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Seven players England must call up for debuts

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The English national team will soon be back in action for the first time since reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and Gareth Southgate will have some intriguing decisions to make for his 23-man squad.

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Will he stick with the vast majority of the players who led the Three Lions to a fourth-place finish in Russia this summer? Or will he freshen things up and bring in a few new faces?

If he does the latter for the UEFA Nations League games against Spain and Switzerland in September, then there are plenty of emerging candidates who he could have a look at.

Below is a closer look at seven players who deserve to be called up to Southgate’s latest squad.


Phil Foden (Manchester City)
The star for England’s U-17 side which won the World Cup last year, Foden is a regular in Man City’s matchday squad and often comes off the bench. His ability to hold the ball and play defense-splitting passes is something that England missed massively at the World Cup. In the Adam Lallana mould, but just 18 years old. Some may say this call is too early but Foden’s talent has been nurtured by Pep Guardiola and if he’s ready to contribute regularly for City, surely he can play a part for England.


Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
A former Man City star who starred alongside Foden at the U-17 World Cup, Sancho had really made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund. He made 12 appearances for Dortmund’s first team last season and scored once as the 18-year-old can play anywhere across the front line. An exciting talent who can dribble past defenders and use his electric pace and power to cause havoc, Sancho is getting invaluable experience at German giants Dortmund at such a young age.


Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Although he played for the Republic of Ireland youth teams, Grealish pledged his allegiance to England some time ago and the mercurial playmaker was a star for Villa last season as they were so close to promotion to the Premier League. At 22 years old, Grealish has matured on and off the pitch but still has a nasty streak which seems to bring out the best in him. Steve Bruce was adamant to keep hold of him as Tottenham wanted to sign Grealish all summer long and like Foden and Sancho, he can hold the ball, surge forward and has a real eye for a pass.


Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
There’s no doubt that Jordan Pickford is England’s undisputed No.1 following his heroics at the World Cup, but with Nick Pope out with a long-term injury and Jack Butland battling with Stoke City in the Championship and Joe Hart clearly out of Southgate’s thoughts, Southampton’s Alex McCarthy will surely be included. The former Crystal Palace and Reading goalkeeper had a sensational end to the 2017-18 season as he helped save Saints from relegation and he’s kept up that good form at the start of 2018-19. Many believe he was England’s fourth-choice goalkeeper over the summer and he could well have elevated himself to at least third-choice.


James Maddison (Leicester City)
A regular for England’s U-21 side over the past few years, Leicester’s new $35 million winger has looked the part in his first few games as a Premier League player after arriving from second-tier Norwich City over the summer. Maddison, 21, already has a goal to his name in the PL and his pace out wide and ability to cut inside and make things happen will intrigue Southgate. England have plenty of players in Maddison’s mould with Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and others springing to mind, but given his form for the U-21s and his start to the season for Leicester he may just be rewarded.


Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
After battling back from multiple injuries, Wilson has started the season in great form for Bournemouth. The powerful striker has scored twice already, including a wondergoal at West Ham, and his ability to hold the ball up and make intelligent runs into the channels show he can slot in and replace Harry Kane, if England need that. At this point he is playing regularly, and delivering, in the Premier League and that’s not something the likes of Marcus Rashford is doing.


Demarai Gray (Leicester City)
Another Leicester player who is thriving under Claude Puel‘s ability to get the best out of youngsters. Gray is still only 22 years old and with Riyad Mahrez gone, he now has the chance to be the main attacking threat for the Foxes. His well taken equalizer at Southampton on Saturday proved he is capable of composure in the box as well as scoring stunners. Gray has scored six goals in 18 appearances for England’s U-21 side and it seems like the time is now for him to step up to the seniors.


Honorable mentions: Ben Chilwell (Leicester City, Declan Rice (West Ham), Conor Coady (Wolves), Danny Ings (Southampton)

Germany: Below-par Bayern Munich still too good for the rest

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BERLIN (AP) Even a below-par Bayern Munich side was just too good for the rest.

Bayern’s record-extending seventh consecutive Bundesliga title confirmed the distance between the Bavarian powerhouse and its rivals after a season in which it failed to impress as before.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

For the first time in ten years the title race went to the last day of the season, with Niko Kovac’s side missing the chance to wrap it up a week earlier after being held to a goalless draw in Leipzig. His team wasn’t going to miss another chance as it routed Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to clinch a 29th German championship on Saturday.

In the end, Bayern’s 5-0 win at home over Borussia Dortmund, its closest and only challenger, on April 4 illustrated the gulf in class between the sides and effectively decided the league outcome. Bayern should have won by more after racing into a 4-0 half-time lead, but Kovac’s team eased off in the second half with Dortmund in damage-control mode.

It proved to be the title that Dortmund gave away. Lucien Favre’s side had a nine-point lead over Bayern at one stage, but buckled under the pressure of a title challenge and gave away points in games it should have won.

Dortmund developed an unfortunate tendency to concede late goals, and was frustrated in successive draws against Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim and lowly Nuremberg, which was relegated at the end of the season.

Bayern President Uli Hoeness had suggested in February that Bayern could “sacrifice the championship for one year” to give veteran players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha a worthy farewell.

“I have won more than 50 titles in my lifetime, so one or another doesn’t matter,” Hoeness said at the time.

Hoeness needn’t have worried. On Saturday, he was able to give the players a perfect sendoff, with Robben and Ribery both coming on as substitutes to score in their final Bundesliga appearances.

Beer flowed among the tears and confetti and the Bayern veterans bade their farewells and celebrated another championship – for Ribery it was a record ninth league title in 12 years at the club.

It was a happy end to a difficult season. The 36-year-old Ribery made no secret of his wish to stay at Bayern and will have heard how the 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro, who also scored Saturday, agreed a one-year extension to his contract at Werder Bremen the same day.

Kovac has had to endure ongoing speculation over his future after ambiguous comments from his superiors.

“We’ll see,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said to repeated questions over Kovac’s future recently, while chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge could only say he has “no problem” with Kovac.

Kovac himself said on Saturday that he was sure he would remain after receiving first-hand information from those responsible, but the lack of public endorsement from the club has done little to stop the speculation.

Even a win over Leipzig in the German Cup final next Saturday might not be enough for Kovac, who has fans’ backing but has struggled for authority at the club since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October.

The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” of its poor form, while Hoeness was booed and whistled at the club’s AGM in November for the first time over sponsorship deals with Qatar, his railing against the media, and personal tirades against former players and coaches.

Amid the squabbling, Bayern has lost its aura of invincibility. The side’s meek Champions League exit to Liverpool after a 3-1 defeat at home highlighted the need to refresh the squad.

The process is already underway with World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard arriving from Atletico Madrid and Stuttgart, respectively, to shore up the defense. The 23-year-old Hernandez is costing a Bundesliga-record 80 million euros ($90 million) while Pavard is joining from Stuttgart for a reported 35 million ($40 million).

Bayern is also reportedly interested in Germany striker Timo Werner, while Hoeness has hinted at a host of other signings.

After strengthening in the summer, Bayern is likely to be even harder to catch for Dortmund and the rest next season.

“I know the chance was huge this season,” Dortmund captain Marco Reus said.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Bournemouth snap up $15m defender, look to Burnley GK

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Bournemouth is already busy in the transfer market.

Eddie Howe‘s men have added a $16.5 million defender from Championship outfit Bristol City and may soon swoop to buy a $19 million goalkeeper from a Premier League rival.

The latter target is reported as Nick Pope, part of a deep Burnley goalkeeping corps that includes Tom Heaton and Joe Hart.

[ MORE: Kompany signed, hired by Anderlecht ]

The former would be Lloyd Kelly, who racked up more than 2300 minutes for Bristol and is expected to represent England with the U-21 side this summer.

Primarily a left back but capable of defending centrally, Kelly has 48 first team appearances with two goals and two assists to his name.

From The Bournemouth Echo:

“I’m still young and developing as a player but at the same time I feel like this is probably the best place for me to develop those skills, especially being around a Premier League team and playing Premier League sides,” Kelly said. “I feel like it will speed up that process a bit more.”

No Champions League could lead Lacazette from Arsenal

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Alexandre Lacazette could leave Arsenal if the Gunners fail to win a place in the UEFA Champions League.

So says a report out of The London Evening Standard, which notes that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid would be interested in bringing the Frenchman to La Liga.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

Arsenal will participate in next season’s Europa League unless it beats Chelsea in this season UEL Final on May 29 in Baku.

Lacazette, 27, has 19 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal this season and struck up a tremendous partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has not played in the Champions League since 2016-17.

Arsenal is being linked with a big attacking target, too, and is said to be intrigued with Ajax boss Marc Overmars comments that Hakim Ziyech will be allowed to leave if his $28 million release clause is met. From The Evening Standard:

“He is in focus because of his achievements in the Champions League. Many big clubs are buzzing around him, We promised Hakim that we would agree if there is a good transfer,” Overmars told the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper.
Ziyech has played his entire career in the Dutch Eredivisie between Heerenveen, Twente, and Ajax. He has 12 goals in 23 caps for Morocco and scored five times for Ajax in the Champions League to go with 16 league goals.

Zidane bristles when asked why he didn’t use Bale

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Zinedine Zidane bristled when asked why he did not use Gareth Bale on Sunday in what could’ve been the Welsh forward’s last home match for Real Madrid.

It’s worth noting that Real had just lost 2-0 to Real Betis at the Bernabeu, and Zidane couldn’t have been in a decent mood as the wayward side finished third on the table.

[ MORE: Kompany finds new/old club ]

The 29-year-old Bale did not play in Real’s final three matches of the season, was blanked in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals against Ajax, and has not scored since March. He finished the season with 14 goals and six assists in 42 appearances. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I have counted on other players in more in recent weeks, and if I had a fourth substitute today I would not have brought him on.

“I make these decisions when it is right to do so, and I must act in the best interests of the team at all times.”

Zidane would not commit to Bale being with Madrid for their preseason tour of the United States, saying “anything could happen” while insinuating that the player was part of Real’s past.