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11-12-2017, 10:55 AM

'I was born for this' - Lukaku proud of matching Belgium goalscoring record


A confident Romelu Lukaku has said he was "born for this" after a pair of goals in Belgium's draw with Mexico moved him level with the country's all-time leading goalscorers.

Manchester United striker Lukaku scored twice as Roberto Martinez's side were held 3-3 in Friday's friendly, his second salvaging the draw after Hirving Lozano's four-minute double put Mexico ahead.

The 24-year-old is now level with Paul Van Himst and Bernard Voorhoof on 30 goals for Belgium and can set a new benchmark by converting against Japan on Tuesday."I was born for this," Lukaku is quoted as saying by Het Laatse Nieuws. "I just want to score as many goals as possible.

"I'm glad I matched the record. I knew I'd do it. I want to break the record before 2018."But I really hope that this generation wins something. I want to get a trophy for this country."

He added to La Une: "It's a dream, even if I'm a little disappointed with the result. For our fans, we should have done everything to win this game, but the Mexicans were effective. "Paul Van Himst was someone who helped me a lot at Anderlecht. To equal his record, it is a source of pride. He remains the best Belgian player of all time and I have a lot respect for him.

"I always have confident in my ability. When you work hard it is rewarded, but the most important thing, as I always say, is the team."
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11-12-2017, 10:57 AM

'Martial one of the best I have ever seen' - Pogba piles praise on Man Utd colleague


Anthony Martial is “one of the best players” Manchester United and France colleague Paul Pogba has ever seen.The 21-year-old forward has been a key figure for the Red Devils this season despite seeing limited starts.

His impact from off the bench has helped to keep Jose Mourinho’s side in Premier League title contention, with six goals netted in all competitions.Martial has also earned an international recall on the back of his exploits, with Pogba convinced that there is still more to come from a player he holds in the highest regard.

The United midfielder, who is nursing his way back from a hamstring injury, told MUTV: "I am sure as he is very good and had a great pre-season. Even during the start of the season, he helped the team a lot. "Anthony is a big, big, big talent. He’s a talented player – one of the best players I have ever seen or trained with.“He is still young and is going to improve. He will improve a lot and you are going to see even more of Anthony, I’m sure."

Martial joined United from Monaco in the summer of 2015 in a deal which could be worth up to £58 million.He has made 107 appearances for the club to date, scoring 31 goals.

Mourinho’s desire to use him more as an impact player in 2017-18 has been accepted by the jet-heeled frontman, but he has also expressed a desire to take in more starts.He told SFR Sport ahead of the current international break: "It's easier to start the game.

"When you come off the bench, the other players are warmed up, they're totally in the game, and you have to get into it straight away."I prefer to start the game, I have more time to get myself into the game."I have faith in my qualities, and I think the manager has confidence in me, too, so it's up to me to continue putting in good performances, and if I do that, I think I'll play a bit more."
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11-12-2017, 10:57 AM

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"Anthony is a big, big, big talent. He’s a talented player – one of the best players I have ever seen or trained with.“He is still young and is going to improve. He will improve a lot and you are going to see even more of Anthony, I’m sure."

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11-12-2017, 10:58 AM

'Barcelona will always be my home' - Thiago hints at Camp Nou return


Thiago Alcantara has refused to rule out a return "home" to Barcelona at some stage in his career, although the midfielder insists he is happy at Bayern Munich.Born in Italy to Brazilian parents, Thiago joined Barcelona at the age of 14, progressing through the club's famed youth ranks to make his first-team debut in 2009.

However, the 26-year-old left just four years later, moving to Germany to team up again with former Barca head coach Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena.

While Guardiola has since moved on to Manchester City, Thiago remains a key cog in the Bundesliga giants' engine room and he sees no reason to leave."Barcelona will always be my home, not just because I love the club, but also the city," Thiago told Catalunya Radio.

"I will always look at it with affection. You never know if I will return because I am really happy at Bayern, but football changes a lot. Anything can happen."The Spain international showed his commitment to Bayern earlier this year, signing a two-year contract extension that will keep him at his current employers until June 2021.

"I renewed [my deal] last year with the intention of staying for more years," he added."But as the seasons pass, you can become more or less comfortable. The club could be going one way, my ideas could be [taking me] in another direction.

"Whether you're playing or not can change your ideas. I'm very happy here now, thinking about the season ahead. The season's so long, you can only think about [the current season]."
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11-12-2017, 10:29 PM

Werner can definitely be one of the world's best - RB Leipzig team-mate Upamecano


RB Leipzig star Timo Werner has the potential to become one of the world's best strikers, according to his team-mate Dayot Upamecano.Having signed from relegated Stuttgart ahead of last season, Werner went on to score 21 Bundesliga goals for promoted Leipzig, as they stunned the league and finished second only to Bayern Munich.

His impressive form at club level earned Werner his first Germany call-up in March and he has since gone on to make himself something of a mainstay, scoring three times in four appearances to help Die Mannschaft secure the Confederations Cup earlier this year.

Only 21, Werner already looks a certainty to go to the 2018 World Cup having started the Bundesliga season with six goals in nine appearances and Upamecano, who joined from sister club Red Bull Salzburg in January, believes the sky is the limit for the striker.

Speaking the Bundesliga's website, the 19-year-old Frenchman said: "I'm happy we're on the same team because he's difficult for opposition players to stop."His pace, his exceptional technique and finishing – he's a class striker. He definitely has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the world."

Upamecano has continued to look a promising prospect following his move from Austria, even though he initially found the adaptation quite difficult.

But in Ralph Hasenhuttl, he has a coach who is willing to trust in his abilities and Upamecano says he is now working to repay that faith."It wasn't easy for me at Leipzig to begin with," he said. "Being in a new club, in a new environment, at such a young age.

"But I always gave everything in training and the coach soon put his trust in me. I've tried to repay it. As a coach, he's tactically very astute and trusts young players."
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11-12-2017, 10:30 PM

Buffon tells Italy fans to forget 'club colours' before vital qualifier


Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon wants fans to leave their "club colours" at home as Gian Piero Ventura's men attempt to overturn a first-leg defeat to Sweden and qualify for the World Cup.

Jakob Johansson's solitary goal in Solna on Friday gave Sweden the upper-hand in their play-off, setting alarm bells off in Italian football.That result left the Azzurri on the brink of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, coincidentally when it was held in Sweden.

Ventura has come under significant pressure as a result and is likely to lose his job should Italy fail to overturn the 1-0 deficit, but Buffon believes their support could give them the advantage and called for them to forget their club allegiances when they head to San Siro on Monday.

The goalkeeper told a news conference: "It's a crucial game for us, for the whole country and for the whole history of our national team as well. "In my career, I already faced moments like this one, sometimes it went good, sometimes it went bad.

"But it won't change anything about my relationship with the Italian national team. There's no room left for words and wishes."It's time to get something on the pitch. I hope the supporters will help us, not having a too negative approach towards us from the beginning.

"I hope there won't be Juventus, Inter or AC Milan supporters, but just and only Italy supporters. I'd like to see those who attend take off their club colours."Ventura was not surprised by the situation Italy find themselves in with respect to finishing with a play-off spot, admitting that he accepted as soon as the draw for the group stage was made that Spain were going to finish top.

He said: "When I took the job I was exactly expecting this scenario; we were aware that Spain could have been stronger than us, we then targeted to be among the four best second teams, and that's exactly what we achieved."
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11-12-2017, 10:31 PM

Man Utd want me, confirms Argentine defender Enzo Diaz


Manchester United have shown an interest in Argentine left-back Enzo Diaz, the player says, and he has a "dream" of representing Jose Mourinho's side.The 21-year-old plays in the second tier in his homeland with Agropecuario, having broken into the first team this season.

After just six league appearances, the full-back, who can also play in the centre, has attracted interest from abroad and says that the Premier League side are already tracking him."I found out about it on Saturday morning, but later I did not talk to anyone other than my agent," he told Ataque Futbolero.

"My agent told me that they were delighted and they were going to see me in a couple more games."It is the dream of any footballer [to play for Manchester United].

"However, I need to remain focused on what we are doing and enjoying this moment." United have been linked with a hunt for a new left full-back with Ashley Young playing in the role under Mourinho this season, while Luke Shaw has been limited to just two senior appearances for the Old Trafford side.
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11-12-2017, 10:35 PM

Real Madrid star Isco one of world's best, says Spain boss Lopetegui


Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui believes Isco is already among the world's best players as he lauded the Real Madrid midfielder.The 25-year-old produced a fine display in a 5-0 friendly win over Costa Rica on Saturday before coming off with an injury in the second half.

Lopetegui was delighted with what he saw from the Madrid star, and believes there is even better to come."Isco is a player that is already settled in football's elite," he told a news conference. "I say he's settled because he's really constant at a maximum level and that's really hard to achieve."He made it thanks to his enormous quality but, not only that, also thanks to his great state of mind that made him a great player. That's why he's settled at that level.

"As he said yesterday at the press conference, the best of Isco is yet to come, I have no doubt about it. He has the ambition, the attitude, the quality and the mentality for that."

Isco has already played a starring role for Madrid this season, contributing four goals and three assists in 11 LaLiga games. While his injury against Costa Rica may worry Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, Lopetegui played down the severity.

"Isco has a contusion, he already had it after the match against Girona [for Madrid on October 29]," he said."It's just a contusion, nothing else. We will evaluate his state [on Sunday] and take a decision about him for the next match, but it's nothing to worry about – just a heavy contusion."

Spain face Russia in a friendly on Tuesday, while Madrid have a derby clash against Atletico four days later.
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11-12-2017, 10:36 PM

Moyes assures Hernandez of his place at West Ham


David Moyes has assured Javier Hernandez of his importance at West Ham following his appointment as manager.

The pair worked together whilst at Manchester United though the Mexico international was unfancied for much of Moyes' time in charge at Old Trafford.

Hernandez, who has already played more first-team football this season than he did under Moyes in Manchester, again finds himself working under the Scot ahead of a World Cup campaign.But the Hammers boss has moved to reassure Hernandez of his place in his side.“He’s a top goalscorer, a brilliant finisher,”Moyes told the Guardian.

“It was difficult for him at United because I had Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, so there was lots of competition. But he’ll be treated the same here – if he’s playing well and scoring, no problems. "If he’s not, it will be the same as the rest.”

West Ham have won just two of their 11 Premier League games this season and find themselves in the bottom three in the rankings.

Their early-season form saw Slaven Bilic lose his job as manager, with Moyes appointed as his successor, and the former United boss has demanded a reaction from his inherited squad.Moyes added: “They need to be there to say: ‘Yeah, we know what we’re doing.’ Ultimately you organise them, do the work during the week, but then there is a responsibility.

"That’s why the players are paid very good wages: they can’t be looking round and saying: ‘We want the manager to tell us what to do.’ They have to have a bit of responsibility themselves.”
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11-12-2017, 10:37 PM

'Impossible' - Heynckes rubbishes talk of him signing Bayern Munich contract extension


Jupp Heynckes has labelled talk of him extending his contract with Bayern Munich as "impossible".Heynckes has revitalised Bayern since taking over from Carlo Ancelotti until the end of the season in October, winning all seven of his games so far.

Bayern are four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga following their 3-1 win away to rivals Borussia Dortmund last time out, while qualification to the Champions League last 16 has also been secured.But asked about the possibility of staying at Allianz Arena long term, Heynckes told Welt am Sonntag: "No, that's impossible."

However, Heynckes, in his fourth spell with the club, will offer his opinion over what Bayern should do in the transfer market.And he believes Bayern should look to extend the contract of 33-year-old winger Arjen Robben, which expires at the end of the season.

"Of course, I will say what I would do, and I also believe that the people in charge value my opinion," Heynckes added."Arjen is having fun playing football again, and for me he is now better than ever at 33.

"He is a great role model for young players who want to make a career, because many have talent, but do not know how to behave professionally."Arjen does not have to say that he should do the exercises at 100 per cent, he does it anyway, you have to slow him down more.

"He is unique, he does everything for his job. Arjen does not need to play anymore to make money, he plays because he enjoys it."
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