Saúl has become essential for Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid


As Saúl Ñíguez found the corner of Manuel Neuer’s net and impressed in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League, helping his side to a 1-0 victory over German champions Bayern Munich, he highlighted why he is important for Diego Simeone’s side, writes Sam May.

Scoring nine goals and making four assists this season, the 21-year old has become a key figure for Los Rojiblancos’ and Diego Simeone, and is one of the first names on the team sheet at the Vicente Calderón.

Moving to the Spanish capital in 2008, he started in the youth ranks of Real Madrid before moving to Atlético three years later. He made his debut for the club in the UEFA Europa League as a 17 year-old in 2011 against Besiktas.

The youngster has come a long way since then and has become the outstanding talent from the Atlético youth set-up.

He made his La Liga debut in 2013 in the 1-0 victory over Sevilla. Being shipped out on-loan the same year to Rayo Vallecano, he benefited hugely and started 34 games out of a possible 38 for Los Franjirrojos, catching the eye of Simeone, whilst Atlético were winning the league.

Later returning, Simeone decided to include him in both UEFA Super Cup matches against Real Madrid where his side were victorious over both legs.

Saúl struggled to nail down a starting birth in Simeone’s side at the start of the season, but has since found himself one of the first names on the team sheet following the injury to Tiago, 34.

Becoming the catalyst in the middle of the midfield, he covers the most ground on the pitch. His composure on the ball, passing range has seen him become a key figure, rather than just a squad player. A place in Del Bosque’s Euro 2016 squad is almost inevitable. Could he earn his first senior cap this summer?

He is the youngest and most gifted of the family, who were all professionals. Who would of thought if things had turned out differently he could have been lining up against his current team mates for the Whites of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Talks have begun on a new contact until 2020 to fend off interest from around Europe. Barcelona and Manchester United have previously been linked with the youngster. Despite his wage demands being a concern, he is sure worth splashing the cash on. His current buy-out clause is €24 million – which is today’s market, is seen as a bargain.


Liverpool interested in former Blues defender


Jürgen Klopp is interested in snapping up Valencia centre back, Shkodran Mustafi according to reports, writes Sam May.

Mustafi, 24, has been in fine form for Valencia making 41 appearances and scoring two goals, and is seen as key summer signing for the Reds.

It is understood 48-year old manager Klopp, will send a scout to keep a close eye on the defender this weekend, when Valencia take on Liverpool’s semi final UEFA Europa League opponents, Villarreal on Sunday at the Mestalla.

Having had previous experience playing in England, rising through the youth ranks across Stanley Park at Everton, Mustafi made his first team debut for the Toffees back in 2009 in a 1-0 defeat to Bate Borisov in the UEFA Europa League.

Despite not being handed a start in the Premier League under former Blues manager David Moyes, the German International signed for Sampdoria in 2012, before moving to Los Che two years later.

Having already made 10 caps for the German national team, he is expected to feature for Joachim Low’s side at Euro 2016.

It seems Liverpool could have an advantage should they sign the player, with former Reds assistant Pako Ayestarán in charge of the Spanish side, who took over from the sacked Gary Neville in March.

Having already signed Joel Matip from Schalke, the Kop boss will look to sign other central defender, given Mamadou Sakho’s ban and Kolo Toure, who is set to depart in the summer. The Reds are also said to be keen on 30-year old Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen and continued to be linked with a move for Mats Hummels.

Reds target River Plate striker


Liverpool are interested in a move for River Plate striker Lucas Alario, according to ESPN, writes Sam May.

Alario, 23, has been in fine form for Marcelo Gallardo’s side, since his arrival from Colon, scoring seven goals and making three assists in 16 appearances.

Having helped River to win the Copa Libertadores, the lifelong Boca Juniors fan, scored the winner in the Club World Cup semi-final against Sanfrecce Hiroshima back in December, before his side were beaten in the final by Barcelona.

He has good movement, reading of the game and is good at goal poaching. It his quick feet, his opportunism and range of finishing which seen him score a hatrick against Nueva Chicago in the Primera last September.

Born in Sante Fe Province, the young prospect, who is rated as one of the best in the country, but has been watched previously by Liverpool, with chief scout Barry Hunter keeping a close eye on him earlier this year.

Joining former club Colon aged 16, he moved to River in 2015. He is said to be worth £9.5 million. Jürgen Klopp is expected to bolster his attacking options this summer, and it seems Alario could be the man the Reds turn to, with Christian Benteke out of favour and Divock Origi out injured.

Are the MSN the greatest trio ever?


Sam May argues that Barcelona’s deadline front-line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are the greatest trio of all time.

If you look up nuclear in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Messi, Suarez and Neymar smiling back at you. Many clubs have been marked by the presence of great forwards, but the fundamental question is – Barcelona’s current front three, are they the best attacking trio, world football has ever seen?

From Alfredo Di Stefano, Franciso Gento, Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid 1955-60), Gerd Mueller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness (Bayern Munich 1974-1978) to George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton (1964-1969), Europe has been decorated with some of the most colourful and talented trio’s in the game over the years.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez were arguably the best trio during the 2007-2008 season, under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United won the Premier league and Champions League. Ronaldo scored 31 goals, Tevez got 14 and Rooney reached 12.

Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto. The trio spearheaded Inter Milan’s attack during the 2009-10 season under Jose Mourinho. It was the best season in the history of the I Nerazzurri. Dutchman Sneijder’s silky skills helped the two deadly attackers, with Argentine Milito scoring 30 goals that season. To think Eto’o had played alongside Messi and Henry a year earlier. Milan also overcame Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win the Champions League too.

Nevertheless, It’s hard to forget, the incredible threesome who helped Los Blancos to La Decima in 2013, beating arch rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 after extra time. It wasn’t just the work of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that was evident on the night – but during the season. The trio racked up an astonishing 108 goals for the season. Ronaldo grabbed 56, Benzema 28 and Bale 24. The Welshman managed to score in the Copa Del Rey final and Champions League final. Ronaldo also bagged a goal in Lisbon, but scored in the UEFA Super Cup as well at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi.

Bayern Munich had their chance to see a fine trio in action. In 2012 Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery stole the headlines. It was in 2013 when the Bavarian Giants won the treble – Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League. The attacking prowess of Mueller saw him score 23 goals that season. His favoured false nine position is unquestionably his own, but people still don’t understand whether he is a midfielder or forward.

There have been many trios’ in recent years amongst Europe’s elite, but none of them match Barcelona’s South American superstars. The magical trio outscored PSG, Real Madrid and Manchester City last season, with over 130 goals between them.

The Blaugranes will never forget the formidable trio of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto, who capitulated everything in its path, helping the Catalan Giants to secure a historic treble in 2009. The powers of Pep Guardiola has played a huge part over the years. The triumvirate of Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa were also breath taking to watch – vital in securing La Liga and the Champions League in 2011.

The fact is, the tantalising trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, outscore most teams in Europe is breath taking. It’s their insatiable appetite, scoring 125 goals in 2015, which guided them to the treble and had fans jumping off their seats. This campaign has seen them notch up 109 goals already and they will look to emulate last seasons astonishing record. Luis Enrique is arguably very fortunate to have the attacking trident, but he must take some of the plaudits too, having suffered a tough start in 2015, only for his team to go on and win five trophies.

Europe’s terrifying trio helped Barcelona claim the treble last season. Undoubtedly, it’s the most talented footballer to wear the Barcelona shirt, the Rosario born genius and four-time Ballon d’Or winner, Messi, who makes every football fan dream of having him in their team. It’s the 28-years old’s, cold-blooded approach he expresses in front of goal, as well as his exquisite technique and fascinating dribbling skills, which have all stemmed back from the day at the famous La Mascia in 2000. It’s his teammates attitudes that enhance their individual game that make him the best, but the fact is, they all learn from the man himself.

Meanwhile, we must not forget the impact of Luis Suarez. He was instrumental in Liverpool’s title charge two seasons ago, scoring 31 goals in 33 appearances during his time on Merseyside. Player of the season for 2013-14, this seen him share the Golden Boot with Cristiano Ronaldo. These are the main reasons Barcelona splashed out €81 million. He has been a shining star since his arrival into Spanish football and long may it continue.

Amongst the Barca faithful, Neymar, has become a fan favourite since his €57million arrival from boyhood club Santos, where became Brazilian Player of Year at the age of 20. It seems Messi has been the catalyst to help the pair adapt to life in Catalunya, on a personal and professional level. It’s the time spent away from the spotlight, which has also played a huge factor in their rise, the close family bonding of the trio.

Their partnership is only going to get better and will only strengthen further. They must remain fit, hungry to succeed and motivated. The fact is they are the most successful trio. This week’s 8-0 triumph against Deportivo only proved this further, with Suarez scoring 4 goals and assisted on 3.

Teenagers Nadiem Amiri and Phillip Ochs part of Hoffenheim’s winning ways


The youngest boss in the Bundesliga, 28 year-old Julian Nagelsmann, has made a huge impression since being appointed Hoffenheim manager on February 10. Scheduled to take over the team this coming summer, Hoffenheim moved up the schedule as Hoffe had been a disaster on the pitch under veteran manager Huub Stevens, who stepped down for health reasons.

Now having secured a 2-1 win and claimed a vital three points against Hertha Berlin this weekend, it is clear to see his team is fine turned and thriving since his arrival.

Nagelsmann’s team, who are now 13th in the Bundesliga after looking certain to be relegated and are improving game by game. With Hoffenheim sitting bottom of the table with Hannover after match day 20, the turnaround is very impressive. Under Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim have won six of ten matches, and drawn two of the others.

It’s not just this promising, youthful tactician, who has superb man management skills that’s improving the team – but also the performances of prodigies Nadiem Amiri and Phillip Ochs.

The partnership of 19-year old centre back Niklas Süle and former Basel centre half Fabian Schär have created a strong defensive middle. Jeremy Toljan at left back has been impressive, as has Sebastian Rudy in the middle of the midfield, but its Amiri and Ochs who are the real deal.

Born in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Hoffenheim’s 19-year old teen sensation Amiri has developed into one of the promising youngsters in Bundesliga football this season. He is flourishing under the tutelage of Nagelsmann and scored the second in the recent win over Eintracht Frankfurt, taking his goal tally to three in 21 appearances (14 starts) as well as providing four assists.

A product of Hoffenheim’s youth system, Amiri has created 42 chances in only 1250 minutes on the pitch while completing 79% of his pass attempts. Amiri has also had the benefit of 24 appearances for German national youth teams, although the bulk of those have been at the U-18 and U-19 levels. He started the 2015/2016 season with the reserve side, but was called up to the senior squad in late October after seven Regionalliga Sudwest starts.

Likewise Phillip Ochs, who turned nineteen on Sunday, has been impressive on the left wing. Making his Bundesliga debut back in August, he made two cameo appearances under Stevens, before being dropped to the reserve side.

Since Nagelsmann’s February appointment, though, the young 5’8″ winger has made five starts and three substitute appearances for a total of 463 minutes of Bundesliga play on the season. He’s responding to Nagelsmann’s confidence in him, has an assist and is at a 78% passing completion rate.

Claiming 20 points from a possible 30, the village side have overcome the relegation scrum, and with Amiri and Ochs part of their improvement, now have the look of a Bundesliga team that could possibly compete for a Europa League spot next season.

Madrid target Ben Arfa move


Atletico Madrid are interested in a summer move for Nice midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, according to Sam May.

Ben Arfa, 29, has been in fine form for the French Riviera side this season. It is understood Diego Simeone’s side are keen on the ex-Newcastle United player whose contract runs out in June.

Having played for the Magpies from 2011 to 2015, he was a fan favourite on Tyneside, but had his contract terminated following a fallout with the Newcastle management. It seems the supporters were left frustrated on the clubs decision to let him go.

The versatile Frenchman, who can play as a winger or attacking midfielder has made 33 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring 17 goals and contributing to four assists.

Having recently impressed, he has his sights set on a place in Didier Deschamps Euro 2016 squad, although the France assistant manager Guy Stephan has previously said that his chances of making the final cut for this summer’s tournament were fading.

If brought in, the Ligue 1 player would link up will fellow countryman Antoine Griezmann, 24, at the Vicente Calderon.

It is understood Ben Arfa would sooner join a La Liga side and play Champions League football, rather than move to Serie A and feature in the Europa League.

The Parisian has previously been tracked by Real Madrid, PSG and Borussia Dortmund, but is also target for Juventus, AC Milan, Galatasaray and Besiktas.

Who is Borussia Dortmund target Josip Brekalo?


Thomas Tuchel’s side have previously been linked with moves for Serbian starlets Andrija Zivkovic and Luka Jovic, both 20. As well as, Spezia’s Umar Sadiq who is on-loan at Roma, Bologna’s Amadou Diawara, Godfred Donsah, and Universidad Catolica’s (Chile) Jeisson Vargas.

Having snapped up 19-year old Spanish midfielder Mikel Merino, from Osasuna, it is understood Thomas Tuchel is keen to bolster the youth system.

It’s Croatian teen Josip Brekalo who is now in the spotlight and could be heading to Germany at the end of the season.

So who is he?

Born in Zagreb and joining his boyhood club at the age of eight, the 17-year old wonderkid has caught the eye of both Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal this season.

It’s his performances in the UEFA Youth League, which have sent scouts flocking for his signature. The youngster has scored three goals and a claimed an assist in his last five appearances.

A regular in the Croatian Under 17 national team, he has a similar playing style to Yevhen Konoplyanka and Memphis Depay. Although best in the wide left position in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he can also play as a forward. He featured in the European Under 17 Championships in 2015.

Brekalo likes to cut inside and shoot from distance on his favoured right foot. He is unpredictable to opponents, has explosive acceleration and dribbling ability at speed. The teen sensation also has, exceptional ability to maneuver in small spaces, specialises in beating players over a short distance and is able to score from practically every position. The fact he is dangerous in the box and has natural flair, proves he is a nightmare for opposing players.

The youngster will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovacić and Alen Halilović who have gone on to play amongst Europe’s elite.

It is worth noting that Dinamo U-17’s have a few other players that seem destined for a top career – Dejan Lovren, Borna Sosa, Vinko Soldo, Karlo Igor Majić, Nikola Moro and Adrian Blecić.