Are you aware of Tanguy Ndombele? Perhaps not, since he has barely featured this season since Jose Mourinho took charge at Tottenham, which has prompted very early talk of him leaving the club just 12 months on from joining.
It was rightly deemed an almighty coup for Spurs to sign the highly rated midfielder from Lyon last summer, a deal that cost the club £54m, making him their record signing.
Arriving to much fanfare under previous boss Mauricio Pochettino, he was used in some capacity for much of the beginning of the season, but talk of a fall out with the new manager and public criticisms of his form and injury record have cast a dark cloud over his future.
So much so that clubs across Europe are taking note of the situation, namely Inter. Fabrizio Romano has revealed the Serie A club are ‘ready’ to begin talks over signing the Frenchman, with Antonio Conte a big admirer.
It’s even suggested that a swap deal could be on the cards in the coming weeks, an avenue that has more potential given the strong relationship between the two clubs following the amicable January departure of Christian Eriksen to San Siro.
However, in a lovely, classic transfer window style twist, the Evening Standard’s Dan Kilpatrick has thrown a spanner in the works by claiming Spurs are not in talks to sell the 23-year-old Ndombele, with chairman Daniel Levy ‘determined’ not to let him leave prematurely.
There is an acceptance in the Spurs camp that Ndombele needs more time to adjust to life in the Premier League and grow accustomed to the culture, while his injury record has also hampered his progress thus far.
Talk of a move away for Ndombele has been heightened by the heavily reported interest Spurs have in fellow midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who is edging closer to a Southampton exit.
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On the final day of the 2019/20 season, the Bournemouth fairytale finally came to end after five years of mixing it with English football’s big boys.
It was a pretty dismal campaign for the Cherries, who as usual had shipped a calamitous amount of goals, but this time around failed to compensate by finding the net just 40 times in 38 matches.
The scrutiny fell on Eddie Howe – the former boy wonder who had saved Bournemouth from slipping out of the Football League in 2008/09 despite a hefty 17-point deduction weighing them down, before leading them to a hat-trick of promotions – each one more outlandish than the next – and guiding them to the top flight of English football for the first time in the club’s history.
Howe’s a club legend; he won’t be sacked. But the man was once considered the hottest young manager in British football, and the sheen has slightly come off.
However, plenty of managers have suffered a relegation here or there and still bounced back to carve out hugely successful careers. Let’s take a look at the pick of the bunch.
Arsene Wenger’s first managerial job ended in relegation. He took the reins of underfunded Ligue 1 outfit Nancy in 1984, staving off the drop during his second season as his side won a relegation play-off.
However, in his third and final year in charge, Nancy were consigned to the second tier after finishing 19th.
Despite relegation, Wenger’s unorthodox methods caught the eye of Monaco, and just one year after finishing second bottom of Ligue 1, the former Nancy boss was celebrating the French title.
Wenger would go on to win 10 major trophies during his time at Arsenal, revolutionising English football and masterminding the famous Invincibles campaign.
Redknapp left Portsmouth in November 2004 and joined their south coast rivals Southampton a matter of weeks later, tasked with keeping the Saints in the Premier League.
Southampton finished bottom of the table. You only had one job and all that.
Having apparently burnt all bridges with Portsmouth, Redknapp then burnt all bridges with Southampton by leaving the club and swiftly rejoining Portsmouth.
He kept Pompey up and guided them to a famous FA Cup triumph in 2008. Redknapp then re-burnt his Portsmouth bridges by joining Tottenham, and he led Spurs to a spot in the Champions League. And in 2018 he won I’m a Celeb. That 2004/05 relegation is long forgotten.
Conte’s managerial career did not get off to the most successful of starts. His debut in the dugout lasted just four months, and he was sacked by Arezzo in 2006 after a disappointing run of form. In some weird twist of symmetry, Maurizio Sarri was brought in as his replacement.
However, not even Sarriball could steady the Arezzo ship, and with the Serie B side slipping towards the third tier, they drafted in Conte once more – just five months after he had originally been dismissed.
The Italian did inspire a turnaround in fortunes, but not sufficient enough to save Arezzo from relegation. Five years later he was celebrating the Serie A title with Juventus.
In a very Eddie Howe-esque narrative, Klopp took the hot seat at his former side Mainz 05 in 2001 and saved them from relegation during his first season in charge, before guiding them to promotion to the Bundesliga in 2003/04.
Operating on a tiny budget, the club were punching well above their weight in the German top flight, but recorded two mid table finishes and even qualified for the Uefa Cup.
However, the magic ended in 2006/07, as Mainz suffered the drop.
Relegation could not taint the job Klopp had done at Mainz, and in 2008, Borussia Dortmund came calling. Five years after dropping out of the Bundesliga, Klopp had led Dortmund to successive German titles. He joined Liverpool in 2015, and he’s done alright there too.
Just how did Gareth Southgate land the England job? It’s an absolute blessing that he did; the man has transformed the national team by doing wacky stuff such as making sure players enjoy playing football and bothering to practice penalties. A tactical maverick.
But in 2016 his managerial CV literally read: relegated Middlesbrough. Worked with the Under 21s for a bit. Isn’t Sam Allardyce. He probably had to put his SATs results and his cycling proficiency on there just to beef it out a bit.
After spending the final five years of his playing career at Middlesbrough, Southgate was offered the top job at the Riverside following his retirement.
He was in charge for a little over three years, and the club suffered relegation in his final full season in charge. Within a decade, he had spearheaded England’s greatest World Cup campaign for 28 years.
Wigan’s relegation didn’t even define Martinez’s week, let alone his career.
The Latics suffered the drop after eight seasons in the Premier League in 2012/13, but Martinez left the DW a hero after hoisting the FA Cup just three days before their relegation was confirmed.
He almost guided Everton to Champions League football during his first season in charge but they stuttered towards the end of the campaign, and he has gone on to enjoy success with the Belgian national team following his 2016 appointment.
Martinez led Belgium’s golden generation to the last four of the 2018 World Cup, meaning that half of the managers in charge of the 2018 World Cup semi finalists had suffered relegation from the Premier League. There’s hope for Howe and Hayden Mullins yet.
After impressing in the dugout with Molde in his native Norway, Solskjaer joined relegation threatened Cardiff in 2014 for his first taste of managerial life in England.
The Blue Birds finished rock bottom of the Premier League, winning just 30% of their league fixtures under Solskjaer.
He quickly returned to the solace of Molde, but in 2018 was offered the Manchester United caretaker job.
Solskjaer became the one night stand that never left. An incredible start was followed by a turgid drop off, but the Norwegian eventually steered things in the right direction to finish a very credible third during the 2019/20 season and secure United Champions League football.
He may not quite match the calibre of the other managers gracing this list, but what a job Sean Dyche has done at Burnley.
Dyche led the Clarets to promotion from the Championship in 2013/14 and although they immediately came straight back down again, he not only stuck around, but he guided Burnley to promotion once more the following season. Properly clearing up his mess. Unlike the other frauds on this list.
If that wasn’t enough, Dyche has since established Burnley as a comfortable mid-table top flight team, and even took them on a brief European adventure in 2018.
Eddie Howe sure can take heart from the man that replaced him at Burnley.
Inter are eager to sign Manchester United forward Alexis Sánchez this summer, but they are pushing for more financial assistance from the Red Devils to be able to do so.
After a bitterly disappointing 18 months at Old Trafford, Sánchez was shipped off on loan to Inter last summer but United had to pay £175,000 of his £400,000-a-week contract to be able to convince the Italian side to take him.
The 31-year-old has enjoyed an impressive end to the season and currently sits on four goals and ten assists in all competitions, and BBC Sport note that Inter are interested in bringing him back permanently, but the cost of any deal is a major problem.
Inter cannot come anywhere close to paying his £400,000-a-week salary, so they are hoping for Sánchez to express a willingness to take a pay cut, but United know that it could be a cut of close to £150,000.
United are determined to offload Sánchez this summer as they are facing the prospect of paying him £50m to see out the remaining two years of his contract, so the idea of agreeing a pay-off with Sánchez to convince him to take a pay-cut to smooth over any potential sale is suggested as a likely option.
The Telegraph also discuss the situation, adding that all three of United, Inter and Sánchez are keen to find an agreement this summer, but a deal will only be reached if the complicated financials can be sorted out.
Sánchez is happy in Milan and feels wanted by both the fans and manager Antonio Conte – something which he did not experience during his time at Old Trafford – so he may be prepared to lower his wage demands simply to bring his United nightmare to an end.
Despite nearly all major outlets agreeing on this, the Daily Star have come out with a report of their own. They claim that Inter want to pay £30m to sign Sánchez, but United actually want to keep the Chilean around, which seems…unlikely.
A pay-off would be tough for United to swallow, but given they are hoping to reward Paul Pogba with a new contract and are committed to spending big on Jadon Sancho, having Sánchez’s wages on the books as well could be disastrous.
If all parties truly want a deal to go through, that will make things a whole lot easier, but Sánchez holds all the cards as he will decide how much he wants from Inter and how much he wants from United. Expect this to rumble on for a little while longer.
Inter avenged their Coppa Italia semi-final defeat by completing the league double over Napoli with a 2-0 victory at San Siro on Tuesday night.
An intriguing tactical battle was entertaining from the outset. Inter started in typically bright fashion as they took the lead through Danilo D’Ambrosio, but Napoli were able to seize control after the first cooling break.
Matteo Politano was denied smartly by Samir Handanovic against his former employers before Lorenzo Insigne dragged his effort wide with the goal gaping. The hosts responded well to a spell of Partenopei pressure though, and they went close to doubling their lead when Alex Meret denied Marcelo Brozovic.
After continued Napoli superiority to start the second-half, Cristiano Biraghi had a great chance to put the game beyond the visitors, but the wing-back sliced his effort horribly wide.
However, a moment of brilliance from substitute Lautaro Martinez swiftly spared Biraghi’s blushes. The Argentine brought down Nicolo Barella’s pass smartly before bursting past Diego Demme to unleash a rocket from distance which squeezed under the despairing glove of Meret.
The Nerazzurri were then able to see the game out maturely from then on, with their 2-0 victory sending them back up to second in the Serie A table.
Key Talking Point
So often this season have we seen Conte’s Inter surrender leads in contests they’ve dominated, but the tables turned on Tuesday night.
They were fortunate to find themselves 1-0 up at the break and after a period of sustained pressure from the visitors to start the second period, it seemed inevitable that Napoli would snatch an equaliser.
But the Nerazzurri didn’t fold on this occasion and they started to wise up to Napoli’s chance creation methods as the game wore on. The back three defended heroically throughout, while Marcelo Brozovic enjoyed his best performance since the restart as part of the double pivot.
This was the kind of display that would’ve thrilled Conte and one that stands them in good stead heading into next season. It’s all about the grinta!
Inter’s star man this term showed up once more on Tuesday night with yet another selfless, but mightily effective striker performance.
Matched-up with Kalidou Koulibaly – widely touted as one of the finest defenders in Europe – there’s no doubting the Belgian came out on top. His ability to shrug off the brutish Senegal international was so impressive, and it allowed his side some much needed respite at times.
The combination and hold-up play to set-up the Brozovic chance just before the break was majestic, but the highlight of a brilliant display was his outside of the foot pass from deep inside his own half which set Barella on his way in behind the Napoli defence.
It was a showing which didn’t produce a goal or an assist, but one which ultimately set his side on their way to victory.
Key Talking Point
Gattuso’s side have had great success against high-pressing, aggressive sides with their use of press-baiting – a concept which involves committing numerous players to the build-up phase in a bid to draw the opposition higher up the pitch and exploit the space which opens up between the lines as a result of an incoherent press – but they had minimal success via this method against the Nerazzurri.
Inter’s press throughout was brilliantly drilled. They cut out passing lanes expertly and closed the space between the lines superbly. Despite this, the visitors created chances frequently – which would’ve pleased Gattuso.
With their primary route of space creation nullified, Napoli were able to progress up the field efficiently – often through the up, back and through concept – maintain possession in the final third and sustain attacks relentlessly for large swathes.
Their inverted wingers were a constant threat, with the overlapping runs provided by full-backs and midfielders creating a new dynamic to the Napoli attack. While he’ll rue his side’s inability to finish, there was plenty of positives to take from this performance.
The performance of Lorenzo Insigne on Tuesday night certainly stands Napoli in good stead for their clash with Barcelona next month.
Deployed on his favoured left flank, the diminutive Italian was a pleasure to watch. He was able to burst away from opponents with such grace when the visitors looked to counter, while his ability to cut inside and create was on full display. The Napoli skipper should’ve had a pair of assists in the first half as he supplied Arkadiusz Milik and Politano with superb pick outs from the left.
While his stellar showing didn’t return a goal, Insigne was undoubtedly Napoli’s star man.
Inter travel to Atalanta on the final day of the Serie A season in a battle for second place while Napoli visit Lazio with their Europa League status for next term already confirmed.
Then, both sides will have to think about Europe. Napoli travel to Barcelona for the second leg of their round of 16 tie in the Champions League while the Nerazzurri take on Getafe in their Europa League last 16 clash.
A wise and pensive Michael Owen once said: “Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.”
He couldn’t have been more right. Football is a game of goals, and no matter how good your team is, a classic centre-forward who can stick them away never goes amiss. But as football develops and managers begin to experiment and attempt to outsmart opponents with revolutionary tactics, the importance of a classic number nine is starting to wane.
Much like rock and roll and the routine of a half-time bovril however, the centre-forward will never die.
How good is it to see one of this rare breed pop up and take such genuine pleasure in smashing a ball into a net with such ruthlessness and contempt for his adversaries? Or batter home a towering header?
We are living in an era when their appearance is becoming more and more scarce, but back in the day, these guys were the bees knees.
Over the years, football has produced some wonderful centre-forwards who have crashed through the glass ceiling of scoring goals, while doing it in their own unique and prolific way. Here is 90min’s look back at the nine greatest players to have ever performed this role.
For many, this man is the greatest player to have set foot on God’s green earth. Pelé may receive some criticism on social media, from those who mock his supposedly generous goal record. But the fact that he scored so many goals that it became almost impossible to keep count, speaks volumes of the Brazilian.
Two-footed, strong in the air, majestic with the ball at his feet and a ruthless finisher, Pelé was possibly the most well-rounded footballer in the world. He won the World Cup a record three times during his playing career, scoring 77 goals for his national side over a 14-year spell.
Simply put, he was a genius of the game, and he’ll always be remembered as the man who coined and perfected ‘the beautiful game.’
The original Ronaldo. Pace, power, two feet, and an incomparable gift for sticking goalkeepers on their backsides. Never has the world stood up and taken notice as when this young Brazilian burst onto the scene with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and then Inter.
Sadly, injuries took their toll on the forward, who was forced to adapt from a man who could do everything brilliantly, to a man who could do most things exceptionally. As the raw pace escaped his body, Ronaldo settled for being an out and out goalscorer, enjoying five fruitful years at Real Madrid.
A two-time World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo will always be remembered as one of the most complete centre-forwards to grace our game. And even after all the goals, the trophies and the records, we are left with that burning feeling of what might have been.
A real penalty-box player. Every centre-back’s nightmare. Gerd Muller was possibly the most unconventional striker on this list in terms of appearance, but despite his short, squat physique, he was possibly the most lethal finisher of them all.
The German centre-forward may not have been blessed with the strapping body of a typical goalscorer, nor was he renowned for blistering pace, but boy, could he find the net? Muller came alive in the penalty area, and he could apply any type of finish to every ball that came his way. He just had the knack.
He still holds the record for the most goals in one season with Bayern, bagging 40 times in 34 league matches. Unbelievable.
This guy has an award for the most aesthetically-pleasing goal of the year named after him, so that tells you all you need to know. Ferenc Puskas was in the goals business during his long career, and brother, business was a-boomin’.
The powerful centre-forward was part of the famous Hungary side of the 1940s and 50s, scoring 84 goals in 85 international matches. That’s almost a goal a game, for those who skipped maths at school.
Overall, he walloped home 512 goals in 528 appearances, including eight famous years at Real Madrid, writing his name in the history books as one of the most prolific goalscorers in the 20th century.
Now this man could do it all. Marco van Basten was as complete a striker as they come, and along with his breathtaking consistency and reliability, he could also produce some moments of unrivalled spectacular wonder.
The Swan of Utrecht’s highlight reel would be a match for any other footballer in the world, and his near zero degree volley in the Euro 1988 final is lauded as one of the greatest goals in the sport’s history.
Van Basten could conjure a miracle on any stage, no matter how vital or insignificant, and the only shame is that injury curtailed his marvellous career. A star of the game.
Until very recently, this legend was the greatest player in Portugal’s illustrious history. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen that particular tag, there are many who still reminisce much more fondly on Eusebio’s sterling contribution to football.
Eusebio was one of the first genuine superstars of the sport, and his goal record pays tribute to this. The Portuguese forward rattled home 473 goals in 440 games. No need for calculators to figure out how special that is.
He won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup with an incredible nine goals, and was undoubtedly one of the star performers in the tournament. Grace and elegance personified.
Any player that wins the Golden Ball at a World Cup is pretty special. Romario was an insanely gifted footballer who possessed that natural Brazilian flair and spark that separates the Samba stars from us mere mortals.
Romario was a key component in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona, where he found the net 30 times in his debut campaign. He was also a key figure in the Vasco de Gama side which tore Manchester United apart in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, putting in a memorable display.
Over 1000 career goals (apparently), he is the second-most prolific striker in football history. Wow.
Batigol. When we reminisce on the most clinical strikers in football history, the name of Gabriel Batistuta always rears its head. The Argentine forward made his name in Europe over a nine-year spell with Fiorentina, where he became a club legend, rifling home over 200 goals for la Viola.
Although he showed himself to be Serie A’s deadliest forward during his time in Florence, it was at AS Roma where his heroics were rewarded with silverware. I Giallorossi lifted the 2000/01 league title – only the third in their history – and Gabigol helped himself to 20 valuable strikes over the course of the campaign.
Batistuta was pure power. The power in his legs allowed the forward to strike the ball from anywhere, with either foot, and with a vicious ferocity that made you pity the goalkeeper tasked with stopping his efforts. An icon of the 1990s, and a Serie A legend.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is now the chairman of Bayern – and you don’t get that role by being a shoddy striker! The German forward began his career with the Bavarian giants, scoring over 200 goals in 10 years at the club.
His versatility and adaptability to different styles of play made him the prolific forward he proved to be, while his lightning pace and clinical finishing always put him out of the defender’s reach.
A Bayern and West Germany legend, Rummenigge is part of football’s very fabric. A wonderful forward to complete the list.