‘Good for us’ – Germany coach Loew on Sane to Bayern rumours


Berlin (AFP) – Germany coach Joachim Loew said Friday that a move to Bayern Munich would be good for Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, as well as for the German national team.

Speaking at an event organised by Bild newspaper in Berlin, Loew said that Bayern was “always a good place to go”.

“In my opinion, Leroy feels very comfortable at Manchester City. I don’t know what he is planning,” said Loew, but added that he would welcome it if Sane returned to the Bundesliga. 

“If the transfer did happen, it would be good for him and good for us.”

Kicker magazine reported earlier this week that Bayern had already made contract with Sane’s father and agent Souleyman Sane.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness confirmed the club’s interest to Munich-based newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday. 

“We are looking into the player (Sane),” he told the newspaper. 

The German winger was linked to Bayern before joining City from Schalke for 50 million euros ($55 million) in 2016. 

Though Pep Guardiola has openly said that he wants to keep Sane, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that City are willing to let the player go. 

The Germany international is reportedly unhappy with a lack of game time, having started in just three of City’s last 10 league games. 

If Bayern were to sign him, he would be the first attacking player to arrive in what Hoeness has called “the biggest investment programme in our club’s history”. 

Bayern are making major changes to their squad as veteran players such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha leave the club this summer.

They have already signed Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard for 35 million euros ($39m) and fellow French World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez for a club record 80 million euros ($89.4m).

Real Madrid reject Pochettino’s claim Tottenham asked to sleep at club’s training ground


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid have reacted angrily to Mauricio Pochettino suggesting they turned down a request from Tottenham to stay at their training ground next week ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool. 

Spurs will train at Valdebebas on Thursday and Friday before the game on Saturday and Pochettino, in an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, said the club had asked Madrid if they could also sleep on the site. 

In a light-hearted part of the interview, Pochettino was asked if Tottenham’s players would also stay at Valdedebas. Pochettino replied: “No we will stay in an hotel near there. We have asked eh? We have asked but Florentino (Perez) didn’t want to allow us.” 

A laughing Pochettino then added: “He would say, ‘the day you coach Madrid is when you can sleep there’. This is the subliminal message no?” 

Real Madrid released a statement on Friday, insisting they had received no such request from Tottenham. 

The statement read: “Real Madrid is surprised by the suggestions made by Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino about a supposed request made to our club asking that his team could stay at the Ciudad de Real Madrid before the final of the Champions League. 

“Real Madrid wants to make it clear it is completely false that this request occurred. Our club has always shown its absolute availability to meet all the requests made by UEFA, the Spanish Football Federation, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. 

“All requests submitted to Real Madrid have referred only and exclusively to the use of the training pitches of the Ciudad de Real Madrid and its changing rooms. And all of them have been granted by our club.” 

The statement added: “Real Madrid also wants to emphasise the accommodation of the Champions League finalists are assigned by UEFA depending on organisation and security. And that at no time has our club been asked to accommodate them in the facilities of the Ciudad de Real Madrid.” 

Pochettino was heavily linked with the vacant position of Real Madrid coach last season when Julen Lopetegui and then Santiago Solari were sacked. 

Asked about taking charge of Madrid in the future, Pochettino said: “I have no other goals than to coach Tottenham, I don’t allow myself to think about the long-term.” 

Liverpool will also use Real Madrid’s training ground on the morning of the final, which will be played at Atletico Madrid’s stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano. 

Real Madrid reject Pochettino’s claim Tottenham asked to sleep at club’s training ground


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid have reacted angrily to Mauricio Pochettino suggesting they turned down a request from Tottenham to stay at their training ground next week ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool. 

Spurs will train at Valdebebas on Thursday and Friday before the game on Saturday and Pochettino, in an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, said the club had asked Madrid if they could also sleep on the site. 

In a light-hearted part of the interview, Pochettino was asked if Tottenham’s players would also stay at Valdedebas. Pochettino replied: “No we will stay in an hotel near there. We have asked eh? We have asked but Florentino (Perez) didn’t want to allow us.” 

A laughing Pochettino then added: “He would say, ‘the day you coach Madrid is when you can sleep there’. This is the subliminal message no?” 

Real Madrid released a statement on Friday, insisting they had received no such request from Tottenham. 

The statement read: “Real Madrid is surprised by the suggestions made by Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino about a supposed request made to our club asking that his team could stay at the Ciudad de Real Madrid before the final of the Champions League. 

“Real Madrid wants to make it clear it is completely false that this request occurred. Our club has always shown its absolute availability to meet all the requests made by UEFA, the Spanish Football Federation, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. 

“All requests submitted to Real Madrid have referred only and exclusively to the use of the training pitches of the Ciudad de Real Madrid and its changing rooms. And all of them have been granted by our club.” 

The statement added: “Real Madrid also wants to emphasise the accommodation of the Champions League finalists are assigned by UEFA depending on organisation and security. And that at no time has our club been asked to accommodate them in the facilities of the Ciudad de Real Madrid.” 

Pochettino was heavily linked with the vacant position of Real Madrid coach last season when Julen Lopetegui and then Santiago Solari were sacked. 

Asked about taking charge of Madrid in the future, Pochettino said: “I have no other goals than to coach Tottenham, I don’t allow myself to think about the long-term.” 

Liverpool will also use Real Madrid’s training ground on the morning of the final, which will be played at Atletico Madrid’s stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano. 

‘I have sympathy for Kovac’ — Bayern legend Hitzfeld


Berlin (AFP) – Legendary former Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld has told AFP that he does not understand the criticism levelled at current coach Niko Kovac, and has backed the Croatian to complete a league and cup double this weekend.

“I don’t understand the criticism and controversy around Niko Kovac at all,” Hitzfeld, 70, told AFP from his home in Loerrach, Southern Germany.

Hitzfeld won the Champions League and five Bundesliga titles in two spells in charge of Bayern between 1998 and 2008.

He said that Kovac had “held his nerve” to complete a difficult job this season.

Despite leading Bayern to a seventh successive league title this season, Kovac has continuously had to fight off speculation over his future amid rumours of dressing room disharmony and lack of boardroom support. 

The 47-year-old is rumoured to be fighting for his job as he looks to complete a domestic double in Saturday’s German Cup Final against RB Leipzig. 

“I have to congratulate Niko on the way he mastered certain situations this season,” said Hitzfeld,  praising the way that Kovac had overseen a generational transition at Bayern.

“It was difficult for him as a young coach. You have to give game time to players like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, while also building up younger players like Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman.”

Hitzfeld said he was always “convinced” that Bayern could win the title under Kovac, even when they slipped nine points behind rivals Dortmund in December.

Not everyone was so sure of Kovac’s abilities, however. The Croatian has reportedly faced criticism from senior players and club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said that “nobody has a job guarantee” at Bayern. 

“That was a legitimate comment (from Rummenigge),” said Hitzfeld.

“That is just Bayern’s philosophy. Whether you are a member of staff, a player or a coach, you are always on trial at Bayern.”

Hitzfeld knows better than most about the pressures of the Bayern job, having been fired by the club in 2004, a dismissal he later described as “a relief”.

“I have sympathy for Kovac, because I know how difficult the Bayern job is. You have to fight on multiple fronts, and trophies are all that matters,” he told AFP.

– ‘Neck on the line’ –

The 70-year-old is one of a select group of coaches who have won the Champions League with two different clubs, having lifted the trophy with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern in 2001. 

Liverpool’s Alisson ready for biggest test of his life


London (AFP) – Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker rates next week’s Champions League final against Tottenham as the biggest game of his life.

Alisson will be making his first appearance in the final of Europe’s elite club competition when the Reds face their Premier League rivals in Madrid on June 1.

The Brazil international reached the Champions League semi-finals last season, only for Liverpool to beat his Roma team prior to his move to Anfield.

Alisson has enjoyed a memorable first season with Liverpool, but their frustrating Premier League title failure — they finished one point behind champions Manchester City — means they will end the season with no silverware unless they beat Tottenham.

Success in Spain would bring Liverpool their sixth European Cup and first since 2005.

It is challenge Alisson believes ranks as the most significant of his career.

“Once we finished the Premier League, there were 20 days to prepare the final,” Alisson told Liverpool’s website.

“I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to playing this big game. It’s maybe the biggest game in my life.”

Jurgen Klopp’s squad are coming to the end of a week-long training camp in Marbella, with the players going through a mini pre-season programme in order to retain their sharpness with a three-week spell between competitive matches.

Klopp did a similar move last year ahead of their Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid and Alisson believes it is the best option.

“It’s good for preparation, it’s good for us to keep our minds free from external things,” he added.

“Coming here is special for us, we can have more time together and speak more – that’s important for a team that wants to achieve great things.

“It’s nice weather – perfect weather to work. It’s a bit hot compared to what we are used to for training but it’s the weather we’ll find in Madrid, so it’s good for us.”

Alisson’s first season on Merseyside has featured 26 clean sheets, with 21 of those coming in the Premier League to earn him the Golden Glove award.

“It was such an honour, such a big award in the world of football,” he said.

“The award is not just mine, it’s an award for my team-mates also, who work hard to keep clean sheets in the game. It’s a target for everyone.”