Mourinho is bereaved as he arrives in Portugal ahead of the funeral of his father Flex (pics)

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has arrived in Portugal ahead of his father’s funeral on Tuesday.

 

 

 

Mourinho was pictured attending a service in Setubal with friends and family on Monday in the wake of the tragic news.

Jose Manuel Mourinho Felix, who had been suffering from ill health for several months, died at the age of 79 in Setubal on Sunday and will be buried on Tuesday.

As a footballer, Mourinho Felix played first for Vitoria Setubal and then for Belenenses, making 274 appearances in the Portuguese league between 1955 and 1974.

He achieved one international cap for Portugal, appearing as a late substitute in a match against the Republic of Ireland in the 1972 Brazil Independence Cup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After hanging up his gloves, Mourinho Felix became a coach with a number of Portuguese clubs including Uniao Leiria, Amora, Rio Ave, Belenenses and Vitoria.

Jose Mourinho, who visited his ailing father regularly over the past few months, took to Instagram on Monday to share a touching black-and-white image of himself as a young boy with his father following his passing.

The country’s football federation sent ‘the most heartfelt condolences to Jose Mourinho and the rest of the bereaved family.’ United also extended their condolences on their official website.

 

 

 

 

Credit All Football

Daily News Summary: Germany and Chile reach semi-finals; Man Utd nearing Matic

Trying to get a grasp of what has happened in football in last 24 hours? Check it out in our daily news summary.

 

 

 

TOP STORIES

Germany 3-1 Cameroon: More VAR controversy as Germany finish top of Group B

 

 

 

A 3-1 win against 10-man Cameroon means Germany will face Mexico in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup after topping Group B.

Chile 1-1 Australia: Substitute Rodriguez seals Chile semi-final spot

 

 

Martin Rodriguez came off the substitutes’ bench to ensure Chile drew with Australia, a result that sees them into the last four.

Manchester United nearing deal for Nemanja Matic of Chelsea

 

 

The former Chelsea manager had been determined to have the bulk of his summer signings in place before taking his squad to the United States on July 9 for the start of preseason preparations.

TRANSFER HEADLINES

 

Saúl is Barcelona’s plan B if Verratti falls through

 

 

Barça have been following the Atlético Madrid man Saúl Ñíguez for two seasons.

 

Manchester United could turn to Fiorentina talent Federico Bernardeschi

 

 

Manchester United could turn to Fiorentina talent Federico Bernardeschi if Inter don’t lower the €55m Ivan Perisic asking price.

 

OFFICIAL: Chelsea will loan young defender Fankaty Dabo to Vitesse

 

 

Chelsea confirm they will loan 21-year-old Fankaty Dabo to Vitesse Arnhem for the 2017/18 season.

Calciomercato.com: Alex Sandro decided leave Juventus for Chelsea

 

 

Alex Sandro has decided to leave Juventus after Chelsea increased their offer to €70m, according to Calciomercato.com.

Calciomercato.com: M’Baye Niang resists Everton for Arsenal

 

 

Milan have agreed terms with Everton for M’Baye Niang, but Calciomercato.com claim the striker is waiting for Arsenal to step forward.

Official: Balotelli renews with Nice

 

 

Mario Balotelli has officially signed a new contract to remain at OGC Nice after a successful season in Ligue 1.

WHAT THEY SAY

Ronaldo doesn’t want to play as a No.9, claims Ferdinand

 

 

The Real Madrid superstar’s former teammate says the Ballon d’Or winner is a different kind of player than he was several years ago.

Luis Campos: ‘Ronaldo in a phase of pain’ over tax accusations

 

 

Luis Campos believes that the superstar will require time to get over the claims and insists that Portugal ace is simply “concentrated on his work”.

Pogba: I could cope with Griezmann at Man City

 

 

Despite holding a close friendship with his France team-mate, he would be happy if he wanted to ply his trade at the Etihad Stadium.

Manuel Locatelli: ‘We can beat Spain and we must’

 

 

Manuel Locatelli is confident Italy “will have our say” against Spain in the European Under-21 Championship semi-final and urges Gianluigi Donnarumma to stay at Milan.

Gianluigi Donnarumma: ‘I’ll discuss Milan renewal’

 

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma “wished to reiterate my absolute love for Milan. As soon as the Euros are finished, I’ll meet the club to discuss my renewal.”

Credit All Football

25 images that tell the story of 25 years of Premier League football (glossy pics)

Football has been around for a lot longer than a quarter of a century, of course, but the Premier League as we know it hasn’t. Yep, everyone’s favourite oversold, overhyped, probably overrated English product is 25 this summer , and despite all of its flaws we still love it anyway. After all, let’s face it, we’d be out of a job if it didn’t exist.

And to celebrate the division’s 25th birthday, we’ve decided to try and distill each of its 25 seasons into one image for each year, an image that sums up everything about that campaign and all that it meant to football fans.

1992/93: Fergie and Brian Kidd can’t contain their excitement

Manchester United have been the dominant force for much of the Premier League era, and that all started here when Steve Bruce’s two late goals – the latter coming in the 96th minute – which as good as sealed their first league title for 26 years, with their manager and assistant left jumping for joy.

1993/94: Everton stay up against all the odds

Everton, Premier League ever-presents, looked as good as relegated when they fell 2-0 down to Wimbledon on the final day of the 1993/94 campaign, but they fought back to win 3-2 and preserve their proud top-flight status.

Graham Stuart, the scorer of two goals, even got a kiss for his troubles.

1994/95: Eric Cantona introduces himself to a Crystal Palace fan

In what is still one of the more remarkable incidents of English football history, Eric Cantona was banned for eight months and given 120 hours of community service for this king-fu kick on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995.

Still, at least it gave his seagulls something to follow…

1995/96: “Collymore closing in…”

In what is usually referred to as the greatest game in Premier League history, Stan Collymore popped up to fire home Liverpool’s winner in a remarkable 4-3 victory over a Newcastle side who were throwing away their title chances.

Magpies boss Kevin Keegan could only respond in one way.

1996/97: Introducing… David Beckham

David Beckham had already racked up a handful of appearances for Manchester United’s first team by the opening game of the 1996/97 season away at Wimbledon, but this was when he really exploded onto the scene.

United would win the title by seven points that season.

1997/98: Bergkamp’s 1, 2 , 3

Dennis Bergkamp’s hat-trick at Leicester early on in the 1997/98 season has become the stuff of Arsenal legend, and incredibly his three goals featured as Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the BBC’s Goal of the Month competition for August 1997.

1998/99: Paolo Di Canio takes his place in Premier League infamy, as does Paul Alcock

Although not quite as severe as Cantona’s kick above, Paolo Di Canio’s shove on referee Paul Alcock which sent the official tumbling to the ground in Sheffield Wednesday’s clash with Arsenal in September 1998 still beggared belief.

He was banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000, but it was still pretty funny.

1999/2000: The Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira rivalry really begins

Manchester United’s Keane and Arsenal’s Vieira had played against each other before, of course, but it was this league clash at Highbury early on in the 1999/2000 campaign which really cemented the rivalry.

And gave us an image for the ages.

2000/01: Fergie completes his hat-trick

The 2000/01 campaign was one of Manchester United’s more convincing Premier League title triumphs, winning it by 10 points, and it also created history for Sir Alex Ferguson.

With this victory, he became the first manager in English football to win three successive league crowns.

2001/02: Sol Campbell doesn’t get welcomed home

It was one of the more controversial transfers in Premier League history, and upon Sol Campbell’s first return to White Hart Lane in an Arsenal shirt in November 2001 he was left in no doubt about how the Tottenham fans now felt about him.

2002/03: Remember the name

Everton fans had been aware of the prodigious talent of teenager Wayne Rooney for a while, but when he exploded onto the scene in October 2002 the whole football world suddenly got a glimpse of him.

Rooney’s stunning late winner against Arsenal was quite the introduction.

2003/04: The Invincibles

It is extremely doubtful that Arsenal’s achievement in going an entire season unbeaten will be beaten any time soon, and for that Arsene Wenger’s side will always be remembered.

Their 2-1 victory over Leicester on the final day of the 2003/04 campaign confirmed the achievement, and the run ended at 49 the following season.

2004/05: West Brom pull off the Great Escape

Bottom at Christmas, and bottom at various points throughout the final afternoon of the season, West Brom were repeatedly told they had no chance of staying up after what had at times been a nightmare season, but stay up they did.

Their victory over Portsmouth led to Southampton, Crystal Palace and Norwich going down.

2005/06: Jose Mourinho gives his medal to the fans

Having blazed a trail in his first campaign at Chelsea in the previous season, Jose Mourinho backed up that success with another Premier League title in 2005/06, and seemed more than a little blase about it.

Instead of keeping his medal he tossed it to the Blues fans, seemingly claiming that it was for them as much as it was him.

2006/07: Carlos Tevez keeps West Ham up and sends Sheffield United down

West Ham’s signings of Argentina World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano stunned everyone prior to the 2006/07 season, and people were left pretty stunned by the end of it too.

After Tevez’s goals kept West Ham up and sent Sheffield United down an almighty wrangle about his transfer followed, with the third-party ownership behind it found to be illegal.

The Blades, by the way, have never returned to the top-flight.

2007/08: Cristiano Ronaldo dominates as United shine

Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed his standout Premier League season as Manchester United clinched the title in 2007/08, with his 31 strikes – including this stunning free-kick against Portsmouth – earning him the Golden Boot.

2008/09: Steven Gerrard has one for the cameras at Old Trafford

United won the league again in 2008/09, but not before being given a scare by a Liverpool side who made a late run to overtake them.

That run included a 4-1 win over United at Old Trafford, with skipper Steven Gerrard giving the viewers at home something to remember.

2009/10: A Bridge too far for John Terry

As viewers settled down to watch the clash between Chelsea and Manchester City in February 2010 they would have been expecting a lively, entertaining game, and that in the end is what they got.

City won 4-2, but you probably don’t remember that bit about the afternoon, do you?

2010/11: Wayne Rooney takes to the skies

This wasn’t Wayne Rooney’s best season in a Manchester United shirt, with suggestions surfacing that he wanted to quit the club amid rows with Sir Alex Ferguson, but all of that forgotten when he scored this incredible bicycle kick winner in a February 2011 Manchester derby.

2011/12: “AGUEROOOOOO!”

It had to be, didn’t it?

Manchester City’s thrilling Premier League title in in 2011/12 will surely never be bettered for the club’s supporters, who saw their side literally snatch the trophy out of rivals United’s hands with two goals in injury time against QPR.

Spinetingling.

2012/13: Fergie’s farewell

Having delayed his retirement following that Sergio Aguero goal, Sir Alex Ferguson was able to put things right the following season, as the signing of Robin van Persie powered United to their and his 13th Premier League title.

2013/14: The Slip

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool had been thrilling in 2013/14, and their small squad looked as though it was going to pull off a hugely unlikely Premier League title success until they came up against Chelsea in late April.

One slip by their captain later, that trophy had escaped their grasp.

2014/15: The Return of the King

Having come back to the club the previous season, this would prove to be Jose Mourinho’s crowning glory back at Chelsea.

Although not a team blessed for the way they played, his Blues were resolute and deserved their title success – his third and last one in west London.

2015/16: Claudio Ranieri performs a miracle

Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title success will be talked about for generations to come, with Claudio Ranieri leading his unheralded bunch of players to a stunning triumph.

His prize? Getting champagne dumped all over him by Christian Fuchs.

2016/17: “Wenger Out” becomes a phenomenon, but doesn’t work

With Arsenal stationed outside of the Premier League’s top four for a large period of the season, Gunners fans repeatedly turned on Arsene Wenger as a status they previously came to regard as a divine right was slipping away.

Their protests didn’t work though, and after lifting the FA Cup last month, Wenger signed a new two year contract.

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Daily News Summary: Liverpool sign Salah; Germany tie Chile

Trying to get a grasp of what has happened in football in last 24 hours? Check it out in our daily news summary.

TOP STORIES

OFFICIAL: Liverpool sign Roma winger Mohamed Salah for record £39m

Liverpool sign Roma winger Mohamed Salah for record £39m. He will wear the No.11 shirt next season.

Germany 1-1 Chile: Stindl denies record-breaker Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez broke Chile’s scoring record against Germany, but Lars Stindl ensured Group B’s fate will be decided on the final matchday.

Cameroon 1-1 Australia: Milligan’s second-half penalty earns Australia a point

Australia kept their Confederations Cup hopes alive with the benefit of another controversial decision by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) as they drew 1-1 with Cameroon.

Goal.com:  Paris Saint-Germain make world-record Mbappe bid

Paris Saint-Germain have stepped up their pursuit of Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe and have made an offer of over €135 million, Goal understands.

TRANSFER HEADLINES

Van Dijk is heading towards Chelsea

Virgil Van Dijk is a name for Chelsea’s defense or even better, he is Conte’s first choice.

PSG’s Marco Verratti on his possible signing for Barcelona “All good!”

Marco Verratti commented on his possible transfer to Barcelona this summer. He didn’t dare to say a lot, but he did manage to say the negotiations are “going well, it’s all good.”

Chelsea close in on £35million Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko

Chelsea are close to signing Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco for £35million, which could prompt Nemanja Matic to leave for Manchester United.

OFFICIAL: Schick arrives for Juventus medical

Sampdoria striker Patrik Schick has arrived in Turin this morning to undergo his Juventus medical.

Borussia Dortmund move for Barcelona wonderkid Lee

The teenager is regarded as one of the top prospects at Camp Nou but could be on his way to the Bundesliga this summer, says his representative.

WHAT THEY SAY

Salah: Everything has improved since I left Chelsea

The Egypt international completed his move to Liverpool and says he has gained a great deal of experience since his first spell in England.

Bernardo Silva: I was set free, I feel good tonight

Unused in Portugal’s most recent FIFA World Cup qualifier, and in their crucial opening match at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, Bernardo Silva has been bursting to play. Watching him in each team training session since landing in Russia, you could sense a crackling energy that was struggling to contain itself.

Cambiasso: I didn’t fit in at Madrid because I wasn’t a galactico

The midfielder remembers Los Blancos fondly but felt he did not fit in among Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham.

Juan Cuadrado: I will stay at Juventus

Juan Cuadrado shrugged off Arsenal, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain speculation. “With God’s help, I’ll stay at Juventus” until 2020.

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FOOTBALL TRANSFER FEES – FICTIONAL BEND TO A RATIONAL SPORT

The different unbelievable figures being bandied about as transfer fees or bids made for players is making it clear that football is no longer a rational game or better still; business.

Much more than ever, there is indeed a disturbing and growing illusory bend to activities regarding it.

Going back to the foundation of what could be argued to be unreasonable value demands in players transfers, one is essentially forced to the shores of English football; specifically, the Premier League.

Three transfers bordered on the absurd when considered against the background of related benchmarks at the time.

While the chosen examples could never be exhaustive of the ‘madness’ that characterized football transfers in the past 14 years; they at least reflect the crust of the tendency to pander to Nollywood like activities now bedeviling the game.

Shaun Wright-Philips/Ronaldinho

Shaun Wright-Philips transfer for the sum of £21 million on July 18, 2005 to Premier League champions Chelsea from Manchester City connoted a big move. That price, by all yards of measurement and grading was a huge sum.

However, when that transaction is compared to the fact that Barcelona  paid only £22 million to Paris Saint Germain for the signature of Brazilian Ronaldinho two years earlier, Wright-Philips true worth and contribution at Chelsea would be considered aptly disjointed.

Ronaldinho went ahead to become a legend at Camp Nou starring prominently in winning Barcelona’s first league title since 1999. The unplayable Ronaldinho won the LaLiga title twice and crowned it with the Champions League trophy in 2006.

On the personal front, he won two Barlon d’Or on his way to be creditably counted among the best in world football.

Meanwhile, Shaun Wright-Philips had faded – in prime and became more of a bit part player at Chelsea as he played only 84 times and managed a paltry four goals in three seasons at Stamford Bridge. He was sold back to City three years into his contract.

In retrospect, there was no basis for comparison when their transfer figures and impact are measured side by side!

Andy Caroll/Luis Suarez

Liverpool v Everton - FA Cup Semi Final
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: Andy Carroll of Liverpool celebrates with Luis Suarez as he scores their second goal during the FA Cup with Budweiser Semi Final match between Liverpool and Everton at Wembley Stadium on April 14, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Andy Caroll moved to Liverpool in £36 million transfer in January 2011 to replace Fernando Torres who had departed to Chelsea in a mega transfer after a relatively successful stint at Merseyside.

Caroll, as far as performance records available, should never have cost that much. His career in Newcastle only showed a bit of raw but untested talent.

In over four seasons at Newcastle, Andy Caroll played 91 times and scored a credible 33 goals. Was that enough to justify the huge sum Liverpool paid for him?

Eventually, Liverpool’s bet on young Caroll didn’t pay off. He played 58 games and scored 11 times for the Reds before he was loaned to West Ham United where he seems to be finding joy.

Luis Suarez was signed in January 2011 from Ajax Amsterdam in £22.8 million move as Liverpool went seeking their first Premier League title in the modern era.

The Uruguayan came with modest expectations. No one, except perhaps, Suarez himself believed that a game changer had arrived the Premier League.

In slightly over three seasons, Luis Suarez scored a whopping 82 quality and logic defying goals over 133 matches for Liverpool to write his name as one of the best strikers to have graced the league.

Week-in, week-out, pundits and commentators ran out of superlatives to describe the Uruguayan’s undoubtable quality on the pitch. Suarez, like all great strikers was simply unplayable when in full flight.

It wasn’t any surprise when Barcelona came knocking on the door of Liverpool and on July 11, 2014 Suarez signed with the Catalans a five-year contract for a fee of £64.98 million. That move made himone of the most expensive players in world football history.

As Andy Caroll tries to make a meaning of his career with the Hammers; Luis Suarez is making waves in Spain with Barcelona winning one trophy after another.

Three seasons after, Luis Suarez has scored a massive 122 goals in 147 games for Barcelona. His record is almost a goal per game!

Fernando Torres/Karim Benzema

Torres-Benzema

After three very successful seasons in terms of games played and goals scored, Fernando Torres was successfully poached by Chelsea in a £50 million January 2011 transfer.

Expectations was rife that the Spanish will better his 81 goals in 142 games for Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. However, the reverse was starkly the reality!

It took Torres 14 matches to register his first goal for the Blues as it dawned on the ever-critical press that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending to his move to London.

Torres left Chelsea after three miserable seasons on loan to Milan where he continued to struggle for form.

In all, he scored 45 times in 172 games for Roman Abrahamovic club. Hardly a decent return on a £50 million investment!

Karim Benzema moved from Olympic Lyonnaise to Real Madrid in 2009 for a transfer fee of £30 million. That transfer was considered high profile that year as Benzema was then considered the hottest property in club football.

The French went ahead to become a major part in the attacking unit of Real Madrid as Los Blancos won everything winnable in their sphere.

Pulling his record side by side to that of Fernando Torres revealed a major disparity in achievement or output.

Benzema over similar period scored 102 goals in 202 matches for Real Madrid. His goal per game is ration 1:2 trumping Torres clearly in a head-to-head comparison.

These are past and relatively fading examples. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Paul Pogba have shifted the goal post in mega transfer fees.

Pogba’s movement to Manchester United from Juventus for a world record transfer fee of £89.3 million is still reverberating till now. Whether he has justified that fee is a discourse for another time.

Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappmbappee getting ready to strike

Back to the present, unreal transfer figures of more than £95 million have been mentioned regarding teenage sensation, Kylian Mbappe.

Wait for this; it was reported that Ronaldo will cost his next club at least £155 million. Yes, you are reading right!

That is the touted sum to be paid for a 32-year-old who at most and barring any unforeseen circumstances has maximum four years left to play at the top.

What about some relatively unknown players that have been hyped up to be bought at ridiculous sums? Think of Virgil Van Dijk, Mohammed Salah, Mariano Diaz, Jordan Pickford etc.

These are players being mentioned in transfer sum ranging from £31 million to £50 million. Southampton was rumored to have demanded £48 million in the case of Van Dijk. Totally ridiculous to say the least!

Unfortunately, this is now the reality of the transfer market where reality is no longer functional.

The mysterious calculations of what could be is now projected and the gullible keep biting hard on the rotten meat!

From London to Lagos, exploring the Premier League’s African Appeal (pics)

By David Goldblatt

It is 8 a.m, and we are sitting in the crush of traffic headed for Victoria Island. The radio blares: “It’s Monday, and it’s a huuuuuuuge week in the EPL.”

 

 

The journey had begun at 6.45 a.m in an effort to beat the traffic, and because we are still just moving, that counts as beating. Lagos—a city of 22 million people with the infrastructure of a town a fraction of its size—demands early starts, planning ahead and lots of room for manoeuvre.

The DJ moves on to the first of the day’s quizzes, a ₦1,000 giveaway if you can answer three consecutive questions on your Premier League team and, with just seven seconds to answer, “noooooooooo Googling.”

 

 

How did it come to this? That Nigeria, which once boasted the strongest league in sub-Saharan Africa, with a long and rich history of club football, should start the day wondering in which game this season Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard got two assists?

I spent the week catching up with some of the country’s fanatical Premier League fans to find out about their passion for English football.

THE RED KNIGHTS

Olumide and Ope, both in their early 20s and both in new Manchester United shirts, meet me at Bar Enclave—all peeling plaster walls and old plastic chairs. But it is buzzy, basic and has a huge television tuned to the Premier League.

As kids in the late 1990s, both were entranced by United. It’s their team still, but as Ope puts it, only half-joking: “The EPL is like a religion. It can really affect your mood. The thing with the Premier League is that I would watch Stoke vs. Leicester or Sunderland vs. Bournemouth.” Sure, they would watch El Clasico, too, but Osasuna vs. Malaga? Forget it.

Five minutes before kick-off against Everton, there is a loud bang, the fans cut out and the bar falls into darkness. The mains power, never available for more than an hour or two a day in Lagos, has been turned off. For a moment, the space is lit by the light of a dozen cellphones. Then the diesel generators laboriously whirr into action. The lights return, but it is another five minutes at least before the DSTV feed is rebooted. This is the norm.

 

 

Everyone confirms that they rarely watch a game on Nigerian TV in Lagos without encountering a power problem at some point during the 90 minutes. With the same weary inevitability of the generators, the crowd at the back of the room descends into a noisy argument as to why: why a country like Nigeria cannot create a functioning public power infrastructure. It is a topic rich enough to keep them going right through the game.

Olumide and Ope are resigned to this kind of inconvenience: “You can’t count on the government for anything. You have to do it yourself.” It is precisely this kind of enforced entrepreneurialism that led to the foundation of SociaLiga that they both help run.

In 2015, a conversation among a Twitter group of young EPL fans in Lagos concluded that it would be good to play some football as well as watch it. Given the paucity of alternatives—”there really isn’t much to do in Lagos, just nightlife and a few beaches”—they wanted to create a social space in which to network with their peers, flirt and raise some money for charity. So they made it happen.

SociaLiga now has a men and women’s 11-a-side league, a basketball league and one-off multi-sports days like their Socialympics. They put on food and music and party, drawing up to 2,000 people to their events, mainly to watch its roster of EPL-inspired clubs: Manchester United fans created the Red Knights, Southampton fans the Saints, Manchester City fans the Citizens.

 

 

The whole thing turns a profit, which they give a big chunk of to local charities. Professional clubs in the lower reaches of the Nigerian professional leagues would be pleased with such crowds and delirious with their balance sheet.

“We model everything on the Premier League,” Ope explains. “We have a pre-match buildup, edited highlights on the website, post-match interviews and proper statistics.”

Olumide added: “We have the same structures as the Premier League, too—a media department, sponsorship people, a board of administrators, and a player and club registration scheme.”

In the final minutes of the game, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a penalty: 1-1 and relief for Olumide and Ope.

So, what is it about the Premier League? Is it the style of play, the sound of the crowd, the competitiveness of the league? Yes, it’s all of those things, but Olumide is clear: “It’s the branding. … It’s just so professional.”

 

 

THE BLUES

Bar Blue Ivy, one of a selection of Lagos venues favoured by the official Chelsea supporters group (Nigeria), with a selection of Audi SUVs and Mercedes vans inside its well-secured compound, is the viewing spot for their home game against Manchester City.

The boys—and they are all boys—are in a calm but confident mood: Spurs would not catch them, the defeat at Crystal Palace was a blip and good for the league because who wants a procession, and Eden Hazard would rise to the big occasion against City.

By no means the Nigerian elite, they seemed a pretty good cross-section of Lagos’ small but growing professional classes. Sulaiman, who founded the group, works as an accounts officer for a second-division Nigerian football club. Adekunle is a banker, Kamal is in insurance, Leonard works as a researcher at a radio station. Funny Bone is one of Lagos’ leading stand-up comics. Henry runs his own import-export business, and the besuited Demo Lanre is the principal partner in a consultancy.

 

 

A few know of Peter Osgood from the 1970s, and someone has been reading up on the infamously gritty 1970 FA Cup final against Leeds, but for most of them, Chelsea began with the arrival of Nigerian midfielder Celestine Babayaro at the club in 1997 and then the satellite broadcasts on which to follow him.

Henry had detoured, starting out with Arsenal, but was entranced by Mourinho in his first stint at the Chelsea: “I thought, let me pitch my tent with him.”

We settle down for beers and pre-match discussions while Demo Lanre updates us on the Chelsea gossip from his array of electrical devices: “I suppose I do three or four hours of research a day.”

 

 

The others admit to voracious appetites for Chelsea social media. Most have a matchday ritual and a favourite bar in which to watch the game; all have strict rules of non-interaction with wives and girlfriends while Chelsea are playing. In the aftermath of their 5-0 thrashing of Everton last year in which Hazard had scored twice, Sulaiman named his newborn son Eden.

The clock is on 80 minutes. Hazard has risen to the occasion, scoring two fabulous goals to City’s one. Chelsea just need to see the game out. The lights go out with the familiar snap-bang of the mains power shorting. The TV dies, the generators whirr into action, the screen starts to boot up, but we all know that the game will probably be over by the time we are reconnected.

Lanre searches for a stream online in vain. Adekunle saves the day. A friend of his working in finance in London is at Stamford Bridge and is streaming the game on Facebook Live, albeit from the top of the Matthew Harding stand. We quietly gather in a tight crowd around the tiny phone screen watching the even tinier figures of the players buzz around the pitch. On the final whistle, cheers, high-fives and hugs.

 

 

THE GOONERS

On the wall of his small flat, there is a gilt-framed banner of Emeka Onyenufuro looking sternly into the distance. Along the bottom, it reads “Founder of Arsenal Nigeria.” Sharp-eyed visitors to the Emirates might remember that it used to hang outside the stadium. With the same earnest gaze on his face, Emeka tells me how in 2005 he set up and obtained recognition for Nigeria’s official Arsenal supporters club, and how for more than a decade, he has dedicated himself to its expansion.

“Monday to Friday lunchtime, I’m working in my job [as a manager in the power industry], but from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, it is all Arsenal.”

As well as maintaining the group’s digital presence and fielding endless enquiries from its 10,000 members, Emeka regularly tours all of Nigeria and much of West Africa, connecting new supporters’ groups and taking their issues and concerns back to the club.

All the marketing surveys suggest that, for the moment, Arsenal are Nigeria’s favourite team. Why? Emeka thinks that arrived via the Nigerian star Kanu, but fans have stayed because the club has given so many African players a slot and because they play the kind of passing football Nigerians crave.

 

 

His connections, however, go back further, to the pre-Premier League era of George Graham and “boring, boring Arsenal!” He inherited the club from his father, a military officer and football fan, who made regular trips to the UK and would return with VHS tapes of Arsenal on British television. In the absence of live games, the tapes fed his hunger for the team.

He has been on the road for Arsenal from Cotonou in Benin to Accra in Ghana, from Cote d’Ivoire to Niger. In Lome, the capital of Togo, he has seen that every Arsenal game is preceded by a city-wide cavalcade of fans on bikes and scooters in club colours, whipping up the atmosphere.

He has been with the fans in Okene in Kogi state in Western Nigeria, where December 28 is deemed Arsenal day and celebrated by thousands in their club shirts. At a meeting in the northern Nigerian city of Jos, no less a figure than the then-vice-president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, signed up for membership; he can still be seen, of a weekend, at the Emirates.

 

 

I ask him where are all the Arsenal fans are this year; I genuinely haven’t seen a single club shirt on the streets of Lagos. More sombre than ever, he tells me: “This has been the most difficult of seasons for Arsenal fans.”

What message does Arsenal Nigeria have for the club, I ask? He curtly dismisses the “Wenger Out” brigade, reminds me of the coach’s transformative power, defends the board’s sensible investment strategy and bemoans the absence of leaders like Tony Adams, Ray Parlour and Patrick Vieira.

“There’s no one who can really get them on their shoes,” he says. It is 35 degrees outside and nearly 100 per cent humidity. We can hardly hear each other over the whirring of a thousand diesel generators in the neighbourhood, but we could have been in north London.

 

 

THE SPURS

Founded just two years ago, the official Nigerian Tottenham Hotspur supporters’ club is a microcosm of the country’s complex social and footballing diaspora. The WhatsApp icon on the Nigeria Spurs group has been burning a hole in my phone screen all week.

If Chelsea could just drop a few points, if Spurs could beat them in the FA Cup semi-final and rattle them, then maybe Spurs could close the gap at the top of the EPL. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages a day carry a rising digital tide of optimism, and not just from Nigeria but from Britain and America, too.

Gathering before the Watford game in a small hotel near the airport, I find a couple of the guys are relatively recent converts, students and young grads who found their way to Spurs via DSTV and Gareth Bale, but more representative is Hakin who grew up in Hendon—the same north London suburb as my mother’s family—and who, like me, is old enough to have a fondness for Gary Mabbutt, captain of the 1991 FA Cup-winning side.

 

 

Then there is Duton, an architect from Lagos who, if you closed your eyes, really could still be from Edmonton, a very comfortable neighbourhood on the northern fringe of London. He recalls being at boarding school in Cornwall in 1981, the only person on the street running and screaming as Spurs won the FA Cup.

Akin Kongi, who founded the group, went to school in London in the 1980s and early 1990s where his father was a regular at White Hart Lane and he got the bug. Back in Nigeria, in the era of DSTV, he thought he was the only Spurs fan in a sea of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. It turned out that his golf club was home to a group of “hidden” Spurs fans.

A BlackBerry Messenger group was born, then a WhatsApp group and now they are the official supporters club. His work “on the business side of the entertainment industry” takes him to London and, of course, to White Hart Lane: “It’s one family there…”

 

 

All agree that the main draw of Spurs is that they play football “the right way.” Quoting Danny Blanchflower to a man, they all claim that “football is not about winning, it’s about glory.” Like Spurs fans everywhere, they see themselves as connoisseurs of style and the last bastion of true attacking football values.

Dele Alli’s opening goal confirms this. To everyone’s delight, another three follow in quick succession. Do they know about the club’s Jewish heritage? Does it mean anything in Nigeria, where there has never been an established community of Jews? Yes, everyone’s aware of the connection and the Zyklon-B gas hissing that Spurs fans are sometimes subjected to. To the former, they are indifferent; the latter deeply puzzles them.

Tocsin, who amazingly has made the trip by coach all the way from Ibadan more than 100 miles away, loves Spurs.

 

 

Like some of the other members of the group, his route to Spurs was also a reaction to other fans and a statement of difference. “Huh. The people who think they are big men because they support United … I don’t roll with the tide.”

It has been a lonely path: “For seven years, I was the only Spurs fan in Ibadan. Now there are two.”

It has also been an expensive one. To ensure it is the Spurs game on the TV in the city’s viewing rooms, he has to outbid other fans who might want to watch other games. In extreme cases, to ensure a minimum audience at the bar, he says: “If I have to pay 10 people to be there to see Spurs, I do.”

Such is the life of a Premier League fan in Nigeria.

credit All Football

Breaking news: Mourinho accused of tax fraud during Real Madrid stint

 

Jose Mourinho in file photo from 24 MayMourinho was Real Madrid’s manager between 2010 and 2013

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been accused of tax fraud by Spanish prosecutors investigating his time as Real Madrid’s head coach.

Portuguese-born Mourinho is accused of defrauding Spain of €3.3m (£2.9m; $3.6m) in taxes between 2011 and 2012. He has yet to comment on the claim.

A prosecutor said he did not declare income from the use of his image rights in order to get an “illicit benefit”.

Other big names in football have been accused of tax fraud in Spain recently.

Those include Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been summoned to testify on 31 July in a case in which he is accused of hiding income from tax authorities. He denies the allegations.

Credit BBC

Australia 2-3 Germany: A good start for the World Cup Champion

Lars Stindl, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka were on target as Germany got the better of Australia 3-2 at the Confederations Cup.

 

 

Germany beat Australia 3-2 in their Confederations Cup opener at Fisht Stadium in Sochi courtesy of goals from Lars Stindl, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka.

Stindl opened the scoring early on with a tidy finish after some good work from Julian Brandt, but the Asian Cup holders somewhat surprisingly restored parity shortly before the break when some poor goalkeeping from Bernd Leno allowed Tom Rogic to net.

The world champions, however, were back in front just three minutes later as Draxler converted a penalty, with Goretzka adding a third early in the second half.

Tomi Juric ensured an exciting finish to the game when he pulled one back in the 56th minute – the goal awarded following the latest Video Assistant Referee (VAR) referral – but Australia lacked the individual quality to genuinely worry an experimental Germany.

Joachim Low’s men now meet Chile on Thursday, while Australia take on Cameroon on matchday two.

Germany made a strong start to the game and needed just five minutes to edge ahead via Stindl, the Borussia Monchengladbach man finding the net with a calm finish from inside the area after a great run down the right from Brandt.

Low’s side continued to dominate play after their early opener and Sandro Wagner nearly doubled their lead in the 16th minute, sending a diving header inches wide at the far post following Goretzka’s pinpoint cross, before the Hoffenheim man fired just wide again minutes later after beating the offside trap.

The Germans were fortunate not to concede when the unmarked Trent Sainsbury headed wide from close range after a free-kick, but they had no such luck in the 41st minute when Rogic levelled after all with a half-volley from the edge of the box, Leno failing to keep out the Celtic man’s attempt.

Australia’s joy did not last long, though, as Draxler restored Germany’s lead, coolly dispatching a penalty after Massimo Luongo had clumsily hacked down Goretzka inside the area.

Germany immediately went in search of a third goal after the break and got what they were after in the 48th minute when Goretzka beat Mathew Ryan with a powerful volley after a brilliant pass form Joshua Kimmich.

But Ange Postecoglou’s men refused to throw in the towel and Juric pulled one back after more unconvincing goalkeeping from Leno, the attacker tapping home a rebound after the Bayer Leverkusen shot stopper failed to hold on to what seemed like an easy ball, with the goal allowed to stand after a VAR referral did not confirm a potential handball in the build-up.

Substitute Timo Werner was unfortunate not to make it 4-2 when he struck the upright with a low shot after shrugging off Sainsbury, yet it mattered little in the end as Germany held on to the win without any major late scares.

 

All Football

Five reasons Real Madrid must not let Cristiano Ronaldo go

By Chinasia Ibonye

ronaldo

When Real Madrid paid £80 million to Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, a lot of people felt it was an absurd amount to pay for a footballer. However, with what has happened for both player and club in the past eight years, that amount seems like a steal for the Madrid-based club. The Portuguese has gone on to perform some amazing feats on the pitch and has more than repaid the faith and trust that was put on him at the time of the transfer.

This beautiful marriage between player and club seems to be heading for a bitter divorce if recent reports are to be believed. Ronaldo has recently been accused of tax fraud in Spain and reports suggest that he is so upset about the accusation that he wants to leave the country.

Another factor being mentioned is that he doesn’t feel the club is as supportive of him as Barcelona were for Leo Messi, when the Argentine was also accused of the same offence. This scenario is something the whole football world will want to keep an eye on to see how it develops, although the player’s participation in the on-going FIFA Confederations Cup will let the story simmer a bit. Below are five reasons why Real Madrid must not let go of their prestigious Portuguese.

GOALS

Cristiano Ronaldo came into Real Madrid just as he was about hitting the peak of his powers. The Portuguese became a hybrid of a winger and centre forward and essentially invented the wing-forward position. He is currently the greatest goal scorer in the history of Real Madrid with an incredible 406 goals from 394 matches for the Spanish club and he has shown no signs of slowing down. Los blancos will definitely not want to lose a player that has been averaging 50 goals a season since his arrival at the Bernabeu and will do everything in their power to keep him.

ASSISTS

Apart from his amazing goal scoring prowess it will be unfair not to mention what else he brings to the team asides goals. He creates tons of chances for his team-mates and also has notched up over a century of assists for Real Madrid. His presence alone on the pitch creates spaces for other players around him as opponents will always pay extra attention to him, leaving his team-mates to exploit the spaces and score goals for the team.

MARKETABILITY

Real Madrid paid a world record fee to get him back in 2009, but in the ensuing years it is safe to say that they have made lots of profit from the Ronaldo brand. He has become a global icon with lots of different brands associating with him, which has made his marketability exponential. The sales from his jerseys and other CR7 merchandise has added to the bottom-line of the club helping them become one of the most valuable football clubs in the world and Real Madrid will not want to lose such a revenue generating player

LEADERSHIP

Ronaldo’s quest for greatness means that he demands 100% dedication from his team-mates and he shows that by leading on the pitch and the training ground. He pushes the players around him to strive to be better. A great example of this was during the final match at EURO 2016, where he was injured early in the match and spent the remainder of the game as a pseudo coach/motivational speaker for his team, inspiring them to go on and win the match and thus the title. Madrid will not want to let go of such an inspirational player.

BIG GAME PLAYER

Earlier on in Ronaldo’s career, he was tagged as a player that under performs in big games and in usual Ronaldo fashion he took the criticisms in stride and decided to prove the naysayers wrong; he’s since been lighting up the biggest stage with goals. He has scored numerous and important goals in the El Clasico, the Madrid derby, the UCL final, etc. and can never be tagged as that under performing player any longer. It is safe to say that the Portuguese is currently irreplaceable so why would Real Madrid want to let him go?

Why are La Liga football stars always in legal trouble?

Spain has attracted arguably the three brightest lights of world football, with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Neymar all plying their skills in La Liga. However, over the past year, football fans have become used to seeing the trio caught up in accusations of tax fraud and other financial crimes by the Spanish courts.

And they are not the only players in the crosshairs of the Spanish judiciary. In 2016, Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Barcelona team-mate, Javier Mascherano, received a one-year suspended prison sentence for tax fraud.

Why are La Liga football stars always in legal trouble? BBC’s James Badcock tells us…

Three players, three trials

Lionel Messi and father Jorge were last year convicted of defrauding the Spanish state of €4.1m (£3.6m; $4.6m) in unpaid taxes on the striker’s image rights, controlled by offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay.

The pair were both handed 21-month jail terms in a ruling recently confirmed by Spain’s supreme court.

Messi and his father Jorge were convicted of tax fraud in 2016

Now the original Barcelona trial court must decide whether the sentences should be suspended in accordance with Spanish custom for first-time offenders whose prison terms do not exceed two years.

Prosecutors have asked for a two-year sentence and a €10m fine for Neymar, who was cleared of fraud but ordered to stand trial over alleged corruption in his 2013 move from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.

Now Ronaldo has become the third and final member of the elite La Liga trio to face criminal accusations, after prosecutors announced they were pursuing the 32-year-old former Manchester United man on four counts of tax fraud.

A source close to Ronaldo told the BBC that “he’s very sad and really upset” about the allegations. “He doesn’t want to stay in Spain. At this moment, he wants to leave,” the source said.

Why has footballers’ paradise turned sour?

Soon after David Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003, he was able to enjoy a new tax-exemption scheme aimed at attracting foreign talent to Spain across all sectors. That scheme became known as the Beckham Law, when he became one of the first players to sign up to a six-year-long tax ceiling of 24%, roughly half what Spaniards paid on six-figure-plus incomes.

Spain was in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom, a perfect playground for “galacticos” of the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and the emergence of Barcelona prodigy Lionel Messi.

But in 2010 the Beckham Law was scrapped for salaries of more than €600,000, and since then tax inspectors have begun to wise up to the use of complex financial operations using offshore shell companies to get around tax laws.

“The line between avoidance and evasion is very fine in these cases. In the past few years Spain’s tax agency has intensified its control over footballers and their companies, checking to see if they are mere fronts or whether they are really active economically,” explains Carlos Cruzado, president of tax inspectors’ union Gestha.

Case against big three

Neymar is the odd one out. His case involves alleged wrongdoing towards a contractual party regarding his transfer fee, but the forward has been found guilty in his native Brazil for tax fraud on money earned while playing for Santos.

The Messi and Ronaldo cases are similar. Both are accused of avoiding tax on sale of image rights by using offshore companies. However, the Portuguese was registered as a non-resident taxpayer under the Beckham Law, while the Argentine has spent his entire adult life registered in Spain.

Prosecutors accuse the Real Madrid star of evading tax of €14.7m between 2011 and 2014 via an alleged shell company called Tollin Associates, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Spanish investigators say the company, owned by Ronaldo, is a “screen” and has no economic activity apart from having bought and then ceded the player’s image rights to a firm based in Ireland that “genuinely manages [his] rights sales”.

Prosecutors also claim that money earned from image rights was incorrectly described as capital gains, to benefit from a lower tax rate.

What is their defence?

Lionel Messi was informed by the judge in his case it was no defence to plead ignorance and argue that his father was the only person who knew how his money was being managed.

Neymar has denied any wrongdoing and told the court investigating his case that his father and associates dealt with off-field business matters.

Neymar spent 90 minutes before a judge in Madrid in February 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo’s representatives and legal team say the only dispute can be about quantity and that there has been no intention to commit fraud. “There is no tax evasion scheme… There has never been any hiding nor any intention to hide anything,” they say.

They argue he has paid tax to the Spanish treasury on 20% of his total image rights when, in fact, more than 90% of these are generated outside Spain as he is such a global name.

“The tax agency clearly thinks that if he is being paid for wearing certain boots, shirts or caps in Spain, then he cannot claim this money is being earned abroad,” explains Mr Cruzado.

Will any of them go to jail?

Neymar and Lionel Messi look set to be spared prison due to Spain’s unwritten two-year-sentence rule, even if Neymar is eventually found guilty.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be a different matter. Three of the four accusations of tax fraud are considered by prosecutors to be “aggravated”, so they carry a minimum sentence of two years each. Four guilty verdicts and he could face as many as seven years.

However, an investigating judge needs to ratify the prosecutors’ accusations, and that could take many months or even years.

Even if the investigating magistrate does take up the case, the Portuguese will have several options and a guilty verdict would not necessarily mean jail.

He could admit guilt, pay taxes and fines in advance and reduce any eventual jail term to a half or quarter of the statutory minimum. That way he would slip under the standard two-year bar for first-time offenders and see his sentence suspended.

Source All football