Enzo Fernandez is the epitome of the type of footballer Germany must look to produce, according to RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl.

Benfica midfielder Fernandez had an outstanding World Cup for Argentina and has since been linked with a host of major European clubs, prompting speculation of a move in the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old was an all-action figure in the team that carried off the trophy, and Eberl said Fernandez and Rodrigo de Paul were players whose industry caught the eye.

Eberl, previously sporting director at Borussia Monchengladbach for 14 years, is considered one of German football's smartest thinkers.

He wants to see leaders produced and believes that character trait can be as significant as skill.

"We should have this heart for the cause more into focus again. We have recently moved away a bit from the German virtues such as robustness and assertiveness," Eberl said.

In an interview with Kicker magazine, Eberl spoke of the players who are approaching the end of their international careers.

With Germany hosting Euro 2024, this is a moment where the pressure is on to deliver a winning team, and the World Cup group-stage exit suggests coach Hansi Flick is a long way off establishing such a group.

Eberl said: "I think we have outstanding football players in Germany, but we also know that we will lose very important players like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gundogan.

"We need players like Enzo Fernandez or Rodrigo de Paul with the Argentines. Good footballers who act with total dedication and the ability to work as part of a team. We've lost a bit of that greed to win every single duel."

Among players from teams who reached the World Cup knockout stage and contested at least 60 duels, only Croatia's Mateo Kovacic in the select group of 16 bettered Fernandez's 59 per cent success rate (40 of 68 duels won).

Germany goalkeeper Neuer broke his leg in a skiing accident after the World Cup and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. He is 36, while his Bayern Munich team-mate Muller is 33 and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan is 32. They are in the twilight of their international careers, and the new generation has yet to show it can deliver the success Germany expects.

Eberl added: "Time is clearly against us, because we will only see in the next 10 to 15 years what we have missed.

"We have to get more boys into football again. And one question would be: does it make sense to have youth academies up to under-eight or should we leave the boys in their clubs and start with the junior academies later?"

Former Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez told his players he would be leaving after the World Cup following their shock defeat by Morocco - a result he admits "will haunt for me a long time".

Semi-finalists in 2018, the world's second-ranked side suffered a surprise group-stage elimination in Qatar after finishing third in Group F.

The Red Devils struggled past Canada in their opening game before suffering a 2-0 defeat against Morocco, while their premature exit was confirmed by a goalless stalemate with Croatia.

It brought the curtain down on a poor tournament that also saw Martinez and several players forced to dismiss reports of a rift within the squad.

The Spaniard, who subsequently stepped down after six years in the role, also denied rumours of any friction within the camp in his first interview since departing.

"It's the match against Morocco that will haunt me for a long time," he said. "We weren't ourselves. A bit like against Canada by the way. We were not in the state to win these games.

"Against Croatia, it was different. We are probably the team that created the most chances against the Croatians. You won't find any tactical or technical expert who can explain to you why we didn't score in the last half hour. A matter of millimetres.

"I told the group after the defeat against Morocco that I would stop after the World Cup in Qatar. 

"In a way, everyone knew that the match against Croatia could be the last. I would have liked to say goodbye on December 19 [the day after the final].

"Fake news has grown in importance. When L'Equipe writes that Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard had fallen out, the group had the impression that all the media were jumping on the information.

"So, we decided to distance ourselves from the outside world. The core wanted to show that the group is solid. And from that moment on, you saw another team. It made us stronger. How many percent of what L'Equipe said was true? Zero, nothing, nada."

Martinez felt Belgium's lack of preparation was also a factor in their poor performance in Qatar, with a 2-1 defeat against Egypt representing the only friendly the Red Devils played before the tournament commenced.

But the 49-year-old has fond memories of their run to the semi-finals in Russia four years earlier, including the homecoming parade in Brussels.

"In 2018, we had three warm-up matches. Not this time," Martinez added. 

"Several countries used this group stage as preparation. That was the price to pay for a tournament in the winter. Unfortunately, we needed two games to be ready.

"In 2018, I already felt at the airport [before the finals] that the team was ready - emotionally and tactically.

"Here, I only felt that two days before the game against Croatia. After the match against Egypt, I felt that we were not ready. Nothing was rolling for us.

"On the Grand Place in Brussels. I cherish that image from 2018 for life, it is burned on my retina. It will encourage me to keep working in football."

Lionel Messi signed off for 2022 by hailing the year when he won the World Cup as one he "will never be able to forget".

The Argentina captain is due back at Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the coming week after being granted extended leave following his Qatar 2022 heroics.

His seven goals and three assists on Argentina's route to glory earned Messi the Golden Ball award, and at the age of 35 he finally got to lift the World Cup trophy, his career's crowning moment.

Messi posted to Instagram a series of pictures of himself with wife Antonela and their young family, marking the end of a transformative 12 months.

He wrote: "A year ends that I will never be able to forget. The dream that I always pursued finally came true.

"But that wouldn't be worth anything either if it weren't for the fact that I get to share it with a wonderful family, the best one can have, and some friends who always support me and didn't let me stay on the floor every time I fell."

Messi's magical moment will not have been met with great reverence in Paris, given it was France that Argentina beat on penalties in the final after a remarkable 3-3 draw.

Addressing supporters, Messi made a point of thanking those from Barcelona as well as Paris.

He scored a staggering 672 goals during a Barcelona career that ended with a shock move to PSG in August 2021.

"I also want to have a very special memory for all the people who follow me and support me," Messi wrote. "It is incredible to be able to share this path with all of you.

"It would be impossible to get to where I got without so much encouragement that I received from all the people of my country as well as from Paris, Barcelona and many other cities and countries from which I have been receiving affection.

"I hope that this year has also been wonderful for everyone and I wish you all the health and strength to continue being happy in 2023."

Messi has reportedly agreed in principle to extend his PSG contract, which expires at the end of this season, and putting the finishing touches to a deal will be a priority for the Ligue 1 club in the coming days and weeks.

He will miss Sunday's game against Lens, who sit second in the French top flight, seven points behind PSG after 16 rounds of games.

Rio Ferdinand thinks Harry Maguire should be looking to leave Manchester United in January.

The Red Devils defender has made only three Premier League starts this season, with Luke Shaw preferred to him at centre-back in the wins over Nottingham Forest and Wolves following the World Cup.

Maguire was impressive for his country in Qatar, but remains out of favour with United boss Erik ten Hag

Former United defender Ferdinand believes the former Leicester City man needs a new challenge.

"If I'm Harry Maguire, I'd be looking for a new club right now," he told BT Sport. "You've seen what he's done with England, he's [been] impeccable.

"He's faultless for them, the way he plays. He puts in good, solid performances. [But] at Manchester United, it hasn't worked out for him.

"This new manager, by his team selection, has shown him he is not going to be one or the top two or three centre-backs in his squad."

Maguire has struggled with illness since returning from England duty, but came off the bench against Wolves and Forest.

Lisandro Martinez will be expected to be restored to the team when he returns following Argentina's World Cup triumph, while Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof have both been given more opportunities than Maguire.

Benfica head coach Roger Schmidt is not sure if Friday's 3-0 loss to Braga was Enzo Fernandez's last for the club amid reports that he has agreed to join Chelsea.

Fernandez starred for Argentina during their triumphant World Cup campaign, prompting speculation of a move during the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old, who joined Benfica from River Plate last year, was rewarded for his efforts by being named as the Young Player of the Tournament.

Reports on Friday claimed Fernandez had already agreed to join the Blues, with the ball now in Benfica's court as to whether they accept a bid.

"I don't know if it was his last game for Benfica," Schmidt told reporters. "He's an excellent player, he's been performing fantastically, he's identified with the club.

"Sometimes things happen and players have to make decisions. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks."

Schmidt opted to start Fernandez along with Nicolas Otamendi in Friday's game despite their short break after their World Cup triumph.

"Nico and Enzo were good today," he added. "They were at their normal level. As I said before the game, they came with rhythm, they were always playing.

"Others were at the World Cup, didn't play, didn't train much. They need some time to get back to their best form. Overall we weren't good enough. You can't change."

Enzo Fernandez was named in Benfica's starting XI to face Braga despite the mounting speculation that he will join Chelsea in January.

Fernandez was a breakout star at the World Cup, playing in all seven of Argentina's matches as they went on to claim the title in Qatar.

The 21-year-old, who joined Benfica from River Plate last year, was rewarded for his efforts by being named as the Young Player of the Tournament.

His performances have piqued the interest of some of Europe's elite sides, however, and Chelsea are reportedly frontrunners. 

Indeed, reports on Friday claimed Fernandez had already agreed to join the Premier League side, with the ball now in Benfica's court as to whether they accept a bid.

However, the speculation did not stop Benfica coach Roger Schmidt calling on the midfielder to start against Braga in Benfica's first league game back after the World Cup.

When asked about Fernandez at his pre-match press conference on Thursday, Schmidt acknowledged it was natural for a player to have their head turned by huge offers.

"These young players sometimes have opportunities," he said. "It's not just Enzo, it's all the players.

"It's part of the football business. If they have opportunities, they have to make decisions. I can give them advice and recommendations.

"But I always respected the players' decisions, because they only have one career."

Unai Emery believes Emiliano Martinez's World Cup-winning mentality will push Aston Villa on for the rest of the Premier League season.

Martinez helped guide Argentina to glory at Qatar 2022, with his penalty shoot-out heroics in the final against France, and a brilliant save in extra time, key to ensuring La Albiceleste ended their 36-year wait for a third world title.

Having helped Lionel Messi get his clutches on football's biggest prize, Martinez has courted controversy for his post-tournament celebrations, including mocking France star Kylian Mbappe, whose hat-trick at Lusail Stadium proved fruitless.

Emery, who had previously promised he would speak to Martinez about his antics, believes Martinez's mentality is an example his club-mates must follow.

"Hopefully he is coming [in] 100 per cent focused on Aston Villa," Emery told reporters ahead of Villa's trip to Tottenham.

"Of course, he needs to adapt quickly again. Every Aston Villa supporter must be proud of him.

"We have, in our team and our squad, a winner of a World Cup, which he deserves. He is pushing his team-mates on the training ground every day.

"When he is coming back we have to try to introduce him again into and to be positive to use his energy and try to use his mentality to help us."

Villa are perched in mid-table in the Premier League, having lost on their return to action against Liverpool on Boxing Day.

Felix Sanchez has left his position as Qatar head coach after the World Cup hosts failed to collect a point in front of home fans.

A long career in Qatari football has ended with former Barcelona youth coach Sanchez saying he hopes to find a new challenge.

Qatar's performance was the worst statistically of any host nation in World Cup history. No other home side had ever lost as many as three matches or conceded as many as seven group-stage goals, which is what happened to Qatar.

Spaniard Sanchez took up an academy job in Qatar in 2006 before becoming directly involved with the national set-up at youth levels, later being appointed boss of the national team in 2017, with an Asian Cup triumph in 2019 marking the peak of his achievement in the job.

The Qatar Football Association (QFA) said Sanchez's departure was "mutually decided", with his contract having been due to expire on Saturday.

QFA president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said: "The football family of Qatar will always be grateful for the success he has brought to Qatari football over the years."

Sanchez said: "The past five years with Qatar's senior national team have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I can only thank the QFA, Sheikh Hamad the president, and the country's leaders for their trust and support during a period in which we achieved a lot together. Qatar, its people, and its football will always be in my heart. Now is a good time to let others take on the responsibility of the team and for me to explore new challenges."

At the end of Qatar's World Cup campaign, which saw them lose to Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands, Sanchez bristled at the mention of his team's record in the group.

He said: "We never thought at any time to set a goal of reaching the last 16 or the quarter-finals. The goal was to get here, compete and see what we could do. Now we've seen.

"You can use statistics as you please, but we have to make our own assessment. That's what really matters to us."

Premier League teams will wear black armbands and partake in a minute's silence before all matches across the coming weekend in memory of Brazil great Pele.

The three-time World Cup winner died at Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital on Thursday.

Pele had been admitted to hospital earlier this month amid reports his body had stopped responding to treatment for colon cancer. He was 82.

Tributes flooded in from across the sporting world for the man many consider to be the greatest footballer of all time and among the sport's most iconic figures.

Brazil declared a three-day period of national mourning ahead of Pele's funeral, which is set to take place on Monday.

The world of football will continue to commemorate the Brazil legend over the coming days, and the Premier League plans to salute his legacy during all matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in England's top flight.

A statement read: "In tribute to Pele, Premier League clubs will remember his contribution to football at matches taking place from Friday 30 December-Sunday 1 January (Matchweek 18) by holding a minute's applause prior to kick-offs.

"Players and match officials will wear black armbands."

Pele, who scored 643 goals in 659 matches for Santos over an 18-year period, helped Brazil to World Cup success in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – no player in the tournament's history has won it more often.

He remains the youngest player to ever win the competition and the youngest to score in the final after achieving the remarkable feats when he was just 17 years and 249 days old.

Pele's 77-goal international haul still stands as a Brazilian record despite Neymar matching the benchmark in Qatar with a quarter-final strike against Croatia.

Pep Guardiola has no doubt Pele would have dazzled in any era as he paid tribute to the late Brazil great – but Lionel Messi remains his choice for the greatest of all time.

Manchester City manager Guardiola said Pele's legacy "will be eternal", remembering how as a young boy he was told all about the Brazilian by a physio at Barcelona.

When Guardiola watched clips of Pele in his prime, he was wowed by the all-round ability of the Santos superstar, who won three World Cups with his country, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Pele toured the world with Santos, as teams lined up for the chance to play against him, and he resisted offers to play for European teams, including Real Madrid.

Following his death at the age of 82, announced by family on Thursday, tributes have poured in for Pele, and Guardiola offered condolences to loved ones from himself and City.

"Football is football thanks to these types of people, players and human beings," Guardiola said.

"What he has done for football is there and always will remain. He didn't just win three World Cups – it was a new thing when he came up. I was not born when he was playing, but it's like a good movie, no?

"The legacy after many years is still there. We are still talking all these years later. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi, Beckenbauer, Cristiano Ronaldo – these players will be forever, will be eternal.

"They have done many things for many years, and these types of players make our business, our work, our job a better place. What he produced; we have seen with the World Cup one team can change everything for a country of millions of people."

Guardiola added, in a tribute posted on City's website: "When I was in the academy at Barcelona I had a physio who was in love with Brazil and Pele. And after when I was nine or 10, I started to watch some clips.

"Now I realise he was so strong and could do everything. These type of players, if he was playing now, he would adapt to the rhythm and the pace. He was so intuitive and in skills and mentality, he could play in every generation."

Earlier in December, Guardiola said those preferring Pele or Diego Maradona above Messi did so for "sentimental" reasons.

He is sticking to his guns on rating 2022 World Cup winner Messi above all others, having coached the Argentinian at Barcelona.

"Everyone has their own greatest," said Guardiola. "For Argentina they might say Di Stefano, Maradona or Messi. I always say Messi is my favourite because I worked with him – but I understand people choose another one."

Emiliano Martinez returned to Aston Villa on Friday after his World Cup heroics with Argentina, which were followed by controversial and crude post-match celebrations.

Martinez was a penalty shoot-out star for La Albiceleste, helping them to victory over France in the final by saving Kingsley Coman's spot-kick and winning the tournament's Golden Glove award.

However, to many critics the goalkeeper's subsequent celebrations crossed the line of acceptability.

Martinez, whose gamesmanship in the shoot-out had already drawn criticism, appeared to repeatedly taunt beaten France hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe, while he made a seemingly deliberate lewd gesture with the Golden Glove trophy.

The former Arsenal player called for a "moment of silence" for Mbappe in the dressing room after Argentina's win, and he was seen holding a bizarre puppet with the France forward's face on during homecoming celebrations.

As he arrived at Villa on Friday, Martinez may have had some explaining to do to club bosses.

Head coach Unai Emery last week promised to address Martinez's manner of celebration, saying: "When you have big emotions, sometimes it's difficult to control. I will speak with him next week about some celebrations."

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet wrote to his Argentina counterparts to complain about abuse aimed at Mbappe, who has since described Martinez's actions as "trivial".

Villa face Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday, having lost 3-1 to Liverpool in their first game back after the World Cup break.

Pele helped to "grab the hearts and minds" of football in the United States during his time with the New York Cosmos, the club's former COO told Stats Perform.

Brazil legend Pele passed away on Thursday following a battle with colon cancer, with news announced by his daughter after his family travelled to be with him at Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital before Christmas Day.

As well as the lasting legacy he left on Brazil and Santos, Pele's move to the Cosmos in 1975 also helped to massively grow the sport in the United States.

After Pele, the only man to win the World Cup three times, joined the Cosmos, fellow superstars such as Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto followed him to the team, while others such as Johan Cruyff, Eusebio and George Best also joined clubs in the North American Soccer League (NASL).

The Cosmos faded into obscurity and ultimately folded after Pele retired in 1977, but the game continued to develop in the United States and the World Cup in 1994 was hosted in the country.

Erik Stover, COO of a reformed Cosmos between 2012 and 2021, lauded Pele's influence on building the sport, telling Stats Perform: "I don't think you can really quantify it. It's so hugely impactful over generations.

"Before Pele came to the Cosmos, soccer in this country was a very small immigrant sport. Obviously, there's a long history of it in the United States, but it didn't grab the hearts and minds until Pele was part of the Cosmos. 

"He was just still the greatest player in the world [when he signed for Cosmos], probably. It brought immediate credibility to the NASL. It legitimised that league.

"He became the most valuable athlete in the United States overnight. [Those] playing at Bayern Munich or Manchester United or wherever in the world, they were paying attention to it.

"That led to players like George Best and Beckenbauer [joining the NASL], some of the greatest players in the world still in their prime coming to the NASL.

"Suddenly, there's youth soccer clubs popping up and leagues that had never existed before, all on that massive wave of what the Cosmos and Pele was able to do."

Pele was just 17-years-old when he won his first World Cup in 1958, and is still the youngest player to ever win the competition.

Stover acknowledged Pele's enormous global impact from such a young age, adding: "You'd be hard-pressed to find someone that was at a better ambassador globally for his sport.

"He really, really accepted that role and carried it with relish.

"Wherever he went, he drew a crowd and took the time to say hello, pose for pictures, sign autographs from a very, very young age. He realised his specialty was in what responsibilities came with that.

"I was privileged enough to spend some time with him around the world. We went to Havana, Cuba. As an American going to Cuba, I grew up in a time where you couldn't do that.

"So not only to have that opportunity, largely because Pele was still part of the Cosmos, but then to see the love the Cubans had for him, he was absolutely beloved.

"He treated people with respect because he knows that they are going to remember that for the rest of their lives, and he didn't want that moment to be spoiled."

Former Brazil and Santos forward Pepe has paid tribute to ex-team-mate Pele and "the eternal memory of the greatest footballer" following his death aged 82.

The three-time World Cup winner passed away on Thursday following a battle with colon cancer, leaving behind a football world in mourning.

As the Selecao star's team-mate for club and country between 1956 and 1969, fellow Santos attacker Pepe played over 700 games with Pele across their careers.

The pair lifted the Jules Rimet trophy alongside each other in both 1958 and 1962 too, and now the 87-year-old has offered his own respects to his late countryman.

"The whole world knew the seriousness of Pele's illness," Pepe said. "But mainly we, the closest and most intimate, had more contact with him and his family.

"We hoped that the illness would be reversed, and the 'King of the Ball', the greatest of all, would return with his happy smile and his constant good humour.

"But it wasn't possible. Pele left us, and with him [goes] the eternal memory of the greatest footballer of all time. Rest in peace, King Pele, my great friend. Football is in mourning."

Across a 21-year career, Pele played the majority of his club football at Santos, for whom he scored 643 goals in 659 matches, before a subsequent spell with the New York Cosmos.

His tally of 77 international goals for Brazil remains a record matched only by current Selecao forward Neymar, while no other man has replicated his achievement of three World Cup titles.

Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone and incoming Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were among those to pay tribute to footballing icon Pele after his death on Thursday.

The Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Sao Paulo confirmed multiple organ failure as the cause of death for the three-time World Cup winner, who is regarded by many as the greatest footballer in history.

Brazil great Pele had been battling colon cancer and was joined by family in hospital after being moved to palliative care when his body stopped responding to treatment earlier in December.

Lionel Messi, Ronaldo Nazario and Cristiano Ronaldo were among numerous high-profile sporting stars to pay tribute to the 82-year-old, while other global figures echoed similar sentiments.

"Pele was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game," former United States president Obama wrote on Twitter.

"And as one of the most recognisable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."

Brazil president Lula added on social media: "I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn't have: I saw Pele play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi.

"Play? No. I saw Pele give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal."

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also paid tribute.

"We mark the passing of the legendary Pele, known to many as the king of the 'beautiful game'," NASA posted. "This image of a spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor shows the colours of Brazil."

Pele played an integral role as Brazil enjoyed World Cup success in 1958, 1962 and 1970, with no player in the tournament's history lifting the trophy more.

But the iconic forward will also be remembered for a performance on the silver screen, having featured in 1981 film 'Escape to Victory'.

He played Corporal Luis Fernandez in the feature about Allied prisoners of war at a German prison camp during the Second World War, in which those jailed play an exhibition football match against the Germans.

American movie star Stallone, who starred alongside Pele in the film, posted on Instagram: "PELE THE GREAT! Rest in peace! This was a good man."

England's 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Moore also appeared alongside Argentina great Ossie Ardiles, who wrote on Twitter: "The King of Kings has died. Extraordinary player. Unique.

"Three times World Cup winner, more than a thousand goals. My idol when young. He made football the beautiful game and truly international.

"My time playing alongside him in Escape to Victory was a dream come true. RIP Pele."

Pele leaves an "inestimable" legacy after changing football with his "sporting artistry and genius", the Brazil great's former side New York Cosmos said on Thursday.

The three-time World Cup winner's death was confirmed by Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital after he suffered multiple organ failure.

Pele had battled colon cancer prior to his passing, with his family travelling to be alongside him earlier in December after he had been moved to palliative care when his body stopped responding to treatment.

The 82-year-old has been lauded by numerous tributes from sporting greats, clubs and various organisations after his iconic career with Brazil and Santos.

He scored 643 goals in 659 matches over an 18-year period for Brazilian side Santos before representing the Cosmos between 1975 and 1977.

"The New York Cosmos family, past and present, grieve the loss of sporting icon Pele," read a statement from the Cosmos, for whom the forward played in the North American Soccer League.

"In 1975, Pele joined the New York Cosmos and helped popularise soccer across the United States. O Rei treated fans to numerous legendary moments on the pitch, including winning the 1977 NASL Soccer Bowl.

"During three seasons with the Cosmos, Pele helped transform the domestic landscape of the sport of soccer. Where once there had been baseball diamonds, now there were also soccer pitches.

"The Cosmos and their king not only started a sporting revolution in America, they also travelled the world to spread the gospel of the beautiful game, representing the world's most global city at the global game, leaving a lasting sporting legacy in India, China, and Japan, where their visits remain a cherished part of local sporting lore.

"His last game as a professional footballer was played on October 1, 1977, before a sold-out crowd at Giants Stadium and a global television audience.

"Pele played one half each for the only two clubs he ever represented, Santos and the New York Cosmos. Pele's name will forever be synonymous with sporting artistry and genius.

"His lasting impact on the sport of soccer is inestimable. Rest in peace, O Rei."

Page 4 of 110
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.