.5 million. Interestingly, it was Ronaldo’s second record transfer and he’s only one of two players to achieve this feat along with Diego Maradona.

Inter’s most recent record transfer was in 1999 when they completed the signing of Christian Vieri from Lazio for £32 million.

#1. Real Madrid – 5 times

Topping this list with five world record-breaking transfers is Real Madrid. Interestingly, all five of Real’s record transfers happened in the 21st century.

In 2000, Lazio broke the transfer record when they signed Hernan Crespo for £35.5 million but the Italian club only held the record for a short period as Real paid Luis Figo’s release clause of £37 million and signed him from archrivals Barcelona.

A year after signing Figo, the Los Blanco’s broke the record again when they signed Zinedine Zidane for £46.6 million. Before Diego Costa’s transfer to Atletico Madrid in 2018, the fee Real paid for Zidane was the highest for a 29-year-old.

In 2009, Real broke the transfer record twice as they underwent a squad overhaul. They signed two Ballon d’Or winners that summer with Ricardo Kaka being the first one to arrive for £56 million from AC Milan followed by Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million from Manchester United. The fee Real paid for 24-year-old Ronaldo was lower than what Juventus paid for him last summer.

Real’s fifth record transfer was for Gareth Bale in 2013 and the Welshman cost the La Liga side £86 million.

Honourable mentions – Barcelona and Napoli with three world record-breaking transfers each.

Top 10 bizarre transfers in football history

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Kevin-Prince Boateng’s transfer to Barcelona is one of the most shocking and baffling transfers of recent years. But, there are other transfers involving top European clubs that still leave their fans scratching their heads.

Bebe – Vitória de Guimarães to Manchester United

After the success story of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, Manchester United dipped their feet in the Portuguese league in 2010 to sign another forward.

The player in question, Bebe, was not like the other two players because Sir Alex Ferguson only met him on the day of his transfer but went ahead and signed him for £7.4m based on the recommendation of his former assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz.

Seven first-team appearances and three loan-spells later, Bebe was sold to Benfica where he played six times. He has been playing in the La Liga in recent years for Cordoba, Rayo Vallecano and Eibar.

Steven Caulker – QPR to Liverpool

The January 2016 transfer window was Liverpool’s first available transfer window under Jurgen Klopp and unsurprisingly, the Reds were linked with numerous stars. But instead, the only immediate addition he made to the first team was the loan signing of Steven Caulker from QPR!

Before the transfer, Caulker’s last appearance in a competitive game was against Liverpool for Southampton in a 6-1 defeat in December 2015. The former England international’s loan spell with Southampton was cut short in January before his shock move to Liverpool.

The centre-back played four times for the Reds, three of them as a substitute in an auxiliary striker role and his only start came in a FA Cup defeat to West Ham.

Nicklas Bendtner – Arsenal to Juventus

In 2011/12, Juventus won the Serie A title without tasting defeat and it was their first title since returning to the Italian top-flight following the Calciopoli. However, they only scored 68 goals that season and it was only logical that they add more firepower to their squad. So, the only logical solution was signing Nicklas Bendtner.

Bentnder spent the 11/12 season on loan at Sunderland and scored only eight times in 30 games. At Juventus, he only got his second start on 12 December 2012 and suffered a thigh injury that ruled him out for two to three months.

With Bendtner out, Juve made another strange signing in Nicolas Anelka who was struggling in China. 

The Dane, while he was still out injured, was arrested for drink driving and returned to first-team action only in the final match of the league season with the title already sealed. He came on as a sub, broke his wrist and thus ended a baffling loan stint with zero goals.

Interestingly, the club did not sell a single shirt with the former Arsenal man’s name on its back.

Papy Djilobodji – Nantes to Chelsea

Towards the end of the 2015 summer transfer window, Chelsea signed Papy Djilobodji as the club’s fifth choice centre-back from Nantes for £4m.

However, his fate at Chelsea was clear only ten days after his arrival when Jose Mourinho omitted him from Chelsea’s Champions League squad and said – “We’d be very unlucky if we need Djilobodji when we have John Terry, Gary Cahill, [Kurt] Zouma and Branislav Ivanovic.”

After playing only 62 seconds as a Chelsea player, Djilobodji joined Werder Bremen on loan for the second half of the 15/16 season before Chelsea sold him for £8m to Sunderland in the next summer.

The Senegalese international was part of the Black Cats squad that was relegated to the Championship in 16/17 and then he spent the 17/18 season on loan at Dijon in the Ligue 1.

Djilobodji went awol ahead of the ongoing season and when he returned to Sunderland for training, he failed the fitness test comprehensively which resulted in the termination of his contract.

Julien Faubert – West Ham to Real Madrid

Julien Faubert played 32 games for West Ham without scoring in a season and a half between 2007 and 2009 before making a shock loan move to Real Madrid on transfer deadline day in January with the La Liga club also having the option to sign him permanently.

Former Arsenal star, Paul Merson, said: “His agent should be knighted by the Queen” after Faubert completed a move to Spain.

The Frenchman played twice for Real Madrid but the highlight of his Real Madrid stint was appearing to fall asleep on the bench during a match against Villarreal. The player later refuted this and said he didn’t fall asleep but he closed his eyes because he was bored.

Owen Hargreaves – Manchester United to Manchester City

What do you do when an injury prone player who has played four games in the last three seasons is available on a free transfer? You stay away from him and don’t touch him with a ten-foot pole unless you’re Manchester City.

Owen Hargreaves was released by Manchester United at the end of the 2010/11 season due to his terrible injury history. In fact, according to Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, Hargreaves was one of his most disappointing transfers.

Manchester City needed another midfielder going into the 2011/12 season and the club’s doctors were impressed by Hargreaves physical and mental condition. They were clearly wrong.

Hargreaves was left out of City’s Champions League squad, played one league game for City that season and was thus not eligible for a winner’s medal. He retired at the end of the season aged 31.

Kevin Keegan – Hamburg to Southampton

Imagine how social media would react if Luka Modric, the present Ballon d’Or winner, completed a move to say West Ham or Crystal Palace? That’s how shocking Kevin Keegan’s move to Southampton in 1980 was.

Keegan won the Ballon d’Or in 1978 and 1979 while at Hamburg and won the Bundesliga title in 1979. In 1980, he led the club to the final of the European Cup which they lost to Nottingham Forest.

Keegan captained England at the 1980 European Championship and then surprised everyone by joining Southampton – a club that was still establishing itself in the English top flight.

Liverpool had a buy-back clause for Keegan in his contract with Hamburg but they decided that Keegan was not necessary. As a result, the two-time Ballon d’Or winner played 80 times for the Saints and scored 42 times while also being named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1982. 

Kim Källström – Spartak Moscow to Arsenal

In January 2014, when Arsenal fans were crying out for a new signing to sustain their title challenge, Arsene Wenger signed 32-year-old Kim Kallstrom on loan from Spartak Moscow.

The Swede was injured when he joined the club and only appeared four times for the Gunners in all competitions. He came on as an extra time substitute for Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal against defending champions Wigan Athletic and scored his penalty in the shootout. Interestingly, he called it “the greatest 15 minutes of his life”

Kallstrom left Arsenal at the end of his loan spell without a goal but had a FA Cup winners’ medal to show for it. He has asserted that he enjoyed his time at Arsenal.

Dmytro Chygrynskiy – Shakhtar Donetsk to Barcelona

In 2009, after winning the treble with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola decided to sign another centre-back despite having Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Raphael Marquez, Gabriel Milito and even Eric Abidal to use as centre-backs.

So, he went and signed Shakhtar Donetsk’s Dmytro Chygrynskiy for around €25 million! However, he only played 14 times and was sold back to Shakhtar a year later for €15 million.

According to comments from Thierry Henry, Guardiola was not impressed by the Ukranian because he didn’t respect the pattern. The Spaniard once started Chygrynskiy with a specific set of instructions to follow but Chygrynskiy twice played the ball long for Zlatan and the Swede nearly went 1-on-1 with the keeper.

Lassana Diarra – Al Jazira to PSG

If there is an award for the weirdest career trail in football then Lassana Diarra would probably win it.

He started out at Le Havre in France before playing for Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth in the Premier League in that same order before moving to Real Madrid of all clubs. After Real Madrid, he played in Russia for Anzhi Makhachkala and Lokomotiv Moscow before returning to France to play for Marseille.

In 2017, he joined Emirati club Al Jazira and common sense dictate that Diarra’s time in Europe at least with top clubs was over. Well, a few months after he joined Al Jazira, his contract was terminated with mutual consent and he joined PSG a month later!

Diarra is still at PSG and into the final few months of his contract. He has played four games this season and is probably at the club only to make up the numbers.

Top 10 players with the best minutes per goal ratio in Europe this season

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What separates the good forwards from the best is the rate at which they find the back of the net. FOX Sports Asia ranks the Top 10 players from Europe’s five major leagues with the best minutes per goal ratio.

#10. Emiliano Sala (Nantes, Cardiff City) – 114.75 minutes per goal

As of now, Emiliano Sala is tenth on this list but he won’t hold down this spot for long and his minutes per goal could increase drastically.

The Argentine scored 12 goals in 1377 minutes for Ligue 1 side Nantes and his impressive form for the club earned him a move to the Premier League with Cardiff City.

If he can score at even half his current rate in the Premier League for Cardiff, then the Welsh side will surely be safe from relegation. However, the Premier League is a different ball game and the fact that no player from the league makes the top 10 tells you how competitive the league is.

#9. Duvan Zapata (Atalanta) – 100.6 minutes per goal

At the start of December 2018, Duvan Zapata had one league goal to his name in 13 games but after the 20th round of fixtures in the Italian top-flight, the Colombian is the joint top scorer in the Serie A with 14 goals to his name.

Zapata is tied with Fabio Quagliarella and Cristiano Ronaldo for the top spot but the former Napoli man has played fewer minutes than the other two players. Ronaldo has a game in hand but it would take more than a goal in that game for him to enter the top 10.

#8. Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli) – 97.2 minutes per goal

Arkadiusz Milik was signed by Napoli as a replacement for Gonzalo Higuain in 2016 but injuries kept him out for a long period and once he returned to the team, he lost his place to Dries Mertens.

However, under Carlo Ancelotti, Milik is getting more opportunities and the Pole has delivered after the manager showed faith in him.

The 24-year-old has 11 goals in 17 Serie A games but he has only played 1069 minutes which brings his minutes per goal ratio to an impressive 97.

#7. Neymar (PSG) – 86.9 minutes per goal

For PSG, playing in the Ligue 1 is like playing a game of FIFA on ‘amateur’ difficulty. The Parisian club has been steamrolling their opponents this season and they won 9-0 in their most recent game.

Unsurprisingly three of PSG’s forwards are in the top 10 but Neymar is ranked below both Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe.

The Brazilian has 13 goals in 1129 minutes this season which also makes him the third highest goalscorer in the league. In addition, he also has six assists, which is the joint-highest in the league.

#6. Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 82.8 minutes per goal

Just like the Ligue 1, the Bundesliga is also a striker’s paradise. Goals are free flowing in the German top flight and no player has scored more goals this season in the Bundesliga than Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic.

The 21-year-old has 13 goals in 1076 minutes this season and has formed a potent partnership with Sebastian Haller and Ante Rebic.

The Serbian, who is currently on loan from Benfica, even scored five goals in a game this season against Fortuna Duesseldorf.

#5. Reiss Nelson (Hoffenheim) – 82 minutes per goal

The attacking nature of the Bundesliga and the willingness of the German clubs to give chances to young players helped in Jadon Sancho’s rise to prominence. Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson, who is currently on loan at Hoffenheim is the most recent English player reaping the benefits of playing in the Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old winger has started only five league games so far but in 492 minutes on the pitch, he has scored six goals.

Nelson’s number of goals scored is much smaller than the others on the list but that doesn’t make his achievement any less significant.

#4. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 79.8 minutes per goal

No player in Europe’s Top 5 leagues has more goals or assists than Lionel Messi  Despite Messi’s incredible form this season, he’s fourth on this list but when you consider the combined goals and assists chart, the Argentine leads by a huge margin.

Messi has 18 goals and 10 assists in 18 league games so far while playing 1437 minutes.

The Argentine came off the bench in Barcelona’s recent win over Leganes and scored yet another goal. Incredibly, it was his 22nd league goal as a substitute which is more than any player has scored as a sub in the La Liga in the 21st century.

#3. Edinson Cavani (PSG) – 78.1 minutes per goal

Edinson Cavani had a few injury problems at the start of the season which has limited him to only 13 appearances in the league so far. Nevertheless, in those 13 games, he has scored 14 goals while playing only 1093 minutes.

The Uruguayan is the second highest goalscorer in France’s top flight sandwiched between Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

The 31-year-old has scored two hat-tricks this season.

#2. Kylian Mbappé (PSG) – 64.6 minutes per goal

Only Lionel Messi has scored more league goals in Europe this season than Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, who turned 20-years-old last month, has 17 goals in 1098 minutes. He could have had more goals but he was suspended for three matches for a direct red card earlier this season.

The Frenchman has two hattricks this season which game against Lyon and Guingamp and in the former match, he scored four goals.

#1. Paco Alcácer (Borussia Dortmund) – 42.8 minutes per goal

Topping this chart is this season’s ‘supersub’ Paco Alcacer with 12 goals in only 514 minutes.

The Spaniard joined Borussia Dortmund on loan this season from Barcelona but after an impressive start to the season, the German club made his move permanent for a mere €23m.

Alcacer has scored a Bundesliga record ten goals coming off the bench this season for Dortmund and most of them were match-winning goals rather than inconsequential goals.

Despite starting only five league games for Dortmund so far this season, he is the second highest goalscorer in the league at the moment.

5 players who were flops under Jurgen Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp is renowned for bringing the best out of the players at his disposal but some stars who played under him at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool were huge flops despite finding success elsewhere.

#5. Matthias Ginter

Matthias Ginter was the youngest member of Germany’s World Cup winning squad of 2014 although he didn’t appear at the tournament. However, immediately after the World Cup, Jurgen Klopp snapped up one of the country’s most promising youngsters for only 10 million euros.

The versatile defender made his debut in a DFL-Supercup win over Bayern Munich and played the entire match but he only made eleven more starts in all competitions in his debut season. The 2014/15 season was also a difficult one for Klopp’s Dortmund as the team was at the bottom of the table after 19 games.

Under Klopp, Ginter played only 19 games in his first season at the club. However, in the subsequent seasons, he played 40 and 41 games respectively for the club before joining rivals Borussia Monchengladbach in 2017.

He is now a regular in the Germany national team and has played 14 times in the last two years.

#4. Kevin Kampl

Kevin Kampl was Klopp’s last signing as Borussia Dortmund manager. Kampl was on the verge of joining RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg before Klopp intervened and signed him for Dortmund to help them turn their season around.

The Slovenian played sixteen games for Dortmund, nine of them as starters, in the second half of the 2014/15 season but failed to score a single goal and only had one assist to show for his efforts.

During the DFB-Pokal semifinal against Bayern Munich, he came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute and got sent off in the 108th minute for a second bookable offence. Luckily for him, Dortmund won the game in the shootout.

Kampl was sold to Bayer Leverkusen after only a few months with Dortmund and in 2017, he moved to RB Leipzig for whom he still plays.

#3. Loris Karius

Jurgen Klopp has been spot on with almost all his signings for Liverpool but he went horribly wrong with one of them and that one player cost him and Liverpool a Champions League title.

In the first summer after Klopp took over, he signed Loris Karius as a potential upgrade over Simon Mignolet but the German shot-stopper had to be dropped after some high-profile errors which cost Liverpool valuable points.

Midway through the 2017/18 season, Klopp reinstated Karius as Liverpool’s first-choice goalkeeper even though Mignolet had performed decently in the league up to that point.

It looked like Karius was doing justice to the faith the manager showed in him but any such hope was gone after his gaffe in the UEFA Champions League final. Karius made two high profile error on the biggest stage which undid the hard work of his teammates.

The former Mainz keeper had trouble getting over the final and was sent on a two-year loan to Besiktas last summer after Liverpool signed Alisson Becker.

#2. Ivan Perisic

Most of the players who have worked with Jurgen Klopp are full of praise for the charismatic German but Ivan Perisic had a public fallout with his former manager.

Klopp signed Perisic in 2011 from Club Brugge and the Croatian spent most of his first season as a squad player making only eight starts in the 28 league games he played. Nevertheless, he still scored seven goals and had four assists.

The trend continued in the 2012/13 season as well as Perisic couldn’t get into the Dortmund starting XI ahead of Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Jakub Błaszczykowski.

In an interview with Croatian channel Nova TV, Perisic said – “I have no reason to be happy. I am playing even less than last season. I think Jurgen Klopp is the best manager in Germany but I do not feel supported by him. I am planning to talk to him.”

The player’s comments did not go down well with Klopp who fined the player €15,000, asked him to keep his mouth shut and also called his behaviour childish. A few days into the 2013 January transfer window, Klopp sold Perisic to Wolfsburg and the Croatian realised his potential there before making a big move to Inter in 2015.

#1. Ciro Immobile

After Klopp lost Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich, he signed Ciro Immobile as a replacement for the Pole.

Immobile scored 22 goals in 33 Serie A games in 2013/14 for Torino and won the Golden Boot. This prompted Klopp to sign the Italian international. However, at Dortmund, he struggled to replicate the same goalscoring form.

In 24 Bundesliga games, Immobile scored just thrice and in all competitions, he scored ten times in 34 games with few of those goals coming in cup games against lesser opposition. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started banging in goals, Immobile also found chances hard to come by.

Dortmund sold him to Lazio in 2016 and he has flourished in the Italian league. He has 80 goals in only 112 games for Lazio and won the Serie A golden boot for the second time in 2017/18.