Arsenal boss Unai Emery was vocal in his praise for Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, who is tipped to become a Gunner by the end of the transfer window.
The former Real Betis man has failed to establish himself at the capital club and lack of playing time under Zinedine Zidane has forced him to consider a loan move ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Arsenal are said to be in pole position to acquire his signature and boss Emery provided his seal of approval ahead of the friendly clash between the two teams.
“Ceballos is a very good player. I know him from Betis at the beginning and Real Madrid,” said Emery, who coached Betis’ neighbors Sevilla between 2013 and 2016.
“He played very well in the U-21, his national team won the competition. He can play as a number eight or a number 10.
Emery recently announced that the club could sign up to four players before the transfer window closes but he failed to confirm whether Ceballos will be making the switch.
“We have different names and the club is working on that,” he commented.
England made a few era-defining changes to their cricket set up as they pursued World Cup success with a single-minded obsession.
Bringing in fearless batsmen and going on the attack from the first ball to the 300th changed the way one-day-international cricket was played over the last four years and brought the first 50-over world glory to the team.
But good as England became in white-ball cricket, their Test ambitions took a back seat, to an extent. Ever since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, Alastair Cook struggled to find a single long-term partner for six years until his own retirement; Haseeb Hameed being one promising option who lost his way after injury and a loss of form.
Test caps were handed out like pamphlets over the last five years and disproportionate burden was placed on the ageing shoulders of James Anderson and Stuart Broad; there are still no long-term replacements for the two with the rise of Jofra Archer coming at a fortuitous time that has covered up a gaping hole in England’s Test plans.
But England, and more specifically national selector Ed Smith, did get one aspect of team selection spot on – identifying white-ball talent that can flourish in red-ball cricket.
Paul Farbrace saying on TMS that Jason Roy should open for England in the Ashes. Got to be the odds on option now.....— Paul Newman 🌈 (@Paul_NewmanDM) June 8, 2019
Jos Buttler was handed a Test recall last year following a fine IPL stint with Rajasthan Royals. His counter-attacking batting, along that of the astute Sam Curran, was a deciding factor in England’s 4-1 Test series win over India in 2018.
Smith stuck his neck out and saw something in Buttler that could work in Test cricket.
“It is the whole package with Jos. It is what he is capable of, what the opposition know he is capable of and what he brings to the side beyond merely batsmanship,” Smith had said.
Brilliant as that move was, Buttler had at least played Test cricket before and it was a matter of bringing him back at the right time, like India have done with the recall of Rohit Sharma.
The Test selection of ODI megastar Jason Roy is an even more brave call. And it is one that can bring greater success.
When you get once-in-a-generation top-order batsmen like David Warner, Virender Sehwag and Roy, having them on the frontline of Test cricket can be a masterstroke.
Whether or not Roy has a good first-class record is immaterial; the form that he is in and the manner in which he ripped world-class bowlers apart during the World Cup show he is in a headspace where there is just no fear.
In the World Cup semi-final against Australia, England were chasing a tricky target of 224. Australia had their tail up and it could have all gone south quickly for England if they lost a few early wickets.
With the leading wicket-taker of the tournament – Mitchell Starc – steaming in, Roy hit back with such ferocity, the defending champions stopped in their tracks. Starc went for 50 runs in his first five overs and it was game, set and match.
Take that fearless mentality and put it into the Ashes, and you get the possibility of a hundred in a session. It is a rare quality to have – fearless batting against the new ball with decent technique.
If Roy does end up opening the batting, as he should, Australian quicks won’t be able to dictate terms. Especially if he goes after Starc early and it comes off.
Roy is definitely no Strauss or Cook and he should not be expected to graft either, because there are others in the line-up who can do that. Allowing Roy to bat, and even fail, they way he has in ODI cricket should be the main task of Joe Root and England.
Because if he gets going, Roy can set a Test up in one session.
Barcelona’s big-money signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong took the field in Blaugrana colours for the first time in Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
The France forward started the pre-season friendly at Japan’s Saitama Stadium and was taken off at half-time, while Netherlands midfielder De Jong played the second half.
We take a look at their performances, the role they assumed, opportunities that Barca could look to exploit and threats they need to beware of.
Role – Traditional no9
Griezmann’s unofficial debut for Barcelona contained glimpses of why the Catalan club chose to sign him. The Frenchman appeared to fit into the side like a piece in the jigsaw puzzle and there were signs that he could be the catalyst in speeding up the activities in the final third.
There is not much clarity regarding Griezmann’s role at the Spanish club. His versatility of being able to play on either wing, as a no10, and as a traditional no9 has roused curiosity regarding his position.
From what we saw against Chelsea, it would be fair to assume that head coach Ernesto Valverde intends to use him as a traditional no9.
The @FCBarcelona squad gave @AntoGriezmann a hero’s welcome with two nutmegs in his first training session with the club 😅 #Griezmann #FCBarcelona pic.twitter.com/NgJpuzqa03— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) July 15, 2019
Opportunities – Decision-making
The Frenchman’s decision-making stood out as a massive opportunity that Barcelona could look to exploit.
Griezmann knew exactly what he was doing when in the final third and worked well towards producing an end-product in every move that passed through him.
His link-up with compatriot Ousmane Dembele on the right and left-back Jordi Alba was promising. Griezmann’s work-rate also proved to be a significant improvement from what Uruguay centre forward Luis Suarez provided to the team last season.
Threat – Lack of clarity in role with Messi in the picture
The iconic Lionel Messi – on holiday after his Copa America exertions – and Griezmann will, surely, play in different areas for Barca.
But certain similarities in the Argentine’s game and the floating role performed by the new signing throughout his career point towards potential difficulties.
Messi loves to provide the final ball and so does Griezmann. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner loves to assume the role of the creative hub of the team and so does the Frenchman.
Also, Messi’s trademark lobbed pass to Jordi Alba was replicated by Griezmann at least two-three times in the first half.
It’s unlikely that ego clashes could prevent the duo from performing at their 100-per-cent best, but the possibility of a clash in playing style affecting the team negatively can’t be ruled out completely.
FRENKIE DE JONG
Role – Defensive midfielder
Dutch sensation De Jong has assumed various roles during his time with Ajax – centre-back, defensive midfield, no8 and rarely no10.
The youngster has managed to impress in most of those positions, adapting perfectly to what the role calls for.
However, it seems like Valverde wants him in the Busquets role at Barcelona if his positioning against Chelsea is anything to go by. De Jong started in defensive midfield in the second half, with Ivan Rakitic and Carles Alena on either side.
Opportunities – Press-resistance
De Jong’s incredible press-resistance is talked about frequently, but the importance this aspect of his game brings to a team like Barcelona is often understated.
The Dutchman dropped as deep as a centre-back at times and still displayed great composure despite the high press and played the ball out comfortably.
It would be best for Barcelona to exploit this opportunity and provide him a bigger role at an advanced position on the pitch. This would allow the 22-year-old to exercise his abilities to its maximum.
It is imperative for the Spanish giants that they churn out the best bits from one of the most complete midfielders of his age group.
First training today 🔵🔴 #FJ21 pic.twitter.com/EFzHPWo2Ql— Frenkie de Jong (@DeJongFrenkie21) July 15, 2019
Threat – Rakitic and De Jong hardly on the same wavelength
It’s normal for players playing together for the first time to slack off at times and look out of synchronisation.
Barca’s midfield duo of Rakitic and De Jong displayed more than just signs of the same when they took the field in the second half.
The Croatian was rather conservative with his passes and De Jong was visibly frustrated with this aspect of his game. Rakitic would pick the safest option and play the ball to Jean-Clair Todibo or Clement Lenglet at the back.
The Dutchman was already six-seven yards ahead of his initial position and towards Chelsea’s goal, expecting a quick exchange of passes with Rakitic.
Simply put, De Jong was not on the ball as much as he should have been and this was mainly due to Rakitic opting for the simpler pass. This incoherence between the midfielders begs for the question of whether they can co-exist in the same midfield if they play in the same positions as they did today.
Valverde has the right tools at his disposal and it remains to be seen whether he builds a formidable attacking machine with it or a pragmatic system that calls for ‘safety first’.
If the Basque coach decides to take a few risks, we could see one of the best attacks in Europe line up as Griezmann leads the front-line with Dembele and Messi on either side.
A midfield three of De Jong, Arthur, Sergio Busquets, with youngsters Riqui Puig and Carles Alena presented with the occasional opportunity, could be the right step going forward. Rakitic is clearly a surplus to the needs at this point.
Dele Alli feels refreshed, renewed and ready to kick on from Tottenham’s Champions League heartache and an injury-hit season that took a mental as well as physical toll.
The 2018-19 campaign will live long in the memory for all connected with Spurs after their historic run to a first-ever European Cup final, even though the 2-0 loss to Liverpool naturally still sticks in the craw.
Seven weeks on and Alli is still hurting after falling at the last hurdle, but there is a hunger about the attacking midfielder after a stuttering, stop-start season on a personal level.
Late back to Spurs after England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, his start was hindered by a hamstring complaint that flared up again in January, keeping him out for two months.
A fractured hand in April compounded matters in a campaign that saw Alli fail to scale the heights achieved previously for club and country.
“It’s the most injuries I’ve ever had and it’s tough not just physically but mentally as well,” he told PA.
“You have to dig deep.
“Sitting in the treatment room and watching the lads train and watching at games is not nice. It’s not nice to be on the sidelines.
“You obviously want to be out there helping your team. We had a great season as a team but individually I was disappointed to get the injuries. I’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Asked if a better summer break can help heading into the new campaign, he said: “Yeah, hopefully. It was obviously a difficult season for me in terms of injuries.
“It was the most injuries I’ve ever had in one season. I’ve got to use it all to go forward and not think about it in a negative way.
“Every time I got injured, I was trying to come back as strong as I could, have a break and use the time to work on the things that weren’t quite right, keep building and come back stronger.
“I feel like I’ve done that. I’ve got to keep working on those things throughout the season. I feel like I used the time well.”
Alli’s desire to push forwards is palpable and is also fuelled by a first full campaign at Spurs’ stunning new stadium – along with the frustration of going so close to lifting the Champions League.
“Obviously it was difficult to take, getting to the final and not getting over the line,” the 23-year-old said.
“We’re disappointed as a team but we’ve got to try and use it as an advantage for next season.
View this post on Instagram Ask a friend 😂👀 A post shared by Dele (@dele) on Jul 20, 2019 at 6:59am PDT
“I think we’re showing the direction the club’s going and as a team we’re going in the right direction.
“It was a great campaign but obviously it’s heartbreaking not to have won it in the final.
“Like I said, we’ve got to take the positives and try and use it to drive us on this season.
“We’ve just got to try and use it as an advantage and use that hurt we felt after the game and that we’re still feeling now when we think about it.
“We’ve just got to try and use that to drive us on as much as we can in the next season.”
Alli believes Tottenham are on an upward trajectory just like England, although the Three Lions regular knows competition is increasing with Euro 2020 looming large.
“For England, we’re heading in the right direction as well,” he said. “It’s very similar to here at Tottenham.
“We’ve got a young squad. We’ve been together a little while with the manager and it’s exciting. We all want to play the same way which is good.
“There’s a massive tournament coming up and we’ve got to keep making sure we prove we deserve to be in the team.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s exciting and I’m just going to do as well as I can for my club and country.”
Alli was speaking at an event with sponsors AIA in sweltering Shanghai, where Tottenham’s pre-season preparations continue against Manchester United in the International Champions Cup on Friday.
“We had our first session today – it was tough obviously with the heat,” he said on a day when the humidity in China meant it felt as high as 48 degrees Celsius.
“But we adapt to different things and it’s all part of pre-season, getting back fit and making sure we start the season as strong as we can.
“It is very hot but it’s a beautiful place and we’re happy to be here.”
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Neil Lennon insists Celtic are in a “strong position” to retain Kieran Tierney after Arsenal were rebuffed in their pursuit of the defender.
The Gunners lodged two bids – the second worth up to £25million – for the Scotland left-back but saw both dismissed by Parkhead chiefs.
Reports on Tuesday say the Premier League big guns are now ready to turn their attention elsewhere, and Lennon hopes that will be the end of the matter.
The Hoops boss said: “It’s as you were really. I’ve had no information other than there was two bids that came in from Arsenal that were rejected.
“There has been no further inroads into that really. Our valuation of Kieran wasn’t met and it’s as simple as that. You will see other transfers not going through because valuations haven’t been met. It’s not a case of Arsenal being disrespectful.
“They put a bid in that they valued the player at. They came back again and obviously see Kieran as a very good player, as we do. But on a long-term contract we’re in a very strong position when it comes to Kieran.”
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James Anderson has been ruled out of England’s four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s due to a calf injury.
Anderson has failed to recover from the injury sustained to his right leg when playing for his county Lancashire against Durham on July 2.
“Jimmy will continue to be assessed ahead of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on August 1,” an ECB statement read.
Anderson’s unavailability for Ireland’s maiden Test on these shores was not unexpected and the target now facing the 36-year-old is to be fit in time to face Australia.
Chief selector Ed Smith stated when naming the squad last week that England’s record wicket-taker would not be risked ahead of the Ashes series if there was any lingering doubt over his injury.
Bowling resources have already been stretched by the side strains suffered by Mark Wood and Jofra Archer in the recent World Cup victory over New Zealand.
Wood is likely to be missing until the decisive phase of the summer after being ruled out for four to six weeks.
The prognosis over Archer is more vague and the 24-year-old is currently on holiday in Barbados.
Anderson’s delayed return points to either Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory or Warwickshire pace bowler Olly Stone making their debut on Wednesday.
One of Barcelona’s hottest prospects Xavi Simons announced in a statement that he will be leaving the Spanish giants.
The 16-year-old has been destined to reach great heights and the Catalan giants were hoping that they would play a part in it.
But the La Masia graduate – represented by Mino Raiola – announced his decision to depart from the club on Tuesday.
Simons said in a statement: “Today is not easy, as saying goodbye is one of the hardest things in life and today it’s my turn to say goodbye to what has been my home, my family, my life for as long as I can remember.
“It was a dream come true when I put on my first Barca jersey nine years ago as a pre-benjamin (under-8) player.
“Through the years I have experienced victories and defeats, I have fallen and gotten back up time and time again.
Thank you, @FCBarcelona!Força Barça! 🔴🔵 pic.twitter.com/p2fBAV11Cm— Xavi Simons (@xavisimons) July 23, 2019
“Through it all, my team-mates, my coaches and the entire staff at La Masia have been there by my side, every single day.
“Even if I am only 16 years old, I have also felt the love and support of hundreds of thousands of Barca fans that wanted me to keep growing and someday make it to the Camp Nou.
“To all of you, I can only say: thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart, I will never forget our time together and will forever cherish the memories.
“As I am about to start a new and exciting adventure away from Barcelona, this club, its people and its fans will always hold a special place in my heart.
It is believed that Paris Saint-Germain could be his next destination.
Chris Woakes insists England’s World Cup winners will have no issue switching mindset for the forthcoming Ashes series.
The Warwickshire all-rounder will be hoping to be involved in this week’s Lord’s Test with Ireland before taking on Australia in a bid to regain the urn.
A maiden World Cup title, won in memorable fashion with a super-over victory against New Zealand in the final, sends England into the Ashes with a feel-good factor and Woakes believes adjusting to the rigours of Test cricket will not be a problem for those players involved in both tournaments.
“It is a completely different game, a different format brings different skills to the table,” he told BBC Radio 5Live.
“The big thing is your mindset, Test match cricket you have to be patient and sit in for a long period of time both as a bowler and a batter, whereas in one-day cricket things happen a bit quicker and the pace of the game dictates how it is played.
“Test cricket you take your time and it is a matter of mind over anything else a lot of the time, so it is a tricky transition but it is something the modern player does quite often.
“The rest of the summer is now Test cricket so we can completely switch our attention to that and as a bowler you have to learn to bowl longer spells and be patient with it as well.”
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Liam Plunkett says he wants to “get excited about stuff again” after experiencing low moods since England’s World Cup glory.
Plunkett was one of England’s heroes as they beat New Zealand in an all-time classic at Lord’s but has found the days after lifting the trophy tough.
While the majority of England’s squad have Test and Ashes commitments ahead, Plunkett, as a white-ball specialist for his country, has gone his own way and told the Telegraph that within two days of the final he was “sat on his sofa watching Netflix”.
“It was quite hard and honestly I felt quite down a little bit,” the 34-year-old said. “Everything was building up to that World Cup and it was the highest point of my career. I’m not sure anything’s going to happen like that again in cricket for me.”
Plunkett took three vital wickets in the final, the crowning point of a career which he admits has given him plenty of mental challenges, leading him to seek professional help.
“I’ve always been big into it [mental health awareness],” he said. “I had a panic attack a long time ago. I never knew what it was and I got anxiety around it.
“I struggled being in one-on-one situations and certain situations like travelling on a plane and I’ve always been conscious of that.
“I’ve never stopped speaking to anyone, but it’s just a natural thing. From winning the World Cup to sitting on your sofa it is a big drop.
“I think a lot of the guys felt the same, we spoke to each other about it but as I said you’ve got to go back to playing for your county, some guys are playing in the Ashes and the Test against Ireland.
“In the blink of an eye it was gone, as I say it felt like a massive low then.
“Everyone just disappeared everywhere else, so it was sad a little bit because you still want to be around people.
“You’ve just won the World Cup, you might never see that again never mind winning it so I felt a little bit down after. It was sad.”
Plunkett, now with Surrey after a highly-successful six years with Yorkshire, will return to domestic action on Tuesday night in a T20 clash with Middlesex.
He admitted to the newspaper that returning to ‘normal’ life would be a challenge, saying: “Not in a bad way, you just want to get excited about stuff again.
“It’s just hard from playing in such a magnificent game as that. I was a little bit down, I was still happy, but it’s just the ebb and flow of that game and the magnitude of it, it’s just a natural thing.”
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Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season?
We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why, or why not.
Today’s edition features Inter Milan, Manchester United and Newcastle United.
AS Roma -> Undisclosed -> Inter Milan
Inter Milan are set to sign Edin Dzeko as an alternative to Romelu Lukaku, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: With Mauro Icardi an outcast at Inter, it’s no secret that they need a striker to lead their line and neither is the fact that Lukaku is Antonio Conte’s first choice. However, Manchester United are reportedly unwilling to settle for any less than €83m which Inter would struggle to pay. In Dzeko they could attain a quality striker with plenty of experience and proven pedigree in Serie A.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: Lukaku clearly doesn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans or at least not prominently. Closer to deadline day, they may be willing to accept Inter’s offer despite falling short of their valuation. The Italian side would have no use for Dzeko then.
Transfer predictor: 6/10
Juventus -> €78m -> Manchester United
Solskjaer could turn to Paulo Dybala in his attempts to inject some creativity into his Manchester United side, claim the Daily Mail.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: United are understandably focused on plugging other holes in their first XI but the right wing remains an issue despite Daniel James’ arrival, while the attack as a whole seems to lack a bit of star quality. Dybala would certainly provide that along with a boost in creativity. At 25, he fits the profile of player Solskjaer is looking to recruit. There’s potential of a promising link-up with former team-mate and friend Paul Pogba as well.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: United can’t offer Dybala Champions League football this season and the Argentine seems fairly settled in Turin despite his lack of playing time over the last couple of years.
Transfer predictor: 5/10
OGC Nice -> €25m -> Newcastle United
Newcastle are targeting Nice attacker Allan Saint-Maximin, according to L’Equipe.
WHY IT CAN HAPPEN: The Magpies could definitely use more quality up front. Following the departures of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, Newcastle have been left with just Yoshinori Muto to lead their line. Saint-Maximin would be a huge step up and also a quick way for owner Mike Ashley to pacify the fans following Rafa Benitez’s exit. Nice reducing the asking price from €40m to €25m also helps.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN: The forward is too good to be featuring in a team already deemed among the favourites for relegation. Even if he did, there would have to be significant financial incentive. But with Ashley reluctant to invest in the squad, it’s difficult to see how they afford him.
Transfer predictor: 3/10