Aurier committed to Spurs after failing in summer transfer bid


London (AFP) – Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier says he is happy at the Premier League club, despite being prevented from leaving in the transfer window.

The Ivory Coast international said last week that he would have liked to have moved on from Spurs but instead made his first appearance of the season and was involved in the build-up for two of the goals in the 4-0 romp over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Aurier, who had last played in the Premier League in February, has had a difficult time at the club following his 2017 move and said he wanted to leave due to a “personal situation”.

The 26-year-old said there was no rift with boss Mauricio Pochettino and is now looking to the future.

Asked if he had wanted to leave, Aurier said: “Yes, but that was the situation before the transfer window closed. The transfer window is now closed. Now I am calm and happy to stay.

“I speak with everyone. I don’t want to leave. I had something in my head, but I didn’t want to leave for the gaffer or the chairman (Daniel Levy).

“It was my personal situation and now it is OK. Everyone wants to give me another chance and now I am happy to stay and happy to play and happy for the victory.”

Aurier is hoping to be involved as Spurs begin their Champions League campaign this week with a trip to Greek side Olympiakos.

Despite getting to the final last season, where they lost to Liverpool, defender Jan Vertonghen said they were still outsiders.

“We want to go as far as we did last year,” he said. ‘We’ve got a nice group. Good games, nice challenges, teams we haven’t played against yet.

“Like 15 or 20 teams feel like they belong there, so we’ve got a big challenge. But we had a great run last year and we want to repeat it.

“We’ve earned their respect now. Teams treat us differently than a couple of years ago. But they will look at us as an outsider.”

Matic welcomes Man Utd focus on youth but wants game time


London (AFP) – Nemanja Matic is excited to see young talent getting a chance at Manchester United but hopes there is also room for experience as he looks for more game time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men ended a three-match winless run by overcoming previously unbeaten Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday, where Marcus Rashford’s early spot-kick was the difference in a 1-0 triumph.

The match-winning forward was joined by fellow 21-year-olds Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the line-up, with Andreas Pereira, 23, and Scott McTominay, 22, also starting.

Tahith Chong, just 19, came off the bench for a United side that has an accent on youth under Solskjaer, something Matic, one of the few older heads, likes to see.

“I don’t believe in age — good players or bad players,” the midfielder, one of three starters in their 30s, said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 35, so I think who played today deserved to play.”

“They (young players) get the opportunity to play. It’s not always normal in big clubs that you get that opportunity so young and Manchester United is giving opportunity to the guys who grew up here in the academy and that’s good.”

Energy and options will be needed as United juggle domestic and European commitments.

United kick off their Europa League campaign at home to Astana on Thursday, when Matic will be hoping to make his second start of the season.

The 31-year-old, who was the subject of speculation over his future in the summer, came in for the injured Paul Pogba against Leicester.

“Of course (it has been frustrating),” Matic said. “I want to play, I always give my best for the team.

“The coach is the man who picks the team and when you are on the bench you are not happy but I am trying to convince him to change his mind and pick me to play.”

African players in Europe: Mane bags brace, Fati scores again


Paris (AFP) – Established star Sadio Mane and the emerging 16-year-old Ansu Fati both scored as they shared the limelight among Africans in the top European leagues at the weekend.

Senegal’s Mane boosted hopes of succeeding Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah as African Footballer of the Year with a brace in a Premier League comeback win over Newcastle United. 

Guinea-Bissauan Fati, the teenager taking La Liga by storm, notched his second goal in as many matches to set up Barcelona for victory over Valencia.

ENGLAND

SADIO MANE/MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

Mane sparked Liverpool into action against Newcastle once he was switched to the left of the formidable front three. The Magpies were leading at that stage, but once the tactical switch was made shortly before the half hour they were run ragged, largely by the Senegalese. Mane scored twice before the break to turn the tide and maintain his extraordinary record of Liverpool never losing a Premier League home game when he is among the goals, winning 33 and drawing two. Egyptian Salah then scored his fourth goal of the campaign.

MOUSSA DJENEPO (Southampton)

The young Mali international has quickly settled into the Premier League after a close-season move from Standard Liege. Having opened his account for the Saints against Brighton prior to the international break, the 21-year-old scored the only goal of the game at Sheffield United with a cracking individual goal.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)

Aubameyang struck twice in quick succession in the first half against Watford to take his season tally to five in as many games. However, the Gabon international’s contribution was not enough for all three points as the Gunners collapsed after the break and had to hang on for a 2-2 draw.

SPAIN

ANSU FATI (Barcelona)

The teenager from Guinea-Bissau continued the remarkable start to his senior career at Barcelona by scoring inside two minutes on his full debut. Fati went on to assist Frenkie de Jong’s seventh-minute goal as the reigning La Liga champions romped to a 5-2 win over Valencia.

ITALY

KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

Senegalese defender Koulibaly put his own-goal howler against Juventus behind him by helping Napoli keep a clean sheet for the first time this season with a 2-0 win over Sampdoria. “We wanted to win without taking goals and to convince on the first try in front of our fans: done,” Koulibaly wrote on Twitter after Napoli had conceded seven goals in their two previous games.

Alcacer in electric form ahead of clash with former club Barcelona


Berlin (AFP) – A former bench-warmer at Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund sharpshooter Paco Alcacer is hoping to hurt his former club when the two teams meet in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Alcacer, 26, joined Dortmund in 2018 after struggling to hold down a place in the first team in two seasons at star-studded Barcelona.

He has flourished in the Bundesliga, bringing a killer instinct to Dortmund’s young attack and regaining his place in the Spanish national team.

The striker now faces Barcelona in the middle of a purple patch for club and country, having scored 10 goals in his last eight matches.

His opener in a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen last Saturday means he has scored in every game for Dortmund so far this term.

He also picked up three goals for Spain in Euro 2020 qualification wins over Romania and the Faroe Islands last week.

Alcacer’s electric form is reminiscent of his explosive start to life at Dortmund as a loanee at the beginning of last season, when he fired in a record-breaking seven goals in his first four games.

That run prompted Dortmund to shell out 23 million euros to sign him on a permanent deal, and marked a turning point in Alcacer’s career.

“It is a liberation to be playing, getting time on the pitch and enjoying my job,” said the Spaniard at the time.

He had just arrived from two frustrating years at Barcelona, in which he was kept out of the team by an iconic attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. 

After a move from boyhood club Valencia in 2016, he made just 23 starts for the Catalan giants, and played a full 90 minutes in just 10 matches. 

– ‘A special game’ –

Yet as he prepares to meet his former team mates in Dortmund on Tuesday, Alcacer has insisted he has “no regrets” about his time in the Catalan capital.

“It will be a special game. It will be a joy to play against my former team, and it makes me want to play well,” he told Barcelona newspaper Sport last week. 

The 26-year-old said that despite his struggles, he learned a lot at the Camp Nou.

“When you play for Barca, you play high up the pitch and there is very little space. Before, I was quite slow in my decision-making, but now I can make quick decisions in tight spaces. I learned that at Barcelona.”

Chelsea’s new project bearing fruit as Valencia self-destruct


London (AFP) – It is a sign of the changed days at Stamford Bridge that Chelsea go into a Champions League clash with Valencia on Tuesday as the example of stability and long-term planning.

The Europa League winners return to European football’s top tier under new management in Frank Lampard and having ushered in a new era where youth will be given its chance to shine rather than depending on the deep pockets of Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

There have been a few early bumps in the road for Lampard, a returning hero for the fans after scoring a club record 211 goals and winning 13 trophies, including Chelsea’s only Champions League crown, as a player.

A 4-0 opening day defeat to Manchester United and blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to newly-promoted Sheffield United exposed the frailties in relying on an inexperienced core of players.

But Lampard’s faith in youth has largely been justified.

Led by a hat-trick from Tammy Abraham, Chelsea thrashed Wolves 5-2 on Saturday to move level with United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester in the early race for Champions League football again next season.

Fikayo Tomori also struck his first goal for the club at Molineux, while Mason Mount continued the form that earned him an England call-up with his third goal in five games.

All 11 league goals scored by Chelsea so far this season have now come from that trio, all of whom have graduated through the club’s academy but were shipped out on loan under previous managers.

“They should aspire and feel the opportunity is there if they deserve it, and they should see their team-mates doing really well and want to get in there,” said Lampard.

“They are there because they deserve it. It’s important we also respect the experienced players have played a huge part.

“If we are going to be successful this season we can’t rely on the young boys, although at the minute they are doing a good job!”

In contrast to Chelsea’s bright hope for the future, Valencia travel to England mired in an institutional and sporting crisis.

After guiding Los Che back to the Champions League in his two full seasons in charge and winning the club’s first trophy for 11 years by beating Barcelona to lift the Copa del Rey in May, Marcelino García Toral was sacked as coach last week by Valencia’s Singaporean owner Peter Lim.