Weekend Round Up

Johan Cruyff, Dutch football legend, dies at the age of 68

Johan Cruyff was widely regarded as one of the greatest football player ever and sadly passed away on March 24, 2016.

“On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer. It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” read a statement on the World of Johan Cruyff website.

The Holland football legend Johan Cruyff has died of cancer at the age of 68. The Dutchman, who on three occasions was voted the world player of the year, guided Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 and as a manager he spent eight years in charge of Barcelona.

Just last month the former Ajax, Barcelona and Holland star, one of the main exponents, along with Rinus Michels, of the world famous Total Football – the Dutch style of play that involved players constantly interchanging roles – popularised in the 1970s but still playing a major influence on modern football, said he was ‘2-0 up’ in his match with lung cancer.

With great sadness we have learned of the death of Johan Cruyff. Words are not enough,” wrote the Dutch football federation on Twitter. Ajax issued a short statement that read: “Johan Cruyff has died in Barcelona at the age of 68. The greatest Ajax player of all time had suffered with lung cancer since October last year. Ajax share in this great loss and wish the families much strength.”

Cruyff, who was a heavy smoker until undergoing heart surgery in 1991, made his illness public in October last year. He was regarded as one of the game’s greatest players. He led Ajax to three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973 and was the linchpin for Holland as they were beaten 2-1 in the final of the 1974 World Cup by West Germany. During the tournament his eponymous turn was first seen against Sweden and soon copied the world over.

The 68-year-old Dutch legend was an attacking midfielder and a forward player in his hey days during the 70s. Leading his team to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup, he later, went on to manage the teams of Ajax, Barcelona and Catalonia.

Here’s a look back at his illustrious career.

He joined Barcelona for a world record fee at that time. He went on to become a huge favourite at the Camp Nou, eventually coaching the Catalan club to a first European Cup triumph in 1992 as well as winning four successive La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994, having managed Ajax from 1985 to 1988. Barcelona tweeted: “We will always love you, Johan. Rest in peace.”

As a player Cruyff scored 392 times in 520 games over a 19-year career but his influence reached far beyond creating goals, thanks to his qualities as a leader, thinker and speaker. As a coach he had 242 victories in 387 matches, with 75 draws and 70 losses.

The current and five-times world player of the year, Lionel Messi, was among the first to pay tribute to Cruyff, writing on his Twitter account: “RIP Johan Cruyff. Your legacy will live on forever.”

The Belgium captain and Manchester City central defender Vincent Kompany was quick to follow suit. “Johan Cruyff, true football royalty. I don’t think anyone has ever influenced the game as much as he has done. We have all been touched and inspired by his vision and his believes. Football will miss him but we will never forget. #JohanCruyff.”

Ruud Gullit, who played with Cruyff at Feyenoord, said: “I’m perplexed, I thought he was getting better. Holland lost a face in the world. He put our football on the map. Furthermore he’s been extremely important for my career.”

European Super League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City officials did not discuss breakaway league at meeting

Officials from leading Barclays Premier League clubs did not discuss the possibility of a breakaway European Super League in London on Tuesday, Press Association Sport understands.

Reports have emerged that officials from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United held a meeting with American billionaire Stephen Ross - the owner of Miami Dolphins NFL team.

Ross' organisation is behind the International Champions Cup series, which sees a number of Barclays Premier League clubs take on other leading sides from across Europe in showpiece matches, often held as pre-season tournaments around the globe.

Photographs of club officials leaving a meeting at the Dorchester Hotel together prompted speculation that another attempt could be made to form a continental league competition but an Arsenal spokesman, while confirming a meeting took place, told Press Association Sport: "We are strongly opposed to any breakaway.

"Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape and no conversations surrounding displacing the Premier League or starting a European Super League took place.

"Discussions were primarily around the ICC and formats of European competitions that would compliment the existing Premier League."

UEFA confirmed it has no concrete proposals on the table to change the format of its European competitions, but is constantly reviewing the situation.

A lucrative new broadcasting deal is set to kick in from the start of the 2016/2017 Premier League season, which will dwarf the current financial rewards on offer for a successful European campaign.

When contacted by Press Association Sport on Wednesday, UEFA confirmed they were aware of the latest reports, but had no specific comment to make on the claims.

A spokesman said: "We are constantly reviewing the formats of our competitions in consultations with stakeholders and also with the ECA (European Club Association).

"At the moment, there are no concrete proposals on the table. We have just gone into a new three-year cycle for Champions League and Europa League, so we cannot offer any further comment at this stage."

The Premier League said they had no comment to make when contacted on Wednesday.

Welbeck: Rashford has great potential for Manchester United

Danny Welbeck has hailed Marcus Rashford following the 18-year-old’s stunning introduction to the Manchester United first team.

Rashford struck twice during his senior debut for United in last Thursday’s 5-1 victory over FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, and he followed that up with another double in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford.

Rashford was scouted during his time at Fletcher Moss Rangers - the same youth club Welbeck was at - and the Arsenal forward believes United have a player with “great potential”.

“He’s done brilliantly well. Individually I was really pleased for him, obviously to make a great debut like that in the Europa League and then into the weekend he did well,” Welbeck told the Daily Mirror.

“It was disappointing [for us] on the day. I was down when we lost that match. I’m pleased for Marcus but disappointed to lose that game.

“My brother is very close with his family. He’s known his family for a very long time and Marcus was coming through the ranks at United when I was playing in the first team and I would see him all of the time.

“He’s someone that I always spoke to. He’s a great kid. He’s very level headed. He’s got great potential and I hope he does very well. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times.

“Fletcher Moss was where it started for me and a lot of other players as well. It’s vital that they get the stature back up again, get everything running smoothly again.

“There’s a lot of talent in Manchester that grows up in and around that club. Hopefully it can keep going for many more years.”

Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos 'hand in' transfer requests at Real Madrid - Manchester United on red alert

A massive story has emerged from Spain today which could pave way for potentially the two biggest transfers this summer.

News outlet Sport have reported that Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos have handed in their transfer requests at Real Madrid, delivering the news in person to Real president Florentino Perez.

Both players have been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United in recent seasons.

The original story, that Ronaldo and Ramos had gone to meet Perez and tell him they wanted to leave, was first brought to light on Spanish TV programme El Chiringuito last night.

The incident reportedly happened after Real's1-0 defeat by neighbours Atletico Madrid last weekend. Real are now 12 points behind leaders Barcelona in third place in La Liga.

Ronaldo of course played for United between 2003 and 2009 before his then-world record £80m move to Real. The Portuguese scored 118 goals in 292 appearances for the Old Trafford side, and won three Premier League titles, three League Cups, one FA Cup and one Champions League in a trophy-laden spell with the club.

Premier League clubs' spending reaches £1bn this season

Premier League clubs have spent more than £1bn on transfers in a season for the first time, new figures reveal.

A record £965m was spent in 2014-15, but that figure has already been beaten, with clubs having until 23:00 GMT on Monday to sign further players.

The 20 clubs have already spent £130m in the January transfer window alone, with Newcastle spending £29m.


They have signed Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Henri Saivet, and bid £21m for West Brom striker Saido Berahino.

Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: "We've seen Premier League clubs again use the January window to invest significantly in playing talent.

"With a day left, the total gross spending this season has already reached £1bn for the first time." 

Premier League spending since 2003-04 SeasonSummer transfer windowJanuary transfer windowTotal *2015-16 January transfer window figures as at 09:00 GMT on 1 February 2003-04 £215m £50m £265m 2004-05 £215m £50m £265m 2005-06 £235m £70m £305m 2006-07 £260m £60m £320m 2007-08 £470m £175m £645m 2008-09 £500m £170m £670m 2009-10 £450m £30m £480m 2010-11 £365m £225m £590m 2011-12 £485m £60m £545m 2012-13 £490m £120m £610m 2013-14 £630m £130m £760m 2014-15 £835m £130m £965m 2015-16 £870m £130m so far £1bn so far


Pep Guardiola to succeed Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City boss

Pellegrini leaving Man City

Pep Guardiola will succeed Manuel Pellegrini as manager next season, Manchester City have announced.

The club's surprise statement ends considerable speculation linking them with outgoing Bayern Munich boss Guardiola and over Pellegrini's future.

Guardiola will take over from the start of the 2016-17 season having agreed a three-year contract with the club


BBC's take:


Pep Guardiola has agreed a three-year contract to become Manchester City manager in the summer.

The 45-year-old, currently in charge at Bayern Munich, will replace Manuel Pellegrini, who will leave on 30 June.

A statement from City said Chilean Pellegrini, 62, was "fully supportive" of the announcement being made.


The club said negotiations with former Barcelona coach Guardiola had been "a recommencement of discussions that were curtailed in 2012".

Roberto Mancini was City boss in 2012, when he led them to the domestic title.

Pellegrini succeeded the Italian in 2013 and took the club to a Premier League and League Cup double the following season.

He has won 64 of his 99 Premier League games as a manager, a record only eclipsed by Jose Mourinho, who won 73 of his opening 99 league games as Chelsea boss.

City could yet win four trophies under Pellegrini this season.

They are already through to the final of the League Cup and are second in the league behind Leicester City.

The Blues are also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and will play Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Why City went for Pep

  • Barcelona's most successful manager with 14 trophies in four years, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.
  • Took a year's break before joining Bayern in 2013, following the club's Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble under Jupp Heynckes.
  • Won the league twice in his two full seasons with Bayern, who are eight points clear in his third campaign. He is yet to win the Champions League with the German club and has been knocked out at the semi-final stage twice.
  • They face Italian giants Juventus in the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition in February and Guardiola said: "Winning the Champions League would make my time here complete."


Former City winger Trevor Sinclair said news of Guardiola's appointment was "a massive, massive statement" by the club and "huge news for all City fans".

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "He's the hottest manager out there. Every club would want him.

"And when you look at the recruitment possibilities now, that's where you really start to get excited. He'll be able to bring in some huge players."


Phil McNulty, BBC Sport's chief football writer:

The announcement that Pep Guardiola is to be the next Manchester City coach is not a huge surprise - but the timing is.

Manuel Pellegrini is still in charge and is still in serious contention for four trophies.

What is beyond question, however, is that this is the most powerful statement of intent from City's Abu Dhabi owners that they intend to construct a club to stand alongside any in world football.

Guardiola is the game's most coveted coach with a history of claiming the top prizes.

The combination of the charismatic Catalan's coaching brilliance and the financial backing he will receive makes this a partnership the rest of football world could come to fear.

Gareth Bale fires hat-trick to give Zinedine Zidane dream start as Real Madrid boss in rampant win

Karim Benzema got the Zidane era off to an ideal start by scoring after just 15 minutes and then Bale netted either side of the break before scoring a second header to complete his treble.   

Benzema added a fifth in stoppage-time as Real ensured the gap to Barcelona at the top remains at two points, albeit with Los Merengues having played one game more.

Earlier in the week Zidane confirmed reports that Bale was irritated by the sacking of Rafael Benitez, but the Wales international quickly showed he can work just as well under the Frenchman with a dominant performance.

After a stop-start season under Benitez, Madrid looked liberated under Zidane, once the club's record signing and still an idol thanks to his stunning winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final.

The 43-year-old's name was cheered heartily before the game by the same supporters who had booed Benitez just 10 days earlier, and they were also delighted at the sight of Isco, who was given his first start in exactly two months. The Frenchman's only other change to the team that drew 2-2 in Benitez's last game was homegrown defender Dani Carvajal coming in for Danilo, who has been inconsistent since signing from Porto last year for 30 million euros.

Zidane announced in his press briefings that he would stick with the usual front three of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, saving special praise for the Portuguese, who he called "the soul of the team".

Although Ronaldo failed to get on the scoresheet, he was much livelier than at the Mestalla during Benitez's last game in charge, taking nine shots on goal and providing the assist for Bale's second goal.

Madrid made a nervy start to the game, however, with Deportivo's Luis Alberto firing over in the opening minutes and then Faycal Fajr forced Keylor Navas to tip away his shot from wide. The goalkeeper was alert again a couple of minutes later to thwart Lucas Perez in a one-on-one, and the same doubts that pervaded Benitez's side were looking all too evident.

But just a few moments later Benzema struck at the other end to put Madrid on their way to a huge win. Depor failed to clear a corner and Sergio Ramos sent the ball back into the danger area, and Benzema helped it into the net with a flick of the back heel to score his 100th Primera Division goal. The goal angered Depor as Gareth Bale was offside, and although he did not touch the ball, he may have obstructed the view of goalkeeper German Lux.

Bale got the better of the goalkeeper just seven minutes later, heading home a cross from Carvajal from six yards out.

The former Tottenham man got his second of the evening four minutes after the break, tapping in Ronaldo's low cross, and then grabbed his second hat-trick of the season by heading in a Toni Kroos corner, netting his 50th goal for Madrid in 108 games, one more than Zidane managed in 231 games in a white shirt.

Benzema rounded off the victory with a thumping shot that bounced in off the crossbar as Zidane enjoyed a comfortable start to life in the Bernabeu dugout.

Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal says he needs 'creative players' because Juan Mata 'does not fit profile'

Manchester United are in need of creative players, with Juan Mata not the answer on the right wing, according to their manager Louis van Gaal.   

After his side's dour 1-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield United, secured with an injury time penalty from Wayne Rooney, Van Gaal revealed he was not satisfied with his current options.

The Dutchman's comments come despite spending £250m since taking over at the club and having been at the helm for 18 months.

Asked why he had failed to rectify issues within his squad, he said: "Because it is the most difficult situation in the match.

"It is like that and I have said also in the (summer) transfer period that we need creative players with speed and we don’t have that too much.

“Juan Mata is playing the right side and he is doing fantastically well because he always has a big contribution for our team, but he is not a right winger in the profile I have.

“But it is not so easy to purchase players who are better than Mata because even though he is in a different profile, he is a very good right winger in our way of playing.”

Despite acknowledging the need for new faces at Old Trafford, Van Gaal does not expect any arrivals this month.

“I don’t think that we shall do business in January,” he said.

“When there is a chance to make the selection better then we shall do it, but I don’t think we shall do that.”

Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United: Everton striker would prefer Paris Saint Germain switch

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku reportedly prefers the prospect of joining Paris Saint German next summer - rather than Manchester United.    

The 22-year-old Belgium international is the joint Premier League top goalscorer this season and has been linked with a £50m switch to Old Trafford at the end of the campaign.

But, according to the Sun on Sunday, Lukaku would prefer to join the Parisian giants if they follow up their interest with a bid.

Real Madrid have also been suggested as possible suitors should the Everton striker be allowed to leave Goodison Park.

Toffees manager Roberto Martinez has repeatedly quashed speculation about Lukaku’s future but today’s report casts fresh doubt.

When asked if the club have an agreement with Lukaku to sell him eventually, the Spaniard said: "That is not true, I would never do that. I think that would be very negative. If you do that could you imagine the last two months for that player?

"He would never put a leg in or never challenge for the ball. I don't agree with doing that. I know you can do that to keep a player for another 12 months.

"But if you're not going to have a player 12 months down the line you need to start replacing him to have a stronger team."

Diego Costa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek see off dogged League One visitors

Teenage midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek's first senior goal settled a niggly FA Cup third round tie as Chelsea ground past Scunthorpe 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.    

Diego Costa's fourth goal in three games handed Chelsea the perfect start, only for Guus Hiddink's men to drift off and allow League One side Scunthorpe to turn the tie into a scrap.

The 19-year-old Loftus-Cheek's composed finish secured Chelsea safe passage to the fourth round, though, after Scunthorpe were denied a second-half penalty.

Chelsea will hope England Under-21 star Loftus-Cheek's tidy performance points to a coming of age, after limited past opportunities.

And interim Blues boss Hiddink will be heartened by hit man Costa taking another step forward in his fight for top form.

Total first-half control caused Chelsea to switch off and coast to a 1-0 advantage at the break.

Costa sneaked goal-side of the defence to turn home Branislav Ivavonic's cross and hand the hosts the perfect opening.

Oscar curled wide from 16 yards instead of doubling the lead, doing an injustice to his step-over and link return ball from Costa - the pair combining well after their set-to in training this week.

Pedro then spurned another fine Chelsea chance, scuffing his finish after a lose first touch. Willian's smart step-over drew the defence after Fabregas' raking pass set Ivanovic away down the right.

Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta's tangle set Williams tearing away down the right, but Kurt Zouma pulled off the perfect sliding cover tackle to deny the winger a one-on-one.

Suddenly emboldened, Scunthorpe pressed again, only for Kevin Van Neen's cross to evade Neal Bishop.

Hiddink took off Oscar at half-time in favour of youngster Loftus-Cheek, but still the craved impetus failed to arrive.

Chelsea were handed another let-off when referee Craig Pawson denied Scunthorpe a penalty despite Ramires tangling with Van Neen in the box.

Ramires appeared to tread on the Scunthorpe forward's foot, but the appeals went unanswered.

Bishop and Stephen Dawson hounded Costa into losing possesion in his own half, only to be hauled back for a foul on the Spain striker.

Finally Chelsea killed the tie, the long-overdue second goal courtesy of the highly-rated Loftus-Cheek.

Ramires broke up play and fed Willian, who set Azpilicueta free on the overlap. Costa's selfless near-post run drew the defence and Loftus-Cheek swept home.

Van Neen dragged a free-kick just wide in a bid to catch Begovic cold at his near post, before Scunthorpe were lucky not to concede a penalty of their own, Loftus-Cheek's progress in the box seemingly stopped by a stray hand.

Jordan Clarke's pile driver shot then forced Begovic into a first-class reaction save to tip onto the angle of post and bar, but by that stage Chelsea were home and hosed.