Suarez uncertainty gives Trincao space to shine at Barcelona

Barcelona’s Portuguese forward Trincao, center, in action during the pre-season friendly match against Nastic at the Johan Cruyff Stadium in Barcelona on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Suarez uncertainty gives Trincao space to shine at Barcelona

  • The 20-year-old has been touted as a ‘talented and quick’ player with tremendous potential

MADRID: With the future of Luis Suarez uncertain, young forward Francisco Trincao has an early chance to shine with Barcelona.

The 20-year-old Trincao just joined the team but could get some extra playing time as the club ponders what to do with Suarez, who was told by new coach Ronald Koeman that he is not in the Dutchman’s plans this season.

Trincao took advantage of his first chance on the field with Barcelona by impressing fans and Koeman in a 3-1 win over Nastic in a friendly on Saturday.

“I liked how he positioned himself, sometimes coming in from the inside and sometimes from the outside,” Koeman said. “He has quality and will start adapting to the speed and rhythm of the ball. He was a great signing.”

Barcelona paid Portuguese club Braga more than €30 million ($35 million) in the beginning of the year to acquire Trincao on a five-year contract. He finished the season with Braga and joined Barcelona last month.

Trincao was put in a tough spot right away as he was officially introduced by the Spanish club a day after Lionel Messi announced he wanted to leave. But he showed that he has some off-the-field foot skills, too, in sidestepping questions about Messi and not making headlines.

Barcelona brought in Trincao touting him as a “talented and quick” player with tremendous potential. He has been with Portugal’s youth teams and helped the under-19 squad win the European Championship in 2018 as its top scorer.

He showed some of that talent and quickness after entering the friendly against Nastic by displaying good ball control under pressure and beating defenders. He was named by Spanish media as one of the best players in the match.

Trincao can also play on the flanks, especially through the right side, but he might face greater competition there than in the middle of the attack as Barcelona also count on more experienced youngsters such as Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. Martin Braithwaite, who arrived last season, is also an option for Koeman in the attack. The club is also reportedly looking at other options, with Memphis Depay and Lautaro Martínez among those rumored to join the club.

“I can play in all positions in the attack,” Trincao said. “I’m here to help any way I can.”

Trincao is expected to have his second opportunity when Barcelona take on Girona in another friendly on Wednesday. The club’s final preparation match ahead of its Spanish league debut will be against Elche on Saturday.

Barcelona’s first league game, against Villarreal at home, is scheduled for the final weekend of the month. Their matches in the first and second rounds were postponed because of the team’s participation in the Champions League in August.

It was Barcelona’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League that led to the arrival of Koeman and the revamping of the squad.

Messi eventually decided to stay, but Suarez was among the players who were told that they were not in the new coach’s plans. Suarez remains with the club and has been practicing normally, but he was not included in Koeman’s squad for last Saturday’s friendly. He has been linked to transfers to clubs such as Inter Milan, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.

But with lingering uncertainty over the Uruguay striker’s future, Trincao will continue to have chances to impress Koeman and gain a spot on the team.

Nurmagomedov stops Gaethje, announces retirement at UFC 254

Updated 25 October 2020

Nurmagomedov stops Gaethje, announces retirement at UFC 254

  • Nurmagomedov bout with Gaethje was his first fight since the death of his father and lifelong coach in July

ABU DHABI, UAE: Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from mixed martial arts after stopping Justin Gaethje with a triangle choke early in the second round at UFC 254 on Saturday night.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) made the announcement immediately after he impressively finished his first fight since the death of his father and lifelong coach in July. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov had a heart problem exacerbated by COVID-19, and his son was overcome by tears in the cage moments after choking Gaethje unconscious 1:34 into the second round of his third UFC title defense.
“This is my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “There’s no way I’m going to be back without my father. I spoke to my mother. She don’t know how I fight without father, but I promised it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow it.”
The 32-year-old Nurmagomedov was active with strikes and with grappling against Gaethje (22-3), the dangerous brawler who had knocked out four consecutive elite opponents while winning the UFC’s interim lightweight title.
After spending the first round largely trading punches and kicks with the aggressive Gaethje, Nurmagomedov used his unparalleled wrestling skills to take down Gaethje early in the second round and then worked into position for the finishing choke.
Gaethje appeared to tap out at least twice before the referee noticed and stopped the bout, by which time Gaethje was unconscious. He bounced up quickly and shared a moment of mutual respect with the dominant Russian champion.
“I know he was in a bad spot, but whether he was or not, he did what he needed to do,” Gaethje said. “I know his father is so proud.”
Also at UFC 254, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker made his case for another title shot with a solid unanimous decision over fellow contender Jared Cannonier in the penultimate bout on Fight Island.
Nurmagomedov’s first fight in 13 months would be an appropriate farewell for one of the most dynamic competitors in recent MMA history. The Dagestan-born grappling specialist developed a well-rounded game under the tutelage of his father and a Bay Area-based MMA gym, culminating in his ascent to the UFC title in 2018.
Nurmagomedov stopped Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in his next two bouts before his yearlong absence from competition. His victory over McGregor made him one of the world’s most famous combat sports athletes, and the UFC scheduled this pay-per-view show at an earlier-than-normal time to cater to his vast fan base in Russia and Europe.
But Nurmagomedov has spoken of retirement before, and his announcement confirmed he is finished with the sport after running through most of the UFC lightweight division.
“Dustin and Conor are going to fight in January,” Nurmagomedov said, referring to the probable meeting between the former contenders at UFC 257. “I choked them both out. I’m not interested in this.”
Earlier, Whittaker (22-5) gave a disciplined, active performance with impressive striking to earn his second straight UFC victory since losing his title to Israel Adesanya in late 2019.
Capping his effort by dropping Cannonier with a combination midway through the final round, Whittaker won two of three rounds on every scorecard while soundly outstriking Cannonier (13-5), who took his first loss in nearly 2 1/2 years.
Whittaker likely earned a chance at a rematch with Adesanya with the victory, but he didn’t call out the champion after his bout, instead expressing only excitement about returning home to put up his family’s Christmas tree. Whittaker withdrew from a bout with Cannonier scheduled for March in Las Vegas because he felt burned out on MMA.
“I’m very happy it’s all over,” Whittaker said. “We got the result we wanted. Work’s done, baby. I’m coming home.”
Earlier in the show, Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov stopped Walt Harris with a kick to the chest and punches on the ground 1:15 into the second round. Flyweight Lauren Murphy also bolstered her case for a title shot with a second-round stoppage of Liliya Shakirova by rear naked choke for her fourth straight victory.
UFC 254 was the last of five shows in a month inside the promotion’s secure bubble on Yas Island. The UFC, which paused competition for only eight weeks early in the coronavirus pandemic, returns to its hometown next week to begin a series of at least five consecutive shows on its corporate campus in Las Vegas.