Uncertainty continues to loom across the Arsenal camp amid the 2-2 draw against Manchester City at the weekend.
While Arsene Wenger’s future at the club remains a conundrum likely to anger fans, the lack of positive results and an abysmal sixth position isn’t alleviating the onus.
If this was enough to worry the Gunners then a recent interview will undoubtedly strike fear into their hearts. On international duty, the Chilean media approached star striker Alexis Sanchez who expressed a desire to stay in London, but “with a team winning things”.
This sparked speculation surrounding the 28-year-old’s future at the Emirates Stadium. Sanchez’s contract is due to expire in 2018, and a shock move to rivals Chelsea is on the cards considering Diego Costa’s future at Stamford Bridge is also unsteady.
In light of what would be an extraordinary development, Sport360 remembers instances when star players betrayed their colours for personal gain.
Following a transfer ban preventing him from entering into Italy’s top tier, the Portuguese midfielder opted to sign for Barcelona. Instrumental in the Catalan side’s attack, spearheaded by the likes of Rivaldo and Kluivert, he lifted multiple La Liga titles at the Camp Nou,
However, lauds soon turned to curses in mid 2000 when Real Madrid triggered Figo’s hefty buyout clause, claiming him for then-record fee of $60.1m. Memory tarnished, the former Sporting maestro lost his reputed status. This deep-seated hatred spiralled out of control during a memorable El Clasico fixture in Catalunya when audience members launched all manner of objects at their former player when he neared the sidelines. The severity got to a level prompting the referee to call for a momentary stoppage of play.
The former England international is well-accustomed to drama outside 90 minutes of official football. Aside from his controversial private life, Ashley Cole rose through the ranks at boyhood club Arsenal going as far as impressing Arsene Wenger when Sylvinho was forcibly sidelined due to injury. Even when the Brazilian recovered, Cole continue to furnish his role as left-back, playing a crucial part in the Gunners’ Invincibles run.
The beginning of the end of Cole’s tenure at Arsenal started after accusation he established inappropriate contact with league rivals Chelsea. An FA-imposed fine didn’t deter the Londoner from flirting with the men at Stamford Bridge. At the end of the season, Arsenal kicked off negotiations for an extended contract which left the England international “trembling with anger”. Chelsea offered a greater sum of money and Arsenal fans have yet to forgive “Cashley” for leaving.
Similar to Ashley Cole’s story, Sol Campbell rose to prominence in the youth division, becoming an overarching figure at the heart of Tottenham’s backline. Adored by fans at White Hart Lane, Campbell earned their contempt with a shock decision in the summer of 2001.
With rumours suggesting a move to Highbury, the centreback refused an offer that would have hailed him as Spurs’ highest paid player ever. Citing a desire for Champions League football and title contention, the former England international allowed his current deal to expire before joining rivals Arsenal on a free transfer, kick-starting a highly successful spell in North London.
Arguably one of the more polarising figures in modern football, Diego Costa is subject to hate for his aggressive, at times deemed unsportsmanlike, conduct on the football pitch. However, this anger derived pales in comparison to the time he angered an entire nation for turning down the offer to feature.
In 2013, the Chelsea striker was selected by manager Scolari to represent Brazil in friendly matches against Italy and Russia. Upon granted Spanish citizenship months later, Costa was technically not confined to a single national side, prompting him to make an official request to play for the Iberians. His manager wasn’t pleased to say the very least and a negative reception during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is testament.
Regarded as a promising prospect in Spanish football, Luis Enrique left his hometown club Sporting Gijon for Real Madrid in 1991. After five seasons at the Bernabeu, he failed to garner the support and admiration of the Madridistas. The Asturian later confessed that his time at Real Madrid was a nightmare, feeling estranged by coach Jorge Valdano, who often let the midfielder sit out games.
His successor Fabio Capello did all in his power to keep Enrique but it was already too late – Barcelona swooped in and won the race to sign the prodigal midfielder. With the Blaugrana, the Spaniard did little to conceal his emotions, celebrating all five goals scored against Madrid with particular fervour.
After struggling to find first-team football with Real Madrid, Gonzalo Higuain decided his stint in the Spanish capital had its day. With multiple clubs in the mix, the Argentine was brought to Naples to fill the void left by Edinson Cavani. His prolific goal-scoring record made him a household name in the eyes of the Partenopei, ending the season with 36 goals in the Serie A alone.
The rivalry between Napoli and Juventus has grown in recent years with the latter embodying the most tangible threat to the Bianconeri’s title hopes. Citing his disrespect for club president Aurelio de Laurentiis, the 29-year-old wasted no time packing his bags for Turin once Juventus triggered his €90m buyout clause.
As product of Dortmund’s youth academy, Mario Gotze began his journey at the club at eight years of age. Since then, the attacking midfielder worked his way into the starting eleven, playing an important part in his side’s record-breaking Bundesliga triumph in 2012.
Dortmund continued to impress in Europe the following season, thanks to the formidable attacking trident featuring Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus. But the relationship with the club later went sour when transfer speculation hinted Gotze would be leaving for fierce rivals Bayern Munich. What made matters worse was when an announcement followed hours before Dortmund’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, much to Jurgen Klopp’s annoyance.
After a difficult spell at Bayern Munich, the 24-year-old confirmed a return to the Westfalenstadion once again. The reception upon his arrival was mixed – the Yellow Wall reluctant to fully accept their former prodigy among their ranks after fraternising with the enemy.
The thrilling 2016/2017 Qatar Stars League championship race is set to go to the last two rounds of the season, with both title challengers posting impressive wins against top-four rivals.
Leaders Lekhwiya proved too strong for a lackluster El Jaish side, as the Red Knights ran out 5-1 winners. Ex-Al Wasl and Al Shabab striker Edgar Bruno enjoyed a debut to savour for the Red Knights, coming off the bench to expertly lash in his new side’s fourth.
Xavi’s second-placed Al Sadd secured Qatar Clasico bragging rights with a comprehensive 4-1 win over champions Al Rayyan.
Sadd took an early lead though Algerian schemer Jugurtha Hamroun. Any hopes Michael Laudrup’s men had of making a comeback were duly quashed midway through the first half when midfielder Daniel Goumou was given his marching orders for a reckless elbow.
Three goals then followed from the 13-times winners, before Ray-yan scored a consolation with five minutes left to play.
Sadd are just two points behind Lekhwiya. They will now be hoping their rivals can slip up in round 25, with both sides taking on mid-table opposition at home on Thursday evening.
Lekhwiya play Al Ahli Doha, while Sadd battle Al Sailiya.
BOTTOM TWO TUMBLE OUT
Al Wakrah and Muaither confirmed their relegation to Qatargas League on Saturday.
Wakrah had been at the foot of the table for a number of weeks and their fate was sealed with a 2-0 loss to fellow strugglers Al Khor.
For Muaither, they managed a battling 1-1 draw with Sailiya. However, it wasn’t enough for Phillipe Birol’s men to avoid the drop as teams above them registered key wins.
Out of the darkness of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, a light shines.
As Bruce Arena enjoys an extended honeymoon at the start of his second coming as national team boss, there is suddenly a whirl of giddy excitement about a red hot prospect who has the potential to change the face of American soccer.
Christian Pulisic is just 18 years young, yet over the last week showed the kind of maturity and class which could transport him to the very top. While being kicked here, there and everywhere during the 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw in Panama, the American-born Borussia Dortmund midfielder didn’t lose his head.
He kept on plugging away and the assist for Clint Dempsey proved his worth. An all-action display in the preceding 6-0 routing of Honduras saw him score one and make two more.
“He’s not like a normal US player,” a source told me. “When he gets the ball, he doesn’t lose possession straight away.”
US Soccer have been desperate to have a new, rising star to hang their hat on. Pulisic is being hailed here as the new Landon Donovan – the best player since the country’s record all-time scorer burst onto the scene 17 years ago.
What sets Pulisic apart, however, is that he’s beginning to make waves in one of Europe’s strongest leagues at a club who are respected and world renowned.
Klinsmann was hammered by many paranoid MLS lovers for his insistence that in order to improve, US players need to get tested in Europe. It was, the German believed, the only way to move forward on the international stage.
In Pulisic’s case however, both schools of thought are catered for.
His grounding and development was started in the US and it was while playing for the U-15 national team in a tournament in Turkey that he first caught the eye of Dortmund scouts. The Germans were very impressed, setting the wheels in motion for a move to the former Champions League winners.
Chelsea, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Villarreal were all keen, yet the family club ethos delivered by Dortmund paired with their track record of youth development sealed the deal.
So while Klinsmann was indeed correct for telling everyone to push the boundaries, Pulisic’s emergence is still a shot in the arm.
He’s a product of the system, and Arena was desperate to make sure everyone knew it.
“[Pulisic] was grown as a player here in the US,” Arena said. “Don’t p*** on our system, which everyone wants to do.
“He was going to be a good player wherever he went. Maybe that was exactly the perfect environment for him, you could argue that. I don’t doubt that. But when he left here, he was a good player. They [Dortmund] didn’t [invent him].”
That much is true though with more than 30 appearances for Dortmund this season (including five goals), the experience of working under manager Thomas Tuchel is utterly invaluable and vital for his progression.
Together with father Mark, Pulisic has been in Germany for the past three years and has appeared in the Champions League, memorably setting up an equaliser at the death against Real Madrid last season.
Nike have also snapped him up on a lucrative long-term deal, essential for his promotion in the US. While the likes of Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are solid, dependable international stalwarts, they aren’t the types to get pulses racing.
Pulisic – with his pace, trickery and awareness – is different. He excites. Gets people off their seats.
Chances of reaching Russia 2018 have improved greatly since Arena’s appointment and finally there are smiles on faces.
Freddy Adu was the last American wonderkid touted to take the world by storm. He is now at the Tampa Bay Rowdies having led a torrid, nomadic existence after failing to live up to the hype.
Pulisic, however, is heading only one way.