Neymar close to full fitness ahead of World Cup

Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil superstar Neymar is closing on a return to peak physical condition following an injury he picked up for his club in February.

The 26-year-old forward broke a bone in his foot during league duty for PSG on 25 February and has been out of action since then.

However, it appears his prognosis is good and Neymar should be at full fitness for the Selecao at the World Cup in Russia during June and July.

Neymar was named in Tite's squad for the global showpiece as the Brazilians face matches against Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.

National team physical trainer Fabio Mahseredjian told reporters: "His development is better than expected."

Meanwhile, team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar, who operated on the world's most expensive player in March, added: "He's regaining his usual movements bit by bit.

"The next step is full group training and then play games. Everything is being done for him to feel at ease."

Werner focused on WC, not a potential transfer

RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner insists he isn't interested in using the World Cup as a shop window but instead is determined to help Germany defend their title.

The 22-year-old has been in terrific form for the Bundesliga outfit over the last two seasons, scoring 34 goals and providing 15 assists in all competitions.

Many have speculated that he may be due a big-money move to an elite European club in the off-season.

However, he has made it clear that winning the World Cup with Germany is his priority.

"The World Cup is not about auditioning for Barcelona, Madrid, Liverpool or whoever," he told German sports magazine Socrates

"But I want to become world champion and then I want to attack again with RB Leipzig.

"I'm not dealing with any thoughts of change."

The player is widely expected to be the main striker for Die Mannschaft, and is expected to start in the upcoming preparation matches against Austria and Saudi Arabia.

Pochettino signs on with Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino put to bed rumours of his imminent exit from Tottenham by signing a new five-year deal with the club.

The 46-year-old former Espanyol and Southampton head coach was a reported target for Real Madrid having transformed Spurs since arriving in 2014.

A fifth place Premier League finish and League Cup final was followed up by top three places in the following three seasons.

A statement from the club read: "We are delighted to announce that Mauricio Pochettino has signed a new five-year contract with the Club, which runs until 2023.

"First Team Coaching staff Jesus Perez, Miguel D’Agostino and Toni Jimenez have also agreed new contracts with the Club."

Chairman Daniel Levy, meanwhile, revealed his excitement, saying: "I am delighted that we have agreed a new, extended contract with Mauricio.

"We have been on an extraordinary journey and the times ahead look even more exciting as the Club enters the next phase in its history."

And the manager himself added: "I am honoured to have signed a new long-term contract as we approach one of the most significant periods in the Club's history and be the manager that will lead this team into our new world-class stadium.

"This is just one of the factors that makes this one of the most exciting jobs in world football and we are already making plans to ensure we continue to build on the great work that everyone has contributed to over the past four years.

"Daniel and I have spoken at length about our aspirations for this football club. We both share the same philosophies to achieve long-term, sustainable success.

"This is a special club - we always strive to be creative in the way we work both on and off the pitch and will continue to stick to our principles in order to achieve the success this Club deserves."

Nyirenda resigns as Zambia coach

Wedson Nyirenda could finally be on his way to South Africa to take over at Baroka after resigning as the national team coach of Zambia on Thursday.

Reports in South Africa had this week suggested that the former Kaizer Chiefs striker has been in talks with Bakgaka over the possibility of being their head coach in the new season.

Baroka are in the hunt for a new coach having ended the 2017/18 season under the mentorship of technical director, Doctor Khumalo.  

Khumalo took over the reins from MacDonald Makhubedu, who was removed from the position of head coach following a string of poor results that saw the club playing for survival in the recently ended season.

The club had also earlier in the season parted ways with Kgoloko Thobejane.

Nyirenda had been in charge of Zambia since 2016.

Nyirenda’s resignation was confirmed by the Zambia Football Association (FAZ) in a press statement.

FAZ statement said: “The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) wishes to announce the resignation of Mr. Wedson Nyirenda as head coach of the Zambia national team with immediate effect.

 “The process to fill the vacancy of head coach will begin and the association will conclude the process in the shortest possible time to meet upcoming engagements.”

Juventus want Darmian, Perin

Juventus have confirmed their interest in signing Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian and Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin.

Darmian has struggled for game time at the English Premier League giants while the club is looking at Perin to give Wojciech Szczesny competition following the departure of legendary goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon.

Juventus general manager Giuseppe Marotta said the club will explore the market to look at players that will help strengthen the squad going into the new season.

He said Darmian fits the profile of what they will be looking for being an Italian international, while Perin has the abilities to give Szczesny competition.

Marotta told journalist during a book launch: “We’ve talked a lot about Perin and Darmian.

 “We can say that Buffon’s natural heir is Szczesny, we made a choice last year and we’re very happy with that choice.

“As I’ve always said though, being a great club like Juventus that participates in several competitions means having two top goalkeepers. So I won’t hide that we’ll go in search of a high calibre goalkeeper.

“Perin is a high calibre goalkeeper, but there’s a long way between where we are now, starting a negotiation, and defining the relationship.

“Darmian could fit in terms of those opportunities, players and profiles we’re looking for. He’s also an Italian player and we always think that the hard-core of a squad like Juventus should be represented by players who can also wear the Azzurri shirt.

“Italians have more ability and speed in terms of understanding our environment, so I can’t hide that Darmian is a player who interests us.”



Rodri completes move from Villarreal to Atletico

Atletico Madrid have completed the signing of midfielder Rodri from La Liga rivals Villarreal after months of speculation linking him to a move.

The 21-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the Rojiblancos and will officially join the UEFA Europa League champions on July 1.

The holding midfielder played a significant part in the Yellow Submarine's 2017/18 season, making 47 appearances across all competitions.

Rodri made his debut for Spain in March this year, in the 1-1 draw with Germany, and also won the European Under-19 Championship with La Roja in 2015.

Rodri was on Atletico's books as a teenager back in 2013 when he left to join Villarreal.

Jali close to signing, says agent

According to his agent, Bafana Bafana midfielder Andile Jali should be revealing his next club by the end of the week.

Jali's future has been the cause of much speculation after he parted ways with Belgium club KV Oostende last month and revealed that he plans to return to the PSL, where he was such a hit with Orlando Pirates after having been signed from AmaTuks.

Reports have linked with a return to one of the traditional giants of the PSL - Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, although most of the talk has appeared little more than speculation.

But according to the 28-year-old's agent, Mike Makaab, there are offers on the table and a decision will be made soon.

"The truth of the matter it is that there are two clubs interested in Andile. Both of them are good offers, career-wise and financially, if you consider that we are in South Africa," Makaab told IOL.

"In the next 48 to 72 hours, Andile will make the decision. Our objective is to ensure that Andile finds a new club before the end of the month.

"He has to start his programme for the new team," he added.

Makaab, who also revealed that five PSL clubs had been interested in Jali, explained the factors that his client will be weighing up:

"Andile wants to join a team that will make him happy, win trophies and compete in CAF competitions. He wants to join a club where he is going to enjoy longevity," he said.

"These are all the things that he needed to take into consideration. I won't make a decision for Andile, but he will make the decision for himself.

"He has two incredible offers. I know I have to disappoint one club and make another one happy - I'm brave though, I have been in this business for a while now."

Bucs legend hails Nyatama's impact

Orlando Pirates legend Joseph Ngake has hailed the influence of central midfielder Musa Nyatama following a successful season in 2017/18.

Nyatama was a mainstay in the heart of midfield throughout the previous campaign for the Milutin Sredojevic-coached outfit, and made 28 appearances in the Premiership.

In addition, the box-to-box dynamo contributed four league goals as the Sea Robbers finished a respectable second in the table behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

As such, Ngake, who spent the majority of his career with Bucs, takes the view that Nyatama's impact cannot be overlooked.

He told Soccer Laduma: "Musa has been a brilliant signing for Pirates as there is no other way of putting it. He has been an inspired signing.

"I have always known that he is a quality player, however, it’s rare for a player to join a big club and make such a big impact on his first season.

"I believe what has helped Musa is that he is a consummate professional and he has displayed this throughout his career.

"Based on his first season I believe the Pirates supporters can expect more from him in the upcoming seasons. Musa's arrival proves that teams like Pirates will have quality players in their squads.

"When Oupa Manyisa left, the Pirates people thought it would be difficult to find a similarly intelligent midfielder.

"That’s how football is, before Manyisa there was Teko and before him there where players like Benedict Vilakazi. So it's Nyatama's time and I wish him all the best."

Soumahoro: Playing for Guinea is not a problem

Mamelodi Sundowns defender Bangaly Soumahoro says he is ready to turn his back on the Ivory Coast and play for Guinea's national football team.

The big defender was born in Ivory Coast, but qualifies to play for Guinea through his mother.

Soumahoro, who played for Sundowns in Tuesday's 2-2 draw against Horoya AC, told reporters during his trip with the Brazilians to the West African country, that he is available to represent Guinea in international football.

The 26-year old defender came to South Africa in 2015 joining Sundowns from ASEC Mimosa.

He has previously played for AFAD Djekanou and also had a short stint in Romania, playing for Sport Municipal Ramnicu Valcea.

Soumahoro told Guinea’s Football Factory: “Playing for Guinea is not a problem. I have dual nationality so that is not a problem. Who does not like playing for his mother’s national team?

Sundowns boss Pitso Mosimane added on Times Live that Soumaharo was earmarked for Guinea after the recent friendly loss to Barcelona.

Mosimane said: "Somebody approached him to play for Guinea and I was a bit worried that if he thought too much about it before‚ it might affect his game.
“And it did affect his game.

"He didn’t play exactly the way he always plays.

"He’s a better player. He was a bit nervous because of it because he wanted to impress and he didn’t play his normal game.

“But he’s a very good football player and in my opinion if he wants to play for Guinea I give the green light."



Pieterse relishing Bafana leadership role

Reyaad Pieterse is relishing taking a leadership role in the youthful Bafana Bafana squad that will represent the country in the upcoming COSAFA Cup tournament.

The SuperSport United goalkeeper, along with Maritzburg United’s Siyanda Xulu, are the only players above the age of 25, in a youth squad announced by Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter on Thursday.

Pieterse is likely to be the first choice goalkeeper having played a crucial role when Bafana Bafana won the 2016 edition of the tournament in Namibia.

He will be competing with youngsters Bruce Mvuma of Kaizer Chiefs and Walter Kubheka of Mamelodi Sundowns.

The squad will troop to camp this Saturday, but will only be in action on June 3, when Bafana get their COSAFA Cup campaign underway in the quarter-finals against the winners of Group A.

“Yes of course, it is always good to represent my country,” Pieterse told Vodacom Soccer.

“Most definitely, it is also a chance for me to lead by example being one of the experienced players in the team and also having been part of the team that won the tournament in 2016 in Namibia.

“It is a chance to learn and improve as a player and I’m looking forward to playing in the tournament."

Modise: We were both hungry with Benni

Teko Modise says Benni McCarthy was able to get the best out of him at Cape Town City because they were both hungry to succeed in their first year at the club.

Modise joined City after managing just three starts in the previous campaign at Mamelodi Sundowns and was happy to see more playing time with the Cape Town based outfit.

The veteran midfielder admitted that he could have done better if he did not spend a lot of time on the treatment table nursing injuries.

However, the 35-year old said he was happy with his contribution in his first year with City.

Modise told the SABC: "It was tough, I mean, from being a regular at Sundowns to end up playing three games. Of course, It's tough.

"I also wanted to play, but I knew the chances were slim because other guys playing in my position were doing well and i went for change.

"I think what made it work for me and Benni is that we were both new at the club and he wanted to succeed. I wanted to succeed as well because it was my new environment and I wanted to play.

"So the first thing that Benni told me is that whenever I feel good to play I should tell him. For a coach to tell you that, obviously it makes you want to play. Every time he selected me to play, I played well.

"But it's just that the season did not go well for me because of the injuries that I had. I thought I could have played more games if it was not for the injuries."

The former Bafana Bafana captain feel City could have done better had they been consistent throughout the season.

Modise said his side always came to the party when they played against the Premiership big guns, but failed to maintain the same standards against the smaller clubs.

Added Modise: "I think it’s a season where we learnt a lot, the mistakes that we did. I think at some point we could have been position one or two in the table and we lost games that we were supposed to have won against the so called smaller teams.

"I know whenever we played the big teams we always showed up, I think the consistency in our team was not there. Those are the things we learnt as well."





De Sa: We have to win both remaining games

Platinum Stars coach Roger De Sa is still hopeful his side can overcome a bad start in the promotion/relegation play-offs to retain their Premiership status.

Stars have managed just a point from their two opening games following Wednesday's goalless draw against Jomo Cosmos while they lost the first game 1-0 to Black Leopards.

However, the Dikwena mentor is confident his side can turn it around from their two remaining games and win the play-offs on seven points.

Leopards currently lead the play-offs with four points after two games while Cosmos are second with two points, with Stars being at the bottom with a point.

De Sa told the SABC: “We need seven points in the play-offs. Seven points is usually the amount that takes you through.

“So, yeah, we got a point now and we have two games to go. We have to win both. That’s what it comes down to; it’s a simple equation right now.

“It’s win and win. That’s all we need to do and we have to do it. There is no other option; there is no other calculation or anything else.

“Hopefully we can get a good result on Saturday and a good performance to take us through to the last game.”

Pellegrini ready to get stuck in at West Ham

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini is relishing the opportunity to re-build the Premier League outfit into an exciting football team.

The Chilean took over at the Irons this week, signing a three-year contract, and is already busy making decisions behind the scenes in terms of shaping his backroom staff and identifying players to bring in.

The former Manchester City boss is motivated to make a positive impact at the club and eager to help them improve on their performance in the Premier League this past season. The Hammers finished 13th in the standings, managing only 42 points.

"Taking it game by game and with the players taking on and practising my ideas, I think we are going to be a good football team," Pellegrini told the club's official website.

“We are going to start working immediately, first of all to prepare a good pre-season which is very important.

“After that, we will try to finish the squad as soon as we can, but I think we must be patient to find the right players with the amount of money that this club will spend this season.

“So, we need to work with every day from now until the start of the season, because the time is a little bit short. But we have time and I am confident that, with hard work, we have enough time to build this squad.”


Werner not keen on Leipzig exit

Timo Werner has ruled out leaving RB Leipzig next season as he prepares to turn out for Germany at the World Cup in Russia this year.

The 22-year-old former VfB Stuttgart striker is a target for Liverpool but says he won't use the upcoming tournament to put himself in the shop window.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has already snapped up Naby Keita from Leipzig and with Rhian Brewster expected to join Borussia Monchengladbach for next season, the Reds are reportedly keen on Werner.

He told Socrates magazine: "The World Cup is not about auditioning for Barcelona, Madrid, Liverpool or whoever.

“I want to become world champion and then I want to attack again with RB Leipzig.

“I’m not dealing with any thoughts of making a change.

“You never know what will happen in football in the future – that is not just a phrase, that’s a fact.”

Aubameyang: Change is good for Arsenal

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admits the club needed a change and is looking forward to a fresh start under new manager Unai Emery.

The Gabon international, who joined the Gunners from Borussia Dortmund in January, believes the north London outfit was beginning to stagnate under Arsene Wenger.

The Frenchman, who spent 22 years at the club, finished outside the Premier League's top four over the last two seasons, signalling the need for change, and Aubameyang is keen to see the new ideas Emery will now bring to the table.

"I think it's a little bit of a mixed feeling in fact," Aubameyang told RMC when asked about Wenger's exit. "On one hand, it's strange for all the fans that the coach has left. But it's definitely a fresh start.

"Since over the last few seasons -- you have to tell the truth -- the club has stagnated a little bit, I think everyone is actually a little bit excited to see what happens next season."

"It is strange that the coach has left after 22 years," he added. "But that's life -- we have to look forward. It's going to be a new start so we'll have so we'll have to see how it goes... everyone will have to get it into their heads that we have to work hard to rival the best."

Low has faith Neuer will be ready for WC

Germany manager Joachim Low remains confident that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer will be ready to perform at the World Cup after recovering from injury.

The Bayern Munich star missed most of the 2017/18 season due to a foot injury which required surgery last September. He hasn't played in a competitive game since, but Low still has faith that Neuer will be ready.

The 32-year-old made Low's provisional World Cup squad and was given the number 1 jersey. However, some doubts still remain regarding Neuer's match fitness.

"I'm optimistic and I assume that Manuel Neuer is able to make it," Low told Bild.

"He has now been back in Bayern's training for more than two weeks and has reached the maximum load of physical demand. I think he can maintain this load in our training camp.

"Only Manuel himself can evaluate in the end if he still has subconscious fears. He promised us that we'll talk about that honestly. He is aware of his responsibility for himself and the team as well."

"Manuel goes to the World Cup as a player who is a 100 per cent ready to play - otherwise he won't," he added.

"It won't be that he only goes with us as a captain who just sits on the bench."

Scholes: If Pogba wants to leave, he should

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes believes the club should allow star midfielder Paul Pogba to leave if he is unhappy.

Jose Mourinho's charges brought academy graduate Pogba back to United for a club record transfer fee of £89million in 2016, but he has not quite managed to live up to the hype.

The Frenchman has received regular criticism throughout his first two seasons back at the club due to the fact that he hasn't been able to reproduce the form he showed at Juventus, and he now appears to be considering his options.

“Once the season is over and players meet up with their international teams there are always some comments made," Scholes told talkSPORT.

“But look, if players aren’t happy, let them go. That’s always the way I feel about it.

“Pogba has been just OK this season for a player of his quality.

“There’s still time. He’s only been there a couple of years and he’s still a young-ish player.

“Let’s hope he produces more of his Juventus form next season.”

Muller in line for Germany captaincy says Low

Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Thomas Muller is set to be named captain of Germany for the 2018 World Cup should goalkeeper Manuel Neuer not return to full fitness.

Neuer has been out of action since last September with a broken foot although he was named in Die Mannschaft's 27-man preliminary squad for the World Cup during June and July.

The shot-stopper has served as the German captain in the past but Muller took over the armband in recent times, as the 32-year-old worked on his recovery away from action on the sidelines.

The player is in a race against time to prove himself to be ready for the global showpiece in Russia, and seems likely to feature in the preparation games against Austria and Saudi Arabia on 2 June and 8 June respectively.

Manager Joachim Low told the media: "Thomas can do an amazing stand-in job because he's a player with a good relationship to everyone in the team.

"Even in the most serious of moments, he never forgets to have fun."

Nonetheless, Low added he was feeling hopeful that Neuer would be available for the tournament, saying: "I'm optimistic and am assuming Manuel Neuer will make it."

Idowu relishing chance to win Super Eagles World Cup spot

Amkar Perm left-back Brian Idowu says he is grateful to Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr for giving him the chance to play for his place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Russian-born star, who has spent his professional career in that country, has emerged from a virtual unknown to a realistic candidate to be named in the Super Eagles World Cup squad.

Idowu made his debut for the Eagles last November in the 4-2 victory against Argentina, and also featured in the two friendly matches against Poland and Serbia.

The 26-year-old is currently in Rohr's provisional 30-man squad for the global showpiece with the team already beginning their preparations at a camp in Uyo.

He told Complete Sports Nigeria: "It's been a remarkable experience for me. One minute nobody knew me and the next I have the chance to play at the World Cup.

"It is more like a dream for me, really. I will give my best always in order to justify the confidence of the coaches.

"My father’s from Nigeria and I know he’s always going to be proud of me. Besides Nigeria gave me the opportunity to play for the national team and I will be forever grateful for that."

Butland feeling sorry for Hart

England goalkeeper Jack Butland has revealed that he felt sorry for Joe Hart after his childhood hero was left out of the Three Lions squad for the World Cup.

Hart was among a clutch of high profile England players that were excluded from Gareth Southgate’s squad for the next month’s World Cup in Russia.

The other players snubbed by Southgate include Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere along with Chris Smalling of Manchester United.

Butland revealed that he gave Hart a call immediately after the squad was announced because he was gutted his role model did not make the list for the World Cup.

Hart, who has 75 caps for his country, has been England first choice goalkeeper in their last three tournaments and had also started in nine of their ten World Cup qualifying matches.

“Butland told Sky Sports: “I've spoken to Joe. I know he's devastated to miss out and I'm gutted for him.

 “He's been my hero since I was 14 years old and I still look up to him now. It was important for me to tell him that because you don't often get opportunities to tell people what you really think about them.

“If Joe had been here that conversation never gets had. It was really important to me and hopefully he valued that as well.”