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LATEST SOCCER TIT-BITS

Happenings

By William ‘Bantu’ Irubor

Here is a rundown of some of the major stories making the rounds in European Soccer this week. ENJOY!!!

* Mauricio Pochettino’s assistant has explained why Tottenham Hotspur have taken their squad on a warm-weather break to Barcelona ahead of their FA Cup game with Wycombe Wanderers.

Jesus Perez spoke about the decision to travel following their 2-2 draw at Manchester City on Saturday.
Pochettino’s men made the same trip at this time last season and they trained at the Spanish Olympic stadium on Monday afternoon.

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Perez told Spurs TV that they had a great experience there Last season as a team and the players wanted to repeat the same training camp and was thankful that the fixtures allowed them to go there after the Manchester City game. It’s good to change routine, to stay together in a nice city and to share time together as a group, he said.

He added: “We’ve played so many matches so far and it’s the same – a lot of training, a lot of the same routines – and the players deserve a bit of a break. Of course, we are training here, so we’re not on holiday, but they have time to be together as a group, to go shopping, to walk around, to have different meals, a change from the normal habits in London. It’s good as a group and I think it will be a fantastic experience again.”

“The most important thing is to provide the players with a little rest, not physical rest, but mental rest, so they can do activities here together.

“In London it’s difficult because everyone lives in a different place and sometimes it’s not easy to stay three or four days between matches, especially when you are in an English team. This is more of a European team idea, they have periods like this to do different activites. So that’s most important and on Thursday, we’re back to normal, back at the training centre to prepare for the FA Cup as normal.”

Down to third in the table, Spurs will likely be full of confidence after coming back from 2-0 down to get a point at the Etihad.

League Two side Wanderers have already sold 80% of their 4,000 ticket allocation for the fourth-round tie on Saturday afternoon, as they take a break from the promotion battle.

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* Yaya Toure has insisted he isn’t looking to leave Manchester City as he wants to “give something back to the fans” that had supported him for seven years.

Toure’s contract with City is due to expire at the end of the season and it appeared at the start of the campaign that the Ivorian was set for the exit after a war of words between himself, his agent and manager Pep Guardiola.

After a public apology to his coach, Toure has since featured in City’s last 11 Premier League matches, starting nine of them and scoring three goals.

Although rumours persist that the 33-year-old will be departing the Etihad Stadium as a part of a summer clear-out by Guardiola Toure is adamant that he wishes to remain at City, as a thank you to the club’s supporters.

The midfielder insists he is still feeling good enough to play at the top level and wants to continue entertaining City supporters for more seasons to come.

When asked if he wanted to stay at City, Toure said, “Yes, definitely. I’ve said before that I’ve been involved with a lot of clubs”.

“But especially at City, I want to give something back to the fans. I’d like to continue to work hard for them, keep giving them entertainment, keep them happy – that’s what I want.

“In the end, I know myself. If I was tired, I’d say ‘no more, move on’. But I don’t feel like that. I feel very, very good. I feel young.”

Yaya Toure has won 90% of his take-ons in the Premier League this season.

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*Sevilla president Jose Castro has hit back at Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and believes the defender should be focused on his own club.

Ramos left Sevilla back in 2005 after coming through their academy and has since developed into one of the world’s finest defenders.

However, his relationship with Sevilla fans has turned sour in recent years, despite the fact Ramos often talks up his love for the club that helped him get where he is today.

Things got worse this season when Ramos scored a panenka penalty against Sevilla recently, before cupping his ears to the home support who then hit back at him with derogatory chants

* Barcelona’s sporting director Robert Fernandez has revealed talks with Lionel Messi over a new deal are going well and is confident the forward will extend his stay with the club.

Talks over a new deal for Messi have been ongoing for some time, but the longer it has gone on the more speculation has risen over his future potentially being elsewhere.

There have been suggestions that Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City could eye a potential swoop, whilst the Chinese Super League certainly has the finances to bring Messi to China.

However, Fernandez insists Messi – who is now the top goalscorer in La Liga this season with 15 goals – is keen to remain with the Catalan giants.

“Leo’s renewal is going very well, very well,” Fernandez siad. “I’m very relaxed, as I was before with Mascherano, Busquets, Suarez or Neymar. And I am now with Messi, as I am with Iniesta or Ter Stegen. We’re working and I’m convinced that they’ll continue with Barca.

“It doesn’t matter much who will be the first to renew. There will be people who want to poison the situation, but we’ve been working on this issue for a long time.”

The 29-year-old Argentina captain joined Barcelona back in 2001 and has scored a remarkable 481 goals in 557 games for the club across all competitions over 13 seasons for the club.

Lionel Messi has completed 49/86 take ons in the league this season.

* Former England international and Manchester United great Rio Ferdinand has said he would have rather moved to the Chinese Super League than cross the Atlantic to play for a Major League Soccer franchise in the USA or Canada during his career as a player.

Speaking at the launch of Star Sixes, a new summer football tournament to be staged at The O2 in London, the 38-year-old explained why he preferred the idea of heading to the Far East rather than following Andrea Pirlo, Ashley Cole and David Beckham to America in a wide-ranging interview with Squawka.

Ferdinand won six Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and the League Cup on three occasions under Sir Alex Ferguson and remains one of his country’s most decorated players.

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When asked who he believed to be the most promising young centre-back in England out of John Stones or Michael Keane, he picked out the Burnley defender “on current form” for his recent heroics at the back for the Clarets.

He also selected Michael Carrick ahead of Roy Keane as he had “played more games with him”. Ferdinand won five of his six league titles playing behind the holding midfielder, who remains an important member of the United squad.

The West Ham academy graduate, who also turned out for Bournemouth, Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers over the course of a 19-year playing career prior to his retirement in 2015, was also asked about Wayne Rooney’s place in Manchester United history after his former teammate became the club’s all-time record goalscorer.

“It’d be difficult to pick, out of George Best,” he said. “For the impact he had on football, not just Manchester United. Sir Bobby Charlton, again probably one of the best ambassadors for the sport. Wayne Rooney’s in that argument.”