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






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.



I am the greatest player in the world: Gayle after announcing retirement




Dubai: West Indies swashbuckling batsman Chris Gayle, who recently announced that he would bid adieu to one-day internationals after the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2019 in England and Wales, has described himself as the “greatest player in the world”.

When quizzed if he is satisfied with his career, the 29-year-old said that he is a great man and that he would take the tag of the “Universe Boss” to his grave.

“You’re looking at a great man.I’m the greatest player in the world. Of course I’m still the Universe Boss. That will never change. I’ll take that to the grave,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Gayle as saying.


Looking forward to a fairy-tale swansong by winning the May 30 to July 14 showpiece event, the 39-year-old said that it is time to give opportunities to youngsters to come forward and show their talent.

“Yes, I’m looking to draw the line after the World Cup. Or should I say cut the string? Definitely, in 50-over cricket, the World Cup is the end for me. I’ll let the youngsters have some fun and I can sit back in the party stand and watch them have some fun,” Gayle said.

“Winning the World Cup would be a fairy-tale finish. The youngsters owe it to me to win. They have to do that for me and try and get me the trophy. I’ll be looking to put my input in as well,” he added.

However, it will not be an end of the international career for Gayle as he has not ruled out playing for West Indies in the ICC World T20 in Australia in late 2020, when he will be 41-year-old.

While stressing that his body is feeling good at the moment, Gayle further hoped to feature in England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) inaugural 100-ball competition in 2020.

“If I don’t start it, it won’t be a tournament. I guess England should invite me over. Then I’ll explode the tournament and say ‘thank you guys; bring in a youngster now.’ I’ll set the trend like I did in all tournaments around the world,” the Caribbean star said.

“I’m in good condition. The body is feeling good and I’m pleased with that. I’ve lost a bit of weight and I don’t want to get too big. I’m still working on my six pack. I’m trying to keep up with the youngsters in the field who are like cats the way they chase the ball. I still have it in me and I’m still enjoying it,”he continued.

Gayle, who made his debut in 1999 during an ODI series against Bangladesh, has appeared in a total of 284 matches in the 50-over format and scored 9,727 runs, including 29 centuries and 49 fifties. He also notched 1,607 runs in 56 T20Is and 7,215 runs in 103 Tests he played for West Indies.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean batsman is just 273 runs short of becoming the 14th man and second West Indies player to smash 10,000 ODI runs.

The part-time off-spinner, who has a total of 255 scalps to his name in the three formats, will look to reach the 10,000-run mark when he will lock horns with England in the five-match ODI series beginning February 20 in Barbados.

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Covering of Imran Khan Pictures in India ‘Regrettable’, Says PCB




Islamabad:The Pakistan Cricket Board has said it will take up with the BCCI the “regrettable” removal of pictures of its former players at venues in India after the Pulwama attack.

PCB’s Managing Director Wasim Khan, in a statement issued , 17 February, said the issue will be raised during an ICC meeting scheduled to held in Dubai next month.

This comes after the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai covered a portrait of former Pakistan captain and present prime minister Imran Khan, as a sign of protesting against the ghastly attack , 14 February, which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans.


“… covering or removing portrait of former Pakistan cricket captain and Prime Minister Imran Khan and other legendary cricketers from one of the most historic cricket clubs and venues are highly regrettable actions.”

In addition to CCI’s move, the Punjab Cricket Association too removed photographs of Pakistani cricketers from various points inside the PCA Stadium in Mohali.

Elsewhere, IMG Reliance announced its withdrawal as the official production partner for the Pakistan Super League to protest against the Pulwama attack.

“… we have always believed and emphasised that sports and politics should be kept separate. History tells us that sports, particularly cricket, have always played a key role in building bridges between people and countries.”

Reacting to IMG Reliance’s pull-out as broadcasters of PSL 2019, Wasim said: “We have been informed by IMG Reliance that they will be unable to partner with us for the remaining PSL 2019 and PCB has reserved all its rights. The PCB always had a contingency plan in place.”

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Messi the only player in the world who can win a game on his own : Anderson




London: Former Barcelona striker Sonny Anderson says Lionel Messi can win any game on his own, but he understands why coach Ernesto Valverde has left him out of his team this season.

The Spanish champions are preparing to face another of Anderson’s former sides Lyon in the Champions League.

Messi has been left out of Valverde’s team on a number of occasions this term, most significantly for the Copa del Rey semi-final draw against Real Madrid earlier in February.


And ahead of Champions League last-16 first leg, Anderson was sympathetic with Valverde’s need to rotate his star man in order to get the best out of him.

In an exclusive interview with Goal, the Brazilian said: “Messi is one hundred per cent capable of winning any game on his own and at any moment he wants, and that is why he [Valverde] takes care of him at Barcelona.

“He wants him to be at his best. Barcelona will suffer a lot when he is not there, so I see very well that they take care of him.

“I fully understand that he was not in the starting line against Real Madrid, and that the team has the quality to play some games without Messi.

“But as a rule he [Valverde] has to try to get the most out of him because he is the only player in the world capable of deciding a game on his own.”

Barca go into the tie against the Ligue 1 outfit as favourites to progress, but to do so they will have to find a way past a team that has already got the better of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain this season.

Lyon edged through to the last-16 after finishing second behind City in the group stage, and needed a hard-fought draw against Shakhtar Donetsk on the final matchday to ensure progression.

“The Lyon game is more difficult than it seems,” said Anderson. “Already against Manchester City and PSG, they have made good duels this season. It is a team that usually improves when playing against the strongest in Europe.

“I think with or without Messi, it will be very difficult for them. Lyon can get a good result at home but at Camp Nou it will be very difficult for them to do what Messi does.”

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