Category Archives: News

Ethan Ampadu Completes Medical at RB Leipzig Ahead of Loan Move Away From Chelsea

​Chelsea wonderkid Ethan Ampadu is on the brink of joining Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on a season-long loan this summer, having completed his medical with the Red Bull-backed club on Friday.

Blues boss Frank Lampard confirmed earlier this week that Ampadu was given permission to leave the club’s pre-season group ahead of a temporary move away from Stamford Bridge, but it remained a mystery where the teenager could end up this summer.

It’s now become clear that the 18-year-old defender is on his way to the Bundesliga on a season-long loan, and Sky Sports have confirmed that Ampadu underwent a medical with RB Leipzig on Friday.

Ampadu was even pictured in Leipzig’s city centre, with the versatile centre-back now set to be announced as a new signing in time for the club’s Bundesliga opener against newly-promoted Union Berlin on August 18.

For Chelsea, the arrival of Lampard was set to bring a new era of youth involvement at Stamford Bridge, with fans often being forced to see their brightest prospects shipped out to lower league clubs – or more notably Vitesse Arnhem – on loan over the last few years.

While the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham are expected to be given a chance under Lampard next season, Chelsea’s new manager has sanctioned Ampadu’s loan move as he can’t guarantee regular first-team football for the Wales international.

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Although Ampadu will be joining a Champions League club and one of German football’s most exciting managers in Julian Nagelsmann, chances could still be few and far between at the Red Bull Arena.

Defensive stars Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and Nordi Mukiele will limit his chances to start alongside Willi Orban, while Ampadu could also miss out in midfield to Diego Demme, Tyler Adams and a host of other talents at the club.

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Danny Drinkwater: Set for the Greatest Comeback in Sporting History at Chelsea?

When I started writing this, the pinned tweet on Chelsea’s official Twitter account contained a picture of Michy Batshuayi pouring water on the head of Danny Drinkwater, baptising him with life-affirming liquid, or something.

A quick look down the rest of the timeline showed the midfielder’s face in seven of the last 16 media posts, including a starring role in the three-year anniversary video for World Cup winner and Ballon d’Or nominee N’Golo Kante, in which he is the only midfielder chosen to talk about the Frenchman’s merits.

He’s similarly present on the club’s Instagram feed. So, what are Chelsea trying to tell us?

Well, it’s clear. We’re not gonna need to bring in the lads from David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac‘ to work this one out. The signs are all there. Danny. Drinkwater. Is. BACK. 

That’s right, the Dannaissance is here. The Drinkwateresurgence. The Second Noel (his middle name is Noel apparently, that’s the joke, but you probably wouldn’t have checked that). 

It’s not just increased social media showings wot dunnit, either. There’s actual, on-pitch football reasons, too! For example, the 29-year-old was one of just eleven men to start Frank Lampard’s first game in charge of the Blues. That’s hallowed stuff.

Danny Drinkwater,Keith Buckley

That was his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt since last August’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City, having been frozen out by Maurizio Sarri throughout the 2018/19 season. And, ironically enough, his last appearance before that had been against the same opponents in that ignominious (but not quite 6-0 embarrassing), pedestrian, uncompetitive 1-0 loss under Antonio Conte in March 2018.

And, in that ignominious, pedestrian, uncompetitive 1-0 loss to the Citizens, Drinkwater had been the only player in Chelsea blue worthy of praise. No, seriously, if I ever had the time/desire/skill to get into the YouTube highlights reel world, then that would be my first ‘out there’ choice. That would be the USP provider, and what a USP it would provide.

Because, in that game, Danny Drinkwater became Dañi Beberagua. Or Daniele Boirel’eau. He was classy. He was – Jesus Christ, am I actually going to say this? – Cesc Fabregas-esque. Hidden inside one of the worst games I’ve ever seen as Blues fan, was a miraculously conceived midfield masterclass.

Well, that might be stretching it. But it was a good, solid, fine performance. Akin to the one he put in against Liverpool a couple of months previously. You know, the one where the dearly departed Eden Hazard absolutely ROASTED him in the aftermath.

Danny Drinkwater

Speaking following the 1-1 draw at Anfield – the game where Willian scored that outrageously underappreciated chip which people said wasn’t on purpose for some reason – Hazard explained: “We changed the system, ​Danny Drinkwater was on the pitch and then we were a bit more defensive. The only player around me was Alvaro Morata, so if we wanted to win we had to do something together, just me and him.”

And, perhaps unsurprisingly for a man simultaneously named ‘Drinkwater’ and bought for £40m, that’s not the only cutting words he’s been on the receiving end of at Stamford Bridge.

There was, of course, the time that Maurizio Sarri ended him as an entity at Chelsea, with the immortal words: “He knows very well he has never played because in my opinion he is not suitable to my system, to my way of playing.

“I spoke with him in August, when the market was still open. I said to him he should look for something different. In my opinion, he doesn’t play. And I said to him the reasons, my reasons.”

Brutal.


And, to be fair, you could see how the ‘artistry’ of Danny could go missing in Sarri’s 4-3-3. But that was then, and this is now. This is Frank Lampard’s world we’re living in, and in Frank Lampard’s world there are 4-2-3-1 opportunities (not 4,231 opportunities, that’s too many) in which the Englishman could be deployed in a two-man midfield alongside his pal N’Golo, akin to those 4-4-2 days that the man, myth, legend thrived in under Claudio Ranieri. 

No, he was never worth £40m. No, he’s not a ‘modern’ player, he hasn’t got the industry. Yes, you’re right, the only reason he stayed was because he was on £100k a week and no one else in their right mind would be willing to cough that up. And, yes, his only notable outing in the last year has come in a vehicle, while under the, err, ‘influence’. Drinkwater will [not] Drink water, apparently.

But, he did stay, didn’t he? He didn’t kick up a fuss. In fact, he seems to be one of the most popular players in the dressing room. And, there’s no reason why he can’t chip in now and again with that infamous passing acumen, a la – ah sh*t, here we go again – Fabregas in 2016/17.

I mean, just look at the supreme influence he had as a supersub in this pre-season friendly against Kawasaki Frontale…


Huh. Maybe not then. Oh well. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

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Africa Cup of Nations: An All-Time XI From AFCON History

The Africa Cup of Nations 2019 edition comes to a close on Friday evening as Senegal vie for their first-ever title against a free-scoring Algeria in Cairo.

Bonafide superstars of European football like Kalidou Koulibaly, Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane all have the chance to become card-carrying legends for their countries, while the latter even admitted that winning ​AFCON would mean more to him than the Champions League medal he picked up with Liverpool just a month and a bit ago.

As the class of 2019 eye immortality, here’s an all-time XI of the tournament’s greatest stars…


Goalkeeper & Defenders

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Essam El Hadary (GK) – The incomparable El Hadary (gloriously nicknamed the ‘High Dam’) made 159 appearances for Egypt between 1996 and 2018, when he became the oldest player ever to feature in a World Cup finals at 45. He has won AFCON four times (1998, 2006, 2008, 2010) and was named as the tournament’s best keeper on three occasions. 

Honourable mention: Thomas N’Kono

Lauren (RB) – An ‘Invincible’ with Arsenal in 2004, Lauren is a two-time AFCON winner (2000, 2002) with the dominant Cameroon side of the early noughties that also won Olympic gold in 2000. His AFCON highlight came when he scored in the penalty shootout victory against Senegal in the 2002 final to retain the trophy.

Arthur Boka (LB) – Although never an AFCON winner, Ivory Coast’s Arthur Boka earns a place in the side for playing at five tournaments between 2006 and 2013, twice finishing on the wrong end of a penalty shootout defeat in the final. The pacey full back once dubbed the ‘African Roberto Carlos’ also won the Bundesliga against the odds with Stuttgart in 2007.

Rigobert Song (CB) – With eight tournaments under his belt, no-one has played at more AFCONs than former Liverpool, West Ham and Galatasaray star Song. He was captain as the Indomitable Lions won in 2000 and 2002 and was still wearing the armband in 2008 when they lost to Egypt in the final. The uncle of former Arsenal star Alex Song, he finished his international career in 2010 with 137 caps.

Wael Gomaa (CB) – One of the finest defenders never to play in Europe, Gomaa was a key member of the Egypt side that won the 2006 trophy and then defended it in 2008 and in 2010. 

The bald enforcer, who featured in all three of those tournaments’ Best XIs, retired in 2014 with six CAF Champions League titles to go with his AFCON medals.


Midfielders

Jay Jay Okocha and Pierre Wome Nlend

Geremi (CM) – An invaluably versatile operator, Geremi could play at the back on the right or in central midfield. He made seven AFCON squads for Cameroon winning twice in 2000 and 2002 alongside Lauren and Song. Among his other career honours, the free-kick specialist won two Premier Leagues, the UEFA Champions League and an Olympic gold.

Honourable mention: Yaya Toure

Abedi Pele (CM) – Regarded as one of the finest African footballers of all time and one of the first to make waves on the European game, Pele was also successful on his own continent, winning AFCON with Ghana in 1982 as a teenager. He scored three times and was named the tournament’s Best Player as the Black Stars returned to the final in 1992.

Jay-Jay Okocha (CM) – One of the most entertaining footballers to watch in the history of the modern game, Okocha’s dribbling, skill and invention saw him crowned Nigerian Footballer of the Year seven times. A key part of the 1994 AFCON winning Nigeria team, Okocha also won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Best Player award in 2004.


Forwards

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match

​Samuel Eto’o (FW) – Eto’o might well be the greatest African footballer there has ever been. A three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona and Internazionale, the prolific striker was named African Player of the Year on four occasions, won AFCON twice (2000, 2002) and is the all-time top scorer in the competition’s history with 18 goals.

Honourable mention: Roger Milla

Mohamed Aboutrika (FW) – The talisman of Egypt’s AFCON wins in 2006 and 2008, the tricky forward is a bonafide legend in his homeland whose popularity is perhaps only just being matched by Mohamed Salah. The ‘Prince of Hearts’ scored the winning penalty against Ivory Coast in the final of AFCON 2006, while he coolly slotted a second-half winner past Carlos Kameni in 2008 to give Egypt a 1-0 win over Cameroon in the 2008 final.

Hossam Hassan (FW) – Representing the Pharaohs at seven AFCONs, Hassan is still Egypt’s all-time top scorer with 69 goals and, with 169 caps, is the second-most capped player in international football history. First winning AFCON in 1986, he then captained Egypt to their win on home soil in 2006 at the grand old age of 40.


Manager

Zambian coach Frenchman Herve Renard smi

Herve Renard – There can be only one. The immaculately dressed, unbuttoned Frenchman is the only manager to have won the tournament with two different nations, having led underdogs Zambia to improbable success in 2012 before repeating the feat three years later with Ivory Coast. 


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#LampardOut: Social Media Reacts as Football Manager Cult Hero Scores Winner Against Chelsea

​Leandro Damiao? Remember him? The Brazilian striker that was the next best thing up until the point he turned 29 (when?!) and was playing in Japan all of a sudden? Yeah, he’s just scored the winning goal for J-League side Kawasaki Frontale in a pre-season victory over Chelsea.

The defeat comes a little over a week after Frank Lampard’s first friendly in charge ended in a 1-1 draw with Irish side Bohemian FC and it’s may be only pre-season, but the very early signs aren’t exactly the best.

But hey, at least he still has the transfer window to bring a few players in and…oh. Awkward.

Anyway, in suitably Chelsea fashion, some fans already seem to have had it with the embarrassing results.




 


Not everyone was overreacting. Just most. 


​​Chelsea travel to Manchester United in their opening match of the season, three weeks from Sunday. You know it’s a bad one when even the United fans think they’re hard. 


There was a lot of love for goalscorer Damiao, the Brazilian who somehow never actually played in Europe despite speculation to the contrary virtually every summer, and the odd January. Maybe now he’ll finally get that move to Tottenham…





Back at Chelsea, Christian Pulisic made his debut from the bench in what was a strong Blues side, and impressed some despite the circumstances.




Japanese football, never change. 

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Free Agents: 8 Players Who Would Not Cost Your Club a Penny

Pre-season is now in full flow, and clubs are looking to get their transfer business done ahead of their respective leagues resuming. 

Fans love to hear about the rumours of big-money signings. It shows ambition, and brings excitement that your club can attract the best players.​

Yet it is not all about the most expensive players as there are some absolute bargains to be had elsewhere. And when we say bargains, we mean freebies….players who don’t actually have contracts or any cost attached to them!

Here’s eight such players who could be rather handy and cost you diddly squat..


Mario Balotelli

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The Italian forward seems to have been around forever, but he is still only 28. Having moved from club to club across a variety of countries, he is now looking for a new club after his contract with Marseille ended last month.

It would be a gamble to sign Balotelli given his widely-publicised off-field indiscretions. ​Yet he does offer quality on the pitch, scoring eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 appearances for Marseille last season to show that he is far from a spent force. Perhaps a gamble worth taking.


Fernando Llorente

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Llorente only netted two league goals in as many seasons for Tottenham, hardly eye-catching numbers. He also missed from three yards in the Champions League semi-final against Ajax last season, before Lucas Moura spared his blushes. He is probably still thanking Moura to this day for that.

He does possess positive attributes though. The way he unsettled Matthijs de Ligt in the Champions League was impressive, ​whilst he also held the ball up well when he got his chance due to Harry Kane picking up an ankle problem. Four league assists last season highlight his ability to bring others in to the game. 

He is 34, but pace has never been his strength, so his age should not be a concern. Llorente may still have a couple of good years left in the game.


Dani Alves

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Alarm bells might start ringing with Alves when you hear about his age. He is 36. However, he does not appear to be done just yet.

The full back, who has won the Champions League on three occasions, recently captained Brazil to the Copa America title, as they beat Peru 3-1 in the final. This shows that he has plenty still to offer.

The experience that he brings with him after winning trophies in Spain, Italy and France would be invaluable for any side. Expect him to get another big move in the coming weeks.


Hatem Ben Arfa

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Ben Arfa has had his fair share of issues throughout his career. ​Falling out with managers has become common place, whilst he has struggled with weight problems at times as well.

However, one thing is for certain: he is supremely talented. Fans of the Premier League will remember him dazzling for Newcastle in their superb 2011-12 season, and he has been producing moments of magic in France since then.

Last season he scored seven goals and provided two assists in Ligue 1 for Rennes. Now he is seeking a new challenge and he will surely receive an offer before the window shuts.


Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge

It had all looked so good for Sturridge. He scored 22 Premier League goals in the 2013/14 campaign, nearly taking Liverpool to the title, and continued that form in to that year’s World Cup, netting in the opening game against Italy. Sadly, that tournament went downhill quickly for England, and the same can be said for Sturridge’s career. 

In the six seasons since, Sturridge has scored just 19 league goals, and has been plagued with injuries. It was no great shock to see him released by Liverpool this summer. 

His next career move is crucial. The forward is 29 and needs to hit the ground running when he finds a club. He has proved that he can do it before and will hope that he can produce at the top level again.


Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill

Cahill endured a nightmare season last year, as Maurizio Sarri cast him aside when he walked through the door at Chelsea. 

The England international is a proven winner though, having claimed two Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy in his career. Having hardly featured last season, he will have to get back up to speed quickly.

Will his level have dropped that much in one season? That remains to be seen, but Cahill has experience on his side, and will believe that he can get back to his best. He may get the chance to prove it next season.


Yacine Brahimi

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Brahimi impressed at Porto last season, enjoying his highest scoring league campaign with the club, netting ten goals. He also made his mark in the Champions League, as the side reached the quarter-finals before exiting to the eventual winners, Liverpool.

After five seasons in Portugal, he is looking for his next move. At the age of 29, it is fair to assume that he is currently at his peak. As he is available on a free, expect someone to snap him up before too long.


Filipe Luis

Filipe Luis

Chelsea fans may remember Luis, though perhaps not too fondly. The Brazilian left back did not make too much of an impact in his one season at Stamford Bridge, before returning to Atletico Madrid ​in 2015.

That does not make Luis a poor player. He has shown his class for Diego Simeone’s side over the years, helping the team to a La Liga title and two Europa League triumphs.

Now approaching his 34th birthday, Luis is coming towards the end of his career, yet his reading of the game could entice clubs to make a move to acquire his services.


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