Cagliari coach called me a monkey

Ex-Cagliari striker Fafa Picault has accused the club’s Primavera coach at the time of ‘calling me a monkey or telling me I need to go back to the jungle’.

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Picault began his playing career with Cagliari, playing for the Rossoblu between 2006 and 2011, and has since forged a career in MLS.

Now, the 29-year-old – born in New York to Haitian parents – has suggested that he left Italy due to suffering sickening racist abuse in Sardinia.

“You have different forms of racism,” he said during a live Facebook broadcast.

“I’ve dealt with it differently in different locker rooms and in stadiums. When I moved to Italy I was about 16 and I moved up to the first team around 17 years old.

“I was split between what a lot of young players do where you train with the first team and go back and play reserve games with the reserve team.

“Our coach at the time with the reserve team was probably one of the worst people I’ve met.

“Daily, I had to deal with him calling me a monkey or telling me I need to go back to the jungle in Africa, black players don’t have technique, you’re just fast, go run, we brought you here to run.

“He didn’t bring me, the President brought me, but he said that’s what I was brought for.

“When we would train he would just say anything that was nasty. If I told a younger guy to do something he would say: ‘No, you have to do it because you’re black.’

“I would have monkey stickers posted in my locker at times and I was getting in fist fights maybe twice a week.

“I was managing that with AP classes back home that I was finishing online and also still have to perform on the soccer field – which was probably the easiest part.

“The easiest part was the soccer at the time.”

Cagliari fans have also gained notoriety for racially abusing Blaise Matuidi, Moise Kean and Romelu Lukaku in the last two years.

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Tacopina: ‘Pallotta lacks Roma passion’

Former Roma vice-president and current President of Venezia Joe Tacopina blasted James Pallotta. ‘You need to dedicate time and passion to Roma, I hope he sells the club.’

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Tacopina was part of the board of directors who originally took over Roma from Rosella Sensi back in 2011 and he left in 2014 for a new experience at Bologna, eventually leading Venezia from 2015.

“I bleed Giallorossi colours, Roma remains the club in my heart and when I became their vice-president it was one of the best days of my life,” 54-year-old American businessman Tacopina told Tele Radio Stereo.

“Roma aren’t just a club to be controlled, you have to connect with people, you need passion. Pallotta is a very good manager, he has money, but you need to dedicate time and passion to Roma.

“It’s not enough just to come to Rome every couple of months, spend three days here and then leave. It kills me to see no trophies have arrived in 10 years, because I started this project. I was already working to buy Roma in 2008 with George Soros and then Unicredit. We finally managed it in 2011 with Baldissoni and DiBenedetto.

“I am very surprised that Roma haven’t won anything, as the club spent so much, the squad is worthy of the Champions League, so it’s incredible they haven’t even managed a Coppa Italia or a pre-season tournament.”

Pallotta was in advanced negotiations to sell the club to the Friedkin Group, but instead turned down their offer last week, further infuriating the Roma fans.

“I hope he sells to a group that can take Roma back to the top, that can have the ambition of winning the Scudetto or being competitive in the Champions League,” continued Tacopina.

“If the opportunity should arise, I’d be honoured to return and give my contribution to Roma. I do think the COVID-19 crisis has wiped about 20-25 per cent off the value of the club, so what Pallotta was asking for in January is just not feasible now.”

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Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Diego Costa rediscovers golden touch as Simon and Oblak save the day

Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid returned to action with a 1-1 draw at San Mames Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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Iker Muniain opened the scoring with a deft flick from a Yuri cross after 37 minutes, but Atletico hit break almost immediately, with Diego Costa finishing a Koke through-ball after Saul Niguez had intercepted an Athletic clearance.

Goalkeepers Unai Simon and Jan Oblak both had to pull off top-class saves throughout the course of the match, but what did we learn from the action in the Basque region?

1. Costa rediscovers golden touch
He still battles like a lion, contests every refereeing decision like his entire career depends on it and provides a lot of quality to Atletico’s build-up, but it’s safe to say Costa’s second spell with the club after returning from Chelsea in 2017 hasn’t been anywhere near as prolific as his first.

Diego Costa’s last three LaLiga seasons with Atletico Madrid during his second stint with the club:

His first LaLiga goal since October 2019. pic.twitter.com/oEbmJRSpJT

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 14, 2020

Ahead of Sunday’s match in Bilbao, the 31-year-old had managed just seven goals in 44 La Liga appearances across the past two-and-a-half seasons and hadn’t netted in the league since October last year.

But you can’t keep a good striker down forever. In the 39th minute, mere moments after his side had gone behind, Costa received a clever through-ball in the box from Koke after Saul had intercepted a clearance. The former Chelsea striker needed no second invitation to slide the ball beyond Unai Simon to give Simeone’s men an immediate reply.

Diego Costa celebrated his goal by holding up the shirt of Atletico women’s player Virginia Torrecilla, who had a brain tumour removed in May ? pic.twitter.com/60vma8oVO0

— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 14, 2020

Given that Atletico had scored the sixth-lowest number of goals (31) in La Liga prior to Sunday’s match, an in-form Costa post-lockdown could prove vital to their hopes of securing Champions League football for next season.

2. Inaki Williams continues remarkable appearance streak
Given their “Cantera” policy of only recruiting players of Basque origin, it’s a given that Athletic Club produce a remarkably high number of talents from their youth academy.

Inaki Williams is just another in a long list of names to emerge at the Basque club and on Sunday, he lined up once again in Bilbao’s forward line for the 147th consecutive La Liga game. One-hundred-and-forty-seven games, no injuries, no suspensions. That’s an incredible tally — a club record — neatly started with a home match against Atletico Madrid back in April 2017.

Iñaki Williams has now played in 147 consecutive LaLiga games without missing a single one for Athletic Club.

???-???????-???-?????-?????. ? pic.twitter.com/JWaOQycPHD

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 14, 2020

Manchester United were just one of the clubs linked with Williams last year, while Barcelona were rumoured to be looking at him as a solution to their recent striker shortage, However, if Williams’ words — and a new nine-year contract — are anything to go by, he won’t be breaking this appearance streak anytime soon.

“Barca is Barca, they have Messi, the best player in the world, but Athletic is above everything for me,” he said in February.

3. Saul the midfield engine
As usual, Atletico were happy to surrender most of the possession to Athletic Club on Sunday and, as usual, that meant a disciplined, energetic and tenacious defensive effort was required to keep the opposition at bay. Leading that charge was Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez.

Saul has been fantastic once again this season, becoming a perfect representation of everything Atletico Madrid stand for under Simeone and on Sunday, he was again at his impressive best.

Saúl Ñíguez in the first half against Athletic Club:

During the first half, he contested 13 duels, 11 aerial duels, made six recoveries and completed three interceptions — more than any other player on the pitch. In fact, it was his interception of a Yeray Alvarez clearance which led to Atletico’s equaliser, while his presence left of centre allowed Yannick Carrasco and Renan Lodi to push forward far more aggressively to cause Bilbao problems down that flank.

He didn’t let up after the break, either, finishing the match having gained possession 10 times for his side — more than any other Atletico player.

Saul’s defensive action area map vs Athletic Club
Alongside Koke, Thomas Partey and Diego Llorente, Saul obviously forms just one part of a top-class Atletico Madrid midfield. However, given his gargantuan efforts, you often get the feeling the whole thing would just come apart if it wasn’t for him.

4. Copa del Rey remains Athletic Club’s best route into Europe
Defeat to Atletico Madrid on Sunday would have been disastrous to Athletic Club’s league position — Simeone’s side are eight points clear of the Basque side and ahead of kick-off, occupying sixth-place — the final Europa League spot.

Reaching the Europa League through their La Liga form now seems beyond Bilbao — even Valencia in seventh are six points clear and there’s the small matter of Villarreal and Granada occupying eighth and ninth, too.

But there is, of course, the small matter of a Basque derby with Real Sociedad to come in the Copa del Rey final. Victory there will offer Bilbao a backdoor into the Europa League and given their rich history in that competition, qualification could open up all sorts of possibilities for next season.

5. Goalkeepers to the rescue
To say this game was a thriller would be overstating it. Sure, it was entertaining and tactically fascinating, but goalmouth action was relatively sparse throughout the 90 minutes. That said, it still required some moments of brilliance from both goalkeepers to ensure the sides shared the spoils.

In the first half, Jan Oblak made two big saves while the score was still 0-0. First, he was able to get in the way of a Williams header, gratefully collecting it into his chest at the second attempt. Then, just a few minutes later, he leapt across brilliantly to save a Yeray Alvarez header after Muniain had delivered a wicked cross to the heart of the Atletico defence. A top-class moment from arguably the world’s greatest goalkeeper.

In the second half, it was Unai Simon’s chance to show his shot-stopping quality. Initially, he struggled to deal with a Lodi delivery across his box — as proactive as he was in getting a hand to it, he diverted it right into the path of the onrushing Santiago Arias at the far post. Arias fired a wicked shot toward goal which looked destined to ripple the back of the net, only for Simon to get across and block the effort at close range. Had Lodi scored, that would surely have been curtains for Bilbao in this one.

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How Schalke’s current side just did the club’s team of ’93 a big favour in 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen draw

Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga on Sunday afternoon.

The hosts, who fielded their youngest starting XI in the league since December 2016, were seemingly on course to grab a much-needed win but Leverkusen managed to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat.

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Leverkusen subsequently find themselves sitting in the Champions League places with destiny firmly in their hands. As for the Royal Blues, it’s another game without tasting victory.

Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.

Winner: Wendell
Having an industrious full-back that loves to get forward is a major plus in the modern game. Leverkusen are fortunate to call upon uncapped Brazilian left-back Wendell, who in recent weeks has forced his way back into Peter Bosz’s lineup. After Sunday’s performance, the chances of him being dropped must be low.Wendell was involved in everything Leverkusen did positively. No one on the pitch touched the ball more times (144), and he played a key role in their equaliser. His cut-back seemed destined for compatriot Paulinho, who had just come on moments earlier, but it was blocked. That being said, Juan Miranda — Wendell’s opposite number — inadvertently put the ball into his own net.

Loser: Kai Havertz
A few months ago, Bayer Leverkusen manager Bosz stated that midfielder Kai Havertz will command a transfer fee of €100m, a belief very few would disagree with given his unquestionable talent and upside. The native of Aachen, who turned 21 a few days earlier, had been making transfer headlines with a number of Europe’s superclubs reportedly keen to acquire his signature this summer.

Sunday’s game in Gelsenkirchen was a comeback of sorts after he missed Leverkusen’s last two games due to injury. With all eyes on him to make an immediate impact after returning to Bosz’s starting line-up, Havertz was uncharacteristically subdued, losing possession and not being his usual threat in the final third. He’d ultimately play 70 minutes before making way for Kevin Volland.

Kutucu wasn’t the youngest player on the pitch, that distinct honour went to 19-year-old Can Bozdogan. Though nominally a central midfielder, the fearless teen was fielded on the left flank in an orthodox 4-4-2 and to say he played beyond his years would be an understatement.

Making his full debut, Bozdogan showed great awareness and composure, while never being afraid to play an ambitious ball. He completed three take-ons and created a single chance, modest figures no doubt, but as many as any of his teammates. This impressive first outing, which lasted 69 minutes, surely brings a smile to supporters’ faces.

Loser: VAR
Ever-present since joining from Vitória Guimarães earlier this year, Edmond Tapsoba has seldom put a foot wrong for Bayer Leverkusen, that couldn’t be said moments after the break when on-field referee Daniel Siebert, via the aid of VAR, adjudged him to have committed a handball offence after Jonjoe Kenny’s cross into the penalty area.

Football Manager | Squawka Ultimate U21 XIREAD MORE: Squawka’s ultimate U-21 XI face Europe’s elite on Football Manager
However, on closer inspection, it felt like a harsh call as it seemed Tapsoba was pushed into the ball. Ironically, without the video assistant referee, it wouldn’t have been given. Daniel Caligiuri, who duly converted, wasn’t complaining as Schalke need all the brakes they can get right now.

Winner: Schalke’s ’93 team
Former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner was feeling it heading into this weekend. Wagner had overseen a run of 12 league matches without a win, accumulating five points in the process, which equalled a club record from 27 years ago. Being dragged into a relegation battle is now out of the question, thankfully, but it hasn’t been pretty.

+++ ABPFIFF +++

Schalke und @bayer04fussball trennen sich mit 1:1 ⚖️#S04 | ?⚪️ | #S04B04 pic.twitter.com/EFA5s7VB9q

— FC Schalke 04 (?) (@s04) June 14, 2020

Knowing that he was desperate for all three points, Wagner wasn’t counting his chickens before they hatched and that proved the correct decision when Leverkusen forced an equaliser inside the final ten minutes. His team’s misfortune subsequently means their 1993 team no longer owns the club’s longest Bundesliga winless streak.

Loser: Ahmed Kutucu
You can forgive Ahmed Kutucu for fluffing his lines with the game being two minutes old. Wagner, feeling the pressure, opted for youth on Sunday. No fewer than eight of his starters were under 25 with six of them — including Kutucu — aged 21 or younger. Banking on exuberance to get Schalke out of their current predicament is a gamble, but after exhausting all options, this seems poetic given the club’s reputation of bringing through and developing stars.

Kutucu is someone we could potentially describe as great one day, the 20-year-old hometown boy has already racked up 40 appearances, and bagging six goals in the process, since emerging from Schalke’s esteemed academy. Starts, though, have been few and far between with this being only his fourth in the Bundesliga, and Kutucu had to bury from close range after Lukás Hrádecky parried Weston Mckennie’s fierce shot into his path. It proved to be his only misstep, but pivotal given the context of their situation.

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Who is Manchester United new-boy Daniel James?

Manchester United paid £15 million for the winger and supporters are excited about what the Welshman can do at Old Trafford.

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DANIEL JAMES: AN ADDITION TO CREATIVITY
The 21-year-old starred for Swansea City scoring four goals and adding nine assists in 33 Championship matches last term.

James will offer Manchester United a creative threat down the flanks, which is something that was missing last term. Midfielder Paul Pogba led the Red Devils with nine assists while Marcus Rashford contributed six.

The two played far more centrally preventing Manchester United from having a dangerous wide attack. James can provide speed in wide areas and challenge full-backs which the Red Devils lacked.

Former manager Jose Mourinho had sought more wide players to challenge Anthony Martial and Rashford for a starting place in the team. James’ signing could mean Rashford is played more centrally while consistent competition brings out the best in Martial.

Rashford scored 10 goals which was joint-third most during the season with Martial.

CAN DANIEL JAMES LIVE UP TO THE PRESSURE AT OLD TRAFFORD?
James has been likened to a “cross between Usain Bolt and Ronaldo”. It is a bit of a strange comparison but that is what Hungary manager Marco Rossi said after seeing James play over the weekend.

Some supporters may be underwhelmed by Manchester United’s signing of a Championship player. Swansea did finish 10th in the second division 14 points off the playoffs.

It is alleged Manchester United are seeking to copy Liverpool’s money ball model to sign undervalued players that can become stars. James could be a great summer signing for the Red Devils if he can produce goals consistently..

His £15m price tag is a fraction of the price most top six teams pay these days for players.

WILL DANIEL JAMES BE A HIT AT OLD TRAFFORD?
James will make a big step up in competition when he arrives at Old Trafford. Perhaps the positive of James’ signing is it represents a hungry unproven player which is a contrast to the likes of Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

Manchester United are still in the market for further additions this summer and most supporters would expect the club to spend far more on players during the transfer window.

Last summer, the Red Devils bought just three players with only two, Fred and Diogo Dalot, making any sort of contribution to the first team.

Supporters will hope the club can spend more wisely and James could be some indication they will.

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Can Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk win the Ballon d’Or?

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has been tipped as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or at the end of this year.

Van Dijk capped off a very successful 2018-19 season on both the club and domestic stage by winning the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and finishing as runners up in the UEFA Nations League with the Netherlands.

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The Liverpool centre-back emerged as the trophy favourite this week after the Netherlands’ Nations League Final loss on Sunday. News of Van Dijk topping the favourites’ list did not sit well with former Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese player led his team to UEFA Nations League glory against Van Dijk’s side and refuses to believe he is currently third-favourite to win the trophy.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK: IS MESSI AND RONALDO DOMIANCE DONE?
If Van Dijk does ultimately win the Ballon d’Or trophy, he would be the first defender to win it since Real Madrid’s Fabio Cannavaro took home the trophy in 2006.

In 2018, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric won the trophy after helping his club to the Champions League title. He later was a part of Croatia’s World Cup runners up team.

His win shocked many football fans and pundits as Ronaldo’s and Lionel Messi’s 10-year dominance of the trophy was ended.

Van Dijk’s stats back up his excellent play this past year, but unlike Messi and Ronaldo, he doesn’t have the excessive goal numbers to impress voters.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK: MORE THAN GOALS
The Dutchman’s play is far more than goals and it showed in the number of clean sheets Liverpool kept in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Liverpool kept 21 clean sheets in the Premier League and six in the Champions League.

Van Dijk added eight goals in all competitions along with four assists. He averaged 4.8 aerial wins in the Premier League along with one tackle and 1.1 interceptions.

Remarkably, Van Dijk averaged just 0.3 fouls per Premier League match while collecting a mere one yellow card in the competition.

Van Dijk could be the first Liverpool player to win the Ballon d’Or since striker Michael Owen did it in 2001. Other than Ronaldo’s 2008 trophy win, it is a piece of silverware that has not gone to Premier League players often.

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Does Phil Foden have a future at Manchester City?

Pep Guardiola once stated Phil Foden is the most talented player that he has ever seen. Actually, Guardiola’s quote was something more like Foden is the “most, most, most talented player” he has seen.

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So, with Foden given such high praise from the man that masterminded Barcelona’s success in the late noughties and helped Lionel Messi become a star, why isn’t the Manchester City youngster playing more minutes in the Premier League?

Perhaps the answer can be found in Foden’s age. At just 19-years old, Guardiola is likely to be worried that the midfielder will struggle in high-pressure Premier League games. That does seem a bit strange considering Manchester City folded under pressure against Liverpool at Anfield regardless of what your thoughts are about the handball that wasn’t given early in the match.

Foden has appeared in his four league matches for the Cityzens. It isn’t a bad figure until you delve deeper and realise he has played just 30 total Premier League minutes. That is an average of 7.5 minutes per game.

For a player that is the most talented Guardiola has seen, then why isn’t he getting more game time?

Foden has been on the Manchester City bench in seven of the other eight league matches. He has appeared in two Champions League matches and two Carabao Cup games.

The midfielder scored a goal and tallied an assist in the Champions League in games against Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta. But twice he has been left out of the European squad and a mere 83 minutes have been tallied across the two matches Foden has appeared in.

At least Foden has played a full 90 minutes in Manchester City’s two Carabao Cup matches and he will be assured of playing in the team’s next fixture in the tournament. At least we assume.

Foden has no doubt got the ability to play at a high level, yet he isn’t getting match time to develop. Former Manchester City youth team player Jadon Sancho is the same age as Foden. He has seen his career take off since leaving for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Sancho’s stock is so high right now that both Liverpool and Manchester United are linked to transfers for him in excess of £100 million. The creative winger has three goals and six assists in nine Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund and is a full-fledged England international.

Even with Manchester City’s midfield of David Silva, Rodri, and Ilkay Gundogan not looking especially impressive against Liverpool — Silva is ageing and Gundogan flatters to deceive — Foden is not getting minutes.

Transfermarkt values Foden at £27m currently. A January move away from the Etihad Stadium may be just what the midfielder needs to get his career on track. The Cityzens could teste the transfer market waters in January and purchase a top midfielder to help reel in Liverpool or win the Champions League. If they do, Foden shouldn’t hesitate to leave the club either temporarily or permanently. Even then, he shouldn’t wait to leave.

Despite being the best talent Guardiol has seen, it is hard for the rest of us to truly see it if he doesn’t get to play.

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