‘Winner’ Zaha urged to stay at Crystal Palace amid Everton & Tottenham interest

Wilfried Zaha should stay at Crystal Palace and snub interest from Everton and Tottenham, according to defender Joel Ward.

Goal understands that the Toffees are considering a £50 million ($65m) bid for the Ivory Coast international, though they are wary of competition from the likes of Spurs, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. 

Zaha enjoyed an excellent 2017-18 season, scoring nine times, his most productive campaign as a professional.

And Ward believes he would be best served by staying at Selhurst Park, due to the positive impact he has on his team-mates.

Speaking after Palace’s 3-1 pre-season win over Oxford United, in which Zaha scored, Ward said: “We all know how important he is for us and we’d love to keep him and that’s what we need.

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“We need Wilf to lead the line of attack and to show what he can do because he has done that time and time again for us and he’s a key part of this squad.

“He’s a character, he’s a winner and he wants to succeed and he wants to win as does every single member of the squad.”

Zaha has also been lauded by Jeffrey Schlupp, who insists that he is “irreplaceable” for the Eagles.

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Wilfried Zaha Crystal Palace

“Wilf is Wilf and he’s got the X-Factor,” he said.

“He’s irreplaceable. Every time he goes out on the pitch, he does his bit and it’s great to have him in the team.”


Neymar: I have special affection for Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar was quick to congratulate Kylian Mbappe, a player he has ‘special affection’ for, on winning the World Cup despite grappling with the heartbreak of his nation’s own exit.

Neymar and Brazil were surprisingly bundled out in the quarter-finals by Belgium, who subsequently lost in the last four to eventual champions France.

Teenage attacker Mbappe played a key part in Les Bleus’ triumph in Russia, netting in their 4-2 win over Croatia in the final to finish the tournament with four goals and the FIFA Young Player award.

The 19-year-old, whom Real Madrid have denied they are targeting, returns to PSG as one of the hottest properties in world football, and Neymar insists he is delighted for his club team-mate.

“I congratulated him, of course,” Neymar told reporters.

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“We talked during the World Cup, always, and we tried to meet in the semi-finals but unfortunately it wasn’t possible.

“But I was happy for him. He’s a boy that I have special affection for, he’s a boy that I try to pass on my experience [to], even at my young age, to help him become better and better.”

Speaking at his five-a-side tournament in Sao Paulo, Neymar also responded to the critics that questioned his silence in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup.

The 26-year-old, who faced accusations of underperformance and play-acting, initially avoided commenting on Brazil’s shock failure.

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“I’m criticised for everything, for what I say, for what I don’t say, I’m used to it. I’ve been through this a lot,” he said.

“But I talked after a few days because I was soothing my pain. I was sad, I had to take my time to be more calm. It was a very difficult time.

“And when I said something it was how I always talked [via Instagram]. It’s where I feel comfortable, where I try to express my words, and bring the public closer to me. I’m cool about this.”


Kovac confident Boateng will stay at Bayern amid PSG rumours

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is confident Jerome Boateng will remain with the Bundesliga champions next season despite rumours suggesting Thomas Tuchel wants him at Paris Saint-Germain.

Boateng has been at Bayern for seven years after spending a season with Manchester City, and has become a key player at the back.

But he has been in and out of the side a little more in the last three years, and in May hinted that he was craving a new experience in a different country once again.

Tuchel is said to have made a recognised centre-back a priority since taking over from Unai Emery, and his recent comments about wanting “top players” who “take into account what we have in mind” when asked about the German defender did little to cool the rumours.

But Kovac – who is embarking on his first campaign with Bayern – has other ideas, telling Tuchel that he will find it difficult to tempt players away from the Allianz Arena.

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“I know Jerome quite well and I’m confident that he will stay with Bayern,” Kovac told reporters.

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“I know that Thomas is still looking for one or two good players, maybe he will look at us, but it will not be easy to get our players.”

Kovac took charge of his first Bayern match against PSG on Saturday, seeing his team claim a 3-1 win over Tuchel’s inexperienced side.


Ozil finally breaks silence over Erdogan meeting

Mesut Ozil has finally released a statement explaining his meeting with controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisting that there was no political motive involved.

Both Ozil and fellow Germany international Ilkay Gundogan – both of whom have Turkish roots – were pictured with Erdogan during a meeting in London, leading to outcry from pundits and the media.

Indeed, a number of high profile names including Oliver Bierhoff and Ottmar Hitzfeld suggested that the pair should not have been allowed to represent Die Mannschaft at the World Cup due to their actions.

Gundogan has since come out to say that he had no political agenda in mind when he met with the president, with Ozil now echoing those sentiments, stating that he was merely respecting the political office of the country of his ancestors.

“The past couple of weeks have given me time to reflect, and time to think over the events of the last few months,” he wrote. “Consequently, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about what has happened.

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“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey. I have two hears, one German and one Turkish.

“During my childhood, my mother taught me always to be respectful and to never forget where I came from, and these are still values that I think about to this day.

“In may, I met President Erdogan in London, during a charitable and educational event. We first met in 2010 after he and Angela Merkel watched the Germany vs Turkey match together in Berlin.

“Since then, out paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe. I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.

“As I said, my mother has never let me lose sight of my ancestry, heritage and family traditions.

“For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country. My job is a football player and not a politician, and out meeting was not an endorsement of any policies.

“In fact, we spoke about the same topic that we do every time we have met – football – as he too was a player in his youth.

“Although the German media have portrayed something different, the truth is that not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors, who I know would be proud of where I am today.

“For me, it didn’t matter who was President, it mattered that it was the President. Having respect for political office is a view I’m sure both the Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May share when they too hosted Erdogan in London.

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“Whether it had been the Turkish or German president, my actions would’ve been no different.

“I get that this might be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case, it is different.

“Whatever the outcome would’ve been in the previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”


Taiwo Awoniyi nears Belgium return as striker misses out on Liverpool’s US tour

Taiwo Awoniyi was not part of Liverpool travelling squad to the United States, with the striker gearing up for a return to Belgium.

The Reds named a 29-man squad for their tour of US as they are set to take part in the International Champions Cup and alongside Danny Ings, the Nigerian striker will miss out on the trip.

Goal had reported that the former U17 international had secured his US visa in time to be ready for a pre-season with the Reds, despite the certainty of spending next season away from the Merseyside.

But in a turn of event, the forward whose successful 2017-18 season at Royal Excel Mouscron earned him a new five-year deal, plus increased wages, was excluded from the squad that travelled to North Carolina on Saturday morning.

Liverpool have made known their desire to have the striker play at the top level in the upcoming season and he is set to end up with one of Anderlecht, Standard Liege or last season’s Belgian top-flight champions Club Brugge, Goal understands.

However, with Liege and Gent kicking off the 2018-19 campaign on Friday [the former and Brugge trade tackles in the season-opening Belgian Super Cup on Sunday], the striker will have to join his new team sooner rather than later.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have the services of new entrant Naby Keita and the returning duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane after their involvement at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia with Egpyt and Senegal respectively.

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The African trio are set to play a huge part in the eight-day trip where they touch down at Charlotte [vs. Borussia Dortmund on Sunday], East Rutherford [vs. Manchester City on Wednesday] and Ann Arbor [vs. Manchester United on Saturday] for their ICC schedules in the United States.

Additional reporting from Goal’s Liverpool correspondent Neil Jones