Salah seeks to emulate Weah as second-ever African Ballon d'Or winner

By Sports Desk June 12, 2022

Mohamed Salah wants to emulate George Weah as only the second-ever African to win the Ballon d'Or, and was "shocked" by his seventh-place finish last year.

The Egypt international posted sixth and fifth-place finishes in 2018 and 2019 in the annual awards ceremony to crown the best men's footballer in the world.

But he saw his standing slip two years later after a 2020 cancellation, placing outside the top six as Lionel Messi extended his record haul.

Since then, Salah has helped fire Liverpool to a domestic cup double, plus a second-place Premier League finish and another Champions League final during 2022 as he recorded 46 goal involvements in 2021-22 (31 goals, 15 assists).

In addition, he has already picked up a slew of individual prizes, including another Premier League Golden Boot, the FWA Footballer of the Year and - most recently - the PFA Player of the Year.

But it may not be enough for the forward to emulate Liberia star Weah, who is the only African to previously lift the Ballon d'Or.

"I want to win it to join George Weah, the only African [in 1995]," Salah told L'Equipe.

"It's true that I was shocked by my ranking in 2021 (seventh). For this year, the defeat against Real Madrid is a disadvantage, even if I played a good game in the final.

"But it doesn't cancel out everything I've achieved for months. Let's wait for the vote. And if I'm not Ballon d'Or in 2022, I'll do everything I can to be the next one."

Salah's disappointment at losing in the Champions League final to Madrid last month has not dimmed his appreciation for fellow attacker and Ballon d'Or frontrunner Karim Benzema.

Salah admits he sees himself in the France forward, and feels a kinship in his approach to how he imposes himself upon the wider team.

"I understand what Benzema says. He doesn't just see himself as a goalscorer, he knows he influences every aspect of Real Madrid's game," he added.

"Like others, I want to be seen as the best player in the world.

"At Liverpool, everyone runs for everyone else. If I don't fight for the defence, they won't fight for me.

"I have to be an example, to be the first to press, to sacrifice myself for the team."

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  • Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case

    Everton are up to 15th in the Premier League after their penalty for breaching the competition’s financial rules was reduced to six points on appeal, but they face the threat of further sanction with a second case still to be heard.

    An independent appeal board set aside the 10-point sanction originally imposed by a commission in November for breaching league profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), with the new reduced penalty lifting the Toffees’ points tally from 21 to 25.

    Everton said they were “satisfied” the appeal had resulted in a reduction in the points penalty, but the club are not wholly out of the woods and could have a further points sanction imposed in relation to a second PSR complaint which was laid on January 15.

    That one has to be completely concluded before June 1 – the date when promoted clubs receive their Premier League ‘shares’.

    It is also unclear whether the club may face compensation claims related to the first PSR breach. A ruling published at the time of the original 10-point penalty said five clubs – Burnley, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Southampton – had 28 days from written receipt of a copy of the decision against Everton to pursue a claim.

    None of those clubs confirmed whether they had pursued a claim when contacted by the PA news agency last week. One of them, Forest, have had a PSR complaint lodged against them since the original sanction was issued against Everton.

    The reduced six-point penalty for Everton relates to breaching PSR in the assessment period up to the 2021-22 season. The appeal board rejected seven grounds for mitigation put forward by Everton but did find the original commission made legal errors.

    The first of those was in relation to club representations to the Premier League in August 2022 over stadium debt, which the original commission said were “less than frank”.

    While the appeal board found these representations were “materially wrong”, it accepted that it had never been the Premier League’s case that this was anything other than an innocent mistake by Everton.

    Similarly, the appeal board said a breach of Premier League rule B.15, which requires clubs to act in utmost good faith, was never part of the original complaint against the club.

    “The first time rule B.15 appeared was in the commission’s decision,” the appeal board ruling stated.

    The appeal board also found it was wrong of the commission not to take into account available benchmarks for sanction, such as EFL guidelines.

    The appeal board revealed it considered other possible sanctions, such as a fine or a ban on registering players, but concluded a points deduction was warranted.

    “The unfair advantage achieved by a breach may include a financial advantage over other clubs, but it is most immediately a sporting advantage and consequently the sanction for breach can legitimately focus on sporting disadvantage,” the appeal board decision said.

    The reduction in penalty means Luton are now four points from safety in the Premier League, but their manager Rob Edwards accepted the issue was out of the Hatters’ hands.

    Forest drop to 17th, and their manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “Regarding the hearing and the decision, we are waiting.

    “There are people in the club that are taking care of that. So these questions are not appropriate for me.”

    Everton released a statement following the publication of the revised sanction.

    “While the club is still digesting the appeal board’s decision, we are satisfied our appeal has resulted in a reduction in the points sanction,” the statement read.

    “We understand the appeal board considered the 10-point deduction originally imposed to be inappropriate when assessed against the available benchmarks of which the club made the commission aware, including the position under the relevant EFL regulations, and the nine-point deduction that is imposed under the Premier League’s own rules in the event of insolvency.

    “The club is also particularly pleased with the appeal board’s decision to overturn the original commission’s finding that the club failed to act in utmost good faith.

    “That decision, along with reducing the points deduction, was an incredibly important point of principle for the club on appeal. The club, therefore, feels vindicated in pursuing its appeal.”

    The club said they remain fully committed to co-operating with the Premier League in respect of the second complaint, which relates to a PSR breach in the assessment period up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

    If clubs breach PSRs in consecutive seasons, they can provide evidence and make submissions to the independent commission hearing their case that any crossover should be treated as a mitigating factor.

    Labour MP Ian Byrne, who tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons in response to the initial 10-point deduction, wrote on X: “I was proud to be able to take the fight against Everton’s disproportionate & unfair penalty to Parliament and am pleased to see their points deduction reduced today.”

  • Proud Lilywhites have no plans to quit as they celebrate 10th anniversary Proud Lilywhites have no plans to quit as they celebrate 10th anniversary

    Proud Lilywhites, Tottenham’s official LGBTQI+ supporters’ group, has changed lives and the law since their inception a decade ago, but have no plans to call it a day any time soon.

    Tuesday marks the organisation’s 10th anniversary and co-founder Chris Paouros acknowledged an early aim was to “put ourselves out of business” by improving equality in football and changing homophobic attitudes.

    The achievements of the group include helping a member seek asylum in the UK and contributing towards the Chelsea rent boy chant being deemed a homophobic hate crime, with this past month full of activities to celebrate their milestone.

    Recent men’s and women’s matches with Wolves and Aston Villa respectively were dedicated to Proud Lilywhites’ 10th anniversary with the club’s 62,850-seater stadium lit up in rainbow colours and again on February 15 when a celebration event was held at the ground, with first-teamers Ben Davies and Ellie Brazil in attendance.

    “Walking down the High Road (before Wolves), I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt,” Paouros told the PA news agency.

    “I come from Seven Sisters way and seeing the stadium saying celebrating 10 years of Proud Lilywhites, it almost took my breath away and I feel emotion now talking about it.

    “We just made up this thing 10 years ago and thought this is a good idea!

    “As a LGBTQI+ fan, you don’t always feel football is for you. And I always say that feeling when the ball is about to hit the back of the net and everyone rises in unison, you don’t get that anywhere else. For that reason I don’t want to deny that for anybody.”

    Proud Lilywhites’ celebration event was attended by several key allies with Spurs’ executive director Donna-Maria Cullen, Troy Townsend of Kick It Out, Women in Football’s Jo Tongue and Olympic gold-medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh all addressing the three-figure audience, while symbolically Ledley King was also present.

    Ex-Tottenham captain King has supported the group since the beginning after being in their first ever photo ahead of a Europa League clash with Dnipro on February, 27 2014.

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Tottenham Hotspur (@spursofficial)


    The wheels in motion for Proud Lilywhites started weeks before that launch event at the Dnipro fixture when Paouros and five others held a meeting at White Hart Lane with then-supporters’ liaison officer Jonathan Waite to set out the group’s formation.

    In the Bill Nicholson Suite, Proud Lilywhites declared their three key principles would be community, education and campaigning and with it the pathway to changing lives and the law had been set.

    Later that year Proud Lilywhites put up their rainbow-coloured flag at White Hart Lane for the first time, which has been the catalyst for fans like group co-chair Lee Johnson to give football a second chance.

    Paouros added: “When we first put a flag up at White Hart Lane, there was a huge hoo-ha about it.

    “Now it is a permanent fixture and people are proud of it. You can say it is just a symbol to say you are inclusive, but actually that flag has brought so many people back to the game.”

    The homophobic rent boy chant – aimed at Chelsea, its players and fans – had forced Johnson away from football, but the Crown Prosecution Service in 2022 recognised it as a homophobic hate crime after Proud Lilywhites alongside Chelsea Pride co-chair Tracy Brown gathered evidence through victim impact statements to ensure the law was changed.

    Proud Lilywhites also work alongside Kick It Out to provide fan education, but a real source of pride revolves around helping a now-committee member to be granted asylum in the UK.

    “One of our members, she is a committee member now, was seeking asylum in this country for persecution for her sexual orientation,” Paouros explained.

    “And as you know if you seek asylum, you have to prove it and how on earth do you prove your sexual orientation? It is unthinkable.

    “However, in 2016 or 2017, we did a stall before the north London derby where we made rainbow rock sweets, talked about Proud Lilywhites. She helped and it was photographed.

    “So, that evidence of helping with the stall along with a letter we wrote supporting her case meant she was granted asylum and it is one case, but I am really proud of that.”

    There are countless other examples of Proud Lilywhites’ impact with the group recently singled out for praise by Angharad ‘Haz’ James upon her departure from the women’s team, while Ashleigh Neville described them as “amazing” earlier this month.

    Proud Lilywhites have twice been recognised at the Football v Homophobia awards and were the fourth LGBTQI+ football group to form in England. Now they are one of more than 50 linked to the Pride in Football network, which they helped form.

    However, the groups’ work is far from over with homophobic abuse targeted at Proud Lilywhites on social media earlier this month, which means a one-time assertion no longer rings true.

    “We’ve always said we want to put ourselves out of business and not be in a position where we’re doing this forever, but Donna (Cullen) said, ‘Do you really? Because look at all these people who love being part of this group’. There is something in that because it’s about how you bring people together to feel a sense of community,” Paouros conceded.

    “Last year we saw an increase in homophobic chanting and abuse in professional football.

    “So, we need to encourage a culture of reporting that doesn’t feel like people being grassed up.

    “While we are not safe on our phones, not safe on our streets and while football can sometimes send us signals that we don’t belong, the Proud Lilywhites remains a beckon for the positive change fans can make alongside committed clubs like Spurs to ensure football really is for everyone.”

  • Klopp’s kids and Chelsea’s Wembley blues – stats behind Carabao Cup final Klopp’s kids and Chelsea’s Wembley blues – stats behind Carabao Cup final

    Sunday’s Carabao Cup final brought Jurgen Klopp an eighth trophy as Liverpool manager as his inexperienced side saw off Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

    It was a sixth consecutive defeat in domestic cup finals for Chelsea and here, the PA news agency looks at the noteworthy statistical implications of the match.

    Trophy haul

    Klopp has won seven different honours with Liverpool, with Virgil van Dijk’s extra-time winner meaning the League Cup is the first trophy his side have lifted more than once.

    Victory over Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final brought his first trophy and the following season saw Liverpool win the UEFA Super Cup, the Club World Cup and then the Premier League.

    A domestic cup double in 2021-22, both in penalty shoot-outs against Chelsea after goalless finals, allowed them to add the 2022 Community Shield.

    An eighth different prize could yet come in this season’s Europa League, a competition in which Liverpool lost the 2015-16 final to Sevilla at the end of Klopp’s debut season.

    Sunday was Liverpool’s record 10th League Cup win.

    Klopp’s kids

    Much was made of the youth of the Liverpool team that ended the game but Chelsea too are in a rebuilding phase – their finishing XI actually had a slightly younger average age than their Liverpool counterparts, 23 years and 77 days to 24 years and 172 days.

    Liverpool brought on Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns for, respectively, their ninth, seventh and second senior appearances, while Jarell Quansah was playing only his 20th Reds game and 36th in senior football.

    Van Dijk, though, lifted the total senior appearances of their finishing XI to 1,670, compared to Chelsea’s 1,513, with Joe Gomez joining him above 200 club appearances as Liverpool totalled 817 by that measure to Chelsea’s 371.

    The key difference is the method of acquiring those players. While Liverpool finished with five academy products on the pitch, and started another in Conor Bradley, Chelsea’s were largely acquired in Todd Boehly and co’s billion-pound spending spree.

    The Blues XI that finished the game cost a reported £466million in transfer fees, with Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo both £100m-plus signings and every outfield player bar homegrown pair Trevoh Chalobah and Levi Colwill costing £25m or more. Van Dijk accounts for just over half of the £148m cost of Liverpool’s XI.

    Final destination

    Gary Neville, on co-commentary duty for Sky, labelled Chelsea “billion-pound bottle jobs” after Van Dijk’s winner. And while the Blues won the 2021 Champions League and 2019 Europa League, they have lost six successive domestic finals since lifting the 2018 FA Cup.

    Sunday’s setback followed in a near-identical vein to Liverpool’s 2021-22 cup double, with Van Dijk staving off the prospect of another penalty shoot-out.

    Kostas Tsimikas, whose corner set up that goal, scored the winning kick in the FA Cup final two years ago while the League Cup was a nightmare for Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was substituted on for the shoot-out but conceded to all 11 Liverpool players – including goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher – before blazing his own penalty over the bar.

    That echoed 2019’s confusion over Maurizio Sarri’s attempt to substitute Kepa off before the start of the shoot-out. He saved from Leroy Sane but let a weak Sergio Aguero effort under him as Manchester City won 4-3.

    Youri Tielemans settled the 2021 FA Cup final in Leicester’s favour, a year after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double earned Arsenal a 2-1 win over Chelsea. Christian Pulisic’s early opener was Chelsea’s only goal in the six finals.

    Manager Mauricio Pochettino also lost both his finals with former club Tottenham, in the 2019 Champions League – against Liverpool – and the 2015 League Cup.

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