Chelsea boss Sarri wants to keep Hazard and 'improve' him

Chelsea boss Sarri wants to keep Hazard and 'improve' him

New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says he wants to keep Eden Hazard at the club and “improve” the Belgium forward.

Hazard, who has been linked with Real Madrid, said last weekend “it might be time to discover something different” after six years at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, described Hazard as “one of the top two or three European players”.

The former Napoli boss said: “Hazard is a very high-level player. I hope that I will manage to improve him.”

Roberto Martinez, the Belgium manager, told Spanish radio recently that Hazard should consider leaving Chelsea to further his career.

The forward, for his part, responded to the Real Madrid reports by telling journalists last Saturday: “You know my preferred destination.

“I can decide if I want to stay or go but Chelsea will make the final decision – if they want to let me go.”

Sarri said he wanted to meet Hazard, who is away on holiday after representing Belgium at the World Cup.

“I would like to have fun during the week with him. This would mean very good results and mean we would have been very competitive during the season,” added the 59-year-old Italian.

Asked if he planned to phone Hazard – or any other player linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge – Sarri added: “A telephone call without looking them in the eye would not give me any certainty.

“I’d like to meet them face to face. I would also like a player to come on the [training] pitch four or five days to have a clear idea.”

Sarri suggested that England defender Gary Cahill has a future at Stamford Bridge, despite reports that the new manager is looking at signing centre-back Daniele Rugani from Juventus.

On Cahill, Sarri said: “I think he can still give us a lot.”

Maurizio Sarri

‘I am bored by the transfer market’

Sarri said he was one of the few managers who was “bored” by the transfer market and that his aim was to inject “fun” into his squad.

“I feel more a pitch manager than a general manager,” he added.

“I think that I am one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don’t want to talk about the transfer market and I am not interested in it.”

Sarri conducted most of his news conference in Italian although he is able to speak English.

He said: “I have to say sorry to everybody because my English is not so good. I don’t want to say anything wrong. I hope I will be able to do it [speak English] in a few weeks.”

Sarri added: “I need to have fun in order to do well. My goal is to have fun while I am here.

“The club have asked me to build a season where we have to be competitive in all competitions and in order to do that we must get to March and April in all competitions.”

‘People make mistakes’

Former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini accused Sarri of using homophobic language towards him during a touchline altercation in January 2016.

Sarri was in charge of Napoli while Mancini was at Inter Milan.

Chelsea’s new manager also apologised for insulting comments to a female journalist in March.

“People make mistakes. One of these mistakes was made when I was angry,” added Sarri. “Those that know me well cannot define me in this way. Homophobic and sexist – absolutely not.

“I am an open person and I do not have these kinds of problems. I hope I am able to show this while I am here.”


‘I am not afraid’

Sarri replaces Antonio Conte, who was sacked by Chelsea despite winning the Premier League in 2016-17 and the FA Cup in 2017-18.

Chelsea’s new boss has yet to win a major trophy in his managerial career but said he was “not afraid” of the challenge ahead.

“If I was someone who always worried I probably would do another job,” he said.

“Our job means risks but there is also a lot of satisfaction. I am not afraid.”

Last season, Chelsea finished 30 points behind champions Manchester City, managed by Sarri’s friend Pep Guardiola.

“He is a class act, a champion and a genius,” Sarri added.

Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss most of 2018-19 season

Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss most of 2018-19 season
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Liverpool and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to miss the majority of the 2018-19 season, says Reds manager Jurgen Klopp.

The 24-year-old has not played since injuring a knee during the Champions League semi-final with Roma in April.

“It feels like now is an appropriate time to tell people that for Ox, this season will be about focusing on recovery and rehab,” Klopp said.

“We have known this from pretty much the day after he got the injury.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain missed the World Cup after damaging his knee ligaments tackling Roma’s Aleksandar Kolarov at Anfield on 24 April.

Capped 32 times, he moved to Anfield from Arsenal last summer for £35m.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had “completely successful” surgery last season, but Klopp said the player did not want the severity of the injury disclosed then as he did not want to divert attention from Liverpool’s Champions League campaign.

The Reds were beaten 3-1 in the final by Real Madrid.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

“There has been no change, no setback – it’s exactly on the schedule we expected and planned for,” said Klopp.

“The new information is that we’re now giving more detail publicly. Typical of Ox, he didn’t want the news to overshadow the end of the season and, to be quite honest, we thought we could wait and tell people at an appropriate time.

“His surgery – which he had on the day of our second leg in Roma – has been completely successful and his recovery has started superbly well.

Wembley Stadium sale plan ridiculous says Gary Neville

Wembley Stadium sale plan ridiculous says Gary Neville
Wembley Stadium

Plans to sell Wembley Stadium for £600m have been called “ridiculous” by former England player Gary Neville.

The Football Association says the sale could transform community facilities.

But Neville told MPs there were other ways revenue could be generated, such as a levy on agents’ fees or reducing Premier League prize money.

“The FA feels to fund the grassroots programme, they have to sell a national asset – it’s quite simply ridiculous,” said the ex-Manchester United defender.

“This is a nonsense.”

The FA says only one in three pitches at grassroots level are of adequate quality and that selling Wembley would help fund improvements.

It has received an offer of £600m for the national stadium from Fulham owner Shahid Khan. Under the plan, the governing body would retain rights for the Club Wembley hospitality venture which it values at £250m-£300m.

Neville, giving evidence to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, said he had sympathy for the FA which is looking to increase investment by £70m a year to £100m annually on artificial pitches, grass pitches, coaching and other initiatives.

“They are talking about an extra £70m a year for 20 years – that’s a pittance in football, it’s a pittance in government, it’s the price of a full-back,” said the 43-year-old.

Gary Neville

He called the proposed sale a “short-term plan we’ll regret forever” and urged the government and football authorities to join together to explore alternative funding methods.

More than £200m was spent last season by Premier League clubs on agents, and he suggested taking a 25% cut of their fees.

“Don’t sell Wembley, whatever you do, don’t sell Wembley when you can place a levy on agent’s fees,” said Neville.

Top-flight clubs earned between £94m and £150m last season in prize money and TV income and Neville put forward the idea of each side receiving £3.5m less each, which would raise £70m.

Among those also taking part in the DCMS hearing are Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and FA chief executive Martin Glenn.

Sport England chair Nick Bitel and Katrina Law, co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, are also answering questions.

The problems with grassroots football?

There are 21,000 grassroots clubs, 50 county FAs, 25,000 schools and 330 local authorities which are catered for by the FA and, along with the finding that only one in three grassroots pitches are of adequate quality, The FA’s written evidence highlighted:

  • 150,000 matches were called off last season due to poor facilities
  • One in six matches are called off due to poor pitch quality
  • 33 of 50 county FAs are without their own 3G pitch
  • Cancelled matches account for the equivalent of 5,000,000 playing opportunities lost this year because of poor facilities
  • There are half the number of 3G pitches in England than there are in Germany

How much does the FA currently spend on grassroots football?

Since 2000, the FA says it has invested around £615m in grassroots football along with the Premier League, Sport England and the DCMS.

The FA has said it would continue with its current strategic plans for grassroots football whether the stadium is sold or not, but the sale would increase the pace of change.

“From the £600m gross sale proceeds, the FA and its partners would significantly accelerate its investment into community football facilities to more than £100m per year for the next 20 years. This would be transformative.”

The FA has said extra money could implement the national football facilities strategy – developed by Sport England, the FA, the government and the Football Foundation – within 10 years. Its aims include:

  • Every FA-affiliated club to have access to a 3G artificial pitch for training and potentially matches
  • Accelerated improvements to the key grass pitch sites across England to reduce fixture cancellations
  • Talented players to benefit from more advanced training and competition
  • Increased numbers of players, coaches, referees, volunteers and administrators
  • A diverse football-based community that reflects the diversity of the nation

Oh no, not again – Crusaders defender scores comical own goal in Champions League

Oh no, not again - Crusaders defender scores comical own goal in Champions League
Oh no, not again - Crusaders defender scores comical own goal in Champions League

Crusaders defender Rodney Brown lobs in a comical own goal in the second leg of the Champions League first qualifying round against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets at Seaview.

The unfortunate Brown also scored an own goal in the Bulgarian outfit’s 7-0 home leg win last week.

Brown’s goal left Ludogorets 1-0 up at half-time at the north Belfast venue.