Zidane resigns as Real Madrid coach

Real Madrid’s head coach Zinedine Zidane during the Spanish La Liga match against Granada at Los Carmenes stadium in Granada, Spain, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 27 May 2021

Zidane resigns as Real Madrid coach

  • The Frenchman’s departure comes at the end of a disappointing campaign for the 13-time European champions, as they failed to win a trophy for the first time in 11 seasons
  • Club statement: We must now respect his decision and express our gratitude for his professionalism, dedication and passion over the years and what he means to Real Madrid

MADRID: Zinedine Zidane has resigned as Real Madrid manager with immediate effect, the Spanish club said Thursday just days after they were beaten to the La Liga title by Atletico Madrid.
The Frenchman’s departure comes at the end of a disappointing campaign for the 13-time European champions, who also lost to Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, as they failed to win a trophy for the first time in 11 seasons.
“We must now respect his decision and express our gratitude for his professionalism, dedication and passion over the years and what he means to Real Madrid,” a club statement said.
“Zidane is one of Real Madrid’s great icons and his legacy extends beyond what he has achieved as a coach and player at our club.”
Only 10 days ago Zidane, who has a contract until 2022, denied press speculation he had already told his players he would be leaving at the end of the season.
“How am I going to tell my players that I am going now? It’s a lie,” he said after a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao.
“I’m focused on this season. There is a game left and we are going to give everything. I only care what happens in this finale,” he said at the time.
But, perhaps tellingly, he added: “The rest, we will see at the end of the season.”
The announcement marks the end of Zidane’s second spell in charge of the Spanish giants.
The 1998 World Cup winner first took the helm in January 2016 and guided Real to the 2017 La Liga title and an unprecedented hat-trick of Champions League titles before abruptly quitting on May 31, 2018, saying the club needed “a different voice.”
He returned in 2019 after Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari were sacked as managers in quick succession.
During his second stint as Real coach, Zidane’s task was to rebuild the club after Portuguese star striker Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Juventus.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez then opened the coffers, signing Eden Hazard from Chelsea as well as several other rising stars such as Eder Militao, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy.
But playmaker Hazard has been injured for most of the season and most of the other new recruits disappointed, with Zidane forced to rely on veteran players such as Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in defense and Karim Benzema in attack.
The squad was also plagued with a lot of injuries and eight cases of Covid-19.
Zidane has a history of making surprise announcements: as a player, he initially announced his retirement from international football in 2004 before coming back for the 2006 World Cup, after which he retired for good.
He may now take another break from football although there has been talk of him either taking charge of the French national team or taking the helm at Juventus, where he spent five years as a player.
However, Didier Deschamps is likely to remain France coach until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, barring a disastrous performance at the European Championship that kicks off next month.
As to who will fill his boots at Real Madrid, several names have come up: former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, ex-Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez or Joachim Loew, who steps down as Germany coach at the end of this summer’s European Championships.


Man United bottom of Premier League after 4-0 thrashing by Brentford

Updated 33 sec ago

Man United bottom of Premier League after 4-0 thrashing by Brentford

LONDON: Erik ten Hag’s bad start as Manchester United manager descended into an embarrassment as a 4-0 thrashing by Brentford on Saturday left the Red Devils bottom of the Premier League.
The former Ajax boss’ reign began with Brighton’s first ever win at Old Trafford last weekend, but much worse was to come as the Bees punished a series of errors to score four times in the first 35 minutes.
Josh Dasilva’s strike slipped through David de Gea’s grasp to open the floodgates before Mathias Jensen pounced on United’s attempt to play out from the back to make it 2-0 inside 18 minutes.
Ben Mee then exposed the visitors’ frailty from set-pieces for his first Brentford goal and Bryan Mbuemo rounded off a stunning counter-attack 10 minutes before half-time to sink United to the bottom of the table for the first time in 30 years.
The jubilant home support taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning.”
But the Dutch coach has inherited a rabble rather than being the root cause as United lost a seventh consecutive away league match for the first time since 1936.
That run included shipping four goals at Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton last season.
The arrival of £57 million ($69 million) center-back Lisandro Martinez from Ajax has done little to shore up United’s leaky defense and questions will be asked of why Ten Hag has left Raphael Varane on the bench in favor of the Argentine and the out-of-sorts Harry Maguire.
Ten Hag did recall Cristiano Ronaldo to the starting line-up, but the wantaway five-time Ballon d’Or winner played a part in the opening goal.
Ronaldo went to ground too easily seeking a foul as he was surrounded by Brentford bodies. Dasilva’s shot should still have been a comfortable save for De Gea, but the ball squirmed underneath the Spaniard.
De Gea compounded that mistake eight minutes later with an attempted pass to Christian Eriksen, who was outmuscled by his former teammate Jensen, and the Dane coolly slotted home to double Brentford’s lead.
Martinez’s diminutive 5ft 9in (1.8m) frame was raised as a red flag for his ability to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League.
And the Argentine was beaten at the back post by Mee for the third goal after Ivan Toney headed a corner across goal.
Credit to Brentford in just their second season in the English top-flight for 75 years may get swept away in the waves of criticism coming United’s way.
But Thomas Frank’s men produced a stunning move to tear United open again for their fourth goal.
Toney was released down the left wing and picked out Mbuemo with a precise first-time pass for the Frenchman to race in behind Luke Shaw and finish low past De Gea.
Ten Hag made his feelings clear at the break with a triple substitution with Shaw, Martinez and Fred the scapegoats.
United did at least stop the bleeding after the break and should have had at least one consolation as Ronaldo looped a header over before Eriksen’s header lacked the power to beat David Raya.
The damage, though, was long since done for Ten Hag and worse could still be to come.
United host Liverpool, who beat their historic rivals 5-0 and 4-0 last season, in their next game on August 22.

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

Updated 13 August 2022

Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton

  • Pope racked up a second straight clean sheet since joining Newcastle
  • Newcastle struggled for clear openings despite high endeavor in searing heat

BRIGHTON: Two games, four points and zero goals conceded. When assessing Newcastle United’s opening fortnight of the Premier League campaign, it is hard to find fault.
However, the Magpies were in many ways very lucky to leave East Sussex with a share of the spoils and had Nick Pope and Dan Burn to thank for their help in keeping United’s unbeaten start to the season going.
It is not often that you will see Eddie Howe change a winning team, but this time injury forced the head coach’s hand, with a Matt Targett dead leg forcing a backline reshuffle.
Having stated that he would allow Sven Botman time to settle into English football, Howe was forced to throw the Dutchman in from the off at the Amex Stadium as Dan Burn shifted to the left of the back four.
In an evenly-matched first 45, both sides could easily make a case for walking in ahead at the break.
Fresh from his first strike of the season, Callum Wilson had the ball in the net after a smart turn and finish, but the whistle of Graham Scott prevented the goal from standing, as the United frontman was deemed to have raised a high boot in the run-up to his cool finish.
With Brighton winning the midfield battle, Adam Lallana and Moises Caicedo’s prominence began to switch the balance of play in favor of Graham Potter’s men.
Solly March’s influence on the right against Newcastle’s makeshift left flank also began to pay dividends, and it was the winger who came within an inch or two of breaking the deadlock.
Joelinton gifted the ball to the Seagulls in the middle and on the break a half-cleared ball dropped favorably to March, whose drilled drive looked set to squirm into the far corner only for Pope to first get a fingertip to it, then for Kieran Trippier to scoop up and clear off the line. On second look, only one-third of the ball was still on the line — Brighton could barely have gotten any closer to a goal.
At the other end, Robert Sanchez saved low from Wilson but the flag went up anyway, even if, again, on replay, the United number nine was, in fact, onside.
Brighton, who swept aside Manchester United for their historic first-ever win at Old Trafford last weekend, came out a team transformed in the second period and put United under the cosh.
Dominating possession and field position, the Seagulls still had to try and beat the towering frame of Pope, between the sticks for United. And it is fair to say that they found it tough.
England keeper Pope stretched his long, long left lever to deny a goal-bound Lallana header, in what was easily one of the best saves of the Premier League season to date. Pope then made sure March was not getting on the score sheet as he pulled off yet another potentially point-saving stop low down.
United were hanging on and fighting for their lives. Dan Burn was next to show some penalty box heroics as he flung his body in the way of a Joel Veltman strike. Fabian Schar tidied up the mess with Danny Welbeck lurking.
And in what proved to be the final act in a frenetic, very one-sided second period, substitute Kaoru Mitoma skinned a tired-looking Trippier and squared for the Seagulls’ two-goal hero from last week, Pascal Gross, but somehow the German diverted wide when just four yards out.
In truth, Newcastle deserved little from the encounter. And while they more than competed in the opening 45, the team was thoroughly outclassed and outpassed for much of the second.
However, not one to dwell on the negative, a point on the road in the Premier League, particularly so far from home on the south coast of England, is no mean feat and the result ensures that Howe and United’s unbeaten start to the top flight season goes on.
The point could prove crucial, especially given that Manchester City and Liverpool lie in wait in the Magpies’ next three Premier League games.

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Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

Updated 13 August 2022

Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League

  • Haaland was mostly crowded out by Bournemouth who sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise

MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland might not hog all of Manchester City’s goals this season, after all.
Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden were City’s scorers — along with an own-goal — in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday, with Haaland barely getting a sight on goal at Etihad Stadium.
The Norway striker scored both of City’s goals in their opening-weekend 2-0 win at West Ham but was mostly crowded out a week later as Bournemouth sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise.
City’s midfielders reaped the benefits of the extra focus on Haaland.
Gundogan’s goal did involve City’s new star striker, with Haaland holding off his marker with his back to goal and clipping a ball through to the Germany midfielder. Gundogan’s left-footed finish found the bottom corner in the 19th for his 50th goal for City.
De Bruyne scored the pick of the goals, the playmaker cutting inside on a counterattack led by Foden in the 31st, beating a defender and bending his shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner.
De Bruyne returned the favor for Foden six minutes later, slipping a brilliant pass through the legs of a defender and into the path of his teammate, who took a touch and fired in a deflected shot that beat goalkeeper Mark Travers.
Haaland’s best chance fell in the 73rd when he mishit a first-time shot wide from Jack Grealish’s cut-back. The striker was substituted moments later.
The scoring was completed by Jefferson Lerma, who unwittingly turned a cross from Joao Cancelo into his own net from inside Bournemouth’s six-yard box.
It was a wake-up call for Bournemouth after the promoted team started the season with a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend.
City manager Pep Guardiola again chose to start with Bernardo Silva on the bench. The Portugal midfielder has been linked with a move to Barcelona and didn’t start against West Ham, either.


Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

Updated 13 August 2022

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

  • The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday
  • They sold 24.5% of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth $103 million

BARCELONA, Spain: Working against the clock, Barcelona sold off even more of their club assets on Friday so they could meet the Spanish league’s financial rules and clear Robert Lewandowski and other summer signings to play in their season opener.
The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after they sold 24.5 percent of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth 100 million euros ($103 million).
That improved their financial balance enough to satisfy the Spanish league, which added Lewandowski and fellow newcomers Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen as well as the recently renewed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto to their list of eligible players.
But, by late Friday, the league had yet to declare eligible France defender Jules Koundé, who arrived to Barcelona from Sevilla last month. The club will still need to reduce their current salary load by selling one or more current players to register Koundé.
Last month Barcelona sold an initial 25 percent stake in their production hub to Socios.com, a blockchain provider, for another 100 million euros as well as 25 percent of their Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for nearly 670 million euros ($689 million).
All told, the heavily indebted Catalan club has mortgaged their future for 870 million euros ($895 million) to sign Lewandowski, Raphinha and Koundé for a combined 160 million euros ($165 million). Kessié and Christensen arrived as free agents.
But the Spanish league has strict financial requirements that limit the amount clubs can spend on players’ salaries and transfers based on the clubs’ financial health. Despite efforts to reduce costs and pay down their debt, Barcelona still hold 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in debt and has seen their salary cap slashed by the league in recent seasons.
Earlier on Friday, coach Xavi Hernández said he was “optimistic” that he can have his new players available for the first game of the season.
“Everyone at the club is very optimistic,” Xavi said. “We have until two hours before the match.”
The club are also pushing to sell players with big salaries like Frenkie de Jong or players unwanted by Xavi such as Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, the owner of Mediapro, a major television company involved in Spanish soccer but whose 2020 broadcast rights deal for the French league collapsed. Roures was a major financial backer of Barcelona club president Joan Laporta when he returned to run the financially troubled club in 2021.
Roures said on Friday that he was not sure if the money he paid Barcelona would be sufficient.
“The league won’t have any problems with this operation,” Roures told Cadena SER radio. “If the 100 million euros are enough, I don’t know. If it isn’t, the (necessary) amount must be close to that.”
Xavi also said that Barcelona may not be done signing new players, but that any arrivals would have to come after current players were sold. Barcelona are linked to interest in Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who would provide competition for Jordi Alba at left back.
Laporta at least was able to avoid the embarrassment of having Lewandowski watching from the Camp Nou stands on Saturday.


Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

Updated 13 August 2022

Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

  • New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos
  • "It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season," quipped Ancelotti in a press conference

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said he was surprised that German midfielder Toni Kroos did not feature on the list of 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Five members of the Champions League winning side were nominated on Friday in the shape of Thibault Cortois, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and favorite Karim Benzema.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos.
“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season... But it’s true that it could be a problem if we named all the Real Madrid players, I can understand that,” quipped Ancelotti in a press conference ahead of Madrid’s Liga opener at Almeria on Sunday.
“But (Federico) Valverde, (Eder) Militao, (David) Alaba... all deserve to be there.
“All of them had a fantastic season. I’m not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or, but they deserve to be on the list.”
Ancelotti was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Brazilian forward Vinicius on the 30-strong list of nominees.
“He scored the winning goal in our 14th Champions League, he had an incredible season,” said the Italian.
“He doesn’t care if he finishes fourth or second. For the players, only victory matters. He will do better in the future. But unfortunately for Vini, this season, we already have the winner with us.”
Ancelotti was in little doubt, it seems, that French striker Benzema, who is hotly tipped to succeed would walk away with the award.
The Ballon d’Or will be awarded on October 17.
Real Madrid will kick off the defense of their La Liga title at newly-promoted Almería.
“We are feeling good, we have all the hope in the world as we start this season,” said Ancelotti, adding that “each game will be very difficult, starting tomorrow.”