Category Archives: European club football

Inside the Sporting Lisbon academy, where Ballon d'Or winners are made

Sporting have developed Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and eight of the 11 players who started for Portugal in the Euro 2016 final

By Alex Clapham for In Bed With Maradona

“Effort, Dedication, Devotion, Glory.” Those are the first and last words the young hopefuls see as they enter and leave the Sporting Clube de Portugal academy. I had visited Benfica’s €15m complex the night before and was immediately struck by the contrasting values at this rural complex in Alcochete. Perhaps it was the €0.40 coffee served to me in the clubhouse by a bronzed pensioner who was wearing a permanent scowl. Without extravagances, this is a place for football.

As coaches gathered around a portable TV to watch Primeira Liga highlights and plan what the evening would have in store, I couldn’t help but daydream about the players who had walked these corridors and slept in the rooms next door, back when they owned nothing more than a pocketful of ambition. Sporting have produced Portugal’s two most capped players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luís Figo, both of whom have won the Ballon d’Or, the Champions League and a shedload of leagues and cups. There are signed pictures and murals of the pair plastered all around the facilities.

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Source: gad

Thomas Vermaelen: ‘People think being a Barcelona defender is easy’ | Sid Lowe

The Belgian has overcome an injury nightmare to shine at Barça. Before facing Chelsea he discusses why his role is harder than it looks, how Messi makes him laugh and his sadness at Arsenal’s struggles

No one was happier to find out the lineup than Raff and Ace, but their dad was not far behind. Thomas Vermaelen was in the tunnel at the Santiago Bernabéu and did not see the video of his sons excitedly running towards the TV screen shouting and pointing until later, by which time hundreds of thousands of others already had, yet the footage became a measure of how much it meant. The clásico is the world’s biggest match, watched by millions round the world, including a couple of small boys, aged two and four, and their little cousin; for the Belgian, it was even more than that. “I felt like I had finally made a start at Barcelona,” he says.

Related: Champions League: fans from around Europe preview the last-16 stage

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Source: gad

Spurs’ Harry Kane ready to lock horns with Juve’s Giorgio Chiellini | David Hytner

Striker has visualised winning the Champions League but must first get past the defender he calls one of the toughest

Harry Kane remembers the size of the pitch, the cut of the grass and the feel of the stadium. It was a special game for him – his full England debut against Italy at the Juventus Stadium – but the Tottenham Hotspur striker always remembers the details.

It was March 2015, although Kane says it seems like yesterday. Above all he remembers his first involvement, chasing a ball forward and, in his own words, being “wiped out” by Giorgio Chiellini, the Italy and Juventus central defender,. Kane had made his senior international debut as a substitute against Lithuania at Wembley four days previously and had scored after 79 seconds. This was a more sobering introduction.

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Source: gad

Manchester City’s Leroy Sané set to return ahead of schedule

• Winger could start against Basel in Champions League last 16
• Vincent Kompany says City must win competition to join elite

Leroy Sané is fit to start for Manchester City against Basel more than five weeks earlier than expected, with Pep Guardiola admitting surprise at the German’s recovery from ankle ligament damage.

City play Switzerland’s second‑place side in the Champions League last-16 first leg at St Jakob-Park on Tuesday night. Sané is available after training with the squad on Monday for the first time since hurting his ankle against Cardiff City on 28 January. The prognosis then was that Sané could miss at least 11 matches, meaning the 22-year-old could not return until the end of March.

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Source: gad

Pochettino says Alderweireld omitted from Juventus trip for sake of his career

• Alderweireld not fit enough yet after hamstring injury
• Spurs manager will pick central defender in FA Cup

Mauricio Pochettino says he omitted Toby Alderweireld from his squad to face Juventus in the Champions League because he cannot put the defender’s career at risk.

Alderweireld returned from a three-month absence with a hamstring injury last Wednesday against Newport County in the FA Cup but Pochettino, who left him out against Arsenal on Saturday, does not think he is fit enough for matches at the highest level. He said Alderweireld ( above) would play at Rochdale in the Cup on Sunday.

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Understated Eibar continue to show size doesn't always matter | Sid Lowe

Only Barcelona and Atlético can match Eibar’s results over the last three months as another unlikely run at Europe continues

Iván Ramis took off his shirt and put his hat on, a flat red porkpie perched on his head as he stood in the corner of Butarque where a couple of dozen Eibar fans down from the Ego valley were going wild in wigs: some red, some blue and some Scottish, ginger locks tumbling from tam o’ shanters. As he had flung his top high into the air before running towards them shouting, they had thrown the hat on the pitch; so he wore it, along with a smile that even the referee trotting over with a yellow card couldn’t wipe from his face. “I don’t know why he took his shirt off but what am I going to say?” his manager José Luis Mendílibar shrugged .

How about something in German, French or Italian? “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Fußballstadion?” might be handy. Or: “Bonjour, bonjour, nous sommes les garçons Eibar!” Better still: “Ciao, siamo l’Eibar, magari non avete sentito parlare de noi ma siamo fotutamente bravi.” Either way, it may be time to get practising and Mendilíbar knew why Ramis had taken off his shirt, alright: the same reason he was struggling to be heard, sitting there under the stand. Eibar’s fans had gone, a four-hour drive home ahead of them, but beyond the wall, down the corridor to the right, their players were shouting and chanting. It was Saturday night and they’d beaten Leganés 1-0 – but it wasn’t only that; it was how it happened and what it meant.

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Schalke's Leon Goretzka gives Bayern Munich a glimpse of their future | Andy Brassell

Schalke midfielder will join Bayern in the summer and his display against them will have pleased home fans in Munich

At least he ended up with an assist from it. It was a whisker from being one of the goals of the season, as Leon Goretzka threw a bicycle kick at Breel Embolo’s cross, and Sven Ulreich looked beaten. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t connect with his laces but flicked off the outside of his boot – falling to Franco Di Santo at the back post, who applied a measured finish.

No matter. It was, Goretzka told Sky afterwards without the smallest hint of bashfulness, something he’d managed before. “It wasn’t as it should have been today,” he shrugged, “but it ended in a goal, which is the most important thing.” No matter either that Di Santo’s strike offered Schalke only brief parity at the Allianz Arena, with Thomas Müller slotting home a winner later in the first half after Robert Lewandowski had got things started.

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Napoli show finesse and fortitude to strengthen Scudetto credentials | Blair Newman

The warning signs were there for another Napoli implosion, but Maurizo Sarri’s side responded emphatically to beat Lazio

Napoli went into their Saturday night meeting with Lazio under real pressure. For a club with a recent history of implosions, this did not bode well. The last time they were involved in a serious Scudetto push, in 2015-16, they self-destructed at Udinese. Defeat that day meant they ceded crucial ground to eventual champions Juventus. Almost two years on, a similarly fateful performance seemed to be on the cards.

All the warning signs were there. Juve had taken top spot with a win over Fiorentina on Friday, meaning Napoli had to beat third-placed Lazio in order to reclaim the initiative. They proceeded to go 1-0 down within three minutes, before Maurizio Sarri was dismissed for dissent. Marek Hamsik’s pre-match reassurance that he and his team-mates were “accustomed to pressure” looked suspect. However, rather than imploding, this time Napoli showed the fortitude of genuine contenders.

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Nuri Sahin: ‘I want to give back after football and my children to be proud’

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder talks about Jürgen Klopp, the excitement surrounding Jadon Sancho and how he hopes to bring the Champions League trophy back to his current club

We are back to where it started for Nuri Sahin – spiritually at least. As we settle into the common room at the top of the youth scholars’ boarding house at Borussia Dortmund’s training ground, on Big Brother-style soft furnishings between table football and a games console, the club’s press officer points out this sort of dedicated facility did not exist when the midfielder was a teenage aspirant. Sahin, from the age of 12, and the other scholars lived in a boarding house in the city centre.

Related: Ademola Lookman slips and slides from Everton into Leipzig’s affections | Andy Brassell

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Moura joins Spurs; Giroud, Batshuayi, Aubameyang deals go through: transfer deadline day – as it happened

12.44am GMT

Ach, it’s not going to happen, is it.

We shall close this blog for the evening, for the month and for this transfer window. Thanks for reading.

Related: Transfer window January 2018 – every deal from Europe’s top five leagues

12.31am GMT

Nothing is happening. We’re in some sort of weird admin limbo. There are still a few deals in the ether, neither complete nor not complete. Who will be January’s Adrien Silva?

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Source: gad