Marcus Rashford has been hired to take extra graduation lessons at Manchester United – ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest information. PLUS: The extent of the financial crisis in Barcelona.
Jump to: Madrid have to sell to finance Mbappe, Haaland moves | Barca money crisis exposed | Diallo prepares for Man United debut | Dzeko’s Anger, Roma’s Incredible Administrator Mistakes | Di Maria’s PSG speaks | Arsenal manager annoys Southampton | Alli, Lingard need a fresh start
Rashford’s finishing concern at Man United
Marcus Rashford has received extra graduation lessons from Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, sources told ESPN. He’s becoming too predictable given the concern among club coaches.
The 23-year-old has scored seven goals in 20 Premier League games this season and filled a gap in United’s 2-1 home loss to Sheffield United on Wednesday.
There is a perception within the United coaching team that Rashford relies too heavily on his preferred technique of beating goalkeepers with power. Sources told ESPN Solskjaer that Rashford will score more goals if he develops a wider repertoire, if he has scoring opportunities. The United manager has asked Rashford to work on other elements, such as controlled finishing by directing the ball into the corners of the goal, out of reach of the goalkeeper.
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Rashford had 46 shots on goal this season, 22 of which hit the target, according to Premier League figures. He hit the woodwork once and missed seven so-called big opportunities this season. His shooting accuracy of 48% is cheap compared to the top scorers in the Premier League. Son of Heung-Min (56%), Mohamed Salah (46%) and Harry Kane (38%), but United believes they can do better and improve their accuracy by developing his technique and making it difficult for goalkeepers to choose how he is shoots at goal.
While Rashford’s graduation let him down in Wednesday’s sheffield United loss, his extra work on the training ground paid off last week when he caught Allison in United’s 3-2 win over rivals Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup quietly overtook.
United manager Solskjaer scored 126 goals in 366 games in his playing career at Old Trafford and was considered one of the most natural players by Sir Alex Ferguson during his 27-year tenure. – –– Mark Ogden
Madrid have to sell to land Mbappe, Haaland
Real Madrid will have to sell a collection of fringe players this summer if they want to compete with their rivals to sign Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain and Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, sources told ESPN.
The pair have been linked to Real in the gossip columns on transfer rumors for over a year, but according to sources, the club’s priority is to make € 60-70million in revenue from players this summer Isco, Marcelo, Alvaro Odriozola and Luka Jovic among those who could walk. Europe’s elite football clubs are expected to miss out on over EUR 2 billion ($ 2.43 billion) in revenue by the end of the 2020/21 season due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Madrid’s goal is to balance their books through player sales before they focus on arrival.
Last summer, the club failed to sign for the first time since 1980 and instead paid back 100 million euros in player departures, including Sergio Reguilon, Achraf Hakimi and Oscar Rodriguez. They also cut their wages by € 40 million after James Rodriguez loaned out free loans to Everton and Gareth Bale to Tottenham.
Mbappe and Haaland both stay on Madrid’s radar, but aside from trying to fund a move for one or both of them, the club are also focused on contract renewals for key players.
Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez’s renewals are all urgent, and talks about a new contract for Ramos will resume soon, according to sources. Sources added that Modric’s one-year extension is expected without too many problems, but that Vazquez turned down an offer on a new deal on the same terms as he is currently on. – Rodrigo Faez
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Barcelona Cash Crisis Concerns about new President
Barcelona are desperately trying to renegotiate their debts amid fears they could default payments for Philippe Coutinho and Frenkie de Jong, among others, sources told ESPN.
Barca owe players € 126.2m in installments before June 30, including € 30m for Coutinho and € 16m for De Jong. They need to be forwarded to a third party financial institution as Liverpool and Ajax sold the debt. It is a standard practice that transfer fees are paid over several years. However, due to the club’s lack of liquidity, they will struggle to make the payments if the new president does not find a solution.
After June 30, Barca owe players an additional € 196.7m (€ 52m for Miralem Pjanic, € 48m more for De Jong and another € 40m for Coutinho) while their gross debt is the money compared to banks, has risen to almost € 1.2 billion. Barca say their net debt is € 488m.
The club’s cash flow problem extends to paying players as well. A source close to the first team squad confirmed they hadn’t received their full salary last month and they would be “surprised” if the shortfall was made up soon.
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“The financial pressure to beat Paris Saint-Germain and make progress in the Champions League will be enormous,” the source said.
The interim board, chaired by incumbent President Carles Tusquets, is looking for solutions with the banks, but the problem is that they don’t have the power to make big decisions.
Barca have been without a president since late October and will remain without a president until March 7 if either Joan Laporta, Victor Font or Toni Freixa are elected. Whoever is elected then has just over three months to try to reorganize the debt before the club’s accounts close on June 30th.
Sources told ESPN that the presidency candidates haven’t ruled out having to sell some of the club’s assets to settle the debt, although they hope they won’t have to accept offers for their best players. – Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Ale Moreno takes on the roles of Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi in Barca’s win over Rayo Vallecano.
Diallo was preparing for Man United’s debut
Manchester United are ready to make a debut with new signing Amad Diallo on Saturday when the U23s face Liverpool, sources told ESPN.
The 18-year-old winger, who was signed for € 21m and a further € 20m for Serie A team Atalanta, has been training with the first team since arriving in January.
Solskjaer has been impressed with Diallo, who has only played five times for Atalanta since joining the squad and plans to make the teen’s first-team debut before the end of the season.
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Diallo is the only new signing during the January transfer window after staying in Italy for the first half of the season and the United manager believes he could be the answer to his side’s troubled position on the right wing.
The player’s first taste in English football could be a lively affair. Bitter rivals United and Liverpool sent off a player in the Premier League 2 Division One match last September, which Liverpool won 5-3. – Rob Dawson
Fonseca, Dzeko could leave Roma due to administrative errors
Two hardly credible administrative errors among the Roma are likely to mean the end of the time of coach Paulo Fonseca or striker Edin Dzeko, sources told ESPN.
The Roma have broken competition rules twice this season, losing 3-0 after a failure. The latest mistake in Coppa Italia’s round of 16 against Spezia – when the coach made six instead of the allotted five – resulted in Dzeko taking on Fonseca alongside several key players.
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Although the Roma lost the game 4-2 in extra time anyway, the clerics’ recent mistake led to great tension in the club. Sources said ESPN Fonseca blamed team manager Gianluca Gombar, who was sacked after the game, for the gaffe. Gombar received messages of support from Roma players after his departure, and Dzeko led a revolt. The players refused to attend training last week. The Roma took revenge on Spezia by beating them 4-3 in Serie A, but Dzeko was dropped from the day’s squad after refusing to train ahead of the game. Sources told ESPN that the Bosnian international is now training again but not in the first team.
The Coppa Italia mistake followed another clerical oversight on the opening day of the season. Roma’s game in Verona was declared 3-0 for Fonseca’s men when the then 23-year-old midfielder Amadou Diawara played 89 minutes as a registered U22 player. The teams are allowed to register up to 25 players over the age of 22 at the start of the campaign. As a result, Roma have been accused of trying to make room in their seniors selection without limiting the number of U22 players. The guilty Roma director Pantaleo Longo subsequently resigned and moved to Verona, the team against which he made the mistake, in November.
The relationship between Dzeko and Fonseca became strained for the first time after Roma’s dismal exit to Seville in the Europa League round of 16 last season when they put in a poor performance to lose 2-0 and end the competition, with Dzeko after playing against Fonseca said. The former Manchester City striker has been linked to a return to England as well as Inter Milan through reports in the Italian press. It is unlikely that he will face Verona on Saturday and that coach Fonseca’s future will also be at stake. – – Andrew Cesare Richardson
Di Maria in PSG contract talks amid reports of Tottenham interest
Paris Saint-Germain have entered contract renewal negotiations with Angel Di Maria, sources told ESPN, with the striker turning down the club’s first offer.
According to reports in Italy, Tottenham are watching developments between PSG and Di Maria but sources say the Ligue 1 giants are confident of reaching an agreement on extending the player’s stay at the club.
Di Maria, who had an unfortunate season at Manchester United in 2014/15, settles in Paris with his family. He came up with a deal for 63 million euros and was a success with 86 goals and 102 assists in 243 appearances.
The 32-year-old is ready to cut his salary, which is € 12 million gross per year, but wants a two-year contract, sources said. New PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is a fan of Di Maria and has used him in a new role since taking office. The striker plays a more central position than under the former coach Thomas Tuchel.
PSG sporting director Leonardo is also keen to keep Di Maria at the club. Both parties hope that an agreement can be reached soon. – – Julien Laurens
Jan Aage Fjortoft has a glimpse of Martin Odegaard’s loan to Arsenal.
Saints and sinners in Arsenal’s 3-1 win in Southampton
Hearing interactions between players and staff is one of the few benefits that comes from the absence of fans in the stadiums. However, Southampton substitutes in their 3-1 loss to Arsenal this week have proven that this is not always desirable.
To do justice to COVID-19’s social distancing measures, substitute players and some back room staff sit in the empty stands behind the dugouts during games, but many still want their voices to be heard. During Arsenal’s win at St. Mary’s on Wednesday, coach Carlos Cuesta was heard vigorously denying decisions and barking instructions, telling players to “organize” if they lost the ball or “squeezed” around the room close.
– Olley: The Southampton win shows where Arsenal’s priorities are
The incessant noise irritated several Southampton substitutes and staff, including goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who at some point overheard him tell Cuesta to “shut up”.
Cuesta later replied, “You play your game, we play our game.”
A member of the saint replied, “We’re just trying to watch the game quietly.” – – James Olley
ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden announces Jesse Lingard’s future at Manchester United.
Lingard, Allis Euro 2020 hopes for balance
England coach Gareth Southgate has left the door open for Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard to join his Euro 2020 squad late, sources told ESPN if two of his top performers at the 2018 World Cup can get their seasons back on track.
Lingard is set to join West Ham until the end of the season after playing three games at United this season, while Alli remains linked to Paris Saint-Germain moves under Jose Mourinho at Tottenham after falling out of favor.
The duo played a key role in England’s run to the semi-finals in Russia three years ago, but have not been part of the Southgate team since taking third / fourth place in the Nations League play-offs against Switzerland in Portugal in June 2019 .
Paris Saint-Germain are eager to sign attacking midfielder Alli and reunite him with former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. Lingard hopes ex-Manchester United boss David Moyes can turn the tide into shape.
– Ogden: How can Euro 2020 survive COVID-19?
Despite both players having spent so long outside of the English squad, sources said they’ll stay on Southgate’s mind and that a move will increase their chances of getting back on the international stage for both of them.
England begin their World Cup qualification with games against San Marino, Albania and Poland in March. According to sources, if Alli and Lingard can return to the club within the next two months, based on the knowledge of the Southgate manager’s knowledge, they will be considering the two players and their previous contribution to the squad. – Mark Ogden