Sebastian Tagliabue disappointed his blistering season didn't warrant World Cup consideration for Argentina

Matt Jones 4/06/2018
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Sebastian Tagliabue scored a remarkable 42 goals in 40 games in all competitions this season for Al Wahda.

After a devastating season in front of goal, Al Wahda striker Sebastian Tagliabue feels his form at least warranted closer inspection by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Tagliabue has never earned international honours for his country, but the lethal marksman was at his blistering best in 2017/18 – posting scorching figures of 42 goals in 40 games in all competitions.

That included 23 goals in 21 Arabian Gulf League games as Laurentiu Reghecampf’s Clarets pushed champions Al Ain all the way before eventually finishing seven points adrift as runners-up.

Individually, the campaign ended on a high for the veteran striker as Tagliabue beat the Boss’ Marcus Berg – who is going to this summer’s World Cup with Sweden – to the Best Foreign Player award at the Arabian Gulf League Awards, earning the accolade for a second time in five seasons.

And as Berg – who finished above Tagliabue on 25 goals – prepares for Russia, the Argentine is left to lament the best season of his career, at 33, not being good enough to earn a call-up to the national team.

“Of course I wait for the phone call but it is very, very difficult for him (Sampaoli) to call me. He doesn’t watch the Gulf competition,” said Tagliabue of La Albiceleste’s former Chile and Sevilla coach.

Barcelona magician Lionel Messi will spearhead Argentina’s attack in Russia and he will be joined by a stellar cast including dynamic Juventus duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, as well as lethal Manchester City marksman Sergio Aguero.

Tagliabue wishes Jorge Sampaoli would have given him a World Cup chance.

Tagliabue wishes Jorge Sampaoli would have given him a World Cup chance.

There was little chance therefore that Tagliabue’s form would result in a call-up, which the affable Wahda warrior is sad about.

“They should consider me maybe one time,” said the man who originates from the city of Olivos, part of the capital Buenos Aires’ metro area, and who will nevertheless be watching the progress of the compatriots closely in Russia.

“We have to go game by game. We don’t have an amazing team but we can reach far (like we did four years ago).

“I don’t know any of the national team players, but I like (Nicolas) Otamendi, (Gabriel) Mercado, (Javier) Mascherano, (Fernando, left out of final 23-man squad) Gago, but he is coming back from big injury and is not ready.

“(Sergio) Aguero, if he is in the best condition, I like him too.”

To label Tagliabue a journeyman striker would do a disservice to his prolific scoring record in – he has netted at a ratio of at least one goal in two games throughout the majority of his career, apart from his first club, Paraguay’s Colegiales from 2003-08 where he netted 37 times in 123 appearances.

Since then he has played across South America, in both Chile and Colombia, and has been in the Middle East since 2010, featuring for Saudi Arabia sides Al Ittifaq and Al Shabab, before settling in Abu Dhabi in 2013 – where he has been a sensation.

Lionel Messi will be joined by Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in attack.

Lionel Messi will be joined by Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in attack.

His unbelievable season included Tagliabue firing seven hat-tricks throughout 2017/18 – which included a scorching four trebles in his final 10 games of the campaign. It was enough to see him overtake former Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan as the leading foreign goalscorer in UAE history in the professional era.

He recently signed a two-year contract extension to stay at Al Nahyan Stadium. And, having led the Clarets to a second Arabian Gulf League Cup title in three years, as well as the President’s Cup in 2016/17, Tagliabue is desperate to lift the title before he leaves the UAE.

“I’m so happy to renew here. This is my second home in football,” said Tagliabue, an AGL runner-up with Wahda this season to Al Ain and Al Ahli in 2013/14.

“And after five years they still want me and they show me, so for that and because my family want to stay (of course me too) it was enough to decide to renew and stay.

“I’m looking every year when we start, to be champion with Al Wahda and after to be top scorer. Of course I will try to score more than this year and try to win everything personally and as a team. I won everything here but I still have to win the league.

“I work a lot in the club and out of club. Before pre-season I work with my wife (she is personal trainer) and I was ready for pre-season. After I continue it with the staff, coach and also I add a very good nutritionist to help me with food, all this plus my attitude is always the same, it is go in front and don’t stop.”

Wahda finished seven points adrift of the Boss – who lifted a first league title in three years under Zoran Mamic.

After going toe to toe with the Garden City side for the majority of the campaign, a 6-2 defeat on March 1 proved pivotal – Wahda fighting back from 2-0 down to level, before Al Ain shell-shocked Reghecampf’s men by netting four in the final 18 minutes.

Marcus Berg is going to the World Cup with Sweden after a stellar season in the Arabian Gulf League.

Marcus Berg is going to the World Cup with Sweden after a stellar season in the Arabian Gulf League.

“We did a good season, we won two titles from four (AG Cup and beat Al Jazira 2-0 in the Arabian Gulf Super Cup), we were knocked out of the AFC Champions League, but we could do better,” insists Tagliabue.

“The game against Al Ain was strange because we were ready to play it but we didn’t play well. But Al Ain scored four goals on the counter-attack and one of them was offside. So this game broke our chances to win the title.

“Al Ain in the first six months wasn’t good, and in the second six months they were good but not amazing.

“If we bring two or three local players to be ready to play in the first 11 we will have a better team than last year next season and we will be ready to fight for the title.”

And on finishing the season as the AGL’s Best Foreign Player for a second time and beating the Boss’ Berg to the title, he added: “I feel very good because I could be top scorer and it was more difficult to win. It is a special gift from the people because it means I score and I did other good things too. I’m very happy. But I don’t like to say I beat Berg, I don’t like this sentence, I was best foreign player.”

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Manchester City's Leroy Sane dropped from Germany's final 23-man World Cup squad

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Leroy Sane will not be going to the World Cup.

Manchester City forward Leroy Sane has been omitted from Germany’s final 23-man World Cup squad.

Sane had a stellar year for the Premier League champions, scoring 10 goals and tallying 15 assists in the league as he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Germany are well-stocked with attacking players, with Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Julian Brandt all capable of playing as wide forwards, but Sane’s omission nonetheless comes as a shock.

Bernd Leno, Jonathan Tah, and Nils Petersen were the others from the preliminary squad to be dropped.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who missed a large chunk of the season through injury but made his return during Germany’s 2-1 loss to Austria on Saturday, kept his place.

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Belgium will gamble on Vincent Kompany fitness as Man City defender is named in World Cup squad

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Vincent Kompany (r) suffered a groin injury during Belgium's goalless draw with Portugal on Saturday.

Belgium will leave it as late as possible to decide whether Vincent Kompany will be fit for the World Cup after the Manchester City captain was named in the 23-man squad.

The 32-year-old defender suffered a groin injury during Belgium’s goalless draw with Portugal in Brussels on Saturday and was due to have a scan on Sunday.

Manager Roberto Martinez decided to kept Kompany in the squad after reducing it from the original 28 to the 23 who will make the trip to Russia.

Martinez revealed he would wait until closer to Belgium’s World Cup opener against Panama on June 18 before making a decision on whether to play Kompany.

After naming his 23-man squad Martinez told a press conference: “Until 24 hours before (Belgium v Panama) we can still make a replacement. We need to wait a period of seven, eight days with Vincent Kompany. Then we will get a good opportunity to make a diagnosis.

“Vincent Kompany is a true leader. He performed in a fantastic manner when he was on the pitch. His leadership is essential for us.”

There was, though, disappointment for Crystal Palace forward Christian Benteke, who did not make the final 23-man cut.

Martinez said: “Christian Benteke has been the toughest decision, but it is for the balance of the squad.

“We have two number 9’s – Michy Batshuayi and Romelu Lukaku have taken those positions.”

Belgium are in Group G in the World Cup where they will also face Tunisia and then England in Kaliningrad on June 28.

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