Virgil van Dijk hails "beautiful club" Liverpool as he reveals talks with Netherlands team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum about Anfield outfit

Alex Rea 5/06/2017
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Georginio Wijnaldum could hold the key to Liverpool securing the signature of top target Virgil van Dijk.

The Southampton defender is at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war with the Reds battling Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea for his services.

However, Sport360 understands Jurgen Klopp’s side are leading the chase with the Netherlands international having already spoken to national team-mate and Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum about the Anfield outfit as well as life on Merseyside.

Netherlands team-maters Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum

The 25-year-old was reluctant to discuss his future but did describe the Reds as a “beautiful club” and is said to have been impressed with Klopp after meeting with the German boss last month.

Saints are resigned to losing the talented defender but hope to land more than £50 million (Dh237m) for his services.

City were thought to be in pole position with the Daily Mirror claiming they had agreed a deal worth £200,000-a-week.

However, Liverpool are determined to land their man and their attempts to woo him to Anfield could yet pay off.

Van Dijk is currently stepping up his summer rehabilitation as he bids to make a return from an ankle injury which ruled him out for the rest of the season in January.

He has been working with a Southampton coach while training in Dubai and Portugal and said he is progressing well while remaining calm over fervent talk about his future.

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INSIDE STORY: Huddersfield look to tear up the Premier League after a 45-year absence

Alam Khan 5/06/2017
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Huddersfield.

Back in September, Pablo Zabaleta was scanning results on his phone following Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth when he asked, ‘Huddersfield, they’re doing well, where is that?’

Just 28 miles away from the Etihad Stadium, Town had beaten QPR to stand atop the Championship after an impressive start. Yet it was surprising too, given the previous relegation-fraught campaign where little-known David Wagner had replaced Chris Powell as manager.

Next season, though, City and Zabaleta’s new club West Ham will face the Terriers in the top flight for the first time since 1972 after Wagner orchestrated a promotion that defied expectation. “We’ve brought this fairytale to a happy end,” said the German after last weekend’s Championship play-off final against Reading was settled by penalties.

A footballing fairytale, unforgettable, the accolades endless and comparisons drawn with Leicester’s stunning Premier League success last season because it was as unlikely as it was unbelievable.

“No-one ever expected it,” said Mel Booth, sports editor of the Huddersfield Examiner. “Having finished 19th last season no-one was tipping Town to go up. The fan base was just talking about being a solid mid-table side. People would have settled for that. They have over-achieved massively. People have described it as a fairytale and it is. It is a day many long-time supporters never felt would come again.”

Terry Dolan was part of the Town side that last tasted life in the big time, albeit a bitter-sweet experience. At 20, the midfielder had swapped non-league Bradford Park Avenue for Huddersfield in 1970, but only after turning down Arsenal and the chance of being part of a double-winning league and FA Cup triumph because he was homesick during a pre-season trial.

Instead, having established himself with the Terriers a season later, he was embroiled in a relegation scrap that saw them go down, winning just one of the final 31 games and scoring six times in 1972, two of them own goals.

David Wagner.

David Wagner.

“It was tough,” he recalled. “We had good players, Trevor Cherry, Frank Worthington, Roy Ellam and Jimmy Nicholson, but finances were tight. Ian Greaves was the manager and we struggled with a lack of goals. We just couldn’t score enough and it cost us.”

Moves for strikers Derek Dougan and Fred Pickering were mentioned, but chairman Frank Drabble would not buy and a threadbare squad was doomed. “Ian had done all he could, the club had experienced players, but everyone knew we needed someone else up front to get goals along with Frank. For whatever reason the manager wasn’t able to get it,” said Dolan.

Relegation prompted a dramatic decline in fortunes for Town as they dropped down the divisions and into the bottom fourth tier for the start of the 1975/76 season. “After that relegation, Trevor, Roy and Frank left, three players in the spine of the team,” added Dolan, who also captained the club until he left in 1976.

“The club didn’t replace them. They gave youngsters an opportunity and I became a regular, but the chairman changed and Ian Greaves also left, so all of a sudden it was unstable. The club never recovered from that relegation.”

And that was not the only time where Town, who notably won three successive First Division championships in the 1920s and were managed by the great Bill Shankly, have had to pick themselves up. No time has been more torturous than in 2003 when they almost went bust after being relegated to Division Three.

Booth has endured the club’s emotional highs and lows since witnessing their last promotion to Division One back in 1970 as a 12-year-old fan and covering them for the Examiner since 1985.

“They were £21 million in debt in 2003, a helluva lot of money for a team in the bottom division,” he added. “They were in serious financial strife, maybe three or four weeks probably from going under. No-one knew who was willing to save them. Ken Davy eventually got them out of trouble and they got promotion that next season.”

As every fan yearns for the right chairman and manager, Town’s current combination has made their wishes come true. Dean Hoyle, who founded the Card Factory, has provided financial stability since he took over in 2009 and, four bosses later, has found the right man following a “left-field” decision to take Borussia Dortmund reserve coach Wagner.

“Dean Hoyle has put it all together and the person no-one thought existed 15 years ago,” added Booth. “A guy with considerable wealth but willing to back the club. He’s a guy from the terraces who has taken his own club right into the Premier League.”

And gamble or not, Wagner has proved an inspired appointment with his vibrant style and passion-filled antics likened to Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp, his friend and former Mainz team-mate. “He demands high standards and I think he’s a very strong and single-minded man who knows what he wants,” adds Booth. “People didn’t really know much about the guy, but he didn’t waste time in stamping his mark.

“If you are astute in getting the right characters into the squad and getting them to buy into what you want, like training in the evening for night matches, as it’s not the norm as what maybe English players were used to. He got them to buy into that. And what was key was people warmed to Wagner. The football had become stale and he breathed new life into it and brought life to the supporter base.”

It’s not been perfect with a goal difference of minus two. But what Wagner, left, did was instil belief and add bite to his ‘little dogs’. When he assembled a squad in the summer that saw 13 new players join, including key loan signings Aaron Mooy, Danny Ward, Elias Kachunga, Kasey Palmer and Izzy Brown, he took them on a four-day trip to Sweden he described “as a starting point to bind the team together”.

The players had to source their own food and there was no electricity, no toilet, no beds, no internet. Ultimately, it helped pave their way to paradise – the Premier League. With a mantra of ‘No Limits’, Huddersfield have dared to dream and turned fantasy into reality.

And Dolan feels Town’s tremendous team spirit will stand them in good stead among their mega-rich Premier League peers. “What I’ve seen from this Huddersfield side is they’ve got great belief as a team and the manager instils that, they all seem to trust each other,” said Dolan, now back at Park Avenue as director of football.

“That’s a recipe for success. Transporting that spirit into the Premier League will be a big part of how they do. I’m a great believer it’s a team effort and to get the best out of what you’ve got. Wagner has done that tremendously well. The team ethos, that they will never give up battling and scrapping, will serve them well.”

While Premier League riches will see them bank a minimum of £170m, Hoyle, 50, has vowed not to spend crazy amounts to survive. “Bournemouth and Burney are examples of how we can do it right,” he said. “Do it the Yorkshire way and keep it tight. We will do it our own way, we will be prudent and we will be sensible.”

Booth added: “This is huge for Huddersfield. Historically the textile industry has gone and this is a new era, but this is the biggest thing that’s happened to this town for decades. We can’t wait for August 12.”

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How Real Madrid and Juventus reached the Champions League final in Cardiff

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Holders Real Madrid will tackle Italian giants Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday.

Here, we look at how the clubs reached Cardiff.

GROUP STAGE

REAL MADRID GROUP F

Defending champions Real Madrid were shaky in the autumn, beating Sporting Lisbon at home and away but struggling through two 2-2 draws with Borussia Dortmund and suffering the embarrassment of a 3-3 draw with Legia Warsaw, weeks after thrashing the Polish club 5-1 at the Bernabeu.

JUVENTUS GROUP H

While Juventus’ first-round stalemate with Sevilla disappointed some, it set the tone for a defensive masterclass across the entire campaign. The goals came when they mattered against Dinamo Zagreb and Lyon and Juve saw off Sevilla’s threat to their dominance with a 3-1 away win in November.

LAST 16

REAL MADRID 6-2 NAPOLI 

Napoli represented a daunting prospect for the Spanish side, given their free-scoring ways in Serie A, but they were successfully kept at arm’s length as Real won the first leg confidently. They had to recover from conceding a first-half goal to see off the Italians in the return leg, however.

JUVENTUS 3-0 PORTO

Porto are always an unpredictable beast and while the Dragons are no longer at the peak of their powers, Massimiliano Allegri was suitably wary of a team who hammered Leicester 5-0 in the group stage. Defence was the key as Juve shut out the Portuguese both at home and away, progressing smoothly.

QUARTER-FINALS

REAL MADRID 4-2 BAYERN MUNICH

Real’s first proper test of their European mettle – and determination to become the first club to retain the Champions League – saw them pitted against German giants Bayern Munich and they needed the mercurial talent of Cristiano Ronaldo in both legs.

The Portuguese’s brace clinched a vital 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena and, when faced with a confident comeback in Madrid, he plundered a hat-trick.

JUVENTUS 3-0 BARCELONA

No one wanted Barcelona in the last eight and even Juve’s solid defenders feared the prospect of 180 minutes against the ‘MSN’ strikeforce.

An impressive 3-0 first-leg victory meant all that was required was a backs-to-the-walls approach at the Nou Camp, and the Bianconeri duly held Barca to nil.

SEMI-FINALS

REAL MADRID 4-2 ATLETICO MADRID

If anyone thought Ronaldo would take his foot off the gas having reached 100 European goals in the battles with Bayern, they were sorely mistaken.

He almost single-handedly ensured city rivals Atletico Madrid would not make a third final appearance in four years by smashing another treble at the Bernabeu.

Diego Simeone’s men were up for the fight in the second leg but Isco’s first-half effort meant the chase was beyond them on their final European night at the Vicente Calderon.

JUVENTUS 4-1 MONACO

All-out attack met steely defence when Monaco were drawn against Juve and the Old Lady had to throw off the shackles to some extent.

A remarkable team performance – led by the rampant Dani Alves – in the principality sealed a crucial 2-0 first-leg victory and Juve followed it up with a confident 2-1 triumph in Turin in which experience and organisation won the day.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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