Toni Kroos Reveals Liverpool Interest & What Stopped Him Joining Man Utd in 2014

?Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has revealed that David Moyes’ departure from Manchester United in 2014 saw a possible switch to Old Trafford collapse.

Back then, the German midfielder was in line to leave Bayern Munich after leading them to consecutive Bundesliga titles, and both United and Liverpool were heavily linked with a transfer.

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Speaking to ?The Athletic, ?Kroos revealed that he had agreed to join ?United in the spring on 2014, but Louis van Gaal’s arrival at the club that summer effectively put an end to any talk of the move.

“David Moyes had come to see me and the contract had basically been done but then Moyes was fired and Louis van Gaal came in, which complicated matters,” he revealed. 

“Louis wanted time to build his own project. I didn’t hear anything from United for a while and started having doubts.”

Louis Van Gaal

Alongside United, ?Liverpool had also tried to strike a deal for Kroos, with both Steven Gerrard and ?Luis Suárez reaching out to the midfielder to try and convince him to pick Anfield over Old Trafford.

“It wasn’t a straight chat-up line but they offered to tell me more about the club and so on,” he said. “The funny thing was, Suárez was about to leave to ?Barcelona anyway.”

With a move to either United or Liverpool off the table, Kroos eventually sealed a switch to ?Real Madrid after the World Cup, and the German admitted that he did not even have to think twice about then-manager Carlo Ancelotti’s proposal.

Toni Kroos

As for United, they had to settle for a deal to sign Ander Herrera from Athletic Club, while plenty of money was also spent to lure Ángel Di María over from Madrid.

Di María flopped and was sold one year later, while Herrera walked away for free last summer in favour of joining Di María at Paris Saint-Germain. 


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Real Madrid vs Manchester City Preview: How to Watch on TV, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?Real Madrid play host to Manchester City on Wednesday evening as two of Europe’s heavyweights come head to head in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16.

The Bernabeu is primed for a tantalising encounter, with Real Madrid potentially en route to a 14th Champions League crown – having won four in five seasons from 2013-2018. Home advantage may give Los Blancos the edge for the first leg, as they desperately look to bounce back from a disappointing 1-0 weekend defeat to Levante in La Liga.


Meanwhile, this is City’s first Champions League outing since the news broke of their potential two-year ban from Europe, and with the pressures of this competition exponentially rising on Pep Guardiola, he will be eager to take a positive result back to the Etihad Stadium.

The Sky Blues, despite being miles behind Liverpool in the Premier League, still fielded a full-strength side during their narrow 1-0 win against Leicester City at the weekend, with another missed penalty casting a shadow over the current English champions. The Citizens may also have one eye on their Carabao Cup final that follows their trip to Spain, as they look to win the competition for a fourth time in five years.

Here’s 90min’s preview of the game.


How to Watch on TV

When Is Kick Off?? Wednesday 26 February?
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?20:00 (GMT)
?Where Is it Played? ?Santiago Bernabeu
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?BT Sport 2
?Referee? ?Daniele Orsato

Team News

The big injury concern for Zinedine Zidane is the knock picked up by ?Eden Hazard during Saturday’s defeat at Levante. The Belgian has suffered another hairline fracture to his fibula, and may miss the remainder of the season. Gareth Bale was sick at the weekend, and may not be ready yet.

Marco Asensio is the only other long-term absentee, as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury.

Eden Hazard

Despite being substituted against Leicester at the weekend, Aymeric Laporte will return to Man City’s starting lineup on Wednesday night, while Benjamin Mendy may be dropped by Guardiola as he is just one booking away from suspension.

In terms of injuries, the Citizens are still without Leroy Sane, despite the German having returned to training, while ?Raheem Sterling is Guardiola’s biggest miss with the hamstring injury he sustained against Tottenham.


Predicted Lineups

Real Madrid? Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vinicius, Benzema?
?Manchester City ?Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Aguero, B.Silva

Head-to-Head Record

These two teams have faced one another just four times in competitive fixtures – all coming in the ?Champions League – with Man City yet to win.

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Two games have finished all square, with one of those draws coming during the 2012/13 Champions League group stage?. City lost the reverse fixture 3-2 after leading twice, and lost out by the odd goal in the semi-finals of the 2015/16 competition.


Recent Form

It’s fair to say that ?Real Madrid’s form has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride throughout the course of the campaign, epitomised perfectly by their recent results.?

Zinedine Zidane

Having just about pulled away from Barcelona in the title race following a string of wins, Zidane’s side have once again handed the initiative to their rivals following two winless games against Celta Vigo and Levante. This, paired with their shock 4-3 Copa del Rey quarter-final exit to Real Sociedad in early February, means that confidence is far from sky high in the Spanish capital.

Despite having been beaten in just four of their previous 49 European fixtures at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid have won just three of their last nine, already dropping points against Paris Saint-Germain and Club Brugge in this season’s group stage.

Meanwhile, ?City’s form has fluctuated in a similar manner to Wednesday’s hosts, with the Citizens struggling for consistency. The Sky Blues have lost two of their last four matches and scored just three times during this period, ultimately leaving them cut adrift from table-toppers Liverpool in the Premier League.

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Man City topped their Champions League group comfortably, picking up 14 points on the way to the knockout stages, but face a sterner test at the Bernabeu than they have had so far this season in Europe.

Here is each side’s last five results in all competitions:

?Real Madrid ?Manchester City
?Levante 1-0 Real Madrid (22/2) ?Leicester 0-1 Man City (22/2)
?Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo (16/2) ?Man City 2-0 West Ham (19/2)
?Osasuna 1-4 Real Madrid (9/2) ?Tottenham 2-0 Man City (2/2)
?Real Madrid 3-4 Real Sociedad (6/2) ?Man City 0-1 Manchester United (29/1)
?Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid (1/2) ?Man City 4-0 Fulham (26/1)

Prediction

The weight of expectation is heavy for both sides ahead of a mouthwatering clash of titans at the Bernabeu. The home advantage should give Real Madrid the edge, but Los Blancos have uncharacteristically struggled in the capital so far this season, and haven’t faced many more difficult tests than Guardiola’s Man City.


The prospect of taking a couple of away goals back to the Etihad may buoy the Sky Blues, who will ultimately recognise that this may just be their last opportunity to win the Champions League trophy in several years. 

However, without the attacking ferocity and dynamism of Sterling or Sane in wide areas, Man City may find it hard breaking through a formidable Madrid back line.

Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester City

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Eden Hazard & Neymar Are in Danger of Their Footballing Legacies Fading Away

?Sometimes in life, politics, culture, sport, destinies that are seemingly set in stone don’t actually last forever. The last week or so in this bonkers sport has taught us that.

Liverpool can be beaten. Manchester City’s dynasty could be ending off the pitch as well as on it. Shane Long scored a goal.

In the first few years of the 2010s though, it seemed almost certain that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo weren’t going away any time soon. Where they were expected to own the decade, there were a couple of young and spritely candidates ready to rent it from them – Neymar and Eden Hazard.

Santos' Neymar, celebrates his goal agai

Two dancing, prancing left-sided forwards just waiting to be plucked from the clubs they had clearly outgrown. For players at Santos and Lille in the 21st century to receive the hype that they did was one of the 762-odd indicators that the duo were destined for stardom.

Neymar’s move to ?Barcelona wasn’t without controversy and the fee and its whereabouts were debated for years after, while Hazard’s move to ?Chelsea was a stripped-down version of LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’. No documentary, no elongated process, just a simple tweet with two days notice.

Regardless, Barça and the Blues had won the sweepstakes, the two players that could obviously lead their charges at home and on the continent for years to come. But as we venture through the early stages of the 2020s and both players have started to decline, there’s perhaps a tinge of regret that Neymar and Hazard haven’t accomplished more.

The Brazilian won two league titles, three Copa del Rey and one Champions League at Camp Nou before heading to PSG for a world record fee; the Belgian won two league titles, two League Cups, two Europa League titles and one FA Cup at Stamford Bridge. If you were to return to when either star made their big move years ago, it’s a haul that would have been deemed par for the course, a single European Cup between them.

By no means does that mean that they were flops or underwhelming – Barcelona are desperate for Neymar back and Hazard essentially carried Chelsea for most of the decade – but the way the pair have almost petered away since leaving for pastures new.

Neymar Jr

Neymar departed Barça for PSG to cement his legacy that was more than ‘Messi’s best mate’, to win a Ballon d’Or, to win the Champions League. Three seasons on and the closest he’s got to touching Messi’s status is by being in his group chat on WhatsApp, has been beaten to breaking the Ballon d’Or duopoly by ?Luka Modric, and is on course to flame out of the European Cup at the last 16 stage for the third successive season.

If PSG are unable to beat the odds and win it this time around, then their vanity project will have failed just as Neymar’s will have. His gravity as a superstar is one of the last remaining assets almost unavailable on the market elsewhere – Jordan may not sign their deal with the club without Neymar, they certainly wouldn’t receive as much international attention without Neymar – but he’s now playing second fiddle in a team where he was supposed to be the ‘franchise player’. 

?Kylian Mbappe is being wheeled around by Nike on world tours, he has his own clothing line, he’s won a World Cup as the main man – if he were to only win the honours Neymar did in his prime at Barcelona, then that would be considered underwhelming.

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A red card at the weekend summed up a rough week for Neymar, and the ‘(doubt)’ that was beside his name for the match preview ahead of the Rio Carnival (A) has been removed for the sixth year in a row, days after he ruled himself out of contention. Luck or not, it’s a pathetic streak.

Hazard’s weekend wasn’t much better, fracturing his leg in ?Real Madrid’s loss at Levante, notably ruling him out of games against ?Manchester City and Barcelona. His maiden season after his dream move hasn’t gone accordingly – one goal in 15 appearances is an undeniably atrocious return for £105m, regardless of injury.

At the age of 29, he’s still without a star performance in the ?Champions League, and regardless of his legacy at Chelsea and for Belgium, it’s something that will always be held against him if he can’t even produce one at the Champions League club.

Eden Hazard

He’d rarely struggled with injury before heading to Madrid and some of his woes is down bad luck, but when you turn up for pre-season at the biggest sports team in the world overweight and with prior concerns about application on the training pitch, that’s inexcusable.

His 2015/16 season is the worst any modern superstar has had during their peak years and isn’t even close, yet this injury-hit spell at Madrid could threaten it if he doesn’t contribute more upon his return.

Maybe ?Messi and ?Ronaldo just weren’t going to be touched by anyone, but on their current trajectory, history will not be kind to ?Neymar and ?Hazard in their attempts to become the world’s best.


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Rodrygo Suspended for El Clásico After Brainless Red Card for Real Madrid Castilla

?Real Madrid winger Rodrygo Goes will be suspended for Sunday’s visit of Barcelona after picking up a bizarre red card while with club’s reserve side.

The Brazilian joined up with countryman Reinier Jesus to feature in Sunday’s 2-0 win over SS Reyes, and he certainly made an impact. He netted a stunning late goal to seal the victory, but then chose to celebrate in the face of the goalkeeper. The referee booked him for it, and as he had already been shown a yellow card earlier in the game, he was given his marching orders.

Rodrygo

As noted by ?Marca, he must now serve a domestic suspension which means he will be banned from featuring in El Clásico.

He had been touted to return to Zinedine Zidane’s senior side for the game following ?news of Eden Hazard’s latest foot injury, but he instead will have to watch from the sidelines as a result of his actions.

?Hazard is expected to miss several months after re-aggravating the hairline fracture which has plagued his season, so there will likely be plenty of other opportunities for Rodrygo, but with La Liga on the line and Real’s form dipping…bad. 

Sergio Postigo,Eden Hazard

He will be free to feature in Wednesday’s ?Champions League clash with ?Manchester City, but will then have to return to the sidelines.

Rodrygo has managed 18 appearances for ?Real this season, racking up seven goals and two assists in all competitions in an impressive debut campaign at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Zinedine Zidane

However, minutes have not always been easy to come by. Zidane has often turned to the likes of Vinícius Júnior, Isco and Lucas Vázquez instead, and he will have to do so once more on Sunday as a result of Rodrygo’s suspension.

The game looks set to be pivotal in ?La Liga’s title race. ?Barcelona currently sit top of the table with a two-point lead over Los Blancos, so the upcoming game could go a long way to deciding who finishes on top.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Luka Jovi?: What’s Going on, Buddy?

?This time last year, Luka Jovi? had the world at his feet. 

After winning the DFB-Pokal the previous season, Jovi? scored 27 goals across all competitions for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018/19 and he was the name on everyone’s lips during discussions over European football’s next best striker.

Specifically, though, he was on Florentino Pérez’s lips too. A few phone calls and €60m later, Jovi? was unveiled at Real Madrid in a move which he admits he initially thought was a practical joke from his agent.

Luka Jovic

My agent called me and told me that Real Madrid has called and told me that they love me. And I say, ‘Don’t tease me, please’,” Jovi? revealed (via Marca) about when he first heard about a potential move to the Santiago Bernabéu.

In reality, Jovi? had no reason to think that Real Madrid’s interest wasn’t real. He was one of the hottest prospects in Europe at the time and had shown he could score domestically as well as in the Europa League.

But joining ?Real Madrid comes with its own unique pressure. He cost as much as Luís Figo and more than Ronaldo Nazário, while after becoming the club’s first Serbian player since Perica Ognjenovi? almost 20 years earlier, Jovi? had the expectations of an entire country on his shoulders.

That pressure has shown in his performances too. Jovi? has never been a player to dictate a match or get involved in build-up play all that frequently, but the 22-year-old has appeared to be almost purposely shying away in the Spanish capital.

There could be a few different reasons as to why that is, but one of those reasons certainly isn’t Jovi?’s quality as a footballer.

Luka Jovic

He was directly involved in 45 goals in 75 games throughout his career in Frankfurt, finishing as the third top goalscorer in the Bundesliga last season – something made even more impressive as he didn’t open his account until matchday six – where he also became the youngest player to score five goals in one top-flight match in Germany.

But it wasn’t just the number of goals Jovi? was scoring that caught the eye in 2018/19. It was also the variety of them too.

Jovi? scored 36 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt, only one of which ever came from the penalty spot. He netted six headers – the same way he’s scored his only goal for Real Madrid so far – while 16 came from his right foot and 13 came from his left.

Although Jovi? was quite clearly the best player at Frankfurt, his form still blew hot and cold at times, and there always seemed to be a pattern to whenever the Serbia international had his ups and downs.

It’s not been an easy start at Real Madrid, but Jovi? did show similar signs of struggle at Eintracht Frankfurt. When he did fail to leave his mark on a game it was almost always whenever his former teammate Sébastien Haller wasn’t on the pitch.

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The Frenchman has an incredible ability to bring the best out of the players around him – it’s for that reason he could succeed Olivier Giroud in the national team – and that was vital in Eintracht Frankfurt’s success in last season’s Europa League, as well as the 2018 DFB-Pokal.

At Real Madrid, Jovi? is isolated. 

Fans at the Santiago Bernabéu have watched Karim Benzema lead the line for them for over a decade now, a player who combines the link-up play of Haller with the killer instincts of Jovi?, and that is part of the problem for the former Frankfurt star.

It’s not that Jovi? isn’t a good player. But he isn’t what Real Madrid fans want him to be. And that’s a recipe for disaster, especially in front of European football’s most demanding and ruthless supporters.

For Jovi?, things are already too far gone this year. That doesn’t mean he can’t still be a success at Real Madrid in the long-term, but the Serbia international needs to get his mojo back if he wants to replicate his form from last season.

With Real Madrid’s demands leaving very little room for player-development, the 22-year-old will probably need to find his feet outside the Spanish capital.

Luka Jovic

That doesn’t mean Jovi? needs to be sold – although Real Madrid could just include a buyback clause in any sale that goes through – but a season-long loan spell where the pressure isn’t as intense should do the world of good.

Real Madrid fans only need to look at Martin Ødegaard to see just how useful a loan spell outside of the Santiago Bernabéu can be for a young player.

Things didn’t quite click for Ødegaard last season, but he’s been one of the most impressive players in ?La Liga this season at Real Sociedad and looks set to be part of Zinedine Zidane’s first-team squad next year.

That doesn’t mean Jovi? will enjoy a similar renaissance outside the Spanish capital, but the Serbia international doesn’t look like he’ll start firing on his own accord and he might need a spell elsewhere to finally start living up to his potential at Real Madrid.


For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!

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