Pele backs Neymar to be fit and ready for Brazil World Cup title tilt

Brazil are one of the favorites to win this summer's World Cup, even without Neymar in their starting XI.
Updated 16 April 2018
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Pele backs Neymar to be fit and ready for Brazil World Cup title tilt

  • Brazil star in race against time to be fit for showpiece in Russia.
  • Football legend Pele has hope Neymar will be back to his best in time for tournament.

Brazilian legend Pele says he is confident about Brazil’s chances at the upcoming World Cup and expects injured star Neymar to be fully fit to lead the side in Russia.
The 77-year-old, who has been in ailing health recently, put his faith in Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar’s ability to recover from a fractured foot in time to lead Brazil to a possible sixth World Cup crown.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but I think for the World Cup he’s going to be in shape because his injury is not so bad,” Pele, the only person to have won the World Cup three times as a player, said.
“I wish he has the same luck I had in the World Cup.”
PSG’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, has not played since breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot on Feb. 25 in a Ligue 1 match against Marseille. He said last week he is still recovering following surgery but expects to be fit in time for the World Cup which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.
In the last World Cup on home soil four years ago, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semifinals. It was as chastening a defeat as any suffered by hosts of the showpiece — not least because many pundits had Brazil down as favorites to win the tournament. But Pele feels the team under “psychologist” Tite, which breezed through South American qualifying, has the tools to go all the way, and put the shocking semifinal of four years ago to the back of fans’ minds.
“I am confident because Tite, the new coach, now (has) had a little time to set up the team.
“We have a lot of excellent players in Europe. The problem is to put the team together.
“I think we’re going to have a good team at the World Cup.”
Pele said he expected few surprises at the tournament, identifying Lionel Messi’s Argentina, Germany, England and France as potential challengers.
However, he said “football is a box of surprises,” so you cannot rule any side out.
As for his own health problems — Pele canceled a trip to England in January due to “exhaustion,” although his spokesman denied he had been hospitalized — Pele said there was little cause for concern. “I cannot play in the next World Cup but I feel good,” he said with a hearty laugh.


Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

Updated 19 min 20 sec ago
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Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

  • Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad
  • A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides

LONDON: Five years after being snubbed for the Manchester United job immediately after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho has once again been unceremoniously rejected by the club after two-and-a-half fractious and tumultuous years at the helm.
And the truth is, it was an inevitable divorce.
Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad, openly criticized board members for a lack of backing in the transfer window and the majority of fans had started to turn on the so-called “Special One” and his tactics.
And while they would never do so publicly, no doubt several of the players who had fallen foul of Mourinho’s wrath were privately breathing a sigh of relief when the club announced that Mourinho had left the club with “immediate effect” on Tuesday.
Indeed, the player Mourinho clashed with the most — £89 million ($112 million) midfielder Paul Pogba — deleted a controversial social media post of himself smiling after the news broke.
That controversy was a microcosm of the French World Cup winner’s stormy relationship with Mourinho.
But the former Juventus player, who retuned to Manchester United having already been with the club during the Ferguson era, was repeatedly criticized by Mourinho during his reign and Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder’s lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
And even on the pitch, the writing has been on the wall for a while.
A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides, as the Portuguese became more and more embittered and paranoid in his dealings with the media.
The final straw for the club was Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, who United usurped as the biggest club in England under Ferguson’s 27-year reign. And the Scot was seen shaking his head as he watched his dynasty unravel in front of his eyes at the hands of United’s bitterest of rivals.
While the Merseyside club battle it out for the Premier League title with Manchester City and Tottenham — all playing a refreshing, exciting brand of football — United find themselves 19 points adrift of the summit and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho’s stagnant, defensive approach jarred with supporters, some of whom have only known the rampant attack-minded approach the club used to such devastating efficacy under Ferguson.
Mourinho was brought in to bring back those glory days after David Moyes and then Dutchman Louis van Gaal struggled to step out of Ferguson’s shadow.
And despite first-season League Cup and Europa League titles, he has failed miserably since. And he has bought himself little good grace with fans and officials, finding new excuses and ways to blame each latest defeat on his players, while ungraciously reminding critics of previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
But this ignominious end for Mourinho in what he called his “dream job” leaves him at a crossroads in his career. Few clubs will have been inspired by his playing style with a highly-talented team, even fewer will want to deal with the off-field tantrums and constant bickering.
Having arrived in English football as a breath of fresh air, he leaves it (for now) like a foul odor. With the prospect of no club to manage, no trophies to win and no teams to build, Mourinho is now much less the “Special One,” and more and more likely to be the “Tainted One.”