Howe targets Newcastle signing that will ‘make a difference’ with time running out in transfer window

Howe targets Newcastle signing that will ‘make a difference’ with time running out in transfer window
Eddie Howe has revealed he is keen to add at least one more player to his Newcastle United ranks before the close of the transfer window. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 August 2022

Howe targets Newcastle signing that will ‘make a difference’ with time running out in transfer window

Howe targets Newcastle signing that will ‘make a difference’ with time running out in transfer window
  • Club have had challenges getting deals over the line but the coach remains satisfied with his three signings and quality of squad

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed he is keen to add at least one more player to his Newcastle United ranks before the close of the transfer window.

However, the head coach has reiterated his stance that if no one signs between now and Sept. 1, he is happy with his current crop.

Newcastle’s hierarchy, driven largely by Howe, sporting director Dan Ashworth and head of recruitment Steve Nickson, have worked tirelessly throughout the summer to strengthen the first-team squad, particularly in the forward areas. But, to date, the club have only managed to sign three recruits in the defensive third — Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Matt Targett.

And while Howe is keen to bring at least one more through the door at St. James’ Park, he will not be disappointed to run with the players he already has.

“I’m hoping we can add a player that can make a difference to us, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the whole of the window,” Howe said.

“Time is running out, so hopefully it will drop for us.

“We’re still working hard behind the scenes to try and make something move in the market for us. (There is) No news imminent.”

While only three players have arrived at St. James’ Park, the squad does look to have a stronger feel to it, even from the back end of last season, particularly with top-scorer Callum Wilson fit and firing.

When asked if he’s happy with his current group, Howe said: “Absolutely. I believe in the group, I said that from the minute I signed.

“We’ve made changes to the group since then but my belief in the players is very strong.

“There is no way of knowing what will happen in the next couple of weeks, so absolutely I’d go forward with the group.”

The summer window has not been without its struggles for Howe and Newcastle, with a number of key targets and their clubs refusing to move.

That hasn’t stopped Newcastle trying, though, and their persistence has paid off in the past, particularly when it came to the protracted deal for Netherlands youth international Botman.

“I’m trying to be positive and look at the business we have done,” Howe said.

“We haven’t added huge numbers of players but I think we have added quality — that’s the key thing.

“It’s very easy to recruit players and different names that everyone gets excited about but the reality is the outcome and what you’re left with, how strong the team and squad is.

“The three players we’ve added have definitely added to the team and added to the group off the pitch as well in terms of team spirit and mentality of the group.

“(I am) Very positive on the business we’ve been able to do and, of course, we’re still looking to add the other way.”

Howe’s faith in his squad is underlined by the quality of players the club have looked to recruit this summer.

The head coach continued: “It’s a small pool but not through us not widening the search. It’s because there’s not a huge amount of players who will make our group better, and that is a compliment to the players we have.

“We’ve got a really good squad.

“Certainly, I’d love to add someone that can make us better but that is very difficult.

“Our search has been high and wide and far reaching but I don’t expect the pool of players we have to pick from changing from now to the end of the window.”

In January, the first window since the majority takeover by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Newcastle left it late to add two of their five deals — could it be the same again at the start of next month?

Howe said: “Certainly, there is an element of managers up and down the country waiting to see if they can add to the group before letting players go but I think that’s a natural thing at this stage of the window.”

One player grabbing the headlines when it comes to transfers at the moment is Brazilian forward Joao Pedro.

The Watford man has been subject to two rejected bids by United in the past few days and the club continue to weigh up whether to go back in with another.

Speaking about the bids, Howe was coy.

He said: “Nothing. No intel, unfortunately.”


‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup

‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup
Updated 12 min 28 sec ago

‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup

‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup
  • The fact that Croatia conceded only one goal in their three group games at the World Cup is largely down to the performance of Gvardiol
  • He’s nicknamed “Little Pep” because of the similarities of his last name with that of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

DOHA: For 90 minutes, the hulking, masked mass that is Joško Gvardiol kept Belgium’s big-name strikers at bay with timely tackles — none bigger than his stop on Romelu Lukaku two minutes into stoppage time.
Then the 20-year-old Croat who is fast becoming the most sought-after center back in Europe went over to the side of the field and reached up to embrace his mother and cry.
The fact that Croatia conceded only one goal in their three group games at the World Cup is largely down to the performance of Gvardiol, who, despite his hefty stature, is nicknamed “Little Pep” because of the similarities of his last name with that of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
“He’s the best defender in the world,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić said through a translator after Thursday’s game. “Even if he’s not currently No. 1, he will become No. 1.”
While he only recently extended his contract with Leipzig through 2027, Gvardiol is reportedly a big transfer target for Chelsea, which should have no problem paying a 50 million euro ($50 million) release clause inserted into his deal with the German club.
In the meantime, veteran Croatia defenders Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida, who are both 33, have taken Gvardiol under their wing. His addition to a team that in 2018 reached the World Cup final has added another dimension in terms of physicality and youth.
“He enjoys great support from Lovren both on and off the field, and Vida also helps with extra advice,” Dalić said. “I am happy to watch how good they work together.”
Gvardiol is wearing a face mask during the tournament because he broke his nose when he collided with Willi Orbán during a Bundesliga match on Nov. 10 — the day after he was named to Croatia’s World Cup squad.
Up next for Gvardiol and Croatia is a match in the round of 16 on Monday against a Japan squad that are coming off an inspiring victory over Spain and managed to advance ahead of four-time champion Germany, which was eliminated in one of the most competitive groups.
“Before the end of the group stage, if we could choose the opponent in the next round, maybe some would say Japan,” Dalić said Friday. “But after seeing that they beat both Germany and Spain, they are anything but an easy opponent.”
The core of Croatia’s team remains their experienced midfield trio of Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović — plus winger Ivan Perišić.
At the age of 37 with 158 international appearances, Modrić is still able to dominate soccer’s biggest games with both Real Madrid and Croatia.
Perišić, who is also 33, never seems to tire on the left wing. He ran 72.5 kilometers during Croatia’s seven matches in the 2018 World Cup and could break that mark in Qatar.
While coach Roberto Martinez announced he was leaving Belgium’s squad after their “Golden Generation” was eliminated following a 0-0 draw with Croatia, Dalić said he isn’t through with his national team — no matter how Croatia finishes this tournament.
“This team are a mix of youth and experience,” he said. “I have more plans for Euro 2024 and only then might I reflect on taking some other steps and moves in my career.”


Berhalter ‘hopeful’ on Pulisic fitness for World Cup last 16

Berhalter ‘hopeful’ on Pulisic fitness for World Cup last 16
Updated 02 December 2022

Berhalter ‘hopeful’ on Pulisic fitness for World Cup last 16

Berhalter ‘hopeful’ on Pulisic fitness for World Cup last 16
  • Chelsea star Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion following a heavy collision while scoring the winning goal in Tuesday's 1-0 victory over Iran
  • Berhalter said Pulisic was on the mend and would be tested later Friday during training

DOHA: United States coach Gregg Berhalter is “hopeful” Christian Pulisic will be fit to face the Netherlands in Saturday’s World Cup last-16 clash but striker Josh Sargent remains a fitness doubt.
Chelsea star Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion following a heavy collision while scoring the winning goal in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Iran.
The 24-year-old was subsequently substituted and went to hospital following the game for tests.
Berhalter said Pulisic was on the mend and would be tested later Friday during training.
“Regarding Christian, we’re going to see him on the training field today,” Berhalter told a news conference on Friday.
“It looks pretty good, but we’ll have to see him on the pitch to get confirmation of that.”
However, there remain concerns over Norwich striker Sargent, who also picked up a knock in the win over Iran.
“With Christian we’re hopeful, with (Josh) a little less so,” Berhalter said.
“But we’ll see. At this stage of the tournament it’s go time. If you can push through it, you do. I’m sure he’ll have that mindset.”
The United States advanced to Saturday’s second round meeting at the Al Khalifa Stadium after finishing second behind England in Group B.
Captain Tyler Adams said the American squad had been energised by the support at home, where record numbers of viewers have tuned into the USA’s games in Qatar.
“The support from the US has been surreal — it’s really cool to see how much a tournament can change the perspective of people watching soccer,” Adams said.
“That was one of our goals coming into the tournament. The further we go, the more support we gather. We want the next generations to come to have that support.
“When we can play an attractive style, and fight and represent the country in the right way, you’re going to gather that support.”
Berhalter said the US squad had “felt a responsibility to use this World Cup to create momentum in the United States for soccer.”
“That’s why we want to keep going and do well and make the country proud,” he added.


In Maradona’s shadow, Messi strives for Argentina’s forever love

In Maradona’s shadow, Messi strives for Argentina’s forever love
Updated 02 December 2022

In Maradona’s shadow, Messi strives for Argentina’s forever love

In Maradona’s shadow, Messi strives for Argentina’s forever love
  • Adoring Argentines give Messi fantastic backing in Qatar
  • Argentines traditionally more ambivalent to Messi than Maradona

BUENOS AIRES/DOHA: Lionel Messi’s passionate performances at the Qatar World Cup are earning him oodles of love from Argentines, but their old favoritism for Diego Maradona may resurface unless he brings home the trophy on his final attempt.
The two diminutive and brilliant No. 10s have dazzled the world with their prolific goalscoring and strikingly similar styles, relying on low center of gravity to swerve and slalom their way past defenses, ball glued to flashing feet.
Yet only Maradona, who died two years ago, has won the biggest trophy. He dragged a mediocre team behind him in 1986 when his “Hand of God” goal against England became a symbol of national defiance after the shame of the Falkands War defeat.
For years, Argentine fans said that no matter how many Ballons d’Or and trophies Messi won with Barcelona, he could never match Maradona until he too lifted a World Cup.
And why, they asked, was he so shy and introverted whereas their lovable rascal Maradona had entertained them so richly with jokes, songs and expletive-laden tirades against authority?
Was Messi even a true Argentine anyway, some grumbled, especially older fans. After all, he left for Spain at 13 while Maradona was more one of their own, born in a slum and working his way up through local clubs including Boca Juniors.
Messi has, of course, enjoyed more success in sheer numbers of goals and honors than Maradona, even surpassing his national appearances this week as he drove Argentina into the last 16 of the World Cup. And he has kept himself in great shape whereas Maradona succumbed to drugs and wild living in ways that frustrated and saddened even his most loyal fans.
Those close to Messi say that though his shyness may have disguised it in the past, there was always nothing he longed for more than to bring glory to Argentina. That passion was laid bare when he broke down in tears after leading Argentina to the Copa America in 2021, their first major trophy in 28 years.
“Argentines always had a love-hate relationship with Messi,” said 44-year-old fan Gustavo Franchini in Buenos Aires.
“We always compare him with Maradona, who won the World Cup 36 years ago, since when we haven’t won again ... Everyone says he has to win the World Cup to achieve Maradona’s stature and many, like me, think that even then he doesn’t match him,” he added, noting how Maradona carried the 1986 team almost solo.
In Qatar, on Messi’s fifth and final quest, he has been the beating heart of the squad and Argentina appear to have as good a chance as any to lift the trophy on Dec. 18.
Packing out stadiums in Qatar and bars and parks back home, fans have backed Messi throughout, cheering his two goals, encouraging him after a penalty miss, and parading his image proudly on myriad flags and banners.
Many of the banners show Messi and Maradona together, some depicting the late No. 10 smiling down from heaven at his heir. And Messi himself has opened up emotionally to rally the team and nation after their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia. He has celebrated goals wildly with fans and lead celebratory songs on the pitch and in the changing room after they beat Mexico and Poland.
“After the Copa America he seems to have eased up, he’s more relaxed, enjoying it,” said another fan Facundo Moreno, 39, also in the Argentine capital.
“For me, Messi has always felt and done his all for the national team, from his first game until now. He’s my idol,” he added. “Maradona and he have totally different personalities but on the pitch they both do the same.”
Marcelo Sottile, a sports journalist and author of a book about Messi, said that while his clean-cut image and polite persona mirrored the sort of person Argentines aspired to be, the rebellious Maradona reflected more of who they really were.
However, there is a generation gap among those who remember and revere Maradona most and younger fans less prejudiced against Messi, he told Reuters.
“I have an 18-year-old son who never questioned Messi, who never said ‘you play well for Barcelona but not for Argentina’,” he said. “Messi has suffered from being a venerated star in Barcelona but often under attack here in Argentina.”


Cheers: Morocco last Arab team left standing in World Cup

Cheers: Morocco last Arab team left standing in World Cup
Updated 02 December 2022

Cheers: Morocco last Arab team left standing in World Cup

Cheers: Morocco last Arab team left standing in World Cup
  • Morocco beat Canada 2-1 to finish top of their group in a stadium thronged with their supporters

DOHA/RABAT: Moroccan fans celebrated on Thursday as their country became the only Arab nation to reach the knockout rounds of the first World Cup held in an Arab country, dancing and cheering in the stadium in Qatar and on the streets back home.

Morocco beat Canada 2-1 to finish top of their group in a stadium thronged with their supporters. In earlier matches they had tied with Croatia and scored a surprise win over Belgium, the second-ranked team in the world.

“This team can go all the way in this World Cup!” shouted a young woman draped in a Moroccan flag, leaning from the window of a packed car in Rabat as people rushed toward a central district to join street celebrations.

In Qatar, where the home team along with Saudi Arabia and Tunisia have already been knocked out, Morocco now carries the mantle for an Arab world that has cheered victories by Arab teams against some of the tournament favorites.

Hundreds of fans crowded outside the stadium, some pushing and shoving and others trying to climb a fence to get in even after the game had begun, a Reuters journalist there said. Many lacked tickets but hoped to see the game.

“Fans crowded here because they can’t enter the stadium. Almost all these fans have no ticket and they love Morocco and want to get in,” said one, Abdulmajid Mohammed, from Saudi Arabia.

The crowding also left some fans who said they had tickets unable to enter. “We have tickets but they closed all the doors and are not letting people in,” said Mohammad Abdelhadi from Libya, who said his group’s tickets each cost more than $200.

FIFA and Qatar’s World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the crowding outside the stadium.

The deafening support has been a 12th man for the side.

“They proved on the pitch that they are lions... honestly as a Saudi we lost yesterday but we made up for that loss with Morocco’s win,” said Talal Ahmed Obeid, watching at a fan zone in Casablanca.

While Morocco is a proud member of the Arab League, the country has also in recent decades embraced its African identity and Berber lineage, enshrining Amazigh as an official language.

“We hope to fly the flag of African football high,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui on Wednesday.

Mohamed Tahiri, a lawyer out celebrating in Rabat among crowds waving flags and honking car horns despite the rainy weather, said Morocco was the only team left for Arabs to identify with.

“This is a day of celebration not only for us Moroccans but for all Arabs and for all the Amazigh North Africans too,” he said.

People had already been out looking for cafes with televisions to watch the game hours before kickoff.

“My generation is experiencing this for the first time,” said Oufae Abidar, 38, a company employee. She was a toddler when Morocco last reached the knockout phase in 1986. Morocco’s last World Cup appearance, four years ago, ended in the group stage.

Back in Doha, Omani national Saeed Al Maskari, 30, said he would be supporting Morocco now. “We are in the Asian part (of the Arab region) and they are in the African part. But we speak one language,” he said. 


Marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge to run in Boston

Marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge to run in Boston
Updated 02 December 2022

Marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge to run in Boston

Marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge to run in Boston
  • Kipchoge won Berlin in September in 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds — the fastest time in a marathon competition in history

BOSTON: World record holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge will make his Boston Marathon debut in 2023 along with reigning women’s world champion Gotytom Gebreslase and six former Boston winners returning 10 years after two bombs exploded at the finish line.

Two-time winner Lelisa Desisa will return in the men’s division, 10 years after he won the 2013 race that was interrupted by the attacks that came about two hours after the winners crossed. He also won in 2015.

“There is no one in athletics who will be more focused than me this spring in racing, as I look to once again win the Boston Marathon,” Desisa said. “Ten years since my first victory — I understand what this anniversary means and I would love nothing more than to put my name into the history of the race again. I stand with the people of Boston, and I will be running the race of my life for you all.”

Reigning champion Evans Chebet of Kenya will also lead a field of 30,000 from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back bay on April 17 for the 117th edition of the race. Des Linden, the 2018 Boston winner, is also in the race, along with Edna Kiplagat (2017) and Atsede Baysa (2016).

“History and heritage are two cornerstones of the Boston Marathon,” Boston Athletic Association President and CEO Jack Fleming said. “The world will be watching Boston with great anticipation to see how the competition plays out.”

Kipchoge won Berlin in September in 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds — the fastest time in a marathon competition in history. He also completed the distance in an exhibition in 1:59:40 in 2019 in an exhibition engineered to break 2 hours.