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Cristiano Ronaldo situation is messy for everybody, says Gary Neville | Jamie Carragher: Man Utd better off without him

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Gary Neville has called on Cristiano Ronaldo to speak publicly about his future at Manchester United, believing the “messy” situation has caused an unwanted distraction for new manager Erik ten Hag heading into the new season.

Ronaldo has asked to leave United and only has 45 minutes of match action under his belt from pre-season after family reasons kept him away from the club’s summer tour.
Ten Hag has confirmed Anthony Martial is out of Sunday’s visit of Brighton through injury but refused to reveal if Ronaldo will start in his place. The 37-year-old and Marcus Rashford are the only direct striker replacements for Martial, unless Ten Hag opts for a false nine as he experimented with in pre-season.
Ronaldo reportedly wants to leave United in order to play for a club competing in next season’s Champions League, but Neville maintains the Portuguese should clarify his position to supporters at a time when the club are seeking some much-needed stability.

Speaking on Friday Night Football, Neville said: “The Ronaldo situation is distracting. You saw Ten Hag in the press conference on Friday having to answer questions about it.

“The fact Anthony Martial has got injured and he is the only other centre forward, and he actually was going to leave the club six months ago.

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“The fact they haven’t got Frenkie de Jong in, the fact you haven’t been supported in the way the other managers have and getting the signings early, I think it all means it’s a more difficult job for Ten Hag than it already was.”
When asked if he’d start Ronaldo, Neville added: “If Ronaldo is fit you start him, and I hope he stays.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in him because he’s letting the manager go into those press conferences. Cristiano Ronaldo is now a good age. He’s been the greatest player in the world along with Lionel Messi for the last 10 years. He’s got all the experience in the world.

“Would it be too much to ask for him to come out and do an interview to clear things up, tell us what he’s actually thinking and what actually is happening?

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“Would that be too much to ask a senior player? Is he not going to do an interview for the next three weeks? Is he not going to do an interview on Sunday after the game?

“Obviously, Sky are going to ask for him on Sunday after the game. Is he going to come out, stand up, do the interview, and not let everyone else have to answer the questions for him?

“I think that would be something that would be a start.
“So, for me, I am disappointed because that clarity we haven’t got and the reason Ten Hag is getting a bit jumpy in his press conference is because he’s being asked difficult questions. He’s probably not really telling us the truth of it because he can’t.

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“The reality of it is if a Champions League club comes in for Cristiano Ronaldo in the next two weeks, I think we know he wants to take that move. We know that. It has emerged over the last few weeks.

“At the moment, no-one has come in for him. So, that is why the club are saying at this moment in time that he may stay and we want him to stay, but if someone came in I think he would go.

“Should Manchester United be waiting two to three weeks before the end of a transfer window as to whether their star centre-forward leaves? I don’t think they should be in that position.
“Do they just say no and tell him he’s staying come what may? That would be clarity from the club I suppose but then there’s a big risk that Cristiano in two weeks’ time throws his toys out of the pram and says I’m leaving.

“That is the sort of thing that could happen and that’s why I find it unpalatable.

“There’s a bigger thing for me also because I want his Man Utd career to end well. What he’s achieved at the club and what he’s achieved in the game, is it too much to ask for the next 12 months for him to encourage the young players, be a leader on the pitch and do the interviews when your team win and when they lose.
“Make sure you set the standards that he always does in training in terms of his performance. Score the goals and let everybody be fair and let him leave Manchester with just the highest thoughts.

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“This is messy for him, messy for the club. It is messy for everybody.

“We want him to stay. We are desperate for him to stay. We just don’t like these side sagas that drag on.

“They never look good. They always look a little bit distasteful, and I think it needs clarifying. It needs sorting out quite quickly because we can’t have this for another three weeks if you are a Manchester United fan, and certainly if you are Erik ten Hag.

“He does need to be able to concentrate on the whole team, on his performance and on the tactical way of playing. He doesn’t want to be distracted all the time by the star player and if he’s going to stay or go.”
Ronaldo was absent for United’s recent pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia and only returned to training last week, when he and his agent, Jorge Mendes, held further talks about his future.

United are insistent, however, that they will not sanction the sale of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who is firmly in Ten Hag’s plans, although the new United boss has admitted the player is still a long way behind his team-mates in terms of fitness.

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The loss of Martial, who performed well during pre-season, for United’s season opener has left the new manager in a potentially awkward situation so soon into his tenure, after also labelling Ronaldo’s early departure from Old Trafford – along with other players – during last weekend’s friendly with Rayo Vallecano as “unacceptable”.

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Much has been made of whether Ronaldo fits into the new style of play Ten Hag is trying to implement at Old Trafford and whether he still has the ability to press from the front and play in a modern system.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, alongside Martial, have shown signs of a resurgence in playing as a more fluid front three during pre-season, and Jamie Carragher feels United now need to draw a line under the Ronaldo saga.

“I’ve been critical of the Ronaldo signing since he came in and I said that Ten Hag should really be moving on from that,” Carragher said on Friday Night Football.

“I know it is easier said than done to move a player out but really, we want him to stay because we talk about him, and he provides headlines. He’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We’ve got some of the best players, the biggest names and managers in Klopp and Guardiola, and Ronaldo is one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name because of the player he’s been in the past and what he’s done and achieved.
“So, really looking at it from an analytical point of view at Man Utd, I think they would be better without him and almost starting afresh with a younger team.

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“But, in terms of our job and what we do, covering the big names and talking points, he is an absolute superstar. He’s a mega star.

“If he plays at the weekend we’ll all be focussing on him and analysing his performance, his body language and what he’s like with the manager on the side of the pitch.

“He’s a huge story and that is why in some ways you want to keep him in the Premier League.”

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Osimhen, Lookman snubbed for Serie A awards

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Super Eagles duo Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman have been snubbed for the end-of-the-season awards as neither of the two players was shortlisted by Italy’s football federation for the division’s annual MVP honours.

The Lega Serie A on Wednesday officially revealed the list of players for the end of the season awards but surprisingly, no Nigerian made the shortlists.

The current Serie A awards format which is in its sixth season has different categories which include the equivalent awards for goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers, as well as the league’s overall MVP, which will be announced directly, without a shortlist, on May 24.

For the best striker’s award, AC Milan’s Rafael Leao, Paulo Dybala of Roma and Juventus leading goalscorer Dusan Vlahovic were the three players shortlisted meaning there was no space for last season winner Osimhen.

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Last year, the Striker of the Year prize was handed to the division’s top goalscorer Osimhen, who was pipped to the overall MVP award by his teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

While he was not as prolific as he was last term when he finished as the Serie A top scorer with 26 goals, Osimhen still boasts of decent numbers considering how much Napoli have struggled.

He has 15 goals and three assists in 24 appearances in the Italian league and ended the season as Napoli’s best player.

Despite having his best season ever, Lookman was overlooked as Atalanta playmaker-in-chief Teun Koopmeiners, Scudetto winner Hakan Calhanoglu and Milan wide-man Christian Pulisic were listed for the best midfielder award.

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The former Leicester City forward has 15 goal contributions in 29 league games while also guiding Atalanta to the finals of the Italian Cup and Europa League.

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The Lega Serie A three-man shortlist for the Defender of the Year prize includes Inter Milan’s Alessandro Bastoni, as well as Juventus and Bologna centre-backs Gleison Bremer and Riccardo Calafiori.

Juventus stopper Wojciech Szczesny, Monza’s Michele Di Gregorio and Marco Carnesecchi of Atalanta will all vie for the best goalkeeper award.

Frosinone’s Juventus loanee Matias Soule, Torino wing-back Raoul Bellanova and Bologna leading goalscorer Joshua Zirkzee are the players listed for the Young Player of the Year prize.

According to Serie A, the awards are based on several different metrics, including stats recorded from tracking data and the ‘scientifically validated’ player rating system, which measures players’ in-game impact, movement and decision-making.

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BREAKING: Liverpool name Arne Slot new coach

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Liverpool Football Club has announced that Arne Slot has agreed to become the club’s new head coach.

The club disclosed that Slot will resume duty on January 1 after a work permit.

This was disclosed in a statement on the club’s website on Monday.

“Liverpool Football Club can announce Arne Slot has agreed a deal to become the club’s new head coach, formally taking up the position on June 1, 2024, subject to a work permit.

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“The 45-year-old will join the Reds from Feyenoord ahead of the 2024-25 season after a deal was reached with the Eredivisie club for his services,” it read.

Slot will replace Jürgen Klopp at the helm following his decision to step down from the post at the end of the current campaign.

Klopp had announced his decision to leave in January.

“The Netherlands-born coach will arrive after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, during which he led them to the league title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions.

“More recently, he helped the Rotterdam club to victory in the KNVB Cup in April after they defeated NEC Nijmegen 1-0 in the final.

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“Before moving to Feyenoord, Slot held the position of AZ Alkmaar head coach, and he had led them to second place in the table, trailing leaders Ajax only on goal difference, when the Dutch season was cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2019-20.

“During his playing career, he operated primarily as a midfielder, turning out for FC Zwolle, NAC Breda, Sparta Rotterdam and PEC Zwolle before hanging up his boots in 2013,” it further read.

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He will now soon become the first head coach of Liverpool FC from the Netherlands – with his first pre-season in charge of the squad set to get underway in July.

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NFF promises Eagles coach Finidi house, car after unveiling

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President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, has assured that newly appointed Super Eagles coach, Finidi George, will be provided with a house in the area of his choice and a driver to ensure smooth operation of his job, Theheute reports.

Gusau made these promises during the official unveiling of Finidi as Eagles coach on Monday where his assistants were also revealed.

After serving as an assistant to Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro, Finidi was appointed as the substantive coach of the Eagles last month, beating the likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, U.S. men’s U-19 coach Michael Nsien, among other candidates to the job.

The 56-year-old will work with ex-international Daniel Amokachi and Benjamin James as assistants, Olatunji Baruwa as goalkeepers’ trainer, while Chima Onyeike will serve as fitness trainer and Turk Mehmet Ozturk as match analyst.

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Speaking at the brief ceremony in Abuja, Gusau said Finidi would be provided with a house and a driver while assuring that his salaries would be paid regularly.

“We want to avoid any issues of having conflicts in the area of paying coaches, for the coach we are going to arrange how we will be paying on a monthly basis but for every other assistant, we are engaging them on an invitational basis,” he said.

“We are going to engage them on an invitational basis, once we invite them for a match, qualifiers, or tournament; we give them whatever they are entitled to, including other allowances that the team is entitled to. Whatever the team is entitled to at any point in time, that is what the assistant coaches are entitled to and we will also agree on certain amounts that we are going to agree on to pay them whenever they come for matches or tournaments. We just want to avoid issues of having a crisis in the payment of salaries.

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“I want to assure Nigerians that we will do our best to make sure we support Finidi and give him whatever he needs to work and his salary will not be a problem because we will do our best to support him.

“Right now, as part of his contract, we must get him a comfortable house where he will stay in Nigeria which is in process and we will give him the privilege to agree on where he wants it, we will provide him transportation, he has a car already and we will provide him a driver. We just want Nigerians to support us in prayer.”

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The first task ahead of the former Ajax man is the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic next month.

With his first real test less than a month away, the ex-international says his target is to qualify the Eagles for the 2026 World Cup.

“If you get to see my contract, it’s boldly written there what the NFF wants. But personally, my first target is to reach the 2026 World Cup and AFCON qualifiers will be coming up soon. But the major one are these two games we have which are against South Africa and Benin Republic. From there we will set the tone and take it from there,” Finidi said.

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