El Shaarawy´s agent reveals rival interest

5 March 2013 11:42

Stephan El Shaarawy’s agent Roberto La Florio claims both Inter Milan and Barcelona were interested in signing his client.

The Italy international, 20, caught the interest of several big clubs with his performances on loan from Genoa at Padova in 2010/11, and joined Milan at the end of that season.

The player’s agent has claimed his client could well have ended up at one of Europe’s other heavyweight clubs had Milan not moved so quickly.

“A lot of clubs were interested in signing Stephan at the time,” La Florio told Rai.

“Inter were keen to sign him, a number of Premier League sides wanted him, and Barcelona were after him too if I remember correctly.

“Nevertheless, Milan acted quickly to snap him up before any other team made a move.”

El Shaarawy, who has already netted 16 Serie A goals this term, recently inked a new deal with Milan, contracting him to the club until June 2018.

Moratti shrugs off bust-up

5 March 2013 11:29

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has downplayed an incident between Antonio Cassano and head coach Andrea Stramaccioni.

The two were involved in a quarrel in the dressing room after Friday’s training session, and Stramaccioni opted to leave Cassano out of the Inter squad for Sunday’s 3-2 win over Catania.

Nevertheless, Moratti has refused to read too much into the incident, and feels Cassano deserves different treatment, because he is “an artist”.

“I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you what happened. But I see everyone is getting back to normal,” Moratti told reporters.

“Cassano’s an extraordinary talent, as we know, and artists are a bit special. Basically we need to understand him.

“I’m not sure whether he will be fined. I’ve left the decision on that one up to those who know what went on.”

Cassano has since apologised for Friday’s events, and is expected to return to the Inter squad for this week’s Europa League match against Tottenham.

McBreen ready to step up to the spot

5 March 2013 11:22

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold says Daniel McBreen is likely to be given the responsibility to take penalties.

The Mariners have missed their past four spot kicks, including three in a row last week.

McBreen was responsible for the first two misses before passing on the role to Nick Montgomery for last week’s AFC Champions League clash with Suwon Bluewings.

Montgomery missed as well, and then on Saturday goalkeeper Mathew Ryan stepped up and had his attempt saved as the Mariners’ unbeaten home record in the A-League ended following a 1-0 defeat against the Western Sydney Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium.

Should the Mariners get another penalty against the desperate Sky Blues on Saturday, expect McBreen to step up.

“He is a striker and has scored some good penalties for us this season,” Arnold said, as his team look to get their A-League title charge back on track.

“He lost a bit of confidence after missing a couple but I believe he will step up and take responsibility. I’ll have a chat with him this week.”

With new competition leaders Western Sydney showing no signs of a late-season lapse, the Mariners cannot afford another slip-up if they want to claim another Premiers’ Plate for a third time in eight seasons.

“We had enough chances to win last week,” Arnold said.

“At this time of the season every game is important. We’ll have a good week of training and be ready for Sydney.”

Liverpool tougher than Arsenal, says Lloris

5 March 2013 10:19

Hugo Lloris has rubbed salt into the wounds of Arsenal fans by claiming Tottenham’s game against Liverpool will be a tougher encounter.

Spurs claimed a vital 2-1 victory over their local rivals at White Hart Lane on Sunday and travel to Merseyside next to face the Reds, hoping to stretch their advantage over the Gunners and Chelsea in the race for the Champions League.

While Lloris was delighted with the north London derby victory, he believes their game against Brendan Rodgers’ side, whose style the Frenchman is wary of facing, will prove harder to win.

“It will be another game next Sunday. Liverpool are playing maybe the best football in the Premier League at this moment,” he said.

“They proved that in their last game against Wigan. It will be a very difficult game but very exciting game in Anfield.

“Of course it’s better to be in this position than Arsenal although we have to keep a lucidity of the situation.

“The most important thing is to be in the Champions League next season and I think we have to keep our ambition.”

Before their trip to Anfield, Spurs face Inter at White Hart Lane in the Europa League last 16 and the France international sees no reason why Spurs cannot go all the way in the competition this term.

“Of course there is the Premier League but also the Europa League, we can do something and why not win a trophy for the club? It would be a great thing for this season but also for the future,” he added.

“We felt the atmosphere on the pitch against Arsenal and I’m sure we can again.

“The atmosphere was fantastic when we scored the first and after the second goal the stadium was on fire, like it was at the final whistle.”

Valencia unfazed by United number seven legacy

5 March 2013 10:00

Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia is not fazed by the pressure of wearing the number seven shirt at Old Trafford.

The former Wigan midfielder follows in the footsteps of club legends George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham in the Red Devils’ iconic shirt, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo who returns to the club with Real Madrid for a Champions League clash on Tuesday evening.

The Ecuador international is well aware of the jersey stands for and hopes he can replicate the performances of the players that donned it before him.

“It means a lot,” he said. “When I arrived at United I was already aware of exactly what the number seven shirt stood for here, because we all know that many legendary players have passed through the club and worn that shirt.

“Cantona, Cristiano, Beckham – they really were all one-off players and it’s the word ‘individual’ that most accurately describes them.”

Valencia insists ‘individuality’ and a ‘winning mentality’ is what he needs to replicate Ronaldo’s success with the Red Devils, ahead of the Portuguese’s Old Trafford return.

“It’s a shirt that needs to be worn by a player who is maybe that little bit different – individuals if you like. That’s how I see it anyway,” he said.

“You could say it’s the winning mentality. It’s the mentality of a champion, always wanting to win and having that hunger for trophies.

“Players who were almost larger than life.”