Florian Kohfeldt lauded Claudio Pizarro after Werder Bremen narrowly managed to retain their Bundesliga status against Heidenheim as the club great retired from football.

Pizarro called time on his career following Monday's 2-2 draw at second-tier Heidenheim – four-time German champions Bremen prevailing in the Bundesliga relegation play-off on the away goals rule.

The 41-year-old Pizarro, who announced his retirement plans in July following 20 seasons in the Bundesliga – was an unused substitute as Bremen survived a dramatic second leg following last week's goalless draw.

It caps Pizarro's fourth stint with Bremen, having won six league titles across two separate spells at Bayern Munich, while he also spent a season playing for Chelsea in the Premier League.

Kohfeldt heaped praise on Bremen's all-time leading goalscorer Pizarro, who netted two goals in 2019-20.

"Awesome," Kohfeldt replied when asked how nice it was for Pizarro to end his career as a first-division player. "I was with him after the game as well and apologised that I couldn't bring him in his last game.

"Unfortunately the situation was just not there. But he said it didn't matter, the main thing was that we were not relegated.

"The other day we watched a video on YouTube in the coaching team. And we saw videos from the 90s, the 2000s and 2010s and I said to the assistant coach: "It's always the same face that laughs.

"That just shows what meaning he has and what joy he has given to the Werder fans. How much importance he has for this club. And it makes me happy for the team.

"I can't pull my hat any lower and bow any lower before Claudio Pizarro and what he has done for Werder Bremen and the Bundesliga. And I am delighted that we were able to close this chapter in the first division. Many thanks Claudio!"

Hungary head coach Marco Rossi believes Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai is the "ideal player" for Serie A side Napoli.

Szoboszlai is a player in demand and tipped to leave Salzburg following his exploits for the Austrian champions – the Hungary international linked to Napoli, Milan, Inter, Lazio and Premier League outfit Arsenal.

The 19-year-old midfielder has scored 12 goals across all competitions in 2019-20, supplying 10 league assists for Salzburg in Austria.

Amid growing speculation, Hungary's Italian boss Rossi feels Szoboszlai would thrive with Gennaro Gattuso's Napoli.

"He's a 19-year-old who made his debut for the national team at the age of 18. He's a very elegant and talented player, rich in technique," Rossi told CalcioNapoli24.

"He plays between the lines and is good at assisting in the final third. He has great physicality and is tall but, despite its height, also has an excellent burst of pace.

"If he decides to accept an offer from Serie A, it would complement his technical expertise with a couple of things where he still needs to improve, for example his defensive game.

"Tactically speaking, Salzburg have played him high up on the left and he's posted good numbers there, but in possession he often plays between the lines to make room for the full-back.

"In a 4-3-3, instead, he could be a box-to-box midfielder, capable of supporting the centre-forward.

"Szoboszlai expresses himself best in a team who play positionally. In Italy, Napoli must play football and not counterattack because they're among the best teams in Italy, [even if] they might suffer in a couple of games every season.

"Dominik would be the ideal player for [Napoli’s] style of play."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said Lautaro Martinez "must find peace of mind" amid strong links to LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Martinez – who moved to Milan from Racing Club in 2018 – has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for Barca at the end of the 2019-20 coronavirus-hit season.

The Argentina forward had scored 16 goals prior to the campaign being halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but he has only netted once in six games since the restart, missing a penalty in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Bologna.

Inter CEO Marotta – reluctant to part with the 22-year-old – said Martinez needs to regain his focus as his struggles continue.

"There are two factors to consider, the competitive one and the one relating to the transfer market, which run concurrently," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"Inter don't want to sell a 23-year-old lad like him, but this is a time when rumours are flying about.

"We saw Lautaro the great player in the first half of the season, which caught the attention of big clubs.

"Now, he must find peace of mind to guarantee Inter the performance levels he showed in the first half of the season."

Marotta also said Inter must be patient with January signing Christian Eriksen, who has struggled for consistency since arriving from Tottenham.

Eriksen has netted three goals across all competitions and supplied two assists in Serie A, where Inter sit third in the table – four points behind second-placed Lazio and just a point clear of in-form Atalanta with eight matches remaining.

"Eriksen joined in January, obviously with problems in an area of the pitch that is suffering from some absences," Marotta added. "He's a great player and he can certainly give much more. We have to be patient with him.

"There are eight games left and 24 points up for grabs. We've suffered 4 defeats, so many for what Inter represent but not that many in context of our project.

"As for the Europa League, we'll try to win it. We don't know how the other teams in the competition are faring right now, but we must believe. We play to win and this is a big objective for us."

FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando after 10 players and one coach tested positive for coronavirus.

The MLS, which has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to resume on Wednesday at the Disney World Resort in Florida.

However, Dallas – who had been originally scheduled to open their tournament against Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday – will not be involved following Monday's announcement.

Each of the positive tests either occurred upon the club's arrival or within a few days of arriving in Orlando.

The MLS said, "the decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts."

"Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club's ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a league statement.

"The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority."

Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez added: "As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches and staff who are in isolation, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time.

"While we're disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation as well as our league partners is our highest priority."

"We absolutely agree with the league's decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament out of safety concerns for our players and staff," said Dallas president Dan Hunt. "We're looking forward to resuming the 2020 season once the entire club is healthy and in a position to play competitive matches at the highest level."

 

Hamburg have named Daniel Thioune as their new coach.

Thioune, who became the first German-born black head coach when he took over at Osnabruck in 2017, joins on a contract until 2022.

His appointment comes after Hamburg parted ways with Dieter Hecking following their failure to secure a return to the Bundesliga.

A 5-1 home defeat to Sandhausen on the final day of the season denied Hamburg a place in the promotion play-off and condemned them to a third campaign in the 2. Bundesliga.

Thioune guided Osnabruck to promotion from the 3. Liga in 2018-19 and then a 13th-placed finish in the second tier as they avoided relegation.

He said: "For me, the task at hand at HSV will be a great challenge, which I would like to tackle head on with diligence, team work and passion.

"Everyone knows that HSV wants to be back in the Bundesliga. But to talk about that, doesn't bring us closer to that goal.

"From my first day onwards, I will work hard with my team to develop all of the players and give the team the best chance to play football successfully."

Pep Guardiola thought he knew better than Bayern Munich's medical staff during his time with the Bundesliga giants, according to the club's former team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

Muller-Wohlfahrt ended his 40-year tenure as Bayern's chief doctor in June, with Hansi Flick's side having wrapped up yet another Bundesliga title.

The 77-year-old was at the helm of Bayern's medical department during Guardiola's time at the club, with the Spaniard taking over at the Allianz Arena in 2013.

Guardiola led Bayern to seven major trophies during a three-year spell, before leaving for Manchester City in 2016.

Muller-Wohlfahrt has revealed he often clashed with the ex-Barcelona boss, though insisted the pair maintain a good relationship.

"It was just that I couldn't put up with the fact that a young trainer – who was very successful and who is probably one of the really, really big ones – interfered in medical matters and knew everything better than I did,"  Muller-Wohlfahrt told BR24.

"We met and talked to each other, and then it's over. 

"We appreciate each other and he appreciates my work above all. He never questioned that."

Real Madrid get more penalties than other teams because they attack more, according to Atletico Madrid boss Simeone.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu have suggested Madrid, who sit four points clear of the Catalan giants at the top of LaLiga, are benefiting from favourable decisions from referees.

Zinedine Zidane said has was "tired" of hearing such comments after his side beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Sunday, the second straight game they have won courtesy of a Sergio Ramos penalty, which was awarded after a VAR review spotted Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo.

Iker Muniain was critical of the officials after the match because Athletic did not receive a spot-kick for Ramos appearing to step on Raul Garcia's foot off the ball or for another incident involving the Madrid captain and Dani Garcia.

Madrid have been awarded nine penalties in LaLiga this season – only Athletic and Real Mallorca have earned more (10 each) – and Simeone thinks it is natural for a team that plays on the front foot to get such decisions.

"VAR exposes everything. Before we didn't have the possibility of seeing some things that we now see. The referees are people who can be wrong as well," Simeone told a news conference.

"It is fairer. If they give you more penalties, it's because you are in the opposition's area more. If they attack more, like Real Madrid, it means you are there longer.

"In the speed of the game it's difficult to see what happens, but now another referee sees it with calmness on television. People too, from their homes.

"Then there is a person who decides, which is the VAR. It can hurt you or help you, but now we are all clear on if its offside, if it's a penalty… we are all more exposed."

Atleti face Celta Vigo on Tuesday and will be without Joao Felix due to an ankle injury.

Joao Felix has scored eight goals and supplied three assists in 34 appearances in all competitions since joining from Benfica for €126million last year.

Simeone intends to remain patient with the 20-year-old Portugal international when he is available for action again.

"Joao is in his first year at Atletico. I am not surprised by anything that is happening to him," said the Atleti boss.

"He has to be patient and not disengage. The anger he has because of what he wants to show, because of his qualities, sometimes costs him.

"Few footballers at 20 or 21 are the finished article. He has undoubted talent. He's a humble, respectful boy who gets along with everybody."

Massimiliano Allegri says he had contact with Real Madrid over becoming their head coach two years ago, but wanted to stay loyal to Juventus.

The former Milan boss spent five successful years in charge of Juve prior to his exit at the end of last season.

After Zinedine Zidane left Madrid following the 2017-18 campaign, the club had short spells with Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari in charge.

Allegri was one of the other options pursued by the club and the Italian thanked Madrid president Florentino Perez for his interest at the time.

Madrid ultimately turned back to Zidane in March 2019.

"Two years ago, there was contact, but nothing came of it because I had a contract with Juve," Allegri said to Marca about Madrid's interest.

"Furthermore, I had a strong moral commitment to the club and its fans."

Allegri was asked what he likes most about the work Zidane is doing at Santiago Bernabeu, with a LaLiga title on the horizon as the delayed 2019-20 season nears its conclusion.

"The strength he has had in finding the indispensable balance of a team so full of class and talent," Allegri said.

"For me, the positioning of Casemiro has been a tactical masterclass from Zizou."

Discussing his own future, Allegri continued: "I've been charging my batteries [since leaving Juve] and enjoying time with my family and my city, Livorno, with my lifelong friends.

"I don't really care [if my next job is in Italy or abroad]. I'm looking for a club to share a project with and which has the ambition to compete to win."

And when questioned over whether he would like to coach in LaLiga, Allegri added: "Who in their right mind would say no to this question? No one.

"There is more pleasure of playing in LaLiga, no matter the result. After conceding a goal, the team keeps playing as if nothing has happened. 

"In Italy, on the other hand, there is much more love and attention for the details of the game and tactics. The brain almost always wins out over the heart, in general.

"[Italian football is more difficult] because of what I said before. The player doesn't have much freedom to enjoy themselves in a purely instinctive way and this sometimes makes it difficult."

Nemanja Matic has put pen to paper on a new contract with Manchester United that runs until 2023.

Serbia international Matic had one year remaining on his previous deal.

But the club announced on Monday he has been signed to fresh terms following some impressive displays under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 31-year-old joined United from Chelsea in 2017 and has made 114 appearances.

"I am very happy that I will continue to be part of this great club," midfielder Matic said in a statement.

"As a player, I still have a lot more to give and achieve in my career and to do that with Manchester United will be a huge honour.

"This is a really exciting team to be part of, we have a good balance of youth and experience within the squad and there is great comradery amongst the group.

"This is a key part of the season and we are playing well. We will continue to fight to finish the season on a high and make our amazing supporters proud."

Solskjaer added: "I am delighted that Nemanja has signed a new contract, I know his experience, professionalism and leadership will be invaluable to this young talented group.

"We have great strength in midfield and Nemanja's attributes are a key part of that. Nemanja has been here for three seasons now and really understands the values of playing for Manchester United.

"He remains hugely ambitious and determined which will be vital as we look to achieve our aims over the coming years."

Matic has started each of United's past three Premier League games, helping them extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 16 matches.

Solskjaer's side have moved up to fifth in the top flight, three points behind third-place Leicester City in the race for Champions League qualification.

Borussia Monchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl says trying to close the gap to Bayern Munich is like him chasing down Usain Bolt.

Bayern defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal final on Saturday to complete a domestic double, having wrapped up their eighth straight Bundesliga title-winning campaign the weekend prior.

Gladbach were early pacesetters in the top flight as the Bavarian giants struggled to get going under Niko Kovac, but they ended up sealing fourth on the final day of the season.

The difference between the teams was 17 points and Eberl likened Gladbach attempting to catch up to himself in a race with eight-time Olympic gold medallist Bolt, who holds the world record in the 100 metres and 200m.

Asked if the Foals could lead the rest of the Bundesliga's attempts to topple Bayern, Eberl told Kicker: "It's as realistic as if I challenge Usain Bolt to the 100 metres and think I can win.

"Maybe I'll be at the front at the start. Maybe he stumbles in between. But the likelihood that Usain Bolt will end up in front of me, and Bayern Munich before Gladbach, is very high.

"It's not 100 per cent but is clearly in the region of 90 per cent."

However, he added: "We will not give up and throw in the towel. We are working on getting even better."

Gladbach's hopes of making significant personnel improvements in the close season have been hit by a loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic that could end up in the region of €30million.

"We will not now storm the transfer market and buy big-name players," said Eberl.

"Coronavirus hit us to the core. The [financial] reserves melt like ice in the sun. The big picture will be even more important in the future, not just having an eye on sport."

Joao Felix has been ruled out of Atletico Madrid's LaLiga game against Celta Vigo on Tuesday due to an ankle injury.

Portugal forward Joao Felix was substituted in the 54th minute of Atletico's 3-0 victory over Real Mallorca on Friday

Tests carried out on Sunday revealed the 20-year-old has suffered "a traumatic bone edema in the ankle", the club said in a statement on Monday.

Although it was confirmed Joao Felix will miss the trip to Balaidos to face Celta, Atleti did not provide a time frame for his recovery.

Joao Felix has struggled to live up to expectations in his first season with Atleti, who shelled out €126million to sign him from Benfica last year.

He has scored eight goals and supplied three assists in 34 appearances in all competitions.

The attacker has already missed 10 games due to two separate injuries this term and one more through suspension.

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly agreed to let Neymar return to Barcelona, while Borussia Dortmund have set their asking price for Jadon Sancho.

Neymar, 28, has regularly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, and that could be getting a step closer.

But can the LaLiga giants make it happen?

 

TOP STORY – PSG AGREE TO LET NEYMAR RETURN TO BARCELONA

Neymar has reached an agreement with PSG to return to Barcelona ahead of next season, according to AS.

However, the report says Barcelona must still find the means to make it happen.

Neymar starred across four seasons at the LaLiga club before joining PSG in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

ROUND-UP

- If Manchester United want Sancho, it seems they know what they need to pay. Ruhr Nachrichten reports Dortmund want £108.3m (€120m) for the star attacker and the deal must be completed before August 10.

- Amid links to Barcelona, Xavi signed a new contract with Al-Sadd until 2021. However, Mundo Deportivo says the club's former midfielder has a release clause in his new contract to be able to sign to take over at Camp Nou before his deal ends. Staying at Barcelona and the club have agreed to lower Ivan Rakitic's price, according to Sport, with the midfielder linked with a Sevilla return.

- Nemanja Matic has found form at Manchester United. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, the 31-year-old midfielder – whose contract was expiring next year – has signed a new deal with the Premier League club until 2023.

- While Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, his future is somewhat uncertain. The Daily Express reports Paris Saint-Germain are keeping tabs on the Spaniard.

- As they near promotion to the Premier League, Leeds United could be ready to strengthen. The Sun reports Leeds are prepared to sign Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard – who has been linked to Manchester United and Arsenal – if they return to the top flight.

- Valencia are searching for a new head coach after the sacking of Albert Celades. L'Equipe reports former PSG boss Laurent Blanc is on the LaLiga club's list of possible successors.

Retired Jamaica international Jobi McAnuff insists he is not just along for the ride after signing a new one-year contract with England League Two club Leyton Orient.

McANuff the club captain, will be 39 years old later this year and transitioned to a player/coach role last season.  He will be in a similar capacity this year but despite being the senior statesman of sorts is determined to be more than just a passenger on the pitch.

“I don’t just want to be a bit part or be here for the ride, I want to contribute, that’s a big, big thing for me,” McAnuff said in an interview with the club’s official website.

“I’m feeling good,” he added.

 “Last year, as everyone knows, was frustrating. I worked really hard to get back to playing, and I’ve got a lot of work again to get to the level I want to get to.”

The injury kept McAnuff out of action for almost the entire season, not playing his first match until March.  Orient coach Ross Embleton is confident the Jamaica midfielder will be a major contributor both on and off the pitch – and is delighted to see him stay.

“He’s been at the club since I came back, and we all know what an inspiration he is on the pitch,” Embleton said.

McAnuff has made 141 appearances for the O’s in two spells.

 

Lautaro Martinez's missed penalty cost Inter dearly as Bologna staged a superb second-half comeback to seal a stunning 2-1 win at San Siro on Sunday. 

Romelu Lukaku had given Inter a first-half lead with his 20th Serie A goal of the season before Bologna's Roberto Soriano received a red card for dissent after 57 minutes. 

Martinez then squandered a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 five minutes later, striking his attempt from the spot straight at Lukasz Skorupski. 

The visitors took full advantage of that reprieve, scoring through Musa Juwara and Musa Barrow inside the final 16 minutes to seal a memorable away win over the Nerazzurri, who had Alessandro Bastoni dismissed for two bookable offences.

West Brom boosted their bid for automatic promotion as relegation-threatened Hull City and Middlesbrough both lost in Sunday's Championship action.

After table-topping Leeds United and in-form Brentford both won 24 hours earlier, the Baggies followed suit as they eventually overcame Hull 4-2 in an eventful encounter at the Hawthorns.

Twice West Brom took the lead only to concede, Mallik Wilks making it 2-2 early in the second half. However, Kamil Grosicki crucially edged the hosts back in front just over a minute later.

Grady Diangana wrapped up victory for Slaven Bilic's side, though they finished the game down to 10 men following the late dismissal of Ahmed Hegazi. Still, West Brom are once again a point behind Leeds, while they are five clear of third-place Brentford.

Hull remain outside the bottom three as fellow strugglers Middlesbrough were beaten at home, going down 1-0 to QPR.

Jordan Hugill grabbed the only goal of the contest just after the half-hour mark against a club where he spent the 2018-19 season on loan.

Meanwhile, Swansea City moved up to eighth – four points adrift of the final play-off berth occupied by rivals Cardiff City – courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

Rhian Brewster, who is on loan from Liverpool, opened the scoring and Andre Ayew doubled the Swans' lead from the penalty spot. Atdhe Nuhiu did half the deficit, though his stoppage-time effort was no more than a consolation for the Owls.

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