Interview: Facundo Ferreyra – Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder on the Champions League tie against Roma

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Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Facundo Ferreyra gives his thoughts on his side’s last-16 Champions League tie against Roma.

What are your initial thoughts of Shakhtar v AS Roma in the last-16 of the competition?

“When Shakhtar was drawn against Roma, I thought that at this stage of the Champions League all the teams are strong. Whether it’s Roma or any other team, we will do our best, just as we did it at the group stage, which brought us results.”

How will you and your side prepare for the game against Roma?

“The team have been preparing very well. The motivation is great. We know that we are facing a crucial game for both the whole team and the fans, and we want to please them.”

How impressed have you been with Roma in the competition so far?

“I didn’t have the possibility to watch their performance closely. I know that they had a very strong group including Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, although they managed to advance from the group in the top spot. This proves that they are really strong.”

As Shakhtar are at home in the first game, do you see this as an advantage?

“Honestly, I’d prefer to play the decider at home, but this doesn’t diminish our optimism at all. We need to deliver a great performance at home and go to Rome with an advantage.”

If Shakhtar could choose one player out of the Roma team not to feature in the game because of his talents, who would you choose and why?

“They have many players like that. Fortunately, Francesco Totti has finished his career. But Nainggolan is in top form now.”

What chances do you believe Shakhtar have against Roma?

“I suppose the chances are equal – fifty-fifty. Roma are a very good team, but we believe in our strength and condition.”

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Swansea’s Spanish stars: Hit or miss?

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Following the departure of Roque Mesa to Sevilla on-loan, we rate the 17 Spanish senor’s who swapped sunny Spain for the Liberty Stadium over the past years.

Mesa was brought to the club just six months ago in an £11 million deal from Las Palmas but has struggled for regular game time in South Wales.

Here, Sam May take a look at the players who made the grade and those who fell short…

Angel Rangel (2007-Present) – Hit

With over 200 appearances, Rangel joined the club under Martinez. Scout Kevin Reeves had gone to look for a striker at the time but picked up a £15,000 bargain in Rangel instead. He has played in two league promotions and had Carabao Cup success. He is a fan and club favourite. Once he hangs up his boots, it is likely he will be offered a coaching role at the club.

Angel Rangel Guillem Bauza (2007-10) – Hit

Who? The former Spanish youth international was once a strike partner of Fernando Torres. He scored a brace against Gillingham, that helped to seal promotion to League One. Making over 60 appearances in South Wales scoring 16 goals, he finished his playing career in 2015, and went on to become a qualified doctor.

Jordi Gomez (2008-09) – Hit

Gomez joined Swansea on-loan from Espanyol and was an instant hit for the Swans during his time in South Wales, when the club was playing in the Championship. Scoring the winner in the first South Wales derby in a decade, he instantly became a fan favourite. At the time, Roberto Martinez was key to make the deal a permanent one, but a switch couldn’t be struck. The next summer Martinez moved to Wigan and Gomez became one of his first signings for the Latics.

Roberto Martinez (2002-06 player, 2007-09 manager) – Hit

Martinez became one of the most significant figures at Swansea, during his seven years with the club. The Spaniard was brought in from Walsall in 2002 and became captain under manager Brian Flynn, signing for the club permanently a year later. That year, he helped the Swans as they looked to avoid relegation from the Football League. He was released by Kenny Jackett in 2006, but then replaced him as manager the same year, helping Swansea to reach promotion to League One. He was the man who implemented the certain possession-based game associated with the club and is currently manager of the Belgium National team.

Jordi Lopez (2009-10) – Miss

Following the arrival of Paulo Sousa from QPR, the former Real Madrid midfielder followed his former manager to the Liberty Stadium. Making just a total of 15 appearances in two years, his contract was terminated, and he departed for Vitesse Arnhem shortly after. In 2017, he hung up his boots having ended his career with Segunda Division B side Sabadell.

Gorka Pintado (2008-11) – Miss

The striker was hampered with injuries during his three years spell under Martinez. A £200,000 signing from Granada, he scored goals against Hull City, Nottingham Forest and rivals Cardiff City, but didn’t really hit the ground running during his 73 appearances. He eventually left to join AEK Larnaca.

Albert Serran (2008-11) – Miss

A £80,000 signing from Espanyol, Serran joined the Swans along with Spanish compatriot Jordi Gomez. Making 30 appearances he never became a first name on the team sheet. He was released at the end of 2010-11 as Swansea were promoted to the Premier League. He is currently playing for Chabab Rif Al Hoceima in Morocco.

 Andres Orlandi (2007-10) – Miss

Having been part of the Barcelona youth setup at the time when it included Samuel Eto, Giovanni Dos Santos and Bojan Krkic. Orlandi joined the Swans from Alaves. His time at the club coincided with numerous injuries, but he did score the fastest top-flight goal for five seasons netting just 25 seconds against Wolves in his final season at the club. Having just made 20 appearances, he joined Brighton and began to help them with their promotion push.

 Pablo Hernandez (2012-14) – Miss

Brought to the club by Michael Laudrup, in a £5.55 million move from Valencia, it took longer than expected for the winger to get to grips with the physicality of the Premier League. He later improved under Garry Monk, showing some flashes of brilliance, but left to join Al-Arabi, before reuniting with Monk at Leeds in 2016.

Michu (2012-2015) – Hit

Making over 50 appearances for the Swans, Michu hit the ground running. He was used as a striker and attacking midfielder during his time in South Wales. A bargain buy in a £2 million deal from Rayo Vallecano, he became one of the big names in Europe at the time. Leaving the Liberty at the end of the 2015-16 season, he went on-loan to Napoli. He has recently been released by Oviedo and is currently a free agent.

Chico Flores (2012-14) – Hit

A £2 million move from Genoa saw ‘Chico’ become Laudrup’s first Spanish signing at the Liberty Stadium. He impressed in games such as the 1-1 draw against Manchester United in 2012, coming close to a Spain call-up. He also became a favourite amongst the fans at the club during this spell.

Jose Canas (2013-14) – Miss

Canas became a Spanish import under Laudrup following a fine spell with Real Betis. However, despite making 35 appearances at the club, he was moved on. He moved back to his homeland to join Espanyol and is now playing in the Greek Superliga with PAOK.

 

 

 

 

Alejandro Pozuelo (2013-14) – Miss

He is most likely to be up there as one of the worst signings for the club. Pozuelo suffered a torrid time in South Wales and found life in the Premier League tough to tackle. He scored just two goals in 36 appearances, in one season. Moving back to his homeland, he joined Rayo Vallecano and is now featuring for Genk in Belgium.

Alvaro Vazquez (2013-14) – Miss

Joining on-loan from Getafe, he became Laudrup’s eighth signing, but failed to live up to expectations. He was identified as back-up to Wilfried Bony and Michu but struggled to adapt to the rigours of Premier League football. Swansea decided against making his move permanent.

Jordi Amat – N/A

Currently on-loan with Real Betis, Amat made the move to Swansea in a £2.5 million deal from Espanyol in 2013. He made over 50 appearances since joining the club but found game time limited following the arrivals of Alfie Mawson and Mike Van der Horn. It is unlikely he will be part of Carlos Carvalhal’s plans next season.

 

 

Fernando Llorente (2016-17) – Hit

Llorente flourished for the Swans having just spent one season at the club. He was pivotal in helping his side avoid relegation last season and scored 15 goals in one season, before making the move to Spurs as back up to Harry Kane.

Borja Baston (2016-17) – Miss

Becoming Swansea’s record signing in a £15 million deal from Atletico Madrid. He suffered a miserable first season at the club, scoring just once in 16 appearances in 3-2 defeat to Arsenal. He was allowed to join Malaga on-loan for the 2017-18 season. Whether he could feature under Carvalhal next season is currently unclear, but if so, he has a lot to prove to Swans fans going forward.

Alexis Sánchez: What will happen to the Arsenal misfit?

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In June Alexis Sánchez contract at Arsenal us up. But what will happen to the Arsenal misfit? Sam May takes a look.

If you believe Pep Guardiola, there was a gentleman’s agreement that he would join the champions elect on a free and thus earn an even bigger wedge per week than he already does.

At Christmas however, it looked like he was on the move early. Perhaps maybe a request from the Chilean to his agent to get him in early at Manchester City and pick up a Premier League winners medal via the back door?

All well and good, not. His demands, the spin off for his agent and Arsenal trying to recoup some the huge money they have lauded on someone who allegedly hit out when it wasn’t going his way, has now put him in the mucky stuff.

Chelsea had a sniff, and Jose Mourinho joined in – no doubt trying to keep up with the “Jones’s” or the Mansours to be precise. By all accounts Manchester United were to meet the sky-high demands to keep him away from City.

With the Sky Blues pulling out, this now leaves only the Red side of Manchester who want to take him and they now want to use Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a make weight. A player who Mourinho has stated, doesn’t have a future at the club much longer. The player himself wants away, but also more than his current £140,000 a week he is currently receiving – despite the fact he isn’t even playing for the Red Devils.

The cash strapped Gunners are not willing to pay off and that could scupper Sánchez going anywhere anytime soon. Arsenal will look to a replacement for Theo Walcott who has joined Everton for £20 million as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who joined rivals Liverpool.

If it falls through then there is only one option for Arsene Wenger, to put the Chilean misfit in the Gunners Under-23s squad for the remainder of the campaign. Would the true Arsenal fans support that decision? Its highly likely they would. Sánchez and his agent would have themselves to blame if that happened. Who then will take him on in the summer?

Liverpool should look no further than Grêmio’s Arthur to replace Philippe Coutinho

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Having sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142 million, Liverpool should make a move inform Grêmio midfielder Arthur, writes Sam May.

Riyad Mahrez, Thomas Lemar, Julian Draxler and Manuel Lanzini are just a few names that have been touted to replace the Reds former Brazilian, but making a move for Arthur would be a wise and clever choice by the Reds.

The 21-year-old was only picture wearing a Barcelona shirt before Christmas, causing speculation he was destined for the Camp Nou. He does look set for the Premier League it seems however, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all expressing interest. Atlético Madrid had also been keen, but interest has since cooled.

Arthur has drawn comparisons with current Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta, the man Coutinho looks set to replace in Catalonia, due to his exceptional passing, time on the ball, dribbling skills and all round technique.

He has been a key figure for Brazil’s Under 20 side, but is yet to make an appearance for the senior side, despite being called up in September by head coach Tite to face Chile and Bolivia, due to his impressive displays for Grêmio. Even though he has played the majority of the time in the defensive role for his current club, there is no reason why he can’t push forward and adapt into the attacking midfield areas.

Not only would a move to Anfield help the player to secure a place in Brazilian World Cup squad ahead of Russia in a few months time, he would also link up with fellow countryman Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool’s current 26-year-old only tweeted a few days ago saying: “Liverpool is no longer the same without you my magical brother, I wish you infinite success, that you enjoy life and realise all your dreams. It was an honour to play with a magician like you.” A move for Arthur would not only put smiles on Liverpool fans faces, but also Firmino’s face it seems.

Perhaps it would be a risk considering the player would be new to the Premier League, it may take time for him to settle in England and he may not live up to the heights of Coutinho for now – but it sure would be a risk worth taking.

Coutinho’s fellow countryman would certainly be a potential option, but the question is, how long would it take for him to live up to that potential?

Three potential replacements Liverpool could sign should Philippe Coutinho join Barcelona this January

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Barcelona are keen to sign the Brazilian and Liverpool will look for a top class replacement should he leave Anfield, writes Sam May.

The transfer saga continues with Coutinho’s future uncertain and the player adamant he has played his last game for the Reds. Liverpool will hope to keep hold of him, but there is no guarantee.

Should the player leave for the Catalan giants, Liverpool will be ready to target his replacement, but who could they go for?

 

Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco)

Liverpool were keen on the Frenchman Lemar in August, and being hopeful a deal would be struck with Monaco, the player had medical staff waiting for him in Paris. Monaco had sold a number of high profile stars that summer, so it seemed Lemar would be joining them out of the exit door. The 22-year-old however, does still want out and Liverpool could come calling once more.

Lemar can play both wide and central, and would be seen as the perfect option. He has possession and pace but not quite as much creativity at Coutinho.

 

Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)

Lanzini would be the perfect option for Coutinho and the fact he has Premier League experience would suit the Reds. The 24-year-old is skilful on the ball and can get between the lines. He has been West Ham’s best performer since his arrival in English football and Tottenham were previously linked with the playmaker last summer. He could improve further under Klopp and alongside Liverpool’s attacking players.

 

Julian Draxler (Paris Saint Germain)

Draxler shone when playing for Wolfsburg, becoming one of Europe’s most inform players, alerting Paris Saint Germain. Now with the French champions, fellow countryman and Reds manager Jürgen Klopp identified the German international last January, as Liverpool eye extra attacking options. Just 12 months on and he is linked yet again with the Reds, having failed to fully launch his career with PSG, completing 90 minutes in just three league games this season. The 24-year-old could play both in the wide and central roles, but his goal scoring would need area for improvement.

Five players Roma could target this January

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Roma have been linked with a number of players in recent weeks, despite their sporting director Monchi insisting they are not going to bring in new recruits this January.

The Giallorossi are in fine form under manager Eusebio Di Francesco, and currently sit fifth in Serie A. They also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League having topped a very tough group c.

They lost some key players last summer, with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rüdiger moving on, while the additions of Rick Karsdorp, Cengiz Under, Gregoire Defrel and Patrik Schick are still yet to meet their undoubted potential.

Sam May takes a look at five players Roma could target this January…

 

Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria)

The 21-year-old was a product of Pescara’s academy before going on to make 36 appearances for their first team. During his time in the senior team, he scored five goals and managed one assist. After Leaving Pescara at the end of the 2016 season, he only missed three league matches, featuring in 38 overall. But it was the defensive midfielder’s importance, which was obvious to Marco Giampaolo’s side through his continued presence. The Uruguayan has been hot property this season and has scored three goals in 13 appearances. He would be a perfect addition to the Giallorossi’s engine room and his deal with Sampdoria ends in June 2020. The pass master was also linked with a move to Sevilla, when Roma’s Monchi tried to lure him to Andalusia back in 2015. Despite his €40 million clause in his contract, Roma could still look to prize him away this January.

 

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)

Roma could make a fresh move for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez this January. The Italian giants were hot on the heels of the 26-year-old last summer, despite the Foxes make it clear the Algerian was not for sale.

Leicester remained resilient in their efforts to keep hold of the attacking midfielder, despite him handing in a transfer request and the club rejecting a third bid of £32million. Mahrez has since proved Leicester was right and shown glimpses of his best form so far this season. Roma would have to pay close to £45million to lure him away from the King Power Stadium in January. Claude Puel has made it clear he hopes to keep hold of one of his key players, but Leicester’s resolve could be tested again when the window opens next month with Barcelona also keen on his services.

 

Dani Cabellos (Real Madrid)

Dani Ceballos is a player the Giallorossi have recently been linked with. The 21-year-old made the move to Los Blancos in the summer, following a £17.5million switch from Real Betis. Having failed to nail down a starting birth and becoming a fringe player under Zinedine Zidane. He has started just two La Liga games since his move, sparking rumours Di Francesco could sign him in the January window. Arsenal and Tottenham have also been keeping tabs on the midfielder and could reignite their interest. Monchi is a huge admirer of the Spaniard, and the player is hoping to book a spot in Spain’s World Cup squad but knows only regular first-team football can guarantee that. So Roma believe the player may be open to a departure and may tempt Madrid into a deal with a potential buyback clause.

 

Arthur (Gremio)

Arthur, 21, has been a revelation this season in the Brazilian championship, helping his side to the conquest of the Copa Libertadores. A buyout clause of £50 million has been interested in his contract, but this won’t put of current suitors, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid, who are keen to secure his signature. As Brazilian clubs in general can’t match the financial power of European clubs, they have no option to sell the player sooner, rather than later.

He would be a perfect addition in the heart of the Roma midfield. The Giallorossi are desperate for some youthful additions to their squad and the attacking midfielder, who has been dubbed the Brazilian Andrés Iniesta, would be a perfect option for the club. Both Radja Nainggolan, 29, and 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi are not getting any younger, and Roma need to build for the future. By signing Arthur, he would take the burden off both and give Di Francesco an extra option in midfield.

 

Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid)

Spanish winger Lucas Vázquez is another player linked with a move to the Stadio Olimpico in January. The 26-year-old, who has also been linked with Newcastle, has not been a regular in Real Madrid’s plans this season. Marco Asensio and Isco will most likely be the first men called off the bench for Zidane, so Vázquez will not have the minutes he needs in order to secure a place in Spain’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad.

Real Madrid should probably sell the player while there are clubs willing to offer big money for him, just like they did with José Callejón to Napoli back in 2013. That’s the best thing for Vázquez and also for the club, so with Monchi impressed with the winger, Roma could look to swoop for highly rated player.

Who is Amanda Staveley? Newcastle United’s potential new owner profiled

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Amanda Staveley is set to become the new owner of Newcastle, with Mike Ashley set to cash out. But who is she? Sam May takes a look…

Staveley, 44, runs PCP Capital Partners and set to replace the outgoing Ashley. The Sports Direct tycoon is expected to cash out and hand over the club to the financier and her mystery backers, for just over £300million.

Following talks in London, it seems the deal for Staveley to take over at Newcastle is almost complete. Involved romantically with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, she met her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, when he worked for her company.

The businesswoman has one child, Alexander (Lexi), who she has had with Mr Ghodoussi, and ended up in labour following a business. They also married in 2011, and now work’s between Dubai and their London apartment in Park Lane.

Her company is backed with £28billion in funds from China and the Middle East and she wants to become who of the biggest figures in football. She has an incredible business mind and is no stranger at cutting deals.

Staveley and PCP helped broker Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City from Thaksin Shinawatra in 2009. She was initially spotted in the stands at St James’ Park in October when Newcastle took on Liverpool in the Premier League.

Fenway Sports Group had previously rejected an approach from Staveley, who was looking to take a share in Liverpool. It isn’t just football that she is interested in however, she also enjoys horse racing.

She is the daughter on Robert and Lynn Staveley. Her father founded the Lightwater Valley theme park in 1969 while her grandfather, Ralph, was successful running a betting business and, later, Doncaster dog racing track.

Staveley attended Queen Margaret’s School in York and had a keen interest in sports. She left school at 16 and took her A-levels in a single year before being accepted into Cambridge’s St Catharine’s College to read modern languages.

After packing in her degree, Staveley took out a £180,000 loan to open the restaurant Stocks between Cambridge and Newmarket. With no formal training, she “lived and breathed business and banking” both studying for her future roles in the city and working as a waitress. Opening her Newmarket restaurant in the Middle East it is here where she started to make her money. She was then named Businesswoman of the Year in 2000.

But after selling a 49 per cent stake to EuroTelecom, a company which flopped in the collapse of the Dotcom boom, but after buying back her stake in Q.ton in a complicated deal the company failed.

She will join Southamton’s Katharina Liebherr, West Ham’s Karren Brady and Ann Budge of Hearts in becoming one football’s prominent women figures.