Bonucci aims to emulate AC Milan legends Baresi, Costacurta and Maldini

The former Juve star is aiming high as he settles into his new club, naming three iconic defenders as his role models at San Siro

Leonardo Bonucci is aiming to write his name into AC Milan’s history books after completing his €42million transfer from Serie A champions Juventus.

The Italy international wrapped up his surprise move to San Siro on Thursday and namechecked Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini among the Milan “legends” he wants to follow.

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Alessandro Nesta and Mauro Tassotti were also picked out by the 30-year-old as he marked his surprise switch to Milan on social media.

“When you think of AC Milan, you naturally think of the team’s history, of all those champions who have worn the famous team colours,” Bonucci posted on Instagram.

“I think of Baresi, Costacurta, Maldini, Nesta, Tassotti. I admire them for what they have given to football and this club. They are legends.

 

Quando pensi al Milan, vieni subito attratto dalla sua storia, da quella dei campioni che hanno vestito la sua maglia. Penso a Baresi, Costacurta, Maldini, Nesta, Tassotti. Li ammiro per quello che hanno dato al calcio e a questo Club. Loro sono nella leggenda, Io arrivo oggi, per iniziare a scrivere una nuova pagina della storia rossonera e della mia carriera. Inizia una nuova sfida, una nuova avventura assieme a compagni che come me hanno tanta fame e voglia di vincere. Ringrazio la Società tutta, il Direttore Fassone, il DS Mirabelli e il Mister che mi hanno voluto fortemente e fatto sentire importante e al centro di questo progetto ambizioso. Sono stato accolto con un affetto e un calore smisurato da parte dei tifosi rossoneri e per questo mi impegnerò, insieme ai miei compagni, per far sì che questo entusiasmo continui e si alimenti durante la stagione, attraverso le vittorie e la voglia da parte di tutti di riportare il Milan ai vertici italiani ed europei, a cominciare dalla prossima gara. Uniti si può. #HungrierThanEver #LB19 #AcMilan #NewSeason – When you think of AC Milan, you naturally think of the team’s history, of all those champions who have worn the famous team colours. I think of Baresi, Costacurta, Maldini, Nesta, Tassotti. I admire them for what they have given to football and this Club. They are legends. I arrive today to start writing a new page in the Rossoneri history and in my career. The challenge begins now, a new adventure starts today together with comrades who, like me, are so hungry to win. I would like to thank the entire team, Director Fassone, DS Mirabelli and Mr. Montella, who have all strongly supported me and made me feel so central to this ambitious new plan. I have been greeted with affection and warmth from the fans and that makes me committed to work hard, together with the rest of the team, to make sure this enthusiasm continues and grows during the season as we work towards winning and bringing AC Milan back to the heights of the Italian and European tournaments. We start now. Together we can. #HungrierThanEver #LB19 #AcMilan #NewSeason

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“I arrive today to start writing a new page in the Rossoneri history and in my career. The challenge begins now, a new adventure starts today together with colleagues who, like me, are so hungry to win.”

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Tabla leans on Drogba to become one of the brightest young stars in MLS

The Montreal Impact teenager has taken the league by storm in his brief pro career, sparking plenty of speculation over his international future

MONTREAL — A soccer player might say that he loves to dribble, that it’s his favorite thing to do. Ultimately though, when it really comes down to it you won’t find many players who will be daring enough to try, and fewer still who will be able to complete the move successfully.

In a sport where a single individual error frequently decides the final outcome of a game, many players will often feel compelled to make an easy play — pass the ball to an open teammate for example — so as to avoid the individual confrontation altogether. Usually this is a sensible decision, in the team’s best interest.

In a 1v1 situation, there aren’t many players who have the technique, the speed and the agility to carry out the appropriate evasive maneuver. Or at least not with a regularity that would make trying, especially in a big game, the best idea.

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Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla is different in this respect. Where others might shy away from taking on attacking responsibility, Tabla, who stands at 5-foot-9, wants to have as much of it as possible. He’ll make himself available; call for the ball to be played into his feet, the way he adores. Once in possession, he’ll be convinced that he can be the difference-maker. If the opportunity should arise, he won’t hesitate: he’ll look forward, face the defender, and attempt to get past him. And he very often does get past, all of it happening with apparent ease.

Then he wants to try again. And then again. And again. Almost as if it were a compulsion.

“When you pass a player once, you want to do it a second time and a third time,” Tabla told Goal. “It becomes a habit. Sometimes you pass, sometimes you dribble. For me it’s become a habitual thing. Ball at my feet, I take the defender on and beat him.”

The other striking thing is that Tabla is only 18, in just his first year with the Montreal Impact in MLS. In nine starts in all competitions this season — which he says is more time than he was expecting — he’s almost never looked intimidated, nervous, or out of place. With three goals, one assist, and electric attacking play, he’s become a regular starter for coach Mauro Biello. Some of the goals came in big moments: his first in the dying minutes against the Chicago Fire, an emotional 2-2 tie; his best against Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship final, a beautiful top-corner strike with the inside of his weaker left foot. 

Ballou Tabla Montreal Impact

Biello, who’s in his third season leading the Impact, says Tabla’s bright performances haven’t really come as a surprise.

“We knew we had a special talent for sure, that’s why we signed him last year,” Biello said. “As coaches, we get to see him every day on the training field. And when you see him every day on the training field, you think if he’s able to reproduce that in the game, that’s a player with quality.”

Tabla first learned to play soccer in Abdijan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. He played in local leagues, one neighborhood against another. The winning team at the end of the season would receive a plastic trophy, the players treated to some candy.

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And when it came to the games, there was the most crucial thing: freedom.

“In the Ivory Coast, I played more individually, over there, there wasn’t much structure,” Tabla said. “You got the ball at your feet, you dribbled, you scored, and everyone was happy. There was no one who was getting upset, saying ‘Why didn’t you pass?'”

That changed when Tabla was eight and he and his family moved to Canada. He first played for the Jets de Points-Aux-Trembles in Quebec, and there he says it was explained to him that he needed to pass the ball more and dance with the ball less.

With the Impact academy and the now with the first team, Tabla has been given more freedom to express himself and integrate much more of his individual qualities into his game. His stellar performances with the academy team caught the attention of the Canadian national team program. In 2014 he was named the Canadian U-17 Men’s Player of the Year. In 2016 he won the same award for the U-20 level. 

And then an extraordinary thing happened, perhaps the central moment of Tabla’s young life. It happened while he was at a training camp with the Canadian U-20 team: Didier Drogba signed with Montreal. A godlike figure in the Ivory Coast, so much so that the country has to shut down the airport every time he arrives back into the country, Drogba had been Tabla’s idol growing up, a player he had striven to emulate.

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In the days after Drogba arrived, the former Chelsea forward was told about the talented boy from the academy that he should get to know. When Drogba finally met Tabla, inside the first-team locker room at the Impact’s training facility, there was an instant rapport. They weren’t just from the same country. They were from the same city, and the same neighborhood. They had the exact same ethnicity (there are over 60 ethnic groups in the Ivory Coast) and spoke the same language.

It might have been 20 years apart, but they were both born in March. Drogba also knew what it was like to leave the Ivory Coast as a boy. The former Chelsea star moved to France when he was five and then back again when he was 15. Like Tabla, he had to learn to adapt to a new country and environment and felt those same stirring desires of one day growing up to become a star.

And now, here they were, playing on the same team. For Tabla, Drogba joining the Impact felt predestined, something like a divine happening.

“I won’t say it was chance,” Tabla said.

Drogba would become like a big brother. Tabla went to him for advice, spent time at his mansion in Westmount – a suburb of Montreal. Despite Drogba now having moved south to play with the Phoenix Rising in the USL, of which he is also a part-owner, Tabla says they’re in constant communication. At the Impact, now that Drogba is gone, defender Hassoun Camara, a French native with Senegalese roots, is the player that Tabla looks to the most for guidance. “An African like me,” he says.

Tabla’s national team future remains a mystery. He says he has yet to decide, that it’s still an open question. It seems only natural that Tabla would want to represent the Ivory Coast at the international level, but he also says he would be happy to play for Canada as well, a country to which he feels indebted. Many in Canada would love to see him suit up for the Reds, especially with another exciting teenage talent like Alphonso Davies on board, but his family also dreams of seeing him play for the country of his birth, to wear the same jersey as Drogba did.

Clearly, it’s not an easy decision for the teenager to make, especially since his career has only just started. Tabla says he needs time to come to a decision, and that in the end, he will be the one to make it.

“It’s my decision whether or not to play for Canada,” Tabla said. “The time I’ve spent with Canada were really well spent and I was very happy to represent Canada and I would always be happy to represent Canada. I’d be happy representing either country. It’s something I have to take my time with.”

Canada ready for GC quarterfinal

Tabla also has things to work on. Biello would like to see him find more variety in his movement, and not always look for the ball played into his feet. Although he’s encouraged to express his qualities, he also needs to be careful not to dribble in areas where he shouldn’t. Tabla trying to dribble out of his own third of the field caused the turnover that led to Toronto’s winning goal in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final.

Recently, he’s had some off games. He was carrying an injury, but teams around MLS have clearly made note of the teenager’s qualities. At the beginning of the season Tabla enjoyed more space while better known stars like Ignacio Piatti or Blerim Dzemaili were the ones being marked closely. That’s not the case anymore. Biello says this is all part of the learning process; that it’s normal he’s going to have difficult moments.

On the whole, the Impact are thrilled with what Tabla has shown so far in his first season, and he’ll be representing the club at the 2017 MLS Homegrown Game on Aug. 1 in Chicago. Montreal fans are equally excited about Tabla and he’s already becoming a favorite among them, with stadium chants praising his name.  

The Impact are trying to be careful with Tabla’s development, to shelter him at times from the pressure. But he does seem to be handling the attention in a mature way. Of the goals he’s scored so far, none of the celebrations afterwards have been self-referential. He did spread his arms after scoring against Toronto, and pump his fists horizontally in the air for a moment, but that was simply an homage to Drogba, who often celebrated goals in the same way.

Otherwise, Tabla’s celebrations have been quite subdued. A casual jog back to the bench, a hug with a teammate, a shake of the hand with members of the coaching staff — his way of showing gratitude for having been given a chance to play at the professional level, and to do so in the manner that he prefers.

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Will Osorio’s job be in jeopardy if Mexico crashes out in Gold Cup quarterfinals?

There’s debate about whether or not the coach should go if El Tri make a quarterfinal exit, but the best way to avoid that is by defeating Honduras

The pre-match questions for Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio were harsher than usual. Maybe it’s the dry heat of Phoenix that has journalists agitated or is making Osorio testier, but much of the news conference focused on whether or not he’d keep his job were El Tri to lose against Honduras.

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After Decio de Maria’s backing for the manager following the Confederations Cup, it’s doubtful Osorio really is coaching for his job Thursday. First of all, he isn’t even coaching during the matches, serving a suspension while assistant coach Luis Pompilio Paez handles the in-game switches. Second, this tournament is an alternative squad and, when Osorio looked to bolster the group this week like United States coach Bruce Arena did, he was rebuffed by Liga MX clubs.

The easiest way for Osorio not to get into this discussion, though, is to win the quarterfinal against Honduras and move into a semifinal against either the same Jamaica team that troubled Mexico in the group stage or an upstart Canada team.

Juan Carlos Osorio Mexico

Los Catrachos are no doubt reviewing the video footage from Jamaica’s draw against Mexico, maybe even as we speak. Honduras has struggled going forward, getting no goals in the group stage but moving on after being awarded a 3-0 forfeit victory over French Guiana for the minnow’s decision to field Florent Malouda. A scoreless draw and a win on penalties would produce no emotion but joy in Honduras, and unfortunately for El Tri it’s not all that hard to imagine center backs Maynor Figueroa and Henry Figueroa clogging the middle while Carlos Sanchez and Felix Crisanto stymie the wingers on the outside. 

“Honduras is going to show an athletic team, a fast team and very hard working, which is a characteristic of a team coached by Jorge Luis Pinto,” Osorio said in a news conference Wednesday.

Finding a way to undo that hard work will be tough. One Mexican program had contributors project a starting XI with a panelist putting “el que sea” in at center forward . “Whoever” is in there, whether that be Erick “Cubo” Torres, Angel Sepulveda or Martin Barragan. Torres was the forward put into a vice-grip by Jamaica, while Barragan has done very little to prove he’s actually ready to be a senior national team player. And while Sepulveda was able to find the back of the net to open the scoring against Curacao, it took pinpoint service from Raul “Dedos” Lopez for him to do so.

Erick Torres Mexico

It wasn’t any secret coming into the game that scoring could be an issue, especially from the forwards.  But the glimmer of hope that someone like Torres would latch on to their opportunity and become a viable option for this depth side has faded out. Elias Hernandez is the only player who has showed any sort of dynamism, while the forwards misfire and Rodolfo Pizarro continues to work out how he’s supposed to be playing in the three-man front line.

The game could come down to penalties, but more likely it will be on set pieces. Mexico has been able to score from them throughout the summer, while Honduras will be eager to win fouls anywhere near the box, especially on counterattacks. As poor as Mexico’s forwards have been, the defenders have looked shaky. They’ll need to make sure not to give the Central Americans any opportunity to beat them easily.

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After the game against Jamaica, Osorio said his team had worked on beating a side that sits back as the Reggae Boyz did, even if he didn’t expect Curacao to do the same. In some ways, it’s simply a learning process for the young group of Mexico players. But more than that it was preparation for the quarterfinal and semifinal, where Mexico likely will have little work to do defensively aside from wrangling in a few breaks forward but will have to labor to find the back of the net.

“We’ve worked a lot on the way – or the five, six ways – of breaking through against an opponent who sits back a bunch with the number of chances we have in their area and behind the ball and intensely in the form they treat the ball,” he said last week.

He’ll be hoping that work pays off to avoid not only an early exit from a tournament Mexico hopes to win but also to avoid more questions about his future with the team. How well Mexico has learned those five or six ways Osorio has drawn up to beat the bunker will dictate just how well Thursday’s quarterfinal goes for El Tri.

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Arsenal vs Chelsea: TV channel, free stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte go head to head in China in a precursor to the 2017 Community Shield as both sides prepare for the new season

Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea get their pre-season preparations under way with a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final against Arsenal at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing on Saturday.

Having begun training in Cobham two weeks ago and played a number of behind-closed-doors friendlies, the game against the Gunners will be the Blues’ first high profile preparatory game ahead of the 2017-18 season. Antonio Conte’s side then travel to Singapore, where games against Bayern Munich and Inter follow on July 25 and 29 respectively.

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Arsenal, on the other hand, have already got three pre-season friendly games marked off their schedule, including an International Champions Cup victory over Bayern Munich.

Game Arsenal vs Chelsea
Date Saturday, July 22
Time 19:40 (local) / 12:40 (BST)

TV CHANNEL & LIVE STREAM


Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal

In the United Kingdom, the match will be available to watch live on television on ITV and by stream online via the ITV Hub app.

In addition, fans will be able to watch the game for free on Chelsea TV online at the Blues’ official website.

UK TV channel Online stream
ITV ITV Hub/Chelsea TV

 


SQUADS & TEAM NEWS


Position Chelsea squad
Goalkeepers Courtois, Caballero, Eduardo, Bulka
Defenders Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Christensen, Clarke-Salter, Kalas, Tomori, Alonso
Midfielders Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Pasalic, Baker, Scott, Kenedy, Willian, Pedro, Musonda Jr., Boga,
Forwards Batshuayi, Remy

Antonio Conte has brought a 25-man squad to China for the game against Arsenal as he looks to get his players up to speed ahead of the upcoming campaign.

New signing from Manchester City Willy Caballero is included in the panel and he will battle it out with Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo and academy goalkeeper Marcin Bulka for time on the pitch.

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While Caballero has travelled to China, Antonio Rudiger, who joined the club from Roma last week, has not, after being allowed some extra time off following the Confederations Cup. The Germany international will link up with his new team-mates in Singapore instead.

Chelsea announced on Wednesday that a fee had been agreed for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, but he will not figure until the deal is finalised. 

Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, meanwhile, are not part of the squad, with speculation intensifying that the pair are set for a Stamford Bridge exit.

Position Arsenal squad
Goalkeepers Cech, Martinez, Ospina
Defenders Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Bielik, Monreal, Koscielny, Maitland-Niles
Midfielders Ozil, Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamblerain, Nelson, Willock, Elneny, Coquelin, Bramall
Forwards Lacazette, Giroud, Welbeck, Walcott, Nketiah, Malen, Iwobi

The Arsenal squad are probably a little bit further down the line when it comes to match fitness, having already played friendlies against Sydney, Western Sydney Wanderers and Bayern Munich over the course of the last two weeks.

Arsene Wenger handed debuts to new signings Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, with the latter opening his account from the bench against Sydney.

Following their win over Bayern Munich in Shanghai, a number of players are doubts for the game against Chelsea, with Wenger confirming that Kolasinac, Theo Walcott, Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud have been laid low by food poisoning.

Furthermore, the Gunners will be without Wojciech Szczesny, who has signed for Serie A giants Juventus.


BETTING ODDS


David Luiz Chelsea Premier League

Chelsea are 6/5 favourites to beat the team they lost to when they last met in the FA Cup final, according to Oddschecker, while Arsenal are 9/5 to overcome the Blues. A price of 11/5 is available for a draw.

Guardiola sidesteps Alexis question


GAME PREVIEW


Antonio Conte Chelsea Arsenal FA Cup final

Having locked horns in the final game of last season, Arsenal and Chelsea will have the chance to become more familiar with each other ahead of their Community Shield meeting on August 6.

The Gunners were victorious when the teams last met in Wembley, lifting the FA Cup as a result, and Antonio Conte will be determined to exorcise the demons of that loss, starting in Beijing.

However, the Italian, who signed a new two-year deal with the Blues earlier this week, will be without a number of key players for the friendly, with Costa, Matic and Eden Hazard not part of the squad.

Strikers Michy Batshuayi and Loic Remy will have a chance to show they have what it takes to succeed Costa as Chelsea’s first-choice striker, being the only out and out front-men in the travelling party.

The game against Chelsea gives Arsene Wenger another opportunity to trial three defenders at the back, which has been test in games against A-League opposition as well as Bayern Munich.

Emiliano Martinez was the hero for the Gunners against Bayern, saving two penalties in the shootout to help his side to victory, and he could get the nod over Petr Cech as a result.

With Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Ramsey, Walcott and Giroud all suffering from food poisoning in Shanghai, there are bound to be further changes and Wenger may opt to give his youth players a chance to feature more prominently.

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I don’t fear new Real Madrid signings – Bale

The Welshman believes that fighting for a spot is part and parcel of being at a big club and has welcomed the challenge Isco has posed him

Gareth Bale believes places are up for grabs at Real Madrid regardless of whether the club make new Galactico signings in the transfer window.

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Although Bale returned to take a seat on the bench for last month’s Champions League final victory against Juventus, Isco had filled the Welshman’s usual place to great acclaim during his injury-enforced absence.

Madrid have now been linked with a world-record move for Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe, but Bale is unconcerned about having to fight to be selected next season.

“I think that’s just football these days,” Bale told ESPN. “Anywhere you go now in the world – whether it be England, in Germany, here in Spain, in France – there’s always big transfers going on. It’s just part and parcel of football now.

“[Isco and I] don’t really play in the same position. Obviously, it’s up to the manager [Zinedine Zidane] what he decides. But ultimately, we both want to play – it’s the same for every other player who wants to play. I suppose everybody’s place is up for grabs.”

Bale accepted it was difficult to watch Madrid claim the league title from the sidelines as he battled back to fitness, with Zidane’s side pipping rivals Barcelona.

“Last season was a bit frustrating for me,” the Wales international said. “I started the season off very well, but obviously got a major injury where I obviously needed an operation.

“It took a lot longer than expected to come back from. For me now it’s about working hard in pre-season, getting back to full fitness, getting my ankle strong and starting off the new season fresh and raring to go.

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“Obviously in hindsight it’s easy to say, but as you get older as a footballer, you learn more, you learn every day and you learn more about your body and injuries. Next time I’ll come back when the time is right, but in hindsight, which is a beautiful thing, you’d love to go back and change it, but that’s not the case.”

While Alvaro Morata is set to join Chelsea and rumours linking Mbappe with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu continue, Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked with leaving Madrid. 

“We get along really well,” Bale added, “On the pitch we play good football. We score a lot of goals and assists a lot. We’re just like normal team-mates.”

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