Crack a (wry) smile, Arsenal fans. The Gunners have re-signed midfielder Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer after departing AC Milan.
Manager Arsene Wenger expressed his joy over the deal. “We’re very pleased Mathieu has agreed to rejoin us,” the Arsenal boss told the club’s website. “He is a player of real quality, with a fantastic work rate and great mentality.”
The Gunners know Flamini quite well after the Frenchman spent four years in North London before departing for the Rossoneri in 2008. At Milan, Flamini went on to make 96 Serie A appearances over five seasons, scoring seven goals and notching three assists.
Flamini missed all but two matches of the 2011-12 season after undergoing cruciate ligament surgery on his right knee. Last summer he signed a one year contract extension with the Italian giants after reportedly accepting a substantial pay-cut. After that contract expired this summer, Flamini returned to train with the Gunners where he impressed Wenger enough to put pen to paper.
The 29 year old is expected to contribute in the midfield and possibly even the Gunners defense. It was the former, however, where Flamini contributed the most during his last stint in England. After an initial few years of lacking a clear position and role with the club, Flamini formed a strong partnership with Cesc Fabregas in 2007-08. But that summer his contract ran down and, not feeling particularly valued by the Gunners, Flamini left for the perceived greener pastures of Milan.
After failing to hit full stride in Italy, Flamini returns to Wenger with the hope of salvaging a career that promised so much yet never truly delivered.
The hopes of Arsenal supporters will be tempered. Flamini will always be an injury concern and it would be a legitimate surprise if the Frenchman’s play rose to any level beyond that of a role player.
That is, after all, the reality of signing a 29 year old on a free transfer.
LONDON (AP) Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri criticized his players for lacking “desire and heart” in a 1-0 loss at third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, the latest setback for the stuttering English champion.
[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]
Leicester, which is one point above the relegation zone in a woeful defense of its Premier League title, is without a victory in its last eight matches.
Millwall played most of the second half with 10 men and won thanks to a 90th-minute goal.
“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” an animated Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.
[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]
“It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.”
Leicester’s next match is against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-rounders served up the biggest Cupset of them all — fifth-division side Lincoln City knocking off Burnley of the Premier League — as well as two moderately shocking results — Leicester City losing to 10-man Millwall (League One) and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Huddersfield Town (Championship).
[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sunday’s FA Cup 5th-rounders ]
On Sunday, two more of the PL’s big boys hope to avoid upsets and reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 tournament. First up, Tottenham Hotspur visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage in a renewed London derby, followed by Manchester United’s trip to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park. For live scores and updates, hit the above link, or click right here.
Saturday’s FA Cup results
Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea
Sunday’s FA Cup schedule
Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET
Monday’s FA Cup schedule
Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET
Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.
[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]
And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.
[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]
According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.
However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.
Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.
Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.
AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.
[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]
Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.
The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”
Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”
Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.
The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.
Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.
He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.