Lille unveil new stadium

15 August 2012 14:22

In a bold move to rival Paris Saint-Germain’s big spending, Lille have unveiled their new 282 million-euro stadium for the new season.

While title favourites PSG have splurged on the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lille played their trump card, unveiling the 50,000-capacity Grand Stade Lille Metropole.

After eight years in a temporary venue, Lille will now play in the cosy confines of France’s first stadium with a retractable roof for the first time against Nancy on Friday.

With Champions League football guaranteed this season, Lille head coach Rudi Garcia said his squad already felt at home at the new venue.

“Weirdly, we feel already at home” Garcia said.

“I say weirdly because otherwise it would feel more like the day before a European game played away, because we could have the feeling that it’s not home.

“We have been here several times, three times at least, and it helps get accustomed to the place. We know how it’s going to be on Friday as we are used to the new stadium already.”

Though the 2010/11 champions have lost their star man Eden Hazard to Chelsea and struggled to fill the smaller Stade Lille, chairman Michel Seydoux said it was a huge step toward the club becoming one of Ligue 1’s powerhouses.

“I think that the appeal of Lille will start to grow,” Seydoux said.

“Some said ‘you don’t fill the Stade Lille, you’ll never fill the Grand Stade’ but today we have 30,000 season ticket holders, so a big thanks to them. I hope that we’ll fulfil their expectations.

“We want to catch up with the big French clubs.

“Then, it’s you (the journalists) who will decide where we are in the French hierarchy.

“I think that having this stadium is an important step for us.”

Ramsey: No problem with Shawcross

15 August 2012 13:03

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey says he would have no problem playing with Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross, who broke his leg in 2010.

Wales boss Chris Coleman is trying to persuade former England Under-21 centre-back Shawcross – who spent time in Wales as a youngster – to switch allegiances, meaning the pair could soon be team-mates.

In February 2010, the Stoke man inflicted a double-fracture on Ramsey, which put him out of football for a year, and Coleman said he has talked with Ramsey about the possibility of selecting Shawcross.

And the 21-year-old Gunner insisted there would be no problem.

“There’s no situation,” Ramsey told reporters. “It’s up to the manager what he feels is the right thing to do for the team. It’s his decision.

“I just turn up and play. I’m over what happened in the past, I’ve moved on. I had a text off him straight after I done my leg but that was it.”

Coleman admits selecting Shawcross could be awkward for the team, but ultimately his goal is to try and get Wales to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and the Stoke defender would add quality to the side.

“The bottom line is we want to go to Brazil and how we will do that is to get the best players we can,” Coleman said. “He’s a Premier League centre-back.

“I think there is an issue but the conversation I had with Rambo (Ramsey) was very positive.

“They don’t have to be best friends; the best dressing room I ever played in, there was an edge and you don’t want everybody to be comfortable and all nice with each other.

“What matters is they play together for the team and respect each other as players.”

Lukaku: I wasted my time at Chelsea

15 August 2012 12:54

Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku has hit out at his parent club for the lack of opportunities he received during his first season with the side.

The Belgium international recently joined West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan and described his relief at finding a way to play regular football in the Premier League.

Lukaku revealed that he asked for a temporary switch away from Stamford Bridge immediately after returning for pre-season training.

“I couldn’t see myself staying at Chelsea,” Lukaku told The Sun. “I sacrificed a year of my career with them and didn’t want to put up with it any more.

“I am relieved to have found a solution. On the first day of pre-season I told the manager I wanted to leave.”

The 19-year old starlet said he lost his appetite for the game last season despite being part of a squad that won both the FA Cup and the Champions League.

Lukaku added that Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo asked him to consider staying at the club following the departure of Didier Drogba, but he believes his development will be best-served elsewhere.

“Roberto Di Matteo told me I ought to think about Chelsea as there weren’t going to be many other strikers this season,” he said. “But this is the time for me to think about myself.

“I got sick of watching the others from the bench. I played only 12 games and when I was playing well they would take me off.

“I lost my hunger for the game over the past year. As regards getting minutes on the pitch, I wasted my time. I am very happy to join West Brom – it feels like liberation.”

Van Gaal: RVP took bad news well

15 August 2012 12:36

Louis van Gaal has praised Robin van Persie for his reaction to news Klaas-Jan Huntelaar would be first-choice striker for the Netherlands.

The Arsenal star had been the Dutch number nine ever since the 2010 World Cup, but failed to replicate his club form for the national side, and will now have to settle for a spot on the bench for a while.

“I had a fantastic conversation with Robin. I had to tell him that his situation has changed and that I prefer Huntelaar for now,” Van Gaal told De Telegraaf.

“It was a great talk not just about football, but also about life in general. I was pleasantly surprised. This was probably one of the best conversations I have ever had with a player. It’s pretty rare to have such a good talk with a player.

“I told him that the best player plays, but that his situation can quickly change. I am confident that there will be a moment where he pulls us through.”

Van Gaal will be in charge of Netherlands for the first time since his return in Wednesday’s friendly against Belgium.

Sabella: Leave Messi alone

15 August 2012 12:26

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella feels Lionel Messi would be at his best if he did not have to deal with so much media attention.

Sabella made the Barcelona star his nation’s captain shortly after his appointment back in August 2011, and is adamant that there is no need for Messi to change his habits now that he is Argentina’s leader.

“The captaincy has not changed him at all. I see him as calm, content and happy,” Sabella told reporters.

“He needs to be left alone and to talk to him as little as possible because if he is happy and content, then that is the best thing for everyone.”

The Argentina boss then went on to discuss his side’s tactics for their upcoming friendly against Germany in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

“It depends on the overall context of the team and not just two or three players,” he said.

“We can play with two or three strikers, but at Barcelona they use just one man up front, while at Spain there was a debate whether (Fernando) Torres or (Cesc) Fabregas should play.

“In the end they played without an outright striker and finished champions of Europe.”