Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Manchester United fear Wayne Rooney could be out for the rest of the season

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney could reportedly miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

The England international was substituted in the 88th minute of the Red Devils' 3-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday.

While tests are yet to confirm the extent of the injury, The Telegraph reports that there are fears at Old Trafford that Rooney has suffered ligament damage and could be sidelined for a month.

Despite the possible layoff, it is believed that Rooney's injury is at the less serious end of the scale and there remains a chance that he will play before the season is out.

Louis van Gaal's side have four games left to secure a Champions League place as they currently reside fourth in the table, seven points above fifth-placed Liverpool.
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Serge Aurier joins Paris Saint-Germain on permanent deal

Paris Saint-Germain have completed the permanent signing of right-back Serge Aurier from Toulouse on a four-year deal.

The 22-year-old has been on loan at the Ligue 1 champions since July 2014, making 14 appearances for the club in all competitions.

His performances have impressed PSG enough to trigger the option to sign him on a permanent basis, with his new deal keeping him at the club until June 2019.

"Serge Aurier is a young player with enormous potential. Like his young teammates, he represents the future of Paris Saint-Germain," president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told the club's official website.

"It was logical that we trigger the option to buy. The club's project continues, especially our policy of conserving our best young players. Serge will become an essential element of the team in the future."

Aurier was also a member of the Ivory Coast squad during the 2014 World Cup and the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.
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Bayern Munich confirm Arjen Robben's season is over with calf injury

Bayern Munich have confirmed that Arjen Robben will not play again this season due to a calf injury.

The Netherlands international lasted just 16 minutes of his side's DFB-Pokal semi-final defeat to Borussia Dortmund last night.

The 31-year-old had only just returned from an abdominal injury, but his brief cameo on Tuesday evening will be his last of the campaign as Bayern have confirmed via their Twitter page that Robben has torn a muscle.

The club tweeted: "Arjen Robben has a tear in his left calf muscle. His season is over."

Robert Lewandowski has also been added to the injury list after he suffered concussion, as well as a broken jaw and nose after being clattered by Dortmund goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak during last night's game, in which Bayern missed all four of their penalties in a shootout.

The injury news is a huge blow to Bayern's Champions League campaign as they prepare to face manager Pep Guardiola's former club Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-finals next week.
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Manchester United confident of David de Gea stay

Manchester United have reportedly grown increasingly confident that David de Gea will sign a new contract with the club.

The Spanish goalkeeper's current deal at Old Trafford is due to expire in the summer of 2016, which had resulted in strong links with Real Madrid.

United boss Louis van Gaal recently revealed that the 24-year-old had been offered an extension to his terms, but gave no clue as to whether De Gea would accept the offer.

However, the chances of the keeper remaining at United, despite Madrid's supposed interest, has increased over recent weeks, according to The Independent.

The report added that De Gea is now likely to commit to a new deal, which will be worth around £200,000 a week, but he could still depart for the Bernabeu at the end of next season.

If that were to be the case, the Red Devils could demand a larger fee for the former Atletico Madrid man.
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Bayern Munich confirm Robert Lewandowski concussion

Bayern Munich have confirmed that Robert Lewandowski suffered a broken jaw, broken nose and concussion during last night's defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals.

The striker sustained the injuries after colliding with Dortmund goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern eventually lost on penalties after the teams played out a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

Lewandowski is almost certain to miss his side's Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona at the Camp Nou on May 6.

Robert #Lewandowski has broken his upper jaw and his nose. He also has a concussion. It doesn't get much worse than that.

— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 29, 2015
Bayern Munich return to action on Saturday when they will travel to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
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Inter Milan to hold talks with agent of Yaya Toure

The agent of Manchester City star Yaya Toure has reportedly flown to Italy in order to finalise the midfielder's move to Inter Milan.

It has been widely claimed that the Ivory Coast international will end his five-year stay at City this summer in order to link up with former manager Roberto Mancini at the San Siro.

Italian publication Tuttosport has now suggested that the 31-year-old's agent, Dimitri Seluk, will discuss personal terms over a potential four-year deal at Inter, although a fee has still yet to be agreed between the two clubs.

Toure has helped the Citizens on their way to two Premier League titles during his time in England, while also being named in the PFA Team of the Year on two separate occasions.
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Wayne Rooney's wife Coleen launches 'Football Mum of the Year' award

The wife of Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has launched McDonald's 'Football Mum of the Year' award in an attempt to recognise those helping their children to achieve sporting dreams.

Coleen Rooney, who married the England skipper in 2008, is a mother to two young boys of her own - Kai, five, and one-year-old Klay.

This week, the Liverpudlian, who has her own clothing line with Littlewoods, took part in the initiative's launch by helping a group of young boys and girls with heading practice.

According to the Daily Mail, Coleen will present a special prize to the woman deemed 'Football Mum of the Year' at the Wembley stadium in London on August 2.

Coleen and Rooney first met when the pair were schoolchildren.
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Mohamed Salah 'has one month to decide future'

On-loan Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah has revealed that he will wait until the end of the season to decide his future.

The Egyptian has spent the second half of the campaign with Fiorentina, who have the option to extend his loan or buy him permanently in an £18m package deal.

Interest in Salah from Serie A rivals Juventus and Roma is believed to be pressing the Viola into action, but the 22-year-old has not given up hope of making it at Stamford Bridge.

Salah has started only 10 games since joining Chelsea from Basel for £11m in January 2014.

He is quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard. "Chelsea gave me the opportunity to reach that level. I still have one month to make a decision about my future. I'm enjoying being here and my objective is to reach the [Europa League] final."

Salah has scored seven goals in 18 appearances during his spell at Fiorentina.
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Louis van Gaal 'picks out Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind in training-ground rant'

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal reportedly singled out Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind in a training-ground rant following Sunday's defeat to Everton.

The Red Devils suffered their second consecutive Premier League loss at Goodison Park when Roberto Martinez's side hit three goals past them.

According to The Mirror, Van Gaal expressed his anger at his players at Carrington during training on Monday, and pointed the finger at Valencia and Blind for their poor defensive displays at Goodison.

Despite the defeat, United's top-four hopes have been strengthened after fifth-placed Liverpool suffered a 1-0 defeat to Hull City on Tuesday evening.
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Real Madrid vehemently deny transfer allegations

Real Madrid have refuted claims that they are to receive a transfer ban from FIFA over the signing of underage players.

It was reported on Wednesday that Real and city rivals Atletico Madrid are due to be punished for breaching transfer rules relating to foreign minors.

Barcelona were issued with a transfer embargo last season for the same offence and later failed in their attempt to overturn the decision.

Real have now expressed their disappointment at the allegations surrounding the club's transfer dealings.

"[The allegations are] completely false, as demonstrated by the fact that the Spanish Football Federation has spoken to different media outlets to refute the claims that Real Madrid is implicated in any kind of irregular activity when it comes to signing minors," read an official statement.

"Real Madrid reiterates that the club has always scrupulously adhered to the FIFA regulations. Real Madrid is once again saddened by these reports, some of which are intended to cause harm, the only aim of which are to implicate the club in supposed infractions that have not been committed.

"Real Madrid reiterates once again its absolute committment to the defence, protection and the correct and healthy development of minors, which take precedence over sporting interests and, as a consequence, confirms its total support of these FIFA regulations and the club's adherence to them."

The 10-time European champions continue their La Liga campaign tonight when they welcome Almeria to the Santiago Bernabeu.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Gary Neville: I haven't seen Man Utd play that badly for SIX weeks

Manchester United legend Gary Neville launched a stinging attack on his old club in the wake of their defeat to Everton.

United slumped to a 3-0 loss at Goodison Park and have slipped to fourth in the Premier League table.

And Neville lambasted the display, calling it the 'worst he has seen from United for six weeks'.

"The atmosphere was strange all day long," Neville told Sky Sports.

"Usually when Everton are beating Manchester United the place would be bouncing.

“United were toothless, and that is being kind.

“I didn’t really see them try and dribble past a player, make any forward runs.

“At times they were not getting enough men in the box and the final pass was poor.

Wayne Rooney going through the motions at Goodison Park
“It is the worst I have seen United play for five or six weeks.

“They have been playing so well. Even in defeat at Stamford Bridge last week they played really well.

“Today it wasn’t there. It was Everton who had the cutting edge. It was through Lennon, Lukaku and Mirallas when he came on who looked the ones most dangerous to break through either defence."
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Manuel Pellegrini: It's impossible to top Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd without more cash

Manuel Pellegrini has placed the blame on Manchester City's stuttering season on not having enough cash to spend.

Manuel Pellegrini says Man City couldn't compete with the other top club's big spends
The Premier League holders look to have relinquished their title and the Chilean feels it's because the other top clubs spent more.

And it seems City's millions just aren't quite enough for the former Real Madrid boss who believes it's 'impossible' to win without the right funds.

He said: "We cannot win trophies every year. "It's impossible, especially this year.

"Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool spent more money and they have very strong squads.

"I don't think it is a bad position or there is shame to be in second place for this squad. 

"Maybe I can complain about other things this season - the way we lost in the FA Cup and League Cup, but in the Premier League it's not easy to be in second place when you have five or six strong teams."

The Sky Blues are currently 10 points adrift of league leaders Chelsea with just four games remaining.

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Ander Herrera: Why Marcos Rojo and I have our full names on Manchester United shirt

Ander Herrera has explained why his full name is written on the back of his Manchester United shirt.

The midfielder has been in good form under Louis van Gaal this season, scoring seven times in 26 appearances after joining from Athletic Bilbao for £28million last summer.

Unlike most players, Herrera opts to have his whole name printed on his match-day top, as does team-mate Marcos Rojo.

And the Spaniard has now revealed that superstition stemming from his La Liga days plays a big part in the decision to wear both 'Ander' and 'Herrera'.

He explained: "I did it before Bilbao and I am superstitious.

Ander Herrera has been in good form for Man Utd following his arrival from Athletic Bilbao

"I started using 'Ander Herrerea' at Athletic a few years ago and I had a very good time there, so I wanted to keep putting it on my shirt. I think Marcos Rojo is the same.

"Actually, in Spain, everyone has at least three names including the last name of both their dad and their mum.

"I always play passionately – for the team and our supporters. I am emotional. Every win and every victory makes me happy but maybe I hope the most emotional moments are coming.

"I am sure of that, in fact, because I am at United."

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Chelsea weighing up £43m bid to trigger Atletico star's release clause after Arsenal snub

Chelsea are weighing up whether to trigger Antoine Griezmann's release clause with a £43million bid, according to reports.

The French striker has impressed at Atletico Madrid after making a £22m move from Real Sociedad in the summer.

Atletico have Griezmann tied to a deal until 2020 and are reluctant to renegotiate the terms of that contract due to his already-high wages, according to Spanish paper Mundo Deportivo.

But that could mean Chelsea - along with Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain - might smell a bargain.

Griezmann's 22 goals in La Liga this season are the best ever by a French player in Spain and leave compatriot Karim Benzema trailing in his wake.


Last year Griezmann explained his reasons for snubbing Arsenal and PSG, saying: "Why Spain and not elsewhere? This is my championship, my home. I'm happy here.

"And Atletico is a great club. The leaders were willing to pay €30m (£24m) for me.

"I had the boss on the phone. He motivated me and said the club really wanted me. I knew that I was coming here to learn.

"Was it weird when PSG and Arsenal were also interested? They're still the champions of Spain!

"I needed a club like that and a coach like Diego Simeone to progress.

"I always demands intensity in training. That's my style and I like it.

"The team captain (Gabi Fernandez) also called me to ask me to come and tell me I would feel comfortable here where there is a great family feeling in the changing room."
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Chelsea aren't boring! Jose Mourinho blasts Arsenal with title taunt

Jose Mourinho hit back at accusations that his Chelsea side are boring their way to the Premier League title with a brutal put down of rival Arsene Wenger: "Boring? Boring is ten years without a title."

Chelsea now stand just two wins from their third title under Mourinho and their first for five years after grinding out another precious point with a goalless draw at the Emirates yesterday.

A win at struggling Leicester on Wednesday night and then victory over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge next Sunday and the celebrations can begin.

There was no love lost at the Emirates between Wenger and Mourinho, who did not shake hands either before or after a tempestuous, tense game that saw seven bookings and four penalty appeals.


Chelsea ground out a win with a similar performance against Manchester United last week, but Mourinho lashed out after Gunners fans sang "Boring. Boring Chelsea," at the end of the game: "Boring is ten years without a title.

"That's very boring. You support the club and you're waiting, waiting for so many years without a Premier League title. That's very boring.

"The "boring" team is the team second highest in goals in the League, the team with the best goal difference. Only Manchester City have scored more goals than us.

"We have scored a lot of goals – and in a period where we don't have Diego Costa or Loic Remy and only one striker, we needed to change our dynamic."

Arsenal's last title under Wenger, who has not beaten Mourinho now in 13 attempts, came in 2004. All they have won since the FA Cup twice, in 2005 and last season.

Mourinho said: "We need two wins to be champions. If we do that, and I think we are going to do that, we will be champions having been top of the league since day one. Only top teams do that."

The Chelsea manager also insisted that skipper John Terry's performance – a masterclass in defensive covering again from the 34 year old – was his best ever in a Chelsea shirt, saying: "He has had fantastic performances in the years we worked together.

"But yesterday everything was clean: reading the game, giving cover, interceptions, reading the game. The team was phenomenal, but John was one step ahead of every other player."

Wenger, who team stay third in the table, said: "We are disappointed because we wanted to win. We have closed the gap on Chelsea since the start of the season, but they have the experience at the back, and can close the game down.

"Our build-up was quick and sharp, but the final ball wasn't there." 

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Anybody's League! All 16 teams in the Algerian League can win title with four games to go

THE title race in England has been one of the tightest in years, even if it does look as though Chelsea now have it all wrapped up.

Arsenal and Manchester City are level on 67 points, ten behind the leaders with United just two points further back.

And beyond them, Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton are all separated by just a single point in the race for fifth.


Things also remain tight at the bottom with as many as seven teams scrapping to avoid ending up in the dreaded relegation places.

But that's nothing compared to the Algerian Premier League.

With four games remaining all 16 clubs are separated by just 11 points.

ES Setif currently top the table on 41 points but bottom club NA Hussein Dey could still technically win the league if they win all their remaining games.

And as the season draws to a close in the coming weeks only one thing is certain - there will be no dead rubbers with every team still having it all to play for.
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John Terry slams 'boring' jibes and insists 'tippy tappy' football does NOT win trophies

John Terry has slammed the critics who have branded Chelsea boring and insisted that winning games, and not “tippy tappy” football is what wins leagues.

Terry, 34, led his side to a point in their goalless draw at Arsenal on Sunday that leaves them just two wins from their third league title under manager Jose Mourinho and their first in five years.

If Mourinho’s team win at Leicester on Wednesday and then against Crystal Palace at Stamford Birdge on Sunday, the titule will be their – and Terry believes that people should not forget the fine flowing football his team played in the first half of the season.


Terry, praised for having one of the best games of his career by Mourinho after Sunday’s match, said: “We are definitely not boring and if we do go on to win it, nobody’s going to remember those performances when perhaps it’s not been that exciting.

“But we’ve dug deep and other teams haven’t, and that is why they are so far behind us. Possession is great, we could see that from the Manchester United game last week.

“Possession and tippy-tappy football is great, but if you are not winning games you’re not going to win the league.”

Terry added: “Let’s not forget the first half of the season, up until Christmas, we were the best side by far. The football we played with Fabregas and his assists, the goal at Burnley (Andre Shurrle) and goals after that. The football was different class.

“Things then went us against us and the manager, as he does, has come up with the way to get us through games. That’s where he’s at his best. Let’s not forget we were the best side up until Christmas for sure - and we have actually beaten the teams who have made things difficult for us.”

But Terry warned that the title is not won yet: “No I don’t think it is. We are a step nearer where we wanted to be. Leicester are flying, you can see they have got a bit of wind in their sails.

“It is going to be a really tough game but it is in our hands and not anybody else’s now. We are grinding out results, we have got the quality in the squad, so hopefully we can get over the line - because we are very close.”

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Louis van Gaal blasts Manchester United for being complacent against Everton

Furious Louis van Gaal feared his complacent Manchester United stars were beaten before they started as they crashed to their worst defeat under his management yesterday.

Van Gaal revealed he was unhappy with the lack-lustre nature of his players' warm-up routines before their 3-0 capitulation to Everton at Goodison Park.

After goals from James McCarthy, John Stones and Kevin Mirallas had given Everton their biggest home win over United since 31 years, Van Gaal insisted his players had been out-fought and out-thought by the Merseyside club.

He said: "Yes, it was the most disappointing performance since I took charge because it is the first time that I have seen that our motivation, inspiration and aggression was not as high as our opponents and in sport, you shall always be compared to your opponents and that was the reason.


"I and my coaches Ryan Giggs and Albert Stuivenberg had the feeling [before the game] because the warm up was not as good as usual.

"In the last minutes before the game you say 'I hope you can recover' and stimulate your players but by then it is too late.

"You have to prepare for the match two or three days before and Everton have done that and they have won because of that.

"Because we have been playing so well in the last six or seven games there is also the danger that the players also think 'ok, it shall come [easily]' but it shall not come.

"You need the inspiration, the motivation and the aggression to win the second balls and to fight to the end."

It was the most disappointing performance since I took charge
Louis van Gaal
After their 1-0 defeat at Chelsea last weekend, it is the first time United have lost two consecutive League games under Van Gaal and also the first time they have have failed to score in two consecutive games.

The Dutchman believes the defeats to Chelsea and Everton have opened the window of opportunity for Liverpool who, if they beat Hull tomorrow and QPR on Saturday, can narrow the gap on fourth-placed United to one point before their early evening kick-off with West Brom on Saturday.

To make matters worse for United, skipper Wayne Rooney left the stadium limping heavily with a knee injury that forced him off near the end to make him a doubt for the West Brom game.

And Van Gaal said he replaced Marouane Fellaini at half-time of his first return to his former club because he felt he might have been sent off after picking up a yellow card in the first half.


"Rooney has a kick to his knee and we have to see if it is heavy or not," he said. "I took Fellaini off for several reasons.

"The first reason was he had been booked and I found that the players of Everton provoke him and I was not so sure if he should end the match. But I could have changed more players."

Everton boss Roberto Martinez, whose side have won six and drawn one of their last seven games, said: "We were the better side in every department and we were well worth the clean sheet which is an incredible stat against the quality United have."
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Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti hints at summer swoop for Man Utd star Javier Hernandez

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has dropped the biggest hint yet that he'll make a summer move for on-loan striker Jaiver Hernandez.

The 26-year-old joined Real on a season-long loan from Manchester United, but has only recently started to hit goalscoring form.

The Mexican found the back of the net twice on Sunday against Celta Vigo to take his tally to four goals in his last three starts.

And Real boss Carlo Ancelotti admits Hernandez has become a 'non-negotiable' starter, dropping the biggest hint yet that he'll activate the £10million option to sign him in the summer.

“He’s enjoying the period that he’s in, it’s a really good one,” Ancelotti said on Hernandez.

“The whole team worked well. If Chicharito is in this form he’s non-negotiable, like Cristiano (Ronaldo), (Karim) Benzema, James (Rodriguez), (Gareth) Bale, (Sergio) Ramos, Isco, (Raphael) Varane, Pepe.

“I have a team of non-negotiables, but only 11 can play and the rest stay on the bench.”
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PFA Team of the Year: Chelsea dominate with SIX players included

Chelsea have dominated this year's PFA Premier League Team of the Year, making up six of the starting 11.

The Blues' defensive trio of John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have all been selected, having helped keep 26 league clean sheets - the joint best in the league.

And Mourinho's men also pack-out the midfield with Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard both making the cut after impressive campaigns.

Chelsea's loan front-man Diego Costa has also made the grade after bagging 19 league goals in his first season in the Premier League, making him the third most deadly striker.


The Spain international is joined up top with Tottenham's on-fire attacker Harry Kane, who having only been handed his league debut in November, has notched up 20 goals.

Unsurprisingly, Manchester United's shot-stopper David de Gea is the goalkeeper of choice, having kept 10 clean sheets and was the star performer for Louis van Gaal early on in the campaign.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho complete the midfield four and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand is a surprise choice at left-back.

And defending champions Manchester City fail to secure a single player in the team, despite holding onto second place in the league for most of the season.

PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2015

David de Gea (Manchester United)

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)

John Terry (Chelsea)

Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)

Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Harry Kane (Tottenham)
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Eden Hazard named PFA Players' Player of the Year

Chelsea star Eden Hazard has scooped the PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

The Belgium international saw off competition from a number of Premier League giants to scoop the prestigious award after playing a key role in the Blues’ title push and successful Capital One Cup campaign.

Hazard has been in blistering form this season, making 45 appearances in all competitions under Jose Mourinho and scoring 18 goals in the process.

The 24-year-old signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract in February worth £200,000-per-week, and is sure to play a starring role in any future success at Stamford Bridge.


Also nominated for the award were Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United’s David De Gea, Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho, Chelsea team-mate Diego Costa and Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who landed the PFA Young Player of the Year trophy at the event in central London.

However it was Hazard who took the plaudits, and the midfield wizard will be looking to continue his fine form when Chelsea take on Leicester in a crunch league clash on Wednesday evening.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Lille icon exclaimed: "I'm very happy. One day I want to be the best and what I did this season is play very well, Chelsea played very well.

"I don't know if I deserve to win but it is good for me.

"It is good, it is better to be voted by the players - they know everything about football. This is good. I'm very happy."

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10 things to know about Chelsea's Player of the Year Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard took the PFA Player of the Year award yesterday after playing a significant part in helping Chelsea to the brink of the Premier League title.

Here, We take a closer look at the Belgian.

1. He has three younger brothers, including Thorgan Hazard, who joined Chelsea shortly after Eden before leaving for Borussia Monchengladbach.

2. He announced his transfer to Chelsea via Twitter after a lengthy spell of speculation linking him to various teams around Europe.

3. He enjoys dancing and got up on stage for an impromptu display during a performance from Christina Milian at a function for Didier Drogba's foundation, the footage of which has since emerged on YouTube.

4. His mother, Carine Hazard, was a professional footballer in the Belgian Women's First Division and only stopped when she fell pregnant with Eden.

5. He married his childhood sweetheart Natacha, whom he first met at the age of 14, in 2012, two years after the birth of their first child, Yannis. The pair have since had a second child, Leo.

6. He is a big NBA fan, and follows the New York Knicks although he admits he has never been to see a game in America, but cites Carmelo Anthony as his favourite player. He is also a talented ping-pong player.

7. His brilliance on the pitch is matched by generosity off it. He once reduced a 79-year-old Belgium fan to tears after sending her a signed shirt and video message after hearing of her passion for football.

8. He was once shown a red card and received a three-match ban after appearing to kick out at a ball boy at Swansea as Chelsea lost in their 2013 Capital One Cup semi-final.

9. He admits that receiving praise from childhood hero Zinedine Zidane for the first time was "special" and left him shaking.

10. He grew up in Braine-le-Comte, Belgium. The family have said they lived "no more than three metres" from a football training ground, where Eden spent hours honing his now world-class skills.
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Brendan Rodgers: 'Daniel Sturridge unlikely to play again this season'

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed that injury-plagued striker Daniel Sturridge may not play again this season.

The England international has endured a frustrating campaign, which has seen him start just seven Premier League games.

Sturridge was expected to make a comeback from his latest setback ahead of the FA Cup semi-final meeting against Aston Villa earlier this month, but that return date proved to be too soon.

During his pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday night's meeting against Hull City, Rodgers admitted that he is unsure whether his star striker will play any further part for the Reds this term.

"It has been difficult for Daniel. He's a good lad who wants to play and be working and helping the team. It's just been one of those seasons for him where it has been very unfortunate," the Northern Irishman told reporters.

"We are going to have monitor that day by day and see where he's at. When he's been fit he's been brilliant for the team. We need to get to get him back fit for and consistently playing. But we will see if that's going to be this season or the pre-season."

Liverpool have five league games remaining this season as they continue to chase down a top-four spot.
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Eden Hazard: 'I'm staying at Chelsea'

Eden Hazard has stated that he intends to stay at Chelsea rather than join Real Madrid.

The Belgian, who has helped to fire the Blues to the brink of a first Premier League title since 2010 with 13 goals and eight assists this season, was named as PFA Player of the Year for 2014-15 on Sunday.

Reports have suggested that Hazard could be on his way to Real, after coach Zinedine Zidane admitted that he was monitoring the 24-year-old's progress.

However, when asked if he could leave Stamford Bridge to join Real Madrid, Hazard told Goal.com: "No, I'm staying."

Hazard moved to Chelsea from Lille in 2012.

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Aaron Ramsey: 'Chelsea will be worthy Premier League champions'

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has claimed that Chelsea will be worthy Premier League champions if they go on to lift the trophy.

Jose Mourinho's side took a step closer to the title on Sunday as they earned an important goalless draw against the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.

Despite receiving criticism for their defensive setup during yesterday's match, Ramsey believes that the Blues have been the most consistent team in the top flight this season.

When asked if Chelsea deserve to win the league, the Welshman told Arsenal's official website: "Yes, I think so. If that's the case and they go on to win, they've only lost twice this season, so their consistency has been the best and that's what you need. They've definitely been the best team in the league.

"Probably this season they've done really well in the bigger games where they've kept their shape and frustrated teams like they did to us. On another day we may have scored a couple and won the game."

Arsenal continue their Premier League campaign on May 4 when they face relegation-threatened Hull City at the KC Stadium.
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Jose Mourinho unsure of Diego Costa return

Jose Mourinho has admitted that he does not know whether Diego Costa will return to action for Chelsea's trip to Leicester City.

The striker, who has scored 19 goals this season, has been sidelined for the team's last three matches due to a hamstring injury.

Costa could be missing again for the Blues on Wednesday when they travel to the King Power Stadium, though there is a chance that he will be back in the squad.

Jose says he doesn't know if Diego Costa will be available for Wednesday's game. #CFC

— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 27, 2015
Chelsea are just two wins away from being crowned champions following Sunday's goalless draw away to London rivals Arsenal.
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Chelsea want Pedro

Chelsea have reportedly emerged as potential suitors for Barcelona winger Pedro, who looks certain to leave the Camp Nou this summer.

The 27-year-old has been with Barcelona since 2004 and up until this season, has been a regular for the Catalan outfit.

The form of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi has seen Pedro spend most of the season on the bench, however, and with his contract expiring next summer, it is understood that a move will occur at the end of the season.

Arsenal and Liverpool have been strongly linked with the Spanish international, but according to Marca, Chelsea are also firmly in the race.

Pedro has an impressive record of just under one goal every three games for Barcelona – scoring 97 times in 310 appearances.

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There's no shame in second place insists Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Manchester City season may be limping towards an end but manager Manuel Pellegrini is still demonstrating the sort of resilience and fight that has been lacking in his players in so many key parts of a disappointing campaign.

Fernandinho's last-minute winner avoided yet another autopsy after City threw away a two-goal cushion over Villa.

Pellegrini, by general consensus, will have to launch a spirited defence of his managerial skills if he is to convince his billionaire paymasters that he is the man to lead the club into the third, and final, year of his contract at the Etihad this summer.

But the veteran Chilean, whose pre-season spending was limited by FFP regulations, clearly holds a committed belief that not only should no club be expected to win silverware every season but that finishing second in the current campaign does not represent failure.


"I think in a season when you don't win everything it is not a good season but I think it is not easy in this league to be in the second place," said Pellegrini.

"In this league you have five or six strong teams, the same strength as our team and in a bad season I don't think it is bad to finish second.

"We cannot win trophies every year. It is impossible especially in this year. This year Arsenal spend more money, Chelsea spend more money, United spend more money, Liverpool more money and have very strong squads – same as our squad. So if you think for this squad it is a bad position or shame to be in second place, I don't think so.

Pellegrini is, surely, too shrewd and experienced to truly believe that the club's Abu Dhabi owners will be content with the season over which he has just presided.

And while he has clearly reached the end of his tether with the media suggesting the campaign has been a disappointment, Pellegrini is failing to acknowledge that the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are also constantly quizzed about their failure in various competitions.

After Sergio Aguero was gifted an opener by Villa keeper Brad Guzan and Aleksandar Kolarov made it 2-0, goals from Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez levelled the scores on 85 minutes.

Christian Benteke then broke clean through on goal only to be brought down by Joe Hart after an assistant's flag had incorrectly ruled him offside – the sort of unfortunate break that tends to curse a team like Villa that is scrapping to avoid relegation.

The fact that the offside decision was given with Benteke on the edge of the 18-yard box - offering the linesman decent perspective on a decision he still got wrong - just added to the sense of injustice felt by manager Tim Sherwood.


"I think he got helped out by the line as well - he's got the 18-yard box there to see," said Sherwood.

"You get some and you don't get others but let's hope it's just cost us that game. It'll be a very expensive mistake otherwise."
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Jose Mourinho: PFA team should be all Chelsea

Jose Mourinho has slammed the PFA’s Team of the Year – even though it has six Chelsea players in it – and claimed it would never win the title.

The Chelsea manager saw his Belgian superstar Eden Hazard win the Player of the Year award on Sunday night – but Mourinho, who will clinch his third Premier League title if his team beat Leicester on Wednesday night and then Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Sunday – insisted that the PFA team should have included 11 Chelsea players.

Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic were all named in the team, but Mourinho, when asked how many of his players should have been named, said: “All of them. I think it should have been the Chelsea team.

“But this is the Chelsea manager speaking, and obviously I respect every one of the players in that team, and everyone that chose them.

“The players from other teams have the right to choose, and obviously there are great players in that team, and great players were outside it.”

But his midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who has scored five goals and provided 19 assists this season, should definitely be in the side: “As an example, look at the season Fabregas is having, the number of assists and quality of his game – for him not to be there is a bit strange.

“That PFA team wouldn't win the Premier League. Because that team has four defenders, plus Matic and five attackers. It's a team without any balance. That team is missing a midfield player, and I think that should be Fabregas.”

Mourinho, whose team drew 0-0 at Arsenal on Sunday to cries of ‘boring. Boring Chelsea’ from frustrated Gunners fans, had hit back at the accusations after the game in his press congference, saying boring was not winning anything for ten years:  “I'm not sure people are saying that.

"This morning I met an Arsenal fan, a gentleman who lives almost next door to me, an Arsenal fan of more than 50 years and he congratulated me for my press conference, saying I was 'spot on'.”
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Real eye massive bid for Chelsea's Hazard as Man Utd refuse to give up on Bale

Real Madrid may be forced to reconsider their stance on Gareth Bale with Manchester United preparing an £80million bid, according to reports.

Real have persistently insisted that Bale would not be sold this summer despite an occasionally difficult season in Madrid.

But French magazine Le10Sport claim United could tempt Real with a huge bid.

It is claimed that Manchester City remain keen and could look to match any bid made by their derby rivals.

Moreover, it is suggested that Real would move for Chelsea star Eden Hazard if Bale was to be tempted away.

Hazard only signed a new five-year deal at Chelsea this season but Real reportedly believe that receiving £80m for Bale would put them in a position to mount an enticing bid for the Belgian winger.

Last month Real president Florentino Perez told Spanish paper Marca: "We would never listen to any offers for Bale no matter what the bid was.

"He is a unique player who has already given so much to the team.

"He is the key to the club's future, just like I cannot imagine a future without Cristiano Ronaldo."
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Man Utd tell Radamel Falcao to accept bench role and take a pay cut to stay

Radamel Falcao will be reportedly be allowed to stay at Manchester United in the summer, but only if he agrees to accept a place on the bench and drop his wage demands.

United have the option to make Falcao's loan move permanent at the end of the season for £43million.

And while the Red Devils are reluctant to pay that amount for a player who has underwhelmed in his first season at Old Trafford, Van Gaal is ready to offer the Colombian a life-line, according to the Daily Mail.

It is suggested that United will offer Falcao the chance to stay in Manchester but will not guarantee him first-team football.

And as a rotation player, United expect the 29-year-old to reduce his wage demands.

Falcao is one of United's top earners, raking in £265,000-a-week but that figure would have to be slashed if he doesn't want to move on.

Over the weekend Van Gaal said: "Falcao has been given the chance to be in the team this season. You can say he is unlucky - he has the quality to play.

"I like him and the way he played against Chelsea last week. He was unlucky he didn't score.

"I like Falcao as a human being, just as I like Danny Welbeck and Chicharito (Hernandez), they are always professional.

"But when you are not in the team for season after season, there comes a time when you need a challenge.

"That's why I have said goodbye to Welbeck and Chicharito. And now I have to talk with Falcao."
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Tottenham youngster Harry Kane named PFA Young Player of the Year

Tottenham striker Harry Kane capped an "unreal" season on Sunday evening when he landed the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

The 21-year-old, who has scored 30 goals in all competitions for Spurs this term despite not getting a regular starting slot until November, picked up the award in the ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

He was also named in the Professional Footballers' Association's Premier League team of the year - the only English attacking player to make the XI.

Kane came through the White Hart Lane club's youth ranks and was farmed out for loan stints at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester to gain first-team experience.

He struck a free-kick winner from the bench at Aston Villa in early November and was then given a run of games by Mauricio Pochettino, with fellow frontmen Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor failing to deliver. And he has not looked back since.


"It is amazing. It is a very proud moment for myself and my family – hopefully the first of many to come," Kane said of his award.

"I have got to keep working hard, but to be recognised by your fellow players is something special and it is a night I wont forget.

"It is incredible, an incredible feeling."

Asked to sum up his season in one word, Kane went for: "Unreal."

Never doubting himself, had he been told 12 months ago this was his destiny, Kane said: "I'd have said let's do it - let's get it on.

"A lot has changed since then but I have always believed in my ability and have been waiting for a chance to express myself. I didn't think it would go as quickly as it has done but I have managed to ride the wave and the season has got better and better.

"I got the opportunity with the gaffer and I have really enjoyed my season so far - I have taken my chance and this is why we are here."

Kane has been the shining light of the Tottenham side, and said: "We have worked hard and I have worked hard to get to where we are now. It is going great and hopefully it is the start with more to come."

His stand-out occasion of the season came not in a Tottenham shirt, but when Roy Hodgson ushered him into the England side, Kane scoring after 79 seconds of his debut off the bench against Lithuania on March 27, in a European Championship qualifier.

Asked for his favourite moment, Kane said: "Making my England debut and getting that goal - it was a very proud moment. It made it even more special.

"For a footballer, to represent their country is the pinnacle, and I'm very proud. I was able to do that and it was a moment I won't forget."


Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino tipped the Chingford-born forward for even bigger things after he scored in the recent 3-1 win at Newcastle, to become the first Spurs player since Gary Lineker in 1992 to reach 30 club goals in a season.

"He has big potential," the Argentinian said. "He is young and this is his first full season in the first team. We need to push him to try to improve his level because he has the potential to improve.

"He's happy in the changing room and all his team-mates are happy, and I think all our supporters and the club are happy at his achievement."

Kane captained the north London outfit for the first time in a goalless draw at Burnley earlier this month.

He also helped Pochettino's side reach the Capital One Cup final, where they lost 2-0 to Chelsea.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rafael Benitez denies Manchester City contact

Napoli manager Rafael Benitez has played down reports linking him with Manchester City by claiming that he has not had any contact with the Premier League champions.

It was rumoured that City want to replace Manuel Pellegrini with the former Liverpool boss at the end of the season.

Benitez is out of contract in the summer, but the 55-year-old insists that a deal has not been made with the Blues.

When asked if he had rejected a new deal with Napoli in order to move to the Etihad Stadium, he told reporters: "I haven't said no to Napoli. I haven't had any contact with Manchester City. I'm a professional, I'll see what happens, but I have to talk to the club."

The Spaniard took charge at the Stadio San Paolo in 2013 following a spell as Chelsea interim manager.
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Memphis Depay to earn £7million a season at Manchester United

Memphis Depay stands to earn £28million if he completes his switch to Manchester United.

The 21-year-old winger is close to agreeing in principle to leave PSV and join up with Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford.

According to the Daily Star, United officials have met with PSV counterparts to thrash out a deal that will see him switch allegiances once the transfer window opens.


Depay is valued at £25m and would be manager Van Gaal's first major recruit of the summer, earning £7m a season from a four-year contract.

He has scored 20 goals in the Dutch league this season, helping Eindhoven to their first Eredivisie title in seven years.

The winger caught the eye last summer when he scored two goals at the World Cup in Brazil - becoming the youngest ever player to score in a World Cup at 20 years and four months.

United have fended off interest from Liverpool and PSG to be first in line for Depay, who was branded the 'next Cristiano Ronaldo' by Dutch football legend Ronald de Boer.

"I don't want to say which club is more suitable for him, but if he goes to United he knows there is a Dutch coach there in Van Gaal who knows him from the World Cup," De Boer said.

"That is an advantage. He is one of the biggest talents in Europe - he has everything".
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Hugo Lloris to leave if Tottenham fail in Champions League quest

Tottemham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is reportedly considering his future at the club.

The France international, 28, signed a five-year contract at Spurs only last summer but is demanding he plays Champions League football.

And with Spurs on the verge of missing out on a top-four finish in the Premier League, it appears Lloris' days at White Hart Lane are numbered.

According to the Guardian, Lloris is frustrated that after three years at the north London club he is yet to kick a ball in the Champions League.

The £8million signing from Lyon in 2012 has kept just nine clean sheets in 39 appearances this season, compared to 18 in 45 games across the whole of the last campaign.

There would be no shortage of bidders for Lloris if he became available in the summer transfer window.

Paris Saint-Germain are thought to be interested in the stopper, but Lloris' reported preference is to remain in the Premier League.

Manchester United are also considered as suitors and would likely make a bid if their current number one David De Gea forces a move to Real Madrid.

Spurs aren't exactly lacking adequate cover either, with third-choice Netherlands goalkeeper Michel Vorm on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity.

Vorm, 31, greatly impressed in the Premier League at Swansea and was signed for £4.5m just two weeks after Lloris extended his contract this summer.
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Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew wants to sign Tim Krul

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew will reportedly approach former club Newcastle United to sign Tim Krul.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper worked with Pardew during his five-year stint as Newcastle manager, and it is thought that the Palace boss is a big admirer.

The Netherlands international came through the ranks at St James' Park and made his debut for the Magpies in 2006.

Pardew is said to be in the market for a new goalkeeper, with Julian Speroni out of contract in the summer and yet to agree fresh terms with the Eagles.

According to The Sun, the Palace chief is keen to bring Krul to Selhurst Park and is prepared to pay £10m to make that happen.

Krul has made 170 appearances for Newcastle in all competitions.
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Manchester United launch £21.5m bid for Mats Hummels

Manchester United have put in an offer of £21.5m for Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, according to reports.

The Red Devils are understood to be long-term admirers of the Germany international, who is near the top of their transfer wishlist this summer.

Louis van Gaal is thought to see the 26-year-old as the ideal man to strengthen a defence that has often been depleted by injuries this season.

Hummels has been heavily linked with a move away from Dortmund this summer, with his contract due to expire in 2017 and the club having endured a thoroughly disappointing season.

Manager Jurgen Klopp, whose impending departure could also have an impact on Hummels's future, last week admitted that the World Cup-winning centre-back was considering a move to Old Trafford.

That switch has now moved one step closer to fruition, according to Bild, with United lodging a formal offer for his services.

Hummels has made 240 appearances for Dortmund over his eight-year career at the Westfalenstadion, scoring 21 goals.
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Turkish club name stadium after Ilkay Gundogan

A Turkish amateur club has named its football stadium after national star Ilkay Gundogan.

Dursunbey Belediyespor, from north-west Turkey, have named their new ground in honour of the 24-year-old, whose parents live in the area.


Gundogan himself was born in Gelsenkirchen but remains in close contact with his family and was involved in the three-year planning of the new stadium.

Turkish newspaper Fanatik quoted his father as saying: "We will do everything we can to develop the club and the stadium. Ilkay has always maintained close relations with Dursunbey, Balikesir (province) and Turkey."

Gundogan plays for Borussia Dortmund but there are reports he could be on his way to the Premier League this summer.

Both Arsenal and Manchester United are interested in the midfielder, who has made 27 appearances for Dortmund this season.

The Sun claim the Bundesliga club want £20million for the player and that United manager Louis van Gaal would use him as a defensive-midfield understudy to Michael Carrick.

He was signed from Nuremberg in 2011 for just £4m.
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UEFA Champions League seeding changes announced ahead of next season

The Premier League title winners will automatically gain top-seed status in the Champions League from next season, UEFA have confirmed.

The Champions League top seeds are being changed as of next season
The top-seeded teams in the eight groups will be national title holders from the seven highest-placed European leagues plus the Champions League winners from the previous campaign.

That means Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City - the three teams currently lying second to fourth in the Premier League - would miss out on a top seeding.


Chelsea, the current league leaders by 10 points, would be a top-ranked side.

As would PSV Eindhoven, who are currently ranked 30th in the UEFA coefficient, if this season's tournament winner also claims their domestic title.


European football's governing body, UEFA, has shaken up the seedings system after complaints were made when the group stage was drawn last August.

Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea were pitted against respective German sides Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Schalke for a second successive season, sparking concerns that the group stage would become predictable.

The new system will see Bayern keep their top seed. They will likely be joined by league-leading Juventus and Zenit, who weren't in the top eight this season.

Meanwhile, Arsenal, Porto and Atletico Madrid will all lose their status for the 27 August draw.

Real Madrid would also miss out if Barcelona win the league and Carlo Ancelotti's fail to claim this season's European Cup.
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Manchester City keen on Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne's agent has claimed that Manchester City have inquired about the Wolfsburg midfielder.

The Belgian international, 23, has been linked with a host of clubs this season thanks to a string of impressive performances in the Bundesliga and Europa League.

Despite insisting that De Bruyne is happy at Wolfsburg, Patrick de Koster has suggested that the former Chelsea player could be moving elsewhere in the summer.

"I have met the people from Manchester City and we know each other," he is quoted as saying by The Guardian. "I've never spoken to anyone from Manchester United but a lot of other clubs have been in touch to find out some general information.

"For the moment, there are no formal discussions. Of course in the next few weeks I will be going around the world to talk about the situation with Kevin but this is just informal information. I will talk to everybody but Kevin is very, very happy with Wolfsburg and the way they have treated him since he arrived from Chelsea last year."

De Bruyne has scored 15 goals in 42 appearances for Wolfsburg so far this season.
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Real Madrid want Stoke City's Asmir Begovic to replace Iker Casillas

Real Madrid have reportedly identified Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic as a replacement for Iker Casillas.

The 27-year-old will enter the final year of his contract at the Britannia Stadium this summer and is yet to agree terms on a new deal.

Begovic has been one of the Premier League's most consistent stoppers over the last few seasons and has been monitored by a host of clubs, including Arsenal and Liverpool.

Real are expected to sign a new goalkeeper this summer following some inconsistent displays from Casillas, with Manchester United man David de Gea said to be their main target.

However, Real are now putting together plans to make a summer move for Begovic, according to the Daily Star.

The report adds that the La Liga side will look to test Stoke's resolve by making a £10m bid for the Bosnian.

Begovic joined Stoke from Portsmouth in 2010.
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Manchester City 'lining up Rafael Benitez as Manuel Pellegrini replacement'

Manchester City are allegedly lining up Napoli boss Rafael Benitez as a surprise replacement for under-fire manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The Premier League champions are aiming to secure the Spaniard on a year-long deal in the hope of luring Pep Guardiola to the Ethiad Stadium 12 months later, according to the Daily Star.

Benitez, who still owns a home in the North West of England from his days as Liverpool manager, is said to be keen on a move to City.

City are expected to axe Pellegrini at the end of the season following a disappointing campaign, topped off by a run of six defeats in the last nine matches.

Bayern Munich boss Guardiola is believed to be the City hierarchy's first choice to replace the Chilean, but he recently declared that he will not be leaving the German club this summer.
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The six targets on Louis van Gaal's £300million summer shortlist revealed

Louis van Gaal has been handed an astonishing six-player shortlist worth nearly £300million.

During a charity day at Manchester United's Carrington HQ for supporters with life-limiting illnesses, one cheeky fan took the chance to give the Dutchman some transfer advice.

The confident supporter presented Van Gaal with a piece of paper with the names of six potential signings and their valuations.

And to his credit, the United boss showed a refreshing sense of honesty by openly discussing the list.

Borussia Dortmund centre-half Mats Hummels is No 1 on the sheet at £36m, with Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne second at a value of £15m.

Juventus ace Paul Pogba comes in third at £75m (although the helpful fan offers Roma hardman Kevin Strootman as a back-up midfield option for a cheaper £20m).

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is fourth for a world-record fee of £120m with PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay next at £20m.

Porto striker Jackson Martinez finishes of the ambitious list at £25m.


Van Gaal was happy to joke about the situation, telling MUTV: "I have the list here with me, Hummels £36m, Clyne of Southampton £15m, Pogba £75m, Bale £120m… and Jackson Martinez of Porto £25m."

So which ones are you gonna sign then, Louis?
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Alexis Sanchez: 'Santi Cazorla is spectacular'

Alexis Sanchez has stated that Santi Cazorla has made a big impression upon him since his move to Arsenal last summer.

The Chilean has had an impressive first season at the club since moving from Barcelona, scoring 14 Premier League goals and helping the Gunners to reach next month's FA Cup final.

Sanchez says that while he knew about Cazorla, he is now pleased to be a teammate of the Spaniard.

"Santi Cazorla is a spectacular player," Sanchez told Arsenal's official website.

"Although I knew about his quality, playing alongside him makes me very happy.

"You never know whether he will kick the ball with his right or left foot. Also, he moves with short but quick strides, which is a remarkable trademark too."

Cazorla has scored eight goals in 46 appearances for Arsenal this season.
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Manchester United make enquiry about signing Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski

Manchester United have reportedly upped their pursuit of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Poland international has been linked with a move to Old Trafford in the past, and it appears that the Red Devils remain keen on the forward.

Manager Louis van Gaal is expected to be handed substantial funds to spend in this summer's transfer window, and Lewandowski is believed to be on the Dutchman's wishlist.

According to Spanish publication Fichajes, United have made an enquiry about the 26-year-old, but Bayern are said to be determined to keep hold of their player.

Lewandowski, who moved to the Allianz Arena from Borussia Dortmund last year, has scored 19 goals in all competitions for Bayern this season.
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Andres Iniesta: 'Barcelona are peaking at the right time'

Andres Iniesta has claimed that Barcelona are peaking at the perfect time after they booked their place in the Champions League semi-finals.

Luis Enrique's side completed a 5-1 aggregate success over Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou on Tuesday evening, and Iniesta believes that the performance was further proof that the team are still improving.

"It was not easy at all, despite us having the 3-1 advantage. We're peaking at a great time by playing well at the end of the season," he told reporters after the 2-0 win in the second leg. "We have gone from strength to strength, which is what it should be like.

"We're in great form but we know that matches can be decided by the smallest of details. We know that our presence in the semi-finals is important, though, and it's great that we made it that far."

Barcelona will now turn their focus to La Liga action ahead of Saturday's trip to Espanyol.
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Liverpool make move for Ciro Immobile to replace £16m flop Mario Balotelli

Brendan Rodgers is reportedly looking to offload Mario Balotelli and replace him with his international team-mate Ciro Immobile.

Balotelli has struggled on his return to the Premier League at Anfield and Rodgers has grown weary of the former Manchester City striker's indifferent performances.

And according to Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, Rodgers has identified Borussia Dortmund forward Immobile as the man to support Daniel Sturridge in the Liverpool attack next season.


Di Marzio said on his website: "Ciro Immobile could be leaving Germany for England.

"Liverpool are interested in the Italian striker. The Reds have contacted Borussia Dortmund’s director Zorc. Immobile could replace Balotelli."


Immobile only moved to Germany last summer from Torino for £15.5m after scoring 22 goals in the 2013-14 season.

But he has struggled for goals under Jurgen Klopp this year, scoring just three times.
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Leading contenders for European Golden Shoe

As each of Europe's big five leagues enters the final few weeks of the campaign, some of world football's biggest names are vying it out to land individual accolades.

After taking a look at the race for the Premier League's Golden Shoe, it is now time to turn attention elsewhere across the continent to see who leads the way in the respective scoring charts.

La Liga
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 39 goals)
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona, 35 goals)
3. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid, 20 goals)

Unsurprisingly, the two players widely considered to be the greatest of their generation top the Spanish scoring charts as they continue their attempt to outdo each other. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi just simply love scoring goals, seemingly setting new records with each passing game.

Their personal battle on the European stage, which has seen both score 75 goals in the Champions League, is one which is likely to continue for a few more years yet. On the domestic stage, meanwhile, Ronaldo currently leads the way in La Liga with 39 goals for the campaign.

It is this astronomical scoring rate which guided the Portuguese to his second Ballon d'Or crown earlier this year, yet he still cannot shake off Messi who also boasts a record unrivalled anywhere else on the continent. The 27-year-old has found the net 35 times in the league this season which, combined with his 16 assists - some two more than that of Ronaldo - goes a long way to showing that there is more to the Argentine's game than simply slamming the ball home himself.

The superstar duo's race to land the Pichichi will go right down to the wire, but elsewhere Antoine Griezmann continues to go about his work in a somewhat understated manner. Much like Atletico Madrid as a whole in many ways, the performances of the £24m summer signing may not make the headlines, yet his 20 goals this season mark a mightily impressive debut campaign on Spanish shores. He still has some way to go before the can match the scoring rate of the real giants of the game, but the ability to pop up in the right place at the right time certainly stands the Frenchman in good stead for the future.

Serie A
1. Carlos Tevez (Juventus, 18 goals)
2. Jeremy Menez (AC Milan, 16 goals)
2. Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan, 16 goals)

He may have been more of a hindrance than a threat in his final season at Manchester City, but there is no denying that Carlos Tevez has played a huge part in Juventus's recent domination over in Italy. Nineteen goals in his debut campaign in Turin was a decent return rate, but having almost matched that tally with 18 goals this time around with seven games still to play, this will be the prolific forward's most proficient campaign to date.

It is not just the ability to find the net which has made Tevez a real hero at Juve, though, it is also his new-found ability of finding space to help feed in others, such as Alessandro Matri who has seven goals of his own. The former Manchester United ace has also proved to be far more successful in front of goal in Europe, too, having scored twice in the tense opening-game win over Malmo, while also bagging three more against Borussia Dortmund.

Tevez is no flat-track bully, but a player who more often than not proves the difference maker. The same can also be said of Milan pair Jeremy Menez and Mauro Icardi, of AC and Inter respectively, who are currently the names on everyone's lips in the Italian capital. The fallen giants of Serie A may now be camped firmly in mid-table, but that has not stopped them joining the Capocannoniere race.

Milan have a rich history of prolific attackers, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko most recently, while Menez could join that illustrious list. Having started the season in a 'false nine' role, Menez has enjoyed a fine personal campaign, but it counts for very little in the grand scheme of things with the Rossoneri failing to match their previous highs.

Ligue 1
1. Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon, 25 goals)
2. Andre-Pierre Gignac (Marseille, 18 goals)
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain, 17 goals)

As the summer transfer window draws into sight, there is one man in particular who is seemingly being linked with an array of English clubs. Alexandre Lacazette has enjoyed a fantastic year, scoring the goals which have helped propel Lyon to the top of the Ligue 1 table, although he recently admitted that he would like to remain at the Stade de Gerland.

Each element of his game - pace, power and poise - has proved too much for many top-flight defenders to deal with, particularly Lille who succumbed to a Lacazette treble in the first half of the season. There has been a another star making headlines, though, and he goes by the name of Andre-Pierre Gignac.

The Newcastle United-linked forward is one of a few Marseille players out of contract this summer, and if he continues to rack up the goals at his current rate then there will be no shortage of suitors at the end of the season. The burly striker had never previously surpassed the 16-goal mark during his previous four seasons at the club, although he is now well on track to reach 20 for the season.

Gignac looks a different beast under the watch of Marcelo Bielsa, prowling in and around the penalty area and having the ability to score with both feet and also being able to hold up play to bring others into the game. It is a similar trait that we have seen time and time again over the years from another superstar in the shape of Ibrahimovic.

The self-proclaimed greatest footballer there has ever been has scored goals wherever he has plied his trade, including at current club Paris Saint-Germain. Recent comments he made shining a bad light on France landed him in hot water with authorities, but it is this controversial side of the striker which has made him one of the most talked about players of his time. Top scorer for two seasons running, Zlatan is fast running out of time to win the award for a third year in succession.

Bundesliga
1. Alexander Meier (Frankfurt, 19 goals)
2. Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich, 17 goals)
3. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, 16 goals)

The Bundesliga boasts some of world football's biggest names, many of whom currently reside at Bayern Munich, so it is not all that surprising to see the Bavarian giants top the scoring charts. Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller all feature in the top five, but it is Frankfurt goal-machine Alexander Meier who currently tops the charts.

An attacking midfielder by trade Meier, who scored a combined 24 league goals in his last two campaigns in the German top flight, has pushed on this time around to give his side a slim chance of landing a Europa League berth. However, it was revealed last week that the 32-year-old requires surgery on his knee, meaning that his season has come to an early end.

It is a similar scenario for Robben, who has started just two league games for Bayern since the start of March. His injury problems, coupled with the absence of Franck Ribbery on the opposite flank, has clearly been felt by Pep Guardiola's men in recent weeks. Thankfully for them, Lewandowski has stepped up to the plate with five goals in his last six outings.

Three of those strikes have come in the league, taking him up to 16 for the season - just four short of his final tally at Borussia Dortmund last year. The Polish international, who has today been tipped with a move to Man United, is one of the most rounded strikers in the game, and if he can continue to break down defences in the closing weeks of the campaign, then for the second year running he will prevail to claim the Golden Shoe.
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Fernando Morientes: 'Real Madrid should keep Carlo Ancelotti'

Former Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes has urged the club to keep manager Carlo Ancelotti beyond the end of the season.

Ancelotti's future at the Santiago Bernabeu has come under the spotlight this season, despite the team challenging for honours on multiple fronts.

Los Blancos are currently just two points behind Barcelona in the La Liga table, while they remain on course to defend their Champions League crown.

While doubts still linger over whether the notoriously temperamental Madrid hierarchy will look to change the coaching staff in the summer, Morientes believes that Ancelotti is the right man to guide the team forward.

"Yes, at this moment he is the right man for Real Madrid, he has shown that," the Spaniard told Goal.com. "He has won titles in Italy, France, England and Spain. He is a special coach, at the highest level. Working with regular players is very different to coaching elite ones, like the players you find at Real Madrid. I think he knows how to balance that very well."

Madrid continue their Champions League campaign tonight when they host local rivals Atletico Madrid for the second leg of their quarter-final clash.
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Top three contenders for Premier League Golden Boot

The Premier League is fast reaching its conclusion but, while Chelsea appear to be runaway leaders at the top of the table, there is still plenty to play for elsewhere.

Awards season is upon us, meaning that a selection of players will be vying it out for individual accolades as well as battling for success on a team level.

With that in mind, We take a look at the three leading contenders to land the Golden Boot - the honour awarded to the player who scores the most goals throughout the campaign.

1. Sergio Aguero

Club: Manchester City
Appearances: 28
Goals: 20

When it comes to making early-season predictions, Sergio Aguero will no doubt have topped the list of most to go on and finish at the summit of the scoring charts. Twenty-three goals in his first top-flight campaign on these shores, followed up by a combined total of 29 in the next two years, has made the South American one of the most feared forwards on the continent.

What makes the former Atletico Madrid man so deadly is his ability to find the net from any position, whether inside the box or out, from a couple of yards - such as that strike against Queens Park Rangers - or 25+ yards, he will often punish defences who fail to shut him out of the game.

Aguero, perhaps more so than any other player in that top band of elite forwards, will often go through barren spells in front of goal. Six games without a goal earlier this campaign in all competitions was followed up by four in his next three. Likewise, a recent six-goal streak of failing to find the net has been met with three strikes in his last two outings.

Having so often fallen short when it comes to finishing top of the scoring pile, Aguero is very much in pole position to push on this term to claim the accolade. If he is to do so, then his four-goal appearance against Spurs in October will be picked out as his finest afternoon.

Yet it was also his crucial strikes in games against Manchester United, Arsenal, QPR, and also a memorable treble against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which has prevented City from enduring an even worse season than they have.

2. Harry Kane

Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Appearances: 29
Goals: 20

The fairytale rise of Harry Kane, from a player thrown out on loan to gain experience to the Premier League's deadliest hitman and a fully-fledged England international, has certainly been well documented. Yet his achievements in this breakthrough campaign, in which he has scored 20 league goals and a further 11 elsewhere, should not be played down.

His latest strike, a well-taken shot beyond Tim Krul to secure a 3-1 victory for Spurs at St James' Park last weekend, ensured that he has become the first Tottenham player to hit 30 in a single season since Gary Lineker back in 1991-92 - a year before Kane was even born.

In fact, Kane joins a four-man list of players to have hit 20 goals or more in a Premier League campaign for the club, alongside Gareth Bale, Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham. That is some going for a player who was not handed his first league start of the season until the start of November.

Mauricio Pochettino showed faith in the youngster from that point on, and it is fair to say that he has not looked back. Seven goals in league and cup during December and January has helped propel Kane from back-up option to the first name on the team sheet, but he will be eager to round off what has been a hugely impressive season in style by ousting Aguero - whom he is currently level on goals with - over the coming weeks.

It says a lot that his recent spell of two club games without a goal was considered somewhat of a mini drought, yet he proved the doubters wrong by racking up that record-equalling 30th goal against Newcastle United to ensure that equilibrium has very much been restored.

3. Diego Costa

Club: Chelsea
Appearances: 24
Goals: 19

He may have gone off the radar a little in recent months, struggling to control his high-profile injury problems which has seen him miss a number of key games, but this has been a highly successful first season in the Premier League for Diego Costa. Chelsea's shock 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last year is widely considered to be the afternoon in which Jose Mourinho realised that he had a lot of work still to do in his second coming at Stamford Bridge.

The Brazilian-born Spaniard made a blistering start to his Blues career, scoring seven goals in his first four games, in a hot streak which also included a hat-trick against Swansea. His three assists compare weakly to his two direct rivals for the Golden Boot award, but Costa was plucked from Atletico Madrid for one thing and one thing only - to score goals.

Chelsea so often failed to take chances during the last campaign, most notably in that reverse at Selhurst Park which prompted Mourinho to claim that his players "lacked the balls" to go on and challenge for the title. That has certainly not been the case this campaign and, while Eden Hazard is rightly the strong contender to win the Player of the Year award, a huge slice of praise must also go to the fiery Costa.

Just two goals in his last 10 games since mid-January have blighted what has otherwise been a decent campaign, but Costa will no doubt be hoping to put his injury troubles behind him during a football-free summer in order to match his goalscoring heroics next year.

Before then, with a return to action against Arsenal next weekend likely, there is still time for the £32m maestro to usurp Aguero and Kane, as well as holding off the challenge of Charlie Austin who is charging down the outside, to join the likes of Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Carlos Tevez and teammate Didier Drogba in winning the much-coveted accolade.
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