One of the most incredible stories of any player in the Premier League continues to get better.
Southampton and England striker Rickie Lambert is about to be signed by his hometown club Liverpool at the age of 32. According to reports from the Press Association, a fee believed to be around $6 million plus other add ons has been agreed between the two clubs and Lambert will have a medical on Saturday.
After Mauricio Pochettino left Saints earlier this week to take over as Tottenham Hotspur boss, Lambert is set to follow in his footsteps to join the team he has supported his entire life. Dreams, it seems, do come true.
This is truly a remarkable story as Lambert was released by Liverpool as a schoolboy and is still an avid supporter of his hometown team. A few months ago I asked Lambert a few questions in a press conference and his love for Liverpool was brought up. It is clear he holds the Reds close to his heart. Since Liverpool snubbed him as a teenager, Lambert then worked his way out from the lower tiers of English soccer (which also included a stint of working in a beetroot factory on the side) before joining Southampton at the age of 27 when they were a third-tier club.
The last five years have been a dream ride for the Liverpudlian who has scored 117 goals in 235 games since joining Saints in 2009. In that time he has steered Southampton to two-straight promotions to the Premier League and has scored 28 goals in 75 appearances in the top flight over the last two seasons.
His ability from the penalty spot is also superb as he has never missed a penalty for Saints after scoring 34 straight PKs. However what will have most likely impressed Brendan Rodgers is that Lambert is not just a goalscorer but also a creator as last season he has 10 assists to his name, only Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard had more last season in the PL. Having Lambert come off the bench to help tee up Suarez and Daniel Sturridge would work wonderfully as Lambert isn’t just a target forward, he has a wonderful soccer brain.
In the last 18 months Lambert has gone from a journeyman in the lower leagues of English soccer to a regular goalscorer in the PL who is also going to the World Cup with England.
Now his rags to riches career is set to have the cherry on the top as he will sign for his hometown club Liverpool and see out his playing days in front of the Kop trying to help the Reds win the PL and succeed in the Champions League. Not bad for a lad who used to work in a beetroot factory. Not bad at all.
In what is often described as more of a distraction than anything for English teams, the Europa League third qualification round is under way, and a Premier League club is in danger of crashing out of the competition prior to the group stage for the third straight season.
West Ham fell 2-1 at NK Domzale, the third-placed finishers in the Slovenian league last season. Mark Noble grabbed an 18th-minute penalty, the only takeaway from an otherwise depressing road result. On the other side, 24-year-old Matic Crnic scored twice to put Domzale through.
Last season, the Hammers also dropped out of the competition in the third qualification round, to Romanian club Astra Giurgiu, although they had wins in the first and second rounds after entering the competition via fair play. In addition, Southampton also crashed out of last year’s Europa League in the playoff round to Danish side FC Mitdjylland. Hull City dropped out of the tournament two seasons ago in the playoff round.
West Ham has the opportunity to turn things around at home in a week as they host Domzale at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, August 4 in what will be West Ham’s first competitive in their new home.
Other notable scores from Europa League qualification include:
Gonzalo Higuain’s summer move to Juventus has not come without bad blood.
When the 28-year-old striker moved from Naples to Turin thanks to Juventus activating his release clause, it left Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis with a sour taste in his mouth. “There are those who say that talk of betrayal is an exaggeration, but I think the opposite,” De Laurentiis told Corierre dello Sport. “Because, in this decision, there is the full sense of betrayal, which also includes ingratitude.”
“We never seriously thought he would leave. Nor that he would have erased in a flash the memories of his three years in Naples.”
That didn’t sit well with Higuain, who fired back that it was de Laurentiis who drove him out of his former club.
“It was my decision to leave, but it was [De Laurentiis] who pushed me into making it,” Higuain told the media at his Juventus unveiling. “I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates, but not De Laurentiis. I no longer had a relationship with him; I couldn’t stand another minute with him.”
Higuain was more celebratory about his time at Stadio San Paulo. “These have been three amazing years,” Higuain said, “and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons. I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.”
Napoli visits Turin in Serie A play on October 30, while Juventus will not travel to Naples for the return fixture until early April of 2017.
Samir Nasri‘s soccer career has taken a nosedive since his seven-goal, nine-assist season in 2012/13, both internationally and domestically.
The 29-year-old winger has retired from the French national team after to being frozen out by Didier Deschamps, and has seen a decline in playing time for Manchester City two seasons in a row. Now with a new manager and a fresh start at the Etihad, things aren’t exactly off with flying colors out of the gates.
Nasri hasn’t featured thus far in Manchester City’s preseason, and manager Pep Guardiola said it’s because of his fitness. “Samir arrived a little bit overweight,” Guardiola said following the team’s win over Borrusia Dortmund in International Champions Cup play from China. “He’s much better now, but still there is a little bit of weight. Last season he was injured and we want to avoid that.”
City took down Dortmund on penalties following a 1-1 draw. The squad fell 1-0 to Bayern Munich last week in the team’s first pre-season match. Nasri did not appear in either, and defender Gael Clichy – without naming names – said that Guardiola has forced those with fitness issues to train on their own.
“We have a few players who are not training with the team yet,” Clichy, a former teammate of Nasri’s at Arsenal, said on Wednesday. “If your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team. You have to know that if your weight is 60 kilos and you are on 70 kilos, then you cannot play football.”
Guardiola backed up his policy on Wednesday following Clichy’s comments. “The weight is so important. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You’re not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That’s why you need to be fit.”
Liverpool wanted to get younger at the back, but they’ll have to look elsewhere.
Despite reportedly heavy interest from Anfield, 19-year-old defender Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal with Leicester City, tying him down through the summer of 2021.
The Leicester City defense desperately needs Chilwell’s youth as it ages yet another year following their run to the Premier League title. Robert Huth is 31 years old, Wes Morgan – also on a new deal this summer – is 32, and backup Marcin Wasilewski is 36. On the left edge, where Chilwell is most proficient, first-choice left-back Christian Fuchs is 30, while Jeffrey Schlupp provides the only other true bit of youth at 23. On the right, Danny Simpson is 29 and Richie De Laet is 27.
“Ever since I arrived in Leicester, Ben has been a young player that has shown a lot of promise,” Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieritold the club’s official website. “He has all the attributes you would want in a defender and shows a lot of maturity for a player of just 19. He has come back for pre-season in very good condition and is already showing that he is ready to push for a place in the team.”
Chilwell, a Leicester City academy product, has yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has featured for the England youth teams at multiple levels.