Manchester City have spent a lot of money. It is both a refrain of Jose Mourinho’s and the truth. Yet it is also true that a club with the fifth-highest turnover in world football are beginning to bring in a lot. City have reported profits in each of the last four financial years, with a surplus of £10.4 million in the 2017-18 season.
That owes something to a profitable ploy: selling players they were unlikely to pick. It sounds obvious, but few have made as much money from superfluous figures as City in recent years. It is an illustration of how a supposed billionaire’s plaything has become a business. The significant numbers at the Etihad Stadium do not just concern the goals, points and wins accrued in a record-breaking season.
In this year’s annual report, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak wrote of “our strategy for on-field success with a commercially and financially sustainable organisation.” Sales help with the sustainability.
This summer around 60 percent of Riyad Mahrez’s club-record purchase was funded by disposing of fringe figures: they raised about £36m from Angus Gunn, Jason Denayer, Bersant Celina, Olarenwaju Kayode, Pablo Maffeo and Angelino. Together, they made a grand total of seven City appearances, with only a 13-minute cameo from Celina in the Premier League. Had Oleksandr Zinchenko, signed for £1.5m and valued at £16 million when Fulham and Wolves were interested, also gone, City’s net spend for the window would have been just £8m.
It was altogether larger last year, but City still brought in around £90m which, to put it another way, financed the arrivals of Kyle Walker and Ederson. If the £25m departure Kelechi Iheanacho scored some important goals, Enes Unal, Aaron Mooy, Olivier Ntcham and Ruben Sobrino never made a senior City appearance. Bruno Zuculini made one. Each brought in more money than the senior players released in the last two summers: Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Willy Caballero. The unknowns and the understudies have proved a cash cow.
“I just think it is good business,” said City’s football administration officer Brian Marwood. “We are developing our assets and we are prepared to put a lot of resources so that player becomes a Man City player or he can have a very good career at a very good level.”
That level may not be City’s. “Realistically, would you have a team full of academy graduates? I don’t think you can in today’s game,” Marwood said. “But there is no reason why we can’t continue to develop players of the stature of Phil Foden.” The midfielder may yet become a regular at the Etihad Stadium, though Jadon Sancho decamped to Borussia Dortmund and debuted for England sooner.
He avoided the fate of the Chelsea products whose development stalled. If comparisons are obvious, City are understandably touchy about them. The Londoners may have a profitable football factory, but their academy products rarely progress to the first team. Potential is identified at other clubs but often goes unfulfilled. Yet there are common denominators among the nouveau riche, of young talents picked up, polished up, loaned out and sometimes sold.
City’s argument is that their investment stretches far beyond the purchase price and salary. “It would be quite mind-boggling if I gave you the sums in terms of what development costs,” Marwood added. “People have to understand there is a huge cost regarding this operation, to create and develop in football from an early age. Clearly, in any business if you have that cost you want to get a return on that.
“We are not the only ones who are doing it. There are other clubs and I am sure they start with the same premise as us of, ‘Can they play in Man City’s first team?’ Can we develop them to become a Man City, or Chelsea or Liverpool player? But if you can’t, then how do you create a better-value player?”
The difference with Liverpool, however, is that whereas they receive the occasional windfall for a key player, whether Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling or Luis Suarez, City have sold only Iheanacho and Alvaro Negredo for £20m or more in the Sheikh Mansour era. Others have left for less eye-catching fees. But collectively, they are starting to add up.
It is a model that the elite clubs, with their pulling power, facilities, relationships and, in City’s case, global network of sister outfits, are best placed to deploy. Marwood argued everyone benefits. “We create pathways for them and that is why loaning them to our partner club NAC Breda, loaning them to Girona, with the relationship we have with Celtic, we want to help grow our players.”
There was a time when Maffeo and Angelino may have been the successors to the four ageing full-backs Pep Guardiola inherited; instead, their fate was finalised by the £100m pair of Walker and Benjamin Mendy. City recouped £14m.
“We take them on this journey and at some point they stay with you or they leave,” said the former Arsenal winger Marwood. “And while they have gone for good money, they have gone to really good clubs. Angelino went to PSV Eindhoven. Pablo Maffeo went to Stuttgart.”
Perhaps it points to the future for Patrick Roberts, Tosin Adarabioyo, Marlos Moreno, Aleix and Manu Garcia, all loaned out now and potential departures who may fund a signing in a summer to come. It is the art of the footballing deal, finding a way to bolster the team without weakening the first-team squad. City have begun to excel at it. And as Marwood said: “If you want to call it a business, it is a good business.”
The father of Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany was elected as the first black mayor in Belgium after winning support in a Brussels commune.
Pierre Kompany, 71, is a mechanical engineer who was born in Congo and serves in the Brussels Regional Parliament. He ran for election in Ganshoren as a non-partisan candidate on a platform dedicated to cleaning up the environment and won 28.38 percent of the vote in results tallied on Sunday.
“Just for the guys abroad, he’s the first black mayor in Belgium,” Vincent Kompany said in a video he posted on Instagram. “It’s never happened before. It’s historic. We’re all happy. Congratulations to my dad.”
Pierre Kompany moved to Belgium as a refugee in 1975 and began his political career in 2006, serving as a councillor before being elected to the Brussels parliament in 2014. His party will form a coalition with two others to govern the town of about 25,000 people.
His elder son, Vincent, 32, joined City in 2008 and was appointed captain three years later, and his younger son, Francois, 29, plays for Roeselare in Belgium.
Two days before the election, Vincent Kompany bemoaned the “very little multiculturality in our dear government” and “a non-existent diversity at all levels of power in Belgium” in a post on Twitter.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola could see himself coaching in Serie A in the future.
Guardiola, who extended his contract with City through the end of the 2020-21 season in May, played for both Brescia and Roma in Serie A and was in Italy over the weekend to participate in the Festival dello Sport, where he was asked whether he could imagine returning as a coach one day.
“Why not?” he said as part of a podium discussion with Arrigo Sacchi and Carlo Ancelotti. “After my experience at Barcelona, who would have thought I’d go to [Bayern] Munich and Germany? Yet that happened.
“I overcame the arduous challenge of learning German, so everything is possible. I’ve coached in Spain, in Germany and now in England, so why couldn’t I coach in Italy? I don’t know what the future holds for me, but the food’s good here.”
Guardiola, who guided City to the Premier League title last season, ended his playing career in 2006. After coaching Barca for four seasons beginning in 2008-09, winning La Liga three times and the Champions League twice, he joined Bayern in 2013.
He won the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons with Bayern and made three Champions League semifinal appearances, then was appointed at City in 2016.
Guardiola later told reporters that his Brescia and Roma days made him feel at home in Italy, which is why a longer stay than just a weekend appeals to him.
“I come to Italy often, when I can, because I love this country,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends here. The Catalans and Spaniards are very similar to the people here — it’s a nice life, there’s the sun, and we like to enjoy or lives.”
The 22-year-old Manchester City player returned to the Germany setup in September, but was criticised by teammate Toni Kroos, who said his body language sometimes made it seem as if Sane didn’t care.
Addressing the media ahead of Germany’s UEFA Nations League matches against Netherlands and World champions France, Sane said that he has accepted the criticism and hopes it will make him better.
“If I play bad, then it’s not like I don’t care,” Sane said. “I always want us to win our games. It’s OK for me that it might look different for other people. I also respect it when criticism is addressed personally. I’ll then try to work on it.
“I don’t have any problem with criticism. It’s an incentive to refine myself.”
Sane said he was “disappointed” to have missed out on the World Cup, but he used the time off to think “about how to improve myself in all areas.”
With the game at 0-0 and just a handful of minutes remaining, Riyad Mahrez had a glorious chance to end Manchester City’s abysmal record at Anfield, where the champions haven’t won for 15 years.
Virgil van Dijk had been penalised for bringing down Leroy Sane in the box and City’s support, massed at that end of the ground, could barely hide their excitement — finally an opportunity to bury some of those memories, the decades of embarrassment and pain at this unyielding place. The party would be long and loud.
As Mahrez stepped up, television viewers were treated to a harrowing graphic showing the Algerian’s previous five attempts from the spot — three of which did not reach their intended target. The sixth would follow that trend. From the instant the shot left the winger’s boot it was destined for the crowd. It was still rising as it hit Row 30’s dismayed occupants.
Mahrez hung his head in shame — a shame made worse by the fact he had pushed teammate Gabriel Jesus aside in order to take the kick himself — and it rather summed up his start to life at the club.
Since arriving this summer as City’s most expensive transfer ever at £60 million, he has had a mixed time of things. Starting in the Community Shield romp over Chelsea, he soon found out that any slackness in Guardiola’s team sees you relegated to the bench quicker than you can attempt to say “sorry, boss” in Catalan.
With Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and two marauding full-backs already in situ, being a winger at City brings with it a duty to battle for your place with some of the Premier League’s finest performers.
But early signs with Mahrez are that he has been trying a little too hard to impress. In the first few games, his tendency to carry the ball too far, try one trick too many and hold off delivering to a teammate in the hope of opening a shooting chance for himself has been clear.
Mahrez has proved himself far from weak-hearted, however. A willingness to play his own game is the positive side of the rather negative point just made. He is brave and evidently full of conviction that he can cut it in the champions’ squad. A misplaced pass here and a failed shot there have not stopped him getting straight back into position and trying again. Hiding is not an option in his mind.
He had been similarly forceful when he made the switch from Le Havre to the East Midlands in 2014 to join Leicester in the Championship. There it only took him a few substitute appearances before he forced himself into manager Nigel Pearson’s first-team plans.
Having made it into the team that gained promotion, the Algerian’s first season in the top flight was one long struggle to adapt to the club’s new environment. Leicester’s great escape from relegation, winning six of their last eight games, saw him come to life, however, and the following season he reached altogether new heights as Leicester stormed to the unlikeliest of Premier League titles and he landed the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
In ruminating on the extreme pressure that kickstarted his wonderful form at Leicester, Mahrez may do well to reflect on what made him such a special player back then. Yes, his individual skills were incredible, but it was the team ethic that bonded the Foxes together.
While harnessing those exuberant skills on either flank, he has to come to terms with the Guardiola way at City. He is now just a small part of a well-oiled machine, rather than one of its essential cogs. Learning to channel those skills for the best use of his teammates may yet be the most important transition Mahrez will make in a career that has been on a steep rise for much of his time in England.
When he pushed Jesus away from the vital penalty kick at Anfield, Mahrez was making an individual statement born out of frustration due to his start to life at City. While Guardiola would later take the blame — saying: “I had been watching him [Mahrez] take penalties all week in training and it gave me a lot of confidence. Jesus wanted to take it. I apologise. It was my decision” — when you make that kind of statement you had better make sure you deliver.
Mahrez has a long way to go before he can consider himself top dog among City’s stars and his penalty miss only confirmed that twofold.
Real Madrid are monitoring Raheem Sterling’s situation at Manchester City as the England forward’s contract runs down, sources have told ESPN FC.
The 23-year-old is in the final two years of his contract with no sign of a new deal being agreed as yet. Sterling has also claimed he would be open to a move abroad at some point in his career.
“Definitely, it would be nice to play abroad. It would be a great experience. Spain’s attractive. Anywhere the weather is nice really,” Sterling said in December 2017.
However, ESPN FC has been told there is a willingness from both the club and the player for a new long-term contract at the Etihad as Madrid keep an eye on the situation.
While Madrid have yet to formally approach City, they are watching developments and there is a danger Sterling’s value will diminish when he enters the final 18 months of his contract after the January transfer window closes.
Sterling signed a five-year deal following his £49 million move from Liverpool in July 2015 and has made 150 appearances for the club, winning the Premier League title last season.
City have agreed extensions with Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson and Sergio Aguero over the past 12 months.
The transfer window for all of Europe’s big five leagues is closed, but that doesn’t stop Transfer Talk from rummaging around about who will be moving where come January.
City possess Sancho buy-back clause
Manchester City might not have lost Jadon Sancho and his outstanding potential for good, as they have a buy-back clause for the Borussia Dortmund winger.
Sancho’s stunning start to the season, including nine assists, has caught the eye of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea. But the Manchester Evening News claims that City hold the advantage, should the England international decide to return to England.
After receiving £8 million from Dortmund for the 18-year-old, City would have to pay considerably more to bring him back to the Etihad. Dortmund are thought to want £100 million for Sancho.
Barca line up De Ligt and receive Koulibaly price tag
Barcelona have identified Matthijs De Ligt for next summer to upgrade their defence.
The Ajax starlet is shining for Erik ten Hag this season, and with Gerard Pique’s erratic form, the Blaugrana are monitoring the 19-year-old’s progress. Indeed, De Ligt would appear to be a perfect fit for Barca, and he is now seen as more of a priority than fellow wunderkind Frenkie De Jong, says TV3.
With more than two years remaining on his contract, Barcelona face paying a huge fee for the centre-back. But having already impressed in the Champions League and with more than a decade left at the top in his career, the price could be worthwhile.
De Ligt’s value could appear more attractive when compared to that of Kalidou Koulibaly, who has distinguished himself as one of the most complete players for his position in European football. The Senegalese will require a hefty fee — at least €130 million, Sport reports — to convince Napoli to sell, though, with Sport reporting that Barcelona have heard back from the Italians after making an enquiry.
Spurs join Ndombele race
Tottenham have joined the race to sign Lyon star Tanguy Ndombele and plan to rival Manchester City in January, reports the Mirror.
After seeing a £40 million bid rejected in the summer, Spurs will return with an improved offer after failing to land a signing of any kind in the previous window.
The 21-year-old is set to cost in the region of £55 million, having broken into the France national team after a series of impressive displays for Lyon, including a dominant showing at the Etihad in their Champions League win over City.
— Jack Butland has split from his agent, a move that suggests the Stoke goalkeeper might be planning a move back to the Premier League, says the Telegraph. The 25-year-old has kept his place in the England squad despite playing in the Championship.
We were expecting entertainment but got very little. Still, you don’t need to spin too much for both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola to turn the scoreless draw at Anfield into a positive.
Klopp can say the result, after a very poor performance in Naples, shows his side have the mental strength to bounce back. And being on 20 points after eight games — including matches against Chelsea and Spurs away, plus City at home — is not a bad place to be. Particularly when you consider they’re also in a tough Champions League group.
Equally, Pep can say they avoided defeat (unlike last year) and that had Riyad Mahrez not skied his penalty over the bar, they’d have taken three points. (Incidentally, for all the criticism over Mahrez’s choice as penalty-taker, it’s worth noting that his record, three in seven, was marginally better than that of Gabriel Jesus, one in three, among those on the pitch. David Silva had also taken a penalty six years ago and missed it.)
Both are right, and the only losers are neutral fans who wanted more entertainment. That said, I’d suggest Guardiola is slightly better off right now than Klopp.
Roberto Firmino had a difficult game, and when that happens, the whole front three tends to falter. And given the lack of creativity in midfield, that becomes a problem against teams who sit deep. Whether it’s getting the best out of Naby Keita, using Xherdan Shaqiri in certain situations or maybe getting a boost when Adam Lallana returns, Klopp will want to find a Plan B that can offer a bit more invention.
As for City, it felt as if there were times in the first half when Bernardo and David Silva were playing alongside Fernandinho, who himself was just a few yards ahead of the center-backs. The “central density” worked, bottling up Firmino and severely limiting Liverpool’s attacking output. If you can do this without packing your lineup with goons and holding midfielders, it’s a huge asset, one we perhaps didn’t see often enough from City last season, particularly in Europe. It speaks to the ability to defend leads and be patient, as well as varying your style of play without having to resort to substitutions.
It’s not fun to watch, but there will be certain matches when it’s an invaluable quality.
Kovac needs to fix Bayern quickly
Saturday’s horror show — a 3-0 home pasting at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach — makes it four games on the bounce without a win for Nico Kovac’s Bayern. This is where you get to point out that after seven Bundesliga games, they are sixth, four points off the top of the table, with 13 points, 12 goals scored and eight conceded. A year ago, Carlo Ancelotti had played six Bundesliga games when he got fired. He also had 13 points (in one fewer match), had scored 14 and given up five. Oh, and they were third at the time, just three points off the top.
Will Kovac suffer the same fate? My sense is “no,” not now anyway. Sacking a coach after 11 games would be a serious humiliation for the folks who appointed him, but it’s obvious that something needs to change. Kovac’s version of 4-1-4-1 with Thiago Alcantara(!) as the lone holding midfielder only works if the four attacking midfielders run themselves into the ground and work hard. That’s a huge ask when your four are Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller, Leon Goretzka and James Rodriguez. Anything less than high energy and synchronised movements and your back four gets exposed, which happened time and again this weekend.
Kovac needs to rethink this or Bayern will rethink it for him — with a different boss.
Mourinho isn’t “safe” because of Saturday’s win
I don’t buy the narrative that Jose Mourinho “saved his job” because Manchester United came back to win 3-2 on Saturday. You would hope that in a grownup organization, decisions aren’t made based on the latest result. If you believe Mourinho is progressing this United team — or even if you just want to buy yourself time while you find a replacement — you keep him regardless of the result. If you think things are beyond repair, you get rid of him.
Certainly a chaotic performance in which you go 2-0 down in the opening 10 minutes, see your experienced (but out-of-position) right-back make two crucial errors, substitute a center-back after 19 minutes (and replace him with a midfielder), give up a whole gaggle of chances and only win because you have superior firepower and you’re playing United is not something that inspires confidence.
Nor do I buy Mourinho’s postmatch implication that the “manhunting” caused his players to be scared and unsettled, or his complaints about “wickedness” in football. You’re the manager of Manchester United, you’ve managed equally big clubs before, you know full well that part of the reason you get paid close to $25 million a year is because folks think you are better at shouldering the responsibility when your team — the one you assembled, the one you work with every day, the one you pick and instruct — underachieves.
The worst things people have said about Mourinho’s United tenure is that he made mistakes, plays bad football and gets poor results. You can agree or disagree, citing all the mitigating factors he might bring up when he gets sacked (“wicked players, wicked Woodward, wicked referees, wicked media, wicked Glazers”), but the bottom line is that this does not amount to “wickedness.”
How did Newcastle not get a penalty?
Here’s a detail from that United game that may have gotten lost. With five minutes to go in the first half and Manchester United 2-0 down, Jonjo Shelvey’s indirect free kick hits Ashley Young (who was in the wall) in the arm. It may or may not have been a penalty (a classic “I’ve seen them given” situation) but what’s extraordinary is that referee Anthony Taylor does not even give a corner kick.
Unless he thinks Shelvey is so bad at striking a dead ball that he actually shanked it wide, some 10 yards before the near post, there’s only one possible explanation for this: Taylor was looking elsewhere, most likely in the box, trying to spot shirt-pulling or fouls.
Surely referees are equipped for these situations, perhaps taking up positions where they have a better vantage point? And surely, their three assistants (the two linesmen and the fourth official) are paying enough attention that they can see a free kick hit a wall and go out for a corner?
Real weren’t great but Alaves are a tough out: they’re level on points, two off the top. Julen Lopetegui didn’t help matters with the four-man midfield and the Karim Benzema-Gareth Bale partnership up front, but the injuries at full-back still hurt, as does the absence of Isco. He’s the key to what Lopetegui wants to do.
Mbappe, PSG look like a team
The headlines belong to Kylian Mbappe after Paris Saint-Germain’s 5-0 thrashing of Lyon, and that’s fair enough when you score four goals in 13 minutes, bringing your seasonal total to 10, and haven’t even celebrated your 20th birthday yet. Truth be told, Mbappe could have had six or seven against Olympique Lyonnais: that’s how out-of-control dominant he was.
But equally significant, I think, is that once again PSG looked like a team. Not just any team, a Thomas Tuchel team. And they did it against OL, probably the toughest opponent (Liverpool aside) they’ve faced thus far, and while going down to 10 men in the first half.
PSG are already eight points clear at the top. The home-and-away clash with Napoli and the re-match with Liverpool will tell us whether they’re for real or not.
Barcelona’s biggest worry? Dependence on Messi
Barcelona have their own streak of futility — four league games without a win — broken up only by victory at Wembley in the Champions League against an injury-riddled Tottenham side. You don’t want to exaggerate the significance of the draw at the Mestalla — Valencia away, despite the gaudy “one-win-in-eight-La-Liga-games” stat, is a tough opponent — but equally there is plenty for Ernesto Valverde to work on.
Luis Suarez has gone more than 500 minutes without scoring and more importantly, he looks well below form. The focus is on defending — since September, Barca have kept one clean sheet in eight games — and sure, Gerard Pique hasn’t been good while Tomas Vermaelen is what he is: Barca’s fourth-best center-back.
I’d be more concerned with how ponderous and Messi-dependent they are at the other end.
Alcacer shows why Dortmund brought him in
Borussia Dortmund maintained their lead atop of the Bundesliga table in the most dramatic way possible. For once, Lucien Favre’s master plan wasn’t working. With an hour gone, they were a goal down at home to Augsburg who had, for much of the game, out-played them. Favre sent on Paco Alcacer, who immediately pulled one back, only for Augsburg to take the lead again through Alfred Finnbogason.
Then things got really wild. Alcacer grabbed another and Dortmund took the lead through Mario Gotze, another sub who was playing his first Bundesliga minutes of the season. It would have been a wonderful feel-good story after what he’s been through but no, Augsburg equalised through the big man, Michael Gregoritsch. Then, in the sixth minute of injury time, Alcacer notched the winner.
That’s seven goals in 174 minutes this season for the former Barcelona forward. My guess is he gets a start next game…
Juve are dominant right now
Juventus’ perfect start (on the pitch anyway…) to the season continued as they made it 10 out of 10 in all competitions with an easy 2-0 win away to Udinese. Their opponents focused on shutting up shop but this is a Juve side that can break you down physically as well and they rode the muscle of Rodrigo Bentancur and Cristiano Ronaldo to a straight-forward win.
Bentancur showed he deserves to be part of the midfield rotation, Dybala was effective in the hole and Joao Cancelo continues to go from strength to strength at right-back. They’re making the transition from merely winning to dominating sooner than many expected.
Arsenal make it nine in a row
It’s now nine wins in a row in all competitions for Arsenal, following the 5-1 drubbing of Fulham. Granted, they haven’t exactly played top competition in that stretch, nor have they played particularly well. But there were moments in that second half when they were simply dazzling, none more so than for Aaron Ramsey’s goal.
Unai Emery’s project is still a long way from fruition but days like these give you the confidence to build and make tough decisions — something he’ll need to do.
Praise for league-leading Sevilla
Few would have expected Sevilla, of all clubs, to sit at the top of the Liga standings. Not after a summer that saw them lose Clement Lenglet and Steven Nzonzi with their four biggest signings (Quincy Promes, Ibrahim Amadou, Joris Gnagnon and Aleix Vidal) starting just three Liga games between them.
But the 2-1 win over Celta makes it four in a row (with 14 goals scored to boot) and enabled them to jump to the top of La Liga. Pablo Machin is living up to the hype he generated at Girona and seems totally unfazed by the size of the job. At this rate, expect him to get the “next big thing” tag real soon.
Inter reaping the benefits of Spalletti
Mauro Icardi’s two goals gave Inter the win at SPAL, making it six in a row in all competitions for Luciano Spalletti’s crew. It wasn’t perfect — Miranda looked shaky at the back, without Marcelo Brozovic this team struggles to create, Ivan Perisic was his usual up-and-down self — but there are two key takeaways that bode well.
One is that the players evidently buy what Spalletti is selling. The character and unity they showed are not qualities you take for granted in an Inter side (or any team, for that matter). The other is that Spalletti still has the old magic whereby he throws a tactical curveball when chasing a game, as he did by sending on Lautaro Martinez late and switching to a 4-2-4.
There’s room for improvement, but the building blocks are there. Roll on the derby…
Atletico Madrid are back on track
Perhaps there’s no team in football as good at winning ugly than Atletico Madrid. Except that when they do it, it’s often by design and Diego Simeone can see the beauty in it more than most. On Sunday, they asphyxiated Quique Setien’s Betis and it didn’t matter that they didn’t create much either: the difference in the end was Angel Correa’s long-range strike.
Nikola Kalinic, replacing the injured Diego Costa, did his part and the Wanda crowd did theirs. After the poor start to the season, they are very much in the mix, one point off the top. “Cholismo” is alive and well.
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has been named among 30 nominees for the men’s Ballon d’Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine.
The Portugal captain has won the award for the past two years and five times in all, a record he shares with Argentina’s Lionel Messi who is also on the list announced on Monday.
European champions Real Madrid dominate the nominees with eight players, including Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Wales forward Gareth Bale.
Modric won the Golden Ball as the best player at this year’s World Cup in Russia, where Croatia finished runners-up, and last month claimed FIFA’s The Best men’s player award, given to the world’s top player.
Bale scored twice in the Champions League final win over Liverpool.
France World Cup winners Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, one of the Real Madrid contingent, and captain Hugo Lloris have also been nominated.
A panel of journalists select the winner of the Ballon d’Or, which was first established in 1956 and will this year feature a women’s award for the first time, to be decided from a shortlist of 15 players.
The award merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year prize from 2010-15 to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or, but returned to France Football in 2016 while FIFA established The Best awards.
The magazine also unveiled the 10-man shortlist for the Kopa Award, given to the best under-21 player in the world.
Ronaldo and Messi will be among the panelists deciding the winner.
Kylian Mbappe leads the names after a successful year with PSG and France, while Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is also nominated.
United States and Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic is on the list, as well as AC Milan duo Patrick Cutrone and Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, Groningen’s Ritsu Doan, Red Bull Salzburg’s Amadou Haidara, Roma’s Justin Kluivert, and Santos’ Rodrygo complete the list.
FIFA’s The Best winner Marta, United States’ Megan Rapinoe and Australia’s Sam Kerr are are among the names on the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.
UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Pernille Harder and U.S. international Lindsey Horan are both nominated, as well as England duo Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby.
Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg, Amandine Henry, Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Amel Majri and Wendy Renard are all nominated.
Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Netherlands’ Lieke Martens also received nominations.
The winners of the prestigious men’s and women’s awards will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on Dec. 3.
2018 Men’s Ballon d’Or nominees:
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)
Alisson (Roma/Liverpool and Brazil)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay)
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Real Madrid and Belgium)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Juventus and Portugal)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)
Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)
Isco (Real Madrid and Spain)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur and England)
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham and France)
Mario Mandzukic (Juventus and Croatia)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)
Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil)
Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)
Neymar (PSG and Brazil)
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid and Slovenia)
Paul Pogba (Manchester United and France)
Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona and Croatia)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain)
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Uruguay)
Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid and France)
2018 Kopa Award nominees:
Houssem Aouar (Lyon and France)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool and England)
Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan and Italy)
Ritsu Doan (Groningen and Japan)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan and Italy)
Amadou Haidara (Red Bull Salzburg and Mali)
Justin Kluivert (Ajax/AS Roma and Netherlands)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund and United States)
Cristiano Ronaldo leads the second set of Men’s Ballon d’Or nominations as France Football release their list of 30 at staggered intervals throughout the day.
The Juventus forward helped Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title in May, scoring 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions in his final season at the club.
The individual honour, which is European football’s oldest having been awarded every year since 1956, has been won by either Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for the past 10 years — with each winning a record five.
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is also among the nominees after winning the Premier League, Carabao Cup and Community Shield, while also playing a major role in helping Belgium finish third at the World Cup.
Fellow Belgium international Thibaut Courtois is also on the list despite a shaky start to life at Real Madrid, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino receives a nomination after their run to the Champions League final.
Uruguay captain Diego Godin completes the second set of nominations after winning the Europa League with Atletico Madrid.
Sergio Aguero was the first nominee on Monday morning after scoring 26 goals in 33 games in 2018 for club and country as Manchester City won three trophies.
He was followed by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, who made a then-world record transfer to the club after helping Roma to the Champions League semifinals.
Then came Gareth Bale, who scored twice in the Champions League final — along with Real Madrid teammate and fellow scorer, Karim Benzema.
Paris Saint-German forward Edinson Cavani — who came 11th in last year’s poll — completed the quintet.
MANCHESTER, England — Raheem Sterling has to learn to cope with facing the abuse he receives when he returns to Anfield, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said.
Sterling, 23, has been booed during each game at Liverpool since his acrimonious move to City in 2015.
He has never produced his best form at his old club — losing all four games with City — and was a substitute for their most recent clash in April, when City were beaten 3-0 in the Champions League quarterfinal.
“The reason why last time he didn’t [start] — the only time he didn’t [start] — was for another reason, a tactical movement, so Kyle Walker can attack more on the right side than him,” Guardiola said at a news conference. “That was always the plan. But I don’t think about [the abuse] because even, if that happens, being so young, maybe it affects him, maybe it doesn’t. I didn’t speak with him. He has to learn to [deal] with that.
“When he is a player for a long time with us, hopefully he will be for a long time with us, he will go many, many times to Anfield. That is normal he will go out there. He has many good memories of his period there. Of course, the Liverpool fans want him to play bad and he wants to play good, but I won’t [leave him out] for that reason.”
City also have a terrible record at Anfield, losing 12 of their last 17 visits with their last victory in 2003. And striker Sergio Aguero has failed to score away against Liverpool in nine previous visits — seven with City and two with former club Atletico Madrid.
Aguero has been playing through the pain of a sore heel in recent weeks, but Guardiola has no doubts about his ability to produce at Anfield as long as he has opportunities.
“It’s football,” Guardiola said. “Only when the team play better and play good the striker has more chances to score goals. When I see one player take the ball and dribble past three, four or five players and score the goal, it depends on him. We have many of them. We have to build something as a team.
“In that situation, we help strikers when that happens. Maybe we didn’t help him like a team and help him to score more goals.”
It is the biggest game of the Premier League season so far: Liverpool versus Manchester City, the top two, locked together on 19 points from seven games and both boasting unbeaten records.
A win for either team would be a huge psychological blow in the race for the title and mark them out as early favourites to finish on top. So will be Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola, Mohamed Salah or Sergio Aguero, who make the difference at Anfield on Sunday? And what are the key factors that will decide the outcome of the game?
The battle of the bosses: Klopp vs. Guardiola
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have faced each other on 14 previous occasions, with the Liverpool manager Klopp winning seven encounters. Guardiola has won five, with two draws making up the numbers.
Klopp’s statistics have been boosted significantly by three successive victories against Guardiola’s City team already in 2018 and there is a real sense going into this weekend’s game that the German has cracked the code when it comes to nullifying Guardiola’s teams.
Under Klopp, Liverpool swarm their opponents in the attacking third and deny them time on the ball, a tactic that has repeatedly caused City problems. Guardiola will have spent hours attempting to devise a plan to swing the pendulum back in his favour against Klopp. For these reasons, the tactical battle will be an intriguing element of the game.
The strengths and weaknesses
Both teams can be irresistible going forward, with the respective goal threat of Liverpool and City the biggest weapon for both teams.
City put five past Liverpool at the Etihad last season — albeit against a 10-man Liverpool following the dismissal of Sadio Mane — but Klopp’s team won 4-3 at Anfield in January before scoring three times without reply in the Champions League quarterfinal first-leg last season.
Defensively, both teams can be too open, but Liverpool have improved considerably in that department following the additions of goalkeeper Alisson and centre-half Virgil van Dijk.
Both sides have been able to exploit weaknesses down the flanks against each other, but these are two teams without glaring weaknesses. The end result is usually down to which team hits its stride quickest.
Which player will decide the game?
It’s stating the obvious to suggest that the game will rest on whether Salah or Aguero scores the most goals. Both forwards are crucial to their respective teams, but the reality is that the key figures are further back in each side.
For Liverpool, Van Dijk’s presence is crucial. The £75 million centre-half gives his team solidity and organisation at the back. He can also dictate the tempo from his position at the heart of the defence. Simply put: If Van Dijk plays well, Liverpool usually win.
For City, David Silva remains the man who makes them tick, particularly without the injured Kevin De Bruyne. Silva can pick holes in the Liverpool defence if he is allowed to glide unchecked between the midfield and attacking lines and seems the most likely architect of any City victory.
The players you don’t notice
Call this the “James Milner factor.” The likes of Salah, Aguero and Raheem Sterling may claim the spotlight, but the secret of both teams is the work done by those players who often go unnoticed.
Milner, who left City for Liverpool in 2015 to secure regular football, is in the form of his life at the age of 32, giving Klopp’s team experience, reliability and tenacity in the heart of midfield. The former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder is never less than a 7/10 performer, his contribution rubbing off on the likes of Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who are also key to Liverpool’s sparkling start to the season.
For City, Fernandinho is the glue that holds it all together in the heart of the team. At 33, he remains a crucial figure. Fabian Delph has also become a key man at full-back, while Kyle Walker’s energy and pace down the right flank is another huge part of City’s game.
City’s woeful record at Anfield
There are some things that just cannot be explained and City’s results in Liverpool are an anomaly that hangs over the team whenever they make the short trip to the red half of Merseyside.
City have not won at Anfield since May 2003, losing 15 of their 21 trips to the stadium during the Premier League era. Last season, Guardiola’s team suffered their first league defeat at Anfield and were also crushed 3-0 in the Champions League in front of The Kop.
So they will travel to Liverpool this weekend knowing that they must draw a line under their losing history at Anfield and find a way to banish the negative thoughts that come with such a dismal sequence of results.
Can Salah find his form?
Salah scored three goals in four games against Manchester City last season and his performances against Guardiola’s team were some of his best of a stunning campaign. But the Egyptian has started slowly this season, scoring just three times so far, and he goes into Sunday’s game without a goal in three matches.
It is hardly a barren run but when compared to Salah’s output last season, it is perhaps a worry when placed alongside his below-par performances. Salah has yet to hit his stride and he was poor against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week.
Liverpool need him firing on all cylinders against City if they are win.
The value of a top goalkeeper
There is an old adage that you cannot win a league title without a reliable goalkeeper. After struggling between the sticks with the unconvincing Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, Liverpool finally sorted their keeper situation by signing Alisson Becker from Roma. The Brazil number one has given Liverpool a genuinely commanding presence in goal.
Ederson, Alisson’s understudy for Brazil, made a similar impact at City last season after arriving from Benfica to replace the erratic Claudio Bravo. A good goalkeeper gives a team confidence and a sense of security, and although both Alisson and Ederson take risks, they have both made their teams stronger by their presence.
So who will win?
Liverpool go into the game having lost their momentum on the back of three outings without a win. The Champions League defeat against Napoli in Italy on Wednesday, when they conceded in the 90th minute, may have undermined the team’s morale. How Liverpool respond to that setback will be an interesting element to Sunday’s game.
Despite going top of the league last weekend, Man City have also yet to hit the heights of last season, so they do not travel to Anfield in peerless form either.
It is a tough one to call, but with Salah struggling for goals and Liverpool without a win in three, City will believe they can end their Anfield hoodoo.
WALLDORF, Germany — Pep Guardiola has ruled out any chance of a move for Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe insisting “that is not going to happen.”
Reports suggested that Manchester City were planning a £200 million move for the World Cup-winning striker with the French champions potentially facing Financial Fear Play issues.
“That is not going to happen,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City’s Champions League clash with German side Hoffenheim. “Sometimes I don’t understand where that news comes from.
“Man City doesn’t have or is going to spend the money that Mbappe and PSG deserve. PSG is not going to sell this kind of player to any other sort of club in the next years, I guess. So that is not going to happen. Mbappe is not going to come here and we are not going to swap Raheem [Sterling] or any other top player that we have.
“People should be more respectful of PSG, respectful of Manchester City, for the players from PSG, for the players from Man City, they should have more respect.
“Of course I am the second person to know exactly which players are targets, which players I want to sell or something like that. But it is what it is.”
The City manager will have striker Sergio Aguero available for Tuesday’s crucial game with Hoffenheim despite the Argentine still suffering from a heel problem, which has troubled him in recent weeks.
Kevin De Bruyne returned to full training on Monday morning as he continues his recovery from a knee ligament injury but the trip to the Bundesliga side has come too early for the midfielder. Meanwhile, injured full-backs Benjamin Mendy and Fabian Delph were also left behind.
Guardiola is desperate for a win after their shock defeat to Lyon in their Group F opener at the Etihad Stadium two weeks ago. City were overwhelming favourites to qualify from the group, but the Spaniard, who has won the competition twice, says a difficult group stage could be a timely reminder of how tough the competition is.
“It’s so tough,” Guardiola said. “In the last five or six years we’ve made a step forward — maybe we need to live a moment [like this] in the competition, the last two seasons when I’m here and we qualified quite comfortably.
“Maybe you have to realise that you suffer in the group stage to realise and make a step forward. If we were not able to do that, it’s because we are not good enough and we must prepare much better for next season.”
Captain Vincent Kompany knows how difficult the competition is to win, having never progressed beyond the semifinals in his nine years at the club.
The Belgian is in the final year of his contract and would love to add a European medal to his City collection, which includes three Premier League titles.
“I’d love to win it with City, but it’s such a tough competition to win,” he said. “It’s okay to say we want to win it but there’s other teams who are just as well-equipped to win it.
“We’ve got to deal with the fact we lost to Lyon and worry about Hoffenheim and then if we get momentum, anything is possible.
“It’s the last step we haven’t achieved yet and the club is always aiming to progress.”
Pep Guardiola has said that he is not afraid of Liverpool ahead of Manchester City’s trip to Anfield next Sunday — despite his side losing their last three encounters with Jurgen Klopp’s men.
City were beaten twice by Liverpool in the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League, while they also lost 4-3 at Anfield in the Premier League in January.
They are winless at Anfield since May 2003 — a run of 17 games in all competitions — but Guardiola said he expects his team to fight for a result.
“I believe too much in that team, in those guys,” he said. “I know how they fight. Go to Anfield, win, lose, whatever. It’s a long time ago Man City was able to win at Anfield. What I want to see is the team alive, and we are alive.
“If they beat us three times, they are a good side. They lost the first game in the Carabao Cup [against Chelsea last week] but at Anfield they score a lot of goals, they don’t concede.
“Now it’s Hoffenheim [on Tuesday in the Champions League], and after that we are going to prepare [for Liverpool], and after that we’re going to prepare for Burnley. At the end, we’re going to see what happened at the end of the season.”
Liverpool face Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday before looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season against City.