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BREAKING NEWS: Liverpool and Dortmund have reached an agreement over the transfer of Reus. They've agreed it's never going to happen. [emoji23]

It reminds me the day when we signed Hector and Djilobodji on the same day.

David Moyes is that ugly bloke at the nightclub who gets to 2am and just tries chatting up every girl. Take a hint dude - no-one likes you.

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De Ligt: ‘I want to be as good as possible, not a copycat of someone else’

https://theathletic.com/2278439/2020/12/25/de-ligt-interview-juventus/

De Ligt exclusive: Juventus, Pirlo, Bonucci, Chiellini – The Athletic

Matthijs de Ligt lofted a pass into the Turin sky and must have found it difficult to suppress a smile as the ball began its descent. Trapping it and sending it back was his new coach, il Maestro himself, Andrea Pirlo. As De Ligt recovered from shoulder surgery, this is how he spent some of his time between rehab sessions at Juventus’ state-of-the-art Continassa training facility. “I was like: Whaaat?! I’m now playing long balls with Pirlo,” he says, conveying the sense of wonder he experienced. It was one of those pinch-yourself moments when dream and reality suddenly merge with the thud and whoosh of a ball, when the realisation is so astounding you question where you are, doubt what you’re seeing and wonder how it is you’ve come this far in so short a space of time.

As much as the opportunity to have a kickabout with Pirlo would represent a highlight for just about any football fan, to De Ligt there was added poignance owing to the memories of his time coming through the ranks at Ajax’s legendary academy, De Toekomst, AKA The Future. “When I was 15, I played in midfield,” De Ligt explains. “I was a No 6 and I had two examples: Sergio Busquets and Pirlo.” His role changed shortly thereafter when Wim Jonk, the former director of Ajax’s youth sector, persuaded De Ligt his potential was better served at centre-back. Jonk’s vision was evidently not limited to the blistering shots he used to hit for Inter Milan and Sheffield Wednesday. As observations go this one was particularly astute.

Within two years De Ligt broke into the first team at Ajax and one record after another fell around him. He became the youngest player to make his debut for Holland since 1931. No one had ever started a major European final for his club as early in his career as he did at 17 and De Ligt was captaining Ajax not long after. His agent Mino Raiola predicts he’ll be prime minister soon. “It’s not my ambition,” De Ligt says, briefly laughing at the notion of him taking office in the Binnenhof. “I’m focusing on my football. That’s the thing that I love.”

In typically bold and playful fashion, Raiola was making a point about his client’s “irreproachable” character. De Ligt strikes you as a born leader. Even a club as famous for giving youth a chance as Ajax had never had a captain as young as De Ligt and the responsibility wasn’t too great for him either. The team hit heights it had not reached since before he was born and a new generation of football fans all around the world learned what Ajax are all about just as mine did through the 90s and my parents’ did in the 70s.

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The success he was a part of and promise of his talent led Tuttosport to name De Ligt the Golden Boy. France Football then presented him with the Kopa Trophy after Ajax did the double for the first time in almost two decades and, even more astonishingly, won at the Bernabeu and the Allianz Stadium on the way to reaching the final four of the Champions League. De Ligt’s goal in Turin led his future team-mate, the Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, to quip that, as with Cristiano Ronaldo, it is now the club’s strategy to buy the players who knock them out of the competition.

Moving to the Serie A champions for an initial €75 million was the obvious choice for a centre-back eager to benefit from the experience and know-how of the best in the world in his position. Raiola calls the “marriage” between De Ligt and the Old Lady a “perfect” match.

“I’m really lucky,” De Ligt says, “as I’m playing with almost everybody I’d be watching if I was a young player.” The exception is Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos who he likes to study on TV. “(Leonardo) Bonucci is really good in the build-up so I talk to him about that and watch what he is doing. (Giorgio) Chiellini is really good at marking so I’m trying to learn from him too. I play with (Virgil) van Dijk (at national team level). In the end though it’s so important that you develop your own game and don’t start being a copycat of somebody else. It’s about improving your own game and making yourself as good as possible.”

Before Manchester United played this side of the Alps in the Champions League a couple of years ago, Jose Mourinho described Juventus as the Harvard of defending and it’s hard to think of a better place for De Ligt to continue his further education even if he looks at it as a process of “fine-tuning” his game and becoming “more complete”.

“It’s a big challenge for a defender to prove yourself in a country like Italy as a non-Italian,” he says. “I think that’s a great challenge and I love great challenges. I thought this was the best step for me and I don’t regret it. I’m really happy with my choice.”

De Ligt, Chiellini

Make it here as a defender and you can make it anywhere. As De Ligt alludes to, establishing yourself as a foreign player when Italy has always lent on its defensive traditions to staff its back lines is a rare feat. Even as Serie A becomes faster, looser and more attacking, Italians still derive a lot of pride from producing the best centre-backs around. Hall of Fame defences trip off the end of the tongue. At Juventus one generation’s Scirea, Gentile, Brio and Cabrini is another’s Bonucci, Chiellini and Barzagli.  The outliers in these all-Italian units are the likes of Igor Tudor, now a member of Pirlo’s staff, the grizzled Uruguayan, Paolo Montero, who acted as Zinedine Zidane’s unofficial bodyguard, and best of all Lilian Thuram who, unlike De Ligt, arrived in Turin after years of defending in Serie A. The French World Cup winner also ended up playing in front of the same goalkeeper and beside the same centre-back partner as in Parma where Gigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro were his team-mates.

For De Ligt it was all new. “A lot of things changed for me,” he explains. “I changed the way of defending. I changed the side I play on from right to left. I changed countries. I changed team-mates.” Juventus were also undergoing a philosophical shift in how they protect their goal. After years of playing man-to-man and being comfortable defending in their own penalty area, Maurizio Sarri broke with the past and wanted the team to adopt a zonal system with a much higher line. De Ligt wasn’t the only one learning. Bonucci, 33, and Chiellini, 36, were too.

“It was really different because at Ajax I was used to watching the striker,” he recalls. “That was my reference. At Juventus I suddenly had to forget all that I learned at Ajax and try to look to my team-mates.” Sarri wanted Juventus to defend as one. Each unit, the defence, midfield and the attack played as if they were joined by a piece of string. “I was not used to it,” De Ligt says. “In the beginning I had a lot of times when I was doubting (myself). What should I do now? Obviously at the top those milliseconds are important. Maybe sometimes I was a little bit too late or too early.” The standard of competition was higher too. “I think the biggest difference (between Serie A and the Eredivisie) is that every game you play against a striker who is good, who can make it difficult for you. In Holland sometimes you play against teams where you only had the ball so it was easier. Now every day is a big test.”

The first four months were hard. Chiellini tore his knee ligaments a week into the season and De Ligt was fast-tracked into the starting line-up. A strict interpretation of the handball rule led to a boom in penalties being awarded against teams. Juventus gave away 12. It led Szczesny to joke that his centre-backs wanted to glove up and take his place in goal.

By November time though, De Ligt was starting to hit his stride. His first goal for his new club was the winner in the Derby della Mole and he shone in the 3-1 win against Atalanta in Bergamo, an epic performance in which he dislocated his shoulder, popped it back in and put off surgery until the end of what turned out to be the longest season ever.

De Ligt, Juventus

“It was not easy because obviously you had a lot of pain,” De Ligt says. “To be honest I’m not a defender who uses their arm so much. You have a lot of defenders who use their arms and push. I’m more explosive in my legs so I didn’t have too much trouble playing.” Merih Demiral’s knee blow-out in January meant there was little or no rotation even when the season restarted. But De Ligt didn’t want to rest. His desire was to play a major role in Juventus winning the league and win it he did.

You have to go a long way back in the club’s history, way before Scirea even, to find a centre-back starting as many games at his age in black and white. In his book, Chiellini writes: “I could see how good (Matthijs) was straight away. It didn’t take too many training sessions to realise that. He’s different, special.” Fabio Paratici, the club’s chief football officer, particularly enjoyed seeing pundits who doubted De Ligt eat their words and become converts “after lots of them, almost everyone, criticised him at the start”.

De Ligt expected scrutiny. “In Italy they ask a lot of defenders,” he says. “It’s not possible to make a mistake. They’re hard on them.” At the turn of the year he started making fewer and fewer. The Dutchman was practically flawless, stepping out from the back and reading the play in front of him with all the grace and anticipation of Roger Federer, a hero of De Ligt, when he goes to the net at Wimbledon. Moving back to the right side in the new year was regarded as a turning point but he doesn’t see it that way.”This season I’ve played on the left a lot (under Pirlo) and I can now say I am comfortable either way.”

Upon his return from injury this season, he picked up where he left off, even though Juventus are defending differently again.

“In the build-up I think we have more flexibility compared to last year,” he explains. “Last year was always 4-3-3. Everything was really clear regarding what we had to do. But sometimes we maybe lacked flexibility. Now we have more flexibility. I like it a lot. It’s a little similar to Ajax. I think now it’s more about the intuition of the player and when I feel like I can do what I want, then everything is fine.”

The uptick in his performances in the spring wasn’t tactical then. It instead came down to being more familiar with the system, the league and his team-mates’ tendencies. His command of a new language also improved as he showed in a post-match interview after he scored from outside the box in Udine in July. Sky Italia’s sideline reporter popped De Ligt a question in English and was surprised to get a reply in Italian. “Communication is one of the most important things,” he acknowledges. “I really feel that by improving my Italian everybody understands me and knows what kind of a person I am. It makes it a lot easier on the pitch and off it too.”

De Ligt, Juventus

De Ligt has been charmed by Turin and when I ask him what he likes about it he turns me inside-out as if escaping the press of a flat-footed striker. “Ask me what I don’t like about Turin,” he says because that would be a much harder question to answer. The region is home to the Slow Food movement (promoting local food and traditional cooking) and the Langhe is where some of the world’s finest wines are produced. “Before (I came to Italy) I ate a lot of pizza,” he says, “Not any more.” On the night of our interview, De Ligt was sampling some of the famous truffles from the area with his team-mate Federico Chiesa and their partners. Food aside, settling here has been easier because the city is similar in spirit to his own.

“My girlfriend (the model AnneKee Molenaar) and I grew up in a really quiet town in Holland with a lot of nature around it,” De Ligt explains. “You were saying a lot of people want to go to Milan or Rome but what I like about Turin is it’s quite silent. There aren’t too many tourists. There’s not too much traffic. You have a lot of nice parks, nice woods.”

The couple are very grounded. They adopted two dogs at the start of the year, Bella and Luna, and take them for walks in the countryside. As much as practising against Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala has sharpened De Ligt’s instincts, his pets also keep him on his toes. “They’re fast,” he laughs, “I train to defend with them.” As they run loose, De Ligt finds the outdoors “calming” and that’s the aura he gives off on the field. “It’s important to be calm,” he agrees. “Not too calm though.”

De Ligt, Juventus

The mature and measured De Ligt is, as Raiola says, no extrovert but he is assured, assertive and increasingly accomplished. When he is not enjoying one of the goalkeepers’ gags — “Buffon is a good joker”  — De Ligt’s drive and determination, the seriousness with which he applies himself, is reminiscent of Juventus’ vice-president Pavel Nedved and Chiellini, who found time to get top marks for his thesis in business administration from the University of Turin in between winning titles.

When the Juventus captain retires he will do so knowing the defence is in safe hands. Raiola believes De Ligt has what it takes to become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Cannavaro in 2006. Time will tell. De Ligt points to the “hunger” Buffon continues to possess at 42 and the indefatigable Cristiano Ronaldo who shows no sign of slowing down. “He gives 100 per cent every day so you have to give 110 per cent to stop him,” De Ligt says. “I just want to learn from these guys and become a better player.”

For now, his focus is on putting the work in and seeing where it takes him.

 

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EFL transfer targets: Rico Henry, the Brentford full-back wise beyond his years

https://theathletic.com/2271332/2020/12/27/rico-henry-brentford/

Rico Henry: The complete full-back wise beyond his years – The Athletic

In the second in a new series profiling the EFL players attracting interest from Premier League clubs, Nick Miller analyses Rico Henry, the 23-year-old Brentford left-back wanted by West Ham and Aston Villa. 


Thomas Frank’s face lights up when the name Rico Henry is mentioned.

“You always love your own children,” the Brentford manager says. “He’s one of my 25 sons in my squad. Of course, I absolutely love him.”

And so he should. The last 18 months has felt like a gaping chasm of unimaginably long time in the real world but in a football career, it really isn’t a particularly long time to make a lasting impression. In that time, though, Henry has gone from a promising youngster whose career was looking in danger of being badly hampered by injury to the best left-back in the Championship.

Along with being among the best teams in the second tier, Brentford have become a sort of gourmet talent buffet, finding players in places nobody else thought to look then cooking them just so, before teams with more money but less patience help themselves. The list of players they have sold at great profit over the last few years includes — but is not limited to — Andre Gray, James Tarkowski, Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma (initially on loan), Neal Maupay, Chris Mepham and Scott Hogan.

The year they sold half a team to Birmingham at a very tidy profit before finishing a breezy 23 points above them in the table was particularly poetic.

Henry is probably the next on the list of graduates. He may well have gone last summer if Brentford hadn’t already got £28 million for Watkins and had another £25 million coming down the pipe for Benrahma. A move then may have been a little early for him but even in the few months of this season, he has kicked on even further.

If anyone needs an attacking left-back, able to play as wing-back and probably a winger if you asked him to, with energy, pace and a keen defensive awareness, Henry is your man — and there aren’t too many clubs, in the bottom half of the Premier League particularly, who don’t fall into that category. West Ham were reportedly keen in the summer, Aston Villa too, and come January, the queue will undoubtedly grow.

People talk about Henry’s wisdom exceeding his 23 years, which is partly because this is his eighth season as a senior professional. He was brought into the first-team set-up at Walsall aged 16, when Dean Smith was their manager, and made his debut in 2014, impressing everyone thoroughly until a dislocated shoulder checked his progress.

“He more or less forced our hand to play him really,” Jon Whitney, who was Smith’s assistant at Walsall and would go on to manage the club, tells The Athletic. “You get some young players who you just know are going to break through. Even at a young age, he played with an old head on his shoulders.

Brentford, Rico Henry, Carabao Cup

“He just gave that energy to the team. He lifted the crowd. That was a big thing we wanted to do: we had a few older players and I think we were looking at that transition of getting a much younger team and more energy into it.”

Smith left for Brentford midway through the 2015-16 season and the following summer, Henry followed. Injuries again stalled his progress: that dislocated shoulder still proved troublesome and delayed his debut until the February of his first season. Then an unbroken run in the team was ended by a knee injury. He returned at the start of the 2017-18 season but the knee went again in his eighth game back, surgery ensued, and he didn’t return for 14 months.

By the time he was fit again, Smith had left for Aston Villa, so Henry had to establish himself all over again with a new manager but it’s fair to say that, in the intervening two years, he has managed that. “Is he the best in division?” Frank says. “Others must judge that but he’s he’s definitely up there among the best.”

The determination and maturity Henry has shown over these past couple of years has been there since the start.

“His pace got him out of a lot of trouble,” says Whitney of those early days at Walsall, “but he started to really get better tactically, especially with Dean, who he had a really good connection with.

“He just went from strength to strength, really. The more responsibility you gave Rico, the better he got, and I think you also see that now. I think he’s become a lot more robust and resilient.

“He’s always somebody who will go the extra mile for his fitness. I remember him doing some extra work with a performance coach even when he was at Walsall: you had to keep the reins on him a little bit so he didn’t do too much, which is always easier than trying to kick somebody up the backside.”

Brentford have reached the stage where any player they have is almost pre-approved — such is their record at polishing talent for the Premier League that you basically assume anyone they deem good enough is probably good enough for anyone — but Henry would stand out in any team, mainly because he’s essentially the complete modern full-back.

You notice Henry because of his pace, zooming up and down the flank in an era where full-backs are now basically expected to be wing-backs or even de facto wingers. But attacking full-backs are ten-a-penny: you know you’ve got the real thing when they can defend properly, too.

“He’s extremely good defensively,” Frank says. “Almost no one is going past him — very, very few times. He’s so aggressive and maybe you think you’re going past him but then, oops! He’s there again.”

“He catches the eye because he is a forward-thinking, modern-day full-back,” adds Whitney. “His strength is defending from the front.”

There are things to improve, of course. Frank says they’ve been working on his crossing, and decision-making in the final third. “His composure is something we’re talking about, to consistently try to force him to to to get good positions and maybe have that extra half a second.”

But you can be pretty sure that Henry will improve those things.

“Rico only has either zero or 100 per cent,” says Frank. “He can’t go in between.”

 

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EFL transfer targets: Michael Olise, the Reading winger destined for the top

https://theathletic.com/2276088/2020/12/26/reading-michael-olise/

Michael Olise: Reading winger wanted by Premier League clubs – The Athletic

In the first in a new series profiling the EFL players attracting interest from Premier League clubs, Nick Miller analyses Michael Olise, the 19-year-old Reading midfielder with a tempting release clause…


Michael Olise picked up the ball deep on the right touchline, deftly controlling a slightly errant pass. He had two defenders on him instantly, the sort of special treatment that a glowing talent like him has come to expect, even though this was on his 19th birthday and he only really established himself as a first-team regular midway through the previous season.

It was the 89th minute of an away game against Queens Park Rangers in November. The score was 0-0 and the west Londoners were digging in, seemingly settling for a point; not unreasonably so against a Reading team who were 12 points and 13 places higher in the table. Just shut down this nascent attack. Hold on and take the draw.

Olise headed down the line, seemingly running straight into the narrow channel that his two markers, Macauley Bonne and Niko Hamalainen, wanted him to run into. Then came a sudden snap of his hips, a near-180-degree turn and a flick back with his left foot. Olise had rope-a-doped the two QPR players into opening up a pocket of space inside, into which he moved before playing a sharp one-two with Tom McIntyre as Bonne scrambled to recover the situation.

From there, things were straightforward: all Olise had to do was lope infield, pull back his left foot and pass the ball into the corner of the net from nearly 30 yards out.

This was just the latest bit of brilliance from Olise, probably the most promising attacking talent in the Championship right now, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

“He was maybe the most wonderful and fantastic talent I’ve worked with,” Jose Gomes, the former Reading manager who gave Olise his senior debut, tells The Athletic. “And look — I’ve worked with very strong academies, at Porto, Benfica, Panathinaikos, Malaga, with a lot of important and big talents.”

The son of Nigerian parents, Olise was born in France and represented them at the Toulon Tournament last summer, but is eligible for England, where he grew up. Nominally, he’s a No 10 but you could stick him anywhere across the attacking line and he’d probably still be the best player on the pitch.

“Michael is really special,” continues Gomes. “He can see, even before receiving the ball, more options than regular players. His technical ability and speed, decision capacity is really, really good.”

He’s a player made for a YouTube compilation, who constantly looks like he’s showing off for someone in the crowd. These sound like insults but they’re a crucial part of his game. He’s productive alongside the flamboyance.

He has seven assists to his name this season, the most of any player in the Championship, placing him ahead of proven Premier League creators such as Emiliano Buendia (six assists), David Brooks (five) and Harry Wilson (four). In the opening weeks of the season, Reading were a tricky team to get a handle on. They were a side who had taken the fewest shots in the division but only dropped two points in their first eight games, but when you’ve got a creator pinging in pinpoint set pieces or drawing three men to leave a colleague in acres of space, or playing absurd reverse passes through gaps water might think twice about penetrating, then you might not actually need many shots to score.

In terms of gait and running style, he resembles a left-footed Jesse Lingard. However, there are more tricks — lots more tricks. The way he teases defenders by showing them just enough of the ball before flicking it away is cruel, almost like dangling a treat for a dog but jerking it out of reach just as the gullible pet/defender jumps for it. Simply put, he often looks like he’s taking the piss. He’s the sort of player that you’d watch and think, “I bet he gets kicked a lot in training”. And, as it turns out, you’d be right.

“At times, he had this little bit of arrogance about him in training,” says Mark Bowen, the man who was Reading’s director of football and then replaced Gomes last year. “If he overstepped the mark with it, which he did once or twice, you’d have players like a Liam Moore, who would fly in and leave something on him.”

Being hoofed in the air by a hoary old veteran might discourage some youngsters, but Olise isn’t among them.

“The one thing that really stood out for me was even during those training sessions, if he got clobbered or clumped by any player, he would bounce straight back up. That was unusual because young players coming in, they’re often a little bit of a shrinking violet. He wasn’t like that. He would basically get back up, wipe himself down and get on with things. I thought, ‘That shows he’s got a good level of maturity’.”

On top of everything else, Olise is potentially a bargain. The Athletic understands he has an £8 million release clause in his contract, meaning that even in these times of COVID-straitened budgets, he wouldn’t even be that much of a risk for any Premier League club who’d like a rough but still sparkling diamond to polish some more. Spurs have been watching him for some time and half the Premier League have been credited with an interest.

The obvious question to ask is, in this world of sophisticated scouting operations, where big clubs seem to know who the best young talents at EFL clubs are before the clubs themselves do, if he’s this good, why hasn’t Olise been snapped up before? And, indeed, why was he not signed up by the academies of Chelsea and Manchester City, where he spent some time earlier in his career?

Bowen explains, about watching Olise playing for Reading’s reserves: “He’d be playing in a wide area and do a little bit of brilliance, but then lose the ball. And then he’d walk back. You could see in his mind it would almost be, ‘Yeah, OK, it didn’t happen today but I didn’t really want to be here. It’s reserve-team football’.” It took a while to actually get into him that every game he plays. There are people watching him.

“I said, ‘Those are the times when you’ve got to be running harder than everybody else, working harder than everybody else. If things aren’t going right for you on the ball, then those people who think you’re a good player will still come back and forgive you that’.”

Elements of those concerns still linger. Current Reading manager Veljko Paunovic left him out of a few games recently and offered a hint as to why when he said: “You can expect, from the young players, a certain lack of understanding of the big picture.” But it’s perhaps telling that in two of the games Olise has come off the bench, he’s provided a goal and an assist.

“We cannot forget he’s a kid,” says Gomes. “He’s very young, he’s growing and he needs a lot of support. Because without this support, maybe he cannot show all of this talent.”

Olise will be playing in the Premier League sooner or later. It could be January, it might be after that. At the moment, it just feels like a question of which club will make the decisive move, rather than whether any of them will.

“He deserves everything,” says Gomes. “If my words can give him strength and confidence, it’s my obligation to do it.”

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Juventus warned off Man Utd star Paul Pogba but told to complete Harry Kane mega swap deal

Fabio Capello believes Juventus should not look to swap Paulo Dybala for Manchester United's Paul Pogba but would look to land Tottenham striker Harry Kane if he could.

https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1377955/Juventus-warned-off-Man-Utd-star-Paul-Pogba-but-told-complete-Harry-Kane-mega-swap-deal

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3 minutes ago, killer1257 said:

I think they are best friends or they are very close

Gesendet von meinem VOG-L29 mit Tapatalk

Thought them being BFFs is common knowledge, no? :lol: Go check their Instagram accounts.

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