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.


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”