Tearful Hernanes leaves Lazio for Inter Milan

Leave a comment

Around 200 Lazio fans gathered at Claudio Lotito’s home Friday morning. Word had gotten out. Hernanes, the club’s best player since his arrival in Rome three summers ago, was reportedly set to leave the Aquile. Singing the Brazilian’s praises over the next three hours, the small throng of devotees hoped to change their club president’s mind.

As Friday progressed, a slightly different picture of the deal unfolded. In tears as he left the club the he led to last year’s Coppa Italia title, the 28-year-old Brazilian international confessed he’d pushed for the €20 million ($27 million) move. Lotito hadn’t forced him out. He’d decided it was time to go, a decision he explained via Facebook:

“I would like to explain my tears because I’ve seen [Lazio] have been misunderstood. I cried not because the club president was stopping me leaving.

“I cried because the negotiation between the two clubs is happening.

“I had the possibility to leave Rome, the place I love, the supporters I love. But it has to be me who told the president I would like to leave because I think it’s best for me on a professional level.

Late Friday Italy-time, Inter finally confirmed the news, announcing Hernanes had signed a deal that commits him to the Nerazzurri through the 2017-18 season.

The World Cup’s coming up, but the move is as likely to hurt Hernanes as help. He’s in Luiz Felipie Scolari’s team, but he’s struggling to crack the Seleçao’s starting XI. Instead, this move seems to be all about Hernanes’s club future. At 28, his value possibly peaked a player who has become one of Italy’s best midfielders has decided to move on, electing to join Erik Thorir’s rebuild in Milan rather than confirm his legend in Rome.

Check out all of the latest transfer news form ProSoccerTalk

source: AP
Since arriving at Lazio in the summer of 2011, Hernanez has posted 11-, 8-, and 11-goals seasons while helping the Aquile to the Italian Cup last May. (Photo source: AP.)

It’s a crucial loss for a Lazio team that just found its footing. While the team did lose the defense of their Coppa title with yesterday’s quarterfinal loss to Napoli, a four-game unbeaten run in Serie A has lifted the team into the league’s top half. Thanks to that mini-revival — organized by the restored Edy Reja — the Aquile are only five points back of a European spot. The team currently holding that spot: Inter Milan.

Lazio would have to pass four teams to snare that spot. Given the irregular form the team has shown for most of the season, they’ll need a  longer run of success before being considered serious top-five contenders. In the face of that uncertainty, cashing in on Inter’s $27 million offer may have made more sense. At 28 years old, Hernanes is unlikely to garner a much better offer in the future.

For Inter, the coup gives head coach Walter Mazzarri a valuable addition to Esteban Cambiasso in central midfield.  Averaging 10 goals per season over the previous three campaigns, Hernanes adds another scoring threat to a team that’s relied on a variety of attackers to complement Rodrigo Palacio (team-leading 10 goals).

“Hernanes is a golden boy,” Mazzarri said in a television interview after the signing. “I’ve always known that.”

 

Capable of controlling a game from the middle the Brazilian could be an ideal fit for Mazzarri’s approach, whether he’s used as part of a strong two with Cambiasso or given room to surge forward if he plays in a three. Especially with Fredy Guarín’s situation unsettled at Inter, Hernanes may be necessary if the team’s going to return to Europe.

That’s a fit that won’t do anything to console Lazio fans. Maybe Hernanes isn’t leaving for the reasons they assumed, but he’s still leaving. Their team has lost their best player; or, at least, the man who’s been their best player over the last three-and-a-half years. Though Hernanes may have wanted it to happen, and the team got top dollar, that won’t make this any easier to take on the blue side of Rome.

 

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

Nigel French/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.

 

Serie A: Napoli’s perfect season ends after draw with Inter

Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Napoli’s perfect start to Serie A finally came to an end on Saturday in an enthralling 0-0 home draw with Inter Milan, the only other unbeaten side in the Italian top flight.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

There were plenty of chances at the San Paolo, and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was kept busier than his Napoli counterpart Pepe Reina.

It was the first time since April and a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo that Napoli has failed to win in Serie A.

Napoli remained top of the standings, two points above Inter and six above Juventus and Lazio, which face Udinese and Cagliari respectively on Sunday.

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

Napoli was looking for a ninth successive league win. It was boosted by Lorenzo Insigne passing fit to start after injuring a thigh on Tuesday in the Champions League defeat at Manchester City.

Inter was full of confidence after Mauro Icardi’s hat trick helped it win last week’s derby against AC Milan, but it hadn’t won in Naples in 20 years.

Napoli almost went in front but Handanovic pulled off a stunning double save to deny first Jose Callejon and then keep out Dries Mertens’ rebound attempt from point-blank range.

Handanovic then kept out an effort from Insigne following a great ball over the top from Marek Hamsik.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Inter went close shortly before halftime but Reina did well to fingertip Borja Valero’s close-range attempt over the bar.

Insigne had more chances after the break, going closest with a curling effort just past the right post.

Hamsik also fired narrowly wide, and Handanovic parried a powerful shot from substitute Piotr Zielinski.

Mertens should have won the match for Napoli in the final minute but Handanovic was again on hand to keep out his close-range volley.

Tactics Session: Inside the mind of Kevin De Bruyne

Leave a comment

If not for Harry Kane‘s prolific scoring of goals during the early days of this season, Kevin De Bruyne would almost certainly be the early runaway favorite for 2017-18 Premier League Player of the Season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

Alas, Kane, the one-season wonder that he is, seems hellbent on cracking the century mark in the PL this season, rather than waiting until 2018-19. This sets up what should be a thoroughly exhilarating seven-month battle between two polar opposite players — Kane, the goalscorer; and De Bruyne, the assist machine.

On Saturday, NBC Sports’ Robbie Earle delved into the mind of De Bruyne (above video) in light of last weekend’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City, during which De Bruyne notched another pair of assists to take season tally to five through eight games. Later on Saturday, De Bruyne added another in Man City’s 3-0 victory over Burnley.

[ MORE: Matchday experience — behind the scenes at Southampton ]

The first thing pointed out by Earle is the recovery — though deployed as more of a central midfielder on the day, De Bruyne sits wide with City in possession high up the field, just waiting for the opportune moment to surge forward and join the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero (now that he’s back from injury). When Jesus’ ball is too lightly weighted, De Bruyne reacts quickest to make the recovery.

From there, his head is up and scanning the entire field. One touch forward, and he’s already accounted for the positioning of each of his teammates, as well as the Stoke defenders, and every pocket of space into which he’ll either carry or play the ball. He knows the precise spot on the field he must get to in order to pull the defense to him, thus opening the necessary space (and time) for the final man — Sane, in this instance — to make his run in behind.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

This is the part of De Bruyne’s game which he does better than anyone else in the world right now; no one can hold a candle KDB’s timing and vision — not Henrikh Mkhitaryan, not Isco, not Mesut Ozil, not even his brilliant teammate (and fellow six-assist man) David Silva. He’s almost operating at peak-Andres Iniesta level right now, which makes KDB and Co. appointment viewing every weekend.

Even now, after creating the passing lane and providing Sane the extra half-second to get level with his man before accelerating past in the blink of an eye. Even then, having seen the pass he has to play, there’s still the (major) matter of threading the needle through and around four defenders. On this occasion, the perfect pass is nearly 15 yards in front of Sane, and far less than that distance in front of the goalkeeper. An inch or two too short, it’s cleared by the right back; and inch or two too long, and the goalkeeper collects it easily.

As usual, no player in the world comes close to matching De Bruyne’s genius.