Mikel Arteta lauds Arsenal star with ‘rare’ quality as two Premier League teams ‘monitor his situation’

Mikel Arteta has lauded Arsenal attacker Bukayo Saka but the head coach insists the England international still has “room for improvement”.

The winger has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season as he has boosted Arsenal’s chances of winning the title.

The 21-year-old has grabbed 12 goals and ten assists in 28 league games this term and he also shone for England during the international break.

Saka is a contender to win the Premier League’s Player of the Year award and he is set to be rewarded with a new long-term contract.

His current deal is up in 2024 but it is being reported that his new contract will see him earn around £15m a year. 

Fabrizio Romano has reassured Arsenal supporters that Saka will pen a new contract ‘very soon’. He also claims ‘three clubs [two from England and one from abroad] have been monitoring his situation for a long time, but he’s staying with the Gunners’.

Arteta has now praised Saka as the “consistency he’s shown at his age” is “something rare to see”.

“Yes,” Arteta told Sky Sports when asked if Saka can still improve.

“First of all, I think you have to recognise what he’s been doing. The consistency he’s shown at his age and at this level is something rare to see. He’s taken it with normality.

“If you ask me if he has room for improvement, I would say: ‘Yes – a lot.’ He’s never satisfied, he always wants more and he can still do a lot of things better and more efficiently.

“But we are really pleased to have him.”

Gunners legend Paul Merson thinks “there’s plenty more to come” from Saka, but he will “find things harder at some stage”.

“He’s got a great calmness about him. He’s only 21, there’s plenty more to come from him. He won’t play his best football until he’s 26, 27 or 28,” Merson added.

“The problem he will find is, because of the position he plays, he will find things harder at some stage. As he becomes more well known, teams will put him on the radar a lot more. Teams will look to stop the ball getting to him and they will also double up on him very quickly.

“He will have to change his game again to combat that but he has the temperament to handle that.

“But he just loves football. All he wants is to play football and he plays the game with a smile on his face. He has all the ingredients to go as far as he wants in the game.”

READ MORE: Ten things yet to be decided in Premier League as final stretch beckons… Haaland v Saka, Klopp successor


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Spurs could repeat AVB trick with Nagelsmann

Julian Nagelsmann remains the favourite to replace Antonio Conte at Spurs and the German would become the ninth Premier League coach to accomplish one feat.

With Nagelsmann registering prominently on the Spurs radar, the 35-year-old would be given the rare Premier League task of managing a player older than him: 36-year-old captain Hugo Lloris.

It is rare but absolutely not unique. One former Spurs head coach has even done it at a couple of clubs…


Glenn Hoddle (Chelsea)
Needing to permanently replace Ian Porterfield, the first Premier League manager ever to suffer the ignominy of being sacked, Chelsea glanced down the English football pyramid in summer 1993 to find Swindon Town, 16 places below them, being guided to promotion by a 36-year-old Glenn Hoddle.

The revolutionary and progressive England international player-manager nevertheless needed some hard-headed, experienced British grit in his backline. Hoddle inherited Mal Donaghy, holder of a European Cup Winners’ Cup with Man Utd in 1991, with the Northern Irishman a defensive regular in the 1993/94 season.

Born a fortnight or so before future Spurs boss Hoddle, Donaghy retired at the end of that campaign. Graham Rix, four days younger than the manager, was brought in as a coach and also made a brief substitute appearance in May 1995.


Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea)
Chelsea seemed to develop something of a taste for fielding players younger than the manager in the 1990s. While Ruud Gullit never picked anyone born before him, Gianluca Vialli did not mind leaning on such individuals as on-pitch lieutenants.

Mark Hughes paid tribute to “the most beautiful human in terms of his ability to make people feel comfortable in his presence” upon Vialli’s passing in January. Steve Clarke described his former teammate and manager as “a pleasure to play alongside and an even greater pleasure to have known”. The pair were eight months and almost a year older than the Italian respectively.

Back-up keeper Kevin Hitchcock, who also worked with Vialli as a coach at Watford, was another who played under him as an elder statesmen.

Gianluca Vialli looks into the camera


Paul Jewell (Bradford)
“I did not find out I was playing until 2.30pm. I had a good laugh and enjoyed it. I knew I had nothing to lose,” was an example of the sort of wisdom Neville Southall had developed by the time of the last Premier League appearance of his career in March 2000. The 41-year-old joined Bradford on a non-contract basis in the midst of a goalkeeping injury crisis which soon snared Matt Clarke, the shot-stopper slipping down the stairs before a crucial meeting with Leeds.

Southall was not at particular fault for either goal in a 2-1 defeat, after which Leeds manager David O’Leary said of Big Nev’s unexpected return: “Well he is certainly big! For many years I played against him myself and he was always a class goalkeeper – although he’s put on a little bit of weight since I last saw him.”

As well as Southall, the Bantams also called on the experience of Dean Saunders, Stuart McCall and John Dreyer as a youthful Paul Jewell successfully sidestepped the drop.


Chris Coleman (Fulham)
The youngest permanent manager in Premier League history – with Ryan Mason’s first caretakership of Tottenham discounted – predictably littered his sides with maturity. John Collins and Andy Melville were already there when Chris Coleman replaced Jean Tigana at Craven Cottage, while Billy McKinlay filled in a couple of times either side of his primary role of aiding youth team development.

Mark Crossley was an often literally handy presence to have around, filling in when necessary before taking on a more prominent role after the sale of Edwin van der Sar. A clean sheet in a famous victory over Chelsea was the highlight of his autumnal custodianship.


Aidy Boothroyd (Watford)
“The ultimate professional” is how Aidy Boothroyd described Chris Powell upon the defender’s departure from Watford when his one-year Vicarage Road contract expired. Then 37, he had featured 15 times in an unsuccessful pursuit of Premier League safety, but set a fine example that a coach 18 months his junior must have been proud of.

Boothroyd did hand one more game to an individual older than him that campaign. Alec Chamberlain became the second-oldest player in Premier League history when he came on for the final minute of the season, introduced as a stoppage-time substitute for Ben Foster in a draw with Newcastle. He retired less than a week later at 42 years and 333 days old, hanging up the gloves on a clean sheet.


Roberto Martinez (Wigan)
The first signing Wigan made as a Premier League club in summer 2005 was, in the words of Roberto Martinez, “the example to follow for the younger members of our squad” up until his retirement nine years later. Mike Pollitt was thus an established member of the squad when the Spaniard was appointed manager in June 2009, even if opportunities were hard to come by. The keeper played 24 Premier League games in his first season, then a combined 12 in eight subsequent campaigns. Under Martinez specifically, he conceded an entirely on-brand 15 goals in five appearances at a rate of one every 21.2 minutes.


Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea and Spurs)
That Andre Villas-Boas felt compelled to publicly acknowledge how “because of my age and lack of a professional playing career, I could never be dictatorial” spoke volumes. Those quotes emerged in a magazine interview in February 2012; the Portuguese was sacked by Chelsea 18 days later.

The war Villas-Boas waged against the Stamford Bridge old guard was ultimately to his detriment. Pushing Nicolas Anelka and Alex out, rotating Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole in and out of the side and asking John Terry to play a high defensive line would have been controversial in isolation but each were strokes in the wider picture of the transitional revolution he was asked to lead. It was too much all at once. As Villas-Boas said almost a decade later: “I was not very flexible with my ideas. I looked more into the future without respecting the short term.”

From a purely technical point, Villas-Boas was at least five months older than Drogba and eight months Lampard’s senior. The only member of that Chelsea squad the manager was younger than was Hilario, who held off the challenge of Ross Turnbull to make a couple of appearances in the injured Petr Cech’s stead during the 2011/12 season.

Villas-Boas, whippersnapper that he was, repeated the feat when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy pulled his name out of the ex-Chelsea hat in July 2012. William Gallas has a couple of months on the Portuguese, while Brad Friedel was six and a half when his new manager was born.


Garry Monk (Swansea)
As teammates for a mere eight games, including the processional final half-hour of a victorious League Cup final, the shift in dynamics to player and coach must not have been too trepidatious for Garry Monk and Gerhard Tremmel. The latter remains the oldest player ever to feature for Swansea in a Premier League game; the former sits fourth on that list, with Leon Britton and Angel Rangel in between.

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The 20 players with the most international goals & assists since 2000: Messi or Ronaldo?

Many footballers consider the privilege of playing for their country as the highest of honours and players from the likes of Barcelona, Liverpool and PSG have thrived on the international stage.

We have taken a look at the numbers to find out the top 20 players with the most goals and assists in international football in the 21st century.

It will come as no surprise that Lionel Messi tops the list. Having recently won the World Cup, Messi further cemented his immortal legacy on the international stage.

Read the article at Planet Football.

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England’s winners & losers from March 2023 international window

England opened their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with back-to-back wins against Italy and Ukraine.

After crashing out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the quarter-final stage to then-champions France, the Three Lions’ ability to make that last step to becoming champions was called into question.

They’ll have to wait until next summer to truly right such wrongs and rewrite headlines, but Gareth Southgate’s men are on the right track again.

Who impressed the most over this international window and whose stock is plummeting? Let’s dive in…

Harry Kane

A special boot for a special player / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

England’s record scorer, standing alone in history.

Harry Kane has now found the back of the net 55 times while representing the Three Lions. His place in the record books has been cemented, and his two goals against Italy and Ukraine showed he is still thinking about the present and future, revealing his ambition to reach 100 strikes for England.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford has been nursing an injury / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

You know a player is a superstar when they make headlines for doing absolutely nothing.

Rashford pulled out of the England squad through injury – the fifth time that he has done that in the last six international windows minus the World Cup.

Southgate initially bemoaned this record but did defend Rashford’s impromptu trip to New York. Nevertheless, his stock will have fallen within the Three Lions setup.

Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane

Boy wonder / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

Rashford’s Manchester United form has been extraordinary, but it has slightly overshadowed that of England teammate and Arsenal rival Bukayo Saka.

Following his impressive showing against Ukraine – picking out Kane with a pinpoint cross for the opener before firing into the top corner himself – the 21-year-old has reaffirmed just why Southgate was early on the hype train and has stuck by him since.


Raheem Sterling

Sterling used to be a nailed on starter for England / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

Saka’s gain is Raheem Sterling’s loss. Southgate appeared to have run out of faith in the Chelsea forward at the World Cup, preferring various other options in his frontline.

Sterling hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons at Stamford Bridge, but then again no one really has. He’ll need a big end to this season and stellar 2023/24 campaign to work his way back into England’s starting XI.

Ivan Toney

Ivan Toney, England international / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

“Until I am instructed that there is a ban – if there is to be one – then he’s eligible for selection,” Southgate said of Ivan Toney’s England future in relation to any ban he may receive for breaching betting regulations.

Having not played a single minute the last time he received a call-up, the Brentford striker made his debut for the Three Lions this time around. As Southgate says, Toney is clearly in his thinking until informed otherwise.

James Maddison

Maddison won just his second England cap / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages

Like Toney, James Maddison was able to get some meaningful minutes for England this window, making his first start for his country in the Ukraine win.

While the Leicester playmaker didn’t grab a goal contribution, his creative spark was clear to see and he brought a unique balance to Southgate’s attack.

Phil Foden

Foden had his appendix removed on Sunday / Ciancaphoto Studio/GettyImages

Poor Phil Foden, taken off 11 minutes after coming on as a sub against Italy, struck down by a sudden bout of appendicitis on the eve of the Ukraine match.

It’s not been a great season for Foden, despite grabbing a couple of goals at the World Cup. Maddison and Jack Grealish look firmly ahead of him in England’s creative forward ranks, and Manchester City’s constant rotation means he could struggle to win his place back when he’s fit again.

Gareth Southgate

A winner trying to become a champion / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

There was much debate about whether Southgate should have stayed or left after the World Cup, but with two wins from two to kick off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign – including a victory in their toughest away game – that noise has disappeared.

The Three Lions’ ship has been steadied again.

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Twitter reacts to Scott McTominay’s brace against Spain

Yep, you read that correctly – Scott McTominay has scored for Scotland against Spain. Twice.

It comes just days after he netted a late brace for his country against Cyprus on Saturday having come on as a late substitute.

As a reward, Steve Clarke awarded the Manchester United midfielder with a start in their next Euro 2024 qualifier, and he didn’t take long to make good of this decision, opening the scoring against Spain on Tuesday after just seven minutes.

It’s becoming more and more known that McTominay came through Manchester United’s youth system while playing as a striker. He’s certainly got those goal scoring instincts.


Scotland managed to hold off Spain’s advances for the rest of the first half, and just after the break, McTominay added a second, lashing home after the visitors were unable to clear a cross from Kieran Tierney.

So the real question now is should United sell him to Newcastle this summer? What should the asking price be?


On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Player ratings as McTominay double earns Scots shock win

Scotland claimed their first win against Spain in 39 years with a famous 2-0 victory at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

A brace from Scott McTominay helped Steve Clarke’s men go top of their Euro 2024 qualifying group, securing two wins from their opening two games.

Spain did not look cohesive in Luis de la Fuente’s second game in charge and have real work to do if they’re to reach the finals in Germany next summer, let alone compete for the championship.

With seven minutes on the clock, Scotland took a shock lead with the game’s first chance. Pedro Porro slipped while in possession and gave away the ball to Andy Robetson, who pulled it back for McTominay to fire home.

The hosts went close to adding a second soon after. John McGinn managed to swivel and set Ryan Christie racing away through midfield, poking a shot just wide of the near post.

Spain nearly equalised when a Jose Gaya cross was headed goalwards by Joselu, but it was straight down the throat of Angus Gunn and Scotland survived.

Joselu again rose highest to reach a teasing cross and this time he was only denied by the crossbar, while Rodri headed just over the top from a corner as Spain’s aerial bombardment continued.

Gunn was forced into a save when Porro let fly from 25 yards, pushing his swerving effort over the top, and Yeremy Pino’s half-volley sailed high into the stands from the resulting corner.

La Roja were furious that they weren’t awarded a penalty when Joselu went down under a challenge from Grant Hanley – a decision which was reaffirmed following a VAR check.

With the final opportunity of the first half Lyndon Dykes should have doubled the Scots’ lead. Andy Robertson hoofed the ball upfield for the QPR striker to chase on the counter, but having raced away from the Spanish defence was unable to keep his eventual strike down.

Just after the break, Scotland added a second. Kieran Tierney skipped away from Dani Carvajal and Spain were unable to deal with his cross, allowing McTominay to lash in the loose ball.

A free-kick from McGinn smashed against the crossbar as Scotland looked to put the game out of sight.

Substitutes Nico Williams and Iago Aspas combined with Spain looking to mount a comeback – the Athletic Club winger pulled the ball back for the Celta Vigo forward, directing it narrowly over the top.

Spain failed to carve out a chance in the game’s closing stages as Scotland held on to take three huge points.

Scott McTominay

McTominay dominated the game / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

GK: Angus Gunn – 7/10 – Made some key saves at crucial times for Scotland.

CB: Ryan Porteous – 7/10 – Shut down Spain’s left side no matter who was there.

CB: Grant Hanley – 7/10 – After Joselu made an early impression, Hanley did well to ease him out of the game.

CB: Kieran Tierney – 8/10 – Outstanding in that centre-back/full-back hybrid role. Won’t get the assist for the second goal but he definitely should receive credit for his responsibility in the move.

RM: Aaron Hickey – 7/10 – Worked well with Porteous in clamping Spain’s left flank down.

CM: Scott McTominay – 9/10 – The man of the moment. Thundered his way into the opposition box and made them pay.

CM: Callum McGregor – 7/10 – Held his own in what could have been a tricky midfield battle.

CM: John McGinn – 8/10 – Like McTominay was able to use his physicality to fluster and overwhelm Spain.

LM: Andy Robertson – 8/10 – A leader in every sense of the word. Won the battle of the dark arts with Porro.

AM: Ryan Christie – 6/10 – More of a contributor off the ball with his pressing and movement than on it.

CF: Lyndon Dykes – 5/10 – A sloppy passer and missed a great chance at the end of the first half.


Kenny McLean (75′ for Christie) – N/A

Liam Cooper (75′ for Tierney) – N/A

Nathan Patterson (82′ for Hickey) – N/A

Lewis Ferguson (83′ for McGinn) – N/A

Lawrence Shankland (90′ for Dykes) – N/A


Steve Clarke – 9/10 – Such a result required some monster performances and Clarke got just that out of his men. Another outstanding display from Scotland.


Rodri, Andrew Robertson

A disappointing night for Spain / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 4/10 – Didn’t exactly radiate confidence and his kicking was a little wayward.

RB: Pedro Porro – 4/10 – At fault for the opener. Tried his best to get a foothold in the game after but was withdrawn at the break.

CB: David Garcia – 5/10 – Made a few key interceptions but to little avail.

CB: Inigo Martinez – 5/10 – Similarly fine for the most part but this wasn’t enough to save Spain.

LB: Jose Gaya – 5/10 – Provided very little down the left wing. The left-back spot should be Alejandro Balde’s to lose.

CM: Mikel Merino – 4/10 – Technically gifted of course, but sunk in the midfield battle against Scotland’s powerhouses.

CM: Rodri – 5/10 – As calm as usual but was unable to elevate those around him.

RM: Yeremy Pino – 4/10 – Played on the fringes of the game whether coming in from the right or the left.

AM: Dani Ceballos – 4/10 – Started brightly with his usual enthusiasm but this was quickly nullified by Scotland’s own dogged pressing.

LM: Mikel Oyarzabal – 4/10 – Found it hard to break Scotland down and was hooked at the interval.

CF: Joselu – 5/10 – A menace in the first half but didn’t get his own way when the going got tough.


Dani Carvajal (46′ for Porro) – 4/10 – Roasted by Tierney for Scotland’s second, so not really an upgrade on the haphazard Porro.

Nico Williams (46′ for Oyarzabal) – 6/10 – Spain’s most dangerous player by far after coming on, showcasing his pace and electricity in possession. Needed more help to break down a stubborn defence.

Iago Aspas (57′ for Merino) – 5/10

Borja Iglesias (67′ for Joselu) – 5/10

Gavi (79′ for Ceballos) – N/A


Luis de la Fuente – 2/10 – Spain were essentially put in a spin dryer by a pumped up Scotland side. The new manager’s team selection reeked of arrogance after making nine changes.

Player of the match – Scott McTominay (Scotland)

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Belgium beat Germany in thriller, Scotland stun Spain

The European international window is in the books, folks. You don’t have to worry about your players getting injured for their countries again until June.

Scott McTominay was the protagonist of Tuesday’s action as Scotland ousted Spain, while Romelu Lukaku continued his resurgence as Belgium beat Germany in a friendly.

Here’s the best of Tuesday’s games…

Scotland 2-0 Spain

Scotland’s first win against Spain in 39 years saw them move top of Group A.

The Tartan Army didn’t stop singing at Hampden Park as the hosts willed their way to a deserved victory.

Scott McTominay opened the scoring early on after Andy Robertson robbed Pedro Porro of possession, cutting the ball back for the Manchester United midfielder to fire home.

Just after half-time, McTominay found himself on the scoresheet again. Kieran Tierney galloped past Dani Carvajal and his cross was only half cleared by Rodri, allowing his rival from across Manchester to thunder into the box and slam the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Georgia 1-1 Norway

Norway continued to struggle in the absence of the injured Erling Haaland after drawing 1-1 in Georgia.

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Sorloth broke the deadlock after a quarter of an hour with a strike from distance, but they were pegged back by a goal from Georges Mikautadze midway through the second half.


Turkey 0-2 Croatia

A double from Mateo Kovacic saw Croatia pick up their first win in qualifying.

It was an emotional night in Bursa as Turkey played their first home game since the country was struck by earthquakes earlier this year.

The visitors took the lead when Kovacic arrived late in the Turkey box to sweep in at the end of a fine team move, before securing the points with a second strike on the stroke of half-time.

Wales 1-0 Latvia

Wales continued their excellent start to qualifying with a 1-0 win at home to Latvia.

The retired Gareth Bale was honoured in a pre-match ceremony after he called time on a glittering playing career.

On the pitch, Kieffer Moore soared high to score the game’s only goal, heading in the winner towards the end of the first half and maintaining the Dragons’ unbeaten start to 2023.

Kosovo 1-1 Andorra

Andorra earned a precious and shock point away at Kosovo.

Lille youngster Edon Zhegrova gave the hosts a shock lead, but one that only lasted two minutes as Albert Rosas rescued a stunning point for the visitors.

Romania 2-1 Belarus

Romania managed to stave off a late comeback to claim three points against Belarus.

A quick-fire double from Nicolae Stanciu and Andrei Burca saw Romania race into an early two-goal advantage.

Vladislav Morozov pulled one back for Belarus with minutes remaining but the visitors were unable to find another and left Bucharest with nothing.

Switzerland managed to beef up their goal difference a little bit more with a 3-0 thumping of Israel.

Murat Yakin’s side ran out 5-0 winners in Belarus last week and kept their terrific 2023 form going back on home soil.

Ruben Vargas notched Switzerland ahead just before the break, while two goals in the space of seven minutes following the restart from Zeki Amdouni and Silvan Widmer helped the hosts to a comfortable win.

Germany 2-3 Belgium

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku’s back / Lars Baron/GettyImages

Belgium’s flying start to life under Domenico Tedesco saw them claim a dramatic win in his home country of Germany.

Yannick Carrasco broke the deadlock for the Red Devils with only six minutes on the clock, with Kevin De Bruyne teeing up the winger after a sweeping move from the back.

Just three minutes later, Romelu Lukaku added a second, racing in behind a sleeping German backline and slotting past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Lukaku gave away a penalty for handball just before the interval, with newfound hero Niclas Fullkrug converting from the spot.

With time running out, Belgium managed to add a third. De Bruyne released Leandro Trossard down the left, cutting it back for the Manchester City midfielder to convert.

Brentford’s Kevin Schade raced away down the wing and cut the ball back for Serge Gnabry to finish with three minutes remaining, but Belgium held on to claim the win.

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The ice-cold moment Francesco Totti ascended to the throne of sh*thouse greatness

Of course the most ice-cold moment in the history of Serie A was a hand gesture. This is Italy, after all.

And of course, it was delivered by Francesco Totti, the King of Rome, perfectly sh*thousing Italy’s most successful – and consequently most hated – club, Juventus.

Totti loved facing the Old Lady. Over the course of his legendary career, he made 39 appearances against them, scoring 10 goals and assisting a further seven.

They included some belters, too, with none quite as memorable as the long-range rocket in 2013 that caused commentator Carlo Zampa to belt out ‘Il Capitano!’, activating previously undiscovered octaves in human vocal cords.

Gianluigi Buffon knew all too well the ferocity Totti was capable of unleashing. The goalkeeper had stood between the sticks for Parma on the final day of the 2000-01 campaign, in which Roma needed a win to pip Juventus to the Scudetto.

Guided by Totti since he was 22 years old – Serie A’s youngster-ever captain – his club needed his leadership that day at the Olimpico. Roma had topped the table for almost the entirety of the campaign and even built up a nine-point lead come April, but they almost contrived to blow it, allowing Juve to close the gap by dropping points in seven of their last 11 outings.

Just as the pressure reached boiling point, Totti stepped up to diffuse everything, pouncing to open the scoring after 19 minutes. It was the most important goal of his career and the most painful dagger he’d ever plunge into Juventus’ heart.

Vincenzo Montella doubled their lead shortly before half-time and Gabriel Batistuta’s 78th-minute goal all but sealed it – Roma won the Italian title for only the third time in their entire history.

It was the only Scudetto he’d ever win, going on to finish a runner-up with Roma a further eight times over the course of his remarkable 24-year career. Nine if you include their bumping up the table in the Calciopoli-inflicted 2005-06 season.

And frequently, over the years, Juventus denied them greater glory.

“We came to Turin to play our game, but you saw what happened and that affected the match,” Totti said pointedly after a particularly controversial 3-2 defeat in 2014.

“For years the same old incidents keep happening. I don’t know if we were beaten by referees, but we certainly were not beaten by Juventus tonight.”

After retiring, Totti revealed he held a particular grudge against Juve icon Pavel Nedved.

“I never could stand him on the pitch,” wrote Totti in his 2018 autobiography.

“He was a shocking whiner. You grazed him and he’d soar for 10 metres. It made you want to punch him and that says everything.”

“Having said all that, damn he was good,” he added, with grudging respect.

So Roma’s 4-0 victory over Juventus in February 2004 – their biggest win in the fixture since 1931 – will have tasted particularly sweet, especially with Nedved lining up on the opposite side.

Olivier Dacourt put Roma ahead in the first half, then Totti scored from the penalty spot, while Antonio Cassano incensing Pierluigi Collina by committing GBH on the corner flag after a late brace won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

The lasting image of that victory wasn’t any of the four goals, nor Cassano’s wild celebration, but rather Totti lauding the scoreline over Juventus.

Having been provoked by Igor Tudor, Il Capitan had the perfect response: first he brought a finger to his lips, then he raised three more to remind the Juventus defender of each of Roma’s four goals before waving goodbye and making a motion universally understood in Italy to mean ‘go home’.

Totti didn’t need to say a word. He needed just six seconds and four quick movements to express all that needed to be said – be quiet, four goals, goodbye, go home. So efficiently brutal.

Fabio Capello’s Giallorossi played some exceptional football in the 2003-04 campaign, setting the pace with 11 wins and three draws from their first 14 outings. A mid-season wobble and late-season collapse saw them ultimately succumb to second place, finishing behind Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan.

That season they produced a number of performances that deserve to be cherished and replayed for years to come, particularly in the late winter, by following the 4-0 thrashing of Juve with a 6-0 mauling over Siena and 4-1 victories over Parma and Inter.

But no moment that season will live as long in the memory as Totti sh*thousing Juventus. Bravo, Il Capitan.

READ NEXT: 13 of the best quotes on Francesco Totti: ‘He is the King of Rome’

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Italy’s victorious XI from the 2006 World Cup final?


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Liverpool ‘submit £100m bid’ for top summer target as club go ‘all out’ to secure mega deal

According to a British football agent, Liverpool have already “submitted a bid” to Borussia Dortmund in an attempt to sign Jude Bellingham.

The Premier League club are expected to enforce a squad overhaul this summer following their disappointing season in 2022/23.

One of Liverpool’s priorities is to strengthen in midfield and Bellingham is known to be their main target. They have consistently been linked with the teenager, who is among the best young players in the world.

It will not be easy to sign Bellingham as Man City, Man Utd and Real Madrid are also being linked with him. With his contract at Dortmund not due to expire until 2025, the Bundesliga outfit can set their asking price for the midfielder as high as they like.

The competition for Bellingham could well raise his price even further and The Athletic’s David Ornstein reported earlier this month that Liverpool are ‘increasingly unlikely’ to sign him.

Despite this, British agent Haydn Dodge has claimed that an offer from Liverpool has “been submitted for Bellingham”.

“It’s known that a bid [from Liverpool] just shy of £100m has been submitted for Jude Bellingham ahead of this summer’s transfer window,” Dodge told Caught Offside.

“A revamp in the middle of the park is exactly what Liverpool, their fans and Jurgen Klopp need so it is not surprising to see them going all out for Bellingham.”

This comes after Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson insisted that the club that gets Bellingham will “be lucky to have him”.

“I’m sure he’ll sit down with his family and in the future to decide what route he wants to take. Whatever route that is or whatever club that is, that will be a lucky club to have him. His potential is through the roof, really. He can be as good as he wants to be,” Henderson said (quotes via 90min).

“He’s got the right mentality, which is the most important thing. He’s really special and I can’t believe his age and his mentality – how he applies himself to training and games…everything. I’ve never seen it before so I’m pretty confident he’ll be a pretty good player for many years to come.”

Henderson has also suggested that Bellingham’s next club must be “right for him”.

“There are things he can improve on but the platform and the basis he has got he can go as high as he wants to,” Henderson added.

“I just want him to be the best player he can be. If it ended up being Liverpool that would be amazing. But it’s got to be right for him. Every club you can think will want him.”

READ MORE: Transfer gossip… Liverpool receive Bellingham boost, Barca look to sell Man Utd target


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Paratici speaks out on Conte-Tottenham saga amid ‘difficult’ season

Tottenham managing director Fabio Paratici has suggested that it was the “right decision” for them to part ways with Antonio Conte.

The former Chelsea manager officially left Tottenham at the end of last week.

It was suggested in the days leading up to his departure that Spurs had no choice but to part ways with Conte after the Italian hit out at his “selfish” players.

Conte’s former assistant – Cristian Stellini – will take charge of the club until the summer and former Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason will be his assistant.

Paratici has a strong relationship with Conte as they previously worked together at Serie A giants Juventus.

Tottenham‘s managing director has now admitted that this season had been “difficult” for Conte.

“We know how difficult this season was for him personally, Gian Piero (Ventrone) died and (Gianluca) Vialli and then his surgery,” Paratici said in an interview for Tottenham’s official website.

“The Club supported him a lot with it and everyone is close to each other but then we arrive in this mutual agreement, and I think the decision that we made was the right decision for everyone.”

On Stellini’s new role: “So, Cristian managed the team even when Antonio was sick this season and was good.

“He has a lot of experience as a second and he was even first coach in the past, in some years in the past, so then we have even Ryan Mason who can help him a lot; he has been a part of this Club for a long time, and he knows everything about this Club and this kind of group of players.

“So, I think we are really really really confident that these two people can do a very very good job.”

He added: “The players don’t have to change habits and style of training so, to change everything when you have just 10 games to go, I think would be really difficult for to the players to adapt to this kind of situation.”

Paratici was also asked about Tottenham’s plans for next season and he refused to offer hints relating to Conte’s full-time successor.

“We have to be everyone focussed on the last part of the season. We do not speak about other coaches or follow the speculation in the media because it is just speculation. We are focussed, we are now concentrating on helping Cristian and helping the staff, Ryan, the players,” Paratici continued.

“I think, today, we have to be focussed in our squad, in our manager because it is an important moment.”

READ MORE: Five Spurs players who’ll be (most) relieved to see the back of mood hoover in chief Antonio Conte


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