FIFA Club World Cup is the next target for Man City, says Joleon Lescott

FIFA Club World Cup is the next target for Man City, says Joleon Lescott
Manchester City’s 2012 and 2014 title winner Joleon Lescott believes the club’s ambitions will not wane this season with another trophy to aim for. (X: @JoleonLescott)
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Updated 18 October 2023
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FIFA Club World Cup is the next target for Man City, says Joleon Lescott

FIFA Club World Cup is the next target for Man City, says Joleon Lescott
  • Premier League winner talks to Arab News about his former club’s ambitions, Phil Foden’s potential, and the influx of footballers to region

With the October international break over, Manchester City return to domestic football on Saturday with a home Premier League match against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Looming are more big matches in the Champions League as well as the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Oct. 29.

Pep Guardiola’s team won a historic treble last year and City’s 2012 and 2014 title winner Joleon Lescott believes the club’s ambitions will not wane this season with another trophy to aim for.

“I don’t think the targets and the ambitions will change or differ,” he told Arab News while taking part in the club’s Treble Trophy Tour in Abu Dhabi. “There’s still the Club World Cup to achieve and to become club world champions is a huge accolade to have as well, so I’m sure they’re determined to win that.

“And I just think any trophy achieved after last season’s success is a huge thing, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. And again, the fact that they are the team to beat, to expect them to be the team to beat in all the competitions, proves that there is no demise in their ambition.”

Lescott has been impressed with the way City’s squad has continually been upgraded by Guardiola and the club’s management. He said it remained strong enough to be one of the favorites for this season’s Premier League title.

“I hope they win the title,” he said. “I don’t think any team ‘should’ win the title in regards to their squad. I think there’s a lot more that goes into it, and elements of luck as well.

“But yeah, I don’t think Man City are any weaker due to players that have left and players that have come in, and the club (and) the manager have continuously transitioned from squads and players leaving.

“I’m sure there was kind of unease when David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, and Vincent Kompany were leaving, and there could be a lack of understanding what direction the club’s going to go, (but) they transitioned into (having) John Stones, Reuben Dias, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne.

“And the club will continue to do that, and that’s kind of the way I see this happening now. Yes, (Ilkay) Gundogan was a huge, huge player, a huge personality in the dressing room, but you sign someone like (Mateo) Kovacic who’s won four Champions Leagues and you have to recognize his status in the game and the quality he brings.”

Lescott is keeping a close eye on one particular City talent he believes will have a season to remember.

“I’m thinking Phil Foden, I’m hoping Phil Foden,” he said. “Ever since he broke into the team, he’s had success, he’s been consistent, he’s had an impact. I’m hoping now with the level of experience he has, the understanding of his brilliance, how important he can be in any position, I’m hoping he has a standout season because I believe there’s going to be more game time for him in a position that he’s probably more comfortable in, in regards to being in central on the pitch.”

Lescott was part of the first City team to win the Premier League title in 2012 under Roberto Mancini, and has seen the stature and international profile of the club grow since then.

“The club has grown obviously, success on the pitch helps that,” he said. “But not only that, since the owners took control they grew the club outside of Manchester, with the likes of New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, and become a powerhouse in football and a dynasty that a lot of other teams won’t be able to emulate, and (I have) respect for that.

“There’s a lot more work that has gone into the success of the club than just on the pitch, and I spoke before of how well and how much Sheikh Mansour (bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, City’s owner) and the chairman (Khaldoon Al-Mubarak) have developed Manchester, not just with a new training ground, but the surrounding areas, they’ve improved due to their appreciation to what Manchester City means to Manchester.”

Lescott is also keeping an eye on developments in this part of the world, with elite players such as Neymar and Andres Iniesta making the region their new footballing home.

“I definitely see more players coming to this part of the world,” he said. “The way they were recruiting players, you have to take it seriously. World stars, some of the best names in the game.

“Some current top players and top performers are coming here. So yeah, you definitely have to recognize the attraction that the Saudi (Pro) League is gaining and you have to respect that.

“Do I see it as a threat to the Premier League? Not necessarily due to the level of competition that the Premier League has.

“I still believe that is the most attractive league, and I think if you just go back to when Wolves, probably people’s favorites to go down, beat Man City (2-1 on Sept. 30), a team that was six in a row unbeaten, with six wins in a row.

“So I think that is a huge factor, a huge draw for the Premier League is that it’s so competitive. But in regards to out here and the kind of traction and the attention that this part of the world is gaining in the football industry then yeah, it’s exciting because I’m a fan of the best players playing, and if the best players are playing over here then you have to watch that (development).”


Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup
Updated 19 April 2024
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Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup
  • A last-gasp 2-1 win leaves the hosts on six points from two matches in Group A of the tournament

DOHA: A stoppage time winner saw hosts Qatar defeat Jordan 2-1 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

Qatar took the lead through Abdulla Al-Yazidi on 40 minutes, but Jordan equalized seven minutes into the second half thanks to Aref Al-Haj’s spot kick.

The match looked to be heading for a draw when Mohamed Al-Manai scored 14 minutes into stoppage time to break Jordanian hearts. The win Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan made Qatar the first team to secure a spot in the last eight.

Qatar now sit top of Group A with a maximum six points from two matches. Earlier in the day, Indonesia beat Australia 1-0 at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha and are currently second in the table with three points. Jordan and Australia are third and fourth respectively with one point apiece.

Saudi Arabia return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The U23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, is also a route to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

The competition sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of both semifinals automatically qualify for the Olympics, regardless who wins the final.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis
Updated 19 April 2024
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Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

LONDON: Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League after a 1-0 win against Atalanta that wasn’t enough to overturn their quarter-final deficit, while Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-1 draw at West Ham took the German champions into the last four on Thursday.
In Jurgen Klopp’s last season as Liverpool boss, the Reds were hoping to give the German a memorable farewell in the final in Dublin.
But Liverpool had suffered a stunning 3-0 loss in the first leg against Atalanta at Anfield last week.
And although Liverpool have authored some of European football’s greatest comebacks down the years against the likes of St. Etienne, AC Milan and Barcelona, there would be no miracle escape this time.
Mohamed Salah converted a seventh minute penalty in the second leg in Bergamo after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross hit Matteo Ruggeri’s arm.
However, Klopp’s men couldn’t breach the stubborn Atalanta defense again.
It has been a brutal week for Liverpool, whose Premier League title challenge was damaged by a shock home defeat against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“It’s mixed emotions. We are out but I’m happy with the game,” Klopp said.
“It was clear we gave ourselves a massive hurdle. We wished we could have gone to Dublin but that hasn’t happened.”
While Klopp contemplates his failure to land the one major trophy to elude him during nine years with Liverpool, Atalanta can dream of winning the second silverware in their 116-year history after the 1963 Coppa Italia.
Bidding to reach their maiden European final, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team will face Marseille in their first European semifinal since the 1988 Cup Winners’ Cup.
Fresh from clinching their first Bundesliga title last weekend, Leverkusen survived a scare from West Ham before advancing 3-1 on aggregate.
In the semifinals, Xabi Alonso’s side will play Roma, who saw off Italian rivals AC Milan 3-1 on aggregate.
Leverkusen won the first leg 2-0 but West Ham made the perfect start in east London when Michail Antonio met Jarrod Bowen’s pin-point cross with a close-range header in the 13th minute.
West Ham eventually ran out of steam and Jeremie Frimpong struck in the 89th minute with a shot that deflected in off Aaron Cresswell.
“The momentum was with West Ham. To be honest, we were not at our best in the first half. I’m happy to go through. In the Europa League you always have tough moments,” Alonso said.
Leverkusen are into their second successive Europa League semifinal, while West Ham’s exit means for only the third time in the 21st century, England will have no teams in the Champions League and Europa League last four.
Leverkusen’s 44-game unbeaten run in all competitions has taken them to the brink of an incredible treble, finally ridding the club of the ‘Neverkusen’ tag that mocked their decades of underachievement.
Alonso’s team, who face second tier Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25, beat Werder Bremen 5-0 on Sunday to win the Bundesliga title.
At the Stadio Olimpico, Gianluca Mancini put Roma head from close-range in the 12th minute and Paulo Dybala doubled their advantage in the 22nd minute with a blistering strike.
Daniele De Rossi’s side were reduced to 10 men in the 31st minute when Zeki Celik was dismissed for a foul on Milan forward Rafael Leao.
Matteo Gabbia got one back in the 85th minute, but his header was little consolation for Milan.
After losing last season’s Europa League final against Sevilla, Roma are one step closer to finally winning the competition for the first time.
Roma, who won the Europa Conference League in 2022, are into their fifth European semifinal in the last seven seasons.
In the south of France, Marseille were 4-2 winners in a penalty shoot-out against Benfica following the French side’s 1-0 victory in a tie that finished 2-2 on aggregate.
Faris Moumbagna struck in the 79th minute, heading in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross to force extra-time.
In the shoot-out, Luis Henrique scored the winner for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side after Benfica duo Angel Di Maria and Antonio Silva missed their kicks.


Juventus ordered to pay Ronaldo $10.4 million in back salary

Cristiano Ronaldo was the world’s highest-paid sportsman in 2023. AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo was the world’s highest-paid sportsman in 2023. AFP
Updated 18 April 2024
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Juventus ordered to pay Ronaldo $10.4 million in back salary

Cristiano Ronaldo was the world’s highest-paid sportsman in 2023. AFP
  • The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was the world’s highest-paid sportsman in 2023, with $136 million, including $46 million in wages

Rome: Juventus must pay Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo 9.7 million euros ($10.4 million) in back wages for the 2020-21 season, the Italian courts announced on Wednesday.
The Court of Arbitration, to which Ronaldo appealed, “orders Juventus Turin to pay the sum of 9,774,166.66 euros,” plus interest and procedural costs, it stated in its decision.
The sum equates to the difference between the salary actually received by Ronaldo and that which he should have received after tax and other deductions.
Ronaldo, who spent three seasons in Italy with Juventus (2018-21) before joining Manchester United (2021-22) and then the Saudi club Al Nassr, was claiming 19.5 million euros but the arbitration panel reduced that by 50 percent.
Contacted by AFP, Juventus declined to comment, but said it would be issuing a statement “shortly.”
According to the rankings drawn up by the American business magazine Forbes, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was the world’s highest-paid sportsman in 2023, with $136 million, including $46 million in wages.
Juventus, who are listed on the stock exchange, recorded losses of 123.7 million euros in the 2022-23 financial year, which ran to the end of June, it announced in October.
No provision has been made in the accounts of Italian football’s most successful club, currently third in Serie A, for the payment of this wages backlog.


Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 18 April 2024
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Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Kuwait fall to Vietnam in 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • Uzbekistan beat Malaysia 2-0 in the same group as the first round of matches concludes

DOHA: Vietnam defeated Kuwait 3-1 in the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup as Group D games got underway in Qatar on Wednesday night.

The result meant Vietnam took the early lead in the fourth and final group of the 16-team tournament, with Uzbekistan, who beat Malaysia 2-0, sitting second in the table on goal difference. Kuwait and Malaysia, with zero points, are third and fourth respectively. 

The second round of matches kick off in Group A on Thursday (April 18), with hosts Qatar taking on Jordan and Indonesia facing Australia.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The competition also serves as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, with the winners of the two semifinals both securing automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four

Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four
Updated 18 April 2024
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Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four

Kimmich header powers Bayern Munich past Arsenal and into Champions League final four
  • Bayern kept alive their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy three days after Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champion
  • Arsenal’s Champions League exit follows a heavy blow to its Premier League title ambitions in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday

MUNICH: Bayern Munich could yet crown a disappointing season with the Champions League title. Arsenal face the prospect of ending a promising season with no trophy.

Joshua Kimmich’s header powered Bayern to a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday to reach the Champions League semifinals with a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

With the score at 2-2 from the first leg in London, Kimmich’s header off Raphael Guerreiro’s pinpoint cross put Bayern ahead in the 63rd minute as Bayern largely neutralized the English team’s attack.

Arsenal’s players were “gutted,” manager Mikel Arteta told broadcaster TNT Sports. “I cannot find the right words to lift them.”

Bayern kept alive their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy three days after Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champion. Striker Harry Kane — who spoke Tuesday of being motivated by his release from Arsenal as a youth player — takes a step closer to what would be the first trophy of his career.

Tuchel said it meant “really a lot” to beat Arsenal. “The semifinals are an important step, the last four, that was fun,” he told broadcaster DAZN.

Bayern and Arsenal have been drawn together five times in the knockout stages of the Champions League since 2005 and the German team has eliminated Arsenal on each occasion.

Arsenal’s Champions League exit follows a heavy blow to its Premier League title ambitions in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday. Defeat also rules Arsenal out of next year’s Club World Cup in the US, in favor of Austrian team Salzburg.

Arsenal were left to rue the defensive errors that cost the team in the first leg.

“We gave them two goals, a big advantage to give away, and today you could see it was margin of error zero, we made a mistake defending the goal and we conceded,” Arteta said.

“Then it was difficult. We tried in many different ways but it’s difficult. It is the moment to stay next to the players, give them support, because they are the ones who have taken us on this journey.”

Tuchel — who is leaving at the end of the season — becomes a Champions League semifinalist as coach of three different teams, having led Paris Saint-Germain to the 2020 final before winning the competition with Chelsea a year later.

After a first half full of inconclusive midfield battles — Tuchel called it “a chess game” — the contest came to life after the break when Bayern hit the frame of the goal twice in a matter of seconds. Leon Goretzka sent a header against the bar and Guerreiro followed up with a shot that was deflected onto the post.

Arsenal struggled to make any headway against Bayern’s defense and sometimes looked disjointed at the back, especially when defender Takehiro Tomiyasu risked an own goal with a misjudged pass that went behind for a corner.

Kimmich darted into the box unmarked to score the only goal of the game after Guerreiro’s quick footwork on the touchline allowed him to cross past the onrushing Arsenal defender Ben White.

“I got a little lucky that no one seemed to really feel responsible for me,” Kimmich told DAZN.

Arsenal were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position with seconds of stoppage time left to play and opted to take it quickly. That approach yielded only a corner that was easily headed away as the final whistle blew and Bayern’s celebrations began.