Chief of Qatar-owned PSG dispels Gianluigi Buffon transfer rumors

Gianluigi Buffon is a man in demand after announcing he is leaving Juventus. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Chief of Qatar-owned PSG dispels Gianluigi Buffon transfer rumors

  • Italy legend has been linked with a move to France
  • But president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has faith in No. 1 Alphonse Areola

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has poured water on suggestions Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon could step in to replace the French club’s No. 1 goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola.
Buffon, 40, played his final game for the Italian giants in a 2-1 win over Verona on Saturday, capping a 17-year career in Turin that harvested seven consecutive Serie A titles.
Buffon’s contract will expire in a matter of weeks, but asked if the French capital could be the emblematic Italian’s next destination, Al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe sports daily on Sunday: “We have Areola, he’s our number one.”
When then asked if that would also be the case next season, Al-Khelaifi replied: “Yes, for sure.”
He added: “He (Buffon) is a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s very charismatic and is a true gentleman. I’m sure all the clubs want him.”
Areola underlined his feelings about the situation when he told Le Parisien newspaper Saturday he wanted to “remain number one” at PSG and would leave the club if that were not to be the case next season.
“Because if I’m not the number one anymore, it would mean the season I’ve just finished has all counted for nothing,” said the 25-year-old Areola, whose own deal ends in June 2019.
PSG, who regained the French league title this month, will be taken over by coach Thomas Tuchel next season. He succeeds Spaniard Unai Emery.


'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 21 June 2018
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'We want to make Saudi Arabia proud': Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.