7 Players Who Could Leave Napoli in Wake of Scandal & Where They Could Go

​Napoli are a shambles on and off the pitch these days.

After being held to a 0-0 draw by Genoa on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti’s side are seventh in Serie A, five points off the Champions League qualification spots and 13 behind leaders Juventus. However, that is far from the biggest issue surrounding the club.

SSC Napoli v Genoa CFC - Serie A

​I Partenopei’s poor run of results saw owner Aurelio Di Laurentiis take matters into his own hands following a stalemate against Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday, ​scheduling extra training sessions for the squad. However, both the manager and players refused to turn up for the organised retreat and are set to face the consequences which could range from fines, to legal action to being sold…

Here’s a look at who could be forced out or ready to jump ship at Stadio San Paolo in the wake of this ugly mutiny and where they may be headed next.


Dries Mertens

Ories Mertens

It’ll be a tragedy when, not if, Dries Mertens moves away from Naples. He’s fallen for the fan-base and they have likewise fallen for him, but this love affair is set to go the way of Romeo and Juliet.

Having only recently surpassed Diego Maradona into second place on Napoli’s all-time top scorers lisr, the Belgian may be close to joining rivals ​Inter after ​’practically agreeing’ a two-year contract with the Nerazzurri.

It’s a sad, sad end to what had been a heartwarming story for Mertens and his adoring supporters.

Probable Destination: Inter


Kalidou Koulibaly

FBL-EUR-C1-NAPOLI-SALZBURG

If anyone is to depart I Partenopei, it will be Kalidou Koulibaly. It’s very simple – the colossal centre-back is too good to be at a club so deeply embroiled in crisis, and he knows it.

So, where is the Senegalese likely to end up? At another club that’s in the midst of a crisis! ​Manchester United have been tracking him for years and may return with a new bid if they feel they can get a discounted price amid the chaos.

United may have splashed out big on Harry Maguire in the summer, but their defensive issues aren’t quite fully solved. The likes of PSG, Man City Juventus and many may well be interested if word gets out that Napoli are ready to entertain bids but expect the Red Devils to be at the front of the queue.

Possible Destination: Manchester United


Fabián Ruiz

Fabian Ruiz

Back in October, ​Real Madrid representatives ​made contact with Fabián Ruiz as they looked to lure him back to his native Spain. Now, there’s added incentive for Los Blancos to press ahead with a deal.

A player of the midfielder’s calibre will not want to hang around on the sinking ship that is Napoli when he could go and be the heir to Luka Modrić’s throne at the Bernabeu. 

​Barcelona and ​Manchester City are also thought to be interested, but neither can guarantee him a starting berth. Madrid most certainly can as they prepare for life without their ageing Croatian playmaker, whilst Ruiz is also thought to favour Madrid due to it’s proximity to his family home.

Possible Destination: Real Madrid


José Callejón

Jose Maria Callejon

While the Chinese Super League has been suggested for Callejon, Italian journalist Ciro Venerato has claimed ​AC Milan are looking to secure the Spaniard’s signature once his deal with I Partenopei expires in the summer, as reported by club news outlet ​Sempre Milan.

The Rossoneri were keen on bringing him to San Siro over the off-season, yet they couldn’t come to an agreement with his current employers. 

However, they won’t need Napoli’s good graces after his deal runs out and it’s understood Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina could play a part in convincing Callejón to move up north.

Possible Destination: AC Milan


Lorenzo Insigne

Lorenzo Insigne

Until they got slapped with a one-year transfer ban, ​Chelsea had rather fancied the idea of bringing Lorenzo Insigne to west London. 

​The Blues wanted the forward to come in for Madrid-bound Eden Hazard at Stamford Bridge and – obviously – haven’t been able to purchase any replacements as of yet.

Christian Pulisic is beginning to blossom under Frank Lampard, but Pedro will surely be on his way soon, whilst it can’t hurt to have a make-shift back-up for Tammy Abraham, despite the clear differences in his and Insigne’s style of play.

Like with Koulibaly, expect many of Europe’s major players to take an interest in local hero Insigne is made to leave his hometown club.

Possible Destination: Chelsea


Kostas Manolas

Konstantinos "Kostas" Manolas

​Arsenal were allegedly ​close to signing Greek centre-back Kostas Manolas before his switch from Roma to San Paolo in the summer – who’s to say they won’t resurrect that interest?

No one is pretending David Luiz is a long-term fix for the Gunners’ defensive woes and Napoli may hold the answer to their problems.

He has just been backed by the Arsenal board, but there’s only so much more poor form the club’s hierarchy can tolerate before sacking Unai Emery. Whoever they appoint after him, the new man would probably look to sort out that leaky backline immediately.

Possible Destination: Arsenal


Allan

Marques Allan

At the back-end of the 2018/19 campaign, numerous reports surfaced suggesting Allan ​had his heart set on joining Paris Saint-Germain, the Brazilian informing Ancelotti and co of his desire to go.

Apparently, his compatriots at the Parc des Princes had spoken to him about the prospect of a transfer to Ligue 1, with the midfielder swiftly deciding he wanted a new challenge in France.

A deal never materialised, yet the situation is different following the latest Neapolitan scandal. Di Laurentiis could be looking to start afresh and Allan could be getting his wishes met.

Possible Destination: Paris Saint-Germain


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: Week 13

It’s week 13 of this season’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings, and we at HQ would just like to congratulate Liverpool on winning the Premier League. We’re paying our respects by not including a single one of their players this week, because they’ve got enough on their minds. 

Besides, it’s Peep Show time. Peep Show is crass silliness. Who’d associate a domestic league champions with crass silliness?


15. Raúl Ruidíaz (New Entry)

Raúl Mario Ruidíaz

“The Beastie Boys fought and possibly died for my right to party, so…”

You know who’s probably still partying right now? Raúl Ruidíaz rounded off one of the all-time great ​MLS Cup playoff runs on Sunday with a goal and an assist in the final against Toronto FC, helping his Seattle Sounders side to a 3-1 win and their second MLS Cup. 

Ruidíaz contributed seven combined goals and assists in the Sounders’ four playoff games, including crucial strikes in the Western Conference final against LAFC and their dramatic first round win over Dallas in extra time. Go all out, Raúl. Rent a snake. You’ve earned it. 


14. Marcus Thuram (New Entry)

Marcus Thuram

“But you’ve got to give it a go. Norwich are never going to win the league, but they still turn up every week don’t they? The pricks.”

Borussia Monchengladbach play in the ​Bundesliga, which means that Borussia Monchengladbach aren’t going to win the league. But they’re still turning up every week, and Marcus Thuram’s helped them to…it says here ‘lead the league by four points’???

He’s scored or assisted in his last five games in all comps, been man of the match in three of them, and he’s Lilian Thuram’s son. Plane. 


13. Karim Benzema (Re-Entry)

Karim Benzema

“I answer to a higher law. The law of ‘if it feels good, do it’.”

Scoring two goals in an ‘Eff You’ win over Galatasaray in midweek? That feels good. Scoring another two away at Eibar a few days later? That feels good. 

Scoring 41 goals in all competitions since Cristiano Ronaldo left ​Real Madrid, while his former hunting partner’s racked up ‘just’ 34? Oh, you know that feels good. 


12. Erling Håland (Re-Entry)

RZ Pellets WAC v FC Red Bull Salzburg - tipico Bundesliga

“Oh my God, there’s a baby in there, about the size of a croissant. A terrifying, life-altering croissant-baby!”

Oh my GOD, there’s a baby in Salzburg, about the size of…well, about the size of a mountain. A terrifying, paradigm-altering mountain-baby who just scored his 13th, 14th and 15th league goals of the season this weekend. And his seventh Champions League this week. And he’s scored those 22 goals in 16 games. 


11. Memphis (Up 2)

Olympique Lyon v SL Benfica: Group G - UEFA Champions League

“I have entered the abyss. I’ve bought a house in the abyss. I’m getting my post forwarded to the abyss.”

Memphis (re-)entered the power rankings last week, and scored against Benfica in the Champions League to celebrate. 

Then he got injured. Now he is entering the abyss. He’s bought a house in the abyss. We might make it through this entire section without me mentioning that I hate the city of Lyon and basically see it as the abyss. Oh, no we won’t. 


10. Fede Valverde (New Entry)

Federico Valverde,Luka Modric

“Life is all pain. Pain, rejection and gloom. Why do we even pretend that there’s anything other than a yawning blankness at the heart of…hey! 33% extra free! I’m doing excellent shopping. My depressed state of mind is making me even more frugal than normal.”

Real Madrid aren’t having fun. They keep getting gubbed in the Champions League by teams they’d have cruised past a couple of years ago, they’ve only won one of the last seven league titles, and they haven’t won the Copa del Rey in half a decade.

But hey! Fede Valverde looks great, and he came in for barely anything at all! Scored against Eibar and all! 


9. Lucas Perez (New Entry)

Lucas Perez

“These are the good times, love; after the initial nausea passes, but before the grinding comedown. Lovely.”

31 years old. Just off a failed season at West Ham, shortly after a failed spell at Arsenal. Lucas Perez has scored in seven La Liga games in a row, and nobody’s entirely sure how or why. And he’s done it for Alaves, for crying out loud. 

These are the good times, Lucas. After the initial nausea (being a West Ham player) passes, but before the grinding comedown (the reality of being over 30 years old). Lovely. 


8. Jamie Vardy (Up 1)

Jamie Vardy

“You’re disgusting. But I like it. Like going to a strip club with the Pope.”

Nothing more need be said about *sigh* the Premier League’s most reliable goalscorer against good teams. 


7. Hakim Ziyech (Up 4)

Hakim Ziyech,Simon Gustafson

“Oh yeah. Justice is done. Not actual justice, but, what I wanted to happen. Which is basically the same thing.”

Not my words, certainly not the mind-words (thoughts?) of Jeremy Usborne, but the words of referee Gianluca Rocchi when he sent off most of Ajax’s first-team squad against Chelsea in midweek. 

Hakim Ziyech? Not bothered. Pulled the strings of that game from start to his substitution in the 72nd minute, then bossed a 4-0 win against Utrecht on Sunday. That’s five assists in three games, mark you.


6. Radja Nainggolan (Re-Entry)

Radja Nainggolan

“Hey! Wow, I’m actually good at this. Maybe I’m a natural – yeah, I’m a jogger! Of course, there had to be a sport for me, I just never realised. Legs like two great steam locomotives, pumping away, I’m unstoppable – JESUS, is that a stitch? F**k, I’m gonna be sick, I need to walk. Oh, I think I’m gonna puke, I’m literally going to die, ugh, what an idiotic boob I was back ten or eleven seconds ago.”

DISCLAIMER: Radja Nainggolan is an otherworldly footballer and might actually be the best midfielder in Serie A right now. He scored a goal and popped out three assists against Fiorentina. 

He also gives the impression of being the least fit 31-year-old currently playing professional football. He’s not. But he seems it. 


5. Timo Werner (Up 2)

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-HERTHA BERLIN-LEIPZIG

“Well, I mean, people say it like it’s a bad thing, you know, running away from your problems. But if your problems never catch up with you, what’s the hitch?”

We talked in last week’s award-winning edition about Timo Werner, and how he’s really really really really really really really fast. Then his Leipzig team went to Hertha Berlin this weekend and he scored two more goals, and got an assist. 

Timo Werner’s problems (aka defenders) will never catch up with him, and now he’s got seven goals and four assists in his last three domestic games and hahahahahahhaha how is that true that’s ridiculous. 


4. Lionel Messi (Re-Entry)

Lionel Messi

“I’m just a normal functioning member of the human race and there’s no way anyone can prove otherwise.”

Lionel Messi is not normal, nor is he a member of the human race. And we can prove otherwise, we’ve got all the footage – it’s called…watching Lionel Messi play football. 


3. Christian Pulisic (-)

Christian Pulisic,Emerson

“The secret ingredient [waves hand] is crime.”

Chelsea are third in the Premier League, have won six league games in a row and brought in Christian Pulisic this summer (technically, kinda). 

He’s scored five goals in their last three league wins. 

They have a transfer ban. 

The secret ingredient is crime. 


2. Ciro Immobile (Up 2)

Ciro Immobile

“No teas for the beastmaster, thanks. He feasts on the blood of his prey.”

Seven league games in a row, Ciro Immobile’s scored in. Ten goals in them, plus three assists and a couple of Europa League goals to keep him ticking over. Two more goals and an assist this week. No limoncello for the beastmaster, thanks. He feasts on the blood of Italian defences. 


1. Robert Lewandowski (-)

Robert Lewandowski

“So, a candle stuck in a wine bottle apparently doesn’t cut it anymore. Now for a special night you have to have Class-A drugs and…fisting.”

Last week, this section read: ‘Robert Lewandowski has started 14 games for Bayern this season across the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal, and has scored in all 14 of them.’

Robert Lewandowski has now started 16 games for Bayern this season across the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal, and has scored in all 16 of them. 

A goal just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now for a special night, Lewandowski has to score off his back and…an overhead kick.


For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209!


Let’

Barcelona Avoid Real Madrid in Semi-Finals for Revamped Super Cup in Saudi Arabia This January

The 2020 Spanish Super Cup is to be held in Saudi Arabia, with Valencia taking on Real Madrid and Barcelona facing Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the revamped competition this January.

Previously a one-off game between the winners of La Liga and Copa del Rey held at the start of the season, the competition has this year been extended to two semi-finals and a final, as revealed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Monday.

It has also been confirmed that the competition is to be held in Saudi Arabia for the next three seasons – a move RFEF say should help the ‘image’ of Spanish football ahead of a bid to host the 2030 World Cup. 

“​The Spanish Supercup will be held in Saudi Arabia during the next three years and will do so in winter in order to lighten the calendar of competitions, as claimed by clubs and players,” a ​statement confirming the location said. 

“The new format was already announced last February by the president of the RFEF, Luis Rubiales, and in addition to the change of date, it entails a Final Four. Through this transformation, clubs will be able to plan their preseason better.

“In addition, the fact that this competition is internationalized will allow the Super Cup to be valued and, at the same time, will contribute to make visible and improve the image for the 2030 World Cup nomination.”

Some had been concerned by the possibility of holding the tournament in Saudi Arabia, due to the treatment of women and minorities in the country, but RFEF have said that the decision comes with assurances that women will be given ‘unrestricted access’ to the matches – while also announcing the launch of an undetermined women’s football tournament

“The agreement reached between the RFEF and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation contemplates the unrestricted access of women to the matches, and the launch of a women’s soccer competition in Arabia,” the statement goes on. 

“Football is essential to open borders, improve societies. It can be used as a blockade or as an element of change and the Federation has chosen the latter.”


Draw and Schedule for Super Cup 2020:

Semi Finals:

Valencia vs Real Madrid (8/1/2020)

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (9/1/2020)

Final:

Valencia or Real Madrid vs Barcelona or Atletico Madrid (King Abdullah Stadium – 

12/1/2020)


Let’

PSG Open Initial Contract Talks With Kylian Mbappé Amid Real Madrid Interest

​Paris Saint-Germain have started plans to defend their ownership of Kylian Mbappé, by offering the striker a new contract, amid interest from Real Madrid.

A transfer storm has been whipped up in recent days following Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane’s comments on a potential move for the young superstar. 

“At the moment he plays for Paris Saint-Germain, we’ll see in the future if that changes,” ​Zidane said. “I know he always said his dream is to play for Real Madrid.”

Kylian Mbappe

In addition, Monaco president Vadim Vasilyev confessed that Mbappe chose to join PSG back in 2017, because he was certain that Madrid would wait and try to sign him at some point in the future instead. 

PSG sporting director Leonardo has hit back over Zidane’s comments, but behind the scenes it seems that the Ligue 1 champions are acting quickly to tie down their key asset down to a lucrative new deal in order to nip any interest in the bud, according to ​L​​’Equipe. 

The report claims that the French club have made contact with Mbappé’s representatives over a possible contract extension, but it is stressed that no concrete offer has been made thus far. 

​Mbappé still has two further seasons left to run on his current contract after the current campaign, but PSG are concerned by his Madrid confessions and are keen to secure their most prized asset. The youngster is the figurehead of the French club’s project, and they are desperate to win the Champions League with Mbappé in their side.

Kylian Mbappe

The France international has made an electric start to the new campaign, scoring five goals in seven league appearances for PSG, and he has helped his side make a perfect start to their Champions League ambitions, winning all four of their group matches, including a 3-0 win over Madrid at the Parc des Princes. 

PSG sit top of Ligue 1 after 13 games and have opened up an impressive nine-point lead over nearest challengers Angers. 

Let’

Twitter Reacts as Karim Benzema & Eden Hazard Shine in Resounding Real Madrid Win

​It was a very comfortable evening’s work for Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane on Saturday, as a Karim Benzema brace plus goals from Sergio Ramos and Federico Valverde ensured Los Blancos beat Eibar and moved back to the top of La Liga – for the time being, anyway.

But, let’s rewind to the start, shall we?


Los Blancos started brightly, with Benzema seeing his effort hit the post early on – although he was adjudged to be offside. Nonetheless, they continued to press forward and the striker came close moments later, poking an Eden Hazard cross straight at the Eibar goalkeeper.

A positive start…


​​


It didn’t take the away side long to break the deadlock, moving into the lead on 17 minutes. 

After coming close twice before, Benzema wasn’t to be denied a third time as he slotted home into an empty net to make it 1-0. The ball cannoned around in the penalty box before the Frenchman latched onto it and calmly dispatched…



​​

And within three minutes, they had doubled their lead.

Eden Hazard cut inside his man, who could only chop him to the ground, leaving the referee with no choice but to award a penalty.

Who else was ever going to take it other than Sergio Ramos?

And as you’d expect, he doubled the away side’s lead…


​​


Zidane’s side were enjoying themselves.

Eibar, meanwhile, were struggling to string a few passes together.

And after 27 minutes, Real were awarded another spot-kick. This time, Lucas Vazquez was blatantly tripped inside the area.

Sergio Ramos at the double? No? What? Benzema was the man standing over it this time – but he made no mistake. 3-0…




However, some were not content with what they had seen. No, they wanted more…


It was an impressive first half display by the men in white, with Benzema grabbing a brace. But Eden Hazard was attracting a lot of praise as well.

The Belgian enjoyed himself in the opening 45. driving at the opposition and defence time and time again…




​​

The second half began fairly slowly, with the away side content to let Eibar see more of the ball, with the damage already done in the first half. 

However, Real broke forward in a swift attack 15 minutes into the second period and Federico Valverde rifled home a beautiful curling shot to extend his side’s lead.

The Madrid faithful rate Valverde very highly and some even consider him the heir to Toni Kroos’ throne. A delightful goal…






Los Blancos continued to look bright during the remainder of the game, but they were unable to add to their tally.

It was an impressive showing from Zidane’s men and it’s fair to say fans were left feeling content at full-time…



Ten goals in four days for Los Blancos and they now find themselves at the top of the table.

Over to you, Barcelona…

Let’

Eibar 0-4 Real Madrid: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Los Blancos Turn on the Style to Move Top

​Real Madrid produced a ruthless display to comfortably overcome Eibar 4-0 in La Liga at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium to move back to the top of the table ahead of Barcelona, who play later on Saturday evening. 

Los Blancos started brightly, with Karim Benzema coming close to opening the scoring twice within the opening ten minutes. However, the striker did give his side the lead after 17 minutes, firing home a loose ball. 


The away side doubled their lead only three minutes later, with Sergio Ramos finding the net from the spot – Eden Hazard was brought down inside the area and the referee had no choice. Zinedine Zidane’s men continued to pile the pressure on and were awarded a second spot-kick on 27 minutes for a foul on Lucas Vazquez, which Benzema converted.

The hosts pressed forward at the start of the second half but Los Blancos remained comfortable and added a fourth 16 minutes after the interval, Federico Valverde curling home a low shot from the edge of the area. Despite Eibar’s best efforts, Madrid comfortably saw out the remainder of the match and picked up a valuable three points.

Here’s the breakdown of the game.


EIBAR

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Dmitrović (7*); De Blasis (5), Arbilla (5), Bigas (4), Cote (5); Orellana (5), Escalante (5), Diop (4), Inui (5); Enrich (5), Kike (5).

Substitutes: Pedro Leon (5), Exposito (5), Charles (5).


REAL MADRID

Key Talking Point

Real Madrid cruised to a resounding 6-0 win over Galatasaray in midweek in the Champions League, but even despite this, the club never appears too far away from a crisis this season. As a result, there were question marks over how they would perform against Eibar, with a mixed set of results in La Liga this season.

Karim Benzema

However, from the outset, Zidane’s men were playing crisp one-touch passes in possession, also chasing and harrying the opposition players when they didn’t have the ball. It was a bright start and they were rewarded early on. The away side continued to push the Eibar defence back and imposed themselves on the match to great effect.

The direct running of Hazard and Vazquez also caused numerous problems for the home defence, who could only bring them down in an attempt to stop them, resulting in the two spot-kicks being awarded. Most notably, Hazard was at his majestic best, driving at the home team’s defence at any opportunity.

It was a very impressive and confident display from Zidane’s men, but the manager will be frustrated by the timing of the international break.

​​




Player Ratings

Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (6), Varane (6), Ramos (7), Mendy (7); Casemiro (6), Valverde (8), Modrić (6); L. Vázquez (7), Hazard (8), Benzema (9*).

Substitutes: Isco (6), Vinicius Jr. (6), Brahim (5).


STAR PLAYER – There were a number of star performers for Real Madrid, including Valverde and Hazard who were both outstanding, but it was Karim Benzema who was most impressive on Saturday evening.

Karim Benzema

The Eibar defence didn’t have a clue how to deal with his constant movement, with the Frenchman always looking for a pocket of space to work in. His first goal came about as a result of his positioning, reading where the ball was going to land, while his second was a cooly taken penalty.

The 31-year-old has made a blistering start to the new campaign and as a result of his fine performance against Eibar, he is now the league’s top goalscorer. 



Looking Ahead

Eibar next take on Alaves in the league after the international break, before travelling to face Real Sociedad.

Real Madrid will host Real Sociedad when they return to action in La Liga after the international break. Zidane’s men then host Paris Saint-Germain in a crucial Champions League match.

Let’

Eibar vs Real Madrid: 10 Key Facts & Stats to Impress Your Mates Ahead of La Liga Clash

What You Need to Know

Eden Hazard

Real Madrid have lost just one of their 10 matches against Eibar in LaLiga (W8 D1 L1), with that defeat coming in their last trip to Ipurua in the competition (0-3 in Novermber 2018).

Eibar’s 3-0 win in their last meeting with Real Madrid at Ipurua in Novermber 2018 is their only home win against them in all competitions (W1 D1 L4).

Real Madrid have lost four of their last seven matches against Basques sides in LaLiga (W3), as many as in their previous 64 against them in the top-flight (W52 D8 L4).

Eibar have won their last two matches in LaLiga, both by the same scoreline (2-1) – the last time they won three games in a row in the competition was between December 2017 and January 2018 (also three).

Since Zinédine Zidane’s return, Real Madrid have only won two of their 10 away games in LaLiga (W2 D4 L4), compared to his first 10 away games in charge in which he won eight of those matches (W8 D2).

Zinedine Zidane

Three of Eibar’s last four goals in LaLiga have been headers – just three of their previous 25 in the competition had been scored in this way.

Real Madrid have failed to score in eight LaLiga matches in 2019 (D3 L5) and they could fail to score in nine in the same calendar year since1995 (10 – D6 L4).

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has been directly involved in seven goals in his eight LaLiga games against Eibar (five goals and two assists), including a brace in his last match against them in the competition in April 2019.

Fabián Orellana has been directly involved in five of Eibar’s last six goals in LaLiga (three goals and two assists). The Chilean has recorded his best seasonal goal tally for Eibar (four goals), surpassing each of his last two (three in each).

Eibar manager José Luis Mendilibar has only won two of his 19 matches against Real Madrid in LaLiga (D3 L14) and the Whites are the only side to have scored seven goals in different LaLiga games against him (7-0 with Valladolid in 2008 and 7-1 for Osasuna in 2011).


Our Lineup



Let’

Zinedine Zidane Refuses to Back Down From Claim That Kylian Mbappe Dreams of Real Madrid

​Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has doubled down on his claims that it is Kylian Mbappe’s dream to play for Los Blancos

Zidane had made these initial claims earlier on the week, which didn’t go down well with PSG’s sporting director, Leonardo, who described them as ‘irritating’ and ‘annoying’, as well as encouraging Zidane among others to stop talking about Mbappe leaving the club.

Zinedine Zidane

And in a press conference on Friday, Zidane refused to back down from what he had said about the Frenchman.

“I simply said what Mbappé said: that his dream was to wear the white shirt. I said it, I say it again and I will say it as many times as I want,” he said, as quoted by El Chiringuito.

Zidane’s point-blank refusal to respect Leonardo’s demands will have sent a clear message to the French giants, who are reportedly in the process of offering their 20-year-old superstar ​improved terms on his current deal.

The financial strength of ​Madrid means they are one of the few clubs that would be able to afford the monster fee that will likely be attached to a man touted as a future Ballon d’Or winner.

FBL-FIFA-AWARDS

However, the Madrid boss will be hoping that his combative words don’t end up coming back to bite his side if PSG opt to make life difficult in negotiations or insist on selling to another club.

Since signing from Monaco in 2017, Mbappe has cemented himself as one of the best players in Europe. In 98 games for PSG, the World Cup-winner has registered 69 goals and 36 assists, while his stellar 2018/19 campaign saw him win Ligue 1 Player of the Year and he joined the likes of Zidane, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira when he was named France’s Footballer of the Year at the end of 2018.

Despite welcoming Eden Hazard to the club in the summer and having young Brazilian talents Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior coming through, signing Mbappe is a prospect that Madrid can’t overlook.

Let’

90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 12 – The Office (US) Edition

Did any of the European giants actually try to play well over the last week?

The past seven days have been full of disappointments, with so many of the heavy hitters deciding that they just weren’t feeling it anymore.

How do we respond?

Well, by ranking the top 15 teams by using quoted from The Office (US). What else are we supposed to do?


15) Bayern Munich (Down 7)

Alphonso Davies

“I am running away from my responsibilities. And it feels good.”

Goodbye, Niko Kovač. The 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt wasn’t exactly the best parting gift, but it’s the thought that counts.


14) Barcelona (Down 9)

Arturo Vidal

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Can we go back to a time when we weren’t losing 3-1 to Levante, or falling to a 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague?

Nope, those days are gone.


13) Ajax (Down 1)

Erik Ten Hag

“I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it at all and it’s terrible.”​

Even Ajax fans have to admit that the 4-4 draw with ​Chelsea was an outrageous game. Even if they had two centre backs sent off within the space of 30 seconds. And even if they threw away a three-goal lead.

It’s all about the memories.


12) Chelsea (Re-Entry)

Jorginho Filho

“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope to find it along the way.”

1. Turn up.

2. Start awfully.

3. Go 4-1 down.

4. Decide to actually play well.

5. Draw 4-4.

A recipe for success.


11) Benfica (Down 1)

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I know that patience and loyalty are good and virtuous traits, but sometimes I just think you need to grow a pair.”

Having finally toppled minnows Famalicão in the Primeira Liga, Benfica went and got thumped against Lyon in the ​Champions League.

Domestic dominance is all well and good, but they have looked completely out of their depth in Europe. Time to step up.


10) Real Madrid (Re-Entry)

FBL-EUR-C1-REAL MADRID-GALATASARAY

“You know what they say. ‘Fool me once, strike one. But fool me twice… strike three’.”​

Are ​Real Madrid good? Are they bad? It doesn’t seem like anybody really knows these days.

After all, how many teams could draw 0-0 with Real Betis before thumping Galatasaray 6-0 just four days later?


9) Inter (Down 3)

Antonio Conte

“And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”

Antonio Conte was ready for greatness, but then his ​Inter side capitulated and lost 3-2 to ​Borussia Dortmund, after which Conte decided that it was everyone else’s fault but his.

Can you really blame the club for not providing for you after they brought in the likes of ​Romelu Lukaku and Diego Godín?

At what point is it time to accept that maybe you got something wrong?


8) Paris Saint-Germain (Down 6)

Angel Di Maria

“And I’m optimistic, but every day I get a little more desperate.”

We all know PSG are (probably) still going to win Ligue 1. Their 2-1 loss to strugglers Dijon isn’t going to change that.

However, is that the form that’s going to bring PSG that elusive Champions League title? 

The PSG chiefs will still feel as though anything is possible, but something just doesn’t seem right this year.


7) Leicester City (-)

Brendan Rogers

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

No strangers to a feel-good story, ​Leicester are continuing to impress. They followed up their emphatic 9-0 win over ​Southampton with a less-phatic 2-0 win against ​Crystal Palace, and they’re sitting pretty in the top four.

You love to support them, but you hate the idea of playing against them.


6) Borussia Dortmund (Re-Entry)

Achraf Hakimi

“Oh, it is on, like a prawn who yawns at dawn.”

Borussia Dortmund look to have moved on from their poor form. Their 3-0 win over Wolfsburg was big, but their dramatic comeback against Inter was even bigger.

Make no mistake about it, Dortmund are coming for the ​Bundesliga title, and they’re here to make some noise in Europe as well.


5) Borussia Mönchengladbach (Up 8)

Marco Rose

“Oh my God! OK, it’s happening. Everybody stay calm! Stay f*****g calm!”

Surely the wheels on the Gladbach express are going to fall off soon, right? Right?!

A 2-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen. A 2-1 win over Roma. Marco Rose’s side are not messing about this year.


4) RB Leipzig (Up 7)

Zenit St. Petersburg v RB Leipzig: Group G - UEFA Champions League

“I am fast. To give you a reference point, I am somewhere between a snake and a mongoose… and a panther.”

Imagine having Timo Werner in your team. The lightning-fast German bagged three goals and three assists in an 8-0 mauling of Mainz 05, and he’s pretty much the entire reason RB Leipzig climb up these rankings.

To be fair, they did beat Zenit St Petersburg largely without Werner, but it’s all about that double hat-trick.


3) Manchester City (-)

Kyle Walker

“Guess what, I have flaws. What are they? Oh, I don’t know. I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally, I’ll hit somebody with my car. So sue me.”

So, ​Manchester City’s week was…interesting.

Everything looked to be going so well against Atalanta, only for ​Claudio Bravo to turn things into a car crash by getting sent off. ​Kyle Walker stepped up to unconvincingly save the day, which was perhaps the highlight of the entire week.


2) Juventus (Up 2)

FBL-EUR-C1-LOKOMOTIV-JUVENTUS

“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked, but it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.”

Believe it or not, that’s not a quote from ​Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was left fuming as ​Aaron Ramsey stole his goal in the 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow but, apart from that, it was all smiles for ​Juventus.

Sitting pretty atop both the ​Serie A and Champions League Group D, it was a good week for Maurizio Sarri’s men.


1) Liverpool (-)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

“I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little-stitious.”​

​Liverpool fans had turned to superstition, myth and ancient rituals as their side were trailing ​Aston Villa. Whatever they did, it worked, as two late goals saw their unbeaten start to the ​Premier League season continue.

The lead over City is still intact. The dream is still alive.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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5 Players Who Managed to Mend From Toxic Situations With Their Own Fans

Hated by your own fans, constantly jeered, ridiculed, and subsequently stripped of the captaincy at the club you had played over 140 matches for.

It isn’t going all too well for Granit Xhaka at Arsenal.

Whatever side of the fence you sit on for this one, the doom and gloom that hovers over Xhaka’s Gunners career is showing no signs of dissipating.

Or does it? Are there any footballers who have made an incredible comeback from such an instance and allowed their supporters to welcome them back into their arms? Yes, is the short answer. Not many, but a few, and for varying reasons.

So there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel for the Swiss in north London, even if it appears they want ​rid of him ​as soon as January. Anyway, here are five examples of players who recovered heroically from some unsavoury positions with their own fanbases.


Emmanuel Eboue – Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor,Emmanuel Eboue

What better role model to aspire to than one who underwent similar grief at the very same club?

With ​Arsenal leading 1-0 against Wigan in 2008, Eboue was brought on in the first half after an injury to Samir Nasri, and proceeded to do nigh-on everything he could possibly do extremely badly.

It culminated in him tackling his own player, only to then immediately give the ball away (again) which left Arsene Wenger with just one option left. Having already seen his every failed move lambasted by the home fans, Wenger withdrew the substitute to a cacophony of boos.

Supremely heartbreaking to see, Eboue chose not to back down and eventually won the supporters over with his dedication and application. Granted, he received this treatment after just one game, unlike Xhaka’s being the culmination of countless poor outings, but hey, gives him something to aspire to.


Luka Modric – Croatia

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH62-CRO-ENG

This particular one is shrouded in controversy. At the heart of a corruption scandal which continues to divide Croatia’s football fans, ​Modric is facing a charge of perjury, with a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison. 


​Due to comments he contradicted himself on over the 
former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamic – sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for fraud and corruption – Modric was the subject of vitriol in his home nation for appearing to change his testimony – having initially pointed the finger at Mamić in his initial statement – earning him condemnation across a split Croatia.

With one half of the country on Modric’s side, and the other finding him equally at fault, his historic escapades in the 2018 World Cup went some way towards rebuilding that bridge.

The 34-year-old led his side to the final of the competition, scooping three man-of-the-match awards throughout the tournament as they were eventually defeated by France despite a valiant effort that no nearly yielded glory. This story is not yet over, but the Ballon d’Or winner’s exploits in Russia have helped the feeling towards him from the fans somewhat.


David Beckham – LA Galaxy

AC Milan v Los Angeles Galaxy

It’s hard to envisage Beckham being disliked by anyone, but the fact of the matter is that ‘Golden Balls’ was the centre of widespread abuse during his time at LA Galaxy.

After 30 ​MLS appearances across two campaigns, Beckham was given the chance to join Serie A giants ​Milan on a six-month loan spell, with many feeling the Englishman still had what it took to cut it in Europe.

Unfortunately, however, this meant he missed 17 games of the 2009 MLS campaign, which prompted disgust from the Galaxy fans who labeled him a ‘fraud’ that cared of nothing other than personal glory.

There were even ​confrontations with supporters upon his dreaded return to California, as Beckham did his best to patch up what was an increasingly frosty relationship.

And, well, two MLS Cups later, everyone kind of forgot about it.


Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund

Mario Goetze

Agreeing to leave ​Dortmund for ​Bayern Munich just weeks before the two clubs met in the 2013 Champions League final, Die Borussen fans immediately turned on their now former star for the manner in which he left the club.

His three years in Bavaria granted him three trophies, but an injury-hit final season saw Gotze dropped on multiple occasions by Pep Guardiola, and eventually brought an end to his time with Die Roten. 

So, where would he go? Interestingly, back to Dortmund, where he was met with vexation from the fans who once loved him.

Calls of ‘Judas’ were commonplace for many months, with sections of the support jeering his every touch. While not setting the world alight, Gotze has gone some way to appeasing those supporters since, netting seven times in the ​Bundesliga last season and twice already this term. 

Simply by knuckling down and fighting for the shirt has won them over once more. Credit to him, so take note, Granit.


Alan Smith – Leeds United

Leeds United v Charlton Athletic

Seen crying on the pitch and kissing the badge after ​Leeds were famously relegated from the ​Premier League in the 2003/04 season, Smith endeared himself to be one of the fans’ own.

That all changed, however, when it emerged that Smith had agreed to join bitter rivals ​Manchester United just one day later. Accusations of treachery were prominent from large sections of the fanbase who turned on their poster boy for joining the Red Devils, with banners in subsequent games labelling him ‘Judas’ and ‘Traitor’.

It all was revealed later on, though, that Smith was caught in catch-22 in the wake of Leeds’ relegation; either allow Leeds to go into administration due to the finances they wouldn’t receive over the transfer, or joining Leeds’ rivals and saving the club financially.

They were a bit more forgiving after they found that out.


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