Everton youngster ‘takes notice’ of transfer talk amid Man Utd, Liverpool, Roma interest

Everton centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite has admitted that he can’t help but “take notice” of reported interest from Manchester United and Liverpool.

Branthwaite is spending the season on loan with Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven.

The 20-year-old has played 28 matches across all competitions this season, with his performances attracting interest from the aforementioned Premier League giants.

It is unclear what Everton manager Sean Dyche will want to do with the young defender when he returns to Goodison Park having taken over midway through the season.

Former Toffees striker Kevin Campbell reckons Dyche will look at Branthwaite in pre-season, but insists “you can never have enough good, young centre-backs”.

“It all depends on what the manager wants to do. Sean Dyche hasn’t seen him play,” Campbell told Goodison News.

“He hasn’t worked with him so Sean Dyche might say to himself, ‘I want to see what he’s like in pre-season’.

“You can never have enough good, young centre-backs.

“So with a player like that, I think there’s a few at the back there whose contracts are up as well.

“It might just be, ‘You’re coming back. You’re going to be a squad player and [when] you get your chance you play’.

“I’m sure Ruud van Nistelrooy would like to keep him but luckily he’s an Everton player and Sean Dyche will have the final say on that.”

It was reported last month that Serie A side AS Roma are also interested in signing Branthwaite – who is under contract at Everton until 2025.

A move to Liverpool or United, however, would be a spectacular move for the 20-year-old, though it is unclear whether or not he would move to the Toffees’ arch-rivals.

Speaking to the Mirror, Branthwaite admitted that he is aware of interest in him.

“I think when all of those clubs are interested and watching your games, it’s gonna be one of them where you take notice,” he said.

“But for me it’s just about playing the games. The first half of the season, I wasn’t playing as many as I wanted, but now I’m just fully focussed on doing that and performing the best I can.”

Branthwaite was teammates with Liverpool winter signing Cody Gakpo between June and January and has labeled the Dutch forward “unbelievable”.

“I spoke to Cody a few times when he first signed [for Liverpool],” he added.

“When I signed for Everton I was in the Titanic Hotel and I think he was staying there as well, so he was asking for a few places to go eat and things.

“He’s settled into a massive club but it’s no surprise for me.

“When he was here, the quality he had was unbelievable; his goals and assists, his passing, his dribbling — he had everything.

“Obviously it’s going to take a couple of months to find your feet but over the last month he’s settled right in and played really well.”

Should Branthwaite remain an Everton player beyond the summer, he expects to thrive in Dyche’s system.

“I hope so because I’ve been there three years now and I’ve had numerous managers, so for a young player it’s hard to settle,” Branthwaite said.

“When a different manager comes in, you’ve got to try and impress, and when you’re a young player it’s not easy to get in the team.

“Obviously they’re gonna pick the experienced players over you and that sort of thing. It’s definitely something I’m hoping for, a bit of stability which will help not just me but also help other young players. And it’ll help the team as well if we’ve got a manager which we know.

“You can see he’s getting the results at home and he’s had a decent few results away, so hopefully he brings us up the table. I’m looking forward to finishing the season here, playing the games and then seeing what happens and so on.”

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Arsenal told by Brighton CEO £70m bid for ‘top class’ Caicedo was enough for ‘half the player’

Arsenal made a bid worth “half the player” for Moises Caicedo in the winter transfer window, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has said.

The Gunners reportedly made a bid worth £70million for the Ecuadorian midfielder.

This was turned down by the Seagulls, however, who were reluctant to let one of their best players leave midway through the season.

Arsenal turned to Jorginho after failing to land Caicedo, signing him from Chelsea for around £10m.

Caicedo did push to join the Premier League leaders, taking to Instagram to urge Brighton to sell him for a “record transfer”.

After the transfer window closed, the 21-year-old penned a new four-and-a-half-year contract.

And in an interview with The Beautiful Game podcast, Brighton CEO Barber has lifted the lid on the winter transfer saga.

When asked about Arsenal trying to sign Caicedo for £70m, Barber responded: “Only if they wanted half the player!

“I mean, joking aide, we never provide the numbers. It always amuses us when we see numbers in the media, because they’ve not come from us.”

Barber then explained that selling Moises in the winter window didn’t make sense as a club given what they can achieve this season.

“For us in January selling Moises wasn’t a good move because he’s one of our best players in the first half of the season and secondly we were in a great position in the league, we were still in the FA Cup, we still had a lot of football to play and we want to achieve our best ever finish in the Premier League,” he continued.

“The stakes for us in the second half of the season were higher than ever and Moises is a big part of that.

“He is also a young player who is still learning his game. He is in a faraway country from where he was born and therefore we have a responsibility to try and do the best for the player long-term, as well as in the short-term for us.

“We felt that was best served by keeping Moises with us, trying to do the best we can for the rest of this season and then what will be in the future will be.

“Moises is a top, top class player and has the potential to be anything he wants to be, anywhere he wants to be and therefore, this is not the one and only transfer window Moises is going to be a popular attraction for other clubs.

“When we sat down with him and talked about that and once all the heat of the window had gone out and we were able to agree a new contract with him, settle him back down and as you have seen in the last few games he’s beginning to get back to that level he was at in the first half (of the season).

“His chance will come in the future to be whatever he wants to be and we are all very confident that will happen for him.”

Barber then confirmed there are no clauses in Caicedo’s new contract.

“We don’t operate like that and we try and avoid things like that because they become such a big point of discussion in negotiations,” he explained.

Despite his March contract extension, Caicedo is still expected to be the subject of transfer interest this summer.

Arsenal remain interested – though they are prioritising the signing of West Ham midfielder Declan Rice – while Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly keen.

READ MORE: Is Bukayo Saka the new Wayne Rooney? Of course he sodding isn’t…

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Owen picks out ‘underrated’ Arsenal star for special praise after Crystal Palace victory

Michael Owen reckons Arsenal defender Ben White has been one of the most “underrated” players of the season for the Gunners.

The 25-year-old spent most of last season playing at centre-back for Mikel Arteta’s side but he’s been utilised as a right-back this term with William Saliba stealing his role in the centre of defence.

White has been impressive when called upon for Arsenal this term with the England international making 25 Premier League starts for Arteta’s men.

Arsenal are having a brilliant season with the Gunners currently top of the Premier League and eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City, although the Citizens have one game in hand.

And, after watching Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 4-1 on Sunday, Owen was impressed by White’s link-up play with Gunners team-mate Bukayo Saka.

“That partnership was particularly impressive,” Owen told Premier League Productions. “That combination play is very important for Arsenal.

“Ben White gets forward, he links the play and has the pace to get back when he needs to.

“There was a lovely moment towards the end of the game where he made a tackle and was celebrating. I feel he’s a bit of a underrated player for Arsenal at the moment.”

Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko and others have rightly been getting lots of praise for their performances this season but White deserves a mention too.

And former Middlesbrough midfielder and NBC Sports pundit Robbie Mustoe echoed Owen’s comments and feels White is “under-appreciated”.

“Ben White is growing as a full-back,” Mustoe told The 2 Robbies Podcast. “More really as a central defender when he came from Brighton, but he’s got a natural ability to play in different spots.

“He’s quick, he’s a good defender, he’s surprisingly safe and steady on the ball. He showed with his little assist today, he poked a ball through to Bukayo Saka for his lovely goal.

“He did a great job on Zaha for the most part after that first little run. And I think he’s a player I don’t think people appreciate how good he is actually, Ben White.

“There’s so many other players to watch in the Arsenal side, I get that. But if you watch what he does with the ball, his defensive side of things, his passing side of things, I think Ben White is a little under-appreciated.”

READ MORE: Now Arsenal know how Man Utd fans felt watching the Class of ’92 win it all…


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Potter slammed for copying frustrating Sarri trend as Arteta, Gracia and Everton all impress

Mikel Arteta, Javi Gracia and Sean Dyche are working wonders, with Jacob Ramsey and Theo Walcott thriving. But Graham Potter, Spurs and Wolves can do better.


David Brooks
There aren’t enough flowers in the world to give him and do that moment or his courage justice.


The Premier League’s least likely firefighter
When Javi Gracia was appointed Watford manager in January 2018, the Hornets were one of 10 teams separated by six points between 9th and 18th. In his 14 games to finish the season, the Spaniard beat three of those sides, drew with another three and lost only two.

When Gracia was appointed Leeds manager in February 2023, the Whites were one of nine teams separated by eight points between 12th and 20th. In his four games thus far, the Spaniard has beaten both Southampton and Wolves while losing and drawing to a couple of sides clear of a congested relegation battle.

Gracia knows to plot a route to safety which revolves around success – or at the very least avoiding failure – in those six-pointers when things are so tight. The game management and substitutions in particular against Wolves were exemplary. With the same 33% career Premier League win percentage as Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson, Gracia has emerged as an improbable yet seemingly reliable top-flight firefighter.


Everton’s January signings
“I think the thing that gets overviewed is that they’ve got to be better than what we’ve got here. I think we’ve got some very, very good players. They may have lost their way but there’s some very talented players here. They may not have shown that but we need to remind ourselves of the good players here. We’ve got to polish them up a bit.

“I’ve never been one for signing players for the sake of it and then you never see them again. They’ve got to affect what we’re doing and they’ve got to be good enough to affect what we’re doing, otherwise I don’t see the point in it.”

Man of his word, Sean Dyche. Abdoulaye Doucoure started the first two games of the Premier League season in August but had to wait until the new manager’s first game in February for his third; the formerly marginalised midfielder has been a revelation. And Ellis Simms, recalled from his loan at Sunderland on December 30, drew level with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Neal Maupay as Everton’s joint highest-scoring striker in the Premier League this season.

Dyche, the most important addition of all, has stabilised the Toffees in the least surprising turnaround of the campaign. Only Arsenal (19), Manchester City (16), Liverpool (13), Spurs (13) and Brentford (12) have picked up more points than their 11 since the 51-year-old’s appointment. Spending nothing in January to expose the shortcomings of a side which broke all winter transfer records going is some feat.


Mikel Arteta
There are two elements to this Arsenal squad. The first and more obvious is those who are guaranteed to start: Aaron Ramsdale, Benjamin White, Gabriel Magalhaes, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were all excellent against Crystal Palace as a supposedly leaderless team had numerous players queuing to step up in difficult circumstances.

The second is those who feature less often but, in the words of Saka on Rob Holding, are “coming in to stay at the level that we’ve been playing”. The centre-half was brilliant in William Saliba’s place. Leandro Trossard was once again influential and has more Premier League assists this season than every player bar Saka and Kevin de Bruyne. Kieran Tierney was wonderful when he came on. Jakub Kiwior was granted a Premier League debut on merit rather than sentiment. Reiss Nelson was an unused substitute but has been a model of professionalism and taking the chances he has earned before.

It is all down to the sort of impeccable squad management which has meant Gabriel Jesus is happy to play his part in a successful side instead of being thrown straight back into the line-up, with Jorginho one of the club’s biggest cheerleaders from the sidelines despite not starting for three consecutive Premier League games. That spirit and togetherness will be onerous for Manchester City to overcome from eight points back.


Jacob Ramsey
The most routine of victories over Bournemouth lifted Aston Villa to sixth in a table of Premier League results since Unai Emery’s first game; only Arsenal (38), Manchester City (29) and Man Utd (27) have picked up more points than Steven Gerrard’s former side since November 6.

So for Emery himself to call that Jacob Ramsey’s “best match since I’m here” is quite the compliment. The midfielder scored and assisted in the Spaniard’s first match, that 3-1 win over Man Utd at Villa Park, but Bournemouth found his performance on the left side of the attack in a 4-2-3-1 impossible to handle. Jack Stephens is still reeling.

Talent and ability was enough for Ramsey to be one of precious few players to impress during the aimless Gerrard reign. Under a more tactically astute manager, the Villa youth product is starting to thrive and properly evolve his all-round game.

Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Folarin Balogun are the only English players aged 21 or younger to have featured more often in Europe’s top five leagues this season than Ramsey. That is not bad company to keep.


Theo Walcott
A first Premier League goal since May 2021. A first Premier League assist since April 2021. A first goal and assist in the same Premier League game since August 2018, which quite inevitably came against Southampton.

Theo Walcott had been quietly fulfilling his role as experienced head and squad mentor, starting one Premier League game for Saints from Boxing Day 2021 to March 2023. Ruben Selles might otherwise have preferred for Southampton to keep leaning on their youthful core – and it should be noted that Romeo Lavia was brilliant – but the manager himself said the 34-year-old “knows the triggers, the shadows” and “how to read situations” better than any teammate.

Walcott is the only Southampton player other than James Ward-Prowse to feature in every game of the Selles reign and that is no coincidence. Even after all this time he still gets the better of Tottenham – eight goals versus Spurs is the most he has scored against any opponent.


Elliot Anderson
The brilliance of Alexander Isak turned no points into three for Newcastle but that neat trick would not have been possible without the beautiful assistance of Elliot Anderson at Nottingham Forest.

Though the 20-year-old’s goal was ruled out on questionable grounds, he ought to reflect fondly on the longest appearance of his Premier League career thus far. A half-time introduction for the inhibited Allan Saint-Maximin, Anderson posed a challenge Nottingham Forest were entirely unprepared for.

No player completed more dribbles for either team than the Newcastle academy product, who forced a fine save from Keylor Navas in an encouraging run-out. Eddie Howe needs more reliable and consistent players across that front line and with Isak’s foot finally in the door as a starter, Anderson provides an enticing option on the left.


Harry Souttar
No player has won a higher proportion of their aerial duels in the Premier League this season than Harry Souttar (90.3%). Kurt Zouma (86.7%) and Tosin Adarabioyo (81.8%) are the only others to emerge victorious more than three-quarters of the time when they go up for a header. Leicester have found themselves a proper defender there.

Leicester defender Harry Souttar



This pretty much covers it


While Julen Lopetegui “could make a book of the different mistakes” made by the officials at Molineux, he might consider flicking through the catalogue of errors made by his Wolves side against Leeds.

Even if there is a full and frank conversation to be had about the sense of perceived refereeing injustice Wolves feel they have been subjected to recently, it must not drown out a necessary period of introspection.

Nelson Semedo was bypassed too easily by Wilfried Gnonto for the first goal – and the Leeds forward had his presence on the left wing completely unchecked twice in the build-up to Jack Harrison scoring. Luke Ayling was inexplicably inundated with space to score from a corner. Jonny was tackled in his own penalty area by Rasmus Kristensen for the third. None of those mistakes can be traced back to Michael Salisbury or his team.

Perhaps the fourth goal was a little different in that Adama Traore felt he was fouled, but for he and his teammates to simultaneously stop playing as they waited for a whistle that was never forthcoming was amateurish. Funny as the idea that an ingrained conspiracy or unconscious bias exists against Wolves is, those smoke and mirrors cloud a worrying run of results and performances over the past month.


Kepa cost £71.6m and cannot save shots hit straight at him. Kalidou Koulibaly was signed for £34m and can probably be stored back in the cupboard after being completely rinsed by a goalless 22-year-old who started the season in the Championship. Graham Potter and his staff was brought in for £22m and could not assist their team in defending two separate leads at home to a struggling side.

Conor Gallagher as the earliest substitute has become a trademark of sorts for Potter. The midfielder has risen first from the gilded Chelsea bench in each of their last four games, his impact and diligence praised after coming on in the 68th, 67th and 45th minutes to help see out wins over Leeds, Dortmund and Leicester. But the negative nature of such a change – Gallagher has come on for the more forward-thinking Joao Felix every time in those four games – makes criticism inevitable when it backfires. Chelsea could have pushed for more goals against Everton instead of quickly sacrificing one of their better attacking performances and settling.

Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic became the substitution through which much of the criticism of Maurizio Sarri’s in-game management was framed. Potter has to be careful not to make Gallagher for Felix his calling card.


Andre Ayew
From the start of the 2017/18 season, Andre Ayew has started 20 Premier League games and won only two: for West Ham against Swansea in September 2017, and for Swansea against West Ham in March 2018.

There was little specifically wrong with his performance against Newcastle but the presence alone of an understandably rusty 33-year-old in the line-up at such a crucial juncture of the season sums up the plight of a Nottingham Forest side suddenly without a win in six games. No side has scored fewer than their 22 goals and just Bournemouth (54) have conceded more than their 49.


If there has been a flaw in this remarkable Brentford season, it lies in their results against the weaker sides. Every other team from 1st to 11th has a better points-per-game record against the relegation-battling bottom nine than the Bees, whose average of 1.6 is also lower than Crystal Palace (2) and level with Leicester – although the Foxes have played five fewer matches against such opponents.

Liverpool (1.62) and Aston Villa (1.67) have the closest numbers to Brentford in fixtures against Palace, Wolves, Leeds, Everton, Nottingham Forest, Leicester, West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton. Brighton (2.38) and Fulham (2) have built their equally unlikely European pushes on bullying those worse off but Thomas Frank’s side steal from the rich – gaining 1.71 points per game against the Big Six – while giving to the poor. The room for improvement is clear.


Dominic Solanke
There are more pressing questions from a game in which Emiliano Buendia is allowed to score a header two yards out directly from a corner. But at least it is known that Bournemouth can defend. It is something they have proven themselves to be intermittently capable of.

Less certainty surrounds whether Dominic Solanke can be relied upon to lead an attack in a relegation battle. The striker has only scored three Premier League goals all season, and none since November.

Gary O’Neil trusts the 25-year-old and values his work-rate and link-up play; Liverpool struggled to deal with it in that famous Cherries victory. But the severe lack of confidence and purpose in front of goal which saw a one-on-one chance when put in behind the Villa backline by Hamed Traore at 1-0 down become a tame effort easily blocked by Tyrone Mings, is something a club in Bournemouth’s situation cannot afford.

Kieffer Moore might offer a more rudimentary route but it is worth at least trying to knock the door down instead of waiting for Solanke to meticulously unlock it whenever Philip Billing cannot slip through.


Crystal Palace
Scoring an actual goal does not quite cancel out four consecutive defeats and 12 games without a win. But Crystal Palace and their decision to part with Patrick Vieira will not be measured by results against the runaway league leaders. An awful stretch of fixtures is over and after the international break come half a dozen relegation six-pointers in succession.

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Jesus explains how remained ‘involved’ in Arsenal title hunt while out with ‘very bad injury’

Gabriel Jesus says he was eager to remain involved in Arsenal’s push for Premier League glory during his three-month injury absence.

The 25-year-old forward returned to action last weekend and also came off the bench in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace, a result which moved the Gunners eight points clear at the top of the table heading into the international break.

Jesus, a four-time Premier League winner at Manchester City, left the Etihad Stadium to join Arsenal last summer and was a key component of Mikel Arteta’s side before the World Cup.

He was forced to undergo knee surgery after picking up an injury with Brazil and watched from the sidelines as Arsenal continued their fine form upon the resumption of the domestic campaign.

While he may have been unable to contribute on the pitch, Jesus had more than a watching brief as he remained integrated within the squad – often sitting in the dugout despite not being available for selection.

“I wanted to be involved,” he said.

“I was injured but in my mind I was involved. I was like, ‘I need to talk, I need to try to help them with something by talking and seeing the games – so that’s why… there were a few players doing that (at City).

“It was a long and very bad injury. Now I am back, fully fit. At the same time I am so happy because the team are doing so good. We keep the distance to second (place), so that’s good.

“We are always together, everyone, so that’s good. It is not easy to be out for almost four months. I prefer to be on the pitch, helping, running, playing and helping my team-mates rather than be outside. Outside you suffer a lot.”

Despite his vital role in Arteta’s system, Jesus is without a goal in 14 appearances for Arsenal.

But that does not worry him as he looks to add his weight to a title push which continues when Arsenal host Leeds on April 1.

“The team are doing so good,” he added.

“I think no one here is the main man. Everyone is together. When I got injured, we were sure Eddie (Nketiah) could go there and help us – and he did it.

“(Leandro) Trossard came in and did it as well. So everyone is together, to be champions of this big, big competition, we need not only 11 players.

“I believe when you have a good relationships among team-mates. Everything on the pitch works well. That is why we are top of the league.

“We are playing good football. We understand each other. It’s very good to be a family.”

READ MORE: Arsenal celebrate their own Class of ’92 while Tottenham and Conte implode…

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Will Tottenham learn from Mourinho and Conte to avoid old Messiahs?

Everything Antonio Conte said in his already infamous post-match ‘please sack me, I hate you all’ press conference was accurate enough about the club and the players, but the ghost in the machine was his failure to mention that his methods have not worked at all and he’s been a very expensive failure.

Spurs are not noticeably better now than when he took over, except they seem to have developed the annoying habit of not bothering to turn up for the first half of games; quite how he’s made them do this with such consistency is a talent all on its own. Without Harry Kane they would surely be a mid-table side.

There is no doubting Conte’s pedigree. He was one of the elite managers. He’s won almost everything, though perhaps significantly, he hasn’t won a European trophy and hasn’t even got to a Champions League final. But the fact is football moves fast and yesterday’s hero quickly becomes today’s zero. You only get so long at the very top. If you can’t keep changing, you can’t keep being the best. And once you slip from your pedestal, what was once the behaviour of an eccentric winner becomes the ludicrous behaviour of a loser.

Taking the Spurs job in the first place was possibly a sign of waning powers in and of itself.

We saw this with Jose Mourinho who went from being atop the snowiest of managerial peaks to taking a step down and looking ordinary at Spurs, angry that his methods no longer worked as well as they once did, but unable to change radically to embrace new ways, not willing to commit to the time it’d take do the job.

The rot had set in during his second tenure at Chelsea, spluttered at Manchester United and finally burnt out at Tottenham. Now he’s working at Roma, 24 points behind Napoli,doing quite well, but the gloss that was once taken for granted has totally worn off.

This has nothing to do with age, Conte is just 53, but it is to do with flexibility, willingness and ability to adapt. When you’ve been successful with your team playing a certain way, you must think that you’ve discovered the motherlode and will apply these methods to a new club in the sure belief that it worked before so it’ll work again. You set about acquiring players who are imitations of the players that did so well for you previously, or you buy the exact same players, but it doesn’t work quite as well because the football hurdy-gurdy turns and things change.

Players’ mentalities also change or are different from club to club. Teams suss how you’re going to set up and begin to find ways around it. Pep Guardiola is, so far, the exception to this. He has realised he has to keep evolving and so changed how Manchester City play, this season largely abandoning the once-so-fashionable False Nine and sticking a big man up top.

At times it looks like wilfully changing a winning formula just for the sake of it, but it stops the team atrophying into playing a system that works a little less well each season. Whether it will work this season remains to be seen, but if it doesn’t, you wouldn’t bet against it working next season.

Guardiola drops Man City star

At Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp seems to have belatedly realised this need to update, but too late into the season and has had to rebuild as the campaign has progressed, simply because how they had once successfully played was no longer working as well. It happens to all sides.

Mikel Arteta has taken a couple of seasons to assemble a team of players that play the sort of football that has put them as title favourites and it’ll work for one or two, maybe three seasons, but it will need refreshing sooner or later. That’s the test of a truly great manager. Can you change and keep winning? Not many can.

Even Carlo Ancelotti, the most successful manager of all time, was failing at Everton, his methods having little impact. It still feels like a cheese dream that he was ever at Goodison. But the same thing will eventually happen to him in Spain. You can’t keep on being successful doing the same thing ad infinitum.

We see it at a different, though obviously much lower level, with David Moyes. People talk about his success at Everton as a big tick in the plus column, but that was 10-20 years ago, which is an absolute lifetime in football. His ‘success’ in the lockdown seasons even seems a long time ago in football’s ever-changing moods.

Everything is different now and that’s why if you’re still trying to hold onto nil and nick a set-piece goal, or putting 10 behind the ball to defend a lead, has put West Ham in danger of relegation. There’s a point at which these methods stop working as well as they once did. Sometimes the decline is gradual, sometimes it’s sudden.

We saw this at Burnley, albeit in a slow burn. Sean Dyche’s methods had got them to seventh in 2017/18, then slowly but surely stopped working as well and they headed for relegation. But now, under Vincent Kompany playing an entirely different sort of football, they are reborn and taking the Championship by storm, while Dyche tries to re-apply his old ways to Everton to some but limited success.

Managers who can’t change their methods are destined for decline. Conte, having climbed to the top of the ladder, is now heading downwards. That’s twice Daniel Levy has fallen for the Big Name trick because both times he bought them on their way down. He should have known that if they weren’t on their way down, they wouldn’t be interested in managing Spurs. The lesson Levy must learn is don’t believe in old Messiahs, look for a new one.

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16 things we loved this weekend: Saka, Ibra, Conte, Messi, Alexis…

16 things we loved this weekend: Saka, Ibra, Conte, Messi, Alexis…

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PSG and Messi’s marriage of convenience is becoming an unhappy one

Lionel Messi never seemed massively happy to sign for PSG, and the feeling is very much becoming mutual.

Every man and his dog knew that Messi would have preferred to remain at Barcelona than head to Paris back in 2021, with his teary farewell press conference in Spain making it abundantly clear.

However, there was a sense that he could find happiness at his new club, leading them to Champions League glory and becoming a hero of the Parc des Princes faithful in the process.

Almost two years on though, that dream looks further than ever from becoming a reality, with both success and support in short supply for the Argentine.

Heading into the match against Rennes, there was plenty of talk of Messi being unhappy at the club with reports emerging of him leaving training early after refusing to take part in an exercise and meeting with Barcelona president Joan Laporta to sound out the possibility of a return to Camp Nou.

Clearly PSG fans had read such reports, because his name was met by some boos when it was read out by the stadium announcer as he ran through the starting XI prior to kick-off.


They were already somewhat unhappy with the man they’d hoped would establish them as one of the best clubs in the world following their defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Round of 16, and talk of him not being fully invested had only fanned the flames.

Whether the 35-year-old took notice of the boos or not was unclear, but he played like a man who did as his side fell to a deserved 2-0 defeat.

He was still the home team’s best player going forward – not that that’s saying much given how poor his team-mates were – but he never seemed to get out of second gear, instead simply going through the motions with an air of disinterest.

While he made some excellent passes towards the end, creating a few chances, he often lazily laid the ball off to someone else after receiving it, looking like he couldn’t be bothered to do anything more.

In the entire game, despite the fact that he saw a huge amount of the ball and often had space ahead of him, he attempted just five dribbles, 10 fewer than he did in PSG’s last home game.

He took three fewer shots too, and when the last of them flew harmlessly over the bar in the closing stages, it became obvious that his fans were even unhappier with him now than they were at the start of the match, with his effort being met by even louder boos than those heard a few hours earlier.

There were no doubts about whether Messi’d heard these ones, because while the majority of his team-mates including Kylian Mbappe apologetically applauded the home crowd after the full-time whistle was blown, he went straight down the tunnel.

Messi has never connected with the supporters as much as he had with Barcelona’s, but things had never been this bad before, even following the backlash in response to the team throwing away a first-leg lead against Real Madrid last year.

The fallout comes at a point when both he and the club are deciding whether to prolong their time together, with his current contract expiring at the end of the season.

It’s always been assumed that the Ligue 1 champions will keep hold of him if they can, but with the fans turning on him and Mbappe reportedly pushing to be the star man, they may well start to reconsider.

Ultimately though, it might not matter what the club wants to do, because it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll want to stay put beyond the current campaign.

Where he’ll go is unclear given Barcelona’s financial issues, but one thing is obvious: the French Connection is all but gone.

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Filip Kostic goal earns Derby d’Italia win

A first half goal from Filip Kostic earned Juventus a crucial Derby d’Italia win over Inter at San Siro on Sunday evening.

Despite Inter dominating possession early on, it was Juventus who’d find the back of the net first. A quick counter-attack led by Adrien Rabiot culminated in the French midfielder passing to Filip Kostic who was able to brilliantly drill the ball low past Andre Onana and into the back of the net.

Juventus defended brilliantly fro the remainder of the first half, with Gleison Bremer in particular impressing with his prowess in the air and ability to physically overpower Romelu Lukaku.

At the very start of the second 45, Inzaghi’s men almost caught the visitors on the hope, with Marcelo Brozovic spurning a great chance to level – volleying over after latching onto a poor Federico Gatti clearance in the box.


The second half continued in a similar way, as the home side had all of the ball in dangerous areas but were largely unable to test Wojciech Szczęsny in the Juve goal.

As the game began to stretch more and more in the final 15 minutes, La Vecchia Signora began to exploit holes in the Inter defence. One of these holes in defence would almost be pounced upon by Kostic late on, but his shot from just inside the penalty area was well blocked by Matteo Darmian.

The win for Juve sees them climb to within four points of European qualification despite their 15 point deduction, while Inter have dropped down to third place behind Lazio and Napoli.

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player ratings as Barca take 12 point lead in La Liga

Barcelona extended their lead atop of the La Liga table to 12 points with just 12 games remaining thanks to a famous El Clasico win.

An own goal from Ronald Araujo would open the scoring for Real Madrid, but goals from Sergi Roberto and substitute Franck Kessie would earn the win for Barca at Camp Nou.

The tempo of the game was set early on by two long-range efforts from star number nines Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema – both of which forced the opposition goalkeepers into smart saves.

In the fifth minute, Barca created the first good chance of the game. A wonderful ball to the back post from Frenkie de Jong found Raphinha, who saw his subsequent headed effort brilliantly saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Just a few minutes later Barcelona were made to rue that missed chance when Real Madrid took the lead. And the goal would come in the most unlikely of circumstances, with a rather tame chipped cross from Vinicius Junior flicking off the head of Ronald Araujo and into the back of his own net.

Barca would press forward with real intent thereafter and would come close to drawing level in the 23rd minute. The chance would fall to ex-Chelsea man Andreas Christensen, who leaped highest at the near post to latch onto a Raphinha cross, but was just unable to keep his resulting header on target.

The Brazilian forced Courtois into another good save on the half hour mark, bursting in-field and unleashing a powerful strike on goal – one which was well tipped over by the Real Madrid number one.

In the final minute of the first half, the home side would finally get their goal through Sergi Roberto. The midfielder reacted well to control a deflected Raphinha shot inside the box before curling the ball into the top right corner of the net.

The start of the second half was fiercely contested, with both sides pushing forward in search of the lead. Robert Lewandowski would come close to making it 2-1 for Barca around the hour mark, when he turned and fired a great strike from 25-yards out – a strike which flew just wide via a deflection.

A few minutes later some terribly sloppy play from Sergio Busquets on the edge of his own box would gift Rodrygo a great shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. The substitute seemed to panic slightly when the ball came to him however, rushing his technique and, as a result, ballooned his strike over the crossbar.

The best chance of the second half half would fall to the one player Barca would want it to fall for: Lewandowski. The Polish striker was found completely unmarked at the back post by Busquets, but his acrobatic effort on goal was, amazingly, not very well executed and, instead of nestling in the net, nestled in row Z.

Barca would force Courtois into another great save in the final 15 minutes. The Belgian international got down well to his left to prevent a half-volleyed effort from Raphinha (again) to keep it at 1-1.

In the final 10 minutes Real Madrid pushed hard for an important winning goal, and they thought they had it when Marco Asensio tapped home from six-yards out. After a lengthy VAR review however, the goal was ruled out for offside.

In the final minute of the game, Barcelona did score the winning goal. It would come courtesy of substitute Franck Kessie who stole in at the back post to latch onto a great low cross from Alejandro Balde to win El Calsico for his side.

GK – Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Made a few decent saves.

RB – Ronald Araujo – 5/10 – Scored a very early own goal and contested a fierce battle with Vinicius on the flank.

CB – Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Dealt with Benzema well.

CB – Andreas Christensen – 6/10 – Was a constant threat from set pieces.

LB – Alejandro Balde – 7/10 – His brilliant cross led to the winning goal.

CM – Sergi Roberto – 7/10 – Scored a wonderful goal to draw Barca level before half-time.

CM – Sergio Busquets – 4/10 – Sloppier than usual on the ball at times.

CM – Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – Worked his socks off and used the ball well throughout.

RW – Raphinha – 8/10 – Barca’s best player. Caused Los Blancos a whole host of problems.

ST – Robert Lewandowski – 7/10 – Missed a few decent chances on the night but his hold-up play was exceptional.

LW – Gavi – 6/10 – Ran himself into the ground.

SUB – Franck Kessie – 7/10 – Great finish with win the game for Barca.

SUB – Ansu Fati – N/A.

SUB – Ferran Torres – N/A.

GK – Thibaut Courtois – 8/10 – Made a number of brilliant saves.

RB – Dani Carvajal – 4/10 – Struggled to get forward. You can see why he’s been criticised recently.

CB – Eder Militao – 5/10 – Not a bad outing.

CB – Antonio Rudiger – 6/10 – Had his hands full with Lewandowski. He did quite well.

LB – Nacho Fernandez – 3/10 – Poor. First man to be subbed off.

CM – Luka Modric – 4/10 – Not quite at his best and struggled to deal with De Jong’s energy.

CM – Eduardo Camavinga – 4/10 – He’s much, much better as a left-back. Carlo, play him at left-back.

CM – Toni Kroos – 4/10 – A quiet outing for the German legend.

RW – Federico Valverde – 2/10 – A nothing performance.

ST – Karim Benzema – 5/10 – Held the ball up well at times but just didn’t get the service on Sunday evening.

LW – Vinicius Junior – 6/10 – His cross led to the opening goal. At the heart of everything good Real Madrid did.

SUB – Ferland Mendy – N/A.

SUB – Rodrygo – 5/10 – Missed a good chance when introduced.

SUB – Aurelien Tchouameni – N/A.

SUB – Marco Asensio – 5/10 – Scored an offside goal.

SUB – Dani Ceballos – N/A.

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