Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window. (AFP/FILE)
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Updated 07 December 2022

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
  • Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January window
  • The Magpies are in the Saudi capital for a training camp that includes a friendly against Al-Hilal

RIYADH: Towering palms, the tinkling of ivories, clinking of coffee cups and a warm winter sun hue about the Saudi skies, is not your usual location for a Newcastle United transfer summit.

It’s a far cry from the inner bowels of St James’ Park, where head coach Eddie Howe, along with the club’s minority owners, thrashed out a summer raid for one of the hottest prospects in the game, Sweden international Alexander Isak. Not since the Vikings have the European elites been so unsettled by a force from the north.

But Howe, meeting with club chiefs and the money men at the Public Investment Fund, spent his Tuesday evening in the Kingdom talking transfers with Al-Olaya the backdrop, the Four Seasons an opulent frame.

Beyond the ostentatious surrounds lies a steely determination, one funded in the Gulf, but driven with North East grit. A goal not publicly admitted, but privately discussed. A want to take Newcastle United into the promised land, the UEFA Champions League, a feat the club has not achieved on Tyneside in two decades.

Lying third in the Premier League, which is beyond even the wildest of Newcastle fans’ expectations, the prospect is not out of the realms of possibility.

But will that be boosted by another Magpies’ January transfer window raiding party? Howe says talks have started.

“I have had half an eye on January and the squad and how it looks,” he said, confirming the transfer talks with Newcastle chiefs.

“We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window. But if there is something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that.”

Expectation may be that Newcastle will be bold in their moves with the likes of England international James Maddison, however such a switch has been played down by those in the know.

More likely is movements for players more in the Isak or Sven Botman mold, ready to attack the Premier League, but not at an English topflight premium. And key to this January regeneration will be the right players, at the right price and for the right reasons, if at all.

“Me, sitting here now, I am not expecting too much business, whether incoming or outgoing, but it is football and it is January so it’s unpredictable,” Howe told Arab News.

“We can’t predict what is going to happen with our own squad at times, in terms of fitness and availability, so we do need to be ready to act if we need to. The need for that will be minimized by keeping a fit and healthy squad of players.

“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone is fit. Everyone is not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.

“Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done — and from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.”

On the level of those who may arrive, Botman and Isak have set the blueprint but financial fair play rules, until United’s commercial revenues are boosted significantly, will always be the elephant in the ever-expanding room.

Howe continued: “In my position you are keen to sign the best players you can — but those players come at a premium, as you know. Botman wasn’t cheap, Alex wasn’t cheap. Those are players who can influence the starting 11. Do we have the finances for that? I do not know. That might impact our options on that one.

“As a manager I am always looking to improve the team. I will never sit here and be content — I don’t think that is the right way to manage. My way to take the team to new heights is to improve through the training of the players we have. If we can’t get to a certain level then we need to find that in the transfer market. And, of course, you have to work within the guidelines of the club.”

Meanwhile, United’s trip, which started on Sunday and ends on Saturday, is being officially supported by, it’s been announced, Saudi telecommunications giant stc.

In a further boost to club revenues, stc have been named as the official digital partner of the tour and the news follows hot on the heels of Saudi Airlines’ sponsorship of the tour to the Middle East.

A club statement confirmed: “The partnership will provide stc with a digital presence at the Al-Hilal versus Newcastle United fixture, as well as an ongoing presence at St. James’ Park throughout the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, and supporters will have exclusive opportunities to win memorabilia and tickets.”

The NUFC’s chief commercial officer, Peter Silverstone, said: “Our ambition is to grow our supporter base in Saudi Arabia, a country whose young population includes a large, passionate and highly engaged football community.

“We are delighted to welcome stc to our growing family of partners and have them on board as our second strategic partner for the club’s visit to Saudi Arabia this December.

“stc digitally connects millions of individuals and businesses throughout the Middle East and their market knowledge, expertise and experience in sport partnerships will complement our drive to reach and engage with more people across one of our key markets. We look forward to working closely with stc.”


West Ham boss Moyes bullish about point against ‘tough’ Newcastle side

West Ham boss Moyes bullish about point against ‘tough’ Newcastle side
Updated 44 sec ago

West Ham boss Moyes bullish about point against ‘tough’ Newcastle side

West Ham boss Moyes bullish about point against ‘tough’ Newcastle side
  • Having taken the lead early, United allowed the visitors back into the encounter and not until the final 20
  • West Ham boss David Moyes thinks his side deserve credit for matching a United side who have lost just once in the Premier League all season

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle United missed the influence of their Brazilian talisman Bruno Guimaraes — however, he believes any team in the Premier League would be the same.

The central midfielder served the first of a three-game suspension as the Magpies labored to a 1-1 home draw with struggling West Ham United. Guimaraes was red-carded in the Carabao Cup semifinal second-leg win over Southampton at St. James’ Park in midweek.

Callum Wilson netted for the Magpies in the third minute before Lucas Paqueta, a reported transfer target for Howe last summer, ensured honors remained even.

And when asked whether the Champions League-chasing Magpies missed Guimaraes, Howe said: “Undoubtedly, he’s that difference-maker with an eye for a pass. He has creative flair we possibly missed today.

“I think we’re always going to miss Bruno because he’s so unique and slightly different. But I do think our midfield players today played well. I don’t think it’s a criticism of them, he’s irreplaceable. We missed his creative eye probably more than anything else.

“It was a great start for us but we just didn’t build on that great start and that’s the disappointing thing, I thought we allowed West Ham into the game and probably got punished for that.”

Having taken the lead early, United allowed the visitors back into the encounter and not until the final 20, after the introduction of new boy Anthony Gordon, did the Magpies really look like mounting a challenge for all three points.

On the impact of former Everton man Gordon, Howe said: “Yeah, very pleased. Your first action here at St. James’ Park is important. His first pass was a brilliant one, he injected some life into us in a time where we needed it in the game. Disappointed for him that we couldn’t get him in the box and see what he can do closer to goal but he did really well when he came on.”

West Ham boss David Moyes thinks his side deserve credit for matching a United side who have lost just once in the Premier League all season.

“It’s a great point for us. We played well today. I’m really pleased for the players,” said the Hammers’ boss.

“We could have buckled. This place at the moment, it’s right on top of you. But we played well today and deserved to get back in the game. There are lots of pluses for us.

“There was a period where we had two or three opportunities or moments where we could have got the second goal, but I was pleased with how we controlled the game at different times. Newcastle are playing very well at the moment, but we did today as well.

“We deserve some credit because we’ve not been playing so well. They’re a big, big side. They can put the ball on top of you when they don’t go round you. Nayef (Aguerd) had a brilliant tackle. Part of your job is to defend well and we did defend well today.

“It keeps a little bit of a run going for us. A draw at Newcastle isn’t the worst result. We’d have liked to win but we’re up against a team who are in good form at the moment. I think our performance merited something from the game. If we play like that next week (against Chelsea) we’ll give ourselves a chance.”


Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup
Updated 04 February 2023

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup

Al-Ahly’s late goal ends Seattle debut 1-0 in Club World Cup
  • Afsha scored after coming on as a substitute in the 63rd
  • He lifted Al-Ahly into the semifinals for the third straight year

TANGIER, Morocco: Mohammed Afsha scored on a deflected shot in the 88th minute and sent Al-Ahly into the Club World Cup semifinals by beating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Saturday.
Afsha scored after coming on as a substitute in the 63rd. He lifted Al-Ahly into the semifinals for the third straight year, and brought an abrupt end to the first appearance by a team from the United States in the competition.
His initial shot from outside the penalty area hit the crossbar. Seattle were unable to clear the danger and Afsha’s second attempt deflected off defender Alex Roldan and bounded past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
It was the only shot on target by the Egyptian club as both sides played a heavily defensive game where chances at goal were limited.
Al-Ahly will face Real Madrid in the semifinals next Wednesday in Rabat. Al-Ahly have not lost a match in any competition since Aug. 27 in the Egyptian Premier League.
Al-Ahly have finished third in each of the past two Club World Cups but have never made the final.
Seattle were the first club from Major League Soccer to take part in the Club World Cup after winning the CONCACAF Champions League last May. The Sounders carried hopes of advancing through their first match and playing at least three matches at the event.
But while Seattle were excellent defensively, they lacked quality chances on attack. Seattle finished with just one shot on goal, a speculative attempt from defensive midfielder Josh Atencio early in the second half.
“I thought we were good. I thought we were evenly matched. A couple of chances. But the deflection on the goal, it’s unfortunate,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Seattle were playing their first competitive match in 3 ½ months while the rest of MLS was going through preseason preparations. The Sounders’ previous match was last October and the team gathered for MLS preseason camp in early January.
“They put everything into the game. They put everything into preseason,” Schmetzer said.


Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form
Updated 04 February 2023

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form

Klopp at a loss to explain ‘unacceptable’ Liverpool form
  • The Reds have taken just one point from their last four Premier League games to all
  • "Conceding early goals is not unfamiliar to us but the way we conceded them today was not acceptable," said Klopp

WOLVERHAMPTON, United Kingdom: Jurgen Klopp branded the goals Liverpool conceded in a 3-0 defeat to Wolves as “horrible” with the German admitting to being at a loss to explain his side’s disastrous form.
The Reds have taken just one point from their last four Premier League games to all but end any hope of catching the top four for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Klopp’s men trailed 2-0 inside 12 minutes at Molineux as Joel Matip’s own goal and Craig Dawson’s strike on his debut put Wolves on course to climb out of the relegation zone.
Ruben Neves added a third 19 minutes from time after Liverpool had dominated the early stages of the second half without reward.
“Conceding early goals is not unfamiliar to us but the way we conceded them today was not acceptable,” said Klopp.
“When you see the whole game, throughout the game in moments we played an outstanding game without scoring and a good away game without scoring.
“The third goal I don’t count because it was the first time they passed the halfway line in the second half. The other two goals, going into a game with all the things we said during the week and before the game, then this is the start, is horrible.”
Already out of both domestic cups, Liverpool sit 10th in the Premier League.
The Champions League appears to be their last chance of salvaging their season with a last 16 tie against Real Madrid to come later this month in a repeat of last season’s final.
Klopp’s side came close to winning an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last season.
But he appears incapable of stopping the rot as for the third consecutive away league game, Liverpool conceded three times.
“We better change it. That’s true, 100 percent. I have no words for it really, I’m sorry,” he added.
“You do yourself no favors in these moments, giving easy balls away.
“We were passive in the (first) two goals, everything we wanted to do was be compact and active but we were compact and passive. I can’t explain it. I think why would you do that? But they did it anyway.”


Al-Hilal beat Wydad to reach FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
Updated 04 February 2023

Al-Hilal beat Wydad to reach FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better
  • The 5-3 penalty shootout win after 1-1 draw means the Saudi giants will now face Brazil’s Flamengo on Tuesday

RABAT: The drums rang loud for Morocco's Wydad AC on a sunny and dramatic Saturday afternoon in Rabat at the FIFA Club World Cup, but they were ultimately silenced by Al-Hilal’s Musab Al-Juwayr.

The teenage midfielder scored the final kick to win a  penalty shootout 5-3 for the Saudi Arabian giants after the game had ended 1-1. The Asian champions go through at the expense of their African counterparts to the  semi-finals and a clash with Brazil’s Flamengo. It should be quite a match if this was anything to go by.

Two hours of action packed football ended 1-1 but there was much more to it than that. A header early in the second half from Wydad's Ayoub Emloud had fans in the North African country as excited as they were during the 2022 World Cup, when Morocco reached the semi-final and became the toast of Qatar.

Saudi Arabia's World Cup may not have been quite as exciting but the club tournament is going to be much better.

One of the few times the home crowd were silenced came in added time as Yahya Jabrane, captain of the African champions, was sent off for protesting at a penalty. Mohamed Kanno fired home the resultant spot kick to send the game into extra-time during which he was also dismissed by the referee.

It was then penalties and Al-Hilal scored all theirs, while Wydad missed one.

For a long time however, it look as if the 18-time Saudi champions were going home in a clash that kept the 45,000 capacity crowd at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium entertained. The arena may be in Rabat but it certainly felt and, more importantly, sounded like a home match in Casablanca for the Moroccan powerhouse. The red wall behind the goals rarely stopped bouncing and singing to roar the team in white forward.

It seemed to work as Wydad started brightly in the opening exchanges and looked dangerous especially from set pieces with Yahya Jabrane firing over from a free-kick. 

Indeed, the pressure seemed to have paid off after 19 minutes when they thought they had taken the lead as Jalal Daoudi swept the ball home from close range. The veteran midfielder was, however, correctly adjudged to have been offside from the assistant referee.

Al-Hilal’s first real attempt on goal came after 23 minutes but Nasser Al-Dawsari sent a free-kick from a dangerous position well over the bar.

As the half progressed, Al-Hilal got into the game more though the home team continued to have better chances such as the attempt on the stroke of half-time. Wydad’s new Cameroonian forward Didier Lamkel Ze sent over a fine cross from the left but Ayoub El-Amloud was unable to get enough on it and the defender’s glancing header went wide.

Al-Hilal came close right after the restart. A Salem Al-Dawsari corner from the right fell to Ali Al-Buhali and his snap shot from close range was cleared off the line by Lamkel Ze.

In the 51st minute, Wydad’s eighth corner kick made the difference as El-Amloud rose at the far post to send a powerful header past Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

The Asian champions sprung into action but struggled to turn pressure into chances, though they came close with 20 minutes remaining when Odion Ighalo’s shot from close range was well-saved by Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti and Salem Al-Dawsari’s follow-up was blocked on the line by Amine Farhane.

Al-Hilal, who have never progressed past the semi-finals at this tournament, pushed forward in search of an equaliser and the chance came at the end of normal time as they were awarded a penalty thanks to a handball in the area. Wydad’s captain Jabrane was booked twice in quick succession and was sent off.

Amid the furore, Kanno kept his cool to slot the ball straight down the middle and suddenly the impetus had swung in favor of the Asian champions and Luciano Vietto almost won the game in the eighth minute of injury time as the Argentine’s free-kick was pushed away by the goalkeeper. 

The Riyadh giants could not get the winner before extra-time and when the game restarted they were soon reduced to 10 men themselves as Kanno was given a second yellow card for a foul.

And then it was five penalties each. After Moussa Marega scored the opener for Al-Hilal, Yahia Attiyat Allah’s shot hit both posts but did not go in and Wydad were in trouble. Vietto,  Saleh Al-Shehri and then Abdullah Al-Hamdan scored for the Riyadh club to leave substitute Al-Jawary to deliver the glory and a ticket to the last four.


Messi hits winner as PSG come from behind to beat Toulouse

Messi hits winner as PSG come from behind to beat Toulouse
Updated 04 February 2023

Messi hits winner as PSG come from behind to beat Toulouse

Messi hits winner as PSG come from behind to beat Toulouse
  • Messi then put PSG in front just before the hour mark with a glorious first-time strike
  • It was Messi's 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season and his 15th for his club this campaign

PARIS: Lionel Messi scored a superb second-half winner as a Paris Saint-Germain side missing the injured Kylian Mbappe and Neymar came from behind to beat Toulouse 2-1 on Saturday and consolidate their lead at the top of Ligue 1.
Dutch midfielder Branco van den Boomen gave mid-table Toulouse the lead at the Parc des Princes from a 20th-minute free-kick, only for Achraf Hakimi to curl in the equalizer with half-time approaching.
Messi then put PSG in front just before the hour mark with a glorious first-time strike on his left foot low into the corner of the net from just outside the area.
It was Messi’s 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season and his 15th for his club this campaign, as the World Cup winner stepped up in the absence of PSG’s two other superstar attackers.
The Qatar-owned club are now eight points clear at the top of the table from Marseille, who play Nice on Sunday and then host PSG in the French Cup last 16 in midweek.
Mbappe will miss that game and the Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich on February 14 after being ruled out for three weeks with a thigh injury suffered in the 3-1 win at Montpellier last Wednesday.
Neymar missed a second successive game here with an apparently minor adductor problem, meaning it was left to Messi to lead the attack alongside the 20-year-old Hugo Ekitike with support from Vitinha and Carlos Soler.
But Christophe Galtier’s side have other injury issues, with Sergio Ramos unable to play and Renato Sanches forced to come off in tears just 12 minutes into the game.
The Portuguese midfielder was starting for just the fifth time since joining from Lille at the start of the season.
He was replaced by teenage defender El Chadaille Bitshiabu, with Danilo Pereira moving up into the midfield, and the substitute was partly responsible when PSG fell behind.
Bitshiabu was booked for bringing down Zakaria Aboukhlal 25 meters from goal, and Van den Boomen sent the resulting free-kick low into the left corner of the net with Gianluigi Donnarumma beaten.
Messi hit the post from a corner and Toulouse had another goal disallowed for offside before the home side drew level seven minutes from half-time as Hakimi collected a Carlos Soler pass, cut in from the right flank and curled a shot on his left foot into the far corner from 20 meters.
Hakimi then turned provider as he set up Messi to make it 2-1 on 58 minutes and the outcome was rarely in doubt after that with PSG — who have had some recent wobbles — deserved winners.
Substitute Mikkel Desler did force a good save from Donnarumma deep into injury time before Messi hit the post again right at the death.
Lyon visit Troyes later before fifth-placed Rennes host Lille looking for an 11th consecutive home league win.