David McGeady

David McGeady

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Dembele explains Barca & Bayern snubs

The 19-year-old winger joined Borussia Dortmund in the summer and he insists that he has no regrets over his choice, having played in 30 games


EXCLUSIVE


Ousmane Dembele has explained that he snubbed interest from Barcelona and Bayern Munich because he was promised first-team opportunities at Borussia Dortmund.

Lucas Perez ready to leave Arsenal

The 19-year-old is widely regarded as one of the most talented teenagers in world football, and was linked with a clutch of clubs prior to his move to Dortmund in May.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund’s CEO, claimed that his side were “faster” than Bayern when it came to securing his signature, while Manchester United are understood to have scouted the winger, along with the Catalan giants.

Dembele has impressed in Germany this season, making 30 appearances and scoring five goals, as well as providing 13 assists, and he insists that he has no regrets about his decision to move to Signal Iduna Park.

Speaking exclusively to Goal, Dembele was asked if his love of the game was a crucial factor in his decision, and replied: “Yes, that was it and then of course the speech of the bosses I liked.

“They told me that if I was good, I would play no matter what happened. I am very happy to be here and I do not regret my choice at all.”

Dembele has also moved to dampen the hype surrounding him, insisting he is “not a phenomenon”.

“I’m just trying to show what I can do, have fun on the pitch and be decisive for my partners,” he added. “What they say about me does not change anything at all, I just show what I can do.”

“I give my best and I try show my qualities. There are many talented players. I was one of them in my years of training.

“At Stade Rennais we were happy together then everything went a little fast for me. I was upgraded to the older teams a few times, but nothing more.”

Dembele is also unperturbed by talk of moves to the biggest European clubs, and has played down any suggestion that he hopes to win the Ballon d’Or in the coming years. 

Barcelona seal Mina deal

“I do not care at all. The value of the players, mine, I do not pay attention,” he said. “I stay focused on the matches and the competition. 

“This is not my goal (winning the Ballon d’Or) because I think mostly about the collective. Winning titles is my goal.”

Barcelona seal Mina deal for 2018 in €9 million agreement with Palmeiras

The Colombia international defender will complete a switch to Camp Nou after seeing out the remainder of the calendar year with his Brazilian club

Barcelona have a deal in place that will see highly-rated defender Yerry Mina join the club from Palmeiras in January 2018, reports Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo.

The Colombia international has emerged as a much sought-after talent, with clubs across Europe casting admiring glances in his direction.

How Barca must rebuild this summer

Barca were rumoured to have a pre-contract agreement in place for the 22-year-old, but no formalities had been completed.

That had kept the transfer door ajar for others, with Manchester City said to be among those ready to pounce.

Officials at Camp Nou have moved quickly, though, to tie up a deal, having already seen Gabriel Jesus slip through their net to the Etihad Stadium due to a delay in the decision-making process.

Pochettino avoids Barca talk

Barca representatives met with their Palmeiras counterparts on Thursday, with an agreement reached that suits all parties.

Mina will spend the rest of the calendar year in Brazil, allowing him to take part in a Copa Libertadores campaign. He will then move to Camp Nou in a deal reported to be worth €9 million, with a five-year contract waiting to be signed in Catalonia.

Alexis Sanchez retreats to Italy after Champions League thrashing at Bayern

The Gunners collapsed in Wednesday’s 5-1 demolition against the German champions, prompting the Chile international to take a break in Italy

While his Arsenal team-mates carried the disappointment and humiliation of their 5-1 trouncing at Bayern Munich back to London together, Alexis Sanchez slipped away to get away from the torment.

Forget Alexis & Ozil contracts – Arsenal must purge Wenger & ‘yes men’

The Chile international’s future at the Emirates Stadium is in doubt as his contract expires next season, as does Mesut Ozil’s, and there has been no clarification on the likelihood of him remaining there.

Speculation that he could be heading for the exit was always likely to increase in the wake of the Gunners’ loss to Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg in Munich.

Utter humiliation. Alexis says it all in this pic… pic.twitter.com/wjve7EqxMs

— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) February 15, 2017

Although Alexis saw a penalty kick saved from Manuel Neuer in to pull his side level with the hosts after Arjen Robben’s opening goal, they crumbled soon after Laurent Koscielny went off with an injury early in the second half as Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller struck either side of a Thiago Alcantara double.

Arsene Wenger was at a loss to explain the defeat and others were left infuriated, but Alexis’ method of dealing with it has been to head to Italy for a short break.

The 28-year-old has been given permission by the club to go away for a while, with Venice the expected destination as he reunites with his Italian best friend.

Nothing unusual about Sanchez having a short break but it will only increase speculation over his future. Contract talks continue. pic.twitter.com/LcQihoKL3l

— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) February 16, 2017

There is nothing extreme about the development – Arsenal are no strangers to giving players time off as they recently allowed Ozil to travel to Sweden to meet a woman.

Sanchez’s brief trip to Italy does nothing to enhance suggestions that he is set for a transfer away from Arsenal, but it will likely upset fans still in shock at the extent of their European collapse. 

Links to Chelsea flattering but nothing in them – Kjaer

The Denmark defender is pleased to have been associated with the London club but now his focus is mounting a challenge for the Europa League


EXCLUSIVE


Fenerbahce centre-back Simon Kjaer has said that he was “flattered” to be linked with a January move to Chelsea, even if there was no substance to the reports.

Man Utd fixture pile up spells trouble

The Denmark international, 27, has helped his side into the knockout stages of the Europa League, in which they will tackle Krasnodar, and his form has been at such a level that a move to Antonio Conte’s men had been discussed as a possibility.

While that comes as encouragement to the former Lille, Roma and Palermo defender, he is set upon doing the best he can with his current employers.

“Fenerbahce gave a statement saying it all: there was nothing in it,” he said. “As a player, you have to close your eyes and ears for rumours, because there are always so many of them.

“Again, it is flattering to be mentioned in connection with other big clubs, and it confirms that I am doing things well, but I am a Fenerbahce player, and my only focus is on this club.”

Such were the level of his displays in the first level of the competition that he was named in UEFA’s Europa League Team of the group stage, scoring two goals and helping his side to finish ahead of Manchester United in the pools.

Big brother no bother for Pogba

“The most important was for the team to win the group, and that we got through to the knock phase, but of course I am thrilled that my performances were noticed and rewarded. It is a pat on the back, and it confirms, that I am doing things well with my football,” he added.

Simon Kjaer Fenerbahce Manchester United

Beating Jose Mourinho’s side 2-1 in Istanbul will live with him for a long time and displayed the strength of the team, particularly after suffering a heavy 4-1 loss in England in matchday three.

“Manchester United are a really great club with a fantastic tradition, and obviously we enjoyed beating them at home,” he said. “It was a great result on an amazing night with an electric atmosphere in our stadium. That was one of the nights I will remember long after I have stopped playing football.

“The win in our stadium was one of the really huge games that we all enjoy to play – the reason for playing football. It was a revenge for us as well after the team’s off day at Old Trafford – and our only defeat in a pretty tough group.”

Achieving such a feat means that Fener are among an elite group of teams capable of going on to win the competition, the player believes.

“Winning the group and defeating United gave us a lot of confidence going into next phase of the tournament, and the ambitions of a top club like Fenerbahce are always to go into every game to win it – and every tournament. And I love that attitude,” he confirmed. 

“It’s a very important competition for the team. We are a top club in Turkey but we are also a club with an extremely big fan base both here and abroad and with international profile and ambitions.

“Last season we should have gone further than the last 16, but I think we have learned from that as a team. So yes, we are in it to win it – even though I expect other teams to say the same.”  

Thorgan Hazard: Christensen and Musonda can make it at Chelsea

The former Blues player has moved to the Bundesliga and found success, but he thinks that two of his close colleagues can make it in west London


EXCLUSIVE


Former Chelsea player Thorgan Hazard is backing young Blues stars Andreas Christensen and Charly Musonda to make a big impact at the club over the next few seasons. 

Thorgan Hazard happy at Gladbach but admits PL lure

Hazard’s Borussia Monchengladbach are resurgent in recent weeks with Hazard and on-loan Christensen showing their best form, with the 23-year-old attacker scoring as his two goals in his side’s last two games to achieve four wins in a row.

Goal understands that Christensen is expected to return to Chelsea in the summer, despite Gladbach’s wishes to buy or loan him for another season, and Hazard believes that his current team-mate has a great future.

“When he arrived everybody in the team and at the club were saying “wow”, what a defender, what a player,” he told Goal at Borussia Park. “He can play football, he is strong, he is fast, he is intelligent and so he has helped us a lot and helped us get Champions League qualification. 

“I think he has a great future and he can play at a top, top level at a top, top team. When a 19-year-old comes into defence like this and does this and I am very confident about his future.

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“We have a good relationship and we played also at Chelsea for a month. We played in the youth team and trained together, but I didn’t realise until he came here that he was so good.

“First he came here and nobody knew who he was. He came in here, at 19 years old and when he played in the first game, it was difficult because it was against Dortmund. The team lost and it was difficult for him because then he didn’t play for two or three games. 

“He wasn’t like he is now, he is a developing talent. There are a few players here who can speak his language like Jannik Vestergaard and Oscar Wendt which helps him. I think it is a club for young players and it is very good to come here.

“They give their opportunity also to play in a great club, great atmosphere and a great championship. Most of the guys are very good. It is a high level. You can see also with Christensen, Dahoud and Elvedi, but other guys too who are young players coming into the team this season. They help the team and learn.”

Only Messi and Ronaldo better than Eden Hazard, says brother Thorgan

Meanwhile, Hazard has a friendship with his countryman Musonda who has recently returned to Chelsea after the second half of his loan spell at Real Betis, was not as successful as his first half, due to a change of managers. 

FIFA 17's most promising youngsters | Charly Musonda

Antonio Conte has been impressed with Musonda in training and he could make his Chelsea debut in the FA Cup against Wolves at the weekend. Hazard sympathises with Musonda’s battle for first-team places as he competes with his older brother Eden, who plays in the same position as the 20-year-old. 

“Charly is a friend. He decided to go on loan to Betis and the first year he was fantastic for Charly,” he continued. “After that there was a change in the coach. They changed the trainer and sometimes they want to play with you and sometimes they don’t want to.

“So after he decided to return to Chelsea and he decided to take a place in the squad so I know Charly and I think he is a winner. He will fight for that and I hope he can do this [play for Chelsea].

“I think he knows also that there are very good players in his position, so he needs to fight very, very hard. My brother, Willian and Pedro and it is a lot of players.”

Thorgan Hazard

Chelsea currently have 35 players out on loan across a range of clubs, including those in the Bundesliga and Hazard was one of those loan stars who was sent away to develop. 

It has been well publicised that Chelsea lost players who are now highly valued in the transfer market through the system, like Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, but Hazard was keen to say that he feels the idea is working for the west London club.

‘Wenger finally has Arsenal playing like Barca!’

“I think it is a good system that Chelsea have and they have a lot of young players who need to play. At Chelsea you have a very good team so it is difficult sometimes for the younger players. 

“For that reason they go on loan, to develop them and after the first year on loan. I came here and sometimes the players will go back or sometimes they want to stay and play like me.

“There can be the opportunity to play in Chelsea, but you have to decide whether you need another year away [at the end of every season]. If the player thinks he is ready to go back to Chelsea then they will let you go.

“As we saw with me, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. If you want to go – it is your decision. I am not sure, but I think it was the decision from those guys to go – as well as me away from Chelsea. But the system is very good for the player and it is good that they don’t block you and, if you want to go then go.”

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