After a few rather disappointing seasons, with managers coming and going rather quickly, AS Roma finally seemed to hit on the right formula last year. With Rudi Garcia at the helm, the giallorossi challenged Juventus for the title and although they fell short, claimed second place and automatic entry into the Champions League.
One of the reasons for Roma’s success last season was the smart acquisition of players. Maicon and Gervinho were revitalized under Garcia, Morgan De Sanctis rarely goofed in goal and Mehdi Benatia was a revelation. But it was Kevin Strootman, signed from PSV, that really made the side click. With him helping protect the defense, Roma conceded just 25 goals, the second fewest in Serie A.
But in March, Strootman suffered a season-ending injury, meaning his dream of going to the World Cup was also dashed. But although the Dutchman is still recovering from his knee injury, he’s wanted by Manchester United — or shall we say, their new Dutch manager.
Back in June, Louis van Gaal confirmed his interest in the midfielder, although it’s unlikely United would make a swoop until the January transfer window. The manager reiterated this yesterday, saying “We have to wait and see how he comes back. It is not easy to say how he comes back from injury, but we will wait and see.”
So Strootman remains on United’s radar. The only problem is, Roma don’t quite see it that way. In fact, they don’t want to let him go.
“Strootman is a Roma player. He will be a Roma player this year. There is no doubt about that,” said Garcia. “Only he can say whether he wants to stay, but it was never an issue for him to go to another club. There is no question of it.”
Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.
With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.
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Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.
I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.
They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.
I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.
Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.
At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.
Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.
[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]
Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.
Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.
Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.
Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.
[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]
The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.
Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.
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Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]
With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”
Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.
Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.
We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.
It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.
If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’
Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.
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Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’