Manchester City plot summer move for Ajax teenage star Justin Kluivert

Manchester City could land Justin Kluivert in a cut-price deal. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Manchester City plot summer move for Ajax teenage star Justin Kluivert

  • Super agent Mino Raiola is looking to move the Dutch international
  • Kluivert is also admired by Jose Mourinho

LONDON: Manchester City have added Justin Kluivert to a shortlist of potential summer signings as Pep Guardiola seeks to further strengthen an attack that has scored over 100 English Premier League goals this season. The teenage Netherlands international has refused to sign new terms at Ajax Amsterdam, who are resigned to losing him in the coming transfer window. And sources close to the player and at Ajax expect the Premier League champions to lead the race to sign him.
Kluivert turned 19 this week and has scored 10 goals in 30 top-tier appearances for Ajax this season, having broken into the Eredivise side’s first team during a run to last year’s Europa League Final. Fast, two-footed and comfortable playing anywhere in the second line of the attack, his skill set is an obvious fit to the system with which Pep Guardiola had led City to a runaway domestic title success.
As Kluivert is approaching the final year of his first professional contract, the Dutchman also represents a relatively low-cost alternative to other candidates for the position. City attempted to use Abu Dhabi’s prodigious funding to recruit Alexis Sanchez and Kylian Mbappe last summer, and were stymied in a January move for Riyad Mahrez.
AS Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard rank among the top-end options on the coming window’s market. City also hold a strong interest in Portugal U-21 international Rafael Leao; however Sporting have so far refused to even discuss the possibility of selling a player the Portuguese club considers central to future plans.
Kluivert is represented by Mino Raiola, who has applied the strategy with which he moved a teenage Paul Pogba out of Manchester United in 2012, setting his client’s salary demands at a level Ajax refuse to match. Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar held an unsuccessful meeting with Raiola this week.
“We have been talking for 10 months now, and we are a bit done with it all now,” Van der Sar said this week. “He is difficult to keep. His agent pushes him toward the exit, which is a shame. It is not our intention to let players aged 18 or 19 leave the club. That is not the philosophy of Ajax.”
Although Ajax’s bargaining position is constrained by the length of Kluivert’s contract and an expectation that Raiola will attempt to maximize financial return from the player’s next employer, the club will attempt to secure as high a transfer fee as possible. “We think he is better than Raheem Sterling,” a club source told Arab News. “We’ll try to get as much as possible.”
Manchester United are also in the market for a winger comfortable playing off his left foot, with Kluivert included on their own recruitment short list last year. Jose Mourinho made a point of personally complimenting the forward on his debut campaign in the immediate aftermath of United’s Europa League Final defeat of Ajax last May.
Raiola’s relationship with United, however, has deteriorated in recent months. The Dutch-Italian agent has offered marquee player Pogba to domestic and Champions League rivals and unnecessarily complicated January’s Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan exchange deal. It is unclear whether the Old Trafford club would be prepared to enter into another complex negotiation with him.
Raiola and Guardiola have also been at odds this season, with the agent branding the City manager “a coward, a dog.”
Kluivert’s father, former Netherlands striker Patrick, has publicly stated a preference that his son’s next club be his own former home, Barcelona. While the newly crowned Liga champions are considering a bid for Kluivert, he is just one of a number of candidates on a recruitment list that also includes Real Betis forward Fabian Ruiz.


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.