Christian Benteke – fresh and poised to re-sign with Aston Villa

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According to manager Paul Lambert, Aston Villa fans shouldn’t worry about Christian Benteke burning out. Whether the Belgian striker will sign a new deal with the club remains to be seen although things are looking up the West Midland’s club.

From the moment he arrived at Villa Park last August Benteke has been terrific. Having signed a four year deal from Genk for $10.7m (£7m) the 22 year old has racked up 15 goals in 29 league games and 19 in all competitions. Manager Paul Lambert has repeatedly hailed Benteke’s work ethic, attitude and contribution to a Villa squad that entered the season in desperate need of offensive output. In Benteke, as well as Austrian striker Andreas Weimann who Lambert brought up from Villa’s youth ranks after signing from Rapid Vienna at age 16, Lambert has found lightning in a bottle.

The key is not letting that energy escape – whether through fatigue or transfer. Lambert remains convinced that despite the 44 matches that Benteke has played for club and country, the hulking striker isn’t running out of energy anytime soon. “He played for Genk before our season started, he’s played every game for the national team, and then played for ourselves,” Lambert said. “But he doesn’t look tired at all. The big guy has been terrific.”

Benteke has been so terrific that many pundits projected him the target of a move to a big club that could provide a sizeable pay raise and a bigger stage to perform. Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal were all rumored to be interested. Worries concerning such a move subsided on Tuesday when reports emerged the striker will engage in talks this week over a lucrative new contract to keep him at Villa. Benteke told manager Paul Lambert that he wants to stay with the Villains to continue playing regular football thereby providing him with the best chance to stay in Belgium’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Villa are believed to be preparing a package that would add an additional year onto Benteke’s contract (currently due to end in 2016) and to raise his salary from £20,000 per week to £40,000 per week. A similar move is believed to be in the works with Weimann after Lambert revealed that he had owner Randy Lerner’s backing to tie down his young strike force.

For Lambert, doing so is his top priority. “I don’t want to go back to square one,” the manager said. “These are only young guys in their early 20s, they still have so much to learn and so much to prove. That is what you want — to work with guys to keep them progressing.”

The Villains, currently 16th in the table and two points from the drop, will look to continue their progression to safety this weekend when they take on Fulham at Villa Park.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.