The five months in Italy that shaped Diego Simeone's managerial career

Before Simeone took charge at Atlético Madrid, he kept Catania in Serie A – thanks in part to a great result against JuventusBy Greg Lea for These Football TimesIt is difficult to overstate Diego Simeone’s achievements as Atlético Madrid manager. When he replaced Gregorio Manzano in December 2011, the club appeared to be consigned to mid-table in La Liga. They had won the Europa League 18 months before he arrived at the club under Quique Sánchez Flores, but a pair of fourth-place finishes in 2008 and 2009 were the height of the club’s domestic achievements in the previous decade. The season before Simeone took over, Atlético finished behind Valencia, Sevilla, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao in seventh place, 38 points behind champions Barcelona and just 15 above the relegation zone.That Atlético smashed the seemingly impregnable duopoly Barcelona and Real Madrid had established in La Liga to lift the title in 2014 – just three years into Simeone’s reign – is nothing short of sensational. He had already secured the club’s 10th Copa del Rey and another Europa League and Super Cup in his first two campaigns, as well as reaching the 2014 Champions League final, but his triumph in La Liga was undoubtedly the pinnacle. It is impossible to fluke your way to a league championship. Continue reading...



Mats Hummels urges Bayern to send Liverpool out of Champions League

• First leg result ‘is satisfying but not more’ says Bayern defender• Hummels: silencing Anfield was key to Champions League drawBayern Munich were satisfied with a goalless draw and their gameplan against Liverpool but they know the path to the Champions League quarter-finals is not “wide open”, Mats Hummels has admitted.The German champions became the first team to deny Liverpool victory and a goal at Anfield in Europe this season when holding Jürgen Klopp’s side on Tuesday. Hummels believes silencing Liverpool on the counterattack and the home crowd was key to a stalemate that leaves the last-16 tie delicately poised for the second leg in Munich on 13 March. But he admitted Niko Kovac’s team must display more adventure at the Allianz Arena. Continue reading...



Harry Kane returns to Tottenham training prior to Burnley trip

• England captain tweets picture of Spurs return• Kane has been out since 13 January with ankle injuryHarry Kane has handed Tottenham a fitness boost after posting a picture training alongside his teammates.Kane is expected to return to action ahead of schedule in Spurs’ Premier League match at Burnley on Saturday. Continue reading...



LGBT group drops Martina Navratilova over transgender comments

• Athlete Ally drops former world No 1 as ambassador• Navratilova also loses place on advisory boardMartina Navratilova has been removed as an ambassador by Athlete Ally, an organisation that supports LGBT athletes, following her comments on transgender inclusion.In a newspaper column this week the 18-time grand slam singles champion referred to trans women as men who “decide to be female”, adding that allowing them to compete with women who were assigned female at birth is “cheating and unfair”. Continue reading...



Leroy Sane: How the Schalke schoolboy became a Premier League star at Manchester City

Leroy Sane's former teachers and coaches tell the story of his "amazing rise" from Schalke's youth academy to starring for Manchester City.



Football transfer rumours: Stoke to offload Saido Berahino after arrest?

Today’s fluff is here, at leastTottenham Hotspur are planning to abandon their recent policy of not signing any new players by dipping into the market next summer. A spanking new defender is high on Mauricio Pochettino’s shopping list and the name of Real Betis’s Aïssa Mandi is being named in dispatches. A right-back who can fill in at centre-back if required, the 27-year-old Algerian international is also inching his way across Arsenal’s radar.According to reports in Spain, Unai Emery is also interested in signing Éver Banega from Sevilla. The reformed party boy is a firm favourite of Arsenal’s Spanish manager, who coached him at both Valencia and Sevilla, and more recently tried unsuccessfully to bring him to the Emirates in January. Contracted to Sevilla until 2020, the 30-year-old Argentinian midfielder is valued at about £17m. Continue reading...



The Spin | Sheer pace is sheer bliss though fast bowlers often blow hot and cold

Mark Wood’s Sunday spell in St Lucia was a refreshing reminder of how pace bowling turns a slow game into a fast oneThere are certain words that are crying out to have “sheer” in front of them. Sheer bliss. Sheer lunacy. Sheer pace.In cricket, sheer pace is sheer bliss, as long as it’s on your side. In St Lucia on Sunday evening England, who had been blown away in the first two Tests by a resurgent West Indies attack, finally produced a riposte. Mark Wood came on after 20 overs, when the game is inclined to nod off, and suddenly every delivery carried an electric charge. Bowling to Shai Hope, Wood beat the bat outside off stump with his first ball, and his second, and his third. The fourth was a bouncer, which Hope wisely ducked. The little box on the screen that clocks the bowler’s speed showed 145kph, or 90mph. A stiff breeze was helping, but then Wood, so often kept off the field by a dodgy ankle, deserved a fair wind. Continue reading...



Manchester City hail purchase of Chinese club as ‘exciting new chapter’

• Sichuan Jiuniu FC are the seventh club to be part of CFG• Ferran Soriano says China is an ‘extremely important market’Manchester City’s parent company has announced the joint-purchase of a seventh club, Sichuan Jiuniu FC, who play in China’s third tier.City Football Group (CFG) have bought the Chengdu side together with China Sports Capital and Ubtech. It is the next step in CFG’s involvement in China, having previously opened offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Continue reading...



Joe Marler has no regrets over England absence despite pull of Wales tussle

• Prop has had no call from Eddie Jones despite Vunipola injury• Marler happy out of England fray but Wales is ‘incredible’ gameJoe Marler has admitted he would love to be playing for England against Wales on Saturday but insists he has no regrets over his international retirement despite Mako Vunipola’s injury-enforced absence.England head to Cardiff light on experience at loosehead prop after Vunipola was ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations with an ankle injury, leaving Eddie Jones to choose between Ben Moon and Ellis Genge, who have five Test starts between them. Marler revealed Jones has not been in contact about coming out of retirement and, while he did not completely close the door on doing so in the future, he said adding to his 59 England caps was “highly unlikely”. He did concede that England versus Wales was his favourite fixture to play in because of the hostility of the Welsh supporters. Continue reading...



Root joins Murray and Southgate in standing up for social tolerance | Tim de Lisle

England captain has done cricket a great service – his reaction to a perceived homophobic remark was cool, calm, collected … and rightCricketers call it sledging, or chirping: the business of trying to undermine your opponent with verbal abuse. It’s a dismal habit that shows us sport at its most small-minded and should have been banned long ago. But this week it has done the world a favour.In the Test in St Lucia, the West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel was bad-mouthing the England captain, Joe Root. What Gabriel said the stump microphone did not catch but it did bring us Root’s reply: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.” Continue reading...



Laurina shows Champion Hurdle potential after flu jab cuts short training

• Willie Mullins’ mare now 7-2 shot for Cheltenham race• Trainer to send around 40 runners to meeting next month“Job done,” declared Willie Mullins after watching Laurina score a bloodless success here that set her up for what still seems an ambitious tilt at the Champion Hurdle, for all that she is third-favourite for the Cheltenham contest.The Carlow trainer used this same prep-race to ready Annie Power on her way to Champion Hurdle glory three years ago and the question now is whether Laurina can follow up against the top-class pair Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade. Continue reading...



Sri Lanka v England: Pick your England team for first Test

Who do you think should be in the England side for the first Test against Sri Lanka? Choose your XI and share it with your friends.



Wales turn England changing room into a theatre for Ray Gravell play

• Squad sees actor called Gareth Bale play the late Wales centre• ‘It reminded you of the reasons some of us play rugby’Wales have turned to Gareth Bale to ensure they maintain their winning start to the Six Nations against England at the Principality Stadium on Saturday. They were at the ground on Monday night to hear his impassioned one-man performance of one of the Welsh game’s most lauded figures, the late Ray Gravell.Not the Wales and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale, but an actor of the same name who has taken Grav, Owen Thomas’s play on the Llanelli and Lions centre, around the country for the last four years. Most of the Wales squad and management watched the performance in the dressing room England will change in this weekend. Continue reading...



'The whole village is united': Warnock attends Emiliano Sala's funeral – video

The Cardiff City manager, Neil Warnock, has attended the funeral of Emiliano Sala in the town of Progreso, Argentina. Sala was killed when the aircraft he was flying in crashed on 21 January, en route to Cardiff from Nantes, the player having signed with the Premier League club days earlier Continue reading...



Roger Federer confirms clay court comeback at Madrid Open

• Swiss player has not played on clay for two years• Federer will be in the draw for tournament in MayRoger Federer has confirmed his participation for this year’s Madrid Open on Wednesday, marking his return to the European clay court season after two years away.The 20-times grand slam title winner has not played since his defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open last 16 in January. Federer, whose sole French Open title came in 2009, has preferred to skip the European clay events over the past two seasons to manage his schedule. The 37-year-old Swiss is the second most successful player at the Caja Mágica behind Rafa Nadal, winning three titles in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Continue reading...



Sports quiz of the week: managers, money, metal medals and monikers

Who defied his age? Who scored quickly? Who made a packet? Matt Kuchar earned $1.3m in prize money for his victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. How much did the golfer pay his caddie?$5,000$130,000 $300,000 $1.3m Why does Anthony Joshua’s next opponent, Jarrell Miller, go by the nickname “Big Baby”? He takes a cuddly toy with him wherever he goesHe weighed 10 pounds at birthHis first opponent called him that before the opening bell – and was quickly knocked outHe lost a betJoshua is fighting Miller on 1 June. Which other sporting event is taking place that night?The last game of the Six Nations The Cricket World Cup final The men’s singles final at WimbledonThe Champions League finalWho scored a hat-trick in 30 minutes this week?Sergio Agüero Eden Hazard Roberto Firmino Jonny MayPaul Scholes made his managerial debut this week. Which footballer announced his retirement on the day Scholes made his playing debut way back in 1994?Bryan Robson Gary LinekerDiego Maradona Glenn Hoddle Gordon Banks, who died this week aged 81, is most famous for winning the World Cup with England in 1966. In which country did he play his last game as a professional footballer in 1977?Republic of IrelandEgyptCanada UruguayDeclan Rice says he wants to play for the England football team. Why has his decision gone down badly with some Irish supporters?He grew up in Northern Ireland and played for their Under-21 team He was born in the Republic of Ireland He has already played three matches for the Republic of IrelandHe was in the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2016 but didn't playThe organisers of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo say the medals will be made from…Metals mined from below the stadium in Tokyo Old phones and computersShipwrecks found off the Japanese coastMetal found in the Acropolis in Athens Where is the best team in the southern hemisphere meeting the best team in the northern hemisphere this weekend?Wellington WichitaWiganWinnipegMatthijs de Ligt captained Ajax against Real Madrid this week in the Champions League. What is remarkable about that?He only made his debut in August He has already signed to play for Real Madrid next season He is still a teenagerHis brother captained the team in their previous match 1 and above.Nine wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive2 and above.Eight wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive3 and above.Chin up. There's always next week4 and above.Chin up. There's always next week5 and above.That's a fine score. Well played6 and above.That's a fine score. Well played7 and above.That's a fine score. Well played. 8 and above.That's a super score. Well played9 and above.You star. Have a great weekend0 and above.Ten wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive10 and above.You legend. Have a great weekend Continue reading...



Warren Gatland ensures Wales leave nothing to chance against England | Ben Ryan

The head coach’s inside knowledge means a greater insight into what to expect in the crucial Six Nations encounterWhen you have already coached the world-class talent in the team you are playing against at the weekend, it’s fair to say it won’t do you any harm. Information gleaned from reams of video or the brains of performance analysts will give you a pretty good picture. However, the experiences you have gone through and the intimate knowledge of the opposition’s key figures turns all that into 4K resolution.Warren Gatland will have felt his vision is particularly sharp this week. On Saturday, two great rivals go toe-to-toe in what is certainly the biggest matchup between the two since the pool game at the World Cup in 2015. The plan for Wales going into the 80 minutes in Cardiff will be as clear and concise as Warren Gatland has ever produced. From his time with the British and Irish Lions Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes and more will be known to Gatland way beyond any match analysis. He knows how they play, what makes them tick and what they are capable of. Continue reading...



The Fiver | This rag-tag collection of multi-millionaire footballers

Sign up now! Sign up now! Sign up now? Sign up now!Following a weekend of FA Cup ties that produced no upsets whatsoever, it is left to the plucky minnows of Chelsea to go all Mills & Boon on the fifth-round romance stakes by slaying Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Two places and one point behind United in the English league pyramid, it has been left to this rag-tag collection of butchers, carpenters and postmen – or, at the very least, multi-millionaire footballers who may know their local butcher, carpenter or postman – to fly the flag for the little guy when United’s juggernaut rolls up with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. Continue reading...



Is Tottenham's run of 30 league games without a draw a record? | The Knowledge

Plus: Old Trafford’s mysterious semi-final snub, back-to-back penalty misses and unused subs. Mail us or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU“Tottenham have currently played 30 consecutive Premier League games without drawing one,” notes Wouter van Dael. “What is the longest ever such league run?”The short answer is that Spurs are Premier League record-breakers, Wouter, but only just. “Bolton previously held this title with a run of 28 games between March and December 2011,” writes James Clarke. “But in the wider context of English league history, Spurs have a long way to go yet. Twenty-nine clubs have had longer streaks without a draw at some point – and seven have gone more than 40 consecutive league games without a stalemate: Birmingham (43 games), Walsall (44), Leicester (44), Bradford Park Avenue (44), Stoke (46), Sunderland (46) and Aston Villa (51). Although it is probably worth noting that Sunderland’s is the most recent of these, coming comparatively recently in 1908-09. The slightly interesting quirk here is that five of these seven draw-less clubs are midlands teams.Season 2017-1830 Apr Spurs 2-0 Watford5 May West Brom 1-0 Spurs9 May Spurs 1-0 Newcastle13 May Spurs 5-4 Leicester Continue reading...