Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos has tipped fellow defender Virgil van Dijk for the Ballon d’Or after the Dutchman enjoyed a stunning 2018/19 campaign with Liverpool, winning the Champions League and the PFA Player of the Year.
Van Dijk was also rewarded for his stellar efforts with both UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and UEFA Best Defender of the Year accolades.
If the Liverpool centre-back adds the Ballon d’Or to his bustling collection of personal trophies, he will become the first defender to secure the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
“Van Dijk is a great centre back, he’s played a very, very good season and if he’s there it’s because he deserves it,” said Ramos.
“We always talk about the Ballon d’or for Cris and Messi. The fact that the chances are wider now for players other than forwards makes me happy.”
England midfielder Declan Rice says the shine was taken off the Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo by their defensive lapses.
The Three Lions roared back from conceding after only 34 seconds at St Mary’s to lead 5-1 at half-time, but a shoddy defensive display after the break saw it end 5-3.
All three of Kosovo’s goals came from individual mistake and the West Ham man was guilty of giving the ball away in the lead-up to the second goal.
After their early slip, the first half was a brilliant display of attacking football but Rice was left thinking of the negatives.
“I thought first half I was really good along with the rest of the team,” he said.
“In the second half I made a mistake and that has taken the gloss off it for me.
“We are a real threat going forward but we need to keep it tight at the back and stop making mistakes.
“We need to look at the goals we have let in. A mistake from myself, sloppy, I could have done better there and it takes the gloss off it.
“Now I am thinking I am not that happy, I have made a mistake they have scored, (Harry) Maguire’s given a penalty away, Keano (Michael Keane) made a mistake.
“But it is part and parcel, we are never going to be perfect. The main thing is we got the three points and we are unbeaten.”
As with the Nations League defeat to Netherlands in the summer, the dangers of playing out from the back were highlighted with the way England conceded two of their goals as Keane and Rice gave the ball away in dangerous positions.
Rice insists England are not going to change their approach.
“The way we have been working all week on building from the back, playing through the lines, the manager is never going to change that,” he said.
“The manager is never going to go route one, he is going to live by that.
“We kept getting on the ball, we could have scored another two or three in the second half.
“It was really strange, conceding the goal in the first 30 seconds, it was tough to take mentally.
“You see how good we were in the first half to score five, how good we were going forward, the threat we had.
“First half I thought we were top, then second half I don’t know what happened, a couple of mistakes from me, the penalty and it looked like we had a tough task on our hands.
“Luckily enough we took control of the game, got a foothold and managed to see the game out.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Jadon Sancho had an evening to remember at Southampton as he scored twice and made another in England’s 5-3 win over Kosovo.
The Borussia Dortmund star is quickly turning himself into a key threat in Gareth Southgate’s attacking armoury.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at his performance.
Rewriting the record books
Having already been the first player born in the 21st century to play for England, he followed that up by becoming the first to score.
Not only that but, aged just 19 years and 159 days, he is now the youngest player to score two or more goals for the Three Lions since Wayne Rooney in 2004.
Feeling old yet?
Hitting the ground running
The teenager has had an electric start to the campaign domestically, having scored two goals and made three more in the first three games for Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
When he broke his international duck in the 44th minute he became the third player to score for England while playing in the German league, following in the footsteps of Kevin Keegan and Tony Woodcock.
That goal was an accomplished finish as he confidently tucked away Sterling’s incisive pass.
He cannot take too much credit for the second goal, other than to say he was in the right place at the right time to tap home another Sterling assist from a few yards out.
Staking a claim
It is fair to assume that Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are locked in to play in Gareth Southgate’s front three, but this performance by Sancho proved he might be the third choice ahead of Marcus Rashford, the man he replaced in the team.
His ability to run with the ball was evidenced by his 100 per cent dribble success rate and it was his trickery down the right that earned him an assist as he beat his defender and sent in a low cross that was turned in by a Kosovo defender.
That was one of two key passes he made before eventually being replaced in the final 10 minutes.
Sancho perhaps showed he is still wet behind the ears in the second half when England were awarded a penalty.
The 19-year-old walked over to Harry Kane and lingered, possibly in the desperate hope that the skipper would hand him the ball and allow him the chance of an international hat-trick.
Kane was having none of it and eventually took the spot-kick himself, though saw it saved by Arijanet Muric and Sancho was denied the opportunity to claim the matchball.
Provided by Press Association Sport