Thursday, 20 July 2017

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In an exclusive interview, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have told ESPN FC that destiny brought them together at Manchester United.

Belgium international Lukaku had a medical with the club on Saturday ahead of a move from Everton and has been holidaying with his friend and future teammate Pogba in Los Angeles, which happens to be the base for United's preseason U.S. tour.

The pair said playing for the same team was a dream that both had held for a long time.

"Well, I always knew he wanted to play with me," Pogba said. "I'm just kidding. We knew it would happen one day. One day. I don't know when and where, and now it's happening, so I'm very happy for that."

Lukaku added: "I'm really happy. I'm delighted. I always said that the moment would come. When we were younger, I would say there will be a day that we'll play together and we can compete for the trophies that we want to win.

"And now the moment has arrived, so I'm delighted. It's nice to play with one of your best friends in the team. Now it's up to us to challenge ourselves, first of all, and then the rest of the team to become better each day."

Lukaku, 24, had been linked with a return to his former employers Chelsea this summer, only for United to move ahead of the Premier League champions with their own bid last week.

Pogba said he had been lobbying for his club to make a move for the striker, but in the end it was United manager Jose Mourinho that had to make the decision.

"I mean, it was just luck that I was in Manchester United, but obviously for me, if I can push, I will push," the France international said. "But it's not my decision, by the way. It's not my decision. It's the manager's decision, all the technical staff. Obviously, I think the players, we're all happy that he's playing for United, and we're very happy for that."

Rivals from a very young age, the pair first met as teenagers when Lukaku's Chelsea hosted Pogba's Manchester United.

"We met for the first time at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea played Man United," Lukaku said. "We were both in the stands looking at each other like: 'What are we doing here?'

"But it was a great game to watch, and to learn, as well. After the game, we start speaking -- we exchanged numbers. And we knew the year after would be our year. He went to Juventus and did his thing. I went to West Brom and learned my trade in the Premier League, and here we are now."

Lukaku said, however, that he had known about Pogba's ability well before they met that day in London.

"I knew about him when I was 15, because he played against my brother. I was already with the first team at Anderlecht," Lukaku said. "My dad came to the house, and he said: 'There's this kid for France. Amazing.'

"So I said, 'What's his name?' and he's like 'Paul Pogba, and he's going to play for Manchester United.' Then I started looking some videos up on YouTube. When you're younger that's what you do. You try to look for the guys who are good at your age, so I went and I was looking, and I knew he was a good player."

For Pogba, two months Lukaku's junior, it was a similar story.

"You say 15. For me, it was 13," Pogba recalls. "I was even younger. Everybody knew about Romelu Lukaku. I think when he was 11, he was playing for the first team already! I could see some video.

"So, yeah, obviously I knew about him. Like he said, we saw each other during the game, Chelsea against Man United, and we start talking. We had the same dreams, same goals.

"We were talking like, hopefully the day will come. We just have to keep working hard, and one day we'll start playing for the team. And we kept in touch, and he became one of my best friends outside the pitch and became a top-class player. So I'm very happy for him, yeah."

Posted On Tuesday, 11 July 2017 01:53 Written by

Wayne Rooney has left Manchester United to rejoin Everton for an undisclosed fee.

The 31-year-old has signed a two-year deal at Goodison Park after leaving Old Trafford.

Rooney said in a statement: "It is some time since I said that the only Premier League club I would play for other than Manchester United was Everton, so I am delighted that the move has happened.

"Thirteen years ago I went to United with the intention of winning trophies and I have been fortunate to be a part of one of the most successful periods in the club's history.

"I have come back to Everton because I believe Ronald Koeman is building a team that can win something and I look forward to playing my part in making that a reality for the club I have supported since a boy."

Everton manager Ronald Koeman told the club's website: "Wayne has shown me that ambition that we need and that winning mentality -- he knows how to win titles and I'm really happy he's decided to come home.

"He loves Everton and he was desperate to come back. He is still only 31 and I don't have any doubts about his qualities. It's fantastic he's here."

In 2004, Rooney signed with United, leaving Everton as an 18-year-old in a £25.6 million deal.

He went on to score 253 goals in 559 appearances, winning the Premier League title five times. In January, he scored his 250th goal for United to break the record set by Sir Bobby Charlton.

Rooney, fifth on United's all-time list of appearance makers, also won the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup and three League Cups during 13 seasons at United.

He was appointed club captain by former manager Louis van Gaal in 2014 following Nemanja Vidic's departure to Inter Milan.

United manager Jose Mourinho told his club's official website: "It is no secret that I have long been an admirer of Wayne. He has been a model professional throughout his time at the club and will remain in the history books for many years to come.

"It is never easy to see a great player playing less football than he would like and I could not stand in his way when he asked to go back to Everton. His experience, focus and determination will be missed and I wish him well for the future."

Rooney began to fall down the pecking order at United last season and made just 15 Premier League starts.

He was linked with moves to China and the United States but, when it became apparent he would be leaving United, the chance to rejoin Everton always seemed the most appealing.

United's interest in Everton striker Romelu Lukaku -- for whom they have agreed a fee of £75m with the Merseysiders -- helped ease the way for a return to Goodison Park.

Ed Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, said: "Wayne has been a fantastic servant to United since the moment he signed for us as a prodigiously talented, explosive teenager some 13 seasons ago.

"Who can forget his storybook debut hat-trick against Fenerbahce, the spectacular overhead kick against City and the countless match-winning performances in his time here? But after much discussion, the club has decided to accept his request to rejoin his boyhood team.

"He goes having created some of the most magical moments in some of the most successful years in the club's history. Wayne leaves us as our greatest ever goalscorer and having won every major trophy in the game.

"His record will take decades for anyone to get close to matching and I am extremely grateful for the way he has led from the front since being appointed club captain three years ago. "On behalf of the whole club and our hundreds of millions of fans around the world, we wish Wayne all the very best for the next phase of his incredible career."

Rooney's departure from Everton 13 years ago did cause resentment among fans but the player has never lost touch with his roots and has spoken about his love of Merseyside.

As time wore on, antipathy towards Rooney from Evertonians eased and he even played for the club again in Duncan Ferguson's testimonial in 2015.

His signing continues a busy summer at Everton with Rooney, also England's record goal scorer, joining Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane, Henry Onyekuru, Nathangelo Markelo and Sandro Ramirez as new additions.

Posted On Sunday, 09 July 2017 14:37 Written by

Romelu Lukaku was given a citation by police in Los Angeles after failing to heed repeated warnings over noise from a party last Sunday, according to TMZ. 

Lukaku, poised to complete a move from Everton to Manchester United, was warned by LAPD officers six times over noise from a daytime party following multiple complaints from neighbours, according to the report which posted what it claimed was an image of the citation.

On Saturday, United announced that they had agreed a deal with Everton to sign the 24-year-old Belgium international.

Lukaku trained with United midfielder Paul Pogba at UCLA in California on Thursday and could now be part of the club's first preseason session in LA on Monday.

United are set pay £75 million for the striker, who will move to Old Trafford after undergoing a medical -- scheduled to take place on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles -- and agreeing personal terms.

Chelsea had made a last-ditch attempt to hijack Lukaku's proposed move to Old Trafford by matching United's bid on Friday.

But Lukaku has decided to join United and the deal should be completed over the weekend.

Posted On Saturday, 08 July 2017 17:08 Written by

Manchester United are keen to negotiate a deal to take Wayne Rooney to Everton that does not involve the former England captain as a makeweight in the £75 million transfer of Romelu Lukaku, sources have told ESPN FC.

Rooney, who became football's most expensive teenager when he left Goodison Park for United in a £27m deal in 2004, is expected to remain behind in England to finalise a return to Everton when Jose Mourinho's squad fly to California on Sunday for their preseason preparations.

Sources have told ESPN FC that United's initial efforts to sign Lukaku involved Rooney in order to tempt Everton into a deal. But with United now agreeing a fee for Lukaku, the two clubs are attempting to strike a separate deal.

With Rooney winning every major club honour at least once with United during his 13-year spell at Old Trafford, as well as breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time goal-scoring record, the 31-year-old has secured his status as a club legend.

And there is a determination within United that Rooney's exit should not be overshadowed by the big-money arrival of Lukaku.

Rooney rejected the chance to negotiate a lucrative move to China in February, insisting that he wanted to remain at United to help the club achieve its ambitions under Mourinho.

United ended the campaign with two major trophies -- the EFL Cup and Europa League, and returned to the Champions League as a result of their success in defeating Ajax in Stockholm.

Rooney admitted after the game that he had "more or less" made his mind up about his next move, with a return to Everton the favoured option should the club formalise their interest in re-signing him.

Talks have progressed well this week between United, Everton and Rooney's camp, but while there is hope at Old Trafford that the Lukaku move may be completed by the weekend, a deal for Rooney could take longer.

Posted On Friday, 07 July 2017 03:08 Written by

Michael Keane has admitted he was tempted to return to Manchester United before deciding to leave Burnley for Everton.

However, the defender's 30 million Pounds Sterling move to Goodison Park on Monday is still set to net United more than £7m thanks to their 25 percent sell-on clause.

Keane, who left Old Trafford for Burnley in 2015, was on United boss Jose Mourinho's list of targets this summer.

But after United spent £31m on centre-back Victor Lindelof, Keane opted for Everton.

"Of course it was a temptation [to rejoin United]," Keane told Sky Sports. "It's your boyhood club but you have got to take your heart out of it sometimes and think what's best for you, and I feel as if this is the best place for me to come and continue my development. It's a club with such big history and a great fan base so I can't wait to pull on the shirt and play for this club."

Michael Keane left Burnley for Everton on Monday.

Keane, who made five first-team appearances at United, is hoping to earn a place in England's squad for next summer's World Cup, providing they qualify for the tournament.

He has already won two caps under England boss Gareth Southgate, but was left out of the squad for the games against Scotland and France in June.

Keane is hopeful that a season under Everton boss Ronald Koeman, a former Netherlands and Barcelona centre-back, can boost his international chances.

He added: "I have been fortunate enough that in the clubs I have played in the past, the manager has played in my position as well, and I feel like he was a very classy centre-half so he can still teach me things. I want to develop. I am only 24-years-old, which is young for a centre-half, but I feel how much they wanted me was a big factor as well."

 

Posted On Tuesday, 04 July 2017 12:31 Written by

LONDON -- Chelsea are closing in on the £35 million signing of Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, sources have confirmed to ESPN FC.

The Premier League champions identified Bakayoko, 22, as a priority target heading into this summer, and after weeks of negotiations both clubs now expect the deal to be completed once personal terms with the player are finalised.

Bakayoko's arrival at Stamford Bridge will pave the way for Nemanja Matic's departure, with Jose Mourinho keen to bring the Serb to Manchester United and confident of completing a deal that could be worth up to £40 million, before taking his squad to the United States for preseason on July 9. 

Chelsea hope that Bakayoko -- who was rewarded for his role in Monaco's run to the Ligue 1 title and Champions League semifinals with a debut cap for France in March -- will be the first of several high-profile signings as they aim to give coach Antonio Conte a squad capable of competing on multiple fronts.

The £35m fee agreed for Bakayoko will make him the most expensive midfielder in Chelsea's history, and the most lucrative signing since the club-record £50m acquisition of Fernando Torres from Liverpool in January 2011, though the Blues expect that figure to be surpassed by the end of this transfer window.

Juventus wing-back Alex Sandro is another name on Conte's wish, and he has reportedly made it clear that he would like to move to Stamford Bridge.

Talks are also ongoing with Everton over striker Romelu Lukaku, who is Chelsea's preferred choice to replace the unsettled Diego Costa.

Courtesy: espnfc.us

Posted On Tuesday, 27 June 2017 00:43 Written by
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 75th international goal as Portugal trounced New Zealand 4-0 in Saint Petersburg on Saturday to advance to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.

The Real Madrid star struck from the penalty spot on 33 minutes to fire the European champions in front before Bernardo Silva turned in a second goal four minutes later.

Andre Silva added a third on 80 minutes before Nani completed the rout in stoppage time to ensure Portugal progressed to last four as winners of Group A, finishing above Mexico on goal difference.

Mexico eliminated hosts Russia with a 2-1 win in Kazan to join Portugal on seven points, with Fernando Santos’ side to face the runners-up of Group B on Wednesday for a place in the July 2 final.

Copa America holders Chile lead Germany on goal difference ahead of the final round of matches in Group B, although Australia and Cameroon still harbour outside qualification hopes.

Santos fielded an attacking line-up packed with experience and resisted the temptation to rest Ronaldo with Portugal still requiring a point to qualify and vying with Mexico and Russia for top spot.

Ronaldo twice threatened the New Zealand goal in quick succession, nodding straight at goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic on 24 minutes and then clattering the crossbar shortly after with another header from a Ricardo Quaresma cross.

But the Portugal captain made no mistake after Danilo was wrestled to the ground in the area by a combination of Tom Doyle and Tommy Smith following a corner.

Ronaldo buried the resultant penalty beyond Stefanovic to draw level with former Hungary great Sandor Kocsis and within nine goals of the legendary Ferenc Puskas’ European record of 84 at international level.

Portugal swiftly doubled their lead when Eliseu’s dangerous low cross from the left was forced home by Silva, although there was brief concern for the new Manchester City signing as he landed awkwardly on his ankle.

New Zealand skipper Chris Wood nearly grabbed a lifeline for the All Whites on the hour, but his back-post effort was scrambled off the line by a combination of Rui Patricio and Bruno Alves.

Ronaldo could have added to his tally when he climbed to meet a Nelson Semedo delivery, his header scooped away by Stefanovic who then stood tall to superbly deny Andre Silva.

Santos withdrew Ronaldo on 67 minutes with the semi-finals in mind, and his replacement Nani struck within moments of his introduction only for Stefanovic to brilliantly tip behind his deflected shot.

Silva finally provided Portugal with further breathing space 10 minutes from time as the AC Milan-bound striker ran at the Kiwi defence before drilling into the roof of the net.

Former Manchester United winger Nani then drilled in a fourth in injury time, with Portugal now having lost just one of their last 23 competitive fixtures.

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 21:16 Written by

Hirving Lozano’s courageous second-half header sealed Mexico’s 2-1 comeback win over 10-man Russia on Saturday and fired them into the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

Hosts Russia took a deserved 25th-minute lead in Kazan through Aleksandr Samedov, but Nestor Araujo equalised for Mexico with a looping header on the half hour.

New PSV Eindhoven signing Lozano then headed Mexico into the last four as he beat Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to Hector Herrera’s towering kick from inside his own half on 52 minutes. 

Russia’s hopes of a comeback were further hampered in the final 20 minutes when Yury Zhirkov was sent off for a second yellow card.

“We knew it was going to be tough, we played well against them,” said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

“We are building a team which has the skills and determintion to play against any team. We could have scored more goals if we had moved the ball around better.”

While the hosts bow out, Mexico progress as Group A runners-up to play the winners of Group B in Sochi next Thursday.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov was left rueing his side’s missed chances.

“It was an interesting match for sure, we knew we had to win and did everything to tip the game in our favour,” said Cherchesov.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t react to their goals and then had a man sent off, even then we tried to score. My team did the best they could.”

Having made eight alterations for the team which beat New Zealand, Osorio again rang the changes against Russia with only defender Araujo and forward Giovani dos Santos retained in the starting line-up.

Lozano replaced from Raul Jimenez in a completely different forward line alongside Mexico’s all-time top scorer Javier Hernandez and former Arsenal winger Carlos Vela.

Recovery mission
Just as they did in the 2-2 draw with Portugal and subsequent victory over New Zealand, Mexico made a slow start and again fell behind.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado picked up an early booking that will rule him out of the semi-final, while the video assistant referee was summoned to reject Russian penalty claims after Fyodor Smolov went to ground in the area.

Russia went ahead though as Smolov hit the post, with Aleksandr Erokhin knocking the rebound to Samedov who drilled past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

But the goal sparked Mexico into life and they were level just five minutes later.

Porto midfielder Herrera fired in a deep cross to the far post where Araujo lifted the ball over Akinfeev and into the opposite corner.

Mexico lost Diego Reyes to injury just before the break when the Espanyol defender rolled his ankle making an innocuous pass.

The linesman’s flag denied Spartak Moscow’s Samedow after he put the ball in the net early in the second half, and Mexico forged ahead as Lozano’s brave gamble paid off.

Herrara’s thumping clearance was allowed to bounce just outside the Russian area, with Lozano clattered by Akinfeev as he nipped in front of the keeper to head into an unguarded net on 52 minutes.

Mexico then had another goal ruled out for offside following more consultation with the video referee, and Russia suffered a further blow when Zhirkov was dismissed on 68 minutes.

Substitute Igor Smolnikov blazed over from close range with quarter of an hour remaining to compound Russia’s misery.

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 21:12 Written by

Barcelona forward Neymar has said he would be delighted if midfielders Lucas Lima and Marco Verratti joined him at the Camp Nou.

Santos star Lima told ESPN Brasil this week that he would move to Barca on a five-year deal in January when his contract with the Brazilian side expires.

However, there has not yet been confirmation from either club and a pre-contract agreement cannot be signed until July 1.

Neymar was unable to confirm the transfer -- despite Lima being represented by N&N Consultancy, the company run by his father -- but said he hopeful his international teammate would make the switch to La Liga.

"The only person who knows the truth is Lucas and the people he works with," he said at an event for his institute in Sao Paulo. "I hope everything works out. Besides being a good friend of mine, he's a great player.

"If it works out and he joins Barcelona, he'd be received with open arms and I'm sure he'd be able to bring joy to the club. If I could suggest a lot of people, I'd have done by now, but that's not a thing I did.

"There are so many rumours out there. I'm just hoping he joins us [at Barcelona]. If I had actually suggested his name, he'd be already signed," Neymar said with a laugh.

"I'm helping with it [lobbying for the transfer], I am," he said, again with a laugh. "He's a guy we all admire, we all like a lot, a very good friend of mine. I hope he can be happy, even if it's not at Barcelona, though I want it to happen.

"We can make jokes, say things, but actually he's the only who knows the truth, just him and the people who work with him. I'm cheering for him and encouraging him to join Barcelona."

Wagner Ribeiro, agent for both Neymar and Lima, admitted that Lima can determine his future soon.

"He has a contract until Dec. 31, and from July 1 on, we will be able to sign with any side he wants, he'll be free to do whatever he decides -- even to renew his current deal.

"Santos did an amazing offer, one of the best ever done in Brazilian football as they've got this issue with Doyen. Financially speaking, it's not good enough for him, though."

Paris Saint-Germain's Verratti has also been strongly linked with Barca, although the French club French club are reluctant to sell one of their star players.

The Italy international is reported to be one of the players Barcelona director Robert Fernandez was referring to when he said this week that "big-name signings" would be made.

"Of course I would like [Verratti] to come to Barcelona -- I would love it," Neymar said. 

"He's a top player with incredible technical quality. He has the profile and the right qualities to play with us at Barca.

"If we sign Verratti, I'm convinced that the whole team will be delighted to welcome him because he's an amazing player."

 

Posted On Saturday, 24 June 2017 02:21 Written by

Germany coach Joachim Low said he never expected his new-look squad to be "perfect" after they were given a fright by Australia at the Confederations Cup on Monday.

The reigning World Cup champions are without the likes of Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller for the tournament in Russia Russia, with Low experimenting to find a team for the future.

Lars Stindl and Leon Goretzka both scored their first international goals, though goalkeeper Bernd Leno's two blunders made the game a little close for comfort.

And though Germany held on for a 3-2 win, Low said some growing pains were to be expected.

"Who would expect it to be perfect?" Low said. "This is a team that never played together so we have done a lot of work over 10 days.

"We were losing our thread, our attacks were not as consistent and we weren't single-minded.

"We need to work on maintaining our stability... but this is a new team and things have worked very well."

Leno demonstrated that he's far from being able to replace 31-year-old Neuer in the German goal, as he was wrong-footed on Australia's first goal and spilled a soft deflection for their second.

But Low ultimately backed his keeper despite acknowledging his errors.

"He could have held on to that ball but he is a good goalkeeper, no doubt about it," Low said. "Maybe that was a mistake."

Much of Germany's threat came from the right flank, where Brandt and Joshua Kimmich were given space to unsettle Australia.

"We invested a lot in the first half and ran a lot," Kimmich said. "So in the second half, Australia had a bit more possession but I didn't think they had a lot of opportunities and chances."

Still, Julian Draxler, one of the more experienced members in the squad, said the team had plenty to work on before their next game against Chile.

"Obviously, we'll have to improve," Draxler said, "but we will do that."

Posted On Tuesday, 20 June 2017 02:41 Written by
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