Brazil midfielder Fred agrees to join Manchester City

Updated 23 January 2018
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Brazil midfielder Fred agrees to join Manchester City

LONDON: Brazil midfielder Fred has agreed to join Manchester City, with negotiations between the Premier League club and Shakhtar Donetsk now centered upon the timing of the transfer. Pep Guardiola wants to add the 24-year-old to his squad for the remainder of a season in which City are still competing on four fronts. Shakhtar’s preference is to retain a player who has been fundamental to their progress in the Champions League until the summer before switching his registration.
Manchester United also explored the possibility of bringing Fred to England in the current transfer window as Jose Mourinho sought to restructure a midfield that has been persistently weakened by player unavailability this season. Unlike their successful head-to-head battle to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, however, United have accepted that the versatile midfielder is destined for their rivals.
Part of the Shakhtar team which inflicted the first defeat of City’s stellar campaign in a December Champions League group game, Fred is expected to share duties as a link between Guardiola’s defense and attack with Fernandinho. The Brazilian can also operate further forward in City’s 4-1-2-3 system, covering the positions normally filled by David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
A senior Shakhtar source expects the club to receive a fee in the region of €40 million ($48 million) from City. The Ukrainian champions have been attempting to secure a replacement for Fred, with Dinamo Zagreb teenager Nikola Moro a candidate for the role.
City’s expenditure on Fred follows significant investments in upgrading and extending the contracts of Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi until the summer of 2020 and 2021 respectively. The Abu Dhabi-owned club also lengthened Silva’s contract until 2020 at the end of November and is about to tie De Bruyne to a new deal that will make him its best-paid
player at the club.
With all of Guardiola’s first-choice midfield secured to long-term deals that include unusually large performance-related bonuses, City will move on to improving the financial terms of the Catalan’s preferred forward trio — Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane. The degree of expenditure on new deals coupled with the 29 Premier League goals contributed by those three attackers is related to the decision to allow Sanchez to join United.

Although City agreed to give Sanchez (pictured above) their top salary in order to sign the Chile international from Arsenal in the summer, also committing to pay a transfer fee of £55 million ($76 million) plus £5 million of variables to the London club, that deadline-day switch fell through. When Arsenal reduced their asking price to £35 million in the January window Sanchez’s representatives asked that the differential on transfer fee be paid to the player.
City refused, allowing United to bring the forward to Old Trafford.
Manchester’s best-supported club was able to secure Sanchez without paying a transfer fee, sending the out-of-favor Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who turned 29 on Sunday — to Arsenal instead.
“We have tried to find the best possible solution,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “And the best possible solution is that we lose a world-class player, I don’t deny that at all, but we did not lose him without getting somebody after. The future will tell if it was the right decision or not.
“I cannot understand anybody wanting to leave Arsenal. But in 30 years of doing transfers, you learn a lot about human beings. As a professional, it was perhaps his last contract at the top level and an important contract. We did what we tried to do and went as far as we could. Even Manchester City moved out of it in the end. That tells you we had no chance to give him a contract.”


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.