Maurizio Sarri

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De Ligt not fazed by price tag after move to Juventus

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If you can’t beat them, buy them. That appears to be Juventus’ philosophy as it continues its quest for the Champions League title.

[ MORE: Pochettino might have left if Spurs won Champions League ]

In 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid against Juventus to eliminate the Serie A champion from Europe’s premier club competition. A few months later Juventus signed him.

This year Matthijs de Ligt scored the goal that eliminated Juventus from the Champions League in April as he captained Ajax to the semifinals. On Thursday, Juventus signed the Netherlands defender.

Juventus is an overwhelming favorite to win a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title but it is desperate to end its long wait for European success.

Since Juventus’ last title in 1996, it has finished runner-up five times in the Champions League.

[ MORE: Conte calls Lukaku an “important” part of his plans at Inter ]

“We want to win them all: this is the mentality of Juventus,” said De Ligt at his first news conference as a Juventus player on Friday. “I’m 19, I can still improve and I want to do that. It’s important to work hard every day and to learn, and I hope to become a better player.”

De Ligt became the most expensive defender in Serie A history when he completed an $85-million transfer from Ajax.

But the teen is not fazed at the price tag.

“Of course, when a club buys you for a big amount of money, there’s a lot of pressure, but pressure is normal in football,” De Ligt said. “I think pressure is the most important thing and if you want to be a good player, you have to deal with it.

“It’s not a big deal for me. I’ll just play my game, work hard and show it on the pitch. In the end, everyone will see how I deal with it, but it’s not going to be a problem.”

[ MORE: Report: Barcelona logs bid for Neymar ]

A photo emerged during the week of De Ligt wearing a Juventus shirt as a child and he admitted he grew up idolizing Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro, who captained Italy to World Cup success in 2006.

“The photo of me in a Juventus shirt was taken when I was about six or seven, at that time Fabio Cannavaro was a defender that I admired,” he said. “I always had a good feeling about Juventus and I’ve always been a fan.”

Another reason De Ligt chose Juventus was because of new coach Maurizio Sarri, who replaced Massimiliano Allegri at the end of the season.

“I spoke to Sarri on the phone before coming, just to get to know each other,” De Ligt said. “He was one of the reasons that I wanted to join here, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defense.”

De Ligt signs on with Juventus

Matthijs de Ligt
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Matthijs de Ligt is finally, officially, irredeemably property of Juventus.

The well-tracked 19-year-old Ajax center back has signed a four-year deal with the serial Serie A champions after months of speculation.

[ MORE: Atleti signs Trippier ]

De Ligt was connected with almost all of the big boys this summer, but momentum swung in Juventus’ favor around June 22.

The 6-foot-2 Dutch center back chipped in seven goals in 55 appearances last season, scoring against both Juve and Spurs in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Now in Turin, De Ligt can focus on helping Maurizio Sarri‘s men deliver a UEFA Champions League title since¬†scudetti have become common place for the Old Lady.

Ajax reportedly pockets a cool $84 million for its academy star.

Juventus is loaded for 2019-20, and will bid to win its first UCL crown since 1996. It has lost the final five times since that triumph over Ajax.

Should Chelsea risk not selling Hudson-Odoi?

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With Chelsea likely unable to sign any new players this summer, the club’s biggest decision before the close of the European transfer windows in early September is whether it can hold onto one of its rising stars.

It took Maurizio Sarri months, but he finally moved Callum Hudson-Odoi into his Premier League starting XI, and it appeared to pay dividends, despite Bayern Munich reportedly hot on Hudson-Odoi’s tail. Unfortunately for Hudson-Odoi, he suffered a season-ending injury in mid-April, an Achilles tear that could keep him out from 9-12 months or more.

[READ: USMNT’s Novakovich scores for Reading]

However, the injury hasn’t deterred Bayern, which is reportedly raising its offer for Hudson-Odoi to $56.6 million, more than $12 million above the club’s last reported bid on January 31.

For a Chelsea club that isn’t spending like it used to, that’s quite a bit of money to bring in for a player who is rehabbing a very serious injury, and for all they know, won’t find the game-changing speed again, though there’s every chance he can make a full recovery.

In addition, it’s a decent sum and likely one of the best offers Chelsea may get while it have a chance. Hudson-Odoi is entering the final 12 months of his contract. Sarri urged him to stay at Chelsea, and Lampard has said in press conferences that he plans to meet with Hudson-Odoi to try and convince him to remain at Stamford Bridge. However, Lampard will have to wait a few weeks, as Hudson-Odoi is recovering at Chelsea’s practice facility in Cobham, south of London, and the club is heading out soon to Japan for preseason training.

By the time Lampard comes back in late July, will it be too late to convince Hudson-Odoi to stay, that he can have a Jadon Sancho-like impact in England as well? Or will Bayern have turned his head again?

It’s a big question for Chelsea, and they have to judge what his potential future value is and whether Bayern passes that. Due to the injury, it’s fair to say that Chelsea won’t expect too much productivity out of Hudson-Odoi this season, but in the future, if he returns to his previous speed and form, he could be a key member of the squad.

Perhaps Chelsea can let Hudson-Odoi leave and include a buy-back clause after one or two seasons, allowing Chelsea to re-purchase Hudson-Odoi at a spot lower than his market value.

But either way, Chelsea has a massive decision to make in the next 40 or so days, as Callum Hudson-Odoi’s future remains in the balance.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Kean to Everton? and more

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After a strong spring with Juventus, as well as scoring a pair of goals for the Italian National Team, Moise Kean has become one of the most talked about young strikers in the world.

[READ: Best Moments at the 2019 Women’s World Cup]

According to Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Nicola Schira, Everton FC is taking their interest to a new level, submitting a $33.6 million transfer bid to Juventus for Kean. However, Schira reports that Juventus has rejected the bid.

It’s unclear why Juventus rejected the bid, whether it’s because Kean is truly in new manager Maurizio Sarri‘s plans or because it would take a lot more than that to sign the talented 19-year-old. Kean could be perfect to play the center forward in Sarri’s 4-3-3, but Sarri may feel that he’s not ready. Perhaps Kean could do with a loan out to another club in Serie A, but a move to the Premier League could be a move too early, unless he can earn playing time at a mid-tier club looking to break into the top seven and reach Europe again.

For Everton, they could certainly be in the market for a sturdy center forward. Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman can all play as the target striker, but the trio can also play across the front line, leading to plenty of flexibility and options for manager Marco Silva.

Here are some more transfer stories from around the Premier League:

(more…)

Frank Lampard takes charge of Chelsea

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Super Frank is home.

Chelsea officially unveiled Frank Lampard as their new manager on Thursday, with the legendary Blues midfielder signing a three-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri.

Lampard, 41, has only had one year in management since retiring in 2016 but the 2018-19 campaign was pretty successful as he led Derby County to the playoff final on a shoestring budget, where they lost 2-1 to Aston Villa to narrowly miss out on promotion to the Premier League.

Speaking about his return to the club where he spent 13 years, winning every trophy possible and becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer, Lampard was understandably chuffed.

“I am immensely proud to be returning to Chelsea as head coach,” Lampard said. “Everyone knows my love for this club and the history we have shared, however, my sole focus is on the job in hand and preparing for the season ahead. I am here to work hard, bring further success to the club and I cannot wait to get started.”

Lampard has a huge job on his hands to cement Chelsea’s place in the top four of the Premier League, as well as make a deep run back in the UEFA Champions League this season.

With a transfer ban for the next two windows currently in place pending their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it looks like Lampard will not have any new players to work with until the summer of 2020.

Plus, with Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid over the summer, Chelsea have lost their superstar who dragged them through games and won them trophies over the past seven years.

Lampard’s main aim will be to develop the young stars Chelsea have in abundance but have been loaned out in huge numbers recent years. With the transfer ban in place and Lampard having worked with a handful of these youngsters while they were on loan to him at Derby last season, he and his coaching staff (which includes former Chelsea U18 head coach Jody Morris) know all about these young stars.

And when you look at the players who are still at Chelsea, plus the arrival of Christian Pulisic, Lampard has plenty of top quality internationals to work with, but he will need time, at least two seasons, to turn Chelsea into title contenders again. Let’s see if his status as one of the greatest players in Chelsea’s history grants him a bit of extra slack from their notoriously ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.

Even though it may be extremely tough to finish above Liverpool or Manchester City this season, going toe-to-toe with Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United for third and fourth place is very doable.

A legend has returned to the bridge and it seems like Lampard will get the time he deserves to guide Chelsea through a tumultuous 12-month period coming up.