EPL

Guardiola refuses to be drawn on Kane speculation amid Man City links

By Sports Desk May 18, 2021

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola refused to be drawn on speculation linking the Premier League champions with Tottenham star Harry Kane.

Kane has reportedly told Tottenham he wants to leave, sparking apparent interest from City, neighbours Manchester United and Chelsea.

Speaking after City's 3-2 Premier League defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday, Guardiola declined to fuel the rumours.

"Next question," Guardiola said during his post-match news conference. "He's a Tottenham Hotspurs player. Please."

Kane's future is unclear given his ambition to win trophies which has been unfulfilled at boyhood club Spurs.

City are in the market for a new forward with free agent Sergio Aguero exiting this off-season, although the club have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Meanwhile, Guardiola insisted he was not concerned by City's recent form ahead of the Champions League final against Premier League rivals Chelsea on May 29.

Guardiola's City have lost two of their past three matches, conceding eight goals in the process.

City have lost six Premier League games having led by two or more goals – only Tottenham (eight) have suffered more such defeats in the competition's history.

Against Brighton, City's possession figure was just 37 per cent, the lowest recorded by a side managed by Guardiola in a single top-flight match.

"On Sunday, with our people, we are going to lift the trophy," Guardiola said. "And after we are going to go for the final of the Champions League.

"I am concerned because this is the final of the Champions League, because the opponent is so tough. I saw incredible things today in the pitch with 11 against 10 for 80 minutes in the Premier League.

"We are fortunate to lift the [Premier League] trophy and we did it ourselves. Nobody gave us absolutely anything; nothing.

"That's why I am so proud of the team; it means how difficult is the Premier League again, and now we're going to prepare as best as possible for the final of the Champions League."

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  • Italy want to win Euro 2020, says Belotti Italy want to win Euro 2020, says Belotti

    Italy forward Andrea Belotti said winning Euro 2020 is the aim for the Azzurri following their winning start.

    Roberto Mancini's Italy opened the rescheduled European Championship with a commanding 3-0 victory over Turkey in Rome on Friday.

    Italy – enjoying a resurgence under head coach Mancini following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – are in the midst of a 28-match unbeaten streak as they prepare for Wednesday's clash with Switzerland in the Italian capital.

    The 1968 European champions have kept a clean sheet in each of their last nine matches in all competitions, going 875 minutes without conceding since a Donny van de Beek goal for the Netherlands last October – Italy have not kept 10 consecutive clean sheets since doing so between November 1989 and June 1990.

    "We believe in it, that's our target, we hit rock bottom by not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and now we want to win this competition," Torino's Belotti told UEFA.com.

    "We know we can do it, but we need to keep our feet on the ground and work together, focused on the target, in every game. That's the only way we can reach the final."

    Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5) – a friendly defeat at the Stadio Olimpico in 1982, in what was the country's first game after being crowned world champions three months prior.

    Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Italians have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the European Championship, doing so in 2000 and 2016.

    "There is a great sense of belonging, we all know how important this shirt is and how important it is to do well after hitting rock bottom by not qualifying for the World Cup," Belotti added.

    "We know which one is our duty and we also have a great desire for redemption, that's why we always want to give something more.

    "We know that we are all important, regardless if we start on the bench. The games last 90 minutes and anything can happen."

  • Man Utd's transfer budget not impacted by debt – Glazer Man Utd's transfer budget not impacted by debt – Glazer

    Manchester United executive co-chairman Joel Glazer insisted the level of debt at Old Trafford has not impacted the Premier League giants in the transfer market.

    The Glazer family have been scrutinised since taking over United in 2005, with the Red Devils saddled in huge debt ever since, though the criticism came to a head following the club's decision to sign up for the doomed European Super League in April.

    United fans have continued to call for further transfer funding amid the club's trophy drought – dating back to 2017, while they have not won the Premier League since 2013, and investment to renovate Old Trafford.

    After finishing second to neighbours Manchester City in 2020-21, United have been linked with Borussia Dortmund pair Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane and Tottenham star Harry Kane among other rumoured targets.

    Under-fire Glazer attended his first fans' forum earlier in June and addressed a number of concerns, including the debt and dividend payments.

    "I know this is a subject that a lot of people have a lot of different views on, but when we take things and look at things as a whole, we think that Manchester United is a very well-run club," Glazer said in quotes released on Monday.

    "We're able to spend with the top clubs throughout Europe, whether it's wages or transfer fees, we've been able to keep our ticket prices low, we've not increased them in over 10 years.

    "We're able to pay a dividend but it's a modest proportion of our five to six hundred million pounds of revenue; it's less than three per cent of that.

    "It has never stood in the way of us pursuing players or transfers on the pitch. We may have walked away from transfers at times because the other side wanted an outlandish number. And while it's easy to pay it that one time, it does have consequences.

    "You do it once and the next person expects it, and then the next person expects it. And that's not good, ultimately, for the club. So, we think that we're able to accomplish all these things and still have a very, very successful club and invest, and do everything that's necessary for a club of our stature."

    Glazer added: "I know this is clearly another area that has got a lot of discussion and debate over the years. We think we have a very comfortable position when it comes to this. We have debt, but a lot of other clubs do have debt as well.

    "We pay a very low interest rate, mostly fixed interest debt. So, if interest rates went up it would not affect us, but we had made progress in reducing our debt over the last several years.

    "The net debt was meaningfully reduced a couple years ago. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit and we have had to use a lot of our cash reserves because we didn't have any supporters in the stands, we didn't have the matchday revenue, and that has affected us, like it's affected all the clubs throughout Europe. The difference is we've been able to keep investing. We're strong."

    He added: "We're going to keep investing on the pitch, which we did last year, and we plan on doing it meaningfully this year. So, we feel that we're in a good spot.

    "There's always headline numbers [for the debt], and then there's the real costs on an annual basis and, again, it's never affected our ability to operate in the transfer market or do anything else with regard to the club."

  • Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires

    It was a modest record for a player as magnificent as Lionel Messi: three games, two final defeats, one red card, no goals.

    But the Barcelona great's Copa America performances against Chile prior to Monday's curtain-raising clash were not entirely out of keeping with the rest of his Argentina career.

    There have been moments of magic, of course, but just 15 goals across 46 Copa America and World Cup appearances ahead of this game. Meanwhile, not since 2007-08 has Messi fallen short of averaging a goal every two games for Barca, let alone one every three.

    Even Messi himself could not reasonably argue his international displays have come close to the standard set at club level.

    And while World Cup failures will always remain at the forefront of any such discussion – his achievements in contrast to Diego Maradona's one-man show in 1986 – the Copa America has provided its fair share of pain.

    The final defeats to Chile in 2015 and 2016 were among three for Messi and four for Argentina since their 14th and most recent title in 1993.

    Those two in consecutive years both came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs. Messi scored his spot-kick in the first match but missed the following year, setting his side on their way to another sore setback.

    It was fitting then, it seemed, that this latest campaign – surely one of Messi's last – would start against Chile and initially start in much more encouraging fashion.

    Neymar had set the standard against Venezuela the previous day.

    In front of empty, hushed stands that make it impossible to ignore the influence of politics in football – a popular topic of debate in 2021 – the pace was ponderous until the world's most expensive footballer got to work.

    Neymar scored one and created another in a 3-0 Brazil win. Along with five shots, he created seven chances – the most of any Selecao player in a Copa America match since his debut.

    It took 33 minutes, in which the absence of an atmosphere again jarred, but Messi rose to that challenge when presented with a free-kick in a central position, dipped over the wall and beyond the grasp of Claudio Bravo.

    That was one of seven Messi shots and he played four key passes, too. On paper, this ranked alongside Neymar's efforts.

    By full-time, though, it was a frustratingly familiar tale, as the supporting cast proved unable to suitably assist their superstar.

    Messi's excellence has excused a whole generation of Argentina internationals, absolved of blame because their great number 10 should have been able to win major tournaments alone.

    Too many hugely talented players have misfired on the big stage; Lionel Scaloni sent out some past and present examples.

    Lautaro Martinez is supposed to be the face of a young, new team. He had 11 goals in 23 prior internationals and should have added to that tally more than once in Rio de Janeiro.

    The Inter forward failed to hit the target with any of his three attempts and optimistically appealed for a foul following two of them when he inexplicably missed from point-blank range.

    And Martinez's frustration unfortunately came to the fore after 62 minutes when he lunged into an awful challenge on Charles Aranguiz under the nose of the referee and escaped with a booking.

    The 23-year-old's evening might have ended early with a red card. Instead, it was cut short by the introduction of Sergio Aguero.

    Chile had equalised five minutes prior to Martinez's moment of madness, one of a series of rash attempted tackles punished as a VAR review found Nicolas Tagliafico had made contact with Arturo Vidal in the area.

    Vidal took the penalty and Emiliano Martinez turned it onto the crossbar, but Eduardo Vargas was on hand to nod in his 13th Copa America goal – staying three clear of Messi and climbing into the top 10 all-time.

    Aguero followed Angel Di Maria onto the pitch as Argentina sought a response. Both players were not so long ago out of the picture under Scaloni, having previously been part of the Messi-led team that repeatedly came up short.

    In each Chile final, Di Maria started. Aguero was introduced from the bench in one and in the XI for the other.

    As on those occasions, there were no heroics from either on Monday. Di Maria, now 33, had two shots but neither troubled Bravo. Aguero, also 33, was caught offside once.

    Messi will be the story if Argentina do not deliver silverware in the coming weeks, just as he will be should they finally get over the hump.

    But the same problems persist. When Messi's free-kick set the stage, it was Martinez who could not step up, underwhelming again like too many past Argentina attackers.

    If this is to be the tournament in which Messi reaches his promised land, he is going to need some help.

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