The war between Ronaldo, Sanchez

Manchester United have told Cristiano Ronaldo they’ll let him have his old number 7 shirt if he seals a transfer back to Old Trafford.

The Real Madrid forward’s future is in doubt this summer after he dropped a hint he could leave after the club’s latest Champions League final success.

Ronaldo may well feel it’s time for a new challenge away from the Bernabeu after becoming their all-time leading scorer and helping them to reach new heights in Europe’s top club competition.

United would dearly love to have him back and could do with reinforcements in attack this summer, with Alexis Sanchez not getting off to a good start following his January move from Arsenal.

In fact, it could be the Chile international who loses out as Ronaldo negotiates a potential return to United, with Don Balon claiming the player is unhappy at the Red Devils offering his number 7 shirt to Ronaldo.

The Portugal international has worn that number for most of his career and it’s hard to imagine him accepting anything else, so United have a big decision to make here.

Sanchez won’t be happy about it, but it seems Jose Mourinho is adamant he has to accept the situation or leave.

Another Juventus star wants to come to EPL badly

Juventus and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain has sent a message to the Premier League by admitting that he would ‘love’ to play in England, according to the Metro.

The 30-year-old is currently on international duty with Argentina and has long been one of the world’s finest and most consistent goalscorers.

This season he helped Juventus win another consecutive domestic double and comes off the back of a campaign in which he scored 23 goals in 50 games, since joining from Napoli in 2016 for a fee of £75.3m, as per the Metro.

He enjoyed a great spell at Napoli in his last season too when he netted 38 goals in just 42 games.

When questioned about his future by ESPN, as re-reported by the Metro, Higuain said: “I have a contract with Juventus and no one has communicated anything different.

“I’m very calm, my soul stays in Turin for now. But I would love to play in the Premier League, it fascinates me a lot.”

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Higuain has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge in a deal which would be worth at least €63m.

Further, Calciomercato suggests that the Argentine international could leave the Serie A giants and join the west London outfit also.

The Evening Standard claimed last week that Juventus have made contact with Chelsea over a potential swap deal for Chelsea and former Juventus striker, Alvaro Morata.

After starting his Chelsea career in positive fashion, the Spaniard ended the campaign with just 15 goals and six assists in 48 appearances in all competitions and failed to make Spain’s World Cup 2018 squad so a move could benefit all parties involved.


Sanchez or Ronaldo: Mourinho’s shocking pick

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has delivered an ultimatum to star player Alexis Sanchez over a potential summer transfer.

The Portuguese’s message to the Chilean is clear: If Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the club from Real Madrid, Sanchez has to give up his no.7 shirt for him or move on, according to Don Balon.

Unsurprisingly, the report states Sanchez is not at all happy with United’s interest in Ronaldo, which makes sense given he joined just a few months ago as the Red Devils’ marquee signing.

Still, things haven’t quite worked out for the former Arsenal man at Old Trafford so it’s little surprise that Mourinho could be looking for a big-name replacement up front.

Ronaldo shone at United earlier in his career and remains one of the very best players in the world despite his age.

Although the Portugal international will turn 34 next season, he seems worth a gamble on at this stage as United need a world class goal-scorer in their ranks.

As well as that, Ronaldo is the kind of big-game player United have seemed to lack for some time as they’ve failed to make real progress in the big competitions, finishing far behind Manchester City in the league last season and being distinctly second best as they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup final last month.

Transfer news: Barca’s first move

Barcelona is reportedly close to agreeing a deal with Premier League side Watford for the transfer of Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu.

Sport are reporting that the two sides are closing in on an agreement that will see the forward swap the sunny shores of Catalonia for a chance to play in the Premier league.

The news outlet are also stating that the former Everton man isn’t in Ernesto Valverde’s plans for next season, and that he will be available for a price of €10M, a bargain for a player of his quality.

Despite showing promising signs during his spell with Everton, Deulofeu failed to live up to expectations for the Blaugrana during the first half of last season.

The 24-year-old only managed to bag a total of two goals and three assists in 17 games for the Spanish giants during the first half of last season, with Deulofeu not fairing much better with Watford after his move in January.

The Spaniard was only able to clock up one goal and one assist for the Hornets in seven league appearances, a poor return for a player of his quality.

If Barcelona to get this one over the line, it’ll be interesting to see if they bring in anyone to replace the winger this summer.


List of your darling sport stars who love to bet, gamble

Many professional sportsmen make astronomical sums for doing their favorite kinds of sport. However, top-class athletes remain ordinary humans after all, with their own weak points, no matter however much money and fame they enjoy. Notably, many world-class sport stars are not immune to trying their luck in gambling games. Below you’ll find information about popular athletes who love casino games and sport bets.

Michael Vick the football player

Unlike other characters from this article, Michael isn’t actually a gambler. Neither has he ever made any illegal sport bets. Instead, Michael Vick himself organized illegal dog fights. This is exactly why the promising quarterback of the “New York Jets” ended up behind the bars. He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to a 2-year imprisonment. Apart from convicting Vick for organizing illegal fights, the prosecuting attorney made an attempt to subject the sportsmen to the responsibility for animal abuse, for cruelty to dogs which lead to their death in particular. However, this criminal charge was never proved.

Keith Robert Gillespie the footballer

Former “Manchester United” player and one of the most promising North Ireland footballers – Keith Gillespie – mentioned in his memoirs, that he spent everything he earned on the field during his long career at bookmaker’s offices.

Of course, the exact sum of the money lost is kept out the public eye, however, Keith’s fans calculated that it might approximately be equal to 7-8 million pounds.

Gillespie became obsessed with totalizers back in the days when he was a “Manchester United” player on the tip from his mentor and team mate from Alex Ferguson’s club. But the real disaster came when Keith moved to “New Castle”.

The sportsmen himself admits, that the universal Internet access and telephone bids (bets made by telephone without visiting bookmaker’s offices) make you spend money a lot faster than ever before. Gillespie personal best is 62 thousand pounds in 48 hours. This was the time when Keith lost his annual salary and what’s more ran into debts.

As for today, Keith is occupying a small apartment in a modest area of Bangor. When he talks to press, Gillespie reports that he managed to kick his addiction. But he also admits, that he sometimes makes bets – 20 pounds at most. It well may be that one day Gillespie will manage to recover his lost fortune providing that he’s on a roll.

Charles Barkley the basketballer

It seems that it’s almost a must for a professional basketballer to be obsessed with making bets. And not only Michael Jordan was spotted gambling. The reliable source reports that one day another American sportsman – Charles Barkley – lost more than $10 million on one of the totalizers.

As for Barkley himself, he puts his defeats down to his nature of high roller: he makes huge bets and therefore loses a lot. Every time Barkley faces a defeat, the world’s attention is gained by how much he has lost, but whenever he wins, it goes unnoticed. Charles says, that making bets is fun and adds that he will continue wasting money on totalizers. On the other hand, he admits that there’s another side of the question: you need to quit while one is ahead, you’ll never win the whole bank, while it’s very easy to blow your bankroll.

Kotomitsuki Keiji the sumo wrestler

Japanese are known to cherish their traditions, so only a person of high moral character can become a true wrestler. But former sumo athlete, Kotomitsuki Keiji, made a huge disappointment for his devoted fans. Once Keiji scored a respectable ?zeki title, he literally went rouge and plunged into the beloved hobby: he did baseball pools illegally. What’s more this organization was held by Japanese mafia – yakudza. In 2012, his secret was revealed and made a huge scandal. The saddest part is that not only Keiji, but at least 65 other sumo wrestlers (out of total 700 sumo sportsmen in Japan) were involved in this row. But it was Keiji, who suffered from this situation most: he had to quit his professional career and was deprived of all titles and high sports pension.

Jaromír Jágr

The legendary Czech hockey player is a very well-known figure not only to the hockey fans all over the world and ordinary Czechs, but also to bookmakers. The word about Jagr’s problem gambling leaked out after it tuned out that he owed $950 000 to offshore betting providers.

What’s noteworthy, the luck seemed to turn back on Jaromir: the sportsmen used to make bets equal up to $20 000 for a single match, according to Steven Budin – his personal bookmaker. Finally, when one of the Jagr’s bets won, the bookmaker’s office, which was extremely afraid that the Czech might stop making bets after a series of losses, decided to organize a real celebration to commemorate the victory.

Michael Vic

Michael Vic – the infamous quarterback of NFL “New York Jets” – is sadly remembered for organizing illegal dog fights, whereas all previous characters from the article simply made “innocent” sport bets and threw their cash around. In 2007 Vic was arrested and sentenced to a 23-month imprisonment. He was also accused of cruel killings of the defeated dogs; however, this information was never proved.



World Cup No. 10s : Nigeria’s group has the best 10s in Russia 2018


EGYPT: Mo Salah

You have probably heard of him; he scored 44 goals for Liverpool last season as they finished fourth and reached the Champions League final. And he may or may not be fit for the opening games of the World Cup. Curse you, Sergio Ramos (not really, it was clearly a freak accident).

RUSSIA: Fyodor Smolov

You may have heard of him; he was strongly linked with a move to West Ham in January. He was the Russian Premier League top scorer for two consecutive seasons with Krasnodar before he was usurped by Quincy Promes.

SAUDI ARABIA: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

“It was agreed with Manchester United for Mohammed Al-Sahlawi to join for a training programme for three weeks, may God benefit him,” said the Saudi Arabian football authorities in March. We’re not sure whether ‘God’ is Jose Mourinho in this particular scenario. Anyway, the 31-year-old scored ten goals in 19 league games for Al-Nassr this season.

URUGUAY: Giorgian De Arrascaeta

With Luis Suarez in the No. 9 shirt and Edinson Cavani wearing 21, the coveted No. 10 shirt is taken by a player who actually only played a cameo role in qualifying. The 24-year-old plays largely from the left for Brazilian side Cruzeiro.


IRAN: Karim Ansarifard

In January 2012, FIFA named Ansarifard as one of the players to watch that year, along with Thiago Alcantara, Julian Draxler and, erm, Junior Hoilett. He never quite reached the heights of legendary Iranian No. 10 Ali Daei but he has just scored 17 goals in 25 Greek games for Olympiakos. He will play behind striker Sardar Azmoun in Russia, mind.

MOROCCCO: Younes Belhanda

Cast your minds back to the summer of 2013 and Belhanda was linked with Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Aston Villa. He joined Dynamo Kiev instead and finally escaped Ukraine in 2017 for Galatasaray, taking Wesley Sneijder’s No. 10 shirt. His talent has never been in doubt but if we tell you that he has just scored his first international goal in five years, you might get the message that consistency has been in short supply.

PORTUGAL: Joao Mario

The only man on this list who ended the season on loan at West Ham. After his move to Inter Milan went sour, the midfielder needed regular football and the Hammers were happy to help. Generally plays from the left for Portugal. Yet to copyright JM10.

SPAIN: Thiago

We feel a bit cheated that Thiago is Spain’s No. 10 when David Silva is in the squad. He is a brilliant midfielder but he is very much a central midfielder for Spain. For illustration, he sat behind Koke, Andres Iniesta, Marco Asensio, Isco and Diego Costa in their recent 6-1 win over Argentina.


AUSTRALIA: Robbie Kruse

A not-quite player who seems to have finally found his level in the second flight of German football with VfL Bochum. The standard of the Australian national team is such that Kruse retains his place in the team, starting their recent 4-0 win over the Czech Republic from the left wing.

DENMARK: Christian Eriksen

A truly, truly excellent footballer who was one of only five Premier League players to reach double figures for both goals and assists last season. Fortunately for him, there is no Harry Kane to nab the No. 10 shirt for Denmark.

FRANCE: Kylian Mbappe

There were many, many candidates for the French No. 10 shirt occupied by Zinedine Zidane at France 98. But such is the brilliance of the inexplicably still-teenaged Kylian Mbappe that he gets the nod. Well he has scored twice and claimed five assists in his last six games for France.

PERU: Jefferson Farfan

Yes, that Jefferson Farfan. He is now 33 and very, very happy to finally be at a World Cup. Oh and ‘Lokomotiv Moscow’ is the answer your next question.


ARGENTINA: Lionel Messi

“Football owes a World Cup to Messi.” This is probably his last chance. He comes into the tournament in terrible form having scored just 34 goals in 36 La Liga games.

CROATIA: Luka Modric

Interestingly, Luka Modric has been playing as an actual No. 10 for Croatia; you can do that when you have Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic.

ICELAND: Gylfi Sigurdsson

The man. The talisman. The Iceman. Returned to action after three months of knee crockage with a goal against Norway and the nation rejoiced. There really is a great set of No. 10s in Group C.

NIGERIA: Jon Obi Mikel

What were we saying? Captain Mikel is now plying his trade in China for Tianjin TEDA that does not stop him being the heartbeat of the Nigerian side. And yes, he does play further forward for Nigeria; you can do that when you have Wilfred Ndidi.


BRAZIL: Neymar

Again, there were quite a few candidates. But pity the fool who tries to tell Neymar that Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus or Willian should have the shirt instead. He is the world’s most expensive player, after all.

COSTA RICA: Bryan Ruiz

Costa Rica’s captain and inspiration will forever be a ‘Fulham flop’ on these shores. In reality, he re-established himself in Sporting’s line-up at the end of last season as they reached the Europa League quarter-finals.

SERBIA: Dusan Tadic

The scorer of four goals and creator of seven more in World Cup qualifying, the Southampton midfielder remains Serbia’s great hope for inspiration.


We just assumed this would be Xherdan Shaqiri, until we remembered that he is exactly the kind of player who would insist on No. 23. But we cannot make this clear enough: Defensive midfielders should not be No. 10s, even if they do insist on shooting from 35 yards at least once per half.


GERMANY: Mesut Ozil

The archetypal infuriating No. 10 but he is truly adored by Joachim Low. Ozil comes into this tournament with just one Premier League assist since January; there is a lot of pressure to deliver more than the discarded Leroy Sane. Just ask Martin Keown.

MEXICO: Giovani dos Santos

Sorry, did we say that Ozil is the archetypal infuriating No. 10? Dos Santos scored the only goal to beat Scotland last week but it was his first international goal since 2016. Currently paying for LA Galaxy after giving up on a disappointing tour of Europe.

SOUTH KOREA: Lee Seung-woo

Oooh, a wildcard. He is only 20 and he marked his South Korean debut with an assist against Honduras just last month. Recently relegated with Hellas Verona but Barcelona have a buy-back clause that they may well exercise this summer if he excels in Russia.

SWEDEN: Emil Forsberg

Described as the anti-Zlatan because he is a tad, well, dull, Forsberg is Sweden’s left-sided midfielder charged with making them a tad more interesting. He has had a season to forget for RB Leipzig, with injury, suspension and poor form restricting him to just 15 Bundesliga starts.


BELGIUM: Eden Hazard

Another one of those countries who could have given their No. 10 shirt to about five brilliant Belgians (and Marouane Fellaini) but instead chose Hazard, who scored six goals and notched five assists in qualifying. It is just a shame they are managed by Roberto Martinez.

ENGLAND: Raheem Sterling

One of those five players who reached double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League last season. The bad news is not that he has a tattoo but that he has not scored for England since 2015.

PANAMA: Ismael Díaz

Just 21 and playing in Spain’s second tier, he has started only four games for Panama – largely from the left wing – so seems an odd choice for the No. 10 shirt.

TUNISIA: Wahbi Khazri

Still owned by Sunderland but we are not expecting to see too much of him in League One next season. Scored nine goals in Ligue Un for Rennes on loan last season and remains Tunisia’s only real goal threat.


COLOMBIA: James Rodriguez

Revelation: There are quite a lot of good players at this World Cup. One of them is James Rodriguez, who was excellent in a 3-2 win over France in March. He has been pretty good for Bayern this season on loan, scoring seven and assisting 11 in their Bundesliga triumph.

JAPAN: Shinji Kagawa

He ‘flopped’ in England but he is Japan’s hero again after being recalled by new coach Akira Nishino. Presumably had to fight Keisuke Honda for the No. 10 shirt; the loser got No. 4.

POLAND: Grzegorz Krychowiak

By any stretch of the imagination, he should not be a No. 10. And not just because he was relegated with West Brom.

SENEGAL: Sadio Mane

The star of this Senegalese team, which is odd because it also boasts Mame Biram Diouf, Diafra Sakho and Moussa Sow. He was excellent in the Champions League final, by the way.

Not good enough for EPL, but okay for World Cup

Ahmed Fathy (Sheffield United and Egypt)

The transfer window is to Neil Warnock what oxygen is to other living organisms. With Sheffield United an almost unfathomable 16th in the Premier League on New Year’s Day 2007, the manager sought to assure their survival and treat himself by embarking on something of a shopping spree. Matthew Kilgallon, Jon Stead, Mamadou Seck, Luton Shelton and Ahmed Fathy all joined within 11 days of each other for around £6million. It did not work.

The paths undertaken by that quintet since United’s eventual demise have varied. Kilgallon ended last season as Bradford’s Player of the Year, while Stead has formed the most lethal strike partnership in the Nottinghamshire area alongside Shola Ameobi. Seck has long since retired, and Shelton is turning out for Harbour View F.C in Jamaica’s wonderfully named Red Stripe Premier League.

Fathy will shed a single tear for each of his former teammates as he prepares to head to Russia. The 33-year-old is Egypt’s regular right-back, even filling in on occasion as captain when 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary wants to put his feet up and complete a few crossword puzzles. As only the third Egyptian to ever feature in the Premier League, Fathy will meet this latest challenge head on.

Yuri Zhirkov (Chelsea and Russia)

Chelsea likely thought they had engineered something of a coup when signing Yuri Zhirkov for £18m in summer 2009. The 25-year-old joined seven months after receiving a Ballon d’Or nomination, and 12 after being named in UEFA’s Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament. Russia reached the semi-finals thanks in no small part to the performances of the left-winger.

Zhirkov had already won 11 club trophies in Russia before moving to the Premier League, including a goalscoring turn in the 2005 UEFA Cup final. But he would struggle at Stamford Bridge, playing just 29 Premier League games across two seasons. “Psychologically I feel much better in Russia because at Chelsea I had problems,” he said after leaving in 2011. “For example, I would play 10 matches in a row, then Lampard would return from an injury and right away I would find myself sitting on the bench.” The Derby manager is unlikely to be an obstacle this time.

Iago Aspas (Liverpool and Spain)

That corner. That bloody corner. Iago Aspas came to England, scored one goal in 15 games, and the only enduring memory of his solitary Premier League season is that corner. “It was a great season for Liverpool – one of their best – although I would have liked to have played a bigger part and that corner is the final memory, so it’s their lasting image of me,” he said ahead of the Europa League semi-final last May.

Aspas would never play for Liverpool again after that Chelsea defeat – not that things improved immediately thereafter. He joined Sevilla on loan and, despite failing to have much of an impact in Andalusia, joined permanently in June 2015. He was sold back to boyhood club Celta Vigo the same day, thus completing the circle of a bizarre career.

The 30-year-old has clearly benefited from more familiar surroundings. He has scored 55 La Liga goals in the last three seasons, with only Antoine Griezmann (57), Cristiano Ronaldo (86), Luis Suárez (94) and Lionel Messi (97) scoring more. Liverpool fans with short-term memories would be forgiven for clamouring for his signing.

Andreas Cornelius (Cardiff and Denmark)

Before managing to turn the considerable tide this season, choosing sides between Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan and former manager Malky Mackay was a thankless task – like deciding which of your children was your favourite, but only if both of your children were just terrible, terrible people.

And then Tan saw the light. “It was unfortunate that we only stayed in the Premier League for one season,” he said last August, bemoaning the fact that “we spent a lot of money”. But one player was the particular subject of his ire: “What did we get? We paid £10.5m for Cornelius who didn’t even play 45 minutes and then the manager said he was a project. I’m in the Premier League, I need to survive. What an idiot he [Mackay] is.”

What an idiot indeed. Cornelius was handed 107 Premier League minutes as Cardiff plummeted straight back to the Championship in 2013/14. He tends to fare slightly better for Denmark, as a record of eight goals in 19 appearances attests.

Florian Thauvin (Newcastle and France)

Graham Carr, like Alan Pardew, still has two years left on his contract at Newcastle. The former scout agreed an eight-year extension in June 2012, three months before Pardew celebrated the same terms with a wink and a cool glass of the finest fresh pineapple juice. After all, “when you’re the King, you can do anything”.

Carr and Pardew enjoyed some remarkable success at Newcastle. The pair linked up when the latter was appointed as Chris Hughton’s replacement in December 2010, and the juiciest fruits of their labour came in 2011/12 with a fifth-placed finish. Carr’s scouting network and Pardew’s particular brand of management combined to create a powerful recipe for prosperity.

It would not last. Carr outstayed Pardew but his magic touch in the transfer market betrayed him, delivering more Emmanuel Rivières and Rémy Cabellas than Yohan Cabayes as time went on. Carr left in the summer of 2017, his most costly mistake being that of Florian Thauvin. The Frenchman remains the club’s fifth biggest signing ever at £12m; he started three Premier League games before leaving permanently.

While Newcastle will spend the summer needing to finally make a club-record signing, Thauvin will be waiting patiently to take any opportunities that present themselves for France. Having scored 26 goals and assisted a further 18 for Marseille this season, you’d back him.

Andrej Kramaric (Leicester and Croatia)

Let it never be said that Andrej Kramaric is averse to riding on anyone’s coattails. The striker said that he was “glad to be part of” Leicester’s Premier League title success in 2015/16, having played just 22 minutes of their historic campaign. His contribution was as welcome as that of Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, most certainly.

It was not quite enough to earn a winner’s medal. Within a year of his arrival Kramaric was loaned out to the Bundesliga, and five months later he had departed permanently. But the striker will harbour hopes of a more prominent role in the Croatia set-up. He has played the full 90 minutes of their two most recent friendlies, and a midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic has a chance of making pretty much anyone in front of them look good.

Cristian Gamboa (West Brom and Costa Rica)

The story of Cristian Gamboa has been oft-told on these hallowed pages. The Costa Rican joined West Brom for £2m in July 2014, starting just one Premier League game under Alan Irvine before the Scotsman’s sacking that December. The arrival of Tony Pulis as his replacement did not herald a brighter dawn: he did not play a single league game for the rest of the season, and only made five of 18 benches.

Gamboa finally fought his way into Pulis’s plans the following season, coming on as a second-half substitute in a game in August. That remains his last Premier League appearance: he joined Celtic in summer 2016. As for the mystery as to why Pulis constantly overlooked him, perhaps Wikipedia can shed a light on the situation?

‘Cristian Esteban Gamboa Luna (born 24 October 1989), commonly known as Cristian Gamboa, is a Costa Rican footballer who plays for Celtic. He is a pacy right back with both attacking and defensive capabilities.’ It’s enough to make you vomit into a baseball cap.

Jerome Boateng (Manchester City and Germany)

“In England, you have to operate immediately,” said Jerome Boateng in October 2016, and it is difficult not to sympathise. The centre-half arrived from Hamburg for £10m in summer 2010, tasked with breaking up the central defensive partnership of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. If injury problems were not enough of a disruption, Roberto Mancini was insistent on using the German as a full-back. It was never going to work out.

As with Gerard Pique, who thrived at Barcelona after struggling at Manchester United, Boateng simply needed more home comforts. He developed into one of the finest centre-halves in the world at Bayern Munich, quickly banishing memories of his Manchester misery and bolstering his trophy collection. His spell at City is the rare black mark on an accomplished and illustrious career – as well as almost having his ankles broken by Lionel Messi that one time.

Andreas Granqvist (Wigan and Sweden)

Chris Hutchings is misunderstood. The misconception is that there are few better at putting out the cones, but that he could not excel as the man in charge. He might be responsible for two of the shortest managerial reigns in Premier League history at Bradford and Wigan, yet his record in the transfer market is surprisingly good. Benito Carbone and Antonio Valencia should dedicate their entire careers to the 60-year-old.

There were as many misses as hits, as is only natural. The summer he spent in charge of Wigan in 2007 saw Valencia and Michael Brown join, with Andreas Granqvist signed permanently. The centre-half moved to Wigan from Helsingborg on loan the previous January, but was restricted to just 80 minutes in the FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth.

All parties soon regretted the move. Hutchings was sacked in November, Granqvist won two of the 13 Premier League games he started, and Wigan had wasted money on a dud. Over a decade on, he will captain Sweden at the World Cup, after which he plans to return to Helsingborg from Krasnodar. Lovely.

Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United and Japan)

Manchester United have had two Premier League hat-tricks scored against them since they last netted one themselves. Romelu Lukaku consigned his future employers to an afternoon of frustration on the final day of the 2012/13 season, while Samuel Eto’o struck thrice in a win for Chelsea the following January.

Robin van Persie was the last United player to take a league match-day ball home, his treble against Aston Villa securing the title in April 2013. A month prior, Shinji Kagawa became the first Asian player to score a Premier League hat-trick as United sauntered to a victory over Norwich. It was the brief bright spark of a difficult two years, with his return to Dortmund helping rekindle the sort of form Japan will hope to see this summer.

Not good enough for La Liga, but okay for World Cup

For all the La Liga stars who will be representing their countries at the World Cup this summer, there are plenty more who didn’t make the grade. This is an XI of the best of those who’ll be on the beach while their compatriots battle it out in Russia.

Players selected for this line-up must have been called up for their country before, not be explicitly retired from internationals, and their country must have qualified for the finals. Here we go…

Goalkeeper: Neto (Valencia and Brazil)

Although yet to make an appearance for his national side, Neto can count himself unlucky not to have landed a place in Brazil’s squad for Russia following an excellent season guarding Valencia’s goal. While Roma’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson are understandably ahead of him in the pecking order, he might well have fancied his chances of making the squad as third-choice keeper, but ultimately Corinthians keeper Cássio was preferred by Brazil manager Tite.

Right-back: Nélson Semedo (Barcelona and Portugal)

Despite winning a league and cup double, it has been a difficult first season in Spain for Nélson Semedo. The Portuguese right-back joined from Benfica last summer to great fanfare, with the hope that he could fill the significant gap left by Dani Alves the previous year. He has underwhelmed somewhat, only managing 17 league starts, but would still have expected to go to Russia this summer. As it turns out, new Leicester signing Ricardo Pereira was chosen in his stead.

Centre-back: Marc Bartra (Real Betis and Spain)

No new signing had such a positive impact on their team this year as Marc Bartra. In January, the Catalan defender arrived at Real Betis from Borussia Dortmund, and transformed their leaky defence into one of the best in La Liga. His outstanding performances formed the basis for Betis’ unlikely charge into sixth place, and he was hotly tipped for a seat on the plane to Russia. In the end, to the surprise of many, Spain manager Julen Lopetegui couldn’t find a place for Bartra in his squad.

Centre-back: Ezequiel Garay (Valencia and Argentina)

Garay may not have played for the national side since the opening game of their qualifying campaign back in October 2015, but he was hopeful that his form at Valencia would lead to a call from Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli. The experienced defender insisted that reports he had rejected previous international call-ups were wide of the mark, and that he was available and committed if selected. Sampaoli had other ideas, though, and Garay didn’t even make it into his 35-man preliminary squad.

Left-back: Lucas Digne (Barcelona and France)

Lucas Digne has been a regular for the French national side for the past four years, but the same can’t be said about his two years at Barcelona. He only featured in 12 league games for the Spanish champions this term, and his lack of game-time may well have been a factor in Didier Deschamps’ decision to omit him from his World Cup squad. Digne did make the standby list, but ultimately missed out to Atlético Madrid’s Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City.

Right wing: Sergi Roberto (Barcelona and Spain)

Sergi Roberto was a key player for Barcelona this season as they stormed to a domestic double, and was a very surprising omission from Spain’s World Cup squad. A talented, committed and hard-working player who is comfortable playing at right-back, on the right wing or in central midfield, his versatility may be missed in Russia. Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and Álvaro Odriozola of Real Sociedad made the grade ahead of him, with Lopetegui preferring to take a “specific right-back” in his stead.

Central midfield: André Gomes (Barcelona and Portugal)

Gomes was a member of Portugal’s victorious Euro 2016 squad, and his performances for the national side and for Valencia earned him a €35m move to Barcelona in the same summer. His career at Barça started brightly, but his form soon dipped and he found himself in and out of the side. He only managed six starts for the champions this season, and back in March he spoke candidly about how the pressures of playing top-level football had affected him psychologically. Although he made the preliminary 35-man squad, he was a surprise omission from the final 23.

Central midfield: Geoffrey Kondogbia (Valencia and France)

After joining on loan from Inter last summer, Kondogbia was at the heart of Valencia’s surge back into the Champions League after years in the doldrums. His superb form in Los Che’s engine room led many to tip him for a place in Deschamps’ squad after three years in the international wilderness, but Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso, N’Golo Kanté, Steven Nzonzi and Blaise Matuidi all stood in his way.

Left wing: Vitolo (Atlético Madrid and Spain)

For the first year of Lopetegui’s reign as Spain manager, Vitolo was a regular feature in the selección, and at the start of this season it looked as though he would be a shoo-in for Russia. However, his form took something of a nosedive after his incredibly convoluted move from Sevilla to Atlético Madrid via Las Palmas, and he hasn’t featured for Spain since a 3-3 draw with Russia back in November. By the time of the squad announcement, few were surprised when Vitolo’s name was left off the list.

Forward: Willian José (Real Sociedad and Brazil)

The uncapped Brazilian forward forced his way into Tite’s thinking for Brazil’s World Cup squad after an excellent season for Real Sociedad in which he found the net 20 times. He was selected for Brazil’s friendlies against Russia and Germany back in March, but didn’t make it off the bench in either game. It was always unlikely he would make it to Russia when he has the likes of Neymar, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus ahead of him, but he can still be slightly aggrieved that he wasn’t given the chance to impress for the national side before the squad was named.

Forward: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

Benzema’s difficult relationship with the French national side has been well documented, and he hasn’t featured for his country in nearly three years since he was investigated for his role in an alleged blackmail of team-mate Mathieu Valbuena. Since then, he has won the Champions League three times, but hasn’t been called up for France despite Deschamps insisting he was in his thoughts. It would have been a huge surprise had he been selected, particularly with France’s embarrassment of attacking riches, but he is undoubtedly one of the most talented players to miss out this summer.

Honourable mentions: Sergio Rico (Sevilla and Spain), Gabriel Paulista (Valencia and Brazil), Iñigo Martínez (Athletic Club and Spain), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad and Spain), Dani Parejo (Valencia and Spain), Rodri (Atlético Madrid and Spain), Daniel Wass (Celta de Vigo and Denmark), Paco Alcácer (Barcelona and Spain), Iñaki Williams (Athletic Club and Spain), Joaquín Correa (Sevilla and Argentina), Ángel Correa (Atlético Madrid and Argentina), Nolito (Sevilla and Spain).



Workers Cup: A peep into labour, struggles of migrants who built the stadia for the World Cup

Life is a movie. If you see it so, it will be more interesting. And really, you could be poor or wealthy but the basic truth is you can make the best of your situation.

Have you watched the documentary movie — The Workers Cup.

Well it is about a certain thing of beauty happening inside the labor camps of Qatar. How African and Asian migrant workers building the facilities of the 2022 World Cup compete in a football tournament of their own.

The Workers Cup is what they called the tournament. Interesting?


As you know, in 2022, Qatar will host the biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup.

But right now, far away from the bright lights, star athletes and adoring fans, the tournament is being built on the backs of 1.6 million migrant workers.

The Workers Cup is a feature-length documentary giving voice to the men who are laboring to build sport’s grandest stage.

Sixty percent of Qatar’s total population are laborers. From India, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and, increasingly from Africa, some of the world’s poorest people are working the lowest level jobs to ensure the World

Cup can be hosted in the world’s richest country.

These men work exceedingly long hours for scant salaries, and they live isolated in labor camps which are by law kept outside city limits.

With unprecedented access, the film unfolds largely inside a Qatari labor camp that the migrant workers we meet say feels like a prison. Hidden between a highway and remote stretch of desert, the Umm Salal Camp is

intentionally out of sight and out of mind. So are the 4000 men who live


Film focuses on a select group in the camp who have been chosen to compete in the football tournament for laborers.

The tournament is being sponsored by the same committee organizing the 2022 World Cup and 24 construction companies have been invited to field a team of workers. Over the course of the tournament the filmmakers follow the men as they alternate between two startling extremes: they play heroes on the football pitch, but are the lowest members of society off of it.

The film is a portrait of a handful of players on the team. It explores universal themes of ambition, aspiration and masculinity, as we see our protagonists wrangle hope, meaning, and opportunity out of dismal circumstances. The mundane is fraught with turmoil, whether it is changing jobs, talking with family back home, or going on a date.

This results in a terrible toll to the psyche of our protagonists, as they are depleted of the hope that motivated

them to come to Qatar in the first place.

Ultimately, our own complicated relationship with sport is revealed, as we see its power to unite and divide society by turns.


The film was conceived to give voice to migrant workers in Qatar and allow them to tell their own stories. Filmmakers followed one team playing in the football tournament, and focused on five protagonists from the team:

— Kenneth, 21, Ghana

A recruiting agent in Ghana told Kenneth that he’d be coming to Qatar to join a professional football club. After Kenneth arrived in the country, he realized his agent lied. While Kenneth works construction, he still dreams of playing professional football. He hopes to catch the eye of a scout while playing in The Workers Cup so he can escape the camp.

— Paul, 21, Kenya

Surrounded by 4000 men, and working a job that keeps him in the camp seven days a week, Paul is struggling with loneliness in this distant land. He dreams of meeting a girl and falling in love.

— Umesh, 36, India

Umesh came to Qatar with a simple dream: to earn enough money to build his own home. Until he accomplishes this, he’ll live separated from his wife and two sons, who are named Rooney and Robin after the Manchester United stars.

— Padam, 28, Nepal

After 8 years of failing to get around Qatari laws that prohibit him from bringing his wife to Qatar, Padam now has to decide if he should stay and earn, or return to Nepal to be with his wife.

— Samuel, 24, Ghana

A talented goalkeeper, Samuel played in the 1st Division in Ghana but he still couldn’t make ends meet. He came to Qatar to work construction, but out of pride he lied and told his father that he was coming to play professional football.

Behind the camera are a team of award-winning film makers from around the world but with a sharp focus on telling the stories of the Middle East and North Africa to the world.

They were all residents of Qatar – part of the ninety per cent who live there who were not citizens of the country. They were engaged in making films and also news and current affairs there and in the region. The story of the workers was all around but so hard to access except in the most superficial way.

This tournament for the workers was a unique opportunity to spend some real time with these men. The filmmakers picked a team and followed their tales of hope, failed ambition and loneliness across years. Their stories speak for so many other migrant workers around the world, not just in Qatar.


Share This:

474total visits,1visits today

About Ediale Kingsley

Ediale Kingsley is the Founding Editor of Jersey Number Twelve and Head of the Trends & Sports desk at National Daily Newspaper. He thinks he is polygamous, married to three wives; Football, Laptop and Internet. When not writing, he is writing or prepping to write. These days he is everywhere talking, filming and showing-up football and films. This National Daily trained journalist went to school to be a graduate in accounting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Check Also

Napoli’s UCL result not negative- Ancellotti

Carlo Ancelotti concedes Napoli were “too slow” in every area of their draw with Crvena ...

PSG coach: Defeat to Liverpool, very shameful

Paris Saint-Germain overturned a two-goal deficit before going on to lose to Liverpool, much to ...

Ian Wright: Kane’s struggles could be down to birth of second child

Arsenal legend Ian Wright believes Harry Kane’s slow start to the season could be down ...