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Matuidi compares Mbappe to Ronaldo & Messi

The Paris Saint-Germain phenomenon has had an incredible 2018, leading some to tip him for Ballon d’Or glory. Kylian Mbappe needs his great personality, just like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to France team-mate Blaise Matuidi.

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe has developed into one of the world’s finest attacking players over the past three years and is one of the leading candidates to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, having lifted three domestic trophies at club level and the World Cup in 2018. Matuidi thinks the 19-year-old has the self-confidence and persona to become a true great in the game.

“It is his personality. It’s the player he is,” Matuidi told a news conference when asked about Mbappe’s forthright nature.

“He is a great player; he is very talented. Every great player has a great personality. I’ve known that with Zlatan. I see that with Cristiano. Messi is also like that. Kylian will be a great player. He is already. He is doing big things. It’s good; we need players like him. So, I encourage him to stay like that.”

Matuidi was speaking ahead of France’s Nations League clash with Netherlands on Friday, when a draw will be enough to send Didier Deschamps’ side into next year’s finals. However, the Juventus midfielder is wary of underestimating a side who beat Germany 3-0 in their last competitive outing.

“I think we have to defend well,” he said. “Netherlands scored three goals against Germany. They have many qualities, especially defensively. We have to be good in every aspect. We have to stay solid. That’s one of our qualities. We have players who can make the difference. We are able to keep the ball and make the game difficult for our opponents. They can be dangerous but France can also be dangerous. We have talented players to make things difficult for them.”

Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko was rewarded for some good recent club form with a call-up to the squad, and Matuidi is delighted to see the midfielder’s determination rewarded.

“Moussa is a warrior,” he said. “He never gives up. He is my friend. He had some difficult moments but he always told me that he would never give up. He is doing great with Tottenham. He performs, so he deserves to be here with France. I am happy to be with him again. I think he is a warrior. He deserves what is happening.”

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‘I’ve got a lot of offers’ – Bolt not giving up on football career

The Olympic great has not ruled out calling time on his football career and believes he’ll have his mind made up by the end of the month. Usain Bolt revealed he may give up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer despite having “a lot of offers” and that he will make a decision on his future by the end of November.

The eight-time Olympic champion, 32, was unable to agree to a deal with the Central Coast Mariners after a trial with the A-League club. Bolt has now given himself until the end of the month to make a decision, and while the sprinting great said he had options, he also made clear that he is considering putting an end to his dreams of a football career.

“With the Central Coast, we couldn’t work out the contract stuff so that’s dead, but I’ve got a lot of offers from other clubs out there,” he said on Wednesday.

“Now we’re just trying to figure out what [to do]. We’ll make a decision before the end of November if I’m going to go to another club or call it actually quits.”

Bolt scored twice for the Mariners during a friendly in October, but the parties were unable to agree to a deal despite the Jamaican’s management team confirming that the A-League club had made an offer.  The former sprinter has been looking to make a career in football since he retired from athletics following the 2017 World Championships in London.

Bolt has previously trialled with teams in Germany, Norway and South Africa without landing a professional deal. However, he did appear to turn some heads in Australia, as while on trial, he was offered a contract with Maltese side Valletta, which he turned down.

In addition, the president of the Jamaica FA said should Bolt show further development of his footballing abilities, he could be in line for an international call-up. Despite the offer of a deal, reports claimed that Bolt and his team were looking for something in the region of £1.6m ($2.1m) to sign for the Mariners, a massive sum by A-League standards.

Even earlier this month Bolt was assuring that he would carry on in his search for another chance at making his footballing dream a reality, though that optimism seems to have wavered some with the admission that he could put a stop to his search for a club.

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‘Pressure’ forced Chelsea’s Morata to psychologist

Alvaro Morata said that he is seeing a psychologist to help him deal with the “pressure and emotions” he experienced at Chelsea last season, adding that he briefly thought about leaving Stamford Bridge last summer to join a club where he could play “without pressure.”

Chelsea paid a then club-record £58 million to sign Morata from Real Madrid as Diego Costa’s replacement in the summer of 2017, but he faded badly after a bright start as injuries and off-field events — his close friend was killed in a car crash and his wife endured a difficult pregnancy with the couple’s twin boys — sapped his sharpness and confidence.

Morata insisted earlier this month that he feels better mentally on and off the pitch this season, and in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC he said that regular sessions with a psychologist have helped him escape the dark place he found himself in during his first year in England.

“I think it’s very important to have confidence,” Morata said. “Things go well for you. In this period of my life I have realised that you always have to train your mind. It’s not only about being physically prepared. To withstand the pressure, you also have to work, it is the most important thing in our field.

“I had never thought about training the mind, really. When a player hears the word psychologist at the first, you are taken aback, but I realised that I needed help. At first, I was a bit embarrassed to talk to the psychologist and tell him all my problems and with the help of everyone I have managed to recover happiness in football.

“The idea of going to the psychologist, for anyone who has any problem, is associated with something negative. I think everyone sees it that way when it’s really a very important thing. Now I am happier than ever at Chelsea and happier than ever in the national team even if it is not my best moment on the pitch.

“I’ve scored goals again, but it’s not when I’m playing my best football. I will continue going to the psychologist, it helps me to manage the pressure and emotions.”

Morata scored just three goals in 22 appearances for Chelsea between January and May, and his prolonged slump fuelled scepticism among many supporters that he was capable of filling Costa’s boots. Morata’s lack of form resulted in him being left out of Spain’s squad for the World Cup in Russia, and the disappointment prompted the striker to contemplate whether he was mentally cut out to play at the highest level.

“I told my wife and my family that I had to take a step or two back to enjoy [football] again,” he continued. “I was under a lot of pressure and when you’re like that you stop enjoying [football].

“It is at that moment when you have to realise that either you let them help you and listen to you or you can keep on getting worse. This summer I said to myself once or twice that I wanted to go to a team where I would be happy again, without pressure. My wife laughed and said: ‘Do not say nonsense…’ Many things happen in your head but now I am enjoying [football] again. It was a matter of adjusting my head, which is what controls the body.”

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Pogba rules out Juve return: United is ‘home’

Paul Pogba has ruled out a return to Juventus and reiterated his commitment to Manchester United by describing the club as his “home.”

Pogba joined United’s youth academy in 2009 but having failed to break into the first team, joined the Serie A champions in 2012 where he established himself as one of the game’s leading midfielders. He made his return to Old Trafford for a then world record £89 million deal in 2016.

In recent months, there have been question marks over Pogba’s United future following various bust-ups with manager Jose Mourinho. The midfielder has been linked with a return to Juventus but Pogba said his stint with the Bianconeri was like a “holiday” rather than anything long term.

“When I came back to United, it was the best feeling ever,” Pogba told Inside United. “I came back home.

“I always dreamed of playing for United, to have many games and score goals. Nothing had really changed, except for maybe the team and the manager, but the rest of the club was the same. I just came back home, it was like I didn’t really leave — I just went on holiday. It was a great feeling to come back home.”

Pogba started the campaign as United’s vice-captain, as he wore the armband for the opening matches in the absence of skipper Antonio Valencia. However, following comments about the club’s playing style, Mourinho stripped the France international of the vice-captaincy role.

Pogba missed Sunday’s 3-1 defeat in the Manchester derby through an injury which also forced him to pull out of the France squad, having been called up for the upcoming internationals against Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League as well as the friendly with Uruguay.

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Relegation not ‘end of world’ for Germany – Low

Germany manager Joachim Low said his team was ready to “accept it” if they were relegated from the top tier of the Nations League on Friday. The Germans, bottom of Nations League Group 1 in League A with one point from three games, could be relegated as early as Friday if Netherlands, on three points, beat leaders France, who have seven.

“It is not going to be the end of the world,” Low said. “We will just have to play in a lower group in 2020. We can always win promotion again. If we are relegated we will have to accept it. Then we just play in a lower group. Our concentration next year will be on Euro 2020 qualification.”

The Germany manager also confirmed that in-form Germany winger Reus will not play in Thursday’s international friendly against Russia due to a foot injury and is doubtful for their Nations League match against Netherlands next week.

The Borussia Dortmund winger is having a sensational season for the unbeaten Bundesliga leaders, scoring eight goals and setting up another four in their 11 matches so far. But Low said Reus had picked up a minor foot injury in Dortmund’s 3-2 victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday.

“Marco Reus will not be able to play tomorrow,” Low told reporters on Wednesday. “He arrived with a foot injury from the game against Bayern. He will not train tonight and we will have to see if it works for Monday.”

The Germans are looking to finish the year on a positive note after a disastrous World Cup that ended in the group stage and a losing inaugural Nations League campaign. Low said a process of renewing the team was ongoing but it could not happen overnight or without some experienced players.

“Building a new team is not something that happens out of nothing. It is a process,” Low told reporters. “The rebuilding phase has started and the process is ongoing.”

Low dropped experienced central defender and 2014 World Cup winner Jerome Boateng for the matches, but said it was important for young players to have experienced teammates who can guide them.

“Every successful team will have a good mix between young and more experienced players,” he said, when asked about out-of-form Thomas Mueller, another World Cup winner, who was part of the squad. Young players need some players to guide them in difficult moments. We do not have too many players who have this experience.”

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Mbappe builds his ideal footballer

The PSG and France attacker laid out the qualities his ideal football would have, and omitted his own qualities in the process Kylian Mbappe has laid out what he thinks would be the ideal footballer.

The PSG and France star picked out the best qualities of some of the top players in the world and said all combined they would make for the perfect player.  And while there are star names on the list, Mbappe doesn’t believe any of his own qualities would be needed once the perfect player was put together.

“I would choose Messi’s left foot, Neymar’s right foot, Cristiano’s mentality and Buffon’s class, which Mbappe’s part? There’s no need, it’s good just like this!”

Mbappe has made quite the name for himself in the last couple of years, with his heroics for France at the World Cup last summer drawing high praise.

He was a key player for the French, scoring twice in a round of 16 win over Argentina and again in the final.  Those goals brought about comparisons to Brazilian legend Pele, and while Mbappe is pleased to be mentioned in the same breathe as an all-time great, he knows those shoes are impossible to fill.

“Of course I was very happy, very proud, but this is a difficult comparison,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone can do it like he did on his day. There’s only one Pele, he’s unique. I didn’t give too much attention to it, because no-one will ever be like Pele.”

Even at just 19, Mbappe has already won Ligue 1 titles with Monaco and PSG and a World Cup among numerous other trophies. Mbappe and France are looking to continue their strong form on the international stage this week as they take on Netherlands in a UEFA Nations League clash.

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Maradona: Messi will be back

The La Albiceleste legend believes the Barcelona superstar will eventually make an international return. Lionel Messi will return to the Argentina fold at some stage, according to Diego Maradona.

Messi, 31, last played for his nation at the World Cup in Russia and will miss their upcoming friendlies against Mexico. La Albiceleste fared poorly at the showpiece event, losing 3-0 to Croatia and drawing with Iceland in the group stages, before being knocked out by eventual winners France in the round of 16.

Messi missed a penalty in the draw against Iceland but scored in his country’s only win of the tournament against Nigeria. And Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, believes the Barcelona superstar will return to the international scene. Asked by Marca if Messi will feature in the future for Argentina, Maradona said: “I think so. We will see, because if not then we are in trouble.”

Maradona also denied he had criticised Messi earlier this year when it was said that he questioned the attacker’s leadership. The 58-year-old insisted he would never chastise his compatriot in such a way publicly.

“Leo is a friend of mine and I never talk badly about a friend in public. I would say it to the face, and not through an interview,” Maradona said.

“About Leo, all I would say is that he is a phenomenon and nothing more. There are players that go to the bathroom 20 times [before a match] but I never referred to Messi.”

The absence of international duties may help Messi focus on his club commitments, as his Barcelona side look to bounce back from their shock 4-3 home defeat against Real Betis, despite two goals from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, facing a tough trip away against Atletico Madrid.

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Neymar joining Madrid wouldn’t upset Iniesta

Andres Iniesta has said it would not upset him to see his former Barcelona teammate Neymar play for Real Madrid one day. Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 a world-record €222 million transfer after four successful seasons alongside Iniesta at Barca, has been repeatedly linked with Real Madrid.

When Iniesta was asked about that possibility, he told Cadena Ser: “It wouldn’t hurt me because they are decisions that if they happen, happen. Madrid would reinforce themselves with a unique player.”

Iniesta, who left Barca for Japanese club Vissel Kobe after last season, doesn’t think such a move would hurt Barca.

“Barcelona have unique players and I see them candidates to win all the titles,” he said. “Barca have reinforced themselves well this year. There are people like [Philippe] Coutinho, who has adapted well. I see a powerful team.”

Despite reports of a return, Iniesta does not envision Neymar ever wearing the Barca colours again. El Mundo Deportivo reported before the start of the season that Neymar wants to return to the Camp Nou.

“I think it’s difficult,” Iniesta said. “Obviously Neymar continues to be one of the best and in any team he would make a difference. But it’s not easy to return.”

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Ibra’s 40-yard stunner wins MLS goal of season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first-ever strike for the LA Galaxy won him Major League Soccer’s Goal of the Year on Tuesday. Ibrahimovic, 37, scored twice in his debut for the Galaxy helping the club rally to beat local rivals LAFC 4-3 on March 31, the first coming from a swerving 40-yard volley that beat Tyler Miller to level the score.

The former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star then headed home the winner to cap a spectacular substitute appearance in front of the home crowd at StubHub Center. Ibrahimovic joins Carlos Ruiz, 2002, and Landon Donovan, 2009, as the third Galaxy player to win the goal of the year award. Atlanta United’s Hector Villalba won the award in 2017.

The Galaxy had an up-and-down campaign in 2018, failing to make the playoffs after losing on the last day of the regular season despite Ibrahimovic scoring 22 goals in 27 appearances after joining the team from Man United earlier in the year. It’s uncertain whether or not the former Sweden international will return for another year in MLS or possibly return to play for a club in Europe once the January window opens.

 

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City have overtaken United in Manchester – Butt

Manchester United face a “challenge” to re-establish themselves as the top team in Manchester after falling behind their bitter rivals, according to Nicky Butt. The 3-1 derby defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday saw United slip 12 points behind Pep Guardiola’s champions.

City have won two Premier League titles since United’s last success in 2013 and Butt, the club’s academy boss after 12 decorated seasons as a player, admits they have been overtaken in their own city.

“For Manchester United now we have got a challenge on to get back to where we want to be, which is the biggest club in the country, but also in the city,” Butt told the Premier League Sports Network event.

“That challenge is there for the owners, the board, the manager and the club in general to be where we want to be. And, to be honest, we have got a challenge on our hands to get there.”

Butt lifted the Champions League trophy with United as part of an unprecedented treble in 1999, while City won the playoff final to escape the third tier of English football. But since their takeover in 2008, City have turned into one of the biggest clubs in Europe and Butt has said their transformation on and off the pitch has been “impressive.”

“I remember in the local area when the rumours started about them buying a lot of land in the east Manchester area and looking to build this massive complex, like a little mini city within the city, and you don’t think it is going to happen,” he said.

“Before you know it, it’s there and you think ‘very impressive.’ It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but you’ve got to admit it is an impressive place to be. And they are winning things. Their next challenge is the European Cup because, until you win the Champions League, you can’t really be compared to the best teams in Europe. That’s their next challenge.”