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Football | The Guardian

Football news, results, fixtures, blogs, podcasts and comment on the Premier League, European and World football from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Fri, 23 Mar 2018 00:11:28 GMT2018-03-23T00:11:28Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018

England fringe players get chance as Gareth Southgate seeks elusive plan

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 22:30:16 GMT2018-03-22T22:30:16Z

The manager says he is ‘not concerned’ about his side as the World Cup looms but England face the Netherlands burdened by a host of still unanswered questions

Eighty days until the England team fly to the World Cup, Gareth Southgate leant back in his chair at the Steigenberger hotel in Amsterdam and insisted he was “not concerned”. But was he ever going to admit the opposite? England are still looking for a standout goalkeeper and have an experimental defence, a guessing game about who might be captain and no obvious plan. Jack Wilshere has just reminded English football why it was always silly to think of him as a national saviour and the only striker who would usually be guaranteed a first-team place was last seen on crutches. Apart from that, everything is going swimmingly.

A slightly downbeat tone, perhaps, but when Southgate admitted his team were “still a work in progress” it certainly felt like an understatement. Southgate’s job is to sound positive but at this stage, after 16 months in the job, it is not encouraging to find so many places in England’s team still up for grabs, so many questions unanswered, so many players unproven and, frankly, so many holes in the side, from back to front.

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Give us a break: why a few days in the sun can be crucial for a season’s run-in | Liam Rosenior

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:00:12 GMT2018-03-22T19:00:12Z

Footballers have a reputation for treating mid-season breaks as a jolly but, handled responsibly, they can galvanise a squad for the challenges ahead

These past few days have been full of talk of “who’s on the plane, in the departure lounge and on the beach” with regard to players involved in international friendlies and hopeful of going to the World Cup finals this summer, but the same period is crucial to those involved in the bottom half of the Premier League and the promotion-chasing hopefuls in the Championship.

Most if not all of the clubs in the top half of the Premier League will be left with only a handful of players who are not on international duty but at Brighton and some other clubs a large percentage of us remain and have a full two weeks and in some cases three without a competitive match.

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Panama’s tough approach in Denmark loss gives England food for thought

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:31:06 GMT2018-03-22T21:31:06Z

• Denmark 1-0 Panama
• Sisto 70

If Gareth Southgate’s emissaries learned one thing from an attritional scrap it is that even in a best-case scenario England will come away from Nizhny Novgorod sporting bruises after their group game with Panama at the World Cup finals.

England’s opponents on 24 June, perhaps sensing that Denmark were reluctant to operate at anything above half-speed, dragged their hosts into a sapping physical contest and left their mark in more ways than one.

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Manchester United’s women’s football move is better late than never | Suzanne Wrack

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 14:57:35 GMT2018-03-22T14:57:35Z

Despite the time it has taken, the news that one of the game’s superpowers are launching a pro women’s team is welcome

Finally. The announcement that Manchester United are to launch a professional women’s team and have bid for a place in a newly restructured second tier next season has provoked a variety of responses but overall it is deeply welcome.

Why? Because whatever you may think about United’s late arrival to the party, one of the superpowers of world football entering the arena will boost the profile of the game and show that women’s football has reached the point where it must be taken seriously. And United, seen by many as stubborn and out of step, will benefit from an enhanced reputation and will be able to expand their extensive sponsorship portfolio into a new market.

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Gianluigi Buffon hits out at Italy critics as he prepares to face Lionel Messi

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:01:48 GMT2018-03-22T23:01:48Z

• Italy to take on Argentina in Manchester friendly
• ‘People enjoy controversy ... I’m not here to showcase’

Gianluigi Buffon issued a stern rebuke to his critics as he arrived in England to add to his record cap tally with Italy.

The veteran goalkeeper announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup last November but later reversed his decision.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic set for LA Galaxy after Manchester United cancel contract

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:54:48 GMT2018-03-22T17:54:48Z

  • United thank striker for his contribution to the club
  • Ibrahimovic: ‘Great things come to an end’

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left Manchester United after the club agreed to terminate his contract, with the striker expected to join LA Galaxy.

The Swede, who signed for United in the summer of 2016 and had a successful first season at Old Trafford until he suffered a serious knee injury in April, has featured in only seven games in this campaign.

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England's headache, fancied squads and sticker stories – Football Weekly Extra

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:24:23 GMT2018-03-22T15:24:23Z

Max Rushden and co assess England’s priorities, Old Trafford hymn sheets, Panini versus Merlin and more

Rate, review, share on Apple Podcasts,Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud, Acastand Stitcher, and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and email.

Max Rushden is joined by Jonathan Wilson, Sachin Nakrani and Michael Butler to look ahead to a feast of friendlies before this World Cup business that starts in 12 weeks’ time.

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Spain’s Sergio Ramos aims to break Iker Casillas’s caps record

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:10:08 GMT2018-03-22T23:10:08Z

* Real Madrid defender has former teammate’s mark in his sights
* Ramos will make his 150th appearance against Germany on Friday

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has spoken of his desire to become his country’s most-capped player of all-time, as he prepares to make his 150th appearance for La Roja against Germany on Friday.

The record, held by Iker Casillas, stands at 167 caps but Ramos has that number in his sights and hinted he is ready to prolong his international career beyond this year’s World Cup.

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Gareth Bale savours 'pinnacle' after breaking Wales record against China

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 13:40:31 GMT2018-03-22T13:40:31Z

When you are applauded by supporters nearly 6,000 miles from home you must be doing something right and after overtaking Ian Rush as Wales’s record goalscorer with a hat-trick in a thumping 6-0 victory, Gareth Bale was certainly deserving of the lavish praise afforded him by the Chinese crowd clearly besotted by the 28-year-old.

The Real Madrid forward made his journey from Spain to the Far East worthwhile as he starred in his team’s victory, recorded his first international treble and moved past Rush on to 29 goals for Wales, all while helping to give Ryan Giggs the perfect result in his first match in charge since succeeding Chris Coleman as manager.

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Barry Douglas: ‘I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve experienced the real world’

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 14:42:45 GMT2018-03-22T14:42:45Z

A decade ago the defender was an apprentice refrigeration engineer and amateur footballer. Now – after spells in Poland and Turkey – a Scotland debut and promotion with Wolves are almost a reality

Wolverhampton Wanderers are portrayed as the Championship’s entitled elite but there is a wonderful counterstory within.

On Friday, aged 28, Barry Douglas could make his Scotland debut as Costa Rica visit Glasgow. Hampden Park was once his football home. Douglas played for two full seasons at Queen’s Park, the amateur club perennially of Scotland’s lower echelons, before a switch to Dundee United kick-started what has been a career worth celebrating even before it reaches the promised land on the horizon.

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International football: 10 things to look out for in this round of friendlies

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:10:41 GMT2018-03-22T09:10:41Z

France and England debutants stake their claims, Ronaldo v Salah, Dembélé seeks to convince Martínez and another new start for Scotland

Zurich is not an obvious venue for Portugal to face Egypt but may, at least, afford Fifa bigwigs the opportunity to pop out of the office and watch two of the players they hope will offer good news stories at their tournament. Mohamed Salah has, on numerous occasions during a remarkable season with Liverpool, looked the nearest thing the Premier League has seen to Cristiano Ronaldo since the latter joined Real Madrid in 2009; Ronaldo has modified his game now but this is still a welcome chance to see them spar. There are broader similarities, too, in how their national teams rely on them: until Euro 2016 Ronaldo’s eminence sometimes verged on a curse for Portugal and, while that is not quite the case for Egypt, their hopes of a run to the latter stages this summer would be starkly reduced were it not for the Salah’s influence. Here is a chance for both teams, then, to prove they have the better hitman as well as the superior support network. NA

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World Cup stunning moments: The Battle of Santiago | Simon Burnton

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:46:14 GMT2018-03-22T09:46:14Z

‘This match is universally agreed by observers as the ugliest, most vicious and disgraceful in soccer history’

It took two days for highlights of the match that was christened, even during the commentary, the Battle of Santiago, to be flown from South America and broadcast in Britain. Two days in which the game became, in its own brutal way, legendary, spoken of in ways which must have sent anyone with a combined interest in football and mild gore into a frenzy of excitement. “The match is universally agreed by observers as the ugliest, most vicious and disgraceful in soccer history,” wrote Frank McGhee in the Mirror. “If you think that is exaggerating, watch the film on TV. But send the kids to bed first – it deserves a horror certificate!”

David Coleman’s introduction to the BBC’s broadcast is rightly legendary. “Good evening,” he said. “The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football in the history of the game. This is the first time these countries have met; we hope it will be the last. The national motto of Chile reads, By Reason or By Force. Today, the Chileans weren’t prepared to be reasonable, the Italians only used force, and the result was a disaster for the World Cup. If the World Cup is going to survive in its present form something has got to be done about teams that play like this. Indeed, after seeing the film tonight, you at home may well think that teams that play in this manner ought to be expelled immediately from the competition.”

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Which of England's new centre-backs best fits Gareth Southgate's style?

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 10:39:58 GMT2018-03-22T10:39:58Z

If Joe Gomez, James Tarkowski or Alfie Mawson want to play alongside John Stone and Harry Maguire, they need to adapt to a patient, passing approach

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored, part of the Sport Network

Gareth Southgate may not know his starting XI, or even who will make his 23-man squad for the World Cup, but the England manager has made one thing very clear throughout his reign: he is an avid exponent of playing out from defence.

England’s defence has been impressive since Southgate took over – they have only conceded one goal in their last six matches – but Southgate is keen for his backline to play their part in building attacks too. “We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying,” said Southgate after England secured their place in Russia. “But we’re nowhere near the highest scorers, so we’ve got to address that. Part of that is being able to build and create chances.”

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West Ham issue lifetime bans to fans involved in trouble against Burnley

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:38:35 GMT2018-03-22T09:38:35Z

• Punishment applies to West Ham matches at home and away
• Club expects to issue further bans before end of month

West Ham have issued lifetime bans, from the club’s home and away games, to fans who invaded the pitch or threw missiles in front of the directors’ box during the defeat by Burnley.

The match at the London Stadium on 10 March was marred by four pitch invasions and by hundreds of fans gathering in front of the directors’ box after Burnley took the lead in the second half. One coin struck West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan on his glasses. The club expect to hand out further lifetime bans.

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Lee Bowyer named Charlton caretaker manager after Karl Robinson’s exit

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:43:03 GMT2018-03-22T17:43:03Z

• Robinson leaves by mutual consent and joins Oxford United
• Bowyer to take charge for Saturday’s home game against Plymouth

Lee Bowyer has been named the caretaker manager of Charlton Athletic after Karl Robinson left the club by mutual consent.

Bowyer, who started his professional career with Charlton, will take charge for Saturday’s game against their League One play-off rivals Plymouth with Johnnie Jackson named as his assistant.

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Nikita Parris guides Manchester City past Linköping towards semi-finals

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 21:09:43 GMT2018-03-21T21:09:43Z

• Women’s Champions League: Manchester City 2-0 Linköping
• Parris and Jane Ross give City edge in front of Phil Neville

Phil Neville, the national coach, witnessed an accomplished display from Manchester City on Wednesday night that makes Nick Cushing’s team favourites to reach the Champions League last four in the return leg next week.

City made the game an exhibition of attack versus defence and came away feeling a higher margin of victory might have been returned although, given a recent dip in form, the manager did not complain.

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England winning World Cup would be best response to Russia, says minister

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 10:36:53 GMT2018-03-22T10:36:53Z

Matt Hancock says best way to respond to Skripal poisoning would be to win final in Moscow

The culture, media and sport secretary, Matt Hancock, has said the best way to respond to the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Salisbury would be for England to win the World Cup final in Moscow.

Hancock was asked by ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether Britain should boycott the tournament over government claims that the Kremlin was behind the attack in Salisbury on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

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Manchester United to launch women’s team and apply to join WSL

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 23:35:22 GMT2018-03-21T23:35:22Z

• Ed Woodward announces application to join second tier of WSL
• ‘Women’s team must be built with the same principles as the men’s’

Manchester United are finally set to have a Women’s Super League team after the club applied to the Football Association to join.

United are rare among the established forces of the domestic men’s game in not having a women’s side. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool all have teams with United until now resisting calls for it to join them. In January Phil Neville, the England women national team coach and former United defender, stated he would be “urging them” to do so.

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Gwyn Williams accused of racist bullying by fourth former Chelsea player

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 20:37:00 GMT2018-03-21T20:37:00Z

• Legal papers delivered to Chelsea say player damaged for life
• Williams has denied any allegations of racial or other abuse
• Club ‘determined to do right thing’ on claims dating from 1979-85

Chelsea are facing new allegations about a culture of “continued racist bullying and abuse” that is said to have left one of the club’s former youth-team players so traumatised he has deliberately avoided going anywhere near Stamford Bridge in more than 30 years and finds it difficult even to watch them on television because of the psychological scars.

Legal papers delivered to Chelsea claim the player still suffers from flashbacks and has been damaged for life because of the racism he allegedly encountered from Gwyn Williams, a prominent figure at Stamford Bridge for 25 years. In a statement submitted as part of his legal claim, the player alleges the abuse started soon after he joined the club’s youth system, at the age of 13, and says it continued for six years until he abandoned his career, despite signing as a professional, because his self-confidence had been shattered and the prospect of seeing Williams made him “feel physically sick”.

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The Joy of Six: football loan deals

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 12:23:08 GMT2018-03-21T12:23:08Z

A 19th century half-back for hire, Fernando Morientes making his parent club suffer, Ossie Ardiles at PSG and more

In December 1884 Blackburn announced a deal had been struck for them to field Haworth, Accrington’s captain, in that season’s FA Cup. He would continue to play league fixtures for his parent club, or anyone else who wanted to borrow a decent defender (he also played a bit for Preston that season). But before their quarter-final against West Brom, something happened. The finer details are hard to ascertain but it seems the club hadn’t joined the British Football Association, which was trying to force them to do so by blocking the Haworth deal.

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Inside Real Madrid's academy: 'Only a certain type of person succeeds here'

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 15:03:35 GMT2018-03-21T15:03:35Z

Real Madrid are happy to break the world transfer record but they have also invested €100m in building an academy they call ‘the greatest sports facility ever built by a football club’

By Alex Clapham for Caño Football of the Sport Network

The scores were locked at 2-2 when Marco Asensio hit a 25-yard rocket that dipped and whipped in front of Manuel Neuer’s face before landing in the bottom corner. Ecstasy and an eight-man pile-on ensue as the other player screams expletives at the German goalkeeper and claims his controller is faulty. With less than four hours to go until kick-off, the Cadete B players are supposed to be relaxing before a testing league encounter under the lights. Playing a Fifa tournament isn’t exactly doing the trick.

Competitiveness is encouraged by staff around the Real Madrid complex, says academy coach Javier Morán. “These are boys who are representing Real Madrid. Real Madrid, fucking hell. They need to be a certain kind of individual to succeed here. You can’t coach desire but you can surround the boys with drive and belief. Our club ethos is ‘nunca se rinde’ (‘never give up’) and they need that competitive edge to achieve their targets.”

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How Carlos Queiroz turned Iran into Asia’s best World Cup hope | John Duerden

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 12:01:05 GMT2018-03-21T12:01:05Z

The former Manchester United coach eased the Iranians through qualification but they now want tangible finals success, something that has always eluded Team Melli

The only one of the dozen names on Fifa’s shortlist for 2017 men’s coach of the year not working in Europe was Tite, who ensured Brazil were the first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. Iran were second but that was not enough for Carlos Queiroz, who has now led three different national teams to four World Cups. He may have to wait for success at the World Cup to turn eurocentric heads.

That means finishing above two of Portugal, Spain and Morocco in Russia to progress to the knockout stage at the fifth time of asking. If there is any Asian team that can manage that then it is Iran. For four years Team Melli have been the highest-ranked national side on the continent, for just a little less time they have been the best on the pitch, too.

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Chris Mepham: ‘It’s surreal that Ryan Giggs wants to have a chat with you’

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:20:32 GMT2018-03-21T14:20:32Z

Four years ago he was a Sunday league player. Now he is thriving at Brentford, wanted in the Premier League and set for a Wales debut

As Chris Mepham tells his story in the same west London hotel where Ryan Giggs asked to meet him a couple of months ago, it is tempting to wonder how differently his career could have turned out had his mum not persuaded him to have one last crack at academy football, or if the centre‑back for North Greenford reserves had managed to get away from work on time.

Mepham’s journey is about much more than fate, however, and in many ways highlights the huge challenges facing any youngster who sets out to become a professional footballer. Released by Chelsea at 14, rejected by Watford and turned away by Queens Park Rangers after being given some brutal feedback that shattered his confidence, Mepham drifted into Sunday league football before resurfacing at Brentford, where he has made such an impression this season that in January Bournemouth had a bid of £6.5m plus add-ons rejected for a 20-year-old with only 14 appearances to his name.

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Doncaster’s Matty Blair: ‘I’m privileged to have had my brother in my life for 28 years’

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 09:59:07 GMT2018-03-21T09:59:07Z

The midfielder lost his brother last July but it was not until he fainted while walking his dog that he sought help. Here he talks about what he has learned

Matty Blair was out walking Bruce, his beagle, as he does every morning before training, in the rows of fields behind his house in Rossington in September when he suddenly fainted while chatting with friends. He remembers feeling hot and bothered, taking off his coat and letting his dog off the leash to play, although, after that, the Doncaster Rovers midfielder does not really recall how he ended up on the floor. Crucially, what happened that morning prompted him to seek help, three months into what he describes as the toughest season of his life after the heartbreak of losing his older brother, Ross.

Related: Reading sack manager Jaap Stam after one win in last 18 league games

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José Mourinho claims Manchester United are scared to play – video

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 11:29:40 GMT2018-03-18T11:29:40Z

The Manchester United manager says his players are in a bad moment and don’t have the confidence or personality to play at the moment as the ‘sun is not shining’ for them

Mourinho criticises players saying they lack ‘class’.

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Jürgen Klopp downplays Messi comparisons for Mo Salah – video

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 12:06:54 GMT2018-03-18T12:06:54Z

The Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, has downplayed comparisons between Mo Salah and Lionel Messi, but believes the Egyptian is on his way to becoming a superstar after the striker scored four goals in Liverpool's 5-0 win over Watford on Saturday

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Mauricio Pochettino praises Harry Kane's bravery after ankle injury – video

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:09:59 GMT2018-03-15T15:09:59Z

The Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, praised Harry Kane’s bravery, suggesting the striker would ‘put his leg in a washing machine’ to help his side score. The England forward is out until April with ankle ligament damage following Spurs’ win at Bournemouth on Sunday

Kane set to return to fitness within four weeks

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Southgate hoping England fans will boost World Cup chances in Russia – video

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:31:22 GMT2018-03-15T16:31:22Z

Gareth Southgate says it would be a ‘huge boost’ to have England supporters at the World Cup in Russia, amid political tensions between the two countries. Talking at England’s squad announcement on Thursday, Southgate says he is focused on football before the tournament and hopeful fans would be there to support the team on their World Cup journey.

Southgate ‘desperate’ to take England to the World Cup

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PAOK Salonika owner Ivan Savvidis invades pitch with a gun – video

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 13:09:23 GMT2018-03-12T13:09:23Z

PAOK Salonika's owner, Ivan Savvidis, could be in trouble with the Greek authorities after storming on to the pitch with a gun during his side's match against AEK Athens. Savvidis had to be held back after he tried to confront the referee over a late goal that was allowed and then disallowed by officials. 

Greek owner invades pitch with a gun

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Jamie Carragher filmed spitting in direction of 14-year-old girl – video

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:00:52 GMT2018-03-12T12:00:52Z

The football pundit was caught on video spitting towards a teenager following Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester United. The incident happened while Carragher was driving, ending with him winding down his window and spitting towards another car carrying a teenage girl. He apologised on Sunday evening for the incident via Twitter however the broadcaster has now been suspended  from his pundit role on Sky Sports

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The 100 best footballers in the world 2017

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 11:00:24 GMT2017-12-19T11:00:24Z

Our panel of 169 experts from 63 nations compile a list of the greatest male players in 2017. Click on an individual to read more about their year.

Messi edges Ronaldo to No1 | The data behind our 100 | Watch: our top 10
Meet our panel of judges for 2017 | 2016 edition | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

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Survival expert Labbadia struggling to keep Wolfsburg from trapdoor | Andy Brassell

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:44:56 GMT2018-03-19T12:44:56Z

Wolfsburg’s continued plummet down the league has led to genuine fears they could finish bottom this season

When Bruno Labbadia arrives in a new post, it’s with a certain label attached– that of relegation battle specialist, and it’s one well-earned in successful fights against the drop at Stuttgart and Hamburg. If there’s a bright side to be looked upon after a tough couple of opening weeks at Wolfsburg, with one point taken from his opening four games in charge, it’s that he has the perfect situation in which to fulfil that reputation.

Saturday’s heartbreaking late defeat to high-flying Schalke, sealed by Robin Knoche’s unfortunate 86th-minute own goal, was hardly deserved but the result is very much the bottom line in Wolfsburg’s current state. “We wanted to close the spaces for them, to be compact, and we did a good job of succeeding,” said Labbadia. “The only thing that didn’t work is the result, and so we can’t take anything from the performance, but we have to build on what we showed today.”

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Spirited Spal frustrate Juventus and shake up the bottom – and top – of Serie A | Paolo Bandini

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 11:19:14 GMT2018-03-19T11:19:14Z

Leonardo Semplici’s minnows have a fighting chance of survival after halting the champions’ charge with a battling display that also boosted Napoli’s title hopes

Leonardo Semplici could have encouraged his players not to worry before their game against Juventus. Nobody expected Spal to get a result against opponents 15 places and 50 points ahead of them. As such, the manager might have told them to stay loose, to enjoy themselves, to go out and take a swing knowing that they had nothing to lose.

Instead he told them the truth. “We have lots to lose,” said Semplici before Saturday’s game. “We’re running out of games and we need to try to pick up points. We are facing the best team in Italy, and one of the strongest in Europe, but we still need to try to take a positive result.”

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Marseille v Lyon boils over but Ligue 1 needs Olympico rivalry

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 13:50:32 GMT2018-03-19T13:50:32Z

Memphis Depay sealed a last-gasp 3-2 win for Lyon that saved a manager, sparked a brawl and made it clear why this fierce rivalry is welcome in Ligue 1

By Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football News

Two months ago Memphis Depay crashed his last-minute shot past Alphonse Areola to give Lyon a 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain and cut the gap at the top of Ligue 1 to eight points. Lyon looked like genuine outsiders for the title and Bruno Génésio seemed to have finally figured out his team. But as Sunday night’s Olympico at the Stade Vélodrome approached, the mood around Lyon had severely darkened.

In the six Ligue 1 games following the win over PSG, Lyon collected just three points and no wins. Monaco and Marseille forged clear in the mad dash for Champions League places and Génésio’s side again capitulated in the Europa League this week, a 3-2 home defeat by CSKA Moscow only surpassed in disappointment by their inept semi-final display in Amsterdam in the same competition last season. Rumours of unrest were underlined by full-back Marçal’s exile from the squad after an outburst against Génésio’s management and the fact that Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, had to deny he refused the coach’s resignation. Losing to a direct rival in Marseille would have ended Lyon’s top three hopes and likely sealed Génésio’s fate.

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Mulamba is living like a pauper 44 years after Zaire red-card farce | Paul Doyle

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:33:04 GMT2018-03-18T19:33:04Z

Weak and frail, the player sent off at the 1974 World Cup after being wrongly punished for kicking a referee up the backside is struggling to make ends meet

Poor and wheelchair-bound, Ndaye Mulamba has just been told he faces eviction from his rented home in Kinshasa, 44 years after he was ejected from the World Cup for kicking a referee up the backside.

Mulamba is nearly 70 and that may be a surprise if the last time you heard mention of him was when a minute’s silence was held in his honour before a match at the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations, when the players of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso marked his “death” in an accident at an Angolan diamond mine. That turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Mulamba has never even been to Angola.

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Few fans and little history but Basaksehir are challenging Turkey’s big three | Nick Ames

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 07:59:03 GMT2018-03-18T07:59:03Z

With a host of former Premier League players Basaksehir are aiming to succeed where the country’s more established powers have largely failed

There was plenty to recognise when, on 2 August, Istanbul Basaksehir beat Club Brugge 2-0 to qualify for the Champions League play-off round. The first goal came when Emmanuel Adebayor, meeting a cross from his erstwhile Arsenal team-mate Gaël Clichy, powered in a header and there were other familiar faces on hand to celebrate. Emre Belozoglu, now 37, was patrolling the midfield that day; Gökhan Inler watched from the bench; and the home side’s former Premier League sextet was completed by Kerim Frei and Eljero Elia.

Between them they could recount a passable history of the English top flight post-2005 but their present engagement involves shaping Turkey’s football future. Should Istanbul Basaksehir conclude a potentially decisive derby weekend by defeating Besiktas at home on Sunday afternoon, they will reinvigorate their bid to win the title just four years after assuming their present identity. They are little-known outside Turkey and hardly popular within it but their aim is to become a global force and succeed where the country’s more established powers have largely failed.

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A-League: Adelaide's lack of goals all about the type of shots they are generating

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:00:08 GMT2018-03-18T17:00:08Z

Adelaide United rank first in shots this season (328) but only eighth in goals (25) and, along with most A-League sides, live in a mass of predictable grey

“Balance, clearly, is part of it, but there must also be intelligence: endlessly repeating the same trick may have attacking intent, but the effect is tedium,” Jonathan Wilson wrote in 2016, on Louis van Gaal’s struggles with Manchester United.

“Attacking is, like so much in football, nebulous and is largely dependent on context.”

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European round-up: Schalke keep Bayern waiting as Hamburg face drop

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:47:19 GMT2018-03-17T21:47:19Z

• Own goal gives Schalke the points after Ralf Fährmann penalty save
• Hamburg edge towards first relegation with 2-1 defeat by Hertha

Schalke needed an 86th-minute own goal from Robin Knoche to win 1-0 at VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday, tightening their grip on second place and delaying title celebrations for Bayern Munich by at least one matchday.

At the other end of the table the first Bundesliga relegation for the league ever-presents Hamburg SV edged closer, after they lost 2-1 at home against Hertha Berlin to stay anchored in 17th place.

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Dortmund’s Michy Batshuayi alleges more racist abuse by Atalanta fans

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 22:58:58 GMT2018-03-16T22:58:58Z

• On-loan Chelsea striker shares monkey emojis on Twitter
• Atalanta already facing Uefa disciplinary hearing on 22 March

The Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi, who is on loan from Chelsea, has been inundated with racially abusive messages on social media, allegedly sent by Atalanta fans.

Related: Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi accuses Atalanta fans of racism

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The Russia World Cup has to save international football from crisis | Barney Ronay

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 18:35:50 GMT2018-03-20T18:35:50Z

Before this set of friendlies, we can focus on Russia 2018 contenders, dark horses – and England – but also the desperate need for a successful tournament

As the friendly international spring break descends upon the season like a dose of Sunday afternoon blues, it has become a reflex response among those watching to sigh a little, to count the days, to see this severance from the teat of club football excitement as a draught of cold water, another unwelcome interruption from the dying hand of international football.

Related: How absurd to boycott World Cup when Russia is so bound up in our economy | Barney Ronay

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Game over in La Liga: Atlético's title hopes fade in league that stands still | Sid Lowe

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 15:20:09 GMT2018-03-19T15:20:09Z

Atlético’s loss at Villarreal means Barça are set to win a league in which the same faces have sat in the same places for some time

And so it ends? If, that is, it hadn’t already – and if it ever really started. “I feel like I lost it,” Diego Simeone said. It was Sunday evening on the east coast and he meant the game, but in all probability it was the title too. Defeated 2-1 by Villarreal, Atlético Madrid’s manager gazed at nothing in particular, an empty look on his face as all around him people celebrated. An old man enthusiastically shook the hand of the man next to him, a solitary square of yellow confetti settled on his tweed hat, while Simeone’s team trudged past towards the tunnel. Vitolo had led the way seconds before, sent off for the first time, and now they followed, knowing that, barring a miracle, the league had just come to a close at the Ceramic Stadium, two months early.

“Is it over?” Simeone was asked, to which he said something about winning lots of games and seeing where they are with five weeks to go. But with nine weeks left, Atlético are probably too far off and he could have been forgiven for offering a shorter, simpler answer: “Probably.” On Sunday afternoon, Barcelona defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-0 and that, plus Atlético’s defeat, leaves Simeone’s side 11 points and head-to-head goal difference behind. “It’s finished!” ran the shout on the radio and most agreed: any lingering hope Atlético had of becoming champions again, already radically reduced since that loss at the Camp Nou, slipped through their fingers.

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The Fiver | Finally, after all these years, a chance to fulfil our dream

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:56:28 GMT2018-03-22T15:56:28Z

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Obvious timing issues mean The Fiver doesn’t get the opportunity to report on actual football all that often – basically we’ve been a clanking empty vessel since 1998 – but on Thursday Wales played China in a match that kicked off at 11.35am our time. Finally, after all these years, a chance to fulfil our dream of becoming an old-school match reporter! In preparation, The Fiver excitedly compiled a dossier of Ryan Giggs’s first squad, studied the tactical set-up of Marcello Lippi’s side, pulled on an unwashed corduroy jacket, smeared grease in our hair and egg down the front of our string vest, stayed up half the night getting into spats with other journalists and trying to get the attention of minor celebrities on assorted social media disgraces, lost consciousness face down in a half-eaten kebab, and woke up with a start at 1.35pm having slept through the entire thing. Bah!

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The FiveЯ, a not-singing, not-dancing World Cup Fiver

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 11:44:07 GMT2018-03-22T11:44:07Z

Sign up for our free weekly email featuring the latest news, intrigue, analysis and blunders from the 32 competing nations

The Ethics World Cup is approaching rapidly – OK, it’s approaching at the standard rate of one day at a time but our excitement is growing like medicinal herbs in a garage full of hydroponic lamps.

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Football transfer rumours: Jorginho to replace Emre Can at Liverpool?

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 08:40:58 GMT2018-03-22T08:40:58Z

Today’s tittle-tattle is in the zone

Everton have plundered many a player from Manchester United over the years: Morgan Schneiderlin, Darron Gibson, Jesper Blomqvist, John O’Kane. Well, you’ve got to keep trying, haven’t you. And to be fair Phil Neville worked out quite well, so they’re now in for Luke Shaw and Phil Jones. Perhaps they should also make a cheeky bid for Alexis Sánchez, who is reportedly having second thoughts about moving to Old Trafford right now, not that you could take a wild guess.

United are thinking Gareth Bale might be a better bet, and his signing from Real Madrid would stop David de Gea walking off in a what’s-the-point-of-it-all huff. They’ll also offer £50m for Raphaël Varane. Those deals may see Anthony Martial on his way to Valencia, along with Marouane Fellani and Matteo Darmian, while Real would compensate for their losses by making off with Harry Kane.

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Which football manager has had most spells in charge of the same club? | The Knowledge

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 10:00:08 GMT2018-03-21T10:00:08Z

Plus: more clubs named after political figures and the fateful tale of an overly hasty ballgirl. Mail us your questions and answers or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU

“Martin Allen has just been appointed Barnet manager for the fifth time. Is this a record? If not, which manager has had most stints at one club?” asks George Jones.

“Mad Dog” would define the term “well-travelled manager”, having had 12 separate stints, were it not for his frequent returns to Barnet, a club to which he has not been completely loyal. After each of his previous four stints, from March 2003 to March 2004, three matches in 2010-11, three more at the end of the 2011-12 season, and his longest spell, two-and-a-half years that ended in December 2016, he has taken up a better offer, the last when moving to Eastleigh. This time, he has eight matches to prevent the bottom club from dropping out of the Football League.

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Golden Goal: Marc Overmars for Arsenal v Manchester United (1998)

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 13:00:07 GMT2018-03-14T13:00:07Z

It was 20 years ago that the Dutch winger scored the goal that set Arsenal on the road to the title on a day when one celebrating supporter became the unlikely focus

The Sky Sports advert for the 1997-98 season is a masterpiece of absurd pomposity. The actor Sean Bean, the concept of keeping it real in human form, strides relentlessly towards the camera while giving a breathy speech about the meaning of football. “It’s ecstasy, anguish, joy and despair,” he says. “It’s theatre, art, war and love … It’s our religion: we do not apologise for it, we do not deny it … They’re our team, our family, our life.”

The pay-off is plea of authenticity. “Football. We know how you feel about it. Because we feel the same.”

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José Mourinho or Donald Trump: who said it?

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 12:00:06 GMT2018-03-14T12:00:06Z

It’s the Manchester United manager v the President of the United States. Can you tell these two humble souls apart?On God: “He must really think I’m a great guy. He must think that, because otherwise he would not have given me so much. I have a great family. I work in a place where I’ve always dreamt of working” José MourinhoDonald Trump On humility: “I think I am, actually humble. I think I'm much more humble than you would understand”José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn media criticism: "Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media … you can’t let them get you down. I guess that’s why we won”José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn having nothing to say: “I have nothing, nothing to say. Nothing, nothing to say. Nothing to say, I have nothing to say. Nothing to say, I am so sorry, I have nothing to say”José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn success: “If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn’t fail many times” José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn being loved: "People love me. And you know what, I have been very successful. Everybody loves me"José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn a potential biopic: “If they made a film of my life, I think they should get George Clooney to play me. He’s a fantastic actor and my wife thinks he would be ideal"José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn career progress: “I have a problem, which is I’m getting better at everything related to my job since I started”José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn their work: "It's tangible, it's solid, it's beautiful. It's artistic"José MourinhoDonald TrumpOn a rival's partner: "And for her also to think about me and to speak about me, I think the lady needs to occupy her time, and if she takes care of her husband’s diet she will have less time to speak about me”José MourinhoDonald Trump Continue reading...[...]

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Sir Roger Bannister's four-minute miracle, 360ball and shuttlecocks | Classic YouTube

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 10:18:24 GMT2018-03-08T10:18:24Z

This week’s roundup also features some French flair, footballers chatting about wine and some snooker loopiness

1) With the passing of Sir Roger Bannister at the weekend we were reminded of a man ahead of his time, not just with his speed but knowing lightweight footwear was key, getting his own bespoke shoes made for athletics. It would only be fair to let Sir Roger explain his four-minute mile in his own words. Alternatively, just enjoy the miracle mile and the three minutes and 59.4 seconds in all their glory.

2) No good can come from creating the name for a project before actually thinking about the concept. The pinnacle of this failing is Footballers’ Wines where ex-professionals are quizzed about their careers while some bloke explains why they might like wine at random junctures. Sadly, after grilling Tony Dorigo, Dave Beasant, Jason Euell, Pat Nevin and Hope Powell the idea was ended despite an infinite amount of wine/football puns in the presenter’s locker. Who knows what we could have learned from Mark Draper being interviewed over a class of Rioja? Or Paul Parker answering questions while sipping a Pinot Grigio?

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The Game: football through the lens of Stuart Roy Clarke – in pictures

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:53:38 GMT2018-03-20T14:53:38Z

Veteran football photographer Stuart Roy Clarke has been covering the game for the past 30 years. His favourite shots are on show at the National Football Museum from 23 March 2018

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Why I was wrong over Mohamed Salah, Liverpool's Egyptian king | Barney Ronay

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:22:00 GMT2018-03-19T19:22:00Z

The £35m forward looks one of the best buys in years now he is being given a proper run after his Chelsea false start

To err is human, to forgive divine. As a coda to this: to err massively and hilariously is also human, as anyone who writes about sport can confirm. It is a common experience to find yourself wincing a little at the way things turn out in the real world, even when the way things turn out is also a source of pure sporting pleasure.

All of which is a prelude to a mea culpa. Yes: I was a Salah doubter. Or at least a nonplussed observer. My Guardian pre-season Premier League preview from last August contained the following dismissive summary of Jürgen Klopp’s transfer business: “Liverpool have bought a good left-back and spent an awful lot of money on Mohamed Salah.” Let’s just read that back. An awful. Lot of. Money. Mo Salah for £35m. Lol. Laughing weeping face emoji. Do I get paid for this stuff?

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‘Fixing matches like nobody has done before’: Skenderbeu’s amazing tale

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 11:00:31 GMT2018-03-19T11:00:31Z

Albania’s leading club are accused in a leaked Uefa report of routinely manipulating games for betting purposes and may be banned for 10 years

In Korce they love their football team and that is why, on 21 February, thousands of the Albanian city’s inhabitants gathered to sing for Skenderbeu. The rally stretched far down the main avenue, one placard standing out among scarves and banners. Its message was clear: “Do not kill our dream.”

Everything Skenderbeu have achieved is on the verge of being discredited by the most extraordinary match-fixing inquiry of all time. A leaked Uefa report has recommended the six-times national champions, who competed in the Europa League group stage this season, are banned from its competitions for an unprecedented 10 years; if the governing body’s control, ethics and disciplinary body agrees, almost a decade of progress will come to a shuddering halt.

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Adrien Silva: ‘I will never understand Fifa’s decision. We’re talking seconds’

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:04 GMT2018-03-18T08:00:04Z

Leicester’s midfielder has put a bleak chapter behind him before facing Chelsea, who tried to sign him as a youngster, in the FA Cup

Adrien Silva is recalling when he was banned from playing after a Premier League club tried to sign him, only this episode has nothing to do with Leicester City and the deadline-day saga that ended with an international footballer running round a field to keep fit between talking to lawyers. Silva is rowing back to 2005 instead, when he was 15 and José Mourinho tried to talk him into joining Chelsea along with two other young Sporting Lisbon players.

“It was a very strange moment and I was so young,” Silva says. “To have this club approach me, especially when Mourinho comes to talk to you … at this time, we didn’t know why he came. But when the club wants something, they do everything. He came to see me in Portugal and we went there, to Chelsea, to see the training ground. Then we came back and it was a big, big situation with Sporting.”

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Gareth Southgate reveals ‘disgusting’ racial abuse of young players

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 22:30:16 GMT2018-03-22T22:30:16Z

• Southgate says racism in England more of a concern than in Russia
• ‘We’ve got to get our own house in order’ says England manager

Gareth Southgate claims England must address its own problems with racism before it can criticise Russia over the matter after revealing members of the national set-up’s junior sides had endured “disgusting” racial abuse on social media.

The national manager was asked about concerns over the World Cup this summer before Friday’s friendly against the Netherlands and was quick to point out the problem remains unresolved in the English game. He cited a presentation by Troy Townsend, an education officer at Kick it Out, who addressed national coaches this month and showed them comments posted under an image of the England under-16s side.

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Jack Wilshere out of England friendly in Netherlands with knee injury

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:54:30 GMT2018-03-22T16:54:30Z

• Arsenal midfielder’s hopes of first cap since 2016 dashed
• Jordan Pickford to start in goal for England in Amsterdam

Jack Wilshere’s hopes of earning a first international cap since Euro 2016 have been dashed after he returned to Arsenal with a knee injury.

The midfielder did not travel to Amsterdam with Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Friday’s friendly against the Netherlands because of what the manager said was a tendon problem. Wilshere is having treatment with Arsenal and Southgate has not ruled the 26-year-old out of Tuesday’s game at home to Italy.

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'We don't have a pitch yet': World Cup stadium in Russia not complete – video

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:13:16 GMT2018-03-22T15:13:16Z

A recent inspection conducted by Fifa found the Cosmos Arena in Samara to be unfinished, with the pitch yet to be laid because of the adverse weather conditions in Russia. Will it be ready for the World Cup?

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China 0-6 Wales: Bale breaks scoring record in friendly – as it happened

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 13:38:26 GMT2018-03-22T13:38:26Z

Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick to overtake Ian Rush as Wales’s all-time top goalscorer as Ryan Giggs began his tenure with an impressive China Cup win against limited opposition

Related: Gareth Bale breaks Wales scoring record in 6-0 thrashing of China

China started badly – Bale scored his first after two minutes – and they got worse. But a 6-0 win is a 6-0 win, and Giggs can be very happy with how his team went about their business. The wide margin of victory also allowed him to throw in a few fringe players. All in all, an excellent day at the office.

The final word goes to Gareth Bale, whose hat-trick takes him above Ian Rush in the all-time rankings. He’s now Wales’s top goalscorer, and will fancy more in the final, against Uruguay or Czech Republic, on Monday. Cheers for reading along with me. Bye!

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Ronald Koeman looks to bring something old and something new to Netherlands

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 11:00:03 GMT2018-03-22T11:00:03Z

Past master was schooled by the Dutch greats but has turned to youth as he tries to return his country to football’s top table

Watching Ronald Koeman’s press conference before the Netherlands’ friendly against England on Friday, it almost felt as though someone should have looped David Bowie’s “Ch-ch-ch-changes” in the background.

The late, great Bowie was a master of reinvention – a concept of urgent need in Dutch football at the moment as it tries to swim against the ebb of a football tide that seems to have surpassed the small country.

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Jack Wilshere: ‘He just said if you can get a contract elsewhere you can go’

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 22:30:18 GMT2018-03-21T22:30:18Z

The Arsenal midfielder is relishing a fresh chance with England seven months after Arsène Wenger realised his worst fears

It was in early August, with the new Premier League season primed, when Arsène Wenger delivered the news Jack Wilshere dreaded. The midfielder had been working up a sweat on an exercise bike in the gym at Arsenal’s training ground when the manager ambled over and left the spin session stalled. “It was an honest conversation,” Wilshere recalls. “It had been boiling up for a while. Everybody knew I had a year left on my deal and had been out on loan, got injured and wasn’t really in his plans. He just said: ‘At the moment we are not going to be offering you a contract so, if you can get one somewhere else, you can go.’”

Almost eight months on and, as he sits in the Futsal hall at St George’s Park, it is easier for Wilshere to reflect on such a painful memory even though, in essence, not much has changed. Arsenal’s stance may have shifted to the extent they have made a contract offer, albeit on a reduced basic wage of around £80,000 a week with significant incentives for a player whose body had proved so brittle. But, while Wilshere’s priority is to stay, he will not do so on those terms, leaving discussions at an impasse. With interest from Everton, West Ham and Juventus, the possibility remains that he could this summer leave the club he joined at the age of nine.

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