Getty Images

Bakayoko finding delayed success on loan at AC Milan

Leave a comment

On-loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko had really been struggling at AC Milan this season, so much so that there was talk of his departure from both Chelsea and Milan on a permanent basis in January, ending his chance of earning a place with the Blues before it really ever began.

Then, things began to slowly turn around. It began after Bakayoko sat a game for a yellow card suspension in late December. He returned to play in a 0-0 draw against Frosinone, and while Milan failed to score, Bakayoko was one of the most instrumental players on the pitch, brought on by a willingness to take players on himself rather than try to find every cutting edge pass. In the 0-0 draw with Bologna just before his suspension, he attempted one take-on; in the Frosinone match after his return, he attempted five take-ons and was successful in them all.

This trend continued, and it in turn opened up passing lanes. Since returning from his yellow card suspension, Bakayoko has attempted 26 take-ons, completing 18 of them, playing all 90 minutes in each of the six games. This has opened the eyes of Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso.

“Bakayoko is an unusual deep-lying playmaker,” Gattuso said after Milan topped Cagliari on Sunday.  “He used to choose the wrong passes, but now he takes men on, can power past people and create chances.”

Milan has been forced to stick with Bakayoko in midfield due to the long-term calf injury to Lucas Biglia, forcing him out since October. That has benefitted Bakayoko, who has been given time to work out his struggles. Unfortunately, he’s rounding into form just as Biglia makes his return. He was an unused substitute in the Cagliari match, the first time he has been part of the matchday squad since his injury.

“If it’s a problem, we’ll resolve it. Biglia has been out for three months and needs time to find his form,” Gattuso said. “We’ll see if we need to use him in a wider midfield role, if there is the requirement.”

The inclusion of Biglia doesn’t necessarily mean Bakayoko’s minutes will fall, but it may force him into a different role. As Gattuso says, he would likely move from his deep-lying central role to the outside of the midfield three, meaning 21-year-old January signing Lucas Paqueta – who scored his debut league goal on Sunday against Cagliari – could be the one to make way.

Either way, the improvement of the midfield at the San Siro is a significant boost for the club as Milan fights for Champions League qualification. The club currently sits fourth after the Cagliari win on Sunday, but just barely – their 38 points are just one above the trio of Roma, Atalanta, and Lazio.

Bakayoko’s recent form in his role at Milan will also give Chelsea fans hope that he can eventually make his way back to Stamford Bridge and challenge Jorginho or N'Golo Kante for a role in the starting lineup. Jorginho especially struggled mightily in his defensive midfield role against Manchester City on Sunday, and fans have started to sour on Maurizio Sarri‘s Jorginho experiment that has forced Kante into a different role from the one he excelled at for so long.

Even if he never finds his way back to Stamford Bridge, Bakayoko’s improvement could be beneficial to Chelsea in another way – Milan now reportedly wants to take Bakayoko on permanently, which could net Chelsea a significant fee and a player in return. According to tabloid reports in England, Chelsea is hoping Milan’s interest in Bakayoko permanently could net them Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who has played alongside Bakayoko for much of the season.

Americans Adams, McKennie have big Bundesliga days

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

USMNT youngsters Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie put in elite but very different performances for their Bundesliga clubs on Saturday.

Adams continues to take RB Leipzig by storm, the Major League Soccer export easily adjusting to an upgrade in league through the Red Bull system.

[ MORE: Brighton beats Derby County ]

The New York Red Bulls Academy product, 20, has started four matches for his new Bundesliga side, and RBL has won all four by a combined score of 11-1.

Adams picked up his first Bundesliga assist on Saturday in creating Youssef Poulsen’s 12th goal of the season in RBL’s 3-1 win at Stuttgart.

He covered the third-most ground in the game, at 12.65 kilometers, registering a game-high 39 sprints. His 109 runs were 19 more than anyone else, and he won 13 tackles. And while some of those big numbers are typical for that position on the pitch, there’s no denying his impact on a Champions League side.

Meanwhile, fellow American midfielder McKennie had a different task on Saturday, going 90 minutes and starting at right back as 10-man Schalke gutted out a 0-0 draw with Freiburg.

McKennie, 20, covered the fourth-most ground of anyone in the game at 11.56 km, winning a game-high 13 tackles and putting a pair of shots on goal.

Notably, he completed 34 of 35 passes.

McKennie is a half-year younger than Adams, but the similarities are there.

FIFA transfer reforms target $400M for lower-tier clubs

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Leave a comment

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA believes it can direct up to $400 million each year toward clubs worldwide entitled to a share of transfer fees paid for their former players.

FIFA says a key part of intended transfer market reforms will “ensure clubs are adequately rewarded for training players.”

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Since current transfer rules were updated in 2001, clubs have been due training compensation and solidarity payments from transfers paid in the careers of players they helped nurture.

FIFA acknowledges the “overly complicated and burdensome” system of calculating payments is understood by too few clubs.

A clearing house will aim to process transfer payments more efficiently.

FIFA research suggests tens of millions of dollars were paid to clubs last year instead of their entitlement of at least $350 million.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Brighton outlasts Derby despite Ashley Cole goal (video)

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Despite a late scare, dominant Brighton and Hove Albion put an end to Frank Lampard‘s run in the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat of Derby County at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scored in the final dozen minutes of the first half for the Seagulls, who will learn their quarterfinal foe on Monday.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Substitute Ashley Cole scored in the 80th minute for the Rams, who were heavily outshot in the match.

It was Cole’s first goal in England since 2012, when he bagged a Premier League marker for Chelsea against Stoke City.

Locadia was injured just before the Seagulls conceded, and looked to be in considerable pain with an ankle injury.

American attacker Duane Holmes started up top for Derby but was subbed after 45 minutes. The 24-year-old Columbus-born man has become a regular starter under Lampard.

Sir Alex Ferguson to manage Man Utd in anniversary match

Ben Radford /Allsport
Leave a comment

The 20th Anniversary of Manchester United’s treble, to the day, will see Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club.

This, of course, is for a single night only, as the Red Devils celebrate their 1999 treble with a testimonial of sorts against Bayern Munich, who it beat 2-1 to win the Champions League on May 26, 1999.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

“I’m really looking forward to what will be a special day at Old Trafford. It will be great to catch up with some familiar faces and a great opportunity to support the work of Manchester United Foundation,” Ferguson said.

Players for the game are not confirmed but imagine the possibilities: Peter Schmeichel was across the field from Oliver Kahn. Lothar Matthaus had to deal with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers started or were in the 18.

Keep in mind that Solskjaer scored the winner for Ferguson’s United that day at the Camp Nou, as the Red Devils scored twice in stoppage time for a remarkable comeback win.