Divock Origi

Getty Images

Transfer Rumor Roundup: De Gea replacement tabbed, Man City duo to stay

Leave a comment

Manchester United has been linked with a zillion players this summer, and half the battle for fans is sifting through the nonsense and finding the deals that might actually make sense for the club.

One that seems to have significant legs is a report from a number of English tabloids on Monday and Tuesday that states Manchester United has made contact with Lille over goalkeeper Mike Maignan, seeing the French club respond with a valuation of around $39 million.

It seems the Red Devils are searching for long-term plans to replace David De Gea, whether the Spaniard leaves this summer via a sale or next summer at the expiration of his contract. Contract talks with de Gea have very publicly stalled over the past few months, and rumors again have flown of his eventual exit. The reports state that Manchester United had preliminary discussions with Barcelona for backup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, but the Spanish side has reportedly been steadfast on holding to the Dutchman’s release clause of $67 million.

That has seen them search for cheaper options amid a summer that is expected to be expensive for the Red Devils. One could be Maignan who played every minute of Lille’s fabulous second-place Ligue 1 campaign last season, keeping 15 clean sheets and sporting the league’s best defensive record with 33 goals conceded in 38 matches. The club conceded two or more goals in a game just nine times all league season, and conceded three goals just once. The 23-year-old, who came to Lille in 2015 from PSG’s youth squad, was named goalkeeper of the year by the French professional footballers association for his fantastic campaign this year and earned his first call-up to the France national team squad for this summer’s Euro qualifiers, beating out Hugo Lloris‘s World Cup backup Steve Mandanda.


The two Manchester rivals appear to be the leaders in the chase for Benfica playmaker Joao Felix, with The Mirror stating the two clubs are in control of the market as they hope to get one last glimpse of the 19-year-old as Portugal takes on Switzerland in the Nations League semifinal Wednesday where the teenager is expected to earn his senior debut.

The report states that Felix could cost as much as a massive $150 million after a season where he racked up 15 goals and nine assists in league play for the Portuguese champions, plus another five goals and two assists in other competitions. Real Madrid and Juventus have also been linked to Felix in the past, but a report late last week said Los Blancos were scared off by his massive price, seeing a bid of around $101 million rejected, causing them to focus their efforts instead on Eden Hazard.

With superagent Jorge Mendes in tow, Felix and Benfica are both certain to cash in this summer, but it remains to be seen which club can snag his services. Manchester City would likely need to offload the likes of Leroy Sane in order to both raise the funds and create squad space for Felix.


The potential sale of Sane to Bayern Munich, which ramped up over the last week after the German side submitted a sizable bid for the 23-year-old, has seemed to hit a wall. Bayern hoped to pry Sane away from Manchester City after an up-and-down season saw the German international fail to secure a steady place in the starting lineup. Still, City seems ready to put up a fight, rejecting the bid and causing Bayern executive Uli Hoeness to declare the English club’s valuation of Sane “insane.”

While Sane’s future remains up in the air, a pair of other Man City stars look set to stay at the Etihad next season with David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan both eyeing more silverware in Manchester according to the BBC. Silva’s contract expires next summer, but at 33 years old, the club is happy to see him play out the remainder of his deal, as he would likely net very little in the transfer market this time around. Despite his increasing age, Silva has remained a critical part of the Man City attack, making 33 league appearances last season while scoring six goals and assisting eight. He started all but four of City’s final 19 matches as they battled Liverpool for the Premier League title.

Gundogan was also a fixture in the squad, shaking off an early hamstring injury that cost him all of October to make 31 Premier League appearances and starting all but one of the final 14 matches of the season to help carry the title chase. According to the BBC report, talks are ongoing to extend Gundogan’s contract which currently expires next summer. The 28-year-old joined three summers ago from Borussia Dortmund, and while he lost most of his first season with the club to an ACL tear, he has come back to prove a vital player in Pep Guardiola‘s setup.

The report does state, however, that Fabian Delph and Danilo could look to move on this summer after a season that proved trying for both to find consistent time on the pitch.


Another Premier League attacker who could be set to stay at his current club is Champions League final goalscorer Divock Origi, who according to The Mirror has been offered a new contract. The club is reportedly confident of tying down the 24-year-old to a new deal, with his current contract set to expire next summer.

Origi was a Champions League hero, scoring twice in the miracle comeback against Barcelona before his goal sealed the title in the 2-0 win over Tottenham. His three critical goals came on his only three shots in Champions League play, failing to record many minutes prior to his appearances down the stretch as necessitated by an injury to regular striker Roberto Firmino.

Still just 24 years old, Origi has not been a regular part of the Liverpool squad since arriving from Lille in 2014, instead loaned back to Lille before a loan spell at Germany’s Wolfsburg. He decided to stay at Anfield this season and fight for a place, earning just 366 Premier League minutes and 763 minutes across all competitions. Still, his performances in the biggest games of the season have seen him become a fan favorite, and staying at Anfield will make the Liverpool faithful happy.


Amid recent rape allegations surrounding an incident in Paris, Neymar has been reportedly unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain after the club’s most recent Champions League flop and his own flurry of personality issues. Still, he is signed on with the club through the summer of 2022, leaving him under PSG control for at least the next season or two.

According to a report by French radio station RMC Sport as passed on by Spanish publication Marca, PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelafi has deemed Neymar “untransferrable” and has said the Brazilian superstar will not leave the club this summer despite interest from both Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Inside story from Madrid for the Champions League final

Getty Images
1 Comment

MADRID – One of the great occasions in the sporting calendar saw Tottenham and Liverpool collide for the biggest prize in European soccer as Madrid was at the center of the sporting world over the past few days.

The UEFA Champions League final is the biggest club game on the planet. Quite simply, Madrid was the perfect place to host this event.

[ MORE: All of the UCL final news ]

By land, sea and air, the English invaded Spain’s capital city and surrounding areas for one last battle in what was a season to remember for the Premier League.

The PL has delivered not only one of the most exhilarating title races in history, but its strength in Europe is clear with Chelsea beating Arsenal in the Europa League final on Wednesday and Liverpool beating Spurs to secure a sixth European Cup.

This is the story of what it was like to be in Madrid for 72 hours before, during and after the epic clash between Liverpool and Tottenham.


THE BUILD UP

Each club was given around 16,000 tickets to sell to their fans who were lucky enough to meet the criteria. Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium holds close to 70,000 and there were well over 70,000 Englishman in Madrid, according to estimations. The Department for Transportation in the UK stated that the Friday before the final was set to be its “busiest-ever day in airspace history” with more than 800 extra flights put on for travel to and from Spain.

In Madrid, the scene along the Gran Via and in the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol was a sight to behold.

Red shirts. White flags. The names of Kane and Salah adorned the back of shirts as far as the eye could see.

This was a celebration of all things great about the Premier League, as two sleeping giants of England had been awoken by two relentless, yet wonderfully lovable, managers.

Before the game both Klopp and Pochettino had tried to talk down the significance of winning the Champions League. You could see right through them. This was their career-defining moment.

Klopp could finally end his trophy drought at Liverpool and get his hands on the biggest trophy of them all to join Paisley, Fagan and Benitez in delivering a European title. Pochettino had yet to win a trophy in his managerial career and he was already a winner as Spurs had never been to the Champions League final before.

The pressure was on Liverpool. Fans in Madrid on both sides of the fence could sense it leading up to kick off.

At the stadium on the Friday before the game, Pochettino, Klopp and their players were relaxed with jokes galore and Spurs’ players relaxed with their families in the warm evening sunshine after their training session.

Respect was in the air between the managers as both praised the job the other has done, while Klopp was asked about his losing record in finals (he had lost six-straight major finals).

“If I would be the reason for losing six finals in a row then everyone needs to worry. … There can be moments that are unlucky and lucky, but I cannot change that. I understand luck as if you work for it then you get it from time to time,” Klopp added.

Pochettino agreed that fate will play its part and shared his respect for Klopp and Liverpool.

“Sometimes the universe is with you, sometimes it’s against you. But to arrive in a third champions league final? I admire him a lot. Of course we are in football because we want to win but I think the journey to the final of the Champions League is the most important and the most difficult thing.”

The journey both sets of fans have been on just to get to Madrid was pretty epic, and difficult, too.


THE FANS

Sure, the majority of the fans came from England. But wandering around Madrid I spoke to people from Australia, the Far East, South America and the United States of America. This was a truly international occasion, one which showcased the power of the Premier League to the world in one of Europe’s largest and most famous cities.

Tales of fans driving to Spain from England through France, others getting boats to the Iberian peninsula, and flying into cities all over Spain and France then catching trains to converge in Madrid were rife among the groups of fans as they sipped on beer in the many winding streets.

An American couple from Colorado, Max Nolan and Jayne Thompson, are huge Liverpool fans and found themselves in Madrid in the lead up to the final at a wedding they had booked to go to months in advance. When Liverpool reached the final they tried to change their flights for extra time in Spain and get tickets for the game, but it just wasn’t possible as they flew back to the USA on the day of the final.

But that didn’t stop them taking in the sights as Max wore his retro Liverpool jersey with pride as he stood off a side street near Calle de Leon.

“For me it has been overwhelmingly Liverpool fans who have sung louder and prouder,” Nolan laughed. “We were just walking down the street and a group of guys started singing ‘Allez, Allez, Allez!’ and another guy was like, ‘oh, just shut up’ and he was a Spurs fan. The vibe is very cool. It makes me really, really wish I was staying here for the game. The city is going to be electric.”

Oh, it was.

In the 90 degree heat and the hustle and bustle of Spain’s capital city, there was no sign of any skirmishes between Liverpool and Spurs fans. In keeping with the overall mood of the final, both teams respected one another and the odds they had overcome to reach the pinnacle of the European game.

That tone was set by Klopp and Pochettino and with both clubs littered with England internationals and having epic battles over the past few years, respect has been earned as both coaches have built their projects from scratch at pretty much the same time. Of course, Klopp has had more money to spend, but Spurs’ new stadium means they will be pushing all the way in the years to come.

But all of that went out the window for one more intense battle to cap a truly remarkable season for English and European soccer.

Tottenham’s fans, for the most part, were just delighted to be in this situation.

Londoner Pete Crockford stood in the middle of Puerta del Sol as Spurs and Liverpool fans swirled around him singing, dancing and drinking in the sun.

“It is unbelievable. I have to pinch myself, I just can’t believe I’m here,” Crockford said. “The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic. Walking around a foreign capital city, seeing members of my family everywhere and bumping into Spurs fans, it is just unreal. The fact there are two English clubs here, this says a lot about the strength of the Premier League. There has been a little bit of tension with the Liverpool fans, but mostly just friendly banter.”

A group of Liverpool fans wearing shirts commemorating their incredible comeback Champions League win in Istanbul in 2005 stood nearby and they had flown in from Melbourne, Australia for the game. Yep, all the way from Oz.

Stuart and Kal just had to be in Madrid to see their beloved Liverpool do their business, they hoped, once again.

“We’ve got good vibes, that is why we came here!” laughed Kal.

“On paper, we are the better team,” Stuart added. “We’ve got more experience and we are confident.”

“This atmosphere is awesome, having everything central here in Madrid is pretty cool. The chanting, two English clubs going at each other. It is quite jovial. Spurs and Liverpool don’t have a hateful relationship, everyone is enjoying themselves, bit of banter and beer, it’s all good! The fact there is going to be over 150,000 English supporters over here, it says it all,” Kal added.

Estimations rose throughout the 24 hours leading up to the game, with fans pilling into the main fan zones and metro stations nearby being shut down due to the huge volume of supporters present.

Squares were taken over by either Liverpool or Spurs supporters, but there wasn’t a hint of trouble. Pochettino and Klopp’s names were sung long into the night in Madrid before the game, as plenty of sore heads were present on the morning of the game.

One Liverpool fan sat on a bench, leaning to one side with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. Would he make it to watch the game in the stadium or on TV somewhere? Hmmm…


GAMEDAY

On the day of the game, things were ramped up several notches. Even more fans arrived on flights, with many saying they tried to buy tickets from others on the plane and there was a mad scramble to try and get inside the stadium.

Two huge fan zone areas were created, one for each team, as supporters watched footage of their teams run to the final on big screens, danced to music and sung their hearts out.

At Tottenham’s fan zone at the Plaza de Colon, I met Dave from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who had flown over for the game, keeping his pact with his daughter, Sam, who flew in from Argentina.

While in the Plaza Felipe II, Liverpool’s fans took over the entire area as flares were in the air, music was blasting out and there were bright red shirts as far as you could see.

Cries of “loco, loco” from taxi drivers and locals summed it up.

Liverpool’s huge fanbase around the globe was wonderfully apparent as they seemed to heavily outnumber Spurs supporters in the Spanish capital.

And the party atmosphere flowed through the fans in the street and at the stadium.

Arriving at the Metropolitano, about eight miles outside the city center, people wearing jerseys of all kinds were there. It was like going to an NFL game at Wembley, where shirts of so many teams from some many countries were worn proudly.

One quick scan revealed Honduras, Paraguay, Atletico Madrid, Argentina, Colombia, Juventus, Ajax and Mexico jerseys, while Brazil, Real Madrid and Deportivo Cali were all represented.

Wherever you looked you saw another intriguing jersey, another set of fans who weren’t necessarily Spurs or Liverpool supporters but where there to soak up one of the great sporting occasions on the planet.

The same camaraderie between Spurs and Liverpool that was present throughout the days leading up to the final was also present outside the stadium. Two Spurs fans were walking along with a group of Liverpool fans reminiscing about the amazing comebacks of both clubs at the semifinal stage.

“Yeah, I turned on your second half, and just couldn’t believe it. Fair play.”

Fans respected one another and were united in one cause: getting into the stadium.

Hours before kick off fans were still circling outside the ground on the hunt for tickets, but many of their quests would be unsuccessful with prices of over $10,000 being mentioned for what had now become a golden ticket scenario.

The teams getting to the stadium was broadcast live on television, as helicopters hovered over Madrid and showed their team bus as they snaked through the sprawling suburbs in the searing heat.

Thanks to the help of the Imagine Dragons on the pitch before the game, the noise inside the stadium got louder and louder before kick off as fans streamed in and arrived early.

A stirring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” then made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Then it began. And it started with a bang…


THE GAME

There was almost disbelief that a moment like this could occur with 23 seconds on the clock. It set the tone for the entire game.

Sadio Mane‘s clipped ball inside the penalty box hit Moussa Sissoko‘s arm after clipping his chest, as a harsh, but correct penalty kick was given.

Mohamed Salah smashed home the spot kick to make it 1-0 and the red half of the stadium erupted as Liverpool’s fans were in dreamland.

The rest of the first half saw Spurs have plenty of the ball as Liverpool waited to pick them off on the break, but there were so many individual mistakes as a combination of a three-week break before the final, plus the intense heat and Madrid and maybe, just maybe, the pressure had got to the players after all.

In the second half Spurs improved but Alisson made several fine stops and substitute Divock Origi then drilled home a low shot to seal the win.

Klopp had his first trophy at Liverpool and could finally shed his loser tag.

Liverpool’s players and fans didn’t care that they hadn’t played well and celebrated long into the night in Madrid, chanting down alleyways and in pubs as many didn’t go to sleep as they soaked up a sixth European title.

“Sometimes we carry the burden of history,” Klopp said afterwards as he was asked if Liverpool can reach the final in Istanbul next season. But now this Liverpool side are thriving amid a golden generation of players who believe they deserve to dominate Europe for years to come. 

For now, add Madrid to the list of places which will always endear itself to the Liverpool faithful.

And in keeping with the overall mood around the game, fans of both teams mingled after the game. In one bar a Liverpool fan walked up to a group of Spurs supporters and offered his condolences. “That was us last season, you’ll bounce back, don’t be too upset.”

The fans of Liverpool and Tottenham were a credit to their clubs.

Another famous night, and days, played out.

The final itself was far from memorable, on the pitch, but the days in Madrid around it truly delivered a sparkling showcase of the beautiful game.

It was a fitting place to hold one of the great occasions and the Champions League final should return there very soon.

Liverpool believe European glory can be start of golden generation

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID — Everyone connected with Liverpool believe they deserve to be Champions of Europe. Every season. And they are, once again.

But the message from Jurgen Klopp and his players after they won the UEFA Champions League by beating Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday was clear.

This is only the start.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

With ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ ringing in everyone’s ears over the past 12 months, Liverpool’s fans urged their team towards, as they say, conquering Europe, after being runners up in cruel fashion last season.

This time around Liverpool won their sixth European Cup as they edged to victory in a far from silky display. But who remembers how you won the trophy? They have now won twice as many European Cups as the next English club (bitter rivals Manchester United have three) and Liverpool’s love affair with Europe goes on. And so will that famous song.

From Paris down to Turkey (and now via Madrid), they have, indeed, won the f****** lot. But they want more.

[ MORE: All of the UCL final news ]

Klopp was asked about being in the final in Istanbul next season, the site of Liverpool’s famous European success in 2005, and his message was echoed by his players.

“We will carry on. We will win and we want to win things,” Klopp said. “This is only the start for this group. We still have a wonderful age group and the all have their best times in their careers ahead of them.”

[ MORE: Klopp reacts

Virgil Van Dijk, who was once again a colossus at center back and was named Man of the Match, was asked by Pro Soccer Talk about dominating European soccer for the years to come.

Wearing his winners medal around his neck and swigging on a beer, he smiled when thinking about the glory of nights like this in Madrid.

“We should be hungry anyway but the season with Liverpool ended today. We won the Champions League. Something that we definitely wanted. But I think in July when we start again, everyone starts on nil. Everyone is working towards their goals. We want a chance to win every trophy possible,” van Dijk said. “We have the squad for it. Hopefully we can challenge Man City again next season for the title. They aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t going anywhere either. In the Champions League we just need to be three years in a row the final. It is something we hope to be in every year. We know how difficult it is to reach it. We are all ambitious. We all want to have these kind of nights a couple of times a year. So let’s just go for it. Work hard. Stay humble. Let’s keep moving forward.”

The players wandered through the mixed zone celebrating, with Alisson holding the trophy, Salah chatting with huge groups and Klopp even made an appearance as he celebrated by jogging around his players.

Jubilation was in the air, but so too was a focus about what is to come.

Mohamed Salah, who scored the first goal from the penalty spot early on, was adamant better things are ahead for this Liverpool side under Klopp.

Not just in Europe, but also in the Premier League.

“It is the start for us, honestly it is the start for us,” Salah said. “This is the first competition [we’ve won] and this is the first season we can say we’ve been fighting for the Premier League, while fighting for the Champions League. This year was the first year we fight for the Premier League and we lost it by just one point which was also against Man City, and for them it was well deserved. The average age is 26, 27 and we also have lots of young players. It is a good experience for us to win a trophy now, and also last season how we learned from it. As you can see today we were more calm. We scored a second goal after the 86th minute, so we were calmer in the game.”

Staying calm in the pressure cooker situation in Madrid was not easy. The intense heat in the coupled with the expectation of being the heavy favorites was tough for Liverpool to handle. And an early goal made their task a little tougher as they sat back and soaked up Spurs pressure, then eventually struck the clinched on one of their many counter attacks.

All week long in Madrid Liverpool’s fans have been rolling into the Spanish capital, outnumbering Tottenham comfortably as their global appeal is clear for all to see. Following on from the glory of winning four European Cups in eight seasons from 1977 to 1984, Liverpool’s last win came in 2005 and they’ve now had to wait another 14 years for the next glorious win to arrive.

But that feeling of entitlement that they are supposed to dominate Europe has never left. And now it will carry on.

Now Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Divock Origi and Trent Alexander-Arnold have etched their names into Liverpool history.

A new golden generation has arrived, and the most worrying thing for Liverpool’s rivals is that they, as the song ends, are “never going to stop.”

Saturday night in Madrid has the potential to be the start of a glorious run of trophies and European dominance for Liverpool.

Success in Europe is something which seeps into every pore of the club and a new generation is about to try and replicate previous domination.

“Hopefully that is the first of many trophies this squad can win,” veteran midfielder James Milner said. “It will be nice to go into Melwood and see number six next to the European Cup. The club has got such great history. When I signed for the club I was desperate to add trophies to it. It expects to win trophies. It has an amazing history but we want to create our own history as well. We’ve started that tonight and we’ve put one on the board. I’m delighted for the players and the manager. That is what we all came here for. I think when I was at Man City, when we won the first FA Cup it was massive for us, the belief and that winning mentality and to know that you can do it. Hopefully this will be the same and we can enjoy it as long as we can. But we all know we come back preseason and everything is forgotten and we have to go again.”

With a Champions League trophy with them on their flight back to Liverpool and for the trophy parade, the term “we go again” now means much more.

“Sometimes we carry the burden of history,” Klopp smiled as he was asked about winning back-to-back titles in Istanbul next season.

Now, they are making their own history and they’ve cemented their spot as a legendary Liverpool side.

Twitter reacts to dull Champions League final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A controversial penalty given just 21 seconds into the match had the potential to spark the Champions League final in Madrid towards a potential shootout between two Premier League teams with attacking firepower.

Instead, the game devolved into a sloppy mess, with neither side able to grab the match by the scruff of the neck. At halftime, the game featured the second-lowest pass completion rate of any Champions League match this entire season, with Liverpool completing the fewest passes of any half this season for the club.

[ MORE: Recap | Ratings | 3 Things | Celebration ]

At the full-time whistle, as Liverpool stood atop the mountain with a 2-0 victory on goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi, the combined expected goals stood at just a measly 1.6 for the full match. Tottenham managed eight shots on target, but seven of those came in the final 15 minutes as desperation crept in. Liverpool, meanwhile, finished with just three shots on target, including the two goals, one of which came from the penalty spot.

The first-minute penalty seemed to give the match a nervy feel, with both teams reeling from the shocking and controversial start. It felt almost disappointing, with the Reds handed a goal harsh on the opponents and giving Spurs an uphill task against one of the best-drilled defenses in the world. Attacking talents Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son were dismal up front, and as a result Harry Kane suffered up front.

Twitter reacted throughout the match at the excessively boring passages of play, showcasing how staccato the massive game was flowing.

Others came to give credit to the defensive players who were making sure the attacking talent was locked down, and to celebrate with the winners as Liverpool won its sixth European crown, twice as many as any other English club.

Watch Liverpool celebrate winning Champions League

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool hoisted the Champions League trophy after topping Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid. The game started in controversial fashion, but holding an early lead, the Reds defended strongly and kept the Spurs attack locked down all match.

After the game, the Reds were able to lift the trophy with captain Jordan Henderson leading the charge. He walked the Cup onto the stage and led the celebration as the pyrotechnics stamped the triumphant moment in the background. Goalkeeper Alisson, with his green goalkeeping kit nowhere to be found, then slipped in front on the edge of the podium and got a seat front-and-center.

With the silverware donned and the Cup hoisted, the team decided to give manager Jurgen Klopp the celebration he deserved after finally winning his first Champions League title.

With the team celebrating in jubilation, the crowd decided to get into the act with a stadium-wide rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone while the players stood on the podium.

Jurgen Klopp couldn’t hide his excitement after the match, taking a relatively more explicit song and transforming it into his own to celebrate the sixth European title in the club’s history. “Let’s talk about six, baby.”

Back in England, there was celebrating too as the city of Liverpool erupted as Divock Origi delivered the goal that put the game to bed.

Across the pond in New York, Liverpool fans celebrated just as hard as they gathered to watch the game.

Fans outside the Wanda Metropolitana stadium in Madrid took to the streets to celebrate the win, with smoke and other pyrotechnics to help accentuate the jubilation.