New signing Sven Botman: ‘I just wanted Newcastle’

Special New signing Sven Botman: ‘I just wanted Newcastle’
Newcastle’s Sven Botman tackles Benfica’s Rafa Silva during the Eusebio Cup match between Benfica and Newcastle at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon, Tuesday, July 26, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 28 July 2022

New signing Sven Botman: ‘I just wanted Newcastle’

New signing Sven Botman: ‘I just wanted Newcastle’
  • Dutch youth international was linked to AC Milan but set heart on Tyneside move
  • Sven Botman: ‘The most important thing for me is to get my spot in the team here’

NEWCASTLE: Sven Botman has revealed why he chose to sign for Newcastle United this summer, despite interest from seven-time European champions AC Milan.

The Magpies’ six-month pursuit of the Netherlands youth international finally came to a close on July 1, when the team completed the $36 million signing of the central defender.

And it came as a surprise to many, with the Serie A champions seemingly in pole position for the Lille man.   

However, Botman has revealed that contact with Newcastle dating back to January meant he only had eyes for one club this summer — and in particular, one league.

Botman said: “I read a lot in the newspaper that said ‘where is he going, Newcastle or Milan?’

“When I was in the season with Lille, I was just playing and thinking it will come later. In the meantime, the clubs discussed with Lille as well, and after the season, I just wanted Newcastle. That was the choice.

“I was speaking with the club (since January) but it was not possible.

“I am just grateful (to be wanted). I will try my best on the pitch. When this kind of club comes to you, you know Lille isn’t your end destination and you can make another step. It gives you confidence and that’s nice.”

While AC Milan are undoubtedly a bigger name in world football, Newcastle United, under the stewardship of the PIF, have ambitions of making Europe’s top table in the not too distant future.

And while Botman is intrigued by the Newcastle project, he also admits that he was sold on the prospect of playing in what he sees as the best league on the planet.

“It’s my first time playing in the Premier League — I think it is the best league in the world and it’s getting stronger and stronger,” he told Arab News.

“Every team is getting the best players. Newcastle is not just a club that is playing in the Premier League to see what happens; they have a strict plan. They want to reach the top and that is something that really attracts me. I want to help Newcastle with the goals they have.”

Botman played in the UEFA Champions League with Lille last season and could have done so again this year with AC Milan. However, he swapped the continent’s premier competition for the promise of a dream at St. James’ Park.

How quickly does he think United will be in the competition? Botman is realistic.

“I think it is not possible to do it in one season but in steps we will get there,” he said.

“I’m here at Newcastle so I hope in three or four years I will be playing in Europe with Newcastle, and we are a club who people always believe can finish in the top six. A lot needs to be done by myself and the club but with time we will get there.”

Botman will make his home debut this weekend, fitness allowing, when United take on Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao in back-to-back games on Tyneside.

Reflecting back on his time at the club so far, he said: “Nice, really good. The first few days, I was new to everything so I had to adapt to a lot of things, but the camps (in Austria and Portugal) have quickened up the process.

“It’s totally different compared to Holland and France. The intensity is much quicker and the training is tougher. The preseason is heavier.

“The coach is really good; he demands a lot from the players so the level is going higher and higher, which I think is really good. If you want to reach these kinds of goals, you need that level.

“I was really surprised by certain things but things are going well. I’m just excited to see us play in the Premier League.”

One thing looming large for Botman, and most ambitious players, is the FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year.

Botman, at present, finds himself on the fringes of the senior Netherlands squad with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake standing in his way.

A good start at Newcastle could see him muscle his way into Louis van Gaal’s thinking ahead of the winter. On the prospect, Botman said: “It’s definitely a goal but at the moment, I’m really focusing on Newcastle.

“The most important thing for me is to get my spot in the team here, have confidence in this team and play good games. Maybe after the first couple of games, those kinds of thoughts may come.

“I’ve been there (Dutch squad) once and I want to be there every time. But there are really good players there. I’ll just do my best.

“For myself, it’s a new league so I’m excited to see how I cope. If everything goes well, it will come. That is the way I am taking it now.

“I’m not really looking for it but I know the World Cup is coming. I’m close to it but we will see.”


Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
Updated 10 August 2022

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
  • She had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round
  • Includes straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

TORONTO: Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit at the National Bank Open.

The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. She was trailing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. That was her first tournament since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to top-ranked Iga Swiatek.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

In other matches, 10th seeded Gauff beat fellow American Madison Brenglem 6-1, 6-3; China’s Zheng Qinwen got past Canada’s Rebecca Marino, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4; Italy’s Camila Giorgi defeated ninth-seeded Emma Raducanu of England, 7-6 (0), 6-2; and Bianca Andreescu of Canada beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Elize Mertens of Belgium, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, Ajla Tomljanovic of Russia, Amanda Anisimova of the US, and Zhang Shuai of China also advanced.

Osaka struggled with unforced errors and had four of her five double faults in the first set. She won the first game with the help of three unforced errors from Kanepi, but the four-time Grand Slam champion lost her momentum after going up 2-1.

Kanepi won four of the next seven games to go up 5-3. From there, Osaka had to fight her way out of two set-point opportunities from Kanepi. With a mix of a strong backhand and multiple errors from Kanepi, Osaka was able to tie it up and send the set to a tiebreaker.

With the tiebreaker tied 3-3, Kanepi turned up her level of play taking four of the next five points as Osaka handed her set point on a shot past the baseline. Kanepi built on that momentum in the second set, taking advantage of Osaka’s mishaps and firing sharp forehands past the Japanese star.

After hitting her second ace of the match earlier in the final game, Kanepi closed out with a strong serve that Osaka returned high and wide.

Andreescu won this event in 2019 before taking the US Open title in what was a breakout year for the 22-year-old. She hasn’t won a tournament since, having battled through injuries and taking a “mental break” at one point in 2021. Andreescu’s lone final appearance this year has been at the Bad Homburg Open where she fell to Caroline Garcia.

Andreescu will play Alize Cornet of France in the second round.


Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
Updated 10 August 2022

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
  • Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season

MONTREAL: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios let an early lead slip but regrouped on Tuesday for a 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory over Sebastian Baez at the ATP Montreal Masters.

World No. 37 Kyrgios, a title winner last week in Washington, next faces world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who won last week’s Los Cabos crown.

“It will be a great test and a lot of fun,” Kyrgios said. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s unorthodox — an animal.

“I want to see where my game’s at so I’ll be giving it my best shot.”

The day was a disaster for Britain’s Andy Murray as the treble Grand Slam winner was cut off in the first round, a 6-1, 6-3 victim of Taylor Fritz.

The American presented nothing but frustration to Murray, who lost with just seven winners and 19 unforced errors while Fritz fired 30 winners in 87 minutes.

“It’s an honor to be on court with Andy,” Fritz said. “He has been dominating since before I came onto the tour.”

Medvedev’s chances of retaining the top ranking over the next month are on the line when he plays Kyrgios.

The 27-year-old Australian secured his seventh straight match victory since losing to Novak Djokovic in last month’s Wimbledon final.

Kyrgios said he is on point physically but had to work to maintain mental strength in the match played 48 hours after lifting the trophy in the US capital.

“Physically I feel fine, mentally I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve not had much sleep in the last few days.

“I’ve put Washington behind me already. I’ve not played great in Montreal in the past, so I’m just trying to create some good memories for myself.”

Kyrgios held a comfortable 5-1 margin in the opening set before Argentine Baez fought back to 4-5 before dropping the set.

The Aussie managed to stop the rot and left nothing to chance in the second set as he closed out victory.

Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season.

Earlier, fellow Aussie Alex De Minaur finished off a match delayed from Monday by rain, winning four of the only five points remaining to add to the misery of Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-6 (7/4).

Shapovalov stands 1-9 since upsetting Rafael Nadal at Rome last May as his slump deepens.

French showman Gael Monfils defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-2.

Matteo Berrettini’s comeback from the Covid-19 positive test which forced him to quit Wimbledon stalled out, with the Italian losing 6-3, 6-2 to Paolo Carreno Busta in the opening round.

Berrettini played a clay final last month against Casper Ruud in Gstaad, but was unable to make a decent start to his pre-US Open cement season.


Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault
Updated 10 August 2022

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault
  • All the alleged offenses are said to have taken place at Mendy’s home address in Prestbury near Macclesfield, also in northwest England, between October 2018 and August last year

LONDON: Manchester City and France footballer Benjamin Mendy stands trial Wednesday for the alleged rape and assault of seven women, which could see his playing career end in jail if convicted.

Mendy, 28, is due at Chester Crown Court in northwest England to face eight counts of rape, one count of sexual assault and one count of attempted rape, relating to seven young women.

He pleaded not guilty in May to nine of the 10 charges, but was subsequently hit with the further rape count which has not yet been put to him in a court.

All the alleged offenses are said to have taken place at Mendy’s home address in Prestbury near Macclesfield, also in northwest England, between October 2018 and August last year.

He is standing trial before a jury along with his co-defendant Louis Saha Matturie, 40, who has also pleaded not guilty.

Matturie denies eight counts of rape and four counts of sexual assault, relating to eight young women. His alleged offenses span from July 2012 to August last year.

Both the defendants are on bail, with Mendy subject to what a judge previously called “stringent” conditions, including the surrender of his passport.

After his arrest last August he was initially held at Altcourse prison in Liverpool, and then a prison in Manchester, before being freed on bail in January.

None of the women said to have been assaulted can be named under English law, which also places restrictions on what can be reported about the case.

The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

It begins in the same week that former Manchester United star Ryan Giggs started his trial on charges of attacking and coercively controlling his ex-girlfriend.

Mendy joined Premier League champions City from French side Monaco in 2017. He has played 75 times for the Manchester club, but his playing time was limited by injuries and a loss of form.

He was suspended by City after being charged by police in August.

The last of Mendy’s 10 caps for France came in November 2019, after the defender won the World Cup in 2018.


Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs
Updated 10 August 2022

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs
  • The first leg of the playoffs take place on Aug. 16/17 with the return fixtures a week later

PARIS: Two-time former champions Benfica will play Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv while Ruud van Nistelrooy’s PSV Eindhoven will face Glasgow Rangers after they all qualified for the final Champions League qualifying playoff round on Tuesday.

Luuk De Jong claimed an 109th-minute winner as PSV Eindhoven edged Monaco 3-2 in extra-time in the Netherlands, to go through 4-3 on aggregate.

De Jong was adamant his side deserved the win.

“Monaco hit the bar and the post, I hit the target,” said the PSV captain.

Monaco had been awakened overnight when fireworks were set off outside their hotel, and there was a fiery atmosphere inside a packed stadium in a see-saw match.

Joey Veerman fired the Dutch ahead on 21mins with a sweet shot into the far corner but Guillermo Maripan then levelled clinically with a cool finish in a goalmouth scramble.

Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder then raced on to a sweeping through ball to smack home the go-ahead goal before PSV grabbed a late equalizer as Mexican Erick Gutierrez delivered PSV on 89 minutes.

Benfica beat Mitjylland 3-1 to win 7-2 on aggregate thanks largely to midfielder Enzo Fernandez and 20-year-old striker Henrique Araujo who scored before Pione Sisto responded for the Danes.

Argentinian Fernandez, 21, and Araujo were making just their second European appearances as Diogo Goncalves claimed the third goal for the 1961 and 1962 winners.

In Scotland Malik Tillman completed a turn around when he scored the decider with 11 minutes left as Rangers beat Union Saint-Gilloise 3-0.

The Belgian outfit had won the first leg 2-0 in their first appearance in European competition since 1964-65.

Kostiantyn Vivcharenko and Viktor Tsygankov guided Dynamo Kiyv past Austrians Sturm Graz 3-1 over two ties with efforts in extra time.

Dynamo were second in the Ukrainian Premier League when Russia invaded the country earlier this year.

Earlier, Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol, who stunned Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu during last season’s group stages, were knocked out by Viktoria Plzen as the Czech outfit won 4-2 over two legs.

The first leg of the playoffs take place on Aug. 16/17 with the return fixtures a week later.


Real Madrid hope stability breeds success as La Liga kicks off

Real Madrid hope stability breeds success as La Liga kicks off
Updated 10 August 2022

Real Madrid hope stability breeds success as La Liga kicks off

Real Madrid hope stability breeds success as La Liga kicks off
  • There have been no dramatic changes at the Santiago Bernabeu, and no hint of a superstar signing to reinforce the attack after Kylian Mbappe turned them down in favor of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain

MADRID: Real Madrid are hoping a summer of stability sets them up for a successful defense of the Spanish title as the season kicks off in La Liga this weekend, despite some eye-catching moves in the transfer market from Barcelona.

Madrid set the ball rolling on Wednesday against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup, as they target another trophy-laden campaign under Carlo Ancelotti following their league and Champions League double last season.

There have been no dramatic changes at the Santiago Bernabeu, and no hint of a superstar signing to reinforce the attack after Kylian Mbappe turned them down in favor of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet there have been no significant departures either, with the influence of Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo having dramatically declined before they were all released.

That means Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, who turns 37 in September, will remain hugely influential.

Ancelotti can also expect the influence of the likes of Vinicius — whose goal won May’s Champions League final against Liverpool — Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga to increase this season.

And two significant signings have arrived.

France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, 22, has joined from Monaco for a fee of up to €100 million ($102m), while Germany center-back Antonio Rudiger, 29, joins on a free from Chelsea.

“I believe we’ve got two players who are among the best in the world in their role,” Ancelotti told UEFA.com.

“Their quality increases the team’s physical and technical ability.”

Real were champions by 13 points from Barcelona, and it would have been more had the Catalans not improved enormously in the second half of last season.

Xavi Hernandez has already made a big impact as coach at the Camp Nou and a raft of new recruits headed by Robert Lewandowski could help them bridge the gap to their bitter rivals.

Leeds United winger Raphinha and AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie have also joined, while the defense should be greatly improved by the signings of Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen.

The problem is that, by the start of this week, Barca had still not been able to register their new recruits because they had not raised enough money to comply with spending restrictions imposed on the club by La Liga.

That is despite Barcelona’s board selling off assets, including 25 percent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual productions, to Socios.com for 100 million euros.

Twenty-five percent of their domestic television rights for quarter of a century have been sold to US investment fund Sixth Street for 400 million euros.

Those deals are on top of a sponsorship agreement with Spotify, and on Tuesday it was reported in Spain that Barcelona would sell another 25 percent of Barca Studios to an investment fund for 100 million euros in a bid to satisfy La Liga.

The club have also been pressuring midfielder Frenkie de Jong to leave in order to dispose of his salary.

There may be concerns about the long-term consequences of these deals for a club with reported debts of 1.3 billion euros, but if they can register the new recruits then they could also be a real force to be reckoned with.

“We have generated a lot of hopeful anticipation. We have lots of hope too,” admitted Xavi. “Our objective this year is to win titles and play good football.”

If Barcelona cannot close the gap to Real then it appears unlikely anyone else can, with Atletico Madrid not looking significantly stronger than last year, when they finished third.

Luis Suarez has returned to his native Uruguay and Antoine Griezmann’s form is uncertain, although Axel Witsel reinforces their midfield and Argentine international Nahuel Molina adds quality at right-back.

On top of that, they still have Diego Simeone.

Sevilla came fourth last season, securing Champions League qualification at the expense of city rivals Real Betis, who won the Copa del Rey.

While Sevilla have signed Isco, they have lost two outstanding center-backs, with Kounde departing and Diego Carlos going to Aston Villa.

It was notable that the latter preferred to join a mid-table Premier League club rather than stay and play in the Champions League.

That reflected English football’s pulling power, while Goncalo Guedes, Valencia’s top scorer last season, has gone to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Saudi-owned Almeria are back in La Liga after seven years, with Real Valladolid and Girona the other newly-promoted teams.