Pogba takes aim at Mourinho’s negative tactics

LONDON: Paul Pogba launched a blistering critique of Manchester United’s defensive-minded tactics in Saturday’s draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, which is likely to infuriate manager Jose Mourinho.

The 25-year-old French World Cup winning midfielder said there were no excuses for not attacking in home games.

The draw — played out in front of legendary former manager Alex Ferguson who made his first appearance at a match since undergoing emergency brain surgery in May — left United in seventh, eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

“We are at home and we should play much better against Wolves. We are here to attack,” Pogba told the media after the match.

“When we play like (that) it’s easier for us”.

Asked what is stopping United attacking more, Pogba said: “I can’t tell you because I’m a player. It’s not me”.

Pogba’s criticism comes shortly after it appeared that he and Mourinho were mending their rift, with the Portuguese manager saying on Friday that success at the World Cup had sparked Pogba into performing well.

Pogba, who hasn’t lived up to expectations since his then world record £89 million ($116 million) move from Juventus in 2016, had been angered by Mourinho’s remarks in July that he had played much better at the World Cup because he was not surrounded by his entourage.

“I think teams are scared when they see Manchester United attacking and attacking. That was our mistake,” said Pogba.

“Maybe the attitude should be better and we should play better because, again, we are at Old Trafford and we should just attack and press like we did against Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal last season”.

Pogba laughed when it was put to him were United lacking pace and mobility.

“I’m not the manager, I cannot say that,” he said.

“Obviously we should show more options but I cannot say that because I’m a player.

“That’s my way of thinking – we should move better, yeah”. — AFP

Lampard looks forward to Mourinho League Cup clash

LONDON: Frank Lampard is relishing the chance to pit his wits against former manager Jose Mourinho when Manchester United host Derby in the League Cup at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Lampard, who is in his first management job, watched his Derby side climb into the top six of the Championship with a stylish 3-1 home win against Brentford on Saturday.

Mourinho’s United are languishing in seventh in the Premier League after a 1-1 home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Mourinho managed Lampard during two spells in charge of Chelsea and left a lasting effect on the former England midfielder. Mourinho gave Lampard a congratulatory phonecall following the recent birth of his third daughter.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him,” said Lampard. “On a personal level, (he is) a manager that was hugely influential on my career twice, but particularly the first time around.

“I respect him completely for that. It will be nice to see him and go up against one of his teams”.

He added: “You will find Jose Mourinho players being managers all over the place because he has been so successful in his career”.

Lampard expects his Derby side to face a tough test regardless of United’s relative struggles this season.

“They’re expected to win, quite rightly so with the squad they’ve amassed there,” he said. “It’s a challenge for us and we want to go there and do as well as we can”.

But Lampard believes his players can perform well in the third-round tie at Old Trafford.

“If we put in the energy and the focus that we have (against Brentford) then we’ll make a good account of ourselves,” he said.

“What we can’t do is go there and walk away at the end of the game and say ‘oh, we should have done that, we should have shown more against this team or on this occasion’. We have to give everything”. — AFP

Ranieri coy on Roma link

MILAN: Former Roma coach Claudio Ranieri remained tight-lipped on Monday amid talk that he could be in line to replace under-fire Eusebio Di Francesco in the Stadio Olimpico hotseat.

The club’s billionaire American owner James Pallotta said he was “disgusted” after the Serie A giants plunged to 14th with a 2-0 loss at Bologna.

The 66-year-old Ranieri led Leicester City to the English Premier League title in 2016, but has been without a club since leaving French Ligue 1 club Nantes last May.

“I am a fan, Roma is in my heart, but I hope that Di Francesco can move forward,” Ranieri told Radio Anch’Io Sport when asked if he would be interested in a move back to his hometown club.

Former defender Ranieri started his senior football career in Rome in 1973 and later coached the club for two years from 2009, just missing out on the Serie A title in 2010.

“That Scudetto we lost in the last half-hour of the final day still burns. I think about it often, although I partly redeemed myself at Leicester,” recalled the former Chelsea, Napoli and Inter Milan boss who has said he is keen to continue in management.

Meanwhile, Ranieri believes Roma are paying the price for selling key players, rather than blaming Di Francesco, 49, who took over in 2017 and led the team to third last season.

Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson moved to Liverpool during the summer with Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan going to Roma and Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman to Marseille.

“Di Francesco is one of the best young coaches we have in Italy, for reasons of financial fair play the team has been changed, three players who were the backbone of Rome have been sold,” he said.

“When a coach signs a contract, he’ll know his team’s philosophy.

“Di Francesco knew what he was signing up for.

“Roma have been selling their best players for years, although it’s clear no-one expected the team to perform like they have.

“The players seem afraid of touching the ball, as if it’s hot.

“The potential is there,” added Ranieri, “but we must find the spark”. — AFP

Mbappe loses appeal against three-match ban

PARIS: France World Cup star Kylian Mbappe will sit out one further league game for Paris Saint-Germain after losing an appeal against a three-match suspension Monday.

Mbappe, 19, was handed the sanction for lashing out in retaliation at Teji Savanier during a feisty 4-2 win at Nimes on Sept 1.

Savanier was handed a four-match ban for his role in the incident, a sanction that was also confirmed following appeals by both players, the French Football Federation (FFF) announced.

Mbappe, who is being tipped to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in Dec, notably on account of his performances for Les Bleus in Russia last summer, has served two of his three matches so far.

He sat out a 4-0 home win over Saint Etienne and again on Sunday as PSG beat Rennes 3-1 away to reinforce their lead at the top of the table.

Mbappe will sit out PSG’s next league outing, at home to Reims on Wednesday, and will be eligible to return for PSG’s trip to Nice on Saturday.

He did play and score in PSG’s Champions League defeat at Liverpool last Tuesday as the suspension does not cover European games.

PSG hold a five-point lead over second-placed Lille after six league games of the season. — AFP

Inter’s Spalletti gets ban for wild goal celebration

MILAN: Luciano Spalletti will sit out Inter Milan’s Serie A game against Fiorentina at the San Siro on Tuesday after being given a one-match touchline ban by the Lega Serie A for his over-exuberant goal celebration at the weekend.

Spalletti was sent to the stands for screaming towards the television camera after Croatia’s World Cup runner-up Marcelo Brozovic scored a 94th minute winner against Sampdoria on Saturday.

An official match note said that the coach showed “a controversial attitude towards the fourth official”.

Spalletti had already been warned after the game for “offensive expressions” to the referee.

The sending-off against Sampdoria, however, did not lead to an automatic disqualification, it was a decision of the sports judge.

Inter have appealed and hope to have Spalletti back on the bench Tuesday at the San Siro against Fiorentina, as the appeal should be discussed before midday.

“I’m sorry for what happened but I don’t want to add anything else,” Spalletti told a pre-match press conference on Monday and argued that the ban had set a “difficult precedent”.

The last-gasp win followed Inter’s late 2-1 win over Tottenham in the Champions League in the San Siro last week.

“I turned towards the camera to shout ‘goal’ and the fourth official told me I had done it with too much force,” Spalletti said on Saturday.

“It was too important a goal, like a liberation, and they interpreted it as something with too much emotional reaction,” said Spalletti.

“I didn’t do anything wrong”.

The three points gave Inter just their second win of the Serie A season and move Spalletti’s side up to ninth after five games.

“We must not be content, we still have to put the ranking right. We have made progress but we have to make points,” said Spalletti on Monday.

“We previously dropped some points, but now we’ve won two games and made notable steps forward in terms of character.

“There is also the atmosphere of a stadium which will be full once again. The fans always support the players and this will spur us on.

“The San Siro is a very important stadium, and when you play in front of such a crowd you need to be flawless and avoid making mistakes”. — AFP

From ticketing to salaries, football explores power of blockchain

MADRID: Football clubs are starting to tap the potential of blockchain technology as an innovative way to deal with longstanding issues such as ticket scalping, fan engagement and the payment of players’ salaries.

Considered by many as revolutionary as the internet, a blockchain is a database that is shared across a network of hundreds of computers. Once a record has been added to the chain it is very difficult to tamper with. And to ensure all copies of the database are the same, the network makes constant checks.

Blockchains have been used most prominently as the tool behind cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but many other possible uses from medical records to banking — and now sports — are emerging.

“Blockchain has the power to be the underlying infrastructure upon which sport functions,” Michael Broughton of Sports Investment Partners told AFP as the two-day World Football Summit got underway in Madrid.

“Much as mobile phones and apps are today a broader expression of the underlying internet so sport can build upon blockchain”.

After French champions Paris Saint-Germain announced earlier this month that they were launching their own cryptocurrency in partnership with Socios.com, a blockchain company based in Malta, Italian giants Juventus announced Monday they would do the same.

Fans of the two clubs will be able to buy club-branded tokens that come with voting rights as well as access to exclusive content and rewards.

‘Limitles potential’

English side Arsenal announced in January they had reached an agreement with California-based Cashbet to launch their own cryptocurrency which would be used to bet on matches.

The technology could also have significant implications for ticket sales.

European football governing body UEFA used blockchain technology to sell all of the tickets for the Super Cup final in Tallinn in Aug between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid over mobile phones, preventing the duplication of tickets.

In a sign of the growing interest of the football world in blockchain, Barcelona’s Argentine star Lionel Messi in December became a brand ambassador for Israeli start-up Sirin Labs which has developed an ultra-secure mobile phone that uses the technology.

Former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen earlier this year invested in Hong Kong-based Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX), a global platform that allows celebrities to create and list their own “tokens”.

“I believe blockchain technology holds the future. It has limitless potential that we have yet to fully explore,” Owen said at the time.

‘Bring transparency’

The technology is even starting — albeit on a very small scale — to be used to pay players, which some believe could help stamp out corruption in football.

Gibraltar United announced in July that it would become the world’s first football club to pay its players in cryptocurrency while tiny Turkish club Harunustaspor made global headlines at the start of the year by announcing it had carried out the world’s first football transfer of a player in bitcoins.

“It could bring transparency to world of football,” said Pablo Dana of Heritage Sports Holding which owns Gibraltar United and in Aug bought 25% of Italian third division side Rimini using a digital currency.

Broughton agreed, saying “having a player’s identify and registration on the blockchain could provide greater transparency to the transfer and ownership systems”.

The technology could also be used together with big data analytics, to identify future football stars, according to Olivier Jarosz, head of club affairs at the Switzerland-based European Club Association.

“You can through the data base try to find out the biggest potentials without sending 200 scouts,” he said.

But Sam Jones of the London Football Exchange warned that “you can’t insure yourself” against some of the new cryptpocurrencies that use blockchain.

“You relying on hope and hope is the key ingredient of a bubble,” he said. — AFP

Ronaldo turns to Juventus challenge after FIFA best player snub

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo turns his focus back to Juventus’s quest for a treble this season on Wednesday after losing out in the FIFA’s best player of the year award.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo skipped the awards ceremony in London on Monday as his former Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric beat him for the award.

The 33-year-old Portuguese star also lost out to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for the Puskas Award for the best goal.

He had been nominated for his superb overhead bicycle kick for Real Madrid against Juventus in last season’s Champions League quarter-final, which even drew a standing ovation from Juventus supporters in Turin.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri had backed Ronaldo — who has scored three goals in his last two league games — for the award, as he led the way in the Champions League with 15 goals to help Real to a third straight title.

“With no offence to Luka Modric, I’d give the Ballon d’Or to Ronaldo for what he did last season. I think he deserves it,” said Allegri.

The Italian champions face a heavy week in Turin with three games in their Allianz Stadium in the space of seven days.

After Wednesday’s game against 18th-placed Bologna, who shocked Roma 2-0 at the weekend, Juventus play Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli in a top-of-the table clash on Saturday.

Juventus have had a perfect start to the season with five wins and 15 points — three points ahead of Napoli.

Allegri’s side also play Swiss club Young Boys in the Champions League a week on Tuesday, a game which Ronaldo will miss after his controversial sending off against Valencia in Spain.

Roma crisis

Napoli host promoted Parma, before their trip to Turin, with an eye on their Champions League game against Liverpool in Naples.

“We won there (Juventus) last season and still finished second,” said Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne.

“If we don’t win the midweek game with Parma, then the result with Juve is irrelevant, so we have to take it one at a time”.

Under-pressure Roma host promoted Frosinone looking for a boost after slipping to 14th with their weekend defeat in Bologna.

Coach Eusebio Di Francesco has reportedly been given a week to save his job, starting against the newcomers from outside Rome, before the city derby against Lazio at the weekend.

Frosinone are second from the bottom of the table with 12 goals conceded, including two to Juventus last weekend.

“At the end of the year when the points are counted the matches like the one in Frosinone you don’t remember immediately, but you know how important they were,” said Allegri.

Roma then host Czech club Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League next week, having lost their opener to holders Real Madrid.

Meanwhile, Inter Milan face a tough task against Fiorentina in the San Siro Tuesday with coach Luciano Spalletti serving a touchline ban for his over-exuberant goal celebration against Sampdoria.

Inter have been struggling but their last-gasp win against the Genoa side followed their come-from-behind 2-1 win in the Champions League against Tottenham.

Spalletti’s side travel to the Netherlands to play PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League next week.

Fiorentina are third in the table five points adrift of Juventus, with Inter in ninth.

Fixtures (all times GMT):

Tuesday

Inter Milan v Fiorentina (1900GMT)

Wednesday

Udinese v Lazio (1700GMT), Cagliari v Sampdoria, Genoa v Chievo, Juventus v Bologna, Napoli v Parma, Roma v Frosinone, Atalanta v Torino (all 1900GMT)

Thursday

SPAL v Sassuolo (1700), Empoli v AC Milan (1900). — AFP

Modric ends Ronaldo-Messi era to be crowned world’s best

LONDON: Luka Modric ended Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s decade-long domination of football’s individual awards by being crowned FIFA’s best player of the year on Monday.

The Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder starred for both club and country as Madrid won a third straight Champions League, and he inspired Croatia to reach the World Cup final for the first time.

He beat Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah to the prize.

Modric’s success means Ronaldo remains tied with Messi having won FIFA’s award in different guises five times each.

At 33, Croatia’s run to the final was the culmination of a brilliant career for Modric that had often been overshadowed by Ronaldo’s goalscoring in their time together in the Spanish capital, before the Portuguese left for Juventus in July.

Modric scored twice and also netted in penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, but it was his playmaking ability that caught the eye in winning the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup.

“It was an unbelievable season, the best season in my life,” said Modric.

“I’m still not realising how good a year I had collectively, individually, and I’m very proud for everything I achieved this year and it will be remembered forever”.

For a sixth straight season, Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer with 15 goals and also scored four times at the World Cup, including a hat-trick against Spain in a thrilling 3-3 draw to open Portugal’s campaign.

However, Portugal’s last 16 exit to Uruguay in Russia and Ronaldo’s failure to score in the semi-finals or final of the Champions League opened the door for Modric.

Messi, Ronaldo no show

Neither Ronaldo or Messi attended the glitzy ceremony in London with both in action for Juventus and Barcelona respectively on Wednesday.

For the first time in 12 years, Messi was not among the finalists with third place going to Salah for his incredible 44-goal debut season with Liverpool that carried the Reds to the Champions League final.

However, a shoulder injury suffered early on in the final robbed Salah of the chance to help Liverpool lift the trophy and also meant he was far from peak condition as he led Egypt’s World Cup bid.

Despite scoring in each of his two appearances in Russia, he bowed out with the Pharaohs bowed at the group stage with three defeats.

Salah did not go away empty handed, however, as he picked up the Puskas award for best goal for his strike against Everton in the Merseyside derby last December.

Modric was joined by Real team-mates Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo in the FIFPro team of the year, also featuring David De Gea, Dani Alves, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo.

France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps won the best coach of the year prize in recognition for his work in leading Les Bleus to success in Russia.

Deschamps, who became just the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, beat off competition from Dalic and his former France team-mate Zinedine Zidane, who won a third consecutive Champions League title with Real Madrid before resigning in June.

Thibaut Courtois won the best goalkeeper award for helping Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals as well as the FA Cup with Chelsea before a summer move to Madrid.

Brazil’s Marta was crowned best women’s player for a record sixth time for her role in winning the Copa America to beat out Lyon duo Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan.

Lyon boss Reynald Pedros did win the award for best women’s coach, though, after winning the Champions League with the French giants. — AFP