Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah

Niemann of Torque GC at the LIV Golf Jeddah at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (LIV Golf via AP)
Niemann of Torque GC at the LIV Golf Jeddah at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (LIV Golf via AP)
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Updated 02 March 2024
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Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah

Red-hot Niemann takes second round lead at LIV Golf Jeddah
  • Chilean is 13 under par for the tournament, two shots ahead of South Africa’s former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel

JEDDAH: Joaquin Niemann says he has been a ‘slightly better’ golfer over the past few months. That seemingly small uptick in form is knocking the competition out of the park.

The red-hot Chilean, Captain of Torque GC, surged to a two-shot lead after the second round of the individual championship of LIV Golf Jeddah at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Saturday, adding a bogey-free 64 to his opening 63 to finish with a 13-under-par score of 127. He was being chased by South Africa’s former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (66) at 11 under.

2010 Open Champion and Stingers Captain Louis Oosthuizen (66), another player in terrific form, was tied third at 10 under par alongside American Jason Kokrak, whose 62 was the lowest round of the day.

World No.3 Jon Rahm (69), the overnight leader and the highest-ranked player in the field, was among those tied for fourth place at 9 under.

American Anthony Kim, the most talked-about player in the field, making his comeback in professional golf after 12 years away, matched his first-round score of 76, finishing with 11 straight pars after going 6 over through the first seven holes.

Niemann began the round with seven straights pars before finishing with six birdies over the last 11 holes. It was another brilliant show from the 25-year-old from Santiago, who won the Australian Open in December and LIV Golf Mayakoba in February, finished fourth in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and came third last week in the International Series Oman.

Asked what has changed in his game to trigger such a run of form, Niemann replied: “Me.”

He continued: “I think it was a little bit of everything. When I look back to last season, I wasn’t playing my best golf. Off the tee, iron shots, putting, my routines on the golf course, how I thought and how I prepared for tournaments…I think I am bit better in all of those.

“Obviously, I made a few changes in my swing and it’s been feeling a little bit better now. I’ve been able to hit all the trajectories I want to and that has given me the confidence to be aggressive off the tee. I am hitting that high draw (slight right-to-left flight) more often and it has helped me gain at least 20 yards on my usual low-cut shot that I had before.

Schwartzel, the 2012 Masters champion, had a nightmarish final round at the previous LIV event in Las Vegas, when he shot 10 over par in cold conditions and slipped to last in the field.

“I have the memory of a goldfish. I have no recollection of what happened in Vegas,” Schwartzel said when asked about the turnaround in his form. “Myself, Branden (Grace) and Dean (Burmester) all live (near each other) in the Palm Beach area, so we play a lot of golf together, and all of us have been playing pretty good golf. We didn’t do very good in Vegas. The weather was too cold for us. It’s a lot different here and we’re in much better spirits.”

Thanks to Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and Grace (65), the all-South African Stingers grabbed a seven-shot lead in the Team Championship with a 29-under-par total. The Rahm-led Legions XIII and Brooks Koepka’s Smash GC were tied for second at 22 under.


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.”


Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre

Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre
Updated 29 May 2024
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Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre

Laporta gambles on Flick to restore Barcelona’s lustre
  • Before May had run its course, Laporta sacked the former Barca midfield great and appointed German coach Hansi Flick in his stead
  • “You will suffer — this is a very complicated place to be,” Xavi warned his successor

BARCELONA: At the end of April, Barcelona president Joan Laporta, choking with emotion, said he was “proud” to have Xavi Hernandez staying on as coach for next season.
Before May had run its course, Laporta sacked the former Barca midfield great and appointed German coach Hansi Flick in his stead.
Since the president was re-elected for his second spell in charge in March 2021, Barcelona have been without a coherent plan, running purely on vibes. It can only get you so far.
Selling off areas of the club and compromising future income to raise immediate funds for heavy transfer investment, Laporta opted for a get-success-quick strategy, with limited results.
Barcelona won the 2022/23 La Liga title for the first time since 2019, but they have still struggled in Europe.
This season everything fell to pieces, with Real Madrid storming to La Liga glory and Barcelona finishing the campaign trophyless.
“It’s fantastic news that Xavi is staying — the team we have, which is growing with many young talents, needs this stability,” said Laporta, weeks before performing a spectacular u-turn.
Xavi for his part did not mince his words about the challenges that faced Flick.
“You will suffer — this is a very complicated place to be,” Xavi warned his successor.
Barcelona’s ‘entorno’ — everything swirling around the club that increases pressure, from the media to the fans, to loose-lipped directors and former players chipping in — will stay the same.
However in hiring Flick, the club’s direction has changed.
The majority of their coaches have played for Barcelona — Xavi, Ronald Koeman, Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola among others.
Flick on the other hand, has never played or coached in Spain, let alone at the club itself.
The 59-year-old’s greatest success was leading Bayern Munich to a sextuple in 2020, including an 8-2 humiliation of Barcelona, but he struggled with the German national team, becoming their first coach ever to be sacked.
Barca’s sporting director Deco warned in February that Barcelona should move away from their traditional “tiki-taka” style.
“The president agrees with me on this, a deep change is needed — there is a method that is worn out,” he said.
Flick’s style is attacking but more direct than Barcelona usually attempt to play, with more crossing.
The coach will be happy to work with Ilkay Gundogan, whom he appointed Germany captain, and Robert Lewandowski, a key player in his triumphant Bayern Munich side.
He boasts coaching experience which Xavi lacked, having only worked at Al-Sadd in Qatar before taking the reins at Camp Nou.
Flick tends to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, rather than Barcelona’s 4-3-3, although they are not far removed.
The club’s financial difficulties will be a key factor in whether the German can improve Barcelona’s fortunes.
After pivot Sergio Busquets left, Barcelona failed to adequately replace him, unable to afford Xavi’s main target, Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi.
With new champions and rivals Real Madrid set to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe, keeping up with Los Blancos will be a hard task for any coach.


Usyk, Fury heavyweight rematch set for December 21 in Riyadh

The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury. credit: social media
The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury. credit: social media
Updated 29 May 2024
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Usyk, Fury heavyweight rematch set for December 21 in Riyadh

The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury. credit: social media
  • The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury in the Saudi capital on May 19 in the first unification fight of the four-belt era

Riyadh: Oleksandr Usyk will face Tyson Fury in a rematch on December 21 in Riyadh, the top Saudi organizer said on Wednesday, after winning their undisputed heavyweight boxing bout earlier this month.
The undefeated Ukrainian won by split decision against Britain’s Fury in the Saudi capital on May 19 in the first unification fight of the four-belt era.
“The rematch between the undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk and the champion Tyson Fury is now scheduled on the 21 of December 2024 during Riyadh Season,” Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Britain’s Lennox Lewis won the last undisputed heavyweight championship against Evander Holyfield in 1999. Both men were ringside as Usyk handed Fury, 35, his first defeat.
The 37-year-old Ukrainian, who briefly served as a soldier after the Russian invasion, was also undisputed champion at cruiserweight and won Olympic, world and European honors as an amateur.