5 youngsters who left Manchester City after not getting chances under Pep Guardiola

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Pep Guardiola is often revered for giving opportunities to youngsters and improving their game. However, at Manchester City, he has not promoted youngsters and many of the club’s promising youth graduates have moved elsewhere for first-team opportunities.

#5. Pablo Maffeo – Sold to VfB Stuttgart for £8 million  in 2018

While Jurgen Klopp has promoted Trent-Alexander Arnold as Liverpool’s first-choice right-back and Mauricio Pochettino has given opportunities to Kyle Walker-Peters, players from the academy of the respective clubs, Pep Guardiola splurged £76.5 million on Kyle Walker and Danilo in 2017.

Guardiola can be forgiven for signing Walker but instead of spending a hefty fee for a backup full-back, he could have given chances to Pablo Maffeo who came through the Man City academy.

Maffeo helped Girona earn promotion to the La Liga in 2017 and was loaned out to the same club again for the 2017/18 season making 33 La Liga appearances and earning praise for his performance against Lionel Messi.

In 2018, the player was sold to Bundesliga club, VfB Stuttgart, for £8 million and it was Guardiola who advised the player to move to Germany.

#4. Angelino – Sold to PSV Eindhoven for €5 million in 2018

One weak spot in the current Manchester City squad is the left-back position. Benjamin Mendy is the only recognised left-back in the squad and consistent injuries to the Frenchman has forced Guardiola to play Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Danilo and even Aymeric Laporte out of position.

If Guardiola opted to hold on to one of City’s promising youth graduates, Angelino, then he would have had a good option to use as a backup to Mendy at least.

Angelino has played thrice for the Man City first team in three different cup competitions but he has spent most of his time with the first team on loan at New York City, Girona, Mallorca and NAC Breda.

The Spanish full-back was impressive during his spell on loan in the Eredivisie with Breda and it earned him a summer move to Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven for whom he’s now a regular starter. He also made his Spain U21 debut in 2018.

#3. Angus Gunn – Sold to Southampton for £13.5 million in 2018

Guardiola is very specific about what he expects from his goalkeepers and that’s why he sidelined Joe Hart and Hart’s replacement, Claudio Bravo, for Ederson Moraes. However, he could have at least given Manchester City’s academy product, Angus Gunn, a chance to play for the first team as the second choice goalkeeper this season.

Gunn was regarded as the long-term replacement for Joe Hart in the first team but any such hope was dashed after Guardiola’s arrival. The young Englishman spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Norwich City and played 51 games across all competitions. He was so impressive for the Canaries that Premier League clubs lined up for his signature in the summer with Southampton eventually sealing a deal.  

The 22-year-old started the season as an understudy to Alex McCarthy but he recently made his Premier League debut for the Saints and he could be the future number one for both club and country.

#2. Brahim Diaz – Sold to Real Madrid for £15.5 million in 2019

Manchester City spent a fortune to establish world-class facilities at their academy and as a result, many promising players came through the academy. Three of them, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz, were widely expected to be first-team players for the club but only Foden remains at the club and even he rarely gets to play under Guardiola.

Diaz was awarded the Premier League winners’ medal last season but he only played 50 minutes for City in five substitute appearances. The lack of game time bothered the Spaniard even after he scored a brace against Fulham in a League Cup match earlier this season.

The Spaniard refused to extend his Man City contract which was due to expire at the end of the ongoing season and instead signed for Real Madrid in January. He has been a Real Madrid player for only ten days but he has already played thrice for the Los Blancos which is one less than the number of appearances he made for City in the first half of the season.

#1. Jadon Sancho – Sold to Borussia Dortmund for £8 million in 2017

The biggest mistake of Pep Guardiola’s stint as Manchester City manager was letting one of England’s biggest prospects leave the club because he couldn’t provide the playing time the player wanted and deserved.

During the summer of 2017, Sancho was omitted from City’s squad for the preseason as there were disputes over assurances of playing time in a new contract. As a result, he left the club and moved to Borussia Dortmund as a first team player taking the number seven kit left vacant by Ousmane Dembele.

Sancho took half a season to settle into a new club and league, but he still racked up a goal and four assists in 684 minutes in his first season. This season, he has established himself as a key first team player ahead of Chelsea’s £58 million signing, Christian Pulisic. 

The 18-year-old has seven goals and nine assists for Dortmund in 24 games across all competitions and this led to a maiden call-up to the England squad. 

Sancho’s impressive performance outside the Premier League has caught the eye of many promising young English players and now, more and more players are opting to leave the country to get first-team opportunities.

Top 7 players with most trophies in Europe

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Every professional footballer hopes to win trophies with the clubs they play for. Some go through their entire career without winning one while others keep piling them up. Here are the seven superstars who’ve won the most trophies while playing for clubs in Europe.

#7. Gerard Pique – 30 trophies

Gerard Pique has thirty trophies to his name in club football and 27 of those trophies have come while playing for Barcelona.

Pique won seven La Liga titles in the last ten years with the club in addition to six Copa del Rey titles and six Supercopa de España titles. He has also won the UEFA Champions League four times with his first title coming with Manchester United in 2008.

The 31-year-old won three trophies during his time with Manchester United including the league title and all three of them were in the 2007/08 season.

#6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 31 trophies

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won 31 trophies playing for some of the best clubs in Europe despite the fact that the two league titles he won with Juventus were revoked due to the Calciopoli.

The Swede didn’t win any trophies at Malmo but in his second club, Ajax, he won two Eredivisie titles plus the KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield once each. In Italy, without counting the rescinded titles with Juventus, he won seven trophies which include four league titles of which three were with Inter Milan and one was with AC Milan.

Ibra even won five trophies with Barcelona even though he was at the club for just one full season. He won the most trophies with PSG during a four-year spell. Including four league titles, he won twelve out of the maximum possible sixteen domestic trophies available. After winning trophies in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France, he added three winners medal from England also to his cabinet during his brief stint with Manchester United.

Despite winning 31 trophies, Ibrahimovic never won the UEFA Champions League.

#5. Maxwell – 32 trophies

Maxwell is not as renowned as the other players on this list but he had an illustrious career in Europe playing for four of the best clubs in the continent and shared the dressing room at all of those clubs with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Brazilian’s first club in Europe was Ajax and he won four trophies there including two league titles. After his stint in the Netherlands, he moved to Inter and won five trophies including three Serie A titles before joining Barcelona.

Maxwell won nine trophies during his time at the Catalan club including the Champions League trophy which eluded his dear friend Ibrahimovic. However, he left the club after only two and a half seasons to join his final club PSG.

He played 202 games for PSG and was the club’s first-choice left-back throughout his stint while helping the Parisian side claim 14 trophies before retiring in 2017.

#4. Andres Iniesta – 32 trophies

Andres Iniesta left Barcelona at the end of the 2017/18 season as the player with the most number of trophies with the club but that didn’t last long. Nevertheless, he has no reasons to complain as he boasts 32 trophies with the club.

Iniesta’s trophies with Barcelona features nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey, six Supercopa de España, four UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups.

In addition to all the trophies he won with Barcelona, he also won a FIFA World Cup and two Euros with Spain. Talk about a trophy-laden career!

#3. Lionel Messi – 33 trophies

It was Lionel Messi who overtook Andres Iniesta as the player with the most number of trophies with Barcelona and he achieved this feat earlier this season when Barcelona won the Supercopa de España.

Messi has won all the trophies Iniesta won with Barcelona and the only extra trophy he won this season gave him the lead over his former teammate. The Argentine has the opportunity to add more medals to his cabinet at the end of the season and Real Madrid’s poor form this season should make it easier. 

If Barcelona wins the treble this season, then Messi may become the player with the most number of trophies at club level in Europe. Even if he doesn’t achieve it at the end of this season, he will most definitely do so and it is only a matter of time.

#2. Dani Alves – 34 trophies

Lionel Messi may or may not become the most decorated player in club football in Europe at the end of the current season but Dani Alves is nailed on to do so after he racks up more trophies with PSG.

Alves like the five others before him on the list added a plethora of trophies to his name thanks to playing for Barcelona during their glory days of the 2000s and 2010s. However, he won trophies in Spain before he played for Barcelona.

The Brazilian won four trophies with Sevilla, his first club in Europe, before moving to Barcelona an adding 23 more trophies to his name. After leaving Barcelona, he went to Juventus and won the league and league cup in Italy before joining his present club, PSG.

Alves has four trophies with PSG already and given their current form, he will definitely add more to his name at the end of the season which will propel him to the top of this list.

#1. Ryan Giggs – 35 trophies

Ryan Giggs is the only player on this list who hasn’t played for Barcelona. In fact, Giggs spent his entire playing career with Manchester United and won one trophy after another under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Welshman became the most successful player in club football in Europe by winning 35 trophies with Manchester United and his record with the club may never be surpassed or even matched.

He notably won thirteen Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three league cups and two Champions League titles during his 24-year-long stint at the club.

Top 5 goalscorers of 2018 in Europe’s top five leagues

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

As the year 2018 comes to an end, take a look at the Top 5 players with most goals in all competitions for both club and country among those playing in Europe’s Top 5 leagues.

#5. Harry Kane – 41 goals

A year ago, Harry Kane scored a hat-trick against Southampton on Boxing Day to surpass Lionel Messi as the top scorer for 2017 with 56 goals to his name for both club and country. This year, he has to settle for fifth place with 41 goals for both club and country in 61 games.

Kane scored 33 of his goals for Tottenham and 8 for England. 6 of Kane’s goals for England came at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and it earned him the tournament’s Golden Boot.

The England captain was beaten to the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018 by Mohamed Salah despite scoring 30 goals in the entire league season. However, he was named in the PFA Team of the Year.

He has 12 goals to his name this year in the league which is the second best in the league and only one behind the top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

Kane has one more game left in 2018 to increase his tally.

#4. Robert Lewandowski – 43 goals

Robert Lewandowski continues to be among the top goalscorers every year despite there being 4 games fewer in the Bundesliga and no two-legged ties in the domestic cup competition.

The Pole scored 43 goals for both club and country in 56 games in 2018; of which 39 goals were for Bayern Munich in only 45 games.

At the international level, he didn’t have a great year as he scored only 4 goals in 11 games and didn’t find the back of the net at the World Cup. To put things into perspective, in the previous three years, he scored a combined 28 goals in 25 games for Poland.

The 30-year-old won the Bundesliga Golden Boot last season and also won the league title. This season, he has 10 league goals but is only the fifth highest scorer and two goals behind the joint top scorers Paco Alcacer and Luka Jovic.

#3. Mohamed Salah – 43 goals

If Mohamed Salah helped Liverpool clinch the Champions League title in 2018, maybe he would have won the Ballon d’Or in 2018. Such was his impact and performance for the Reds.

He has scored 43 goals combined for Liverpool and Egypt in 54 games and he has one more game left to play this year.

Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018 by scoring 32 goals. His tally is the highest for any player in a 38 game league season in England. He is the second highest goalscorer in the Premier League this season with 12 goals in 19 games and he will be hoping to bag back to back Golden Boots.

Although he didn’t win any team honours, he won a plethora of individual awards in 2018 including the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season, PFA Fans’ Player of the Year, FIFA Puskas Award and BBC Africa Footballer of the Year among many others.

Fun Fact: Salah also finished second in Egypt’s Presidential elections despite not applying for the position.

#2. Cristiano Ronaldo – 47 goals

In 2018, the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly in the Ballon d’Or was broken but the pair remains on top of the goalscoring charts and it isn’t even surprising.

The Portuguese ace had a year to remember as he won the fifth Champions League title of his career and was named the tournament’s top scorer for a sixth consecutive season.

After his heroics for Real Madrid, he had a good World Cup in which he scored 4 goals which included a breathtaking hat-trick against Spain. He also completed a move to Juventus in the summer and has been breaking records in Italy.

In 2018, Ronaldo has 13 goals in 23 games for Juventus, 28 goals in 22 games for Real Madrid and six goals in seven games for Portugal.

#1. Lionel Messi – 51 goals

Before we discuss Lionel Messi’s achievements in 2018, let’s remember the fact that he was named just the fifth best player in the 2018 Ballon d’Or.

For starters, Messi bossed La Liga last season and continues to do so this season. He was the player with most goals, assists, chances created and dribbles completed in La Liga last season and this season is no different.

In addition to this, Messi won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, La Liga Golden Boot, La Liga best player award and European Golden Shoe in 2018. Also, as things stand this season, no player in Europe’s Top 5 leagues has more goals or assists than the Argentine.

Messi scored 47 goals in 48 games for Barcelona in 2018 and four goals in five games for Argentina. His tally for 2018 is significantly lesser than the record he set in 2012 with 91 goals but it’s still enough to make him Europe’s top scorer for 2018.

5 possible destinations for Jose Mourinho

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Jose Mourinho was sacked as Manchester United manager in the wake of their defeat to Liverpool and their tough Champions League draw against PSG. The Portuguese ace will return to management soon and Fox Sports Asia picks five possible destinations for him.

#5 VALENCIA

Valencia may not seem like a possible destination for Jose Mourinho given the club’s lack of financial might compared to his previous clubs. However, you cannot move out the rule because of his agent Jorge Mendes.

Mendes is a close associate of Peter Lim, the owner of Valencia. Many of Mendes’ clients played for or currently play for Valencia. Some of his notable clients who represented or currently represent the La Liga outfit include Andre Gomes, Goncalo Guedes, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Paulista, and Ezequiel Garay.

Valencia played the group stage of the Champions League this season but were relegated to the Europa League. They are also 14th in the La Liga table with just three wins in 16 league games.

Valencia’s current manager, Marcelino García Toral, may last till the end of the season but Mourinho could get the job if he wants to next season and help them return to the summit of Spanish football once again.

#4 BAYERN MUNICH

Bayern Munich is running the risk of conceding the league title for the first time since 2012 after a tough start to the season under Nico Kovac. Even if they win their game in hand, they will still be six points behind Borussia Dortmund almost halfway into the league season.

The Bavarian club has also been given a tough draw against Liverpool in the first knockout stage of the Champions League and failure to move past that round could ultimately cost Kovac his job.

Moreover, Bayern has an ageing squad that needs revamping in several areas of the pitch. If Mourinho is appointed their manager and he’s given the players he wants, then he could do wonders. Plus, he has the added motivation of outdoing Pep Guardiola’s legacy at the club.

The Bayern bosses are familiar with Mourinho’s abilities having come across his sides in the Champions League several times. In fact, Bayern lost the 2010 Champions League final to his Inter Milan team.

#3 PORTUGAL NATIONAL TEAM

Jose Mourinho has a fantastic reputation in his country. He was the last manager to win the Champions League with a Portuguese club and the only one to do so in the last 32 years!

During his best years, many fans craved for him to become Portugal’s national football team manager but offers at the club level have kept him busy so far. That being said, it won’t be easy for Mourinho to get the job right now as Fernando Santos has done a fantastic job with the current crop of players and even won the Euro in 2016.

Santos is contracted till 2020 and has led them to the UEFA Nations League finals where his side will meet Switzerland in the semifinals.

It will take something drastic for Santos to be removed as Portugal coach but if the manager position becomes vacant and Mourinho is available, then he could be first in line to take over. However, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe may not be happy to see their former manager in the dugout of the national team once again.

#2 REAL MADRID

Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid won’t be the dream reunion but there will be a section of the club’s fans hoping to see him return to the dugout after seeing their club struggle this season.

Mourinho won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup with Real Madrid in his three seasons in charge. He also reached the semifinal of the Champions League in all three seasons and his side was knocked out only after closely fought ties against strong oppositions.

When Mourinho was in charge, Real Madrid was up against a Barcelona team which is often considered one of the greatest footballing sides of all-time. Despite this, he beat Guardiola’s men to the league title in 2012 while also scoring a La Liga record 121 goals. Not bad for a defensive manager, eh?

Furthermore, Real Madrid superstar Marcelo has already revealed  his views on Mourinho’s sacking

“[His sacking] is a pity as he is a great coach and for him to be without a club is a pity. It’s not for me to say if he should come to Real Madrid, but I really appreciate all he did for me at this club.”

#1 INTER MILAN

The dream reunion for Jose Mourinho would be a return to Italy with Inter Milan. Mourinho was Inter’s manager for two seasons during which he won five trophies, including a historic treble in 2010. Inter haven’t won a Scudetto since his departure and the last trophy they won was the Coppa Italia in 2011.

Mourinho did wonders with an ageing Nerrazzuri squad during his first stint and this time, he’ll have a much younger squad full of talented stars like Mauro Icardi, Samir Handanović, Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez, Sime Vrsaljko, Milan Skriniar, and Stefan de Vrij, among many others.

Despite possessing a fantastic squad, Inter’s current manager Luciano Spalletti couldn’t lead them out of their Champions League group and his side is only third in the league table, 14 points behind leaders Juventus. 

Mourinho loves the challenge of toppling a giant of their perch and his ill feelings towards Juventus was visible after his Man Utd side defeated them in Turin. A match made in heaven, it seems. 

5 Liverpool rejects turned stars

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Liverpool have signed and sold numerous players in the last decade as a result of the constant managerial changes. Some of the players they sold during this period have gone on to become stars of top European clubs despite being a flop at Liverpool.

#5. PETER GULACSI – RB Leipzig

Peter Gulacsi signed for Liverpool in 2007 from MTK Budapest but the Hungarian never played a game for the senior side and his only appearances in England were on loan at Hereford United, Tranmere Rovers and Hull City in the lower divisions.

In the summer of 2013, Liverpool sold him to Red Bull Salzburg where he quickly established himself as the first choice goalkeeper. In 2015, he moved to Germany to play for Salzburg’s sister club RB Leipzig and helped the club earn promotion to the Bundesliga. He remains Leipzig’s undisputed number one and helped the club qualify for the UEFA Champions League in 2016/17.

After Liverpool sold Gulacsi, the club gambled with Simon Mignolet, Brad Jones, Loris Karius, Danny Ward and even Gulacsi’s compatriot, Adam Bogdan, in goal before finding a goalkeeping solution in Alisson Becker. Maybe, Gulacsi would have proved to be a better alternative if he was given a few opportunities. 

#4. CONOR COADY – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Conor Coady is a product of the Liverpool Academy and a local lad who grew up supporting the club. Despite showing a lot of promise at the youth levels, Coady only played for Liverpool twice before he was sold to Huddersfield Town in the Championship in 2014.

After an impressive season with the Terriers, he moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers and has remained a key member of the club despite the takeover and arrival of new players over the years.

Coady, who started out as a defensive midfielder at Liverpool, converted into a centre-back at Wolves and was named in the EFL Championship Team of the Season in 2017/18 when Wolves earned promotion. The 25-year-old is now the captain of Wolves and has been impressive in their top-flight campaign so far. In fact, there is a case for him to earn his first England call-up soon.  

Earlier this season, when Wolves played Man City, Coady said he hopes to do Liverpool a favour by taking points off the defending Champions and his side did so by holding Pep Guardiola’s marauders to a draw.

#3. LUIS ALBERTO – Lazio

Luis Alberto is one of two players in this list from Liverpool’s squad that challenged for the league title in 2013/14 against all odds albeit only playing a minor role.

Alberto joined the Reds ahead of the 2013/14 season after impressing for the Barcelona B side. However, he only made 12 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool and had one assist to show for it before leaving on loan to Malaga and Deportivo in the subsequent seasons.

In 2016, Liverpool sold Alberto at a loss to Lazio and the Spaniard struggled to make an impression in his debut season in the Serie A. However, in 2017/18, he was one of the best players in the league and in Europe as he racked up 12 goals and 19 assists in all competitions.

He had 14 assists in the league and that tally was bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane across Europe’s Top 5 leagues. The 26-year-old also earned his first senior cap for Spain in 2017 as a substitute in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica.

#2. IAGO ASPAS – Celta Vigo

Iago Aspas was also part of Liverpool’s 2013/14 squad but he was left on the bench for most of the season as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge wreaked havoc. In fact, he only scored once in 15 appearances for Liverpool in official games despite scoring consistently in pre-season games.

After only one season in England, Aspas was allowed to leave Liverpool and he initially joined Sevilla where he won the Europa League and scored 10 goals in 26 games as a backup striker.

The following season he returned to Celta Vigo, the club from which Liverpool signed him, and he has scored 78 goals in 141 games for the club since. He has been so prolific that he won the Zarra Trophy given to highest scoring Spaniard in La Liga in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Aspas also broke into the Spain squad after his heroics with Celta Vigo and scored a sensational goal on his debut against England. He now has six goals in 17 games for Spain and his last goal for them was the goal that took them to the knockout stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The 31-year-old has certainly come a long way from being labelled as a Liverpool flop.

#1. SUSO – AC Milan

Suso is the second Liverpool academy product and the third Spaniard on this list but easily the one player Liverpool fans regret letting go more than anyone else we have featured.

Suso broke into the Liverpool senior team around the same time as Raheem Sterling and both players featured regularly for the Reds in the first half of the 2012/13 season. However, after the arrival of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge in January 2013, Suso was rarely used by manager Brendan Rodgers and was loaned out to Almeria for the 2013/14 season.

After the Spaniard returned from his spell on loan, he continued to be a fringe player and was allowed to leave for only €1.3m in January 2015, just six months before his contract with the Reds expired.

Suso took some time to settle into a new club and league and was sent on loan to Genoa for the second half of the 2015/16 season. At Genoa, he scored six times in 19 games before returning to Milan and becoming a key member of the squad.

The 25-year-old is arguably Milan’s best player at the moment and has been linked with a move away from the club on more than one occasion with Liverpool also linked with the player. He has four goals and eight assists to his name this season in only 15 league games and his assists tally is the best in Serie A by a margin of three.  

Like Aspas and Alberto on this list, Suso has also been capped by Spain at the senior level after leaving the Reds.

Top 10 players with most goals and assists in Europe’s Top 5 leagues

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

The 2018/19 season is approaching the halfway stage and we now have a clear idea about the best performing forwards. FOX Sports Asia looks at the 10 players from Europe’s top five leagues with the most combined goals and assists this season.

#10. Luis Suarez – 14 (1179 minutes)

There are six players with a hand in 14 goals this season but Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard and Mohamed Salah miss out on the Top 10 as they’ve played more minutes than the other three which leaves Luis Suarez in 10th place.

Suarez has 10 goals and four assists for La Liga toppers Barcelona in 14 games this season. The Uruguayan is only one of two players from La Liga in the Top 10 at the moment which is rather unusual given the quality of the forwards in Spain.

Although Suarez has been in fine form in the league, he is yet to score a goal in any other competition for the Catalan club so far this season.

#9. Raheem Sterling – 14 (1116 minutes)

Raheem Sterling was one of Manchester City’s best players last season but he was often overlooked due to the form of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero. However, this season, he has taken centre stage for the defending Champions. In fact, he’s definitely a top contender for the PFA Player of the Year award as things stand. 

The England international has played across the frontline for the Citizens this season and has contributed with eight goals and six assists so far. His goal tally is currently the fourth best and his assists tally is currently the third best in the Premier League.

#8. Emiliano Sala – 14 (1112 minutes)

Emiliano Sala is arguably the most surprising entrant in this list and also the first player from Ligue 1.

The 28-year-old Argentine striker who plays for Nantes only has two assists but most importantly he has scored a joint league highest 12 goals so far which is more than the number of goals scored by Neymar while playing for the high-flying table-toppers PSG. 

Despite Sala’s contributions, Nantes is only 13th in the league. In addition, his incredible form has attracted interested from outside France, particularly in the Premier League with West Ham, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Cardiff City and Southampton among his admirers.

#7. Cristiano Ronaldo – 15 (1340 minutes)

The only player from the Serie A in this list is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo himself.

The Portuguese ace has hit the ground running in Italy and is yet to taste defeat in the league with Juventus. He is on course to yet another record-breaking season with the Old Lady.

In 15 league games, Ronaldo has 10 goals and five assists to his name. Ronaldo’s goal tally is the joint second best in the league along with Ciro Immobile and one less than topscorer Krzysztof Piątek. His assists tally is the joint second best in the league only behind Suso of AC Milan.

#6. Eden Hazard – 15 (1143 minutes)

Leading the Premier League representatives in our Top 10 is Eden Hazard with a hand in 15 goals for the Blues.

The Belgian has seven goals and eight assists to his name in the league so far. Incredibly, his last Premier League goal came more than two months back and yet, he leads the Premier League contingent.

Hazard’s goal tally is only the joint ninth best in the league but he leads the assists chart in England ahead of Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser.

#5. Nicolas Pepe – 16 (1520 minutes)

The second player from Ligue 1 is Lille’s coveted 23-year-old winger, Nicolas Pepe.

Pepe rose to fame last season with Lille but he has taken his game to a whole new level this season with 11 goals and five assists to his name so far to help Lille claim the second place in the league. His goal tally is only bettered by two players in the league and his assist tally also by two players.

The Ivorian has been linked with a host of top European clubs already with Arsenal on top of that list.

#4. Sebastian Haller – 16 (1092 minutes)

Who would have thought that the only player from the Bundesliga in the Top 10 would be a player from Eintracht Frankfurt and that too so far up the list?

Haller has pipped the big guns of Bayern Munich and the stars of the highflying Borussia Dortmund with a league-leading seven assists and a second highest nine goals so far in this campaign.

The 24-year-old who moved from Dutch club FC Utrecht last season has never been capped by France at the senior level but has scored 13 goals in 20 games for the World Champions at the U-21 level.

Maybe it will be a matter of time before he plays alongside the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

#3. Neymar – 16 (1039 minutes)

Neymar has made a flying start to the current season and yet, he’s not top of the goals or assists chart in the Ligue 1 nor is he the player with the most combined assists and goals in the league in the fewest minutes.

The Brazilian had a hand in 16 goals of which he scored 11 and assisted the remaining five. Both tallies are the joint third best in Ligue 1.

Given his quality and current form, while also taking into account the ease with which PSG are cruising in the league, Neymar will definitely be in the Top 3 come the end of the season unless an injury derails his campaign.

#2. Kylian Mbappe – 16 (838 minutes)

Taking the spot of the highest placed player from Ligue 1 and the second highest placed player in Europe’s Top 5 leagues is the best young player in the world.

Kylian Mbappe has played only 838 minutes for PSG in the league this season owing to his participation in the World Cup as well as a suspension earlier in the season. Nevertheless, he’s the joint top-scorer of the league with 12 goals.

The 19-year-old has rocketed to the top of the list after scoring four goals in a 5-0 win over rivals Olympique Lyon in October.

#1. Lionel Messi – 19 (1051 minutes)

Players from #2 to #10 on this list are separated by only a difference of two goals or assists but Lionel Messi has secured top spot with a lead of three over his nearest competitor despite missing a few games this season through injury.

Messi went top of La Liga’s scoring charts over the weekend with two sumptuous free-kicks to take his tally to eleven goals for the season. He also set up a goal against Espanyol, which was his eighth of the season,  to increase his lead in the assists chart.

It’s astonishing that this man finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or voting after yet another scintillating year. Sometimes, his genius is taken for granted.

5 transfer deals Chelsea could likely seal in January

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

The current Chelsea squad needs upgrading in certain positions and clearing out in certain others. These five players are most likely to be part of the squad overhaul that will start in January.

Christian Pulisic (Permanent, In)

Very few high profile transfers happen in January but if there is one player you can bet on moving during the winter transfer window, it’s the United States’ prodigy Christian Pulisic. He has been a subject of interest from many Premier League clubs for a while now and the Blues have stepped up their interest in the wide-man in recent months.

The Dortmund man is no longer a definitive starter at the club after the emergence of Jadon Sancho. As a result, he has started only four league games so far in this campaign. In addition, he will enter the final year of his contract at the end of the season.

Chelsea currently has Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi in the first team as wingers but the futures of some of them may lie away from Stamford Bridge for varied reasons. Pulisic, 20, will prove to be a long-term solution for the Blues.

The only hindrance for a potential move if Chelsea is keen on landing him is Dortmund’s asking fee of €70m!

Danny Drinkwater (Loan or permanent, out)

Danny Drinkwater’s career has changed drastically in the space of two years. He was a crucial member of the Leicester team that won the league title in 2016 but after his big money move to Chelsea in 2017, he struggled with injuries and lack of game time. Under Maurizio Sarri, the situation has worsened with him being left out of the Europa League squad despite being a home-grown player.

Drinkwater is yet to feature for the Blues this season and is unlikely to do so under Sarri as the Italian already has Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley, Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for three midfield positions.

There are clubs interested in signing the Englishman but any club willing to do so will not pay him close to the salary he currently earns at Chelsea. Therefore, a loan move with Chelsea paying a part of his salary looks the most likely scenario at the moment.

Gary Cahill (Loan or permanent, out)

For years, Gary Cahill was a crucial member of the Chelsea defence and has helped them win numerous trophies including the Champions League and the Premier League. However, age seems to have caught up with him and he has been used as a rotational option by Sarri this season.

The 32-year-old is the club captain but he has played in only one league game so far this season with that appearance coming off the bench.

Sarri prefers Antonio Rüdiger and David Luiz as his starting pair with the young and promising Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu also at his disposal. Therefore, Cahill, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is dispensable and could be allowed to leave on loan or permanently to a club where he can make a bigger contribution.

Victor Moses (Permanent, out)

The career of Victor Moses is a peculiar one. He joined the Blues at a young age but spent a season each on loan at Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham before returning to his parent club in 2016. Back at Chelsea, he became a key member of the Chelsea side that won the league title under Antonio Conte as he was deployed as a wing-back.

As Sarri has reverted back to four at the back, Moses is left on the fringe with no place for him in the team as a full-back or as a winger.

Chelsea will be open to selling him without a hint of doubt and there will be plenty of suitors for him in the Premier League itself as the Nigerian is a home-grown player. As things stand, Crystal Palace and West Ham look like the most likely destination.

Davide Zappacosta (Permanent, out)

Davide Zappacosta has been one of Chelsea’s poorest transfers in recent years. The Italian arrived in 2017 and was expected to be an upgrade over Victor Moses but he was never able to cement his place in the starting XI.

The Italian is now a forgotten man at Stamford Bridge and is expected to be sold or at least loaned out in January if Chelsea especially if Chelsea can find a replacement. The 26-year-old has been linked with a move back to Italy and also within the Premier League as West Ham continue their search for a right-back.

5 transfer deals Manchester United could likely seal in January

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

The January transfer window could be crucial to Manchester United’s season. It remains to be seen if there will be any outgoing transfers and if Jose Mourinho will finally get the players he wants.

FOX Sports Asia looks at five transfer deals Manchester United could likely seal in January:

#1 Matteo Darmian (Out, permanent)

Matteo Darmian has been linked with a return to the Serie A ever since Jose Mourinho took over at Manchester United but somehow, he’s still at the club albeit as a squad player.

The 29-year-old has played only three games for United this season and faces stiff competition for places from the likes of Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot.

The Italian was linked with a move to Juventus and Inter Milan in the summer but now, it looks like he may stay in the Premier League as his compatriot, Claudio Ranieri, has eyed up a move for him in a bid to plug the holes in Fulham’s leaky defence. 

#2 Alexis Sanchez (Out, permanent)

Almost a year ago, Alexis Sanchez was the subject of an intense transfer battle between Manchester United and Manchester City with the former securing a deal by offering Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return.

He arrived with a lot of fanfare and expectations but he has only found the back of the net four times in 30 games and has often looked like a man bereft of confidence and unsettled in his new surroundings.

Sanchez has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford since the summer and it could eventually happen in January. However, his huge wages will prove to be a stumbling block for any potential transfer. 

#3 Nikola Milenkovic (In, permanent)

Manchester United currently has five centre-backs on its roster namely Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof. Despite this, the club was linked with a move for many central defenders including Toby Alderweireld, Diego Godin, Leonardo Bonucci and Harry Maguire among others.

United didn’t sign a centre-back in the summer so that search might continue in January and could end with the arrival of Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic.

The 21-year-old centre-back has earned rave reviews for his performance with the Viola in Serie A. Given the fact that he will need time to settle into a new league and system, a move in January will give him ample time to bed in before cementing his place in the starting XI next season much like Aymeric Laporte at Manchester City.

Fiorentina expect any interested parties to fork out £50m for the highly rated defender and if United deem him worthy of the fee, then he could be heading to England in January.

#4 Andreas Pereira (Out, permanent)

Andreas Pereira is one of many Manchester United players in the final year of their contract but unlike the others, the Brazilian isn’t a key member of the first team and could be allowed to leave in January for a nominal fee.

Pereira returned to the club ahead of the ongoing season after impressing on loan at Valencia. He impressed in pre-season and started the first two Premier League games of the campaign. Since then, he has made three further appearances in all competitions and all of them were as a substitute.

It is clear that the Brazilian doesn’t have a long-term future at the club but there were won’t be any shortage of admirers for the talented youngster.

#5 Noam Emeran (In, permanent)

Noam Emeran is not a renowned name in the football world as he’s still only 16 years old but he could be a future superstar.

The teenager plays for the reserve side of Ligue 1 club Amiens and was targeted by European giants such as PSG, Barcelona, Juventus and Valencia. However, Emeran seems to have joined United and the move could be completed in January.

The 16-year-old forward has drawn comparisons to Manchester City’s Leroy Sane and United will be hoping that Emeran can live up to the potential he has shown.

Amiens are demanding £1.8million rising with add-ons and a sell-on percentage for the promising teenager.

5 transfer deals Liverpool could likely seal in January

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Jurgen Klopp has indicated that Liverpool are unlikely to be involved in any major incoming transfers in January but there will certainly be a few players on their way out of the club either on loan or permanently.

Bear in mind that we have considered both incomings and outgoings.

Divock Origi (Out, permanent)

Divock Origi has been in the news recently after he scored a last-second winner against Everton in the Merseyside derby. However, that was only his second appearance of the season and so far, he has made only one start in all competitions.

The Belgian is currently the third choice striker at the club and has only six months left on his current contract. He had offers to leave the club in the summer but stayed put after refusing approaches from multiple clubs. However, the 23-year-old is likely to leave on a permanent deal in January.

Origi has been linked with a move to multiple clubs including Everton, Galatasaray and Wolverhampton Wanderers with the latter looking like the most likely destination.

Dominic Solanke (Out, loan)

Last season, Dominic Solanke was Liverpool’s second choice striker for most of the season and was even on the bench for the UEFA Champions League final. However, the promising youngster is yet to feature for Liverpool this season.

Solanke’s only involvement in a matchday squad this season for Liverpool was being named on the bench for a League Cup match against Chelsea. Although he hasn’t featured for Liverpool, he has been in good form for England U21.

The 21-year-old has a long-term future under Jurgen Klopp but needs to move on loan to ensure he gets regular playing time. He has been on the radar of several Premier League clubs including Wolves but he has been linked with a move to Scottish club, Rangers, managed by Steven Gerrard.

Two Liverpool academy products, Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria, are on loan at Rangers already and both players have performed well under Gerrard. Considering this, Rangers might be the best destination for Solanke.

Lazar Markovic (Out, permanent)

It’s amazing that Lazar Markovic is still a Liverpool player! He hasn’t played a competitive game for the Reds after his debut season in 2014/15 and has since played for Fenerbahce, Sporting CP, Hull City and Anderlecht on loan with little success.

Markovic was close to completing a move to Anderlecht on transfer deadline day in the summer but the move broke down after the two parties couldn’t agree on personal terms.

The Serbian has been left out of Liverpool’s Premier League squad and Champions League squad this season and has been forced to train at the club’s academy ground. The 24-year-old is also into the final six months of his contract and Liverpool will be hoping to move him on in January.

Adam Lallana (Out, permanent)

When Jurgen Klopp took over as Liverpool manager, Adam Lallana quickly became one of the key first team players at the club. However, an injury which kept him out for most of the 2017/18 season and the arrival of new players over the years has seen him fall down the pecking order.

Lallana has played just five games this season and made only three starts in all competitions. Even when he has played, he has failed to make any significant impact and has thus drawn plenty of criticism from the Liverpool fans.

The 30-year-old rarely makes the bench these days at Liverpool owing to the immense competition for places in midfield. If a suitable offer comes in for the England international, then Liverpool are likely to part ways with him in January.

Nabil Fekir (In, permanent)

Jurgen Klopp said that Liverpool will not spend heavily in January unless there is an injury crisis but a move for Nabil Fekir cannot be ruled out.

Last season, Liverpool failed to land Virgil van Dijk during the summer transfer window but they eventually signed him in January. The same could happen with Fekir and it looks like Olympique Lyon are willing to part ways with their captain as he hasn’t signed a new contract.

It is no secret that Liverpool attempted to sign Fekir before the FIFA World Cup but pulled out of the move due to reasons only known to the parties involved. There has been a lot of discussions this season about the lack of creativity in the Liverpool midfield and Fekir could be the man to solve that issue

5 best free transfers available for Premier League clubs next summer

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

The contracts of a plethora of world class players will end after the ongoing European football season which means they are available to sign a pre-contract in January. Fox Sports Asia handpicks five such superstars Premier League clubs, such as Manchester United and Chelsea, should target.

Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

It’s baffling that Arsenal are willing to let Aaron Ramsey leave on a free transfer as he has spent over ten successful years at the club despite overcoming a serious injury in his early days with the club.

The Welshman has a knack of chipping in with goals and he has scored 60 in 349 games for the North London club so far. In fact, in 2013/14, he scored 16 goals in only 34 games across all competitions. However, he’s best remembered for scoring the winning goal in the 2015 and 2017 FA Cup finals.

The 27-year-old qualifies as a home-grown player which makes his service even more valuable for the top Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City. That being said, Ramsey has also been linked with a move abroad to Bayern Munich.

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid) 

Filipe Luis will turn 34 before the start of the 2019/20 season but that shouldn’t stop top clubs from offering him a contract once his contract with Atletico Madrid expires.

Luis previously played in the Premier League for Chelsea but returned to Spain after only one season. However, a return to England cannot be ruled out.

The Brazilian left-back has a lot of top-flight and Champions League experience under his belt which could prove beneficial for more than one team. Firstly, he can be an excellent mentor for teams with young full-backs like Luke Shaw at Manchester United. Secondly, given his age, he won’t hinder the playing time of such young players as he won’t be playing week in week out.

He can be a good addition to the current Liverpool side. The Reds have Andy Robertson as their first choice left-back but the contract of their backup left-back, Alberto Moreno, ends at the end of the season. Luis can give Robertson enough rest without compromising the quality of the defence and will add some experience to the current Liverpool side which has only one player aged 30 plus.

Adrien Rabiot (PSG)

There will be a queue of clubs lining up to sign Adrien Rabiot if he doesn’t sign a new contract with PSG and the club has attempted to negotiate a new deal over the course of the ongoing season with no avail.

The 23-year-old central midfielder spent a few months of his formative years with Manchester City before returning to France to complete his football education. Now, if he is to leave PSG, then Man City is a probable destination for the player as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho.

The France international has been left out of the PSG starting XI or the matchday squad in recent weeks due to the ongoing contract dispute. In addition, PSG is reluctant to let the player leave on a free transfer. Therefore, there is a possibility that the club will sanction his sale in January for a nominal fee.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Manchester United has as many as ten first-team players in the final year of their contract including goalkeeper David De Gea. However, the club has the option for a further year and if De Gea is to leave United, then it definitely won’t be for another Premier League club. 

Anthony Martial also has a similar situation at Man Utd. He’s in the final year of his contract and the club has the option for an additional year but if he were to leave the club, there is a good chance that he will remain in the Premier League.

The Frenchman is arguably Manchester United’s best player of the season having scored eight goals in only 17 games across all competitions. He has been linked with a move to rivals Arsenal and Chelsea previously and a move to either club cannot be ruled out. Arsenal lack players who can play out wide while Chelsea may be looking at a proven Premier League players to replace Eden Hazard if he moves on in the next summer.

Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)

Toby Alderweireld was the subject of interest from Manchester United last summer but Spurs were reluctant to let him leave. He was left out of the Spurs squad several times last season and this season due to a contract dispute but he was reinstated into the starting XI due to injuries and Spurs’ lack of summer transfer activity.

The Belgian has less than one year on his current contract but Spurs have the option for an additional year. However, if Spurs activate this option then another clause comes alive which allows him to leave for only £25m next summer.

As things stand, it looks like Spurs may cash in on the player in January but if no club is willing to match their hefty asking price, then the 29-year-old might be tempted to run down his current contract and move on a free transfer in the summer with Manchester United the most likely destination

5 footballers who should have won the Ballon d’Or in the 21st century

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

The Ballon d’Or is considered the biggest individual honour in football and it is awarded using a voting system. Over the years, some players who deserved to win the coveted award failed to do so including these five from the 21st century. 

THIERRY HENRY (2004)

In 2004, Thierry Henry played a crucial role in helping Arsenal win the Premier League title undefeated. It was the first time an English club achieved this feat in over a century.

Henry’s contribution to Arsenal that season was rewarded with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season, a place in the UEFA Team of the Year and of course a place in the PFA Team of the Year.  In addition to all the honours he received, he also won the Premier League Golden Boot and the European Golden Boot.

The Premier League triumph was followed by an FA Community Shield win over Manchester United and the Frenchman ended the year with 46 goals for both club and country.

Despite everything Henry achieved, the Ballon d’Or went to Andriy Shevchenko who also won the league and domestic super cup with AC Milan. However, the Frenchman had a much better goalscoring record. The more surprising fact is that Henry was fourth in the Ballon d’Or voting behind Schevchenko, Deco and Ronaldinho.

ANDRES INIESTA (2010)

Andres Iniesta was at the peak of his career in 2010. He played a pivotal role in winning the La Liga for his side that year but it was his heroics for Spain that made him a big contender for the Ballon d’Or.

When Spain travelled to South Africa for the World Cup, Iniesta was nursing an injury and had to be subbed off in Spain’s defeat to Switzerland. He was then rested in the win against Honduras, but returned for the crucial final group stage game against Chile, scoring the second goal in a 2-1 win. The Spaniard was given the man of the match award for his performance. 

He was also named the man of the match in the quarter-final win over Paraguay. However, it was his third man of the match performance that mattered the most as it was in the final of the World Cup where he scored the only goal of the game.

Despite an excellent year for both club and country, Iniesta came second in the Ballon d’Or voting behind Lionel Messi.

WESLEY SNEIJDER (2010)

In 2010, there should have been only two main contenders for the Ballon d’Or. One is Andres Iniesta as we’ve already mentioned and the other is Wesley Sneijder. There are no two ways about it. 

Sneijder moved to Inter Milan ahead of the 2009/10 season and in his first season with the club, he won the historic treble. He scored some crucial goals for Inter that year and set up Diego Milito’s first goal in the Champions League final. In 2010, he also won the Supercoppa Italiana with Inter.

The Dutchman carried his club form into the World Cup and was named the man of the match in Netherlands’ games against Denmark, Japan, Brazil and Uruguay. The latter two games were the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. He also scored his team’s winning goals in the games against Japan, Slovakia and Brazil. Although the Netherlands lost in the final, Sneijder was given the Silver Ball for the tournament’s second best player. He was also the tournament’s joint top scorer with five goals along with Diego Forlan, Thomas Muller and David Villa.

Sneijder, who was named the best club midfielder in 2010 by UEFA, only finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or voting behind Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

FRANCK RIBERY (2013)

Franck Ribery, like Wesley Sneijder, is another player who missed out on the Ballon d’Or award after a treble-winning season. After helping Bayern win the treble, Ribery also won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in the same year.

Ribery was voted the best player in the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13 and was also named the UEFA Player of the Year ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, when the Ballon d’Or votes were out, Ribery only finished third behind the winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, and ultimately Lionel Messi. He felt grave injustice after he was denied the award and rightly so as Ronaldo didn’t win any honours that year with Real Madrid.

MANUEL NEUER (2014)

Manuel Neuer is the second Bayern Munich player in this list to finish third in the Ballon d’Or voting behind the winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi. However, Messi only had 0.04% votes more than Neuer.

That year, the German goalkeeper won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich and followed it up with a World Cup triumph while also winning the tournament’s Golden Glove. He was also named Footballer of the Year in Germany, IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper, UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year and the L’Équipe Player of the Year

In the history of the Ballon d’Or, only one goalkeeper has won it so the fact that Neuer reached the top three and got 15.72% of the votes in itself is a fantastic achievement. The German will rue the missed opportunity, however. 

————
Watch all three FOX Sports channels live on the FOX+ app. For more info on FOX+, click here or to start your free 30 day trial, download the FOX+ app.

The 5 worst signings made by Pep Guardiola

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Pep Guardiola has made some terrific signings like Gerard Pique, Joshua Kimmich and Leroy Sane at the clubs he has managed. However, thanks to his success, the other side of the spectrum has often been overlooked. So, take a look at his five worst signings.

5. NOLITO (Celta Vigo to Manchester City)

Nolito was one of Guardiola’s first signings as Manchester City manager. The Spaniard cost City £13.8 million from Celta Vigo for whom he scored 39 goals in 100 league games. He started well in the Premier League but found opportunities hard to come by after Leroy Sane broke into the starting XI.

The following season, City added Bernardo Silva to their roster and that signalled the end of the Spaniard’s career in England. He was sold to Sevilla for €9 million after making just nine starts for City. Nolito was happy to leave the club as he struggled with English and his family was unsettled in the country.

4. CLAUDIO BRAVO (Barcelona to Manchester City)

When Guardiola arrived at City, he opted to replace the club’s long-term servant Joe Hart in goal and signed a 33-year-old Claudio Bravo from Barcelona for £17 million. Bravo arrived at City after a couple of excellent seasons with Barcelona and also after winning back to back Copa America titles with Chile.

However, his first season in England was nothing short of a disaster. On his debut against Manchester United, he made an error leading to a goal but City still ended up on the winning side. This was the start of many high-profile errors from the Chilean.

Eventually, he was dropped to the bench by Guardiola in favour of Willy Caballero and Bravo ended the season with a save percentage of 54.1 which was the worst in the league. The following season, Guardiola signed Ederson Moraes as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper and Bravo was demoted to the bench.

3. DMYTRO CHYGRYNSKIY (Shakhtar Donetsk to Barcelona)

In August 2009, Guardiola signed Ukrainian defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhtar Donetsk for €25 million. He arrived at the club after helping Shakhtar win the UEFA Cup in 2008/09 and he became the first player from his country to play for Barcelona.

Chygrynskiy was signed because of his ball playing abilities and aerial dominance. However, he struggled to break into a side that already had Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Gabriel Milito and Rafael Marquez. He played only 14 games in all competitions for Barcelona and in 12 league games, he totalled 851 minutes. The Ukrainian was sold back to Shakhtar in the very next summer for €15 million.


2. KEIRRISON (Palmeiras to Barcelona)

Keirrison is not only one of Guardiola’s worst signings, but he might also be one of Barcelona’s worst signings ever. He signed for Barcelona in 2009 after impressing in his homeland with Coritiba and Palmeiras. However, immediately after joining the club, the striker was loaned out to Benfica so that he could adjust to football in Europe away from the limelight of Barcelona.

At Benfica, he started one match and played a total of 199 minutes without scoring before returning to Barcelona midway through the season only to go on another unsuccessful loan, this time to Fiorentina.

Keirrison had further disappointing loan spells in the subsequent seasons with Santos, Cruzeiro and Coritiba before his Barcelona contract was terminated in 2014 without him ever representing the club. He returned to Cortiba but has not found the form that earned him a move to Barcelona.

1. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (Inter Milan to Barcelona)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is considered one of Guardiola’s worst signings despite the Swede scoring 21 goals in his only season under the Spanish manager. 

Ibrahimovic signed for Barcelona in 2009 from Inter and he was expected to be Barcelona’s first-choice striker. However, during the course of the 2009/10 season, Guardiola opted to play Lionel Messi in a false-nine position and as a result, Ibrahimovic was left on the bench which didn’t go down well with the player.

The relationship between Guardiola and Ibrahimovic quickly turned sour and the player was allowed to leave after only one season. Ibrahimovic cost Barcelona around £59 million and it was baffling why Guardiola wanted a player of his stature at the club if he was going to be left on the bench often. 

After leaving Barcelona, Ibrahimovic has hit out at Guardiola on numerous occasions. He has used several insults to describe the manager and called the current Manchester City manager a ‘spineless coward’ in his autobiography. 

The eight fastest Liverpool players this season revealed! And the fastest is not one you would expect!

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have earned a reputation as two of the fastest players in the game at the moment but are they really the fastest players in the squad? A look at the highest top speed clocked by the Liverpool squad this season tells a different story! 

Liverpool has made a name as one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe under Jurgen Kopp and it goes without saying that pacey players are a necessity for this particular brand of football.

The Reds’ forwards Salah and Mane are often described as the quickest players in the game at the moment and players such as Philippe Coutinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold named Salah as the fastest player in the team when quizzed. Even Mane believes Salah is quicker than him.  However, according to FIFA 19, Mane is the 10th fastest player in the game while Salah wasn’t even in the Top 20.

So, when Dailymail revealed the eight fastest Liverpool players so far this season, most people would have picked either Salah or Mane to top the list. In reality, Mane is the third fastest player in the team and Salah, the sixth fastest!

Now, the question is, who is the fastest player in the squad?

The honour goes to JOE GOMEZ!

In the game against Leicester earlier this season, Gomez was clocked at a top sprint speed of 21.6 mph! In the 1-1 draw against Chelsea, Gomez chased down Willian who had a head start to fairly deny the Brazilian a great goalscoring chance and many fans noticed how quick the 21-year-old was. However, few would have expected him to top the charts. 

Liverpool’s defensive stalwart, Virgil van Dijk, is the second fastest player in the team with a top speed of 21.5 mph.

“Virgil van Dijk is quick and he has hit some good speeds, too. Obviously, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are fast. Mo and Virgil have bantered about having a race but I think a few of us would fancy ourselves. Not that the sports science team would allow it. I think over the first 10 yards me and Virgil would be looking at Sadio and Mo’s backs. But we may claw some back towards the end.” Gomez said in his recent interview with The Daily Mail.

Interestingly, Gomez is also the second fastest defender in the Premier League,  only behind Huddersfield Town’s Terrence Kongolo who reached 21.66 mph.

Here is the full list of Liverpool’s eight fastest players of the 2018-19 season so far. 

#8. Georginio Wijnaldum – 20.7 mph

#7. Roberto Firmino – 20.9 mph

#6. Mohamed Salah – 20.9 mph

#5. Andrew Robertson – 21 mph

#4. Trent Alexander-Arnold – 21.1 mph

#3. Sadio Mane – 21.4 mph

#2. Virgil van Dijk – 21.5 mph

#1. Joe Gomez – 21.6 mph

Credit: The Daily Mail

Interestingly, all four of Liverpool’s first choice defenders are on the list which is good news for the Reds. Liverpool plays a high-line under Klopp with the full-backs joining the attack at every opportunity they get. In such a system, it is a huge plus to have quick defenders as their recovery pace can stop the opposition from hitting Liverpool on the counter.

Meet Alphonso Davies – the prodigy Bayern Munich imported from the MLS

“Downward spiral” must change says Ljungberg – but he refuses to give up on top four

On 25 July 2018, Bayern Munich announced that they have an agreement with MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps to sign 17-year-old Alphonso Davies for an MLS record $13.5 million. Davies is set to join Bayern at the end of the 2018 MLS season but who exactly is he and why did Bayern pay a hefty fee to secure his signature?

Bayern Munich is the fourth richest club in the world and one of the league champions from Europe’s Top 5 leagues. What sets them apart from the rest of the champions in the top 5 leagues is their refusal to splurge. The cost of their record signing is significantly smaller than that of last season’s champions of England, Spain, Italy and France.  

In addition, of all the teams that reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League last season, Bayern has the lowest transfer spending in the last two years. Even lower than AS Roma and Sevilla. Now that we have established that Bayern doesn’t splurge nor do they take gambles, there has to be a reason why they spent a significant transfer fee on a rather unproven teenager playing in the MLS.

BACKGROUND

Alphonso Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the civil war in Liberia which displaced more than 450,000 people. Like every refugee, his family also yearned a better life and when Alphonso was five-years-old, his family found asylum in Canada.

“It was hard to live because the only way you survive sometimes is you have to carry guns. We didn’t have any interest in shooting guns. So, we decided to just escape from there. They have a program called resettlement, and they said ‘OK, you have to fill in a form for Canada.’ We went through the interview and everything, and made it, and came over here.” – Alphonso’s father, Debeah, recollects.

His family worked long hours to make ends meet and he helped in raising his two younger siblings. Even as a child, people noticed him for his footballing abilities that defied his age and he had the opportunity to join The St. Nicholas Soccer Academy. By the age of 14, he was enrolled in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program. When Alphonso joined Whitecaps, he was initially part of its U16 team but within months, he went from U16 to U18 to Whitecaps Football Club to the senior team.

A record breaker and the face of Canadian football

On 15 July 2016, Alphonso signed a first-team contract with Whitecaps and the following day, he made his MLS debut aged 15 years, eight months and 15 days old to become the second youngest player in the league’s history behind Freddy Adu. He also became the first player born in the 2000s to play in an MLS match.

After his debut season in the MLS, he caught the eye of European giants like Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. However, he stayed with Whitecaps and his development in the next two seasons was exponential.

By the end of the 2017 MLS season, Davies played 48 games for Whitecaps and had four goals and assists each to his name. However, in the 2018 season, his numbers improved drastically as he racked up 6 goals and 10 assists in only 32 games. His improved performance didn’t go unnoticed as he was included in the 2018 MLS All-Star squad.   

After breaking through with Whitecaps, Alphonso represented Canada’s junior teams but he was only eligible to play for the senior side after he received his Canadian citizenship in June 2017. In the same month, he made his debut for the senior team and in July he made history with his brace against French Guiana to become Canada’s youngest goalscorer, the youngest player to score at a Gold Cup and also the first player born in the 21st century to score at a major international tournament. He also scored against Costa Rica in the very next game to claim the tournament’s Golden Boot.

A week after he received his Canadian citizenship, he delivered a moving speech on behalf of North America’s ‘United bid’ to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup at the FIFA Congress.

STYLE OF PLAY

The soon to be 18-year-old is a pacey winger who’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet. His close control, eye for a pass, dribbling skills and the tricks up his sleeve are the perfect attributes for a winger. The notable improvement in his end product this year is an encouraging sign as it shows that he’s working hard on his game. 

A lot of promising forwards are forced to develop the defensive side of their game when they play for top European clubs but that shouldn’t be an issue for Alphonso as he doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties.

LA Galaxy striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is usually reserved with his praise of other players but Zlatan, who is refugee himself, only had words of encouragement for the youngster. 

“If he’s going to Bayern, then he’s a good player. They don’t choose bad players, especially young ones. At a club like Bayern, he will learn a lot. If they saw something, they saw something big, because they don’t get anyone just like that.”

“I just hope he’s ready when he goes there, because when he arrives he will be lonely and the competition will be big, so he needs to be mentally strong. And when he sees the big players, not show too much respect. You’re going there for a reason because you’re part of the team. Then it’s up to him to do the rest, so I see a bright future!” – Ibrahimovic said after his side’s win over Whitecaps in October.

Alphonso will join the Bayern squad in January 2019 and it will take him a while to adjust to the new surroundings and cope with the demands of European football. However, he has the potential to become a first-team player at Bayern and be their long-term replacement for the ageing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.