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Real Madrid yet to emerge from Cristiano Ronaldo and Zidane’s shadows: McManaman

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Kolkata : When Steve McManaman, winner of two Champions League gongs and as many La Liga titles, mentions it would be difficult for Real Madrid three times during the conversation, you know how deep he thinks the crisis is this term. Quality reinforcements need to be got but the possibility of being cup-tied in the Champions League means big players joining in the January transfer window is very rare, he said.

“It is easy to say they should get Neymar or (Kylian) Mbappe, or (Eden) Hazard or Harry Kane but they are not available. The best players across the best teams in Europe are all taken and the more Real Madrid struggle, the less attractive the option is,” said the midfielder who made 94 appearances for Real between 1999 and 2003.

“To be honest, I think Real Madrid have been fortunate that Barcelona haven’t been playing very well either,” said McManaman, here for a screening of Sunday’s Clasico arranged by La Liga.

 

The reasons for Real’s season being ‘more than a little strange’ are many but foremost is the inability to deal with two departures, he said. “The shadow of Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Zinedine Zidane leaving…they have not been able to replace them. They have to find somebody who can score a goal a game like Cristiano. I know it is impossible to do that but what you can do is bring in somebody who has quality.”

Investing in young players — a tectonic shift from the Galacticos’ era — and integrating them with the experience of Luka Modric, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema had Real Madrid doing well but McManaman said, “there comes a point when the team starts to come down because the majority of the players are getting on the other side of 30. That time is now.”

Unrest at Real, which completed a hattrick of Champions League titles earlier this year, with rumours about players wanting to leave isn’t helping. “Whether it is Modric wanting to go to Inter Milan or Marcelo being linked to Juventus, there is a lot of talk coming out of Real Madrid and, normally, everybody wants to stay there until they retire.”

The early surge of Espanyol, Alaves, Sevilla, Valladolid and Levante and Valencia getting into the Champions League does question if not debunk the idea that La Liga is about two or three teams. Going into Sunday’s matches only three points separated the first seven teams. “La Liga is a lot more competitive than it has been,” said McManaman.

A big growth in revenue — a Deloitte report put La Liga’s earnings at 2.9 billion euros in 2016-17, boosted by a 20% growth in sale of television rights which followed a 26% hike in the previous season, making it the second richest football league in the world removing Bundesliga which held that position for over a decade — has helped clubs invest in players, said McManaman.

But revenue of 5.3 billion euros makes the Premiership 86% larger than Spain’s top tier, according to the report. And that could be an important reason why McManaman said Manchester City and Liverpool are the biggest clubs in Europe at the moment.

“The record of La Liga clubs is a lot better in European football but the Premiership is now certainly starting to catch up. Particularly this year. I think it could be their turn in the cycle of being successful in Europe. I think the strongest teams in Europe now are Liverpool and City. Barca are doing okay, they invested well in the summer but are really waiting for them to click,” he said.


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Dhoni could be ‘exposed’ by Yuvraj’s dad after World Cup

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Mumbai: Father of recently retired former Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, Yograj has struck again, and all the signs point toward former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

While the cricketer is busy preparing for India’s next clash against Pakistan on Sunday after rain played spoilsport on the much-hyped India-New Zealand clash, a recent video of Yograj has surfaced where he speaks about an ‘un-named’ player who is responsible for the ‘dirty politics’ in the Indian cricket team.

Yograj further goes on to state that this player is the reason that many players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, and his own son Yuvraj Singh were not included in the Indian team at crucial points in time.

 

While Yograj didn’t reveal much about the player he talks about, he did mention that he’d make the complete revelations after the currently ongoing 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Based on earlier allegations by Yograj, who was also a former pace bowler, towards then Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, It seems pretty evident that he is speaking of ‘Captain Cool’.

“I don’t want to take his name but he has been playing these dirty politics from the last 15 years. He has made lives difficult for Indian cricketers. I will make this revelation after the World Cup gets over. He will remember this for life that someone said something about him,” said Yograj.

“I don’t want to speak about him at this point in time because I don’t want the team to get affected during the World Cup,” he added.

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FIFA Rankings: India unmoved at 101

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London: The Indian national team remain unmoved in the June 2019 edition of the FIFA Rankings released.

Following India’s exit from the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup, India have had a change in coach with Igor Stimac replacing Stephen Constantine.

Under Stimac, India recently participated in the King’s Cup 2019 in Thailand where a 3-1 defeat against Curacao (79) was backed by a 1-0 win over hosts Thailand (116) in the third-place play-off.

 

GFX India FIFA Rankings June 2019

The Blue Tigers are set to face Tajikistan (120), DPR Korea (122) and Syria (85) in the upcoming Intercontinental Cup 2019 next. India enter the tournament as defending champions.

Meanwhile, in the global standings, Belgium continue to lead at the top having bettered their advantage over second-placed France who also stay put in their position, the same as Brazil and England at third and fourth spots respectively.

2019 UEFA Nations League champions Portugal have displaced Croatia to stand fifth while Spain (7) has gained two places. Germany (11 – tied with Argentina), Italy and Netherlands (both at 14) have also moved two places up.

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Coutinho brace helps Brazil forget Neymar in winning Copa start

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Sao Paulo: A brace from Philippe Coutinho handed hosts Brazil a winning start to the Copa America in a 3-0 victory over Bolivia as the absence of superstar Neymar was quickly forgotten.

Barcelona’s Coutinho scored from the penalty spot early in the second half and added a close-range header three minutes later.

Substitute Everton netted a sensational third five minutes from time to clinch a Group A victory for coach Tite’s tournament favorites in Sao Paul.

 

The build-up to the competition had been dominated by Neymar’s woes, firstly when he was accused of rape by a Brazilian model, and then when he damaged ankle ligaments in a friendly last week, forcing him out of the Copa.

If Brazil’s first-half performance was anything to go by, the Paris Saint-Germain star was sorely missed, but Coutinho’s brace at least silenced the jeers that met the team at half-time.

“Whistles are part of the game, the fans want us to win and play well, so that’s why they jeer,” said the match-winner, whose goals papered over the cracks of an at times disjointed performance.

“We always want their support but we’re focused on the objective, which is the match,” Coutinho told Brazil’s SportTV.

“Whistles or cheers, the important thing is to stay focused and get the win.” Brazil made a bright start and predictably dominated the early possession and chances
But surprisingly their greatest threat came from set-pieces with Coutinho’s corner delivery causing panic in the Bolivian backline.

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