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Soccer

Graeme Souness delivers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang warning to Arsenal

Graeme Souness has warned Arsenal they must keep hold of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after comparing him to club legend Thierry Henry.

The Gunners' captain bagged a brace in Sunday's 3-2 win over Everton at the Emirates to take his season's goals tally to 17 in the Premier League.

Aubameyang raced clear of the Toffees' defence to put Arsenal 2-1 ahead, before heading them in front again after Richarlison had levelled.

His second goal straight after half-time proved to be the all-important winner, and pundit Souness feels his value to Arsenal cannot be understated.

"He is 30, he is at the top of his game." Souness told Sky Sports. "He is a really good player.

"Coming here I was worried how he would deal with the English game but he has taken it all in his stride.

"You see two different goals today, one where he has got a chance of getting properly injured with a coming together of heads, but he didn't pull out in any shape. Good header, stuck it away.

"The one before that when he is set free, and very Thierry-esque where he is free. The alarm bells are ringing for a lot of strikers in that position, but when he gets free you're thinking he is gonna put this away.

"He didn't get excited and stroked it and passed the ball into the net.

"He is a top man. Can they hold onto him? It is imperative they do."

Aubameyang's Arsenal contract is running down, with just over a year remaining on his current deal.

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Soccer

Alan Shearer addresses Gareth Bale saga at Real Madrid with Man City prediction

Manchester City will need to be wary of the threat posed by Gareth Bale should he be passed fit to start in their Champions League meeting.

That is the view of Premier League legend Alan Shearer, who has noted Eden Hazard’s absence as a chance for the Wales skipper to prove his worth amid a period of uncertainty.

Pep Guardiola’s men travel to the Bernabeu this week with the chance to put some of their Premier League disappointment behind them with Liverpool poised to take their crown of two seasons.

Bale could return from illness to replace the injured Hazard in Zinedine Zidane’s front three, and Shearer has earmarked the occasion as a chance for him to shine on the big stage once more.

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The Newcastle hero wrote in his column for The Sun: “I’m expecting a great game and with the number of brilliant players on the pitch, goals are guaranteed.

“It’s a tough match to call but Real have suffered a big blow with the loss of Eden Hazard with a broken ankle.

“He’s struggled with injuries since joining but when one door closes, another one opens – and that brings us to Gareth Bale.

“He came close to leaving for China last year but I totally get why he wants to stay in Madrid.

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“I don’t get the criticism of him. Look at what he’s achieved there and how he’s helped them win all those trophies, including that stunning overhead kick to win the 2018 final against Liverpool.

“If Bale gets a chance on Wednesday night, it is a great chance for him to remind everyone of his talents.

“City’s defence has struggled this season and they would certainly be wary of his goal threat.”

The 30-year-old forward almost moved to China last summer and Zidane was open about his desire for the former Spurs winger to leave his club.

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Bale has failed to recapture the form of his early days in the Spanish capital in recent seasons, with his current tally of three goals set to make it his worse campaign in front of goal in ten years.

With that in mind, Shearer has also predicted a transfer battle over City’s Raheem Sterling, who noted his desire to ply his trade in Spain later in his career.

He said: “It certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise if they were interested in signing him.

“Sterling wouldn’t look out of place in their team – despite the stellar names Zinedine Zidane can call upon.”

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Soccer

Man Utd set new Premier League record in 3-0 win over Watford

Manchester United have set a new Premier League record for the amount of penalties they’ve been awarded in the past two seasons. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team scored a spot-kick against Watford on Sunday when Bruno Fernandes fired home his first goal for the club.

United have been awarded 22 penalties over the last two seasons, with 12 last term and 10 in the current campaign.

That means they are the first team in the Premier League era to be awarded 22 over a two season period, report The Times.

Fernandes scored from 12 yards after being fouled by Ben Foster.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was full of praise for his January signing after the game, comparing him to former Old Trafford stars Juan Sebastian Veron and Paul Scholes.

“He felt like a presence in the group from the first minute, a bit of a mix between Scholes and Veron – the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of Scholesy,” said Solskjaer.

“The fans are used to players with that personality, mentality and quality.

“We have got the number 10 position nailed down now. He is a big piece of what we are trying to put together.

“In today’s market, I think we got a good deal. He has given everyone a boost.”

In today’s market, I think we got a good deal. He has given everyone a boost

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Man Utd new boy Bruno Fernandes

Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were also on target in the 3-0 win.

Solskjaer challenged the Frenchman to deliver more for the team in the absence of Marcus Rashford.

“Anthony has got his critics and I am one of the biggest,” he added.

”He scored a number nine’s goal against Chelsea, did everything to get the goal against Bruges and this one is more the Anthony we know about. The skill is just mind-blowing. But I want more from him.”

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  • Man Utd: Fernandes explains what he wants for Martial after Watford

On Greenwood, Solskjaer added: “Right foot, left foot, it doesn’t matter,” said the 46-year-old. “Mason knows how to score and is going to be better and better.

“He is only 18. He is not like [former United and England striker] Wayne Rooney was at 18, he was fully grown in his body. In Mason’s case, in a couple of years’ time he will be more or less the complete number nine.

“There are four big games coming up now – Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sheffield United,” said Solskjaer.

“It has been a good week but now we need to kick on.”

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Soccer

Man Utd star Shaw making late push for Gareth Southgate’s England squad in Euros

Manchester United star Luke Shaw has seen a return to form and must now be in contention for a recall to the England squad.

The Red Devils have looked defensively solid in recent weeks.

United have now kept three clean sheets in a row in the Premier League with Shaw overshadowing his team-mates at the back.

It is a remarkable turnaround for Shaw, who was in danger of losing his first-team spot not long ago.

Brandon Williams emerged as a real option for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the back after a stretch of games.

For Shaw, it represented an actual competitor in his position.

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The ex-Southampton star has perhaps been complacent at times, knowing his position in the starting XI was safe.

But the push from Williams has seen the 24-year-old take his game to a new level and Gareth Southgate must surely be taking a close interest.

The left-back role for England this summer looked an assured position with Ben Chilwell of Leicester.

But the 23-year-old has been desperately short of form recently, coinciding with a tricky period for the Foxes.

The young full-back could be in line for a summer move with Chelsea and Manchester City interested.

However, the attention looks like it has gone to the defender’s head.

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This is maybe England’s best chance of winning a tournament for years and every decision Southgate makes will be scrutinised.

With big injuries to Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane, whoever leads the line for the Three Lions will be the ex-Middlesbrough manager’s top priority.

But Shaw, whose last cap came against Spain in 2018, is making a case for a place in the squad at the very least.

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“United are my priority, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the Euros as well" he said this month.

“Everyone wants to be in the England squad for a big tournament, but what I’ve got to do is play well for my club.

“Winning trophies and climbing the table is what I want to do – and it would be great if that opened the door with England.”

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Soccer

Ex-Inter chief Moratti reveals Eric Cantona regret

‘I would have loved to have him, he would have solved all our problems’: Ex-Inter Milan chief Massimo Moratti reveals regret at being unable to sign Eric Cantona from Man United after Frenchman’s infamous kung-fu kick

  • Inter Milan tried to sign Eric Cantona following 1995 kung-fu kick controversy
  • President Massimo Moratti has revealed his regret the deal didn’t materialise
  • Inter believed controversy over Cantona’s kick could bring United to the table
  • But Cantona was persuaded to stay at Moratti has always regretted it 
  • Inter did manage to sign ‘tough Englishman’ Paul Ince from United that summer 

Former Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti still regrets not signing Eric Cantona from Manchester United, saying the Frenchman ‘would have solved all their problems.’

Moratti, Inter’s chairman between 1995 and 2013, was present at Selhurst Park the night of Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995.

He believed at the time that the controversy may force United to sell their talismanic forward and Inter did make an approach.

Former Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti has revealed his regret at being unable to prise Eric Cantona from Manchester United following his kung-fu kick controversy in 1995

Cantona was banned from football for nine months following his attack on Matthew Simmons, a Crystal Palace fan who abused him after he was sent off at Selhurst Park

The Frenchman was banned for nine months, during which time Inter attempted to sign him

But Cantona didn’t leave Old Trafford despite serving a nine month ban and handing in a transfer request that summer, with manager Alex Ferguson persuading him to stay.

Speaking on the Italian television programme ‘Che tempo che fa’ on Sunday night, Moratti was asked for his biggest football regret and answered: ‘I wanted to take Cantona from Manchester United but I couldn’t.

‘I would have loved to have him because I thought he [would have] solved all Inter’s problems.’ 

Moratti believed at the time that Cantona ‘would have solved all of Inter Milan’s problems’

Inter did sign ‘tough Englishman’ Paul Ince from Manchester United during 1995

Instead, Inter signed midfielder Paul Ince from United for £7.5million in 1995 and Moratti still has admiration for the Englishman. 

‘I was happy to have Paul Ince. Too little is spoken about him. He was an extraordinary player in terms of physical strength and charisma. A tough Englishman.’

Ince spent two seasons at the San Siro, playing 73 times and scoring 13 goals.

Cantona remained a United player for two further seasons, winning back-to-back Premier League titles before shocking the game by retiring in 1997 at the age of 30.

Moratti welcomes Paul Ince to Inter in 1995 after the England midfield moved from Man United

Moratti has spoken previously on the Cantona subject. Back in 2015, he said: ‘Maybe if we’d signing him, we would have started winning sooner because Cantona would have changed everything.

‘I was at the stadium when he kicked that fan and I said that maybe it would help with our negotiations, because maybe they would let him go because of that.

‘We were about to sign him and then, due to somebody’s mistake, it didn’t happen.’

 


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Soccer

Erling Haaland was right to snub Man Utd, insists Liverpool hero Jamie Redknapp

Erling Haaland has been supported by Liverpool hero Jamie Redknapp for deciding against a move to Premier League outfit Manchester United while he is in the early stages of his career.

The 19-year-old was not short of options when his release clause of £18m caught the eye of European heavyweights following an astonishing 29 goals in 27 outings in his short stint with Red Bull Salzburg.

The Norway international could have decided to pursue a reunion with his former Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but he and agent Mino Raiola settled on a Bundesliga switch.

An exceptional 12 goals in eight fixtures has followed including a brace against PSG in the Champions League, with Redknapp acknowledging that his decision has been fully justified.

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He said in his Daily Mail column: “Though Manchester United were linked, I believe Haaland made the right call in deciding to cut his teeth in the Bundesliga.”

Erling’s father Alf-Inge Haaland played in England for Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Manchester City between 1993 and 2003, leaving Redknapp wary of pressure placed on the youngster’s shoulders.

“It isn't easy trying to follow in your old man's footsteps,” the former England midfielder added.

“In fact, it puts more pressure on you because people pre-judge you.

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“‘Oh, he's so-and-so's son…' I made it into professional football, and so did Frank Lampard, Jordi Cruyff and Paul Dalglish, among others.

“Jamie Carragher's son is a good player at Wigan and my boy is in the academy at Chelsea.”

“Now we're seeing Erling Braut Haaland, the son of Alf-Inge, ripping it up in Germany at the age of 19,” he continued.

“Eight games for Borussia Dortmund, 12 goals. Dortmund is a great place to gain a footballing education. That future Premier League move can wait!”

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Haaland is loving life in Germany with Dortmund still within touching distance of a first Bundesliga title since 2012, and admitted that he still has a long way to go if he is to reach his potential.

He said after the unexpected 2-1 Champions League round of 16 victory: “I have to play better at this level.

“I have to work hard to improve. The result is quite a dangerous one, as PSG has a very strong team and can still go through in the return leg."

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Athletics

Athletes watch and wait on coronavirus in Tokyo

The latest strengthening of the Australian government's travel warning for people going to Japan has not changed the position for the nation's athletes and swimmers.

A worsening of the coronavirus situation in Japan prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the weekend to raise the alert level for people travelling to Japan.

Coronavirus fears: People wear face masks in Tokyo as the countdown clock to the Olympic Games ticks down.Credit:AP

"Based on advice from Australia's chief medical officer, we now recommend you 'exercise a high degree of caution' in Japan due to a heightened risk of sustained local transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19),” DFAT said in relation to the Japan advisory.

Athletics Australia and Swimming Australia are both closely monitoring the DFAT and World Health Organisation advice but have not yet altered their advice to athletes four months out from the Olympics.

Both sports are also taking a lead from the Australian Olympic Committee, which is likewise monitoring the situation but has not yet altered advice to sports.

The AOC said it was still planning on the basis of the Tokyo Games going ahead.

"Australian health authorities have not implemented any travel restrictions in relation to Japan, however the novel coronavirus is a serious matter which the AOC will be taking into account in our preparations for Tokyo," an AOC spokesperson said.

"We need to be vigilant and concerned – but it's important that people remain calm and don't overreact. Whether the coronavirus has any impact on the Tokyo Olympics will be a decision for the IOC (International Olympic Committee), not a decision for individual NOCs (national olympics committees)."

The IOC was being regularly advised by the World Health Organisation and the Tokyo Games Organising Committee.

AOC chairman John Coates is also chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games.

"The AOC places athlete safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all of our activities," the AOC spokesperson said.

AA chief executive Darren Gocher said the sport was concerned and was watching the situation closely, and noted the DFAT advice had not yet warned people not to go to Japan.

He said athletes with concerns could also speak with chief medical officer Dr Paul Blackman regarding the virus and risks.

Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell said the organisation was monitoring the situation closely and the welfare of the athletes remained paramount. But like most sports they would take direction from the AOC as the Games drew closer.

The Tokyo Olympics are still four months away and the pace of change regarding the virus has made all authorities wary about making long-term predictions.

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Rugby

Bulldogs chief wants rep bodies to chip in for injured players

Canterbury have called on the NRL and other governing bodies like New Zealand Rugby League to start helping cover the costs, including paying wages, for any players injured while on representative duty.

The Bulldogs confirmed Chris Smith will be sidelined for at least three months, which could turn into the season if further scans confirm a full tear of his anterior cruciate ligament, after he broke down in the All Stars game.

Chris Smith is helped from the field during the All Stars game.Credit:AAP

But Hill said Smith's $200,000, along with the $350,000 allowed for Foran's replacement, still had to come from the Canterbury coffers – and it was time other organisations bore some of the responsibility.

"The responsibility needs to be shared because at the moment the club takes 100 per cent of the risk,'' Hill told the Herald.

"We would never stop our players taking part in a representative game. But whoever borrows that player should be responsible for them, and if something goes wrong and they should pick up some of the costs. We talk about improving the game but this is one area that needs to be looked at.

"Yes, we've been given $350,000 cap relief for Kieran, and Chris's wage depending on the severity of his injury, but we now have to find that extra money to spend, which will depend on the outcome of any potential insurance claims.

Top Dog Kieran Foran broke down in his return for New Zealand last November.Credit:Getty

"A simpler shared responsibilty could be the NRL and NZRL pay Chris and Kieran's wage until they're fit to return to the field.''

Canterbury are one of the wealthier NRL clubs with the backing of a powerful leagues club, and Hill wondered how some of their rivals in a less fortunate financial position could possibly cope with suddenly finding more $500,000 to spend on replacement players.

Another issue is the complicated insurance policies, which requires players to miss at least 12 games and the significant excess which in most cases equates to ''tens of thousands of dollars''.

Given Canterbury's plight, other clubs are said to be already concerned about one of their superstar big-earners breaking down with a serious injury during the Origin series and only receiving a maximum $350,000 in cap relief.

Hill has already reached out to NRL boss Todd Greenberg about the Smith situation.

Canterbury took the NRL to task at the start of the year for setting a $350,000 limit on cap relief for those players injured on rep duty. The Bulldogs argued a fairer system was a payout based on the percentage of a player's wage.

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Soccer

Arsenal face transfer call as Inter and Barcelona consider Aubameyang offers

Arsenal are facing a battle to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the books this summer.

The Gunners appear to have turned a corner under Mikel Arteta, who replaced his compatriot Unai Emery earlier in the season.

Arsenal have now won their last three games in all competitions and secured a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over Everton at the Emirates on Sunday.

However, with Champions League football far from certain next season, Arteta faces a huge challenge keeping his prized assets.

Aubameyang has been prolific in the Premier League having joined the club from Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

He's racked up an impressive 49 goals in 74 top-flight games despite the Gunners' woes in recent seasons.

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That stunning record – coupled with Arsenal’s recent woes – has put him firmly on the radar of Europe’s elite.

According to Italian news outlet Tuttosport , Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan are sniffing around.

The Serie A giants are concerned about losing Lautaro Martinez at the end of campaign and are already scouring the market for potential replacements.

Starsport understands Barcelona also retain a long-running interest in Aubameyang.

The Catalans signed ex-Middlesbrough forward Martin Braithwaite from Leganes earlier last week following a season-ending injury to Ousmane Dembele.

The 28-year-old is only viewed as a short-term fix, though.

Barca are expected to be active in the market again once the transfer window re-opens.

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It was Aubameyang who inspired Arsenal to victory over the Toffees. He bagged a brace as Arteta’s revolution continues.

The ex-Manchester City assistant manager claimed in the aftermath that he hopes to keep his talisman in north London.

"They are completely right to want him because he is a superb player," Arteta said when asked about Barca’s interest.

"It's right that big teams like him. Hopefully we can convince him this is right place to be.

"I think it's been tough for him because he has big expectations.

“He wants to play in the biggest competitions and with the best players.

“We have to help him do that. He needs to feel fulfilled.

"He is our most important player, no doubt the impact he has in this team. We will have to convince him to stay with us."

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Soccer

Arsenal fans issue Bukayo Saka contract plea to boss Mikel Arteta after win over Everton

Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka came off the bench to help the Gunners secure a 3-2 win over Everton on Sunday and in the process keep the club’s hopes of a top-four finish alive. However, the 18-year-old is in the final 18 months of his current contract and fans want to see the club secure the youngster’s long-term future rather than risk losing him.

Saka has been used as an emergency left-back on several occasions this season because of the defensive injury crisis at the club but he was named as a substitute yesterday following the return of Sead Kolasinac.

However, Saka didn’t have to wait long to feature in the clash as after 18 minutes Kolasinac suffered a shoulder injury.

At this point in the game Arsenal were already a goal down after Toffees striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored with an overhead kick after just 49 seconds.

Saka was involved in getting the Gunners back into the game, when his excellent cross was volleyed into the back of the net by Eddie Nketiah in the 27th minute.

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Two goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang either side of half-time sealed the win for the Gunners, despite Richarlison levelling the score for Everton four minutes into added time before the break.

And after the game Arsenal fans took to social media to urge the club to give Saka, who now has three goals and nine assists this season, a new improved deal.

One fan said: “Announce lifetime contract.”

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While another joked: “Lock him in a room until he signs a contract.”

A third added: “The most underrated player in the world right now.”

After the game Arteta revealed that Saka had some injury concerns going into the match and while he praised the youngster’s performance against Everton he also insisted there is room for improvement.

“Bukayo had some issues as well before the game but then he started to play after a few minutes,” Arteta said.

“It was a great contribution offensively but as well there are other moments when he showed today that there is still a lot of margin for him for improvement.

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“And he needs to keep his feet on the ground and we have to help him to do that.”

Although several Arsenal fans have already seen enough from the youngster to feel he warrants a new and improved deal.

“Announce his statue,” one said.

While another added: “Give him all the money in the world.”

Others said: “Please give him the contract” and “ Lifetime contract please.”

Arsenal now only have a few days to recover before they take on Olympiacos at the Emirates on Thursday, where they will take a 1-0 lead into the Europa League second-leg last-32 knockout match.

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