German forward reveals how Origi ruined his Liverpool transfer

Union Berlin forward Max Kruse says Divock Origi’s performances in the 2019 Champions League ruined his chance of completing a move to Liverpool that summer.

Origi famously scored twice in the second leg of the Reds’ semi-final against Barcelona as Jurgen Klopp’s side qualified for the final, where Origi also scored in the 87th-minute to seal a 2-0 triumph over Tottenham.

The Belgium international only appeared 12 times in the Premier League and it looked unlikely that he would be around for the 2019/20 campaign but those goals in the Champions League made him an icon.

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And Kruse, who was playing well for Werder Bremen at the time, claims Liverpool were ready to sell “two strikers” before Origi’s heroics made them rethink their transfer business.

“Of course, I would have done that. In my opinion, it was relatively fixed. [Liverpool] actually wanted to give up two strikers,” Kruse said (via Sport Witness).

“Then one of the strikers scored goals in the Champions League semi-final and final. Then it was over. At that moment it was disappointing.”

Kruse made a move to Turkish giants Fenerbahce instead in the summer of 2019, scoring seven goals in 23 matches, before returning to Germany this season.

The Germany international has bagged an impressive six goals and five assists in ten Bundesliga matches this season for Union Berlin.

On the collapse of his deal with Liverpool, Kruse added: “Talking to Jürgen Klopp was awesome. We spoke on the phone once or twice. Everything is great with him. I’m not angry with Jürgen. Every now and then I send him a photo from vacation.”


Student ‘was laughing’ after Cole shot him at Chelsea

The student that Ashley Cole shot with an air rifle in a 2011 Chelsea training ground accident “was laughing” after the incident, according to a report.

Reports at the time said Cole was ‘larking about’ with a .22 calibre air rifle when he accidentally shot student Tom Cowan, who was at Chelsea on a placement from Loughborough University as part of his degree in sport and exercise science.

Cole formally apologised to Cowan and was apparently ‘given a severe dressing down’ by the Chelsea hierarchy over the incident.

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The Athletic have looked back at the incident and revealed:

‘The air rifle, which can be legally bought in the UK, was actually a gift from a footballer and close friend playing for another Premier League club. They had it sent to Cole months before.

‘It was delivered to the training ground and no-one knew what was in the package, not even Cole, because the present was a surprise. Squad members are sent parcels and letters all the time and it is obviously not the club’s policy to open or check their personal mail.

‘On the day of the incident, it was actually one of Cole’s Chelsea team-mates who saw a large box that was sitting right at the back of the left-back’s locker and questioned what was inside. The individual was also the one who took the case out and handled the gun initially. Sources suggest it looked so unblemished, that they’re not sure Cole had ever unwrapped it.’

The News of the World reported at the time that ‘Tom screamed as this lead pellet hit him in the side. He was bleeding profusely. He was in agony.’

But sources have told The Athletic that what they saw was a lot less sensational than that. An insider said: “As Ashley held the gun he thought there was nothing (no ammunition) in it.

“But there was and it accidentally went off in his hand. It’s not like he was going around shooting at people.

“Unfortunately the guy was hit, but he wasn’t badly hurt. He was laughing about it. He was a nice kid. It was just an unfortunate situation.”

With another source backing up that version of events, they told The Athletic: “Cole was just sitting there when he picked the gun up and it went off. The wound to the intern was absolutely minimal. It was an accident.”


Santo: ‘Issues to assess’ for Wolves as they chase ‘high standards’

Nuno Espirito Santo insisted that he cannot fault the “attitude of his players” after Wolves beat Leeds United 1-0 on Friday night.

There were plenty of chances in the first half, but Wolves just about edged it. Nelson Semedo forced Illan Meslier into a couple of impressive stops.

Leeds United’s best moment came as Liam Cooper headed the ball straight at Rui Patricio after a ball in from Raphinha. Mateusz Klich’s cross in the opening half also came close to evading Patricio as it cannoned away off the post.

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The second half continued in a similar vein to the first, with the decisive moment coming just past the hour mark.

Adama Traore powerfully advanced forwards before he unleashed a brilliant shot from range. His effort struck the bar, but it bounced off Meslier to roll into the net in unfortunate fashion for Leeds.

The visitors looked to have equalised in the 77th-minute, but the goal was chalked off. Patrick Bamford finished emphatically after being played in by Tyler Roberts, but the forward was narrowly offside.

This win sees Wolves leapfrog Leeds in the table, as they now sit 11th. They are now unbeaten in their last four Premier League games.

Speaking post-match with BT Sport, as cited by BBC Sport, Santo praised Traore for his “beautiful strike” that led to his side’s winning goal:

“They have a unique approach to the game and the boys did really well.

“In some moments we were stronger but Leeds also had chances and created problems for us.

“Players like Adama [Traore] and Pedro [Neto], when they have the ball and start running, are really dangerous. It was a beautiful strike.

“It is a hard moment for the keeper but he did very well.

“We still have some issues to assess but the approach that we have during these tough moments – always believing, always committing. You can’t say anything about the attitude of the players. But we chase the high standards we have and let’s keep on doing that.”

Tuchel has no time to think about Chelsea loan man

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel admits he has not had time to consider the long-term future of Fikayo Tomori.

Tomori has made an immediate impact on loan at AC Milan, with the England defender playing a key role in the Italian giants’ Serie A title tilt.

Sacked Blues manager Frank Lampard always insisted he had a long-term Chelsea plan for Tomori despite allowing the Canada-born centre-back to head out on loan.

Tomori has since said Lampard offered him no explanation for him being frozen out at Chelsea or on his long-term future.

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“I was suddenly out of the squad and I don’t really know why,” said Tomori. “I just thought I needed to work hard. Then I went to speak to the manager and he said you’ve just got to train harder, so I took that on the chin and thought that’s what I had to do.

“Mentally, it was difficult because you just want to be playing and on the pitch, and feel part of the team. And it was difficult for me because I wasn’t really feeling part of the team and I was wondering what had happened. I was trying to do extra and push myself more but, at that time, nothing seemed to work and nothing was explained to me.

“It was so frustrating. 2020, football-wise, was very, very difficult, especially after the way 2019 had gone for me playing games. From being at 100 to literally going down to zero and then not knowing the reason why it had gone to zero, it was very challenging.”

And now new boss Tuchel has conceded he has not had chance to consider Tomori’s Chelsea situation.

“To be very, very honest, right here I did not spend too many minutes thinking about Tomori – not because I don’t like him and not that I don’t see potential, but every minute here at Cobham is for the guys who are here,” said Tuchel.

“It is tradition at Chelsea that many players are on loan. They get minutes somewhere else when they cannot make regular minutes here.

“This is good because it is always the target for me to have players that can make it in different circumstances, that can show their qualities in different cultures and clubs. This is always a good sign.

“We will have this talk in the next weeks and months about the guys who are away on loan but of course I have a general impression of Tomori, which means he has high, high potential.

“But I am not into details right now. This will come when it comes.”

Solskjaer reveals Cavani contract talks; Man Utd keeper ‘shout’

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Man Utd will sit down with Edinson Cavani to discuss the veteran striker’s future at Old Trafford.

The 34-year-old striker has impressed on and off the pitch since joining on a free transfer in October, when Paris St Germain’s all-time top scorer signed a one-season deal with the option to extend by a further year.

Cavani has scored seven goals in 24 appearances for United and Solskjaer has made no secret of his hopes to keep the Uruguay international at Old Trafford.

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Last week the Man Utd boss told Sky Sports that “the better we play, the better he plays, the better he feels, the more he feels important (and) hopefully we can make sure that he stays on and scores many more goals for us”.

Asked on Thursday if it was likely that Cavani will end up staying that extra year, Solskjaer said: “I can only say Edinson has done well.

“I’ve been impressed by him. He’s really gelled in the group and we’ll sit down with him and speak with him of course in the near future to see his plans and our plans.

“It’s a good discussion to (have). We always speak to the players and with his contract situation at the moment we’re very pleased with what he’s done.”

Cavani went seven months without playing a match before joining United as the curtailment of the Ligue 1 season in April due to Covid-19 was followed by the expiration of his contract at PSG.

The 34-year-old has shown few signs of rust and has been available for most matches, although he was ruled out of Thursday’s impressive 4-0 win against Real Sociedad in the Europa League with a knock.

Cavani and Donny Van De Beek missed the round-of-32 first leg in Turin through muscle complaints that Solskjaer hopes will not keep them out of Sunday’s return to Premier League action against struggling Newcastle.

“Of course Paul (Pogba) is out. Phil (Jones) is out,” Solskjaer said. “I don’t know how Scott (McTominay) is.

“And I’m not sure how Edinson and Donny will be either. They’ve got a chance I think.

“We’ve just got to give them until before training on Saturday because Saturday we need to pick a team, so we’ll see how they are. Hopefully they can both be available.”

Dean Henderson, who started against Real Sociedad on Thursday night, has kept six clean sheets in 12 appearances this season since returning from a loan spell at Sheffield United.

“Of course Dean is in with a shout,” said Solskjaer, when asked whether Henderson could start against the Magpies.

“Dean was very solid [against Sociedad], he had a good kicking game should have had an assist for Marcus which is another thing we worked on.

“He was clean in his handling and clean with his short passes. He is maturing all the time.

“But I have a very good goalkeeper in David and he saved us against West Brom so I can’t say to you now [who is going to play]. I always speak to the players first.”


Solskjaer was impressed by the way his players got back to winning ways in Turin following last Sunday’s disappointing 1-1 draw at embattled West Brom.

That result took their poor Premier League run to one win in five matches, allowing Manchester City to build what many consider an unassailable lead at the top.

Second-placed United could be 13 points behind Pep Guardiola’s men come kick-off on Sunday but Solskjaer is not focusing too much on their rivals.

“I don’t think anyone would say they’re not going to go for it,” he said. “We’re going to go for a win every single game we play. Of course we are.

“But whatever other teams do – City, Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea, Tottenham, whoever, West Brom – we can’t control.

“We’ve just got to control ourselves. We are in the position we are, we are second and, of course, your ambition then is to not end any lower than that.

“We’re going to have to get a good run together if we’re going to put pressure on City and it should start on Sunday, of course.

“We can’t hide the fact that we have dropped off our form a bit the last few weeks.

“We dropped points against Everton, Sheff United, West Brom – points that we feel we deserved more and we should have got more.

“Tonight was about finding ourselves, tonight was about getting the X factor back in, the brightness and the focus, so Newcastle will be a very important game for us. Definitely.”


‘Hungry’ Liverpool midfielder told he needs to leave Anfield

John Barnes thinks Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should look to leave Liverpool if he wants to play regularly.

Partly down to injury and partly because he’s out of favour, Oxlade-Chamberlain has only managed two starts out of nine appearances in all competitions this season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailed him as a “difference-maker” on his return from injury in December but he’s used him sparingly ever since despite the Reds’ poor form.

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And Barnes says that the former Arsenal midfielder could have to leave Liverpool for regular game time despite being an “integral” part of Klopp’s squad.

Barnes told BonusCodeBets: “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t been a failure at Liverpool, he’s been part of a squad that’s won the Premier League and a Champions League. Yes, Liverpool paid £40m for him, but in today’s world, that isn’t a lot of money for a player.

“He’s been integral to the squad. He may not be one of the first 11 all the time but in the last few years he hasn’t let the team down and I don’t see that as a failure at all. He’s been a great addition and helped Liverpool to the glory that they’ve achieved.

“Whether he then moves on because he wants to play regular football rather than staying at a club in which he won’t always start, he’ll have to decide that.

“Maybe he feels that having won the Premier League and the Champions League he wants to play football more regularly. His injuries have been a problem for him, although that’s nothing to do with his quality as a footballer.

“He’s different to Takumi Minamino, who’s has just arrived at Liverpool, as opposed to Oxlade-Chamberlain who’s been there for a few years.

“Those two players are in two different situations. I think Chamberlain may feel at this point in his career that he’s hungry to play football regularly, so might have to move on, but Minamino has only been at Liverpool for six months and so shouldn’t be making a decision like that as things don’t always work out straight away.”


Man City respond to rumours of £433m approach for Lionel Messi

Manchester City have responded to rumours that they have made an approach for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to reports.

The Argentinian forward was involved in a summer-long dispute with Barcelona. He had his heart set on leaving, but he eventually agreed to remain at the club for now.

He argued that there was a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for free but club president Josep Bartomeu disagreed and claimed any suitors would have to pay £600m to get him.

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This made any summer move for Messi impossible, but his contract does expire at the end of this season.

The Sun claimed on Thursday that Man City have ‘come up with a new package’ to land Messi on a free transfer in the summer window.

The Citizens are apparently ready to offer a deal ‘worth a reduced £433m should a deal be brokered for him to sign on a free transfer this summer’.

However, City have now told Sky Sports that ‘no approach has been made’ for Messi and that there have been ‘no offers made, either in the summer, or since, and there are no talks’.

Meanwhile, former City defender Pablo Zabaleta believes the Etihad Stadium would be “the best place” for Messi.

The former international team-mate of Messi told Stadium Astro: “It is sad to see Messi in that situation.

“I never thought he would be in a final year of his contract at Barcelona. The team is not playing well and it seems that he is not enjoying his football. We will see what happens with Messi at the end of the season.


“He has a close friend in Sergio [Aguero] at Man City and has worked with Pep [Guardiola] at Barcelona before, so they know each other. Some of the people on the board also know Messi.

“If Messi decides that he wants to leave Barcelona, that he wants to go and play in a different league, in a different country, of course Man City would be one of them. Every player would like to have an experience in the Premier League.

“The Premier League is the best in the world and maybe he wants to go and enjoy a few years there.

“Man City would be the best place for him because he knows people there. I would like to see Messi, if he decides to move on to another club, in England as it is a lovely place to play football. He needs to enjoy football again because at the minute it seems like he is not enjoying it all.”


Solskjaer criticised for ‘excuses’ ahead of Man Utd clash

Niall Quinn has criticised Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his comments ahead of their Europa League clash against Real Sociedad.

United dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group.

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Solskjaer takes his side to Turin for the first leg of the last-32 match-up, with Solskjaer claiming his side were unlucky to be drawn against the toughest possible opponents.

“When the draw was made, probably the hardest you could pick from the unseeded group,” said Solskjaer. “They were top of LaLiga for a while and are still in the hunt for a Champions League place. We have to play at the highest level to get a result.”

Quinn was not impressed by the United manager’s comments, claiming he needs to show more ambition.

“Is he complaining the way they ended up in that competition?” began Quinn. “It’s a real shame for Manchester United that they are not playing in the bigger one. How they managed to knock themselves out of that competition, I don’t know.

“It is a tough game. Real Sociedad are decent, there is no doubt about that.

“But I don’t think making excuses before you play in the second competition is a good start. He should be saying we are Man Utd, this our competition for the taking. We are better than anybody here.”

Mbappe for free? Wenger reveals how close Arsenal came

Arsene Wenger has revealed that he went to Kylian Mbappe’s home in attempt to sign him on a free for Arsenal.

The PSG star made a splash on Tuesday with his stunning hat-trick against Barcelona, increasing speculation that he will move to Liverpool. Jamie Carragher certainly thinks it’s a possibility.

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But Wenger claims he would currently be an Arsenal player, had he managed to persuade him to join from Monaco.

“We can talk about Mbappe, I was at his home when he was undecided whether to extend his contract with Monaco,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “He could have come to Arsenal for free. I would say every club is full of histories like that.

“You go to Milan, to Manchester, Arsenal, Chelsea there are these kind of stories everywhere.”

It is not the first time Wenger has claimed other world class players came close to joining the Gunners, confirming stories about the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“He [Ronaldo] was very close to joining us,” Wenger added. ” The bad luck for us was that Carlos Queiroz joined Man Utd [as assistant manager] and in a week he persuaded [Sir Alex] Ferguson to buy Ronaldo. He was quite a good buy at the time.

“We wanted to make the trio of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique. They are a 1987 generation who played all together. Pique played in midfield at the time and in the end he decided to go to Man Utd, Fabregas joined us and Barcelona were clever enough to keep Messi.”

Premier League chief ‘confident’ fans will return next season

Premier League chief Richard Masters has insisted that he hopes to get fans in “real numbers” back into stadiums next season.

Supporters were last allowed into sports grounds in December, but it emerged this week that the Football Association and English Football League are in talks with the government about fans returning for the Carabao Cup final and FA Cup final at Wembley in April and May respectively.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a road map for how the UK will come out of its current national lockdown on Monday.

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Speaking at Thursday’s Financial Times’ Business of Football summit, Masters said: “We are getting used to watching live football on television without fans in the stadiums, and I don’t want to get used to it for much longer. Hopefully we will see an end to that and a return of supporters as soon as possible.

“I am confident (fans will return next season). No one can say because this pandemic has a way of surprising you as it did over Christmas, but we haven’t lost hope we might see a few back even this season, depending on what happens and the direction of the numbers and government decisions etc.

“Certainly, I hope next season it opens up quickly and we can work with the government again and with the rest of sport, and get fans back in the stadium in real numbers and get back to the real Premier League.”

Masters, who succeeded Richard Scudamore as chief executive of England’s top flight in 2019, also moved to take aim at proposals for a 20-club breakaway European Super League, which is understood to be led by Real Madrid and would feature a number of top English clubs.

He also insisted the Primer League has no plans to cut the number of participating teams from 20 to 18 in order to make it easier to stage more European matches.

UEFA has put forward plans for a new Champions League format from 2024 featuring one 36-team league replacing the current group stage, where every team plays 10 matches.

Masters said: “(The Super League) would affect domestic football across Europe, including the Premier League. Let us make no mistake about that.

“Any Super League proposal I have seen does not have access to it via domestic leagues so that would be destructive to the value of domestic football across Europe.

“It is about creating that right balance and it is UEFA’s job to reform the competitions and the format. We want to protect weekends when domestic football is played.

“There are always things to worry about and it is about finding the right balance. It is about making sure there is not too much interruption to domestic cups or domestic leagues because the more European games there are the more you have to cope with in terms of what is a complex match schedule and broadcast map.

“If you are taking a 10-year view of things, everything should be discussed, but at the moment we are a 20-club competition, we have been since 1995, and that is the favoured model across Europe. For the foreseeable future the Premier League is a 20-club competition.”

Masters also addressed the increasing problem of Premier League footballers being subjected to online abuse on social media.

He added: “We simply cannot accept a situation that a professional footballer is expecting or accepting online abuse, racial or otherwise.

“Of course, we speak to social media companies who are making some efforts but it is not working so we have to find new ways forward to really stop it at the source.

“We have a team of people who unfortunately spend most of their weekend tracking online racial abuse and in the case of Mike Dean, for example, death threats.

“They come from all over the world and a huge job of work needs to be done to identify the perpetrators and then start proceedings against them. The Premier League has invested in that and it is being used more and more unfortunately and we have committed more resource to it.”