Yaya Toure hints at summer departure

Andy Hampson 22/04/2015
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Discontented: Yaya Toure.

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has claimed he is open to “new challenges” and will not stay at a club simply to collect wages.

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Reports last week suggested Toure could be part of a summer clear-out at Etihad Stadium as the club look to reshape the squad after an underwhelming season.

That was denied by manager Manuel Pellegrini, who insisted Toure would “continue playing here because he is a very important player”. But Pellegrini did acknowledge Toure’s form this season has been disappointing. 

Now the 31-year-old has given an interview suggesting he could be open to a move.

Toure, who is reportedly City’s highest earner on £220,000 per week (Dh1.2m), told Foot Mercato: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.

“It would be unjust on my part. There comes a moment where numbers don’t stop us, it goes beyond that, even if the English press seem more interested in the numbers than the sport itself.

“For the future, I don’t know more than you do, because I will always go where I am offered new challenges. That is in my nature.”

Despite those remarks, Toure insisted he remained fully committed to City on the field. He added: “When I arrived at City, Pellegrini was not the coach. Just like the players, managers arrive and leave.

“As I have said before, I owe it to the City fans to fight until the end of my career at this club. My decisions will not be affected by changes in management, but more by the challenges that will be offered to me.”

Toure has been linked with Internazionale, whose manager, the former City boss Roberto Mancini, has spoken openly and regularly of his admiration for the player.

Toure says the feeling is mutual. He said: “Mancini is a mentor for me, and a coach out of the ordinary. It is no secret that I loved when he was my boss.”

Toure is one of a number of players to have faced criticism for City’s disappointing campaign. City have collapsed in the Premier League title race – slumping from joint-top in January to fourth.

He said: “When things are not necessarily going well in a club, the key players take the fall. I am not the only one to have been attacked even if there is tendency to be harsher with me.

“Football is my passion, my job and that gives me two good reasons to do as well as I can.”

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Ancelotti confident Real have plenty in reserve for Atletico

Andy West 22/04/2015
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Confident: Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Carlo Ancelotti insists Real Madrid will overcome their injury crisis in tonight’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against neighbours Atletico, declaring he has the best squad in the world.

– #360view: Madrid need Ronaldo to rediscover magic touch
– Ibrahimovic: The football machine with a heart of gold
– Off The Bar: Falcao – The Colombian Jack Bauer

With the tie perfectly poised after a goalless draw in the first leg, Real’s preparations have been hit by a series of injury blows, with Karim Benzema the latest to be ruled out after failing to recover from a knee injury.

The France striker joins suspended full-back Marcelo and injured duo Gareth Bale and Luka Modric on the sidelines, but Madrid coach Ancelotti has expressed his confidence in the players who are available.

“I have the best squad in the world and it is important to focus on the players who are going to play,” he said. “The answer is to play fresh players, who are enthusiastic, fit and can help us play as we did in the first leg.”

The Italian was also keen to ensure that the missing players could not be used as an excuse, adding: “We have to learn to live with injuries. It happened to us in important games last season and this is not going to harm our confidence.”

Ancelotti was reluctant to reveal how he intends to replace the absent quartet, although Fabio Coentrao will almost certainly start at left-back with Alvaro Arbeloa – traditionally a right-back – the only other realistic alternative.

Further upfield, the positional flexibility of Isco and James Rodriguez gives Ancelotti plenty of options, with young forward Jese Rodriguez, Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, out-of-favour Germany international Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi all in the frame to start.

“We have various solutions,” he said. “It could be Jese or it could be through James’ position, whether on the right or in the centre. James will be a great help to us because he is in good form and effective at everything. 

“And Chicharito is doing well psychologically, as he demonstrated against Malaga. “But I am not going to announce the team yet because I have not discussed it with the players.”

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Manchester United's Chris Smalling signs new four-year contract

Andy Hampson 22/04/2015
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Much improved: Chris Smalling.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has signed a new four-year contract, the club have announced. The 25-year-old England international is now committed to the Old Trafford outfit until the summer of 2019.

– #360view: Madrid need Ronaldo to rediscover magic touch
– Ibrahimovic: The football machine with a heart of gold
– Off The Bar: Falcao – The Colombian Jack Bauer

Smalling, who was signed from Fulham in a £10 million (Dh54.9m) deal five years ago, has become a key member of the United side under Louis van Gaal this season.

Manager Van Gaal said: “Chris has improved and developed immensely during the short time that I have been at the club and has become an integral part of the first-team squad.

“He always conducts himself in a very professional manner and it is also pleasing that he has scored some important goals this season.”

Smalling’s previous deal was due to expire at the end of next season. He recently spoke of his desire to stay at the club long term and his performances in the second half of the season appear to have hastened contract talks.

Smalling said: “I’m delighted to sign my new contract. I am so proud to play for such a great club. We have developed as a team over the course of the season under Louis van Gaal and we are now playing as a complete unit.

“This is a very exciting time to be at Manchester United, we are all determined to get back to where we belong.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool have refused to comment on reports midfielder Jordan Henderson has agreed a new five-year contract at the club.

The England international was on Monday night reported to have agreed to commit his future to the Anfield outfit in a deal worth £100,000 a week (Dh549,000).

The 24-year-old, who joined Liverpool from Sunderland in 2011, is a key member of Brendan Rodgers’ side and will take on even greater responsibility when Steven Gerrard leaves the club in the summer.

The deal would be a major boost for the Reds boss in the wake of their FA Cup semi-final exit, while they also face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League.

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