Balogun contract gives West Ham ‘hope’ in Nketiah pursuit

West Ham have been handed a boost in their pursuit of Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, according to reports.

The Hammers are in the market for a new striker after selling Sebastien Haller to Ajax in January.

They initially targeted Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri but were rebuffed by the Spanish side. That’s led them to London rivals Arsenal.


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According to Evening Standard, Folarin Balogun’s new Arsenal contract could give West Ham the green light to sign teammate Nketiah.

Balogun is on the verge of a new deal, with boss Mikel Arteta revealing earlier this week that an agreement is ‘very close’.

Tying down Balogun to fresh terms will see the Gunners focus their attention away from Nketiah for the future.

They’re open to selling the 21-year-old forward in order to raise transfer funds for the summer.

West Ham have long been interested in Nketiah and may finally bid for him in the next few months.

They want the Englishman to provide cover for talisman Michail Antonio, who has long-standing injury problems.

It’s not yet clear how much it would cost to sign Nketiah, but he would be far cheaper than En-Nesyri.

West Ham submitted an official £22.5million bid for the player in January, but Sevilla held out for £35million.

Nketiah isn’t valued as highly at Arsenal, making it a potentially shrewd piece of business for David Moyes.

West Ham coaches would have to get the player back to full confidence if he moved to the London Stadium.

Although his talent is obvious, Nketiah has scored just once in the Premier League this season. That goal actually came against the Hammers towards the start of the campaign.

The forward has enjoyed slightly more success in the Europa League. He’s been on target three times in six matches, most recently in the 4-2 group stage win over Dundalk.

Nketiah isn’t the only Arsenal player that looks set to leave this summer. Lucas Torreira is urging the club to let him join Boca Juniors, while David Luiz is ‘unlikely’ to be offered a contract extension.

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Mignolet: Alisson suffering same Liverpool problem as me

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet claims Alisson’s recent struggles are due to the same lack of defensive stability he suffered from in his time at Anfield.

Mignolet says Virgil van Dijk’s absence is the key factor in Alisson’s dip in form – a problem the Belgian was used to before the Dutch centre-back arrived on Merseyside to change their defensive fortunes.


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Alisson’s struggles have coincided with Van Dijk’s season-long injury – picked up in the Merseyside derby – and Mignolet believes his return will see the Brazilian goalkeeper back to his best.

“That (Alisson’s form) will have several reasons,” he told De Tribune.

“On the one hand, he has had a few injuries, but there is also the fact that they have been missing Virgil van Dijk for almost the whole season.

“That’s a chunk of stability that’s gone anyway. That was actually already a difference when I was there. Van Dijk came when I ended up on the bench.

“From the moment he started playing, we stopped goals. Liverpool with or without him is a huge difference, I think.”

Alisson kept a clean sheet on Wednesday night but his Liverpool teammates could do nothing to turn around a 3-1 first leg deficit at Anfield.

And Jurgen Klopp admitted to a tactical misstep which led to his side “trying too hard” in the second half.

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The Reds boss thought his side were attempting to force the issue too much after the introduction of Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara as they went in search of the two goals that would take them through to a semi-final showdown with Chelsea.

“Second half we made the changes and the timing was maybe not right,” Klopp said. “We wanted fresh legs but we lost a bit of rhythm in these moments, we tried a bit too hard.

“In the beginning we didn’t try in these moments to pass the ball around their box. We needed the width.

“Tonight it was OK, but we are out anyway. We love this competition and it is for different reasons very important for this club.”


Liverpool urged to ‘steal’ Sancho signing from Man United

Liverpool have been urged to ‘steal’ the signing of Jadon Sancho from Manchester United by former forward Fabio Borini.

Sancho was heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford last summer from current club Borussia Dortmund.

The German side wanted at least £100million for the winger, which Manchester United were unwilling to pay.


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He’s shone yet again for Dortmund this season, scoring 12 goals and registering 16 assists in all competitions.

That’s despite many seeing it as a sub-par campaign for the England international.

Sancho is widely expected to leave for United when the Red Devils can afford him.

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However, Borini has urged his former club Liverpool to launch a bid.

Speaking to Caught Offside, the Italian said: “Looking at Liverpool’s competitors I think more depth in the attacking positions would do the team good.

“Jadon Sancho would be a great signing and it would be fun to steal him from Man United.”

Liverpool have relied on their famous front three for multiple seasons now.

They brought in Diogo Jota from Wolves to compete with Roberto Firmino and the forward has been a success.

He’s already scored 12 goals in his debut season, despite having to deal with injuries.

Jota could take over from Firmino up front if his impressive form continues.

Liverpool may look to buy another winger in the upcoming transfer window.

Mo Salah has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Vinicius Junior touted as his long-term replacement.

Bringing Sancho to Anfield would surely be one of the biggest surprises of the summer.

Borini was also asked about rivals Manchester City, and how Liverpool can catch them.

He said: “They need to rest mentally and physically. They’ve been pushing at their best for more than three years and the injuries this season, unfortunately, showed that the length of the squad isn’t enough for the many games – they have to play in so many competitions every year.”

Manager Jurgen Klopp has transformed the Liverpool team since joining in 2015.

His team is now very different to the one Borini played in between 2012 and 2015.

The striker made 38 appearances for the Reds in that time, scoring three goals.

He’s currently playing in the Turkish Super Lig with Karagumruk.

 


Spurs ‘to meet Sarri next week’ as Levy weighs Mourinho options

Tottenham ‘could’ reportedly meet former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri next week to hold talks over replacing Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese boss is under huge pressure in north London after they were embarrassingly dumped out of the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb and currently sit six points off the Champions League qualification places.

Reports on Wednesday claimed Daniel Levy could make an approach for Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, whom the Spurs chief is a ‘major fan’ of and now Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport have linked Sarri with the job.


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They claim talks between Tottenham and Sarri ‘could take place in London next week’ as Levy continues to weigh up potential Mourinho replacements.

The 62-year-old Italian is said to be aware of Spurs’ interest, with the club reportedly interested in hiring him in the summer of 2018, when he left Napoli for Stamford Bridge.

A move to Roma has also been mooted, as well as a return to Napoli, with Gennaro Gattuso under pressure.

Sarri won the Europa League and secured a top-four finish in his first and only season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

He then moved to Juventus, where he again lasted just a single season, despite delivering the club’s ninth consecutive Serie A title.

A 3-1 loss to Manchester United on Sunday means Spurs face an uphill task to make the top four and Mourinho has faced heavy criticism for the style of football he has his team playing.

“What Jose has also done in this period is he’s made them a really tough watch,” Jamie Redknapp said on Sky Sports.

“You can say what you like about Spurs but they always been a good football team, they’ve always had a style. If Spurs fans were here right now watching that, they wouldn’t enjoy it one bit.

“Too often I watch this side and there’s no flair or excitement. I don’t think this is a bad squad of players, I’ve said it before and I stand by it.

“Jose is looking at it and trying to blame everybody else, he has to take responsibility.

“When you’re a good manager, you organise your team to get that result whatever it takes. A great manager would find a way to get them organised.”


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Liverpool-Nike partnership ‘key’ in luring Mbappe to Anfield

Liverpool’s partnership with Nike and LeBron James will be ‘key’ in their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe, according to reports.

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The Reds have long held an interest in the French superstar, who sent Paris Saint-Germain through in the Champions League earlier this week.

Alongside Erling Haaland, he is one of the most sought after players in the world right now.


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Mbappe has reportedly told PSG that he won’t be signing a new contract, sparking rumours of a Liverpool move.

According to Sport Witness, Liverpool’s Nike sponsorship deal and relationship with James will be ‘key’.

Basketball star James initially bought a 2 percent stake in Liverpool for $7.1million (£5.2million) in 2011.

Last month, he became part of the club’s owners with a major investment into Fenway Sports Group.

James, like Mbappe and Liverpool, is sponsored by sportswear giant Nike.

James and Mbappe are thought to have a good relationship and recently swapped Instagram photos as part of an advertising stunt.

That relationship could prove to be key in the transfer of Mbappe to Liverpool.

On Wednesday, Liverpool play their biggest rivals for Mbappe in Real Madrid.

The Reds trail in the Champions League quarter-final clash following a 3-1 defeat in Spain.

Manager Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for another brilliant European comeback to launch them into the semis.

If Liverpool fail to go through then it will signal another disappointment in their tough season.

They’ve been blown away by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City when trying to defender their Premier League crown.

They were also knocked out in the FA Cup fourth round by rivals Manchester United.

If Liverpool want to regain their Prem and Champions League crowns, then signing Mbappe could be vital.

The forward is ruthless in front of goal and would suit Liverpool’s attacking style.

In Ligue 1 this season he’s achieved 28 goal contributions in just 27 matches.

Add to that his record in Europe, eight goals in nine games, and it’s obvious why he’s seen as the next big star.

Liverpool will need to produce a massive bid to lure Mbappe away from France.

But their partnership with Nike and basketball legend James could see them over the line.

 


West Ham star Rice ‘interested in transfer’ amid Man Utd links

West Ham midfielder and Manchester United target Declan Rice is ‘interested in a transfer’, according to reports.

The England star, capped 15 times by his country, is one of the hottest properties in the Premier League.

His brilliant displays for West Ham in recent seasons have led to plenty of interest from the ‘big six’.


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Liverpool and Chelsea are thought to be in the race, but it’s the Red Devils who seem to be the most keen.

They’re prepared to offer in-form loanee Jesse Lingard as part of a player-plus-cash deal for Rice.

Manchester United might’ve received a boost in their pursuit of the 22-year-old, too.

According to Manchester Evening News, Rice is ‘interested’ in a move to Old Trafford in the summer transfer window.

He played with current stars Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw during the international break and asked them about the club.

Other Manchester United players, including Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, are known to be popular in the England team.

Lingard in particular has formed a good relationship with Rice at the London Stadium.

If a player-plus-cash deal for Rice fails and Lingard moves back to United, then it seems Rice may follow him.

United already have a history of buying England internationals after major tournaments.

Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney all joined after playing for England between 2002 and 2006.

Rice could become the latest England star to join that list.

The midfielder, who can also operate as a defender, has been in fantastic form this campaign.

He’s played 32 times in all competitions and is one of David Moyes’ first names on the team sheet.

His glowing partnership with Tomas Soucek in midfield is one of the key components of West Ham’s success, allowing them to compete for a top-four spot.

Rice’s leadership is another trait which is getting top Premier League clubs excited.

He’s learning from veteran West Ham player Mark Noble and is already a big voice in the team.

Rice most recently captained the Hammers in their 3-3 draw with Arsenal.

Jarrod Bowen and Lingard scored as they held Mikel Arteta’s men at home.

 


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Leno contemplates Europe without Arsenal after ‘dangerous result’

Bernd Leno cannot imagine Arsenal not being in Europe next season and has urged his team-mates to go for the kill in Slavia Prague to keep alive their hopes of winning silverware this season.

The Gunners travel to Czech Republic for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg with work to do after drawing 1-1 at the Emirates last week.

A 3-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday has kept alive the FA Cup holders slim hopes of qualifying for Europe via the Premier League, but they trail sixth-placed Liverpool by seven points and West Ham in fourth by 10 points.


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Like in the 2019-20 campaign, Mikel Arteta’s side look to be relying on a cup competition, with their best route into the Champions League being to win the Europa League.

On the prospect of no European football for the first time since the 1995-96 season, Leno said: “When you think about the future without Arsenal in a European competition, it doesn’t feel right. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t come true because Arsenal belongs to Europe and that is our target.

“Slavia Prague have beaten good teams in the competition, I think we dominated them in our home game but you could also see they are very dangerous on counter-attacks, set-pieces so we know what we can expect.

“It will be a very tough game, especially away but we also know it is a dangerous result for us and also for them.

“Once we score one goal, they are under big pressure and that should be our target – to score the first goal and with a second goal, we can almost finish the game because they then need to score three goals.”

 

Leicester and Rangers have been knocked out by Slavia Prague this term and Tomas Holes’ stoppage-time equaliser in London last Thursday gave the Czech outfit a crucial away goal in the tie.

Arsenal boss Arteta saw his team exit the competition in the round of 32 last season and this match already looks to be a defining fixture in his tenure.

Asked if the squad had let their manager down, goalkeeper Leno said: “No, I don’t think so because we are all together.

“It is not about the manager or not about the team, we are all in this together. Mikel, he does a great job and the team is fighting for him and for ourselves, the club and the fans.

“We also want the best for ourselves. You can see all the time that the team is fighting. Of course our performances or the results in the last couple of weeks were not the best, but you cannot change. We have to move forward.

“There are still a lot of big games to go. It starts (on Thursday) and hopefully the semi-final and final as well and we can finish the season hopefully with a trophy.”

A defeat in Prague would raise questions about Arteta’s future less than 18 months into his reign and Leno was quizzed about his own on Wednesday.

The German, who will be out of contract in summer 2023, added: “I know I still have two-year contract left and I am also 29. For a goalkeeper this is not too old, I still have some years to go.

“I am very happy in the club. I don’t know what will come in the future, but I am open for everything. For a new adventure or to stay at Arsenal, but like I said at the moment I don’t think about my future.”

Bukayo Saka is in contention to face Slavia Prague after recovering from a thigh injury.

The England international has been one of the club’s star performers this season despite being only 19.

“His performances were incredible,” Leno said. “He is a top player and has a top mentality. It is very unusual for a young player like him, because he feels like older than he really is. He is almost leading the team and this is a very good sign.

“I am pretty sure he will become a world-class player and we are very happy to have him because I think this season I don’t know if he is the best player in our team but probably one of the best.”

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Mourinho’s spat with Ole ‘kills off’ Kane’s Man Utd transfer hope

Jose Mourinho’s little spat with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over the weekend has reportedly ended any hopes Harry Kane had of moving to Man Utd this summer.

Speculation has intensified over what might lie in store for Kane over the last few weeks after Spurs’ season threatened to implode following their embarrassing Europa League exit and their 3-1 loss to the Red Devils over the weekend.

The England captain, who still has another three years left on his current contract, has been honest in the past about being content to say at the north London club providing he sees suitable progression.


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However, it looks unlikely that he will get the progress he is looking for and numerous reports have claimed that he wants out.

A report from The Independent in today’s Gossip column reckons Kane’s ‘first preference is to stay in England and go to one of the Manchester clubs’.

Both Man City and United have been linked in recent months but Tottenham are reportedly demanding at least £150m to sell.

And The Sun reckons Kane’s ‘transfer dreams’ are over ‘after Solskjaer’s bitter row’ with Mourinho following the Red Devils’ win over Spurs on Sunday.

Solskjaer was unhappy when Son Heung-min went down holding his face after being fended off by Scott McTominay in the build-up to an Edinson Cavani goal which referee Chris Kavanagh controversially ruled out after a VAR intervention.

The Norwegian said: “We shouldn’t be conned. If my son stayed down for three minutes and needed 10 mates to help him up, he wouldn’t get any food.”

 

In response, Mourinho hit back: “First of all, let me tell you something. I’m very, very surprised that after the comments that Ole made on Sonny, you don’t ask me about it.

“Because – and I told Ole already this because I met him just a few minutes ago – if it’s me, telling that player A, B or C from another club, if it was my son I wouldn’t give him dinner tonight, what would be the reaction of that?

“It’s very, very sad. I think it’s really sad that you don’t ask me about that. It’s sad you don’t have the moral honesty to treat me the same way as you treat others.

“In relation to that, I just want to say that Sonny is very lucky that his father is a better person than Ole. I am a father. I think as a father you have always to feed your kids. Doesn’t matter what they do. If you have to steal to feed your kids, you steal.

“I’m very, very disappointed. As we say in Portugal, bread is bread and cheese is cheese. I told Ole already what I think about his comments and I’m very disappointed that in five, six, seven questions you ignore the dimensions of that comment.”

The Sun reckons that spat ‘killed off any lingering chances’ Man Utd had of landing Kane this summer with any hopes ‘now ended’ by the fall-out.

The row is understood to have ‘increased the tensions between the two clubs’ and the report adds that Man Utd ‘never liked dealing with tough negotiator Levy’ anyway.

The Sun added:

‘United have ruled out Tottenham selling Kane to them after Sunday’s shenanigans.The Red Devils hierarchy are angered by Mourinho’s reaction and feel their former manager did it to take the spotlight of another poor Spurs display.

‘And while they still rate Kane as a striker, they would not be happy to pay Tottenham, of all clubs, top dollar for his services. This means if Kane is to leave this summer he is likely going to have to move abroad.’

 

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Sancho to miss Dortmund’s Champions League clash with Man City

Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho will miss the Champions League quarter-final clash against former club Man City.

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The England international was ruled out of the first leg, which City won 2-1, due to a thigh problem.

The German side were hoping he would return for the second leg on Wednesday but it will come too soon in his recovery.


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Speaking at a pre-match press conference, interim coach Edin Terzic said: “Jadon won’t be at our disposal. He trained again, he is doing his best, we would like to have him available but he won’t be. We have to take our time with him.”

Sancho isn’t the only Dortmund star who could be on the sidelines for the second leg.

Terzic said Marco Reus and Mats Hummels were also doubts: “There are a few slightly injured. We will have to wait. Marco Reus and Mats Hummels needed to be substituted and leave the pitch on Saturday.

“We have another training session and we will see who will be at our disposal.”

Reus equalised for Dortmund in the first game by cancelling out Kevin De Bruyne’s goal.

But Pep Guardiola’s men had the last laugh as Phil Foden scored a last-gasp winner.

Sancho will be a big miss for Dortmund once again in the second leg.

This season, he’s scored 12 goals and registered 16 assists in all competitions. That’s despite many seeing it as a sub-par campaign for the 21-year-old.

Their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League semi-final will weigh heavily on Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian starlet failed to score at the Etihad. It was the first time this term that he’s failed to score in the competition.

Haaland became the quickest player to reach 20 Champions League goals in March.

A solid performance against City in Germany, with a couple of goals added in, could end Guardiola’s hopes of a famed quadruple.

Haaland and co will be aiming to pounce on a rare defeat for City last time out.

They were beaten 2-1 by Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds on Saturday, despite the Whites going down to ten men.

Stuart Dallas scored either side of half time to secure a big win for the Yorkshire side in Manchester.

 


Potter picks out one Brighton player for special praise

Graham Potter praised Yves Bissouma’s performance as Brighton battled to secure a 0-0 draw against a lacklustre Everton at the Amex Stadium on Monday night.

The Seagulls enjoyed the majority of possession and chances, with Bissouma earning the man-of-the-match award, while Everton had just one shot on target during the game.

Potter said: “I thought he was really good, grew into the game second half, I thought he really drove the game, I thought him and Adam (Lallana) were really positive together, really pleased for him, good performance.”

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The 24-year-old Mali midfielder signed for Brighton on a five-year deal in the summer of 2018, and has featured 32 times for the Seagulls this season, with Potter saying his contribution was down to several factors.

Potter added: “I think it’s lots of things. I think he’s tried very hard to understand what we’re trying to do as a team. I think he’s been playing in the role often so he understands what he has to do.

“I think Adam Lallana plays an important role alongside him as well as Pascal (Gross) and Lewis Dunk behind him, so they help him.

“He’s just, I think taken his game forward. Everyone knew the quality that he had in terms of his very highest actions are just so high it’s just about getting that consistency and maybe the lowest of his actions higher up if that makes sense.”

Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping for an injury boost after Everton’s disappointing performance on the south coast, which saw them drop points in the race for a European place.

The Italian said he is hoping to have Jordan Pickford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Allan, Andre Gomes and Joshua King available when his side host Tottenham on Friday, but Yerry Mina was forced off in the 58th minute against Brighton with an abductor problem and is expected to be ruled out for a few weeks.

Ancelotti talked up Brighton after the game.

He said: “I think that it is a team that likes to play football, they play I think quite efficient, they have a good position on the pitch, player strategy, and they try to play between lines, to do short passes. I think that you can see the hand of the manager when Brighton plays.”