NEWCASTLE: PIF-owned Newcastle United will jet to Saudi Arabia for an impromptu warm weather training camp this month.
And it is understood the Magpies will meet chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and other Saudi dignitaries as part of their trip.
United are understood to have arranged the visit to take place following the club’s Premier League trip to Leeds United, which is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 22.
The Magpies do not have another game until they face former manager Rafa Benitez and Everton on Feb. 8 — this is due to the fact they crashed out of the FA Cup against lower league Cambridge United last weekend.
The weekend of Jan. 29 is set aside for the fourth round of the competition.
As well as being a welcome PR exercise for the football club, which is 80% owned by the Public Investment Fund, it gives head coach Eddie Howe a welcome opportunity to embed new players into the squad in new surroundings and in warmer climes.
United are yet to officially confirm the trip to Riyadh, but are likely to do so with more than just England international Kieran Trippier and $34 million frontman Chris Wood on their books.
It is Arab News’ understanding that United are still on the hunt for four more players, with two central defenders, another striker and midfield reinforcements at the top of their wanted list. It is also understood the Arab owners are keen for the club to bring in a marquee name, although those kinds of deals may have to wait until Premier League safety is secured and the summer transfer window arrives.
Meanwhile, Wood, United’s new No. 20, was unveiled to the public on Thursday. And the player made clear his intentions, having swapped one relegation-threatened side — Burnley — for another.
“You’ve got to go along with what your gut says and it was just one of those feelings. I think it is the right time in my career,” said the New Zealand international.
“I was very happy and comfortable at Burnley but nothing ever great happens in your comfort zone. I’m a firm believer in stepping out of your comfort zone to achieve greatness.
“I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a big challenge for me but it could potentially be great for me, and at the same time, great for the club. That’s how I knew it was the right time and decision to head this way.”
The Clarets ownership are understood to be angered by Wood’s decision to leave Turf Moor after a number of Premier League goal-laden years in the north west of England.
But for the player, there is no ill-feeling, despite the fact he will have to return to his former club on the final day of the top flight season, if fit.
Wood said: “For me, there is no bad blood there at all. I really enjoyed my four and a half years at Burnley.
“The highs we had playing in the Europa League and pushing for 10th in the league. Even when we were fighting relegation, the crowd was absolutely superb, they were always behind the lads and me as a striker. I have great memories from there.
“It was a case of this being a massive opportunity, massive club and something I couldn’t turn down.”
UEFA chief Ceferin calls on La Liga to stop criticism of PSG
Updated 32 sec ago
PARIS: UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Friday encouraged leagues to “worry about their own situation” in response to remarks by La Liga chief Javier Tebas after Paris Saint-Germain persuaded Kylian Mbappe to stay in France rather than join Real Madrid. Tebas hit out at Mbappe’s decision to snub the Spanish champions and sign a new three-year deal in Paris, calling the contract “an insult to football.” Speaking to AFP in an interview in Paris ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, Ceferin said: “I absolutely don’t agree. There are too many insults anyway in football, and I think that every league should worry about their own situation.” “I don’t think it is right that one league criticizes the other league. As much as I know, the offer from Real for Mbappe was similar to PSG’s offer,” Ceferin added. French league president Vincent Labrune responded to Tebas in a letter sent on Thursday and seen by AFP, in which he voiced “disapproval, and also our incomprehension” at the “attacks” against PSG and Ligue 1. In Tebas’ tweet attacking Ligue 1 he said PSG were had paid “large sums of money” to hold onto Mbappe “after posting losses of 700 million euros in recent seasons and having a wage bill of over 600 million euros.” PSG suffered a 224.3-million-euro ($240m) loss in 2020/21, an increase of 80 percent on the previous year, the annual report from French football’s financial authority (DNCG) said earlier this month.
Liverpool’s Thiago, Fabinho fit for Champions League final
Thiago was brought off at half-time of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Wolves last weekend nursing an Achilles problem
Fabinho has not featured since sustaining a muscular injury in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on May 10
Updated 20 min 1 sec ago
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s preparations for the Champions League final were boosted by the news that midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho will be fit to face Real Madrid after injury scares.
Thiago was brought off at half-time of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Wolves last weekend nursing an Achilles problem.
Fabinho has not featured since sustaining a muscular injury in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on May 10.
However, the Brazilian took a full part in an open training session in front of the media on Wednesday.
“Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho will be included in Liverpool’s traveling squad for the Champions League final against Real Madrid,” Liverpool said in a statement.
“The pair will be among the players journeying to Paris for Saturday’s clash at Stade de France following injury concerns and are set to come into contention to return.”
Both players have been pivotal to Liverpool’s stunning season that has already seen them lift two trophies in the League Cup and FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s men missed out on the Premier League title by a single point as Manchester City needed a stirring comeback from 2-0 down against Villa on Sunday to claim a fourth championship in five seasons.
However, the Reds can make amends by lifting a seventh European Cup against the most successful club in the competition on Saturday.
Salah and Mahrez at forefront of standout season for Arab footballers in Europe
Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, Sevilla’s Yassine Bounou and Milan’s Ismail Bennacer also shone for their clubs
Updated 27 May 2022
The European season comes to an end on Saturday as Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, and Mohamed Salah helping the English team to the continental title would be a perfect ending for millions of Arab football fans.
But whatever happens in Paris, it has already been a season to remember for players from this part of the world.
Salah has won the English Premier League golden boot for the third time, the 29-year-old also recording 13 assists, the most in the league. The Egyptian has been so consistently impressive for the Reds that his achievements have become almost commonplace, but they deserve celebrating. So does the fact that he has already won the League Cup and FA Cup in England and is close to a third trophy, the biggest of all.
Salah is already a legend on Merseyside and his status at Anfield is likely to endure even longer after he said on Wednesday that he is not about to leave anytime soon.
“I don’t want to talk about the contract. I’m staying next season for sure, let’s see after that,” said Salah at Liverpool’s pre-match media day. His deal, which is due to expire next summer, has been the subject of much debate in recent months, but his comments this week — though he did not give any details — will be welcome even if the long-term future is still unclear.
Despite scoring his 23rd goal on the final day of the season to help Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over Wolves, it wasn’t quite enough to win the title. That went to Manchester City.
Riyad Mahrez had another fine campaign under Pep Guardiola as he won a fourth Premier League championship, one with Leicester City and now three with his current club. The Algerian scored 11 league goals and managed seven more in the UEFA Champions League. That is an impressive haul by anyone’s standards and all would agree that the 31-year-old has established himself as one of the top players in the biggest league in the world.
Mohamed Elneny may not be an automatic starter in the Arsenal team but the Egyptian international, who has made 147 appearances for the Gunners, has just signed a new contract with the North London outfit, which finished fifth and just missed out on a Champions League place.
“Mo is a really important part of the team,” said Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. “He is loved by everyone. He’s an important player for us on and off the pitch, a real role model to our younger players, and I’m delighted he’s staying.”
Mahrez’s title is not the only big league championship that is being celebrated in Algeria. Ismail Bennacer has helped AC Milan win Serie A for the first time in 11 years. The central midfielder made 31 league appearances and played a major part in the success. At just 24, there is plenty of football left in the legs of the former Arsenal academy player and he has been linked with a move to England.
Amazingly, all the players mentioned will miss out on the World Cup. Egypt failed to qualify after losing a penalty shootout to Senegal with the place in Qatar at stake. It is hard to know if that was more or less heartbreaking than Algeria’s experience. The Desert Foxes seemed to have it in the bag but conceded a goal in the last minute of extra-time in the second leg against Cameroon.
That is not the case when it comes to Morocco, which is already preparing for the World Cup. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was so good for Sevilla that he was awarded La Liga’s Zamora trophy, given to the shot-stopper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio. He conceded just 24 in 31 appearances to finish with 0.77, edging out Thibault Courtois of Real Madrid.
“I would like to congratulate Yassine Bounou. He’s a very good friend of mine. Congratulations to him for the Zamora trophy,” Courtois said in tribute to the North African.
Another player who now looks like he is going to the World Cup is Nasser Mazraoui, who has had a very interesting season. The right-back has starred as Ajax won the Eredivisie and it was his third title in the Netherlands. The 24-year-old has done all he can do in the country and, from next month, will move to Bayern Munich and there could be a chance of Champions League titles in the coming years.
Then there is the saga of the national team. Along with Hakim Ziyech, the defender had fallen out with Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic and was not called up for the African Cup of Nations in January, as the team lost to Egypt in the quarter-finals, as well as the World Cup play-off.
Earlier this week, however, Mazraoui was named in the squad for June’s friendly with the US and looks to be back in the fold. Ziyech has yet to return and it remains to be seen what happens.
There have been no such international issues with Achraf Hakimi. The right-back joined Paris Saint-Germain last July fresh after winning the Italian league with Inter Milan. He has shone in France and added the Ligue 1 title. It was only the relative failure in the UEFA Champions League that has cast a shadow over the campaign.
There will be another chance next season but it will have to be good to better this one with league titles, individual awards and perhaps even continental prizes at the highest levels of European football.
1981 cup hero Alan Kennedy urges Mohamed Salah to become an all-time Liverpool legend, stay at Anfield
Former left-back scored Liverpool’s winner in European Cup final against Real Madrid in Paris, believes Egyptian star should stop at club
Updated 27 May 2022
RIYADH: During his five years at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has become revered and respected, but it will be longevity that makes him a legend at a club with such a storied history.
That is the belief of Alan Kennedy, no stranger to Anfield acclaim himself with match-winning goals that clinched two of their six European Cup victories.
Salah will try to help the Reds land a seventh title when they face Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday — redemption for the 2018 showpiece when the Egyptian forward left the field in tears, injured after a first-half challenge by Sergio Ramos, as the Spanish side triumphed 3-1.
But only by staying longer at Liverpool and helping them to repeated success will he be elevated alongside — and perhaps even surpass — Kenny Dalglish, all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, or Steven Gerrard as the club’s greatest player.
Out of contract at the end of next season, Salah has said he will be at Anfield for his final year but has not yet agreed a new long-term deal.
With 11 major trophies in eight years — including five league titles — after joining from Newcastle in 1978, Kennedy is better placed than most to discuss the club’s finest.
He said: “When you are saying if he is the best Liverpool player ever then, when you have played with Dalglish, Rush, and Graeme Souness, automatically then you think back to those days and think ‘what a player he was or what he did was incredible.’
“That was a great era for Liverpool. Dalglish was special, he did it every game and he played for 13 years. Every game he put in a shift, showed his quality, and so did Rush who had 15 years in total, so did Souness.
“I think what the players do today is sensational, but how long they do it for also matters,” Kennedy added.
“Sometimes people will say we don’t see it in every game from Salah or Sadio Mane, so it’s a difficult one to say who is the very best, especially with the difference in football to when I played.
“Mo Salah doesn’t give up, he’s very assured of himself, and has found the right way to play and the right team to play with — it’s perfect.”
Kennedy, however, believes he should stay at Anfield longer to be considered among the club’s greats.
He said: “That’s the important thing, to maintain standards and repeat the performances — and repeat the success. He is one of the best players Liverpool have ever had, but we need to know if he’s eventually going to stay or go because the uncertainty of it all means it affects his game as well.
“If he’s saying he wants to stay, then sign the contract and look forward.”
Kennedy, 67, would love for Salah to stay and be the hero against Real Madrid, and so end a proud 41-year record held by the left-back and his former team-mates.
Paris also played host when he drove home a left-footed finish in the 81st minute to seal their 1981 success, the last time 13-time winners Los Blancos lost a European Cup final.
Three years later, Kennedy hit the decisive penalty that sealed a tense shoot-out win over A.S. Roma after a 1-1 draw at the Italian side’s Stadio Olimpico home.
It was a glorious era for Liverpool, a side single-minded in their pursuit of honors and among the greatest to ever grace the game.
They won three successive English First Division titles between 1982 and 1984 — and only the FA Cup eluded them in 1984 when they claimed a treble of the league championship, League Cup, and European Cup under Joe Fagan.
Having lifted the League Cup and FA Cup this season, Liverpool’s bid for a historic quadruple was ended when Manchester City took the Premier League by a point.
But the valiant efforts of Jurgen Klopp’s men have now seen them lauded in a similar way to the heroes of yesteryear.
“Yes, they have that similarity. This current team has got a great mentality, that same belief and desire to win every game,” Kennedy told Arab News.
“They know they’re on a great run, have a great manager who can motivate players and you feel as though there is still more to come, and that’s why they could go on and achieve even more.
“Klopp also has that same aura of the great Liverpool managers. This team is certainly up there with the old teams, but do you give them the title of being the best?”
A win on Saturday would go a long way to answering that question.
Kennedy said: “If they win the Champions League and win three trophies in a season then that would put them right up there, of course, and would equal what we did in 1983-84.
“We got close to all four, failed in the FA Cup, but it was a great side and maybe we had a little bit more character in that 1983-84 season.
“It’s always hard to compare teams from different times because football has changed, but this current team should be looked upon possibly as Liverpool’s best ever.
“They are really strong throughout from the keeper, defense, to the attack, but it’s about the winning and getting the trophies, not about individuals or how close you got.
“There’s also one thing at Liverpool and that is the club comes before any player.
“If it was me scoring the winning goal, Phil Neal, or Kenny Dalglish, it didn’t matter. It was about winning for the team and as a team. That’s what these players are also doing now,” he added.
Kennedy said he was just “the lucky guy” to claim the winning goal against Real after overcoming a broken wrist to play, but Liverpool were a driven team totally focused on “trying to win everything” at that time.
It is an approach that resonates with Real Madrid, who are chasing a fifth Champions League in nine seasons.
Led by Karim Benzema, the La Liga champions overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City with stunning comebacks to reach this stage.
Kennedy added: “Real are an exceptional team and to beat Manchester City how they did with those late goals was just awesome.
“There aren’t too many weaknesses in their side, they are very controlled and don’t rely too much on Benzema like some people say. Liverpool should have enough in their locker to beat them, but this is against Real Madrid and that’s the thing, we all know what they are capable of.
“If you want to be remembered for being great then you have to show it — you can’t hide in cup finals.”
Best of the West: Warriors seal return to NBA Finals with Game 5 victory over Mavericks
The Warriors have not lost a playoff game at home this season, the first post-season run in their new arena in San Francisco after leaving behind their old home in Oakland
After missing the playoffs the past two seasons while rebuilding, the Warriors are playing for the trophy again with champion core stars Curry, Thompson and Green back setting the pace
Updated 27 May 2022
SAN FRANCISCO: Klay Thompson scored a game-high 32 points and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons by defeating Dallas 120-110 on Thursday.
The Warriors, chasing a fourth title in eight campaigns, won the best-of-seven Western Conference finals 4-1 and secured a place in June’s title showdown against either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.
The Celtics carry a 3-2 series lead into Friday’s sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals at Boston.
Golden State won NBA crowns in 2015, 2017 and 2018 by defeating the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers each time but lost the finals in 2016 to the Cavs and in 2019 to Toronto.
“This is a blessing for us to get back here, to get back where we belong,” said Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who was named the Western Conference playoff Most Valuable Player.
Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Warriors while Draymond Green added 17 points and nine assists, Jordan Poole scored 16 points off the bench, Curry added 15 and nine assists, and Kevon Looney added 10 points and 18 rebounds.
The Warriors have not lost a playoff game at home this season, the first post-season run in their new arena in San Francisco after leaving behind their old home in Oakland.
“It’s special to do it in our new building,” Curry said. “This isn’t the ultimate goal but we’ve got to celebrate this for all we went through the past three years.”
After missing the playoffs the past two seasons while rebuilding, the Warriors are playing for the trophy again with champion core stars Curry, Thompson and Green back setting the pace.
“This one is special because this is a group no one thought would ever be back here,” Green said.
“This group put the work in every day and we’re here. We’re back.”
It will be the sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals for Thompson, who missed the entire 2019-20 campaign after left knee surgery and the entire 2020-21 season with a torn Achilles tendon.
“I’m so happy to be back,” Thompson said. “I’m thankful for this team. I can’t believe we’re back. We’ve still got four more to go.”
Thompson made 12-of-25 shots from the floor, including 8-of-16 from 3-point range.
The Mavericks haven’t reached the NBA Finals since winning the crown in 2011.
Slovenian star guard Luka Doncic had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead the Mavericks while Spencer Dinwiddie added 26 points off the Dallas bench.
“We didn’t play our best game but we accomplished a lot,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, whose team upset top seed Phoenix in the second round.
“We’ve laid a foundation. Now we can start building.”
Dinwiddie’s corner 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Dallas within 28-23 after the first quarter.
But Thompson scored eight points in a 12-5 Warriors’ run, starting and ending the spurt with 3-pointers to put Golden State ahead 45-32 with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter.
Reserve Moses Moody scored seven points in a 9-0 Golden State run to stretch the lead to 56-38 with 4:00 to play in the period on the way to the Warriors taking a 69-52 edge at half-time.
Thompson scored 19 points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor with 5-of-8 made from 3-point range while Dinwiddie led Dallas with 17.
Early in the third quarter, Green delivered a spectacular no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to Thompson for a wide-open 3-pointer that gave Golden State a 74-53 lead.
But the Mavericks stung the Warriors with a 15-0 run to the final seconds of the third quarter, pulling within 92-84 as Golden State went scoreless for almost four minutes until managing the final basket of the period.
Doncic scored 15 points in the third quarter to lift Dallas back into the contest, but Golden State opened the fourth quarter with a 7-1 run for a 101-85 advantage and held the Mavs at bay from there.