Fernandinho is last line of defense as City face Watford test

Manchester City’s players pose for a group photo before their match against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Fernandinho is last line of defense as City face Watford test

  • Pep Guardiola’s side are 5 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool

MANCHESTER: Fernandinho stepped seamlessly into Manchester City’s backline in midweek to ease Pep Guardiola’s defensive woes but the Premier League champions know their stretched resources will be tested by a physical Watford side on Saturday.

The clubs last met in the FA Cup final in May, with City romping to a 6-0 victory to complete the first-ever domestic treble in English football history.

But just four months later Guardiola, whose side are already five points behind Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Liverpool, is facing a serious headache at the back, with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones out for significant spells.

Frenchman Laporte, described as the best left-sided defender in Europe by Guardiola, is out until at least February after injuring knee ligaments in the recent win over Brighton.

That left Stones, whose start to the season was hampered by injury, as the only specialist center-half left to partner Nicolas Otamendi, a player who has not been an automatic first choice for some time.

England defender Stones, however, suffered a muscle injury in training and reports suggest he could be out for four to five weeks.

City appear to be paying the price for a curious strategy in the transfer market.

Over the past two years, they have shown strong interest in Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire, only to balk at paying what turned out to be world record transfer fees for defenders.

Van Dijk went to Liverpool for £75 million ($93m) while Maguire ended up at Manchester United for £80m.

Given the vast wealth of the City’s Abu Dhabi ownership, and the fact they have broken their own club transfer record in each of the past two summers, such caution when it comes to signing center-halves seems curious.

Guardiola also famously spent big on three fullbacks — Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy — in a matter of days in 2017 which makes his, and City’s, refusal to compete with Liverpool and United for center-halves all the more baffling.

The upshot of their approach was that they failed to replace veteran club skipper Vincent Kompany, who returned to Belgium.

City’s refusal to go toe to toe with their rivals means they face Watford, and new manager Quique Sanchez Flores, with only Otamendi as a fit, specialist central defender.

Watford are bottom of the league but come into the match buoyant after recovering from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Arsenal.

At least Guardiola has a ready-made solution, with defensive midfielder Fernandinho playing at center-back for the midweek visit to Shakhtar Donetsk, where City won 3-0.

The City manager has long spoken of moving Fernandinho back into that position as his career draws to a close although his hand has been forced by the injuries.

“That’s why he is so important for us,” said Guardiola after the victory in his side’s Champions League opener.

“We don’t have many choices. I think he is the only one I have. Other players can play in that position but Fernandinho is a clever player and so intelligent — an incredible guy.

“He did well the first game he played. Of course he has a lot of experience and personality, and what he says the people follow him in the locker room so it’s important.”

Right-back Walker is another player who could move into the center of defense in an emergency but, with Fernandinho in the veteran stage of his career now at 34, Guardiola is one injury away from a full-blown crisis.


Federer tops list of world’s highest-paid athletes

Updated 31 May 2020

Federer tops list of world’s highest-paid athletes

  • The bulk of Federer’s haul in the past 12 months was from appearance fees and endorsement deals
  • Next on the list was Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo at $105 million, $60 million in salary

NEW YORK: Roger Federer topped the 2020 Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes announced Friday, leading the lineup for the first time with pre-tax earnings of $106.3 million (95.5 million euros).
The Swiss tennis legend, a men’s record 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, becomes the first player from his sport atop the annual list since its 1990 debut, rising from fifth in 2019.
Federer’s haul over the past 12 months included $100 million from appearance fees and endorsement deals plus $6.3 million in prize money. His previous best showing was second in 2013.
“His brand is pristine, which is why those that can afford to align with him clamor to do so,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told the magazine.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that shut down sports worldwide caused the first decline since 2016 in the total income of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, a 9% dip from last year to $3.6 billion. Another plunge is expected next year from the shutdown.
Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list at $105 million, $60 million in salary and $45 million from endorsements, with Argentine football hero Lionel Messi third on $104 million, $32 million of that from sponsorship deals.
Messi and Ronaldo, who have traded the top spot three of the past four years, saw their combined incomes dip $28 million from last year due to salary cuts when European clubs halted play in March.
Brazilian footballer Neymar was fourth overall on $95.5 million, $25 million from endorsements, while NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was fifth on $88.2 million, $60 million of that from endorsements.
NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was sixth on $74.4 million with former teammate Kevin Durant next on $63.9 million.
Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion and a 15-time major winner, was eighth on the list and tops among golfers at $62.3 million, all but $2.3 million from sponsor deals.
Woods topped the Forbes list a record 12 times before an infidelity scandal helped end his run.
Two NFL quarterbacks rounded out the top 10 with Kirk Cousins ninth at $60.5 million and Carson Wentz 10th on $59.1 million.
The top 100 featured athletes from 21 nations and 10 sports. More NBA players made the list than those from any other sport at 35, but 31 NFL players made the cut, up from 19 from last year, and they pulled down the most money of any league, aided by finishing the season before the deadly virus outbreak.
Major League Baseball, whose start to the 2020 campaign was postponed by the virus outbreak, put only one player on the list after 15 in 2019. The lone MLB player was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was 57th at $27.3 million with only $750,000 from endorsements.
Spanish footballer Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid captain, was last among the 100 on $21.8 million, including $3 million in endorsements.
Two women, tennis stars Naomi Osaka of Japan and Serena Williams of the United States, made the list, the most females on it since 2016. Osaka ranked 29th overall on $37.4 million ($34 million in endorsements), four spots ahead of Williams with $36 million ($32 million in endorsements).
Federer, 38, boasts the biggest sponsorship lineup among active athletes with Moet & Chandon and Barilla among those paying from $3 to $30 million to link him with their brands.
Federer, who spent a record 310 weeks as world number one, reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals from 2005-2010.
Only Woods has joined Federer in making $100 million in sponsor deals in a single year.
Federer’s newest deal is with Swiss running shoe On, where he is an investor, but several sponsors have been with him for more than a decade, including Rolex, Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz and Wilson.
A split with Nike in 2018 opened Federer to Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo’s 10-year deal worth $300 million.