It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.
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Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.
Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.
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In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:
“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.
“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”
“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”
Naby Keita represents another new face in the next generation Liverpool regime, and he’s taking a page out of Anfield’s past in his approach at the Premier League club.
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When the 23-year-old finally completed his long-awaited move to the Reds in 2018, comparisons to N'Golo Kante quickly arose, a strong compliment for many.
However, for everything that Kante does well, it may actually be unfair to compare Keita to the now-World Cup winner with France.
Keita’s tireless ability to track up and down the pitch, complimented by his incredible skill on the ball and pace make him the ideal box-to-box midfielder, something his new club has been lacking for several years.
“My first mind-set is to defend well and not concede,” Keita told the Telegraph. “As a midfielder, when you have sealed things up at the back, my job is to provide the ammunition for the strikers and forwards, to create opportunities. Also, if I get a chance that comes my way, I want to take it and score. But I am a team player. I think about the team and the group always.”
The Guinea international may be overshadowed at the moment by the likes of the front trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but it’s hard to imagine Liverpool fans won’t quickly take a liking to their new number 8 given his playing resemblance to to arguably the greatest player in club history.
That player is one Steven Gerrard.
And for Keita, the player that he once emulated as a child has now influenced him into the young star that drove manager Jurgen Klopp towards bringing him in to Anfield.
“When I came here that day I didn’t know Steven would be at Melwood,” says Keita. “It was a surprise to me. It was exciting. He said, ‘Everyone will be here for you, we’re all going to help you develop’.
“I had watched Steven Gerrard growing up as a kid and admired him so that was a special day.
“We used to play in the streets wearing a Liverpool shirt. My dad had a love of Liverpool back then when I was 11 or 12 years old.
“I wanted to be like him. It couldn’t be anyone else. He was always the boss of the team.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a star athlete has made the move to the United Soccer League — the second tier in the U.S. Soccer professional pyramid — however, the magnitude of the deal would transcend soccer.
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Although reported interest from Australia, Turkey and Hungary could derail a move, former Jamaican track star Usain Bolt is being courted by USL side Las Vegas Lights FC, who are currently in their first season in the league.
“Of course we have an interest in Usain Bolt. Why wouldn’t we?” said Las Vegas owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook.
“He’s the world’s fastest guy and he’s trained at some of the best clubs in the world. To come play Division 2 soccer in the U.S. actually makes all the sense in the world. This guy is an absolute specimen of an athlete and we think he could absolutely succeed at the USL level.”
While the possibility of having Bolt play alongside Freddy Adu next to the Vegas Strip is an enticing one, the Jamaican’s salary demands are likely far too much for a USL side to take on.
Lights FC currently sit 13th in the USL Western Conference, eight point outside of a playoff spot.
Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist, having competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
A relatively young squad took the pitch for Manchester City on Friday night, but Pep Guardiola‘s newest signing made his first appearance at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Borussia Dortmund topped Man City, 1-0, in the first match of the 2018 International Champions Cup — a game that saw Algeria international Riyad Mahrez debut for the Citizens after joining from Leicester City.
It was the Germans that capitalized on one of the game’s few opportunities, which came from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark when U.S. Men’s National team star Christian Pulisic drew the foul inside the Man City area.
Mario Gotze stepped up and buried the spot kick in the 28th minutes, ensuring Dortmund would earn the tournament’s first victory.
Guardiola removed Mahrez after 73 minutes, while first-team regular Leroy Sane made a brief appearance in the final quarter hour for the Citizens.
For Dortmund, Pulisic was one of the few regulars to start the match for the German giants, however, the 19-year-old was one of 10 substitutions made by new manager Luicen Favre at halftime.
The Vancouver Whitecaps stated on Friday that their teenage star Alphonso Davies might not be available for their clash over the weekend with Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, and now we may have a better scope of why.
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The Athletic is reporting that Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich is close to completing a $12 million transfer for Davies, which could increase “with add-ons and clauses contingent on performance.”
Davies, 17, turned professional in 2016 after signing a Homegrown contract with the Whitecaps, and his near-immediate stardom has risen to the point where the Canada international has become a significant talking point across Major League Soccer.
The young attacker is enjoying a strong season thus far for Carl Robinson’s side, with three goals and eight assists, while also being selected to the MLS All-Star team that will take on Juventus on August 1.
Although Davies’ absence from the squad at training on Friday wasn’t explained by the club, his time in Vancouver could be coming to an end as Bayern and several other big European sides chase the promising teen.
The Athletic’s report also suggests that various Premier League clubs have expressed interest in Davies, however, obtaining a work permit could be an issue for the player.