'He is still one of our players' - Inter vice president Zanetti coy on potential Sanchez departure

By Sports Desk July 21, 2022

Inter vice president Javier Zanetti is unsure whether Alexis Sanchez will remain a Nerazzurri player amid reports of interest from Saudi Arabia.

The Chilean 33-year-old arrived from Manchester United in 2019, initially joining on a season-long loan before signing a permanent deal in 2020.

He was part of the 2020-21 Inter side which delivered their first Serie A title since the 2009-10 season, while he also scored a 121st minute winner to help his team lift the 2022 Supercoppa Italiana in January.

Sanchez only scored five goals in 27 Serie A appearances for Inter last season, though he was either substituted on or off in 25 of those matches, and there has subsequently been talk of a move away from San Siro.

It has been reported that Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr have made an offer for Sanchez, but Zanetti was coy when asked about the forward's situation.

Zanetti told En Cancha: "He has started training with the team and is training with the whole squad.

"The transfer market is open, but today he is still one of our players."

Having already signed Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, Inter had looked set to further strengthen their attacking options with the acquisition of Paulo Dybala, who left Juventus at the end of his contract in June.

The 19-time Serie A champions appeared to be frontrunners to sign Dybala, but the Argentine has instead joined Jose Mourinho's Europa Conference League winners Roma ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

Inter may also lose Milan Skriniar, who has been strongly linked with a move to French giants Paris Saint-Germain, although Nerazzurri goalkeeper Samir Handanovic said it was "essential" to keep the defender on Thursday.

 

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    Alexis Mac Allister's rise to prominence in the Argentina squad has surprised even himself, and the Brighton midfielder is relishing the prospect of Friday's World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands.

    Mac Allister did not play Argentina's first game in Qatar, a stunning 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, but has subsequently cemented a place in Lionel Scaloni's midfield and quickly emerged as a key player.

    Argentina take on the Oranje at Lusail Stadium with a place in the semi-finals at stake and Mac Allister is excited at the prospect.

    "If you would have told me this [how influential he has become] before the World Cup I would have signed up for it, for sure," he said.

    "It has been a fast integration but the credit for that goes to my colleagues and the technical staff."

    The Netherlands will pose a serious threat to Argentina's hopes but Mac Allister was more interested in talking up his team-mates than spending too much time worrying about Louis van Gaal's men.

    He added: "We know they have great players, and a very clear style, but we have our own weapons and will try to counter theirs.

    "There is a great history between the sides but if we do things right everything will be fine."

    The nations have met five times previously at the World Cup, with the last coming in 2014 when Argentina won a semi-final clash in Brazil on penalties after a turgid 0-0 draw.

    Van Gaal was also in charge of the Dutch on that occasion, during his second spell of three at the helm, and Mac Allister was full of admiration for the 71-year-old.

    "I remember watching that game with my family at home," he said. "I enjoyed it and now I am here. Being able to play these matches is a great joy.

    "We know he's a top coach, world renowned, and there is a great deal of respect from everyone in our camp, including me. His teams always have variation but with a clear idea. We are up against a great team."

    Lionel Messi has been Argentina's standout player so far in Qatar and stopping him could be key to the outcome.

    Reports in the Netherlands suggest Van Gaal is considering employing someone to man mark the Paris Saint-Germain star but Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni claims to have seen it all before.

    He said: "We are used to our opponents coming up with something different. We will see but, during the match, there are always modifications, and that’s something we are likely to do as well.

    "Let's wait and see but we have played matches before when there has been man-marking on Leo."

    Argentina have injury concerns over Rodrigo De Paul and Angel Di Maria but Scaloni was not giving much away regarding their availability.

    "Today we have the last training session so we will see how they feel," he said. "Rodrigo trained on Wednesday so let's see what happens in today's session. Angel also trained so we will decide later today."

  • Croatia v Brazil: Neymar proud of matching Pele and Ronaldo as Tite explains dance joy Croatia v Brazil: Neymar proud of matching Pele and Ronaldo as Tite explains dance joy

    Brazil coach Tite has explained that joining in with his team's celebrations against South Korea was not an act of disrespect to the opposition.

    The Selecao ran out 4-1 winners against South Korea on Monday as they sealed their place in the World Cup quarter-finals in style.

    Vinicius Junior opened the scoring before Neymar converted a penalty after a foul on Richarlison, who added a sublime third prior to Lucas Paqueta rounding off Brazil's haul.

    After Richarlison's goal, which capped a superb move, Tite celebrated with the Tottenham forward by performing the 'pigeon' dance.

    He was criticised by some sections of the media, but Tite has explained he meant no disrespect.

    "We try to adapt to the athletes' characteristics. They are young, I have to get closer to their language," he said.

    "One day we were training and I said to Richarlison 'if you score a goal, I'll dance'.

    "I told the players to hide me a little, I know about the visibility.

    "I didn't want it to have any other interpretation than the joy of the goal, the result, the performance, but not disrespect for the opponent or Paulo Bento, who I have great respect for."

    With his goal, meanwhile, Neymar matched Pele and Ronaldo as the third Brazil player to score at three different World Cups. 

    The Paris Saint-Germain star is also just one short of matching Pele's record goal haul of 77 for Brazil.

    "Achieving marks is a great source of pride," Neymar said.

    "I reached numbers that I would never have imagined reaching, that's always very good. It makes me very happy."

     

    Croatia stand between Brazil and a place in the last four.

    Brazil have never lost in four previous meetings with Croatia, with this their first meeting since a 2-0 friendly win in June 2018.

    Brazil are looking to reach the World Cup semi-final for the ninth time, with only Germany (12) doing so more often. 

    Croatia, runners-up in 2018, have reached at least the last four of the competition on both previous occasions they've made it out of the group stages (1998 and 2018).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil – Neymar

    Neymar has been involved in 15 goals in his last 11 appearances for Brazil in all competitions (eight goals, seven assists), with each of his last six goals for the national side coming from the penalty spot.

    Last time out against South Korea, he became the first Brazil player on record (since 1966) to both score and provide an assist at three different World Cup tournaments.

    Croatia – Luka Modric

    Real Madrid star Luka Modric was not on the pitch as Croatia progressed past Japan on penalties in the last 16, but if Zlatko Dalic's team are to beat Brazil, the 37-year-old will surely be crucial.

    He will go up against former Madrid club-mate Casemiro, and will need the assistance of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, but if Modric can wield his influence, Croatia have a chance.

    PREDICTION

    Croatia have lost four of their five World Cup games against South American sides, with the exception being a 3-0 win over Argentina in 2018. Two of those four defeats have been against Brazil – 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014.

    Despite getting to the final in Russia, Croatia have been handed only an 11.5 per chance of victory by Opta's model, which has Brazil as the favourites with 68.2 per cent.

    The draw is at 20.3 per cent.

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    The Athletic reported on Wednesday that a Filipino man said to be in his early 40s died while working at the base of Saudi Arabia during the group stage.

    According to the report, the incident is being investigated by the Qatari government.

    Asked by the BBC for a comment on the reports, Al Khater extraordinarily said "death is a natural part of life" as he questioned why the interviewer had chosen to ask him about the incident.

    He said: "We're in the middle of a World Cup and we have a successful World Cup, and this is something you want to talk about right now?

    "I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it's at work or in your sleep.

    "Of course, a worker died, our condolences go to his family, however this is strange this is something you want to focus on as your first question."

    The Qatar World Cup has been dominated by off-field issues, such as the host nation's questionable human rights and its treatment of migrant workers.

    On Thursday, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura was asked by Reuters for a comment on the incident.

    "We've already elaborated... about what we are doing in Qatar," she said.

    "We are talking about things we have already discussed for months and months, time and time again."

    At the time of publication, FIFA had not responded to Stats Perform's request for comment.

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