PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe vies with Rennes’ French defender Jeanuel Belocian and midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud during their French L1 match at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on Feb. 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
  • “If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said
  • “I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically”

POISSY, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique on Thursday promised that the French giants will have a stronger team next season despite the impending departure of Kylian Mbappe when the superstar forward’s contract expires.
“If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said after refusing to name specific targets when asked if AC Milan forward Rafael Leao was on the club’s shopping list.
“I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically,” added the former Barcelona and Spain coach.
His comments came after he took Mbappe off with PSG trailing in last week’s 1-1 draw against Rennes.
Luis Enrique later said the Ligue 1 leaders needed to become accustomed to life without Mbappe, who recently informed PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the current campaign.
“Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian,” he said after that game.
PSG are 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before going to Mbappe’s former club Monaco on Friday, when they will be without captain Marquinhos due to a calf injury.
They then travel to Spain to face Real Sociedad in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next Tuesday, defending a 2-0 lead from the first meeting.
“Obviously we are entering into a difficult period. The players really want to win things and this is the key point in the season, the best time,” Luis Enrique said.
“It is all or nothing, and that is a nice feeling.”


Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title

Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title
Updated 30 May 2024
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Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title

Celebrations in Greece as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 for first European title
  • Olympiakos coach Jose Luis Mendilibar secured a second straight European title after winning the Europa League with Sevilla last season
  • Tens of thousands of Olympiakos fans joined wild celebrations across the Greek capital after attending outdoor viewing parties

ATHENS: Olympiakos won Greece’s first European club title by beating Fiorentina 1-0 with a last-gasp goal in extra time in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday.

Ayoub El Kaabi provided the dramatic ending, diving to nudge in a last-gasp goal in the second period of extra time, with fans erupting in celebration after a lengthy wait for a VAR check for offside.

The Moroccan striker — who finished as the competition’s top scorer — struck in the 116th minute of the match, dropping to his knees as he waited the goal review. El Kaabi met a cross from Santiago Hezze to decide a game that had looked destined for a penalty shootout following an energetic but largely risk-free encounter at AEK Arena.

The late goal condemned Fiorentina and ttheir coach Vincenzo Italiano to a second straight defeat in the final of the Europa Conference League, after losing last year to West Ham.

Olympiakos coach Jose Luis Mendilibar secured a second straight European title after winning the Europa League with Sevilla last season.

Tens of thousands of Olympiakos fans joined wild celebrations across the Greek capital after attending outdoor viewing parties. Youths held up lit flares in the port city of Piraeus, near Athens, where the team is based.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described Olympiakos as “a true legend,” adding in an online post: “Olympiakos has won the Europa Conference League and made history! A sensational night for the club itself, but also for Greek football as a whole.”

The third-tier European club competition took place amid a massive security operation, with some 5,000 police officers forming concentric cordons around a northern area of the capital.

The final was briefly marred by scuffles between Fiorentina fans inside the stadium and riot police next to them.

Although the visitors dominated the early stages of the final, Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano kept his team in the game with two impressive fingertip saves to block on-target shots from Daniel Podence in the fourth minute and Stevan Jovetic in the sixth minute of extra time.

El Kaabi, who scored a total of 11 goals in the competition, had been largely sidelined in the match by Fiorentina’s unyielding four-man defense.


The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’
Updated 29 May 2024
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The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’
  • ‘Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,’ says league CEO Omar Mugharbel
  • 5-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo set a league record by scoring 35 goals during the season, one more than Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19

RIYADH: During the 2023/24 season of the Roshn Saudi League, which concluded on Monday, 909 goals were scored in 306 matches, a 40 percent increase compared with the previous season.
Al-Nassr’s Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, contributed 35 of those goals, in 31 games, setting a league record for the number of goals in a season.
As he looked back on Wednesday at some of the highlights of an eventful season, the league’s CEO, Omar Mugharbel, predicted that it will be remembered as a milestone in the growth of elite football in the Kingdom.
“Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,” he said.
“Their arrival amplified even further the huge interest in the league from fans, broadcasters and sponsors. It is impossible to overstate how much of a game-changing season 2023/24 has been.”
The season began with major signings of several international stars, including Karim Benzema, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante, Georgino Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves.
Champions Al-Hilal grabbed headlines around the globe when they set a world record for successive top-flight victories, winning 34 games in a row across all competitions during an unbeaten campaign.
On an individual level, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo achieved further success in the calendar year 2023 when he netted the most club goals in the world, with 54 in 59 appearances in all competitions.
And during the 2023/24 season, the Portuguese star set a record by scoring 35 goals in the league, one more than previous record holder Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19.
An increased focus on the development of young Saudi talent, to help them excel on the world stage, meant that age of eligibility to play in the league was reduced from 18 to 16 years old. The average age of players dropped to 27.5 years old.
Mugharbel said he has no doubt the league will continue to go from strength to strength, with preparations already underway for next season.
“What is crucial now is enhancing the offering for all stakeholders across the Roshn Saudi League to ensure that we deliver a product, on and off the field, that is truly and consistently world class across all metrics,” he said.
“These are hugely exciting times for football in Saudi Arabia and we look forward immensely to the Roshn Saudi League season 2024/25.”
Off the pitch, the transformation of the league attracted global attention. This was reflected in major milestones that were achieved across metrics such as broadcast deals, sponsorship agreements, and social media reach.
Games were broadcast in more than 160 countries on 38 global platforms as the league reached more fans than ever. Meanwhile, its social media channels attracted 6.72 million new followers during the season, representing a 141 percent increase from the start of the campaign.
The Manager of the Season award went to Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus, who was also named Manager of the Month five times along the way.
As noted, Ronaldo was Top Goalscorer, while Al-Hilal’s Yassine Bounou, who kept 15 clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals, was named Goalkeeper of the Season.


Guardiola disciple Kompany joins elite as Bayern boss

Guardiola disciple Kompany joins elite as Bayern boss
Updated 29 May 2024
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Guardiola disciple Kompany joins elite as Bayern boss

Guardiola disciple Kompany joins elite as Bayern boss
  • Kompany, still just 38, lacks the experience of previous Bayern coaches and was a surprise choice with his Burnley side relegated from the Premier League this season
  • He has long been earmarked for top jobs with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola saying it is his “destiny” to one day succeed him at the Etihad

BERLIN: Vincent Kompany was named Bayern Munich head coach on Wednesday, capping a rapid rise in the Belgian’s embryonic coaching career despite mixed results.
Kompany, still just 38, lacks the experience of previous Bayern coaches and was a surprise choice with his Burnley side relegated from the Premier League this season.
But he has long been earmarked for top jobs with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola saying it is his “destiny” to one day succeed him at the Etihad.
The former City captain spent three years under Guardiola at Man City as a player, winning two of Kompany’s four Premier League titles together.
Guardiola also knows the pressures that come with being Bayern boss from his three-year spell in the Bundesliga between 2013 and 2016.
After attempts to lure Xabi Alonso and Julian Nagelsmann back to the Allianz Arena from Bayer Leverkusen and the German national team failed, Bayern reportedly sought Guardiola’s advice before going for Kompany.
“I’m happy the link has happened for Bayern to Vinny,” Guardiola said.
“I have a huge opinion about Vinny, (it) doesn’t matter the relegation with Burnley. What I felt playing against him and knowing him, I have the highest opinion of his work, personality, his knowledge of the game, how he handles the media.”
Kompany began his coaching career back at his first club Anderlecht, leading them to third-place regular season finishes in both of his full seasons in charge.
He departed his homeland to return to England in 2022 and enjoyed a dream start at Turf Moor with Burnley promoted from England’s second tier as Championship winners with 101 points in his first season.
The Clarets’ joy was short-lived, however, as they were relegated from the top flight with just five wins and 24 points — the club’s lowest top-flight tally in their history.
Kompany faces a marked shift in expectation when he swaps Turf Moor for Munich.
But Bayern are hoping to replicate the rapid rise of another former Guardiola protege, Alonso, who led Leverkusen to their first ever Bundesliga title in his first full season as a senior coach.
Aged just six, Kompany joined Anderlecht and came through the youth ranks, breaking into the first team in 2003 aged 17.
He left to join Bundesliga side Hamburg in 2006 but his stint at the former European champions would prove crucial to his Bayern appointment.
Kompany, a native French and Flemish speaker, learned German during his time in Hamburg — a crucial criteria for Bayern, who have been historically reluctant to sign coaches not proficient in the local tongue.
After two seasons in northern Germany, he made the move that would define his career, joining City just before the club was taken over by a consortium from Abu Dhabi, which transformed them into the dominant force in English football.
Named skipper in 2011-12, he then captained City to their first English league title in 44 years.
The defender departed the Etihad in 2019 but has an enduring presence outside the stadium, with a statue built in his honor in 2021.
With 89 caps for Belgium, Kompany’s leadership also shone at a national level, where he captained the side from 2010 until stepping down from international duty in 2019.
Kompany’s qualities always seemed well-matched for a coaching career, but it was his time learning under Guardiola that crystallized that ambition.
“With Pep in the first friendly, I just knew I wanted to become a coach one day,” Kompany told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung in 2023.
“He influenced me a lot because he was the one who broke the game down so that I could fully understand it.
“With his absolute clarity, he was the trigger for me to explain football in my own way.”
Kompany’s ideology has been formed by Guardiola’s possession-based style.
He attracted criticism this season for not adapting as Burnley struggled with the step up to the Premier League.
But Bayern — whose resources dwarf the rest of the Bundesliga — will be hoping Kompany can replicate the dominance shown in his one Championship season.


Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards

Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards
Updated 29 May 2024
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Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards

Mbappe and Alonso big winners at inaugural Globe Soccer Europe Awards
  • ‘I want to work hard to keep my name in history of football — there’s lots still to do; I’m far from what I want to achieve,’ says Mbappe
  • The awards recognize European football excellence, both on and off the field

SARDINIA: PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso and FC Barcelona star Lamine Yamal were among the winners at the inaugural King Abdullah Financial District Globe Soccer Awards Europe.
Tuesday’s ceremony at Hotel Cala di Volpe in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, marked the first European edition of the awards, which have been held in Dubai for the past 14 years.
With shortlists for five of the 10-plus honors decided by a fan vote earlier this month, a star-studded jury of football luminaries selected the final winners. The awards recognize European football excellence, both on and off the field.
Industry representatives and players past and present attended this week’s event, including FC Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, three-time Champions League winner Fernando Morientes, former England manager Fabio Capello and the coach of the current Italian national side, Luciano Spalletti.
Mbappe, whose contract with his Parisian club expires at the end of June, took to the stage amid loud applause to collect the KAFD Best Player award.
“It’s an honor to be here — I see some great players, managers, legends. It’s always great to see everybody recognize your game. I want to thank my club; I know my president is here,” said the French striker.
“It’s always a pleasure to be a part of this event. It is part of my journey. I want to work hard to keep my name in the history of football. There is a lot still to do and I am far away from what I want to achieve, but I will start this summer with the Euros.”
The star’s moment in the spotlight came minutes after Alonso, who led his Leverkusen side to an undefeated domestic double and the final of the Europa League, received Best Coach from Pedro Proenca, president of Liga Portugal.
“It has been a real pleasure to see old colleagues and friends here tonight in this beautiful setting,” said Alonso. “I’m proud to receive this award, not just for myself but for all Bayer Leverkusen. What we have lived this year has been phenomenal, a fantastic journey. It felt special since the beginning, all the connections we created with the fans, the players, the staff. We’ve been able to have a dream season.”
The Emerging Player award was won by FC Barcelona’s 16-year-old winger Yamal, who scored five goals and notched up eight assists in 37 La Liga appearances this season. Xavier Puig, the Barcelona director responsible for women’s football, collected the Best Women’s Club award on behalf of FC Barcelona Femeni. Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano received Best Men’s Club on behalf of the UK Premier League champions.
All five winners — Mbappe, Alonso, Yamal, FC Barcelona and Manchester City — also received a gold “Road to Dubai” medal from His Excellency Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council, confirming their qualification for the year-ending Dubai Globe Soccer Awards which will take place this winter in the UAE.
Other Globe Soccer winners included Atalanta, who received the Revelation Award after winning the Europa League and qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League, and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of the European Clubs Association and president of PSG, who collected the Football Leadership Award. Cesc Fabregas accepted the Comeback Award on behalf of Como after his Lombardy side was promoted to Serie A for the first time in 21 years, and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta received Best Coach Premier League from former Gunner Fabregas after leading his swashbuckling side to within just two points of the title.
A host of career awards were also distributed during the evening, with Spalletti and Gianluigi Buffon both collecting a coach and player award respectively, while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge collected a Special Career Award recognizing his work with Bayern Munich, formerly as CEO and now as a member of the club’s supervisory board. A posthumous Special Career Award was also given to Italian striker Gigi Riva, who died earlier this year at the age of 79. It was collected by his son, Nicola.
“It has been a long journey to reach this point, but I am extremely proud to see the European football industry come out to recognize and celebrate the continent’s top-performing protagonists,” said Tommaso Bendoni, founder and CEO of Globe Soccer.
“When we created the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards 14 years ago, we had an ambitious vision that is now coming to fruition. It is testament to the growing reputation of the Globe Soccer brand that we have attracted so many of European football’s biggest names to join us for this historic event in Costa Smeralda.”
Shortly before the KAFD Globe Soccer Awards Europe, the first in-person, end-of-season La Liga Awards took place, with Spanish football celebrating a thrilling 2023-24 season.
Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham won Best Player after an incredible debut season in which the Englishman netted 19 goals and laid on six assists in only 28 games. Yamal won Best U23 Player and Jesus Areso of Osasuna won Best Goal for his strike from close to the corner flag against Getafe. Best Coach was won by Michel after he oversaw Girona climb from 10th to third in just 12 months.
KAFD Globe Soccer Awards Europe Edition 2024 winners:
Best Player: Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
Best Coach: Xabi Alonso (Bayer Leverkusen)
Emerging Player: Lamine Yamal (FC Barcelona and Spain)
Best Men’s Club: Manchester City
Best Women’s Club: FC Barcelona
Best Coach Premier League: Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Revelation Award: Atalanta
Football Leadership Award: Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG and European Clubs Association)
Comeback Award: Cesc Fàbregas (Como)
Special Career Award: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Special Career Award: Gigi Riva
Coach Career Award: Luciano Spalletti
Player Career Award: Gianluigi Buffon
Sportsmanship Award: Gianluca Pessotto

Official La Liga Awards 2024:
La Liga EA SPORTS Champion: Real Madrid
Best U23 Player: Lamine Yamal (FC Barcelona)
Best Coach: Michel (Girona)
Best Goal: Jesus Areso (Osasuna)
Best Player: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)
Team of the Season: Unai Simon, Daniel Carvajal, Ronald Araujo, Antonio Rudiger, Miguel Gutierrez; Aleix Garcia, İlkay Gundogan, Federico Valverde, Isco, Jude Bellingham, Savio, Griezmann, Robert Lewandowski, Artem Dovbyk and Vini Jr.


Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents

Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents
Updated 29 May 2024
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Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents

Dortmund head into Champions League final with an older, tougher team instead of young talents
  • This Dortmund team are different, though. They are built around older players making the most of second chances after career setbacks
  • “We have our own story,” coach Edin Terzic said

DORTMUND: Borussia Dortmund are world soccer’s finishing school no longer.
A club renowned for readying talented youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland for the big stage are now on that stage itself, facing Real Madrid — and Bellingham — in the Champions League final Saturday.
This Dortmund team are different, though. They are built around older players making the most of second chances after career setbacks.
“We have our own story,” coach Edin Terzic said Wednesday. “We have the story of ups and downs of the last years. We are one of the teams that is selling players by the end of the season. We are a team that builds up to compete every year, but now we are there, and we are facing teams that are built to win the Champions League.”
And then there’s Jadon Sancho.
The former England national team forward has revived his career since rejoining Dortmund on loan in January from Manchester United, where he hadn’t played since August amid a rift with manager Erik ten Hag.
The final at Wembley will be the last game of Sancho’s loan, but Dortmund hope they will also start fresh talks on keeping him.
“We are so proud, we are so happy that he’s in our team at the moment and I can see his smile every day, I can see his performance on the pitch every day,” sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.
“So, I think he will be very important for us on Saturday. He will show the world that Jadon Sancho is really back.”
Kehl said Dortmund plan “discussions” about the 24-year-old Sancho’s future, but only after Saturday’s game. “He’s still under contract with Man United, so nobody knows what’s going on there,” Kehl added. “We’re going to have discussions, but after the final.”
Sancho isn’t the only Dortmund player who has been rejected elsewhere. Defender Mats Hummels and midfielder Emre Can were both left out of the German national team squad for their home European Championship, and Sancho wasn’t picked for England.
The Champions League gives them the chance to show they remain competitive at the top level — and maybe even earn a dramatic recall for Euro 2024.
The 30-year-old Can suggested he and Sancho could be inspired by that rejection when they play against Madrid.
“He’s not happy about it, of course. Me also, I’m not in the German squad, I’m not happy about it,” Can said. “Of course, it gives you maybe the extra motivation to show the coaches in national teams that we deserve to be there. That’s what we will try on Saturday.”
Only two Dortmund players made the Germany squad for Euro 2024, including striker Niclas Füllkrug, who spent much of his career in the second division before finally breaking through at 29 with Werder Bremen and making his national team debut in 2022.
Forward Sébastien Haller is in the Champions League final less than two years on from a diagnosis of testicular cancer which left him needing chemotherapy and surgery before he returned to action with Dortmund. He’s seeking his second trophy of the season after scoring the winning goal in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast in February.
Dortmund do have some promising young players, but winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and striker Youssoufa Moukoko, both 19-year-olds, have typically been on the bench in the Champions League this season and 21-year-old American Gio Reyna was loaned out to Nottingham Forest.
There isn’t an obvious successor to Bellingham, who was sold for up to 130 million euros ($139 million at the time) to Madrid last year, or Haaland, who earlier moved to Manchester City for 60 million euros ($63 million at the time) and won the Champions League last year.
Sporting director Kehl himself has unfinished business in the Champions League. Dortmund are in the final for the first time since 2013, when they lost 2-1 to Bayern Munich, also at Wembley. Kehl, then a midfielder, was on the bench in that game.
Dortmund are coming off their worst Bundesliga season in nine years with a fifth-place finish, but have shown in the Champions League that their grizzled, battle-scarred squad can peak in crucial games. There’s been a healthy dose of luck, too, after Dortmund survived Paris Saint-Germain repeatedly hitting the post and crossbar in the semifinals.
A year after dropping the Bundesliga title in the final minutes of the season, Dortmund are aiming to end this campaign on a triumph.
“There is one more game left and it’s the biggest game in European club competition,” Terzic said. “This is waiting for us, and we have to show that we are ready to go for it.”