Witsel to Dortmund is signing of the season, says Belgium boss Martinez

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez has described Borussia Dortmund’s capture of Axel Witsel as the signing of the season.

The 29-year-old joined the Bundesliga side in August for a reported £18 million ($23m) after a spell with Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Quanjian.

He has made 10 appearances in all competitions, playing an important role in Dortmund’s rise to the Bundesliga summit.

And Martinez believes it is the Belgian international’s relatively low transfer fee that makes him the standout purchase of the transfer window.

“The best transfer in the world this season is Axel Witsel to Borussia Dortmund,” he told Sport Bild.

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“He is the best investment in European football. What he brings to the team for a relatively small transfer fee of €20 million makes him the best signing of this transfer period.

“Dortmund deserve tremendous recognition for the signing of Axel. He had gone under the radar in China. I knew he would prevail.”

Witsel played the full 90 minutes as Martinez’s Belgium were held to a 1-1 draw by Netherlands on Tuesday and will hope to feature when Dortmund return to Bundesliga action on Saturday against Stuttgart.


Simeone contract extension would be perfect for Atletico – Gil Marin

Diego Simeone is a “blessing” for Atletico Madrid and it would be “perfect” for all parties if he signed a contract extension, CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin says.

The Argentine coach has enjoyed almost seven years at the helm of the Spanish side, guiding them to a La Liga title, two Europa League successes and two Champions League finals.

With his side sitting third in the Spanish top flight and just a point behind leaders Sevilla after eight games, Simeone is still flourishing at Atleti and the club hope to keep the dream partnership together,

“I think it was a blessing for all parties, for me, for the club, for the fans, but also for him [when Simeone arrived],” he Gil Marin told Juventude Rebelde. “We have grown a lot together and hopefully we can continue like this for many more years.

“In football, you cannot establish too many long-term projects at the sporting level, you can do it at structural levels. In the case of Diego, he has this season and the next, and evidently the perfect thing for both parties would be to extend the link for longer.”

Atletico have had a strong start to their Champions League campaign, too, having won their first two matches in Group A.

Although a spot in the knockout round is in their sights, Gil Marin says they are realistic about their chances of going all the way to seal the European crown.

“It’s not an obsession,” he said. “Obviously it’s a challenge and it would be beautiful, but it is not necessary, just a longing, because it would never be a failure not to achieve it.”

Following the conclusion of the international break, Atletico Madrid are back in action Saturday as the team visits Villarreal for a league clash.


‘James will never come back to Real Madrid’ – Valderrama believes Rodriguez is happy at Bayern

Colombia legend Carlos Valderrama believes Real Madrid made a mistake when they let James Rodriguez leave the club and does not think he will ever play for Los Blancos again.

The 27-year-old is currently on loan at Bayern Munich, having sealed a two-year switch to the Bundesliga giants in July 2017. Bayern have the option to purchase James for €42 million (£37m/$48m) at the end of this season as long as the attacking midfielder can agree personal terms in Munich.

Colombia’s most-capped player Valderrama feels that James did well during his three seasons in Madrid where he won one La Liga and two Champions League titles. He is surprised they allowed him to leave but after a strong start at Bayern, believes that he is unlikely to return to Santiago Bernabeu.

“James looks good, happy at Bayern Munich,” he told ESPN. “If he has not come back to Real Madrid so far, I do not think he’ll ever come back.

“What James did the first year with Ancelotti was huge because when he arrived at Real Madrid nobody thought he was going to do what he did. I knew it because I’ve known him for a long time and had a lot of faith in him. He had a great season.

“What happened later was strange. I did not understand it and in Colombia, we do not understand it either.”

Valderrama is confused by the fact Real let him go, especially to a Champions League rival, believing it to be a strange decision from Los Blancos.

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“Surely yes,” he continued. “Surely because Real Madrid now also realises that they were wrong because they let a great player go, a player of great quality that has proven not only in Madrid but also in World Cups.

“It is very satisfying for the Colombians to see the emergence of these kinds of players.”

James played 37 times for Bayern Munich last season, scoring eight times as they won the Bundesliga and reached the final of the DFB-Pokal. He also added the DFL Supercup to his collection of trophies at the start of this season and has played in six of Bayern’s seven league games so far in the 2018-19 campaign.


Chelsea & Juventus target Chiesa focused and happy at Fiorentina

Federico Chiesa has dismissed reports of a big-money move away from Fiorentina, insisting his sole aim is to prove his worth at the Viola.

The Italy international has repeatedly been the subject of transfer talk in recent months, with Juventus, Inter and Napoli all said to be interested in a deal worth up to €60 million ($69m).

Premier League sides like Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with a move for the 20-year-old. 

Chiesa believes the €60m figure is inflated, but it inspires him to keep performing for Fiorentina, putting off any discussion of a transfer to focus on his current club.

“I’m just thinking about proving my value all the time, even if those numbers [€60m] seem a bit exaggerated,” Chiesa told Corriere dello Sport.

“My only priority is to show, Sunday after Sunday, who Federico Chiesa is. Now my focus is all on Cagliari.

“I’m happy here at Fiorentina. I’m only thinking of the next game.”

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And Chiesa is also motivated to show his value for Italy, adding: “This is a young Italy team and there’s still a long way to go. My priority is just to be ready for the national team.

“I don’t feel like a key player – I just want to prove that I deserve to play for the Azzurri. I’ll work to make sure I can celebrate another call-up next time.

“[Head coach Roberto] Mancini is now starting a new project. He’s always told us to play calmly and freely, without pressure.”


‘We’ll do what we have to’ – Chelsea will not let Hazard join Real Madrid easily

Chelsea are determined to ensure that Eden Hazard remains happy at Stamford Bridge and is not tempted by a move to Real Madrid.

The Spanish side have long been linked with a move for the Belgium star, though particularly moreso in recent weeks as they attempt to cope with the summer sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.

Hazard, meanwhile, has starred as Maurizio Sarri’s men have climbed to the top of the Premier League standings after eight matches, scoring seven times and creating a further three goals for team-mates.

As such, Blues chairman Bruce Buck has reiterated the club’s desire to keep hold of the former Lille star.

“We want him to stay and we will do what we have to do to entice him to stay,” Buck said, discussing the topic in Doha at the Financial Times Future of Football event.

“Every Chelsea fan in London and around the world loves Eden Hazard, and he’s not only a great footballer but I think he’s a wonderful lad.”

The position of the Stamford Bridge side is complicated by the fact that Hazard only has two years left to run on his contract, which could force the Blues into selling the 27-year-old next summer in order to avoid losing him for free in 2020. 

“Let’s see how it goes between now and the end of the season,” Buck said, regarding the prospect of Hazard penning a new deal.

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He joined Chelsea in 2012 for a fee of £31.5 million and has since amassed 310 appearances for the club, scoring 97 goals in the process. Among the honours he has lifted since moving to Stamford Bridge are two Premier League titles and an FA Cup.

Having scored seven times in his last six league outings, he is expected to be a key figure for Sarri’s side on Saturday, when they tackle Manchester United at home in the Premier League, attempting to maintain their position atop the standings.

The Red Devils are a side against which he has enjoyed a measure of success previously, netting five times in 13 previous matches. Only three times has he ended up on the losing side against the Old Trafford men.