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Big-spending AC Milan throw down the gauntlet to Juventus


AC Milan players attend a training session ahead of the International Champions Cup football match between Bayern Munich and AC Milan in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province on July 21, 2017. AC Milan will play against Bayern Munich in Shenzhen on July 22.

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After years of midtable mediocrity, AC Milan have thrown down the gauntlet to Juventus by assembling a team which supporters believe can end the Turin side’s run of six successive Serie A titles.

Under new Chinese owners, the seven-times European champions have splurged $222.30 million on transfers and, for a change, the money has gone on players who appear to have their best years ahead of them.

Milan, the last team to win Serie A before Juve’s era of dominance began, have endured a decline which coincided with Serie A’s own fall from grace.

For most of former Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s three decades as club president, they had enjoyed a golden era but his last few years became a story of unsuccessful transfers and musical chairs in the coach’s seat.

As the world’s top players eschewed Serie A, Berlusconi promised that his club would concentrate on developing its own young talents instead – but ended up signing players who were past their best.

The likes of Kaka, in his second spell, Fernando Torres, Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alessio Cerci, Mario Balotelli and Mattia Destro all came and went without making an impact.

Inevitably, the coach paid the price with Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi occupying the hot seat between Massimiliano Allegri’s dismissal in January 2014 and Vincenzo Montella’s arrival in June last year.

But there has been a dramatic change of direction since Berlusconi agreed to sell the club to a Chinese-led consortium in a 740 million-euro deal in April and the new owners installed Marco Fassone, an experienced business executive, as general manager.

New signings have included striker Andre Silva (21) from Porto who has scored eight goals in 13 appearances for Portugal; right back Andrea Conti (23), a product of Atalanta’s impressive youth scheme; Ricardo Rodriguez (24), a Swiss international regarded as one of Europe’s most accomplished left backs; and Turkish midfielder and free-kick specialist Hakan Calhanoglu (23).

The latter two were signed from Bundesliga clubs VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

The biggest coup was landing Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, ending the Turin club’s so-called BBC defence that also featured Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini and which had been together since 2010.

« We have chosen players who are ready to go and can give a great deal, who are top players for our level and for Italian football, » said Montella. « The potential is there and it is only a matter of time. »

Milan were still hoping to add a big-money striker to the squad before the end of the transfer window.

Juve were left to spend the summer contemplating their 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final and they started the season by losing 3-2 to Lazio in the Italian Supercup final.

But they still have the top four outstanding players in Serie A – goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Chiellini and Argentine forwards Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain — and remain favourites.

Napoli, widely acclaimed as playing the best football on their way to third place last season, have kept their squad intact and once again pose a threat.

AS Roma, last season’s runners-up, have seen the departure of several key players including defender Antonio Ruediger and winger Mohamed Salah, while Franceso Totti retired after a remarkable 25 seasons at the club.

Inter Milan, also under Chinese ownership, have not matched their neighbours’ spending in the transfer market but have hired coach Luciano Spalletti after he also left Roma.

Last season, they employed three coaches and finished seventh despite having arguably one of the strongest squads in Serie A.

It will now be up to the shaven-headed Spalletti to get the best from them. 

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Football

Jordan Ayew tops English Premier League sprint chart after 16 matches

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Ghana forward Jordan Ayew has been rated as the player with most sprints in the English Premier League after 16 round of games.

The Swansea City attacker has always been faced with criticisms for his lack of work ethos when playing for the Ghana’s senior national team.

But the former Olympique Marseille man appears to have had the best statistics in arguably the world’s best championship in terms of a player that has made the most sprints in the league after 16 matches

The 25-year-old heads the list of the 10 players ahead of speedsters including Hector Bellerin of Arsenal, Delle Alli of Tottenham and Richarlison of Watford.

According to the Express.co.uk, with their high intensity and counter-attacking football, Manchester City have wracked up the most sprints so far this season with a whopping 6198.

However, relegation-threatened West Ham have managed a measly 4942.

Surprisingly, Manchester United only have the 15th highest amount of sprints with 5210.

Even though Manchester City have wracked up the most sprints as a team, no individual star of Pep Guardiola’s side makes the top 10.

So which Premier League ace has sprinted the most times?

1. Jordan Ayew (Swansea) – 796 sprints

2. Delle Alli (Tottenham) – 742 sprints

3. Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) – 715 sprints

4. Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)- 695 sprints

5. Tom Cleverley (Watford) – 695 sprints

6. Tom Ince (Huddersfield) – 683 sprints

7. Abdoulaye Doucore (Watford) – 682 sprints

8. Richarlison (Watford) – 677 sprints

9. Erik Pieters (Stoke) – 669 sprints

10. Pascal Gross (Brighton) – 662 sprints

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Pots announced for Final Draw

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With Peru completing the line-up of 32 teams for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, we now know the seeding pots for the Final Draw on 1 December.

It was confirmed in September, by the Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions, that all teams will be allocated to (eight-team) pots 1 to 4 based on sporting principles. The October 2017 edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will be used to allocate all qualified teams to the four pots according to their ranking in descending order, after hosts Russia who take the top seeding spot.

With those factors in mind, here are the final pots for the Final Draw:

POT 1 Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France
POT 2 Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia
POT 3 Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran
POT 4 Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia

It is worth remembering that the principle of drawing the teams into the groups will remain unchanged. This means that no teams from the same confederation, with the exception of UEFA, which could have up to two teams in the same group, will be drawn into the same group.

The Final Draw will take place on Friday 1 December at Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace.

fifa.com

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Football

« We do not want him at Real Madrid anymore »

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Real Madrid are in a bad situation in the league, the club of Casa Blanca is currently third in Liga behind Valencia and Barça, the Catalans have taken a big lead, and this could definitely make them lose the championship in the winter. And a Madrid club player is highlighted in these poor results.

101 million euros for his transfer, 23 injuries since, 73 matches missed or 55% of the matches of his team. Statistics that would drive any coach and / or leaders crazy. You have it ?

These are the figures of Gareth Bale since his arrival at Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 from Tottenham. Whoever has played only nine games in the year 2017/2018 seems to have seriously undermined the patience of its leaders. Just back from a calf injury, he was summoned by the Welsh side to face France in a friendly last Friday, but made the choice to stay in Madrid to prepare for the derby against Atletico Madrid. But, the blow, the Welsh injured during training last Thursday and will be absent about a month.

What continue to fuel the rumors of transfers but especially what cause irritation of the board leader. The latter, tired of not being able to align their triplet « BBC », have made a decision that should be irrevocable, according to the Madrid newspaper AS: It must leave this summer. And the Spanish media also explains that the president of the Madrilenian club, Florentino Perez, added:

« We do not want him at Real Madrid anymore »
Yet strongly criticized last season, Bale had managed to avoid a departure last summer, claiming to want to win at Real Madrid. This year, his start to the season does not plead in his favor and he seems to have exhausted all his jokers in the Spanish capital. The departure of the Welsh international therefore seems to have been recorded.

The rumor of a return to the Premier League, Manchester United in particular, has been reactivated but the number of contenders could quickly evolve in view of the quality of the player. Be careful though, the Welsh is signed until 2022, and Florentino Perez is determined not to sell his player.

Unless a return to its best level, it is difficult to see how the Welsh international could reverse the situation. Zinedine Zidane even found his replacement for 100 million euros.

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