Opinion – Parker: The pressure will be on Sancho, Varane and Trippier to perform

Paul Parker thinks each of Manchester United’s expected summer signings will need to hit the ground running – they’re all under pressure in their own way.

Take Jadon Sancho. He is expected to join from Borussia Dortmund in the next few days, all being well, and he’ll need to link up quickly with his new teammates.

I haven’t been jumping up and down like others about his arrival because I’m yet to see enough from him to prove he’s what United need. But he should still be putting pressure on Marcus Rashford.

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We need to see if he can play on the left wing – not the right – and consistently be able to go inside and outside his man, because they’ve not been getting enough of that from Rashford. If he can do that, then it’s a step forward for United as an attacking team.

Looking at the cost of the player, United will expect him to be contributing from the start of the season. They’ve also waited long enough for him to arrive, so there may be a lack of patience where he is concerned.

When I’ve seen Sancho play, I’ve often seen him on the left, and that’s where the team’s weakness is. Mason Greenwood deserves to start the first game of the season with his form compared to Rashford’s. The big games need to have Greenwood starting, and Rashford hasn’t done anything near enough to be ahead of him at the moment.

Rashford mentioned a shoulder injury as one of the reasons he’s struggled of late, but you’re either injured or you’re not. If you need to mention it, then you go and get it sorted out. Football is different now, players will be given the time to properly recover with doctors willing to step in and protect them from being rushed back. A shoulder injury seems like an easy out when his form isn’t good.

As for Raphael Varane, I’m not expecting him to wow people. Not because he doesn’t have the talent, but because we all know what he’s done. We’ve seen what he’s won for Real Madrid and that he’s played for France. One thing I’d say is that at Real he has had a great partner to lead him in Sergio Ramos.

But he’s another one who has to start well. Because of his pedigree, people will expect him to slot in and be an immediate upgrade on Victor Lindelof. What he’ll have to show is physical and mental toughness – exactly what Lindelof lacks.

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When you have a poor central defender alongside a better one, it unbalances the side. This United side has been unbalanced for a while. Varane’s arrival would be a chance to build a side on something stead. Something that the fans believe in, but the players behind and in front of him. For the goalkeeper that has been a huge issue for years.

Once you get that, you can compete as Manchester United. Any top side can talk about their central defence. At City you have Ruben Dias, and the form he inspired in John Stones. People might discuss centre forwards, but you have to have quality centre-backs and goalkeepers. You don’t achieve a lot without them.

Kieran Trippier, it’s interesting where he will play, because Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be under pressure. The thing about Wan-Bissaka is that when he isn’t there, people will realise how important he is. As well as Trippier has done at Atletico Madrid, to come back at United is completely different.

The players aren’t as disciplined as they are under Diego Simeone. It will be hard for him to adjust right away at United.

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Alaba has no fear of replacing Ramos as new Real No. 4

David Alaba was presented by Real Madrid on Wednesday, with the defender saying it was a dream come true to join the club – and in the process he took the number of the legendary Sergio Ramos.

Ramos exited the Spanish capital for Paris Saint-Germain, and Alaba will be charged with replacing the club legend in the heart of Real’s defence.

Ramos’ are big boots to fill, but there is no fear as Alaba has taken on the number four that the Spaniard had made his own.

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“It’s a dream come true, joining the biggest club in the world, I’m very proud to be here,” Alaba said at a press conference. “I can’t wait to put on the jersey and score goals for Real Madrid.”

Comparisons with the departed Ramos are obvious, but the Austrian will be his own man.

“I’m here to be David Alaba,” the 29-year-old said. “I want to contribute my abilities and I’m going to try to bring my strengths as a player and, on a personal level, to be myself.

This number was offered to me because there was no other number available and I know what this number means to the club. It’s an honour to wear it and it’s something which really motivates me. This number represents strength and leadership and I want to give it my all.”

Alaba has worked with Real coach Carlo Ancelotti before at Bayern Munich, and will leave it to the coach to decide whether he will play in defence or midfield.

“I’m a versatile player, I can play in different positions,” Alaba said. “It’s up to the coach to decide where I’ll play.”

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Gazidis to begin treatment for throat cancer

AC Milan chief executive officer Ivan Gazidis is to undergo treatment for throat cancer, the club have confirmed.

The 56-year-old will temporarily step away from his duties, but the long-term prognosis is good.

“AC Milan informs its fans and stakeholders that our CEO, Ivan Gazidis, has been diagnosed with a cancer of the throat. Based on an extensive series of tests and scans, doctors expect he will make a full recovery,” a club statement read.

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“Everyone involved with the club wishes Ivan all the best for a full and speedy recovery. We are all with you.”

Gazidis took up his present role at Milan in 2018, having fulfilled a similar brief at Arsenal.

He has stressed the need for regular medical check-ups in order for early diagnosis.

“Of course, there is never a good time for a diagnosis of cancer. But I have a very curable form of cancer and a positive diagnosis. I have world-class medical expertise, and the support of so many loved ones and everyone at the club, and I am confident based on all advice that cancer will be treated successfully, with a full recovery,” Gazidis said.

“My diagnosis demonstrates the importance of regular medical checkups, even if you don’t have symptoms. I would encourage everyone to prioritise their health and to make sure, even in the day to day obligations of life and work, that they have their regular medical checkups.”

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Hendo talks stall

Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are closely monitoring Jordan Henderson’s contract talks at Liverpool, the Mail reports. The club captain has two years left on his contract at Anfield, but with discussions stalling the England midfielder’s future looks uncertain as the Reds look to tie down several players – including Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk – with deals expiring in 2023.

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Paper Round’s view: As has been pointed out, there are a lot of contracts to renew at Liverpool with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho also with two years left. They will want to avoid another Gini Wijnaldum scenario, and while time is on their side, it will be intriguing to see who signs in the coming 12 months – who doesn’t could dictate who leaves next year for cash or a year later for free.

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Tielemans to sign new contract?

Leicester are eager to tie Youri Tielemans down to a new contract this month amid interest from Liverpool, the Mail reports. After an impressive 2020-21 campaign, which included a stunning FA Cup final goal, a number of clubs want to sign the Belgian, who has two years left on his contract at the King Power.

Youri Tielemans, The Emirates FA Cup Final

Image credit: Getty Images

Paper Round’s view: All about these players with two years left on their contracts, and as Liverpool fear losing Henderson they also look at Tielemans as a midfield option coming in. That team which won the league and Champions League will need refreshing and Tielemans would be an ideal addition – knowing Leicester they’ll demand a high price until perhaps 2022 when they have less bargaining power.

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Ronaldo in a swap deal?

A swap deal between Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain involving Cristiano Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi is in the offing, according to L’Equipe. PSG have already signed Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Ramos as they look to end their wait for Champions League glory, and now it has been reported 28-year-old Icardi could leave the club and join Juve in a swap deal for Ronaldo. Juve would only be able to afford Icardi’s wages if Ronaldo left.

Mauro Icardi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Image credit: Getty Images

Paper Round’s view: A quite unexpected swap deal, and if Ronaldo is seeking a final (or several) Champions League crown(s) before he retires, then maybe he could leave Juve this summer after all. It depends what he wants, you would imagine, even if Juve are keen for him to stay.

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Not enough for Trips

Atletico Madrid are in no rush to sell Kieran Trippier and will not make it easy for Manchester United, who are interested in signing the England full-back, The Sun reports. United want to pay £18m for the 30-year-old former Tottenham defender, but Atleti are not interested in selling him for that price.

Kieran Trippier (Inglaterra)

Image credit: Getty Images

Paper Round’s view: This story doesn’t seem to be going away so you have to wonder if there is some truth to Trippier fancying a return to England. If United did land him, it would be intriguing to see what it meant for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the short-term, but let’s see if anything materialises first.

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Premier League player arrested over alleged child sex offences

A Premier League footballer has been arrested on suspicion of child sex offences.

The player, whose identity has not been revealed due to legal reasons, is a regular at international level. He was arrested by Greater Manchester Police on Friday and has been released on police bail.

“Officers arrested a 31-year-old man on Friday 16 July 2021 on suspicion of child sex offences,” read a statement from the police force.

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“He is on police bail pending further enquiries.”

The player’s club, also unnamed, said in a statement to the Mirror: “The club can confirm it has suspended a first-team player pending a police investigation.

“The club will continue to support the authorities with their inquiries and will not be making any further statement at this time.”

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Arsenal sign Lokonga on long-term deal

Arsenal have confirmed the signing of midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht.

The Belgium youth international, 21, has penned a long-term deal with the Gunners and becomes their second summer signing after Nuno Tavares.

Lokonga made his Anderlecht debut as an 18-year-old back in 2017 and made 78 appearances for the club in total. He will join up with his new team-mates in the coming days after he has completed isolation.

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“It’s a big move because I have been playing for Anderlecht for 10 years so it’s going to be my first big move to another country,” Lokonga told the club website.

“It’s a big step, but I feel confident because we have to be. In the football world, you have to feel confident about yourself, but I’m looking to play in this league and I can’t wait to start.”

Asked about his best position, Lokonga said: “I can play as a six and I can play like a box to box, but people say that I’m better in the six position.”

Manager Mikel Arteta added: “Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development. He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht.

“I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons. We’re confident Albert’s ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence.”

He was called into Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad for the first time back in March.

Arsenal also look set to sign defender Ben White from Brighton.

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Arsenal sign Lokonga on long-term deal

Arsenal have confirmed the signing of midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht.

The Belgium youth international, 21, has penned a long-term deal with the Gunners and becomes their second summer signing after Nuno Tavares.

Lokonga made his Anderlecht debut as an 18-year-old back in 2017 and made 78 appearances for the club in total. He will join up with his new team-mates in the coming days after he has completed isolation.

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“It’s a big move because I have been playing for Anderlecht for 10 years so it’s going to be my first big move to another country,” Lokonga told the club website.

“It’s a big step, but I feel confident because we have to be. In the football world, you have to feel confident about yourself, but I’m looking to play in this league and I can’t wait to start.”

Asked about his best position, Lokonga said: “I can play as a six and I can play like a box to box, but people say that I’m better in the six position.”

Manager Mikel Arteta added: “Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development. He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht.

“I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons. We’re confident Albert’s ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence.”

He was called into Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad for the first time back in March.

Arsenal also look set to sign defender Ben White from Brighton.

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'It hurts more than any defeat' – Gattuso reveals regrets over Spurs opportunity

Gennaro Gattuso has revealed his regret over missing out on the Tottenham job and his disappointment over the fierce backlash he faced from supporters.

Spurs turned to former Italy midfielder Gattuso after missing out on several other candidates in their search for a new manager earlier this summer.

However, fans strongly opposed the move due to controversial comments previously made by Gattuso about same-sex marriage and racism.

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The hashtag #NoToGattuso was trending on Twitter before Gattuso dropped out of contention and Spurs eventually turned to Nuno Espirito Santo.

“It was a huge disappointment, but I wasn’t described for the way I am and there was nothing I could do,” Gattuso told Il Messaggero in Italy.

“I am sorry I could not defend myself and explain that I am not the person they were talking about in England.

“I had to accept a story that hurts more than any defeat or dismissal, in a moment when we don’t want to understand how dangerous the web can be.

“Certain malice comes from Facebook or Twitter, where it is possible to give strength to any falsehood. I don’t have social media profiles and I don’t want them, neither [my wife] Monica has.

Why should I let them insult me for anything? I don’t even have Instagram. I don’t understand, if I drink a bottle of wine, what’s the point of taking a picture to let others know.

“It’s my business, my children Gabriela and Francesco know it.”

Gattuso also had a bust-up with former Spurs coach Joe Jordan during a Champions League match with AC Milan in 2011.

He is currently without a job after being sacked by Napoli at the end of last season. He had a very brief spell in charge of Fiorentina, which lasted just 23 days after his appointment was announced.

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FA launches review into 'disgraceful scenes' at Euro 2020 final

The Football Association have launched an independent review into the “disgraceful scenes” that marred the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy.

The game at Wembley saw ticketless supporters storming their way into the stadium and clashing with stewards and police.

The Metropolitan Police have appealed for help identifying 10 men who they believe were involved with the violence and disorder.

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The FA have now released a statement saying: “We are determined to fully understand what happened outside and then inside Wembley Stadium at the UEFA EURO 2020 Final on Sunday 11 July 2021.

“We informed DCMS at the weekend that an independent review led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock has been commissioned to report on the facts and circumstances involved. It will speak to all parties concerned and include external experts.

“A key emphasis of the findings will be to ensure that lessons are learned and such disgraceful scenes are never able to be repeated. We continue to work with the relevant authorities in support of their efforts to identify those responsible and hold them to account.”

UEFA hit the FA with four charges after the game and have also opened a disciplinary investigation over events surrounding the final.

England captain Harry Maguire called for better policing after revealing his father suffered suspected broken ribs at the game.

“I hope we can learn from this and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he told The Sun.

“We should all be more aware and learn from it. Things could have been a lot worse but we have to make sure it does not happen again.”

Italy came from behind to force the match to penalties after a 1-1 draw before winning 3-2 in the shootout.

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Arsenal agree White deal

The Telegraph reports that Arsenal are finally close to sealing a deal for Brighton’s central defender Ben White. White has been on international duty with England for Euro 2020, with the 23-year-old one of the best young defenders in Britain at the moment. Arsenal have agreed a £50 million deal with their fellow Premier League side in order to secure his presence next season.

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Paper Round’s view: White has shown at Leeds and then with Brighton that he is capable of handling himself and he has the potential to offer more for his side. Arsenal needed to have a refresh of their squad, and the exit of David Luiz made it more pressing that they should find a central defender in order to give them some defensive solidity under Mikel Arteta.

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‘Racial abuse at England players after final disgusting and disgraceful’

Milan close in on Diaz

AC Milan are closing in on the signature of Real Madrid’s Brahim Diaz, according to The Sun. The 21-year-old Spanish player has spent time on loan with the Italian side and is set to join on a two-year loan. Milan will be able to spend 22 million euros to make the deal permanent, but Real Madrid will also have a buyback clause that is worth 27 million euros, though he is not a first choice player yet.

Paper Round’s view: Milan have found a decent prospect in Diaz, and it appears as if Real Madrid are ready to accept they might be making a mistake too. The buyback clause seems like an abuse of power when larger sides do it, but it does also give Diaz a reason to improve so that he could gain some kind of redemption by moving back to Real Madrid.

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Niguez-Griezmann set for swap deal

Atletico Madrid could soon welcome back Antoine Griezmann to their team. The 30-year-old French international has been at Barcelona for two years, but he could now be included in a deal that brings Saul Niguez to the Catalan side. That would see Griezmann join Luis Suarez and Joao Felix in a dangerous looking attacking trio to defend their La Liga title.

Paper Round’s view: Griezmann has been a disappointment at Barcelona and perhaps a return to the direct and aggressive play at Atletico would be enough for him to rediscover his best form for the remainder of his career. Giving up Niguez would be a huge blow for Atletico, but Diego Simeone’s team appear able to find a replacement for most players in the market easily.

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Chelsea target Haaland

The Mail reports on the prospects of Chelsea signing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old Norwegian international striker was the subject of an opening, rejected bid from Chelsea. It was believed to be cash but plus one of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham. However Hakim Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Abraham would have to be included in a deal that could run to £170 million.

Paper Round’s view: Haaland is an exceptional striker and perhaps the best young player in world football. Kylian Mbappe might have something to say about that, but the fact is Dortmund can play hardball for a limited window. Next summer it is believed that Haaland will be available for around £70 million, which means they may have to compromise soon.

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