Osimhen can light up Napoli | Football Italia_3

  It might sound strange, but 2020 just keeps getting better and better for Napoli from a footballing point of view.

  The Partenopei were a complete mess back in December when the infamous row between the players and the club resulted in Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking. However, Gennaro Gattuso has been doing wonders ever since, winning the Coppa Italia and building a solid foundation for next season.

  Putting the results aside, Napoli have done extremely well in the January transfer window, bringing in Diego Demme, Stanislav Lobotka and Matteo Politano, while also securing the services of Amir Rrahmani from Verona and SPAL’s top goalscorer Andrea Petagna for next term.

  While Aurelio De Laurentiis has done well to add quality and depth to the squad, it’s hard to say that any of those signings bring the excitement that the Napoletani are used to seeing. That’s where Victor Osimhen comes in.

  The 21-year-old striker is set to become Napoli’s most expensive signing ever, as the Partenopei are set to pay a stunning €50m plus Orestis Karnezis and bonuses to Lille OSC for the Nigerian talent. The reports of €81m seem far-fetched and probably included the wages for his entire contract. It’s still a lot more than the Partenopei paid for their current most expensive acquisition Hirving Lozano, who arrived for €42m from PSV Eindhoven last summer.

  It’s obvious that even for €50m the expectations towards Osimhen will go way beyond the pure excitement that such a signing brings, but what exactly can he bring to Napoli?

  The Nigerian’s numbers clearly can’t justify his gigantic rumoured €81m transfer fee, as Osimhen scored 18 goals and four assists in all competitions for Lille, before Ligue 1 was cancelled due to the COVID situation. However, his age and playing style are what make him perfect for Napoli, as the 185cm tall striker possess impressive speed and physique, while his off the ball movement is simply remarkable.

  Osimhen is a player who likes to run in the channels and behind the back of opposition defences, which makes him a good for Napoli’s playing style. His acceleration and ability to run with the ball also mean he would be perfect for Gattuso’s counter-attacking approach in certain games.

  While neither Arkadiusz Milik nor Dries Mertens combine those qualities, Osimhen’s biggest advantage over them is the intensity of his pressing gamе. The Nigerian averages 1.3 recoveries in the final third, which is significantly higher than Milik’s 0.9, while his speed and agility are far superior to those of Mertens, who at 33, often loses some of his intensity in the latter stages of games.

  Osimhen’s presence in Napoli’s attack would allow the Partenopei to recover possession much easier and in more advanced areas of the pitch, while his speed and positioning in the penalty area will make the transition from defence to attack much smoother. This is further highlighted by Osimhen’s 78.9% progressive passes success rate, which is equal to Mertens, but significantly higher than Milik’s 64%.

  In terms of shooting, Osimhen is also far more composed than his age might suggest, as 44% of his shots hit the target, which is much better than Mertens’ 35%. Milik’s stats look similar in that regard, but considering that the Pole seems eager to leave, it would certainly help if Napoli have a player of similar height and shooting accuracy.

  The Nigerian’s technical ability is not to be underestimated as well, as although he is right-footed, he is also very capable with his left, scoring seven goals with his supposed weaker foot.

  Of course, pointing out only the strong aspects of Osimhen’s game would be wrong, so just like Martin Schmidt who used to coach him at Wolfsburg admitted recently, the youngster still has a long way to go tactically. However, he already has remarkable speed and athleticism, so he already is a very strong player.

  Mentality wise, just like every young player, the 21-year-old needs to improve his concentration, but he plays with such fire and passion that could potentially make him instrumental for Gattuso’s vision of the team.

  Despite all this, the fact remains that Osimhen’s transfer is a huge gamble for Napoli. Becoming Napoli’s most expensive signing ever and one of the most expensive African players of all time surely comes with a burden, so the big risk here is to avoid the exaggerated transfer fee putting in unrealistic expectations towards the player.

  It is no coincidence that the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have shown interest in the Nigerian, so there is little doubt that Osihmen can light up Naples. He just needs to be given the chance.

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Ferrero: ‘Samp not Juve sacrifical lambs’ | Football Italia

  Sampdoria President Massimo Ferrero warns they are ‘not sacrificial lambs’ to hand Juventus the Scudetto this evening. ‘We want to win.’

  It kicks off at 20.45 UK time (19.45 GMT), click here for a match preview.

  The Bianconeri will be mathematically crowned Champions of Italy if they get three points this evening, having already fumbled that opportunity with a 2-1 defeat to Udinese on Thursday.

  “We are not sacrificial lambs for anyone, nor are we already on our summer vacation,” Ferrero told Libero newspaper.

  “I wish to make that clear to anyone who considers the three points guaranteed for Juventus. Nothing could be further from the truth! We want to continue the run of victories we had in recent weeks.

  “We are going to Turin to play our game and we want to win. It’s one thing to beat a team around the relegation zone and quite another to defeat the champions of Italy.

  “Beating a side like Juve on their own turf, that would really be special and Samp making a statement.”

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Benevento target Schurrle retires | Football Italia

  Andre Schurrle had been linked with newly-promoted Serie A side Benevento, but has announced his retirement at the age of 29.

  The Germany international attacking winger was dropped by Borussia Dortmund, who did not offer him a new contract when he returned from the loan spell with Spartak Moscow.

  Sky Sport Italia had linked Schurrle with a move to Pippo Inzaghi’s Benevento, who have just earned promotion from Serie B.

  However, he took to Instagram this afternoon to announce his retirement.

  “I want to let you know that I’m stepping away from playing professional football !!

  “On behalf of myself and my family I want to thank everybody who was a part of these phenomenal years! The support and love you shared with me was unbelievable and more I could have ever asked for!

  “Now I’m ready and open for all the beautiful possibilities that are coming towards me. André”

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Are Atalanta the best team in Europe? | Football Italia

  The Atalanta juggernaut continues to plough on with some style. Last night’s 2-0 win over Sampdoria was hardly surprising, but it said a lot about La Dea’s ability to perform under pressure. As they plodded on towards the last 15 minutes against Claudio Ranieri’s men, the goal came from a source that might seem unlikely for others, but isn’t as unlikely for Atalanta – defender Rafael Toloi.

  It was a reflection of the Bergamo club’s unique style, where everyone likes to get in on the goal-scoring action. Luis Muriel got the second goal to settle the tie, confirming his status as Serie A’s premier supersub. As a result, Atalanta are third in the Serie A table and find themselves only two points behind second-placed Lazio, but that’s not the most intriguing thing that pops out at you from the fixture list. If they beat Juventus on Saturday, the Bergamo boys will be within six points of the leaders.

  Whether they can really mount a late Scudetto charge remains to be seen. But Gian Piero Gasperini’s men are unbeaten in 11 Serie A games, including nine victories on the bounce. That is the best winning streak in the league currently and they haven’t lost since SPAL beat them back in late January. During this period, they have scored as many as 35 goals, leading many to ask if La Dea really are the best team in Europe right now or not.

  The word ‘best’ is a pretty versatile one in football, as it can mean many different things. To a football romantic though, ‘best team in Europe’ could refer to a side that plays very good football and scores buckets of goals. La Dea suit that tag in many ways. Rather, they define it.

  Fans are bound to disagree and that is pretty natural in an era that is dominated by Twitter and opinions. A case can be made for Bayern Munich as well. But it has become a bit easy to forget that Atalanta have achieved all of this with very limited resources. They’ve brought forward this unique tactical approach and have gone a long way in changing people’s perception of Calcio.

  Gasperini has introduced a style that is revolutionary for not just Italian football, but for the sport as a whole. There is pressing involved and this idea of being ruthless in attack as well. When the centre-backs and wing-backs bomb forward, a midfielder drops deeper and that is the sort of tactical fluidity and cohesiveness which defines Atalanta. It is all made possible thanks to astonishing fitness levels, so Gasp’s staff deserve much of the credit too, especially for their form since the lockdown.

  In England, Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United side does rely on over-lapping centre-backs, but the system can be a bit pragmatic, unlike Atalanta’s version. Clubs in Germany have been using dynamic systems which have versatile players in flexible formations. They too rely on high-pressing, like La Dea. But another crucial thing about Atalanta’s system is how they lay immense emphasis on positional overloads. While that is a case of them taking a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s book, it is a combination of all the other three mentioned above as well.

  They’re not just style, though, as proven by the more pragmatic approach over the last two rounds. Back-to-back clean sheets kept against Cagliari and Sampdoria, while relying on set plays to batter down resilient defences. It was a Muriel penalty in Sardinia, while Toloi’s header and the Muriel strike both came off the back of corners. These are not na?ve players running into the breach with no protection, they are attacking wisely and effectively. Just as in the Champions League after three opening group stage defeats, Atalanta learned, adapted and improved, giving themselves different ways of winning games.

  Clearly, the system is working and has reaped the rewards over the last two years. It has helped them progress in a rather dramatic manner. They are capable of winning multiple games in a row. They did that last season as well and managed to secure Champions League football, despite having started the campaign in a pretty average manner.

  In many ways, Atalanta are a football romantic’s favourite toy. Not everyone who loves the game is a romantic, of course. But for a club that has come a long way since earning promotion from Serie B, becoming the best in the world for a football romantic is a massive achievement in itself. This is no one-off Leicester City fairy-tale either, because the Bergamo club is consistently positioning itself in the top four of Italian football and growing all the time.

  No one knows if Atalanta can win the Champions League or Scudetto, but for how far Atalanta have come by performing consistently in a revolutionary system, they deserve some kind of recognition.

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Milan in running for Emerson Royal

  Milan are in the running for Barcelona defender Emerson Royal, according to Mundo Deportivo, but there’s strong competition for the €30m right-back.

  The 21-year-old Brazilian is midway through a two-year loan at Real Betis, which means there would have to be a penalty payment if that spell were to be cut short.

  That raises the price-tag to €25-30m if someone wants to purchase Emerson outright from Barcelona.

  Today’s edition of Mundo Deportivo newspaper in Spain suggests that Milan are in the running for Emerson Royal, but they are certainly not the only ones.

  There is competition from Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Newcastle United, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.

  The Brazilian played 31 Liga games this season, contributing three goals and five assists.

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Lautaro: ‘Really wanted this goal’

Lautaro Martinez admits the goal in Inter’s 3-1 win over Torino was particularly special for him. ‘I really wanted this, as I hadn’t scored in a while.’

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The Argentina international took his tally up to 13 in 29 Serie A games, 18 in all competition for this season.

However, he hadn’t found the net in any of his last six competitive games.

“I really wanted this goal, as I hadn’t scored in a while,” confessed Martinez to Inter TV.

“We are happy for the victory. This goal is particularly important to me and I’m so glad the team got to show what it can do. We had dropped so many points lately, despite putting in good performances.

“This was a great game against a very difficult opponent.”

Torino had taken the lead at San Siro on Monday night through Andrea Belotti, but Ashley Young, Diego Godin and Lautaro Martinez turned it around in the second half.

The result puts them in second place, on 68 points along with Lazio.

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NYT: Ramadani Fiorentina deals hidden

A report in the New York Times claims that agent Fali Ramadani signed contracts with the Della Valle brothers to sell five Fiorentina players, without informing Rocco Commisso.

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The deal was reportedly done just before the club takeover last summer and only discovered after Commisso’s team went through the paperwork later on.

“The agreements, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, effectively gave a soccer agent, named in February as part of a money laundering investigation in Spain, permission to find buyers for at least five members of Fiorentina’s roster.

“In return, the agent would be paid a commission. If Fiorentina balked at completing any deal the agent brought to the club, he would receive a penalty fee instead.”

The agent named in the report is Fali Ramadani and his company, Primus Sports, but the players supposedly to be sold include Dusan Vlahovic and Nikola Milenkovic, current regulars in the team.

“This agreement seems to guarantee a payment to the agency no matter whether a transfer actually takes place,” said Roy Vermeer, the legal director at FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional players.

“It’s hard to understand the reason why any club would agree to this.”

Ramadani has recently been embroiled in a Spanish investigation into money-laundering in sport.

Former Fiorentina director of sport Pantaleo Corvino told the New York Times that the rapport with Ramadani was profitable for the club, as they had previously sold players such as Stevan Jovetic, Matija Nastasic and Adem Ljajic for huge sums.

“What has been agreed has always been done within the rules and in the interest of Fiorentina,” Corvino said in a series of text messages over WhatsApp.

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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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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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