‘Not thinking about the next step’, says Alonso amid Liverpool rumors

‘Not thinking about the next step’, says Alonso amid Liverpool rumors
Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso on Friday played down speculation he could replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool in the summer, saying: “what comes next, I don’t know.” (AP/File)
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Updated 26 January 2024
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‘Not thinking about the next step’, says Alonso amid Liverpool rumors

‘Not thinking about the next step’, says Alonso amid Liverpool rumors
  • Alonso has been linked to a return to the club where he won the 2005 Champions League as a player
  • “I’m trying to give my best to help prepare my players to be ready. And that’s my goal, what comes next, I don’t know,” he said

BERLIN: Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso on Friday played down speculation he could replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool in the summer, saying: “what comes next, I don’t know.”
Klopp made the surprise announcement on Friday that he would leave the club he joined in 2015 at the end the season, saying he was “running out of energy.”
Alonso, a former Liverpool player whose unbeaten Leverkusen side sit four points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table, has been linked to a return to the club where he won the 2005 Champions League as a player.
“I’m trying to give my best to help prepare my players to be ready. And that’s my goal, what comes next, I don’t know.”
Saying the “speculation is normal,” Alonso told reporters: “At the moment I am really happy here... I’m not thinking about May, I’m thinking about tomorrow’s game.”
“Each day is a challenge, each game is a challenge and were are on an intense and beautiful journey here in Leverkusen.”
German media have reported 42-year-old Alonso has a clause in his contract which allows him to leave for one of his former clubs — Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“I am not thinking about the next step,” he said.
“I am thinking about where I am right now. I am in a great place and I am enjoying myself. And I think it’s the right place, so that’s all I can say.
“What’s going to happen in the future? I don’t know and I don’t really care at the moment.”
Alonso praised Klopp on Friday, saying he has “huge respect and great admiration for what Jurgen did for the last nine years in Liverpool — and how he did it.”
In an interview with AFP and other media in November, Alonso described Klopp as “unbelievable” and said “I would have loved to be coached by Jurgen Klopp.”
Leverkusen have dropped just six of a possible 54 points this season and have won every one of their Europa League and German Cup fixtures. They face Borussia Moenchengladbach at home on Saturday.


Ronaldo leads Roshn Saudi Pro League stars set to boost their nations at Euro 2024

Ronaldo leads Roshn Saudi Pro League stars set to boost their nations at Euro 2024
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Ronaldo leads Roshn Saudi Pro League stars set to boost their nations at Euro 2024

Ronaldo leads Roshn Saudi Pro League stars set to boost their nations at Euro 2024
  • Aleksandar Mitrovic and N’Golo Kante among 15 players expected in Germany at end of the SPL season

RIYADH: Several Roshn Saudi Pro League players are preparing to join their nations for the Euro 2024 tournament taking place from June 14 to July 14 in Germany.

The 24-team tournament kicks off at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena and ends with the final at the Olympiastadion.

As things stand, and fitness permitting, this year’s edition will have 15 players from seven SPL teams taking part.

According to the Transfermarkt website, these SPL players, most of whom moved to the Kingdom last summer, are valued at an estimated total of $267 million. The collective market value of all players participating in Euro 2024 stands at an impressive $12 billion.

Leading the pack is Al-Nasser with four players expected to compete at Euro 2024, led by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Joining him in the Portuguese squad will be Otavio, while Aymeric Laporte will represent Spain, and Marcelo Brozovic will run out for Croatia. The four players have a combined market value of $96 million.

Two Saudi Arabia clubs will have three players representing their countries at Euro 2024.

The newly crowned SPL champions Al-Hilal will provide the Serbian duo of Aleksander Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, while midfielder Reuben Neves joins Portugal. The three stars are worth $112 million.

Al-Okhdood, somewhat surprisingly considering the number of foreign talent at the top four clubs, are the other team to have three players heading to the European showcase. The Romania pair of Andrei Burca and Florin Tanase, as well as Georgia’s center-half Solomon Kvirkvelia, are valued at $7.7 million.

Al-Ettifaq will have the Netherlands’ Georginio Wijnaldum and Scotland’s Jack Hendry who are valued at $8.3 million. Al-Ahli center-half Merih Demiral, valued at $19.4 million, is expected to join Turkiye’s squad, while Damac’s midfielder Nicolae Stanciu, valued at $5.4 million, will represent Romania.

Rounding out the roster is Al-Ittihad’s French midfield star and World Cup winner N’Golo Kante with a market value of $10.8 million.


Pochettino leaves Chelsea after just one season in charge

Pochettino leaves Chelsea after just one season in charge
Updated 21 May 2024
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Pochettino leaves Chelsea after just one season in charge

Pochettino leaves Chelsea after just one season in charge
  • “Chelsea FC can confirm that the club and Mauricio Pochettino have mutually agreed to part ways,” Chelsea said in a statement
  • “Thank you to the Chelsea ownership group and sporting directors for the opportunity to be part of this football club’s history,” said Pochettino

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea after just one season in charge by mutual consent, the English club announced on Tuesday.
The Blues finished sixth in the Premier League thanks to a fine run toward the end of the season but missed out on Champions League qualification and a trophy.
“Chelsea FC can confirm that the club and Mauricio Pochettino have mutually agreed to part ways,” Chelsea said in a statement.
In just two years under the ownership of an American consortium fronted by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity group Clearlake Capital, Chelsea have spent over £1 billion ($1.3 billion) on new players.
The vast majority of that was spent on rising stars and Pochettino pointed to a lack of experience and a lengthy injury list for failing to achieve consistent results.
Chelsea lost the League Cup final 1-0 to Liverpool after extra-time and pushed Manchester City all the way before losing in the FA Cup semifinals by the same score.
But there had been signs that Pochettino’s project was coming together in a run of five consecutive wins to end the campaign that ensured Chelsea will be in Europe next season.
They will qualify for the Europa League if Manchester United lose to City in the FA Cup final and the Conference League if the Red Devils shock the English champions.
“Thank you to the Chelsea ownership group and sporting directors for the opportunity to be part of this football club’s history,” said Pochettino.
“The club is now well positioned to keep moving forward in the Premier League and Europe in the years to come.”
Chelsea sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said: “On behalf of everyone at Chelsea, we would like to express our gratitude to Mauricio for his service this season.
“He will be welcome back to Stamford Bridge any time and we wish him all the very best in his future coaching career.”
Pochettino is the fourth manager to depart under Boehly’s regime after Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Pochettino met Boehly for dinner on Friday before his departure was confirmed after an end-of-season review with Stewart and Winstanley.
The 52-year-old arrived in west London with the task of getting Chelsea back on track after they finished 12th in the 2022/23 Premier League season.
The Argentine had to bed in another influx of new signings as Chelsea broke the British transfer record to buy Moises Caicedo for £115 million.
He suffered a difficult start as they won just three of their opening 10 Premier League games.
But led by the stunning form of Cole Palmer, only City, Arsenal and Liverpool picked up more points than Chelsea in the second half of the season.
According to reports Stuttgart’s Sebastian Hoeness, Girona boss Michel, Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna and Enzo Maresca of Leicester are among those in contention to be next in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Pochettino began his coaching career at Espanyol before shining in a short spell at Southampton.
That earned him a move to Tottenham, where he established Spurs as regulars at the top end of the Premier League and took the club to a first ever Champions League final in 2019.
Pochettino was sacked by Tottenham just months later before joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, where we won one Ligue 1 title and French Cup in 18 months in charge.


Man United’s Rashford left out of England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad after disappointing season

Man United’s Rashford left out of England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad after disappointing season
Updated 21 May 2024
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Man United’s Rashford left out of England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad after disappointing season

Man United’s Rashford left out of England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad after disappointing season
  • “These are difficult calls, you are talking about players who are very good players who have been an important part of what we have done,” Southgate said
  • Rashford was arguably the biggest name to be omitted

BURTON, England: Marcus Rashford was left out of England’s provisional squad for the European Championship on Tuesday.
The Manchester United striker has paid the price for a disappointing season at club level and failed to make the cut for Gareth Southgate’s initial 33-man selection.
Jordan Henderson and Reece James were also left out.
“These are difficult calls, you are talking about players who are very good players who have been an important part of what we have done,” Southgate said. “With Marcus, I feel players in the same area of the pitch have had better seasons, it’s as simple as that.”
Rashford was arguably the biggest name to be omitted — especially after enjoying a career-best campaign two seasons ago when he scored 34 goals for club and country.
It has been a different story over the past year when he has managed just eight goals for a United team that suffered their lowest-ever Premier League finish — eighth.
He responded later on Instagram to say he was “Wishing Gareth and the boys all the best” for the Euros.
The squad will eventually be reduced to 26 players on June 8, with the Euros kicking off in Germany on June 14.
Rashford’s United teammate Kobbie Mainoo was selected after an outstanding breakthrough season and Chelsea forward Cole Palmer was also included.
Palmer was likely one of the forward options Southgate referred to when explaining Rashford’s omission after he scored 22 Premier League goals in his first season at Chelsea — a record only bettered by Erling Haaland.
Henderson and James were also notable omissions.
Former Liverpool captain Henderson misses out after his decision to leave Anfield for the Saudi Arabian league last year, while James’ absence comes on the back of an injury-plagued campaign for Chelsea.
Henderson has remained a part of England’s set up despite his controversial decision to join Al-Ettifaq. He left after just six months and completed a move to Dutch giant Ajax, but a muscle injury late in the season convinced Southgate to leave him out.
“Hendo has given himself every chance. The determining factor is the injury he picked up around the last camp. He’s missed five weeks,” Southgate said. “He hasn’t been able to get to the intensity in the games since then.”
James, who missed the Qatar World Cup because of a knee injury, has struggled with his fitness for much of the past season and played only 11 games.
Liverpool’s Jarell Quansah and Curtis Jones were called up for the first time, as well as Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton.
Southgate said United defender Luke Shaw is “up against it” to prove his fitness after an injury-disrupted season.
“This has been as complicated a group as I can remember picking, and we’ve had quite a few complicated ones,” the England manager said.
Squad:
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), James Trafford (Burnley)
Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Jarell Quansah (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace)
Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)


Bayer Leverkusen are two steps from soccer immortality, starting with Europa League final vs Atalanta

Bayer Leverkusen are two steps from soccer immortality, starting with Europa League final vs Atalanta
Updated 21 May 2024
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Bayer Leverkusen are two steps from soccer immortality, starting with Europa League final vs Atalanta

Bayer Leverkusen are two steps from soccer immortality, starting with Europa League final vs Atalanta
  • On Saturday, Leverkusen will be heavily favored to win the German cup final against a Kaiserslautern
  • The biggest remaining challenge for coach Xabi Alonso’s team is game No. 52 of 53, in Dublin against an Atalanta that are finishing the season strong.

DUBLIN: Bayer Leverkusen are two games from European soccer immortality.
The new champion of Germany have two cup finals in four days — starting Wednesday in the Europa League against Atalanta — to complete a previously unthinkable unbeaten season in domestic and continental competition.
On Saturday, Leverkusen will be heavily favored to win the German cup final against a Kaiserslautern team that finished 13th in the second division, not so far from falling into relegation playoffs.
And so, the biggest remaining challenge for coach Xabi Alonso’s team is game No. 52 of 53, in Dublin against an Atalanta that are finishing the season strong.
It feels fitting because the Europa League has been a regular drama for Leverkusen.
Three times in six games in the knockout rounds the team were 2-0 down deep into the second half and still behind entering stoppage time: In both round of 16 games against Qarabag and in the semifinals return leg against Roma.
In another streak-saving Europa game, at West Ham in the quarterfinals, Leverkusen were set to advance on aggregate score yet needed an 89th-minute goal by wing-back Jeremie Frimpong to draw 1-1 and stay unbeaten.
“We don’t want to wait until the last seconds of the game,” said Patrick Schick, whose three stoppage-time goals against Qarabag in March were key to advancing 5-4 on aggregate. “We would like to make it clear, really, earlier.”
Atalanta defender Berat Djimsiti acknowledged Tuesday it was “certainly added motivation” trying to be the team to beat Leverkusen. “They have achieved some extraordinary things this season.”
There have been other stellar teams in European soccer who added the elite Champions League to their domestic league title, unlike Leverkusen playing in the second-tier Europa League.
Still, Manchester United in 1999, Inter Milan in 2010, Barcelona in 2011 and Manchester City last year also lost some games and were wealthy clubs whose success could have been expected. Each started their season with established, star-packed teams led by coaches — Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola — who’d already won multiple domestic and European trophies.
This is Alonso’s first full season coaching at the top level. His team were in relegation trouble last season. There was no superstar transfer signing in the offseason.
“For me it’s very special,” the 42-year-old Alonso said last week. “My first title as a coach was the Bundesliga. It was super, it was very special. But a title in Europe would be wonderful and hopefully we will be able to say that.”
Alonso twice won the Champions League as an elegant midfielder, with Liverpool and then Real Madrid, who will play Borussia Dortmund for this season’s Champions League title. That June 1 final at Wembley Stadium is between two teams involved in the failed Super League breakaway in 2021 — Madrid driving it forward, Dortmund declining their invitation.
Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta were nowhere close to being invited to the breakaway three years ago and today represent soccer projects that won respect from neutral fans across Europe.
Both are based in provincial cities, each with more than 100 years of history, reaching surprise peaks. Before this season, they had only ever won three trophies: Atalanta’s Italian cup in 1963 and Leverkusen’s 1988 UEFA Cup — the forerunner of the Europa League — and Germany cup in 1993.
While Leverkusen once lost a Champions League final, to Madrid in 2002, and Atalanta were minutes away from a semifinals place in 2020, neither have felt entitled to European success.
Their modest stadiums in Leverkusen and Bergamo add up to a combined capacity of about 51,000 that could fit into the Dublin venue, formerly Lansdowne Road, that will host them Wednesday. For a showpiece European final, the official limit is 48,000.
Leverkusen and Atalanta do not figure in UEFA research of the top-50 earnings list of European clubs for total matchday income from ticket and hospitality sales.
Two well-run clubs, relying on smart transfer dealings — albeit underwritten, respectively, by pharmaceutical giant Bayer and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca — had combined total revenues last year that added up to about the same $500 million as Manchester City’s player wage bill alone.
Yet both Leverkusen and Atalanta, under coach Gian Piero Gasperini since 2016, play easy-on-the-eye soccer in attack and team-first defense.
“They play one against one on the whole pitch,” Schick said of Atalanta. “Wherever you move, you have one defender behind you so they don’t leave you the space to breathe.”
Atalanta have been a refreshing force under Gasperini and already have a place in the Champions League next season. In any normal year they would be popular first-time European title winners.
What Leverkusen have done is not normal, though, and a legend could be just days from being created.


Salah hints at Liverpool stay, targets trophies next season

Salah hints at Liverpool stay, targets trophies next season
Updated 21 May 2024
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Salah hints at Liverpool stay, targets trophies next season

Salah hints at Liverpool stay, targets trophies next season
  • “We know that trophies are what count and we will do everything possible to make that happen next season,” Salah posted on social media
  • “Our fans deserve it and we will fight like hell“

LONDON: Mohamed Salah said Liverpool “will fight like hell” to win trophies next season as the Egyptian hinted he will at least see out the final year of his contract at Anfield.
Salah has just 12 months remaining on his deal and has been linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League.
The Reds reportedly rejected a £150m offer from Al-Ittihad for the 31-year-old last September.
“We know that trophies are what count and we will do everything possible to make that happen next season,” Salah posted on social media.
“Our fans deserve it and we will fight like hell.”


Liverpool won the League Cup in Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge but missed out on the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League.
Klopp’s departure after over eight years in charge of Liverpool has raised doubts over the futures of a number of star players, who rose to prominence under the German’s reign.
Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold are also entering the final year of their contracts.
Former Feyenoord boss Arne Slot was confirmed as Klopp’s successor by Liverpool on Monday.