BREAKING NEWS: Juventus sign Italy midfielder Locatelli for initial €25m

By Sports Desk August 18, 2021

Juventus have completed the signing of Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli from Serie A rivals Sassuolo.

The Bianconeri have paid an initial €25million, plus add-ons that could be worth a further €12.5m, to land the 23-year-old on a five-year deal.

Locatelli scored twice against Switzerland and made five appearances in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph.

Juve vice president Pavel Nedved revealed at the start of this month that the Turin giants had made what they considered to be an "appropriate offer" for Locatelli and they have now got their man.

Locatelli had the second best goals-per-90-minute ratio of any Italy player (0.66) in Euro 2020 after Matteo Pessina (0.95).

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  • England appoint Mott as limited-overs head coach England appoint Mott as limited-overs head coach

    England have appointed Australia women's head coach Matthew Mott to take charge of their men's white-ball teams.

    Rob Key, the new managing director of England men's cricket, decided to split the coaching roles and appointed New Zealand legend Brendon McCullum as Test head coach last week.

    Paul Collingwood, interim head coach following the dismissal of Chris Silverwood, was thought to be the leading candidate for the role with Eoin Morgan's limited-overs sides.

    However, Mott has landed the job, and it was confirmed on Wednesday that the 48-year-old has signed a four-year deal. 

    Mott was appointed as Australia head coach in 2015 and subsequently guided them to the Women's World Cup title last April, losing just two of their past 42 ODI matches.

    He is expected to be in place for the world champions' three-match ODI series against the Netherlands in Amsterdam next month.

    Mott said: "I am delighted to accept the opportunity to take this white-ball role with England. Whilst I am Australian, I have deep connections, and several of my closest friends are in the UK, having spent considerable time in Scotland, Wales and England, both as a player and coach.

    "When this role became available, I was attracted by the chance to work with such an established and successful team under the astute leadership of Eoin Morgan and now Rob Key, whom I have always admired as an excellent cricket mind.

    "The idea of the split roles and the chance to work alongside Brendon McCullum in his red-ball role is an opportunity that I am incredibly enthusiastic about and certainly provides the right balance for my family as we embark on this exciting journey.

    "It was always going to take something special to leave the role that I have loved for the past seven years with the Australian Women's team. However, I genuinely believe that the time is right to play a role in helping the England Men's ODI and T20 group continue to evolve as one of the best teams in the world.

    "I am fully aware that this team has been functioning well and part of my initial plan is to work with the playing group and support staff on how we can firstly maintain, then enhance, the success they have started to build over the past few years.

    "Since the excitement of accepting this role, I, like many people around the world, have been trying to come to terms with the tragic loss of my great mate Andrew Symonds. The support of his beautiful family and close friends in the coming days will be vitally important, so I respectfully request some time to process his passing and the immense loss before making any further comment on the role at this stage."

    Mott has previously worked in the head coach roles at New South Wales and Glamorgan, while he has also had a few brief spells working with Australia A.

    A former top-order batter for Queensland and Victoria, he was among the names floated as a potential successor to Justin Langer to coach the men's side for Australia.

    In 2009, Mott was also an assistant coach in the Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders, who McCullum played for in the inaugural edition of the competition before later coaching the franchise.

    Mott will be aiming to deliver T20 World Cup glory in Australia this year before they defend their ODI World Cup title in India in 2023.

  • Red Bull closing on Ferrari as F1 returns to Europe ahead of Spanish GP Red Bull closing on Ferrari as F1 returns to Europe ahead of Spanish GP

    The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting. 

    After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

    With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

    After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

    Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

    It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

    Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

    Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

    With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

    Ferrari set for upgrades

    The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

    Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

    Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

    Can Mercedes challenge?

    While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

    The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

    Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

    Constructors

    1. Ferrari 157
    2. Red Bull 151
    3. Mercedes 95
    4. McLaren 46
    5. Alfa Romeo 31

  • Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs Europa League final: Rangers success surely hinges on halting Eintracht's flying wing-backs

    In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

    Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

    "Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

    Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

    Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

    Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

    If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

    So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

    Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

    Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

    After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

    Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

    Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

    So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

    A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

    But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

    Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

    As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

    His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

    Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

    Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

    He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

    Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

    But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

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