Merkel: ´Milan have certainly become weaker´

16 August 2012 17:37

Genoa starlet Alexander Merkel believes AC Milan have lost a lot of quality, but insists the club will continue to compete at the highest level.

Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva left San Siro for Paris Saint-Germain in July, but while the former Milan midfielder lamented their departures, he said the side were too big to struggle without the prized pair.

“Milan have certainly become weaker. They’ve lost two fundamental players in Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva,” Merkel told Sky Sports.

“However, we should not forget that Milan are a big club. They will also do well without these two players.”

Merkel left Milan for Genoa on a permanent basis earlier in the year, but admits he would have been happy to stay put.

“It would have been great to stay at Milan, but now I’m only thinking about Genoa,” Merkel said.

Merkel is a product of the Stuttgart youth academy, but left the Bundesliga side for Milan in 2008.

Mertens hails ´very special´ win

16 August 2012 17:31

Dries Mertens has spoken of his delight with Belgium’s impressive 4-2 win over the Netherlands in Wednesday’s international friendly.

The PSV Eindhoven star came off the bench halfway through the second half, with Belgium trailing 2-1, but single-handedly turned the game around by scoring once and setting up two more to help his country to victory.

“The most beautiful moment was the goal that made it 4-2. At that point, you know it is in the bag,” Mertens told the UEFA website.

“Scoring is nice, but realising you are going to beat the Netherlands is also very special.”

The winger added that Belgium had not achieved anything yet, and is keen to help his team-mates replicate Wednesday’s performance throughout the World Cup qualification campaign.

“We have not won anything yet. On September 7, we will be there to do the job. We know we have to do it now, and that we have to be on the ball from the very start,” Mertens said.

Belgium lock horns with Wales in their first World Cup qualifier.

O´Neill happy with draw

16 August 2012 17:20

Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill says he is happy with the way his side battled during their 3-3 draw with Finland on Wednesday.

O’Neill’s side were able to cancel out Perparim Hetemaj’s strike with Martin Paterson’s penalty in the 83rd minute to salvage a draw.

O’Neill felt his team deserved a share of the spoils but was disappointed to see them cough up a 2-0 lead.

“We started well with two good goals and I was obviously disappointed to lose that lead,” O’Neill told reporters.

“In the second half we had to dig in and despite being careless at times we created opportunities and deserved to get the equaliser.

“I’m pleased with the performance and the young players I introduced near the end did very well.”

Even though Northern Ireland are still due their first win under O’Neill’s management, the friendly was a good opportunity to test prospective international players before their World Cup qualifiers, which start on September 7 against Russia.

The 43-year expanded on his praise for the younger members of the squad who made cameo appearances during the game.

“Oliver Norwood came on with about 10 minutes left and looked very accomplished in possession and played some good forward passes,” O’Neill said.

“Josh Carson also came on and played well – he has quality and enthusiasm. We will see what happens regarding the Russia game but all the younger players are in contention.”

Sunderland snap up Saha

16 August 2012 17:16

Sunderland have completed the signing of France striker Louis Saha on a one-year-deal following his release by Tottenham Hotspur.

The 34-year-old becomes Sunderland’s second signing of the close-season following Carlos Cuellar’s move from Aston Villa.

Saha joined his team-mates in training on Thursday and is expected to make his debut in Sunderland’s English Premier League opener at Arsenal on Saturday.

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is delighted to have signed the former Everton and Manchester United striker and feels he will bring a wealth of experience to the club.

O’Neill told the club’s website: “Louis is a striker whose abilities have been proven at the very highest level and he brings with him a raft of experience of top-flight football.

“I’m sure he will be a great addition to our squad in an area we recognise needs strengthening and I’m delighted we have been able to complete the deal ahead of our first game of the season.”

Saha said he is hoping he can help his new side achieve more success than their 13th-place finish last season.

“This is a great opportunity; I’m really pleased with the chance to play for such a great club,” he said.

“I’m delighted and obviously I’m looking forward to start playing for the team.

“The club has very passionate fans, they really look to help the team and there are many things to achieve. So I’m delighted with the choice and the opportunity to play for such a great football club.

“Martin O’Neill has great experience and done great since taking over as manager. It’s a great chance to play under him and I hope to help the side to achieve something.”

Hummels sustains neck injury

16 August 2012 17:11

Mats Hummels could face a brief spell on the sidelines after sustaining a neck injury during Germany’s 3-1 win over Argentina.

The centre-back was forced to leave the pitch in the 25th minute following a collision with Gonzalo Higuain earlier in the match.

It is not yet known how long Hummels will be out of action as he has yet to undergo further examination.

But Hummels is doubtful for Borussia Dortmund’s DFB-Pokal clash with Oberneuland on the weekend.

Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Guendogan, Mario Goetze and Marco Reus also featured for Germany in Wednesday’s match, but came out unscathed.

Dortmund opened their 2012/13 campaign with a 2-1 loss against rivals Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup.