Real Madrid rejected €150m Premier League offers for Asensio – agent

Real Madrid have rejected two offers of €150 million (£131m/$176m) for Marco Asensio, according to the star midfielder’s agent.

Asensio, 22, started just 19 of his 32 La Liga appearances this season, scoring six goals.

The Spain international re-signed with Madrid last year, extending his deal until 2023 with a reported €700m (£613m/$820m) release clause.

His agent, Horacio Gaggioli, said Thursday there had been significant interest in Asensio.

“Madrid have received two offers for Marco Asensio, up to €150m, but the club rejected them,” he told Cadena SER.

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“He has an extraordinary future.”

Asensio arrived at Madrid from Mallorca in 2014, although he has only spent the past two seasons at the club after initial loan spells.

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The 10-time Spain international has been linked to numerous Premier League clubs and his agent confirmed the offers had come from England.

“You can imagine that they come from England because they can afford it without any problems,” Gaggioli said.

“They could even raise it.”


‘Incredible’ Salah is like Messi, says Ronaldo

Former Real Madrid striker Ronaldo labelled Mohamed Salah “incredible”, comparing the Liverpool star to Lionel Messi.

Salah, 25, has starred this season with 44 goals in all competitions in his first campaign with the Premier League giants.

The Egypt international shapes as being crucial if Liverpool are to upset Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev Saturday.

Brazil great Ronaldo has been impressed by Salah, saying the forward was similar to Barcelona superstar Messi.

“Salah, I love him. He is an incredible player with a tremendous quality,” he told El Partidazo de COPE.

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“He looks like Messi. I recently read him saying that I had been his inspiration and I was excited.”

Despite Salah’s performances, Madrid are favourites for the Champions League final as they look to win the crown for the third straight time and fourth in five seasons.

Ronaldo believes his former club will overcome Liverpool in a high-scoring encounter.

“My result is 3-2 for Madrid,” he said.

“If they win the final it will be an unprecedented event in their history. I am very optimistic.

“There were doubts during the year, but Real Madrid came together and have achieved something historic.”


Man Utd target Fred wants to decide future after World Cup

In-demand Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred says he wants to wait until after the World Cup to decide his future. 

The Brazil international is subject of interest from both Manchester clubs, with United and City hoping to seal a deal for the 25-year-old. 

Though United were reported to be closing in on a deal to sign Fred before the World Cup, the midfielder would prefer to wait until after next month’s tournament in Russia to decide his next move. 

“I don’t know what I’m going to choose,” Fred said at a press conference on Thursday. “Maybe I’ll decide better after the World Cup.

“My head is entirely with the World Cup.”

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The former Internacional man confirmed there was interest from both sides of Manchester, with a move to City nearly materialising in January. 

“There’s been some advanced talks since January, when I almost went to Man City,” Fred said. “United talked to my staff and Shakhtar.”

Fred moved from Internacional to Shakhtar in 2013, and said he was flattered to see some of Europe’s biggest clubs have been following his progression. 

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“It’s an honour to grab the attention of great coaches in Europe, from Manchester and from our own national team,” Fred said.  

“I think I am strong on the field, I am versatile, I can play in several midfield positions. Some coaches like that, it grabs their attention, it is a big deal for me.

“Versatility, quality, good passing … I think all that catches coaches’ eyes.”


Nigeria vs. Atletico Madrid: NPFL stars cannot ignore exhibition lapses


It might have been just a friendly game that featured players on the fringes of the squad, but with Atletico Madrid fielding names like Jan Oblak, Juanfran, Thomas Partey, Angel Correa, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres, things were always going to be difficult for the Super Eagles select at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.

Although the Rojiblancos ran out 3-2 victors, Salisu Yusuf’s men – predominantly made up of Nigeria Professional Football League players – impressed on the night.

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This game was the perfect platform for some of the country’s top-flight stars to show their worth, and a few names rose to the occasion. The top scorer for current NPFL leaders Lobi Stars, Samad Kadiri, was one of the bright sparks in attack, with his rampaging runs causing the Atleti backline all sorts of problems.

Destiny Ashadi came on for the ineffectual Ibrahim Alhassan, and even though the Katsina United wideman missed a glorious chance to put the ball in the back of the net, he showed glimpses of the quality that sees him sit top of the current NPFL assists chart.

Plateau United’s Tosin Omoleye was another NPFL player who had a good game, coming off the bench and laying the ball on the path of Usman Mohammed – who scored what was the goal of the night, making a meal of the Atletico defence before putting the ball past Axel Werner.

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However, the biggest undoing of the Nigerian frontline was that they were too wasteful.

They could have had more goals in the back of the net, but poor technique and finishing – something that is a recurring theme in the NPFL and a reason for a low turnout of goals on matchdays  –  was evident in this game.

The Super Eagles defence was terrible on the night too. They afforded Diego Simeone’s men much space, as was evidenced in the build-up to Angel Correa and Fernando Torres’ goals. The Nigerian backline might have been poor, but Enugu Rangers number one Olufemi Thomas was fantastic in Uyo, making a number of excellent saves.

His most noteworthy stop was when using his lower body to keep out a close-range effort from Vitolo. It was reminiscent of Manchester United goalkeeper and former Atleti man David de Gea.

The other lapses from the home-based players cannot be ignored, and was evidence that the technical aspect of the Nigeria Professional Football League also needs to improve. The same kind of errors that were seen against Atleti are the things that have cost NPFL sides dearly in continental competition.

The NPFL is also known to be physical in nature, but the naivety and rawness of some of the league’s defenders was evident against Atleti.

Facing a fluent attacking side was always going to leave the backline exposed, and that’s what happened in Uyo.

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The same could be said during the Super Eagles’ outing at the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco, where the West Africans were handed a lesson by Morocco in the final.Nigeria B vs Atletico Madrid

There’s hope, however, that the ongoing NPFL-La Liga partnership can help expose the nation’s top sides to teams beyond Africa’s shores and help them learn lessons from the diversity of the world game.

Certainly, while the Eagles deserve credit for their application against Atleti, the defeat only demonstrated that there’s certainly room for improvement for the nation’s top home-based star.


Champions League crown could fire Salah to Ballon d’Or – Muller

Mohamed Salah is a “big candidate” for the Ballon d’Or if he fires Liverpool to Champions League glory, according to Thomas Muller.

Salah has smashed a series of records in his first season at Liverpool, including setting a new mark for the most goals in a 38-game Premier League season.

The Egypt international claimed the Premier League’s Player of the Year prize as a result, along with other accolades including the PFA Players’ Player of the Year gong.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have dominated the Ballon d’Or for a decade, winning the individual award on five occasions each since Kaka’s success in 2007.

But Bayern Munich and Germany forward Muller thinks Salah could be the man to break up the Ronaldo-Messi era – if Liverpool beat Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday.

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“I think that Mo Salah was very impressive,” Muller told the Mirror. “Maybe if Liverpool can win the Champions League title, he’s a big candidate.

“The whole world is looking for a new Ballon d’Or winner. Leo Messi and Ronaldo are outstanding, but the performance of Salah this season was also outstanding. I think he has a great chance.

“But in the end to win the Ballon d’Or is not the biggest thing you can reach, because when you win titles with your team, it gives you so much more intensity and good feelings – that, in my opinion, is more important.”

Muller will team up with Manchester City’s fleet-footed winger Leroy Sane at the World Cup, with the pair aiming to help Germany defend the crown they won four years ago in Brazil.

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But Muller insists Joachim Low’s side will operate as a collective in Russia, rather than relying on individual brilliance at the tournament.

“He did very great job in the Premier League,” Muller said of Sane. “But I think in Germany we don’t have that single player that is better than the rest.

“We have many players that have the talent to play a season like Salah, but I think you have to win titles as well to win the Ballon d’Or.”