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Lewandowski named best FIFA player for 2020

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Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has beaten Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to emerge the Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2020.

Messi, the 2019 winner, and Ronaldo had claimed the top prize in three of the four prior editions.

Lewandowski led the line as the Bundesliga giants won the league, DFB-Pokal and Champions League in 2019-20.

Between July 20, 2019 and October 7, 2020 – the period considered for this year’s awards – the Poland international scored stunning 60 club goals at a rate of one every 76 minutes.

This tally, from 52 Bayern appearances, was 20 more than any other player in Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues.

While Ronaldo was second in this regard, tied with Ciro Immobile on 40 goals, Messi trailed Romelu Lukaku (37), Timo Werner (35) and Raheem Sterling (34).

The Barcelona captain’s 32 goals were matched by Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe.

FIFA recognition is particularly precious for Lewandowski this year after the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Ballon d’Or to be cancelled in the best season of his career.

Lewandowski, who had not previously won either award, was the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year last season, making him the favourite ahead of Messi and Ronaldo.

At 32, Lewandowski has had a breakthrough season.  While he has won the Bundesliga in each of his first six seasons at Bayern, finishing as the league’s top scorer in four of the last five seasons, his international profile has been hurt by Poland’s mediocre form and his failure, at Dortmund and Bayern, to win the Champions League.

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European Super League plans crumbling as English clubs withdraw

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All six Premier League teams involved in the European Super League (ESL) have withdrawn from the competition.

Manchester City were the first club to pull out after Chelsea had signalled their intent to do so by preparing documentation to withdraw.

The other four sides, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, have all followed suit.

The Super League said it would reconsider “the most appropriate steps to reshape the project”.

The 12-team Super League was announced on Sunday to widespread condemnation.

The remaining six clubs, Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Italy’s AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are yet to comment on the withdrawal of the English sides.

“Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due to the pressure put on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations,” the ESL said, adding it was “convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change”.

In an interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said the remaining clubs will “press ahead” and the project still had “a 100% chance of being a success”.

Manchester City confirmed they had “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw” from the Super League.

Liverpool said their involvement in the proposed breakaway league “has been discontinued”.

Manchester United said they had “listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders” in making their decision to not take part.

Arsenal apologised in an open letter to their fans and said they had “made a mistake”, adding they were withdrawing after listening to them and the “wider football community”.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club regretted the “anxiety and upset” caused by the proposal.

Chelsea confirmed they have “begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group” that they only joined “late last week”.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the reversal, adding: “I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake.

“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.

“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted on Twitter: “I welcome last night’s announcement. This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer added that this “must be a watershed moment, where we change our game to put fans first again”, while Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey tweeted: “This must be the start of a fans-led football revolution.”

In a statement, the European Super League said: “Given the current circumstances we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”

English football’s ‘big six’ were part of a group that announced plans to form the breakaway league, which they hoped to establish as a new midweek competition.

It was condemned by fans, football authorities and government ministers in the UK and across Europe by UEFA and league associations.

Around 1,000 fans gathered outside Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground before their game against Brighton on Tuesday to protest at their club’s involvement.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who was involved in the Super League discussions, has announced he will step down from his role at the end of 2021.

Leading players at some of the six clubs signalled their disapproval of the planned breakaway league.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said on social media his side’s “collective position” is they do not want the Super League to take place.

“We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen,” read a message that was also posted by many fellow Liverpool players.

After City confirmed their withdrawal, England winger Raheem Sterling posted: “Ok bye.”

UEFA had hoped to stave off the threat of a European Super League with a new 36-team Champions League, which was agreed on Monday.

In announcing their proposals for a Super League that would eventually comprise of 20 teams, the 12-club group said the Champions League reforms did not go far enough.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was named as the ESL’s chairman, said the competition was set up “to save football” because young people are “no longer interested” in the game because of “a lot of poor quality games”.

None of the Spanish and Italian sides have yet released a statement after the six Premier League teams pulled out.

-BBC

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Tottenham name Mason as interim manager

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Tottenham management has appointed Ryan Mason as new interim manager of the club following Jose Mourinho’s sacking on Monday.

Mourinho was removed at Spurs after 17 months in charge, six days before he was due to oversee the team’s appearance in the 2020-21 Carabao Cup final.

Mason, who had been serving as the club’s head of player development, will now be saddled with the duty of delivering their first major trophy since 2008 and will see out the remainder of the season before a new permanent boss is appointed over the summer.

Tottenham confirmed the news in a statement, which read, “Following the departure of Jose Mourinho, we can now confirm that Ryan Mason will take charge as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

“Ryan will be joined by Chris Powell and Nigel Gibbs as interim assistant head coaches and Michel Vorm as interim goalkeeping coach. Ledley King will continue in his role as first-team assistant.”

The club’s Chairman, Daniel Levy, also said, “We have great belief in this squad of talented players.

 

“We have a cup final and six Premier League games ahead of us and we shall now focus all our energies on achieving a strong finish to the season.”

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UEFA: We’ll ban players in Super League from World Cup, others

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UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says all players that play in the Super League will be banned from the World Cup, European competitions and other global football events.

The threat followed the decision by 12 top European football clubs to found a Super League, which was announced in a joint statement late on Sunday.

The founding clubs of the mid-week league were listed as English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea. The others are Italy’s Juventus and Milan clubs AC and Inter, and the Spanish trio of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable,” the 12 clubs said in the statement.

Reported to be financially very lucrative, the project does not have the support of football’s governing bodies.

UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy and Spain described it as “a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.”

Fifteen of the 20 participating clubs are to be permanent members, and the remaining five will “qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season,” the statement said the 12 clubs involved in the Super League had “spat in the face of football.

“The players that play in the Super League will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros.”

He also said, “We will take all the sanctions that we can. I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against this disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else.

“We urge everyone to stand tall with us as we do everything in our power to ensure this never ends up in fruition.”

According to the New York Times the new league would “generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the participating teams.”

The club’s are already the richest clubs in the sport.

It was however reported that 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich and finalists Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were not among the clubs that had signed up or expressed interest.

In a statement UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy and Spain said, “As previously announced by FIFA and the six federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level.

“Their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this.”

Before the announcement the Premier League in England said it “condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit. These are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.”

German Football League chief Christian Seifert spoke of his body’s opposition, saying, “We reject any kind of European Super League concept” which would “irreparably damage the national leagues as the basis of European professional football.”

The latest development comes on the eve of a UEFA executive committee meeting.

The meeting, apart from finalising the host cities for the summer’s Euro tournament, is also to approve a Champions League reform from 2024 onwards.

The powerful European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA’s club competitions committee were reportedly in agreement Friday about the reform.

Under this, the elite event is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams and each team plays 10 instead of six group games in what is known as “the Swiss model.”

Two of the additional four clubs are to controversially come via historic results not through qualification via domestic action.

The large number of additional matches is a threat to domestic competitions.

Fan groups have also voiced their dissent, with an even bigger outcry expected if a Super League becomes reality.

The reports said that European officials were discussing counter measures which could include banning Super League clubs from next season’s Champions League.

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