Man United reportedly target Cristiano Ronaldo amid talks of Real Madrid rift

Alex Rea 31/12/2017
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Ronaldo rift? Man United are linked with their former star

The transfer window is open tomorrow so cue the rumour mill kicking into high gear.

Here, we take a look at the biggest stories dominating the headlines today.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

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CRISTIANO RONALDO 

Manchester United are monitoring the future of Cristiano Ronaldo after reports of a clash between the Portugal captain and senior Real Madrid figures.

According to the Mirror, the relationship between Ronaldo and club president Florentino Perez has broken down, igniting talk of an exit.

RATING: 5/10

VERDICT

It seems we’ve just returned to last summer. It should be viewed as no coincidence Lionel Messi put pen to paper on a huge new deal recently and anytime the Argentine receives a pay rise, rumours of a Ronaldo exit begin to surface.

If, and it is a huge if, Ronaldo was to leave, United are the best-placed to lure him away from the Spanish capital with secret trips to England to review private schools for his son also being reported.

We’ll see if rumours gather any momentum but it would seem we haven’t learnt our lesson from the previous transfer window.

YERRY MINA

Palmeiras have upped their asking price for defender Yerry Mina as Barcelona’s bid to sign the Colombia international looks set to drag on.

According to Sport, Barca’s offer of €2million on top of the initial €9m paid out as a first option last summer has been rejected as the two clubs continue their drawn out negotiations.

RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

The deal was thought to be all but signed last month with Mina set to move to Camp Nou in the summer. However, Javier Mascherano’s imminent transfer to China has Barca hoping to tie up a switch in January but Palmeiras want the Spanish giants to respect the initial agreement.

There is optimism a €14m offer will secure his services, though.

Palmeiras defender Yerry Mina

Palmeiras defender Yerry Mina

KEMAR LAWRENCE

A trio of European clubs are interested in signing New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence, reports Turkish newspaper Gunebakis.

Monaco, Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor are all angling for a $2million transfer.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT

Lawrence played every minute of Jamaica’s last two CONCACAF Gold Cup campaigns, where the Reggae Boyz finished as runners up both in 2015 and 2017, and contributed to New York’s MLS campaign which saw them finish as semi-finalists in the Eastern Conference Playoff.

The 25-year-old’s agent has confirmed interest from Europe and admits if the price is right he would be willing to leave the US.

Kemar Lawrence in action for New York Red Bulls

Kemar Lawrence in action for New York Red Bulls

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More to come from Salah and Liverpool defenders shouldn't be nervous, says Klopp

Carl Markham 30/12/2017
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Mohamed Salah is brought off after his double against Leicester

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has warned Premier League opponents Mohamed Salah can still get better despite the Egypt international’s record-equalling first half of the season.

The 25-year-old summer signing took his tally to 23, matching Roger Hunt’s 1961-62 club record of goals before the new year, with both goals as the Reds came from behind to beat Leicester 2-1.

Salah has scored 17 in the Premier League, one behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and averages a goal every 94 minutes. However, Klopp sees much more room for improvement.

“Yes, he can keep that standard, for sure. He is still a young player, he can improve,” the German said.

“It’s not about scoring only, it’s about other situations as well. He’s so important for us but he knows and I know that he couldn’t score if he didn’t have the fantastic support of all the other boys.

“We played fantastic passes. Sadio Mane’s idea (a back-heel) in the moment before Mo scored the first goal I don’t think a lot of people in the stadium saw that it would be an opportunity. That was really important.”

Conceding a goal after just three minutes to Jamie Vardy – his seventh in eight appearances against the Reds – immediately led to the television director at Anfield cutting to shots of Virgil van Dijk in the directors’ box.

Liverpool's new defender Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool’s new defender Virgil van Dijk

The goal came from a mistake by Joel Matip, who is vying with Dejan Lovren to become Van Dijk’s central defensive partner when the Holland international signs from Southampton for £75million on Monday.

However, Klopp says his players should embrace the arrival of the world’s costliest defender.

“That’s part of professional football,” he said. “The really good players will always say that the challenge with other players for a position in the team will always help you.

“We cannot go in a season with two centre-halves and hope nothing happens. The third one is already logical and if you have a fourth one then it’s even better.

“I don’t think the boys were nervous. I couldn’t see anything like that.

“They don’t have any reason to be nervous because I’m really happy about the development of these players.

“But we have to obviously fight and battle with the biggest teams in world football, so we cannot go there with a group of 11 and being best friends every day.”

Salah’s two goals left Leicester boss Claude Puel frustrated after his side had done well to restrict their hosts for almost an hour.

“Of course it is a big disappointment at the end because we were leading for a long time,” he said.

“In the first half we defended well with quality and perhaps we needed to keep the ball a little more but we created some problems for them and it was a fantastic start.

“The player who made the difference this afternoon was Salah. The second goal was not a chance – he created it himself with his quality.

“We played (against) a good team with fantastic players who make the difference.

“I think we deserved something because of our togetherness and I am frustrated for my squad.

“Now it is important to look forward and recover for the next game on Monday (at home to Huddersfield).”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Never doubt Salah and other things learned as Liverpool beat Leicester

Alex Rea 30/12/2017
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Mohamed Salah scored twice to equal Roger Hunt’s club record for goals scored before the turn of the year as Liverpool came from behind to beat Leicester 2-1.

The Egypt international took his tally to 23 for the campaign, with 17 in the league, with a second-half double to reach the same mark set by Hunt in 1961-62.

Liverpool had been trailing to an early goal for Jamie Vardy, who set a Leicester record of his own by becoming the first Foxes player to score in five successive matches against the Reds.

Here, we examine three things learned from Anfield.

ROBERTSON MAKES REDS CROSS

Andy Robertson attempted six crosses against Leicester – the second highest in the game – but not one was deemed accurate, according to whoscored.com.

Cold-hard statistics aren’t required to provide evidence for his dreadful delivery and it’s not just that his crossing can be poor.

Indeed, going forward the only real danger he provides is from that left foot and Alberto Moreno is a much more dynamic full-back in that regard.

The Spaniard is far better at coming in field and linking up the play and Robertson’s attacking repertoire starts and ends with a cross.

To his credit, defensively he has sealed up the left flank with his no-nonsense approach and excellent positioning far better than Moreno.

He made two tackles, one interception, one block and one clearance against the Foxes but going forward Liverpool need more quality from the Scotland international.

Moreno could return to action from injury for the Manchester City clash in two weeks time and few would have predicted at the beginning of the season he’d be a miss.

Andy Robertson is closed down by Daniel Amartey

Andy Robertson is closed down by Daniel Amartey

DEFENCE DOES KLOPP A FAVOUR

While we’re on the subject of Liverpool’s defence, the boys at the back are certainly doing Jurgen Klopp a favour.

Not in their performances but with a justification for splashing out a world-record fee for a defender on Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman was in the stands ahead of his confirmed arrival on January 1 and while boss Klopp would probably prefer slowly integrate the 26-year-old, he may have no other option.

Joel Matip’s lazy pass out of the back led to Leicester’s early opener but it wasn’t just another individual error which highlights the importance of signing Van Dijk.

In one-on-one situations, Dejan Lovren and Matip were both really uncomfortable when left to defend against the pace of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Demarai Gray.

There is a clear lack of authority in those situations but fortunately for Klopp, that is the pressure Van Dijk not only embraces but thrives on.

The German will also hope that his new signing will help to eradicate the final 10 minutes of panic which infects his side when not five goals clear.

They were left to cling on against the visitors with no genuine leadership from the back to calm things down and manage the game out comfortably.

Liverpool's new defender Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool’s new defender Virgil van Dijk

NEVER DOUBT SALAH

Two missed golden opportunities from Salah in the first half had home fans questioning if they would come to regret it.

Not a chance. Yes, the Egyptian will miss chances but unlike some players he doesn’t hide away from his flaws.

Instead Salah just continues to search for the next opportunity as if the error helps him find another gear.

His two goals to win a crucial three points were magnificent. Now, this is no direct hyperbolic comparison but what his finishes typified is Salah’s Lionel-Messi like balance in tight situations.

It seems the hotter the pressure on him, the colder his ability to find the net. His low centre of gravity allows for a tighter touch and for a defender it’s incredibly difficult to dig out the ball when you can’t see exactly where it is.

By the time Salah shifts the ball out of his feet, he’s made the space he needs to find the net.

Defenders don’t know whether to go in tight or give him room because either way the Liverpool man has the tools to punish the opposition.

According to @BassTunedToRed, it’s now 23 goals in 2017 making Salah Liverpool’s joint-10th highest scorer in a calendar year. A remarkable feat considering he didn’t play until August 12.

What a signing he has been for the Reds.

Mohamed Salah celebrates his equaliser

Mohamed Salah celebrates his equaliser

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