Monthly Archives: December 2017

Former Milan coach Vincenzo Montella set to take reins at Sevilla

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Former Milan coach Vincenzo Montella is set to take charge of Sevilla after reaching an agreement with the La Liga club on Thursday.

Sevilla has officially announced that Montella, 43, would travel to Spain as soon as he had terminated his contract with Milan, where he was fired as coach at the end of last month.

“Sevilla FC and the Italian coach Vincenzo Montella have reached an agreement for him to become coach of the first team until June 2019,” the La Liga giants said in a statement.

Montella will be replacing Eduardo Berizzo — who was sacked last Friday following a run of poor results — only a week after returning to work following an operation to treat prostate cancer.

Berizzo was sacked despite Sevilla currently standing at a respectable fifth place in the table and having qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, after the Argentinian replaced his compatriot Jorge Sampaoli, who left after the end of last season to take charge of their country’s national team.

“Sevilla FC would like to express its gratitude to Berizzo for his professionalism, the work he has delivered and his treatment of all the members of the club since his arrival,” Sevilla said in the statement announcing the dismissal.

As a player, Montella played as a former striker for Genoa, Sampdoria and Roma while making 20 international appearances for Italy. His coaching career has included three seasons with Fiorentina, finishing fourth in Serie A in each, one with Sampdoria and one and a half with Milan.

Once he takes charge at Sevilla, Montella will be the only Italian coach in La Liga after Gianni De Biasi having been fired by Alaves at the end of November.

Liverpool set to sign Virgil van Dijk for world-record £75m fee

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Liverpool will sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton next week after agreeing a fee of £75m for the Holland international — another world record fee paid for a defender in recent years.

Southampton will earn around £70m up front with a further £5m of clauses and performance-related add-ons, while van Dijk’s former club Celtic are also expected to net around 10% of the fee as a result of the £11.5m deal that saw Van Dijk head to Southampton in 2015.

The transfer comes after a summer transfer saga in which Southampton felt that Liverpool had overstepped and made a formal complaint to the Premier League as Liverpool duly backed off.

However, negotiations between the two clubs accelerated over the festive period before Van Dijk underwent a medical on Wednesday after successfully agreeing personal terms on a contract until 2023 worth in the region of £180,000-a-week.

“Liverpool football club can confirm they have reached an agreement with Southampton for the transfer of Virgil van Dijk,” read an official statement from the Merseyside club. “The Reds have agreed a deal with the south coast club, and the player himself, that will see the 26-year-old defender move to Anfield when the transfer window re-opens on 1 January 2018.”

The news was also confirmed by the player himself, who tweeted: “[I am] delighted and honoured to have agreed to become a Liverpool FC player. Today is a proud day for me and my family as I join one of the biggest clubs in world football. I can’t wait to pull on the famous red shirt for the first time in front of the Kop and will give everything I have to try and help this great club achieve something special in the years to come.”

“I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Les Reed, the board, manager, players, fans and everyone at Southampton. I will always be indebted to the club for giving me the opportunity to play in the Premier League and despite a difficult last few months I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saints and have made friends for life at the club. Thank you for everything.”

Van Dijk will wear the No. 4 shirt at Liverpool and may make his debut in the FA Cup third-round tie against Everton on 5 January, and is also eligible to play in the Champions League against Porto in February.

Former Ballon D’Or winner George Weah elected Liberian president

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Former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah has won Liberia’s presidential election, defeating the vice-president, Joseph Boakai, in a runoff with 61.5% of the vote.

“My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation,” the elect tweeted following his victory at the ballots. “I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”

Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s president next month, after an election fraught with accusations of fraud and irregularities. However, It will be the country’s first democratic transition since 1944 and follows two devastating civil wars, after the electoral commission said Weah had taken 61.5% of the vote, based on 98.1% of ballots cast.

Weah starred at top-flight European football clubs Paris St-Germain (PSG) and AC Milan, before ending his career in England with brief stints at Chelsea and Manchester City. He is also the only African footballer to have won both FIFA World Player of the Year and the prestigious Ballon D’Or.

Weah, whom Nelson Mandela once described as the “pride of Africa” when he collected his individual accolades, topped the first round of voting in October with 38.4% but failed to win the 50% necessary to avoid a runoff. Boakai came second with 28.8%.

The runoff was delayed twice after several parties took their allegations of malpractice to the supreme court , but it finally took place with a low turnout on 26 December.

Weah’s win tops off what was already an inspirational story to a generation of Africans: he grew up in Clara Town, a poor suburb of Monrovia, and played football across the river in West Point, Liberia’s biggest informal settlement, where he still has a large fanbase. Many see his becoming president as a fitting next chapter in the rags-to-riches fairytale and one that gives them hope.

Mauricio Pochettino: Harry Kane amongst the world’s finest forwards

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Mauricio Pochettino has claimed that Harry Kane is amongst the finest players in the world right now and, when making comparisons, whether there was a more lethal No9.

Pochettino said that does not consider either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo — winner and runner-up to the FIFA Best player awards — to be pure centre-forwards.

“Harry is world-class,” Pochettino said. “Of course, Messi and Cristiano are different. Today — one striker in the world, a specific position — who is better than Harry?”

“It’s difficult to say he’s the best but he’s shown to everyone he’s one of the best. Both of his records are massive — to break the Premier League record set by Alan Shearer and then, if you see that over the last seven, eight or nine years, it’s always Messi and Cristiano and now, it’s Harry as well.”

While acknowledging another great milestone for Kane, Pochettino believed that the Englishman’s challenge now was to maintain his level and reproduce these numbers over a period of years.

“Becoming better may be a very small step of improvement but when you are at this level, you need to fight with all your determination to keep at this level,” the Argentinian added.

As for Kane, the player himself promised to take his team-mates for dinner to thank them for helping him to his latest landmarks.

“It was hard not to think about the records today and I’m very proud of them,” he said. “Messi and Ronaldo have dominated football for so long and they’re two of the greatest players ever so it’s an honour to even be compared to them.

“I’ll keep working harder. It’s about finding little per cents to get better and doing things on the training ground to make you better. How have I improved this year? I’d say physically, recovery from games, eating right and looking after my body. We have such a busy schedule but I feel sharp and I feel at my best. I’m getting more experience.”