Cristiano Ronaldo has finally returned to training with Real Madrid but the defending European champions are set to be without the Portuguese superstar in Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Manchester United in Skopje.
Ronaldo’s summer has been overshadowed by accusations of tax evasion in Spain, which led to him being charged in a court near Madrid last week, while he was handed an extended summer break by his club after playing for Portugal at the Confederations Cup.
He only returned to training at the weekend, meaning it would be a major surprise if coach Zinedine Zidane were to include the 32-year-old against his former club in the match at the Philip II Arena in the Macedonian capital.
“He needed to rest. He has had his holidays and that was important,” said Zidane of the man whose two goals helped propel Madrid to a 4-1 victory over Juventus in the Champions League final in Cardiff two months ago.
That victory saw Real become the first club to retain the trophy in the Champions League era and completed a glorious campaign in which they also won La Liga.
The season started with a 3-2 extra-time triumph against Sevilla in the Super Cup in the Norwegian city of Trondheim.
“Real Madrid is a team, a club, an institution that has hunger. We all know where we are and when you finish a season like last year winning, it helps you try to do the same thing coming into the new season,” Zidane — whose team have Barcelona to come at the weekend in the Spanish Super Cup — said in a UEFA interview.
However, his side failed to record a victory during a pre-season tour of the United States that included a high-profile friendly encounter with Jose Mourinho’s United in Santa Clara, California.
That International Champions Cup encounter ended in a 1-1 draw before United won on penalties.
While the Spaniards have made two relatively low-key summer signings in Dani Ceballos from Betis and Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid, United have spent big ahead of their return to the Champions League.
The Europa League winners have added the defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica, the midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku and they wrapped up their preparations with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria in Dublin.
This match offers a chance for United to start the new campaign on a high before their opening Premier League game against West Ham United next Sunday.
In a glittering career Mourinho has not yet won the Super Cup — his Chelsea team lost on penalties to Bayern Munich in the 2013 edition.
The Portuguese is coming up against the club he coached for three years until 2013 — he did not leave the Spanish capital on the best of terms but he insisted that experience is not on his mind this week.
“It’s something I’ve been through many times. I left Porto and two months later I was facing them in the Champions League,” he told UEFA.com .
“I left Chelsea and a few months later I was facing them with Manchester United. I never look at it in terms of taking on my former club, not at all. So I just look at Real Madrid as what they are: a big club, the European champions, and it’s a great motivation for us to play against them.”
This annual meeting of the European champions and Europa League winners comes to the Balkan state after going to Prague, Cardiff, Tbilisi and Trondheim in recent years.
But in contrast to the cool conditions in Norway 12 months ago, temperatures in Skopje are expected to reach 40 degrees for much of the week.
The forecast is for it to be upwards of 30 degrees when Tuesday’s match kicks off at 10.45pm UAE time.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Javier Pastore has pledged Neymar that his new club will help him become the best player on the planet.
Neymar became the most expensive player in history when the Ligue 1 giants snatched the 25-year-old Brazilian from Barcelona after paying the €222 million release clause.
Neymar was joyously welcomed at Parc des Princes on Saturday night at his official unveiling before PSG’s opening Ligue 1 win over Amiens.
“He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s a decisive player, who scores goals. The whole team are going to help him become the best player in the world,” vowed Pastore.
“For us it’s fantastic, we’re thrilled that he’s come here,” added Pastore, who has relinquished his No.10 shirt to the Brazilian star.
“We’re waiting now for him to play to start to help us win everything this season.”
Red tape forced Neymar to skip his hoped for debut in Saturday’s 2-0 win as his international transfer certificate wasn’t lodged in time with the French league, meaning he had to watch Pastore and his new team-mates from the stands.
The Argentinian suggested Neymar will feel at home at the Paris club.
“Our style won’t change with him, we have a possession-based game like Barcelona, with lots of movement.”
Pastore said it had been an easy decision to give him his jersey.
“I knew that he wanted to have the No.10. I know that for the club it’s important to have a No.10 like Neymar for all that that represents.
“For me to return to No.27 isn’t a problem, I really like that number. I’m happy to have worn the No.10 between ‘Ibra’ (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) and before Neymar.”
Despite all the drama and intrigue surrounding his departure from Barcelona Pastore described Neymar as “laidback and reserved”.
One of his other new teammates Adrien Rabiot said Neymar was “a cool guy, balanced, who has the right spirit, joyful”.
The French midfielder disclosed: “On Friday we got him to sing. He was up for it straight away. You can see he’s really happy to be here.
“That’s what he’s told us in any case, I reckon he means it.”
Neymar’s compatriot Dani Alves said his role in Neymar’s arrival had been minimal.
“I didn’t interfere. The only thing I said to him was ‘Be happy and make the right decision, whether that’s staying at Barca or coming here’.”
Alves, who played with Neymar at Barcelona, said that rather than persuading Neymar to move to PSG, it had been Neymar who had advised him to move to Paris from Juventus this summer.
“Contrary to what people think, it was he who advised me to sign for PSG,” said Alves after Saturday’s game. “It wasn’t me who was telling him to come here.”
He added: “We hadn’t arranged to both come here. There was no plan, but when he suggested I join PSG, it was supposedly because he was going to come too.”
Provided by AFP
Paris Saint-Germain celebrated the arrival of Brazilian superstar Neymar in festive style with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Amiens in their Ligue 1 opener on Saturday.
The Parc des Princes in Paris reverberated to the sound of Neymar’s name chanted over and again before kick off as the world’s most expensive player was presented to fans.
“Paris is magic,” said Neymar as he vowed to “win lots of trophies” for his mega-rich employers following his €222 million ($264m) transfer from Barcelona.
Neymar has been bought to bring Champions League glory to PSG’s Qatari owners and on this evidence he won’t be needed for humdrum domestic matters as the newly-promoted visitors were nonchalantly dismissed.
Last season’s top scorer Edinson Cavani opened the scoring three minutes before the break with Javier Pastore notching the second 10 minutes from time of a one-sided affair.
Amiens had given notice of the extent of their ambition right from kick-off, rugby-style pumping the ball straight deep into PSG territory and out of play for a throw-in.
Thereafter they spent most of the match camped on the edge of their own area.
Six minutes in and PSG carved Amiens open with slick passing to put Cavani in on goal, but the Uruguayan slipped his shot just past the post.
Like Arsenal in the Premier League, PSG were often guilty of over-playing the ball, and when Angel Di Maria slotted into an empty net after a mesmerising move, it was ruled out for Cavani having been offside when playing the penultimate pass.
There was a festive atmosphere and an almost casual confidence amongst the PSG players that the goals would come as they wove intricate patterns around the pitch, multiplying the tricks and flicks as Amiens’ overworked defenders held on grimly.
On a rapier counter-attack, Di Maria’s cross was cut out as he tried to pick out a return pass to Pastore rather than shoot himself.
AMIENS CARVED OPEN
With PSG’s embarrassment of attacking riches closely guarded, it was midfielder Adrien Rabiot who found space from Cavani’s pass but his shot was blocked by a sliding Prince Gouano.
Full-back Leyvan Kurzawa was next to go close with a header that sailed just over.
And so it was Cavani who showed them how it was done, controlling a cross from league debutant Dani Alves on his thigh and firing home low left-footed.
Such was PSG’s ease they could even afford to replace captain Thiago Silva with Presnel Kimpembe at half-time.
Still they carved Amiens open at will, with Di Maria, whose place in the team could come under threat from Neymar, having a lob caught by goalkeeper Regis Gurtner before another chip hit the side-netting.
Amiens could have put a spanner in the works as substitute Charly Charrier got free on the right but on the stretch he couldn’t direct his shot on target.
Cavani should have doubled his and PSG’s tally on 75 minutes from Pastore’s sumptuous pass but shot straight at Gurtner.
PSG may have been toiling at times, but when the second came 10 minutes from time it was clinical, Marco Verratti releasing Cavani to tee up Pastore for a simple tap-in.
Champions Monaco had got the Ligue 1 season underway on Friday night, coming back from behind twice to beat Toulouse 3-2 at home.