EPL

Nunez can withstand pressure of playing for Liverpool, says former coach

By Sports Desk June 12, 2022

Darwin Nunez is "mentally strong" enough to deal with the pressure of playing for Liverpool, according to an ex-coach of the Benfica star.

The 22-year-old has been widely linked with a transfer from Portugal to join Jurgen Klopp's Reds in the Premier League next season.

Already regarded as one of the world's most-promising young strikers, hopes are high that he can help deliver the sort of impact Erling Haaland is anticipated to at rivals Manchester City.

Leonardo Ramos, who gave the Uruguay international his debut at Penarol before his move to Europe, certainly feels Nunez is ready to back himself, adamant his previous experiences with injury problems have only strengthened his resolve.

"I think that he is more mentally strong now," Ramos told Stats Perform. "Because I can tell you that he was suffering a lot.

"[He was] suffering at the level of running and training while crying all the time, so he knows what suffering is, he knows what constant pressure is.

"At that moment, me and his representative didn't know [the injury he had] and probably we put a very big pressure on his head because his career as a footballer was at stake with all the conditions he had.

"It seems to me that, the fact that he was in Portugal and he was on a level where everyone was talking about him – because really everyone was talking about Darwin Nunez – it seems that today his head is ready for that, to withstand that pressure."

Nunez struggled with injuries during his breakthrough at Penarol, making just 15 league appearances before leaving for Almeria in 2019.

But Ramos believes the experience helped him gain an edge on team-mates, with a recovery routine that added more bulk to his physique to compliment his impressive skill set.

"Darwin ended up being what he is today, an incredible player," he reflected. "We saw him and he saw it too, and especially enhanced, because Darwin gained a lot of muscle mass in training separate from team-mates.

"He changed his physique a lot. Today, he is much more athletic, but he was already an outstanding player. He showed that when he debuted, he showed all his level."

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  • Meulensteen backs Slot success at Liverpool as Klopp comparisons evident Meulensteen backs Slot success at Liverpool as Klopp comparisons evident

    Liverpool will not see many differences between Jurgen Klopp and incoming manager Arne Slot, though the Dutchman must learn to cope with the added pressure at Anfield.

    That was the message from Australia coach and former Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen, who expects fellow countryman Slot to succeed on Merseyside.

    Slot leaves the Netherlands after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, during which he led them to the league title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions.

    That record has Meulensteen expecting further success for the former Feyenoord boss.

    Meulensteen, speaking on behalf of William Hill Vegas, told Stats Perform: "There was a lot of speculation about different names being touted with [Xabi] Alonso and Rubin Amorim, but then when Arne Slot's name came up, I didn't necessarily think that it was a bad choice and a bad decision.

    "I like him. I rate him as a coach and as a person. I think he's got a likeability about him, he's a good communicator, he plays a brand of football that is very much in line with what Klopp has done over the last few years.

    "You won't see many differences there, he might tweak one or two things, but it will still be high press, high energy, dynamic football. 

    "In my opinion, I think it's always the proof is in the pudding, but I think it's not a bad choice at all for Liverpool."

    Liverpool managed 82 points in the 2023-24 Premier League, finishing nine behind Manchester City and seven adrift of second-placed Arsenal.

    The Dutchman will officially take charge from next Saturday, subject to receiving a work permit, and Meulensteen believes it will be a step up for Slot.

    "Liverpool are a global brand, it's a big club, it brings different expectations and winning the Premier League is the hardest thing to do," he added. 

    "The ambitions will be there for Liverpool. Same with the Champions League. So the difference between that step from Feyenoord to Liverpool is really in terms of the expectations, which brings a different kind of pressure.

    "You need to be able to handle that, clubs like Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, City, Chelsea, you want to be successful, but at the same time play in an attractive style of football.

    "It's a difficult kind of combination, and obviously he's going from the Eredivisie, the Dutch league, to the Premier League.

    "That will be his biggest step up because that is where he's going to be confronted with every week.

    "If he's clever, he has to bring somebody in his staff along that knows the Premier League, that understands the Premier League."

    Rene Meulensteen was speaking on behalf of William Hill Vegas: https://vegas.williamhill.com 

  • Ancelotti lauds retiring Kroos as Madrid midfielder bows out of Bernabeu Ancelotti lauds retiring Kroos as Madrid midfielder bows out of Bernabeu

    Real Madrid were fortunate to call upon Toni Kroos for a decade, said Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, after the Germany midfielder bade farewell to a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu.

    Veteran Kroos played his final league game for Madrid on Saturday, with a goalless draw against Real Betis hardly befitting of his illustrious time with the LaLiga champions.

    The 34-year-old will still have one more appearance to come for Los Blancos in next Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

    Yet having played for a final occasion at Madrid's storied home ground, Ancelotti was quick to praise Kroos.

    "One of the greatest, obviously," Ancelotti told a press conference. "A very high-quality midfielder, with a fantastic character, with a small ego, very humble and always at the service of the team, very altruistic. What luck to have had him for 10 years.

    "To do better than Kroos has done, in this team, is very complicated. He has made a very strong decision [to retire], because nobody could have imagined it, but he has shown a lot of character and to say goodbye like that is great.

    "It is the farewell of a great football character and, I repeat, we have been lucky to have him here. Football has enjoyed a great player."

    On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

    "I can only say thank you to all the Madridismo, to the club, to my team mates, to the stadium," Kroos told reporters after his Madrid farewell.

    "I've always felt at home during these 10 years. I couldn't ask for more. They have been 10 unforgettable years.

    "I was pretty strong until I saw my children, that moment killed me."

    Kroos will end his playing days with the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, where he will hope to guide hosts Germany to glory on home soil.

  • WSL 2023-24 season recap: Hayes departs after making history as Man City miss out WSL 2023-24 season recap: Hayes departs after making history as Man City miss out

    The 2023-24 season was one of the best to date for the Women's Super League since its inception.

    The drama of the title race going down to the final day; all three domestic trophies being won by different sides and record attendances across the league - fans have been filling stadiums and proving women’s football has an exciting future.

    Chelsea went into the season as defending champions of the WSL and FA Cup, and looking to make history by securing a fifth consecutive league title. Emma Hayes and her team have dominated over the last ten years and this season looked set to be no different. 

    The Blues got there in the end, but it wasn't easy...

    The Hayes dynasty and the end of an era

    A shock reverberated around the women's game in November when Hayes announced that, after 11 years in charge, she would be leaving Chelsea to join the US Women’s National Team as coach.

    Hayes is the most decorated manager in Chelsea's history, and transformed them into serial winners domestically. She departs the WSL as the manager with the most games (212), most wins (151) and the fourth-best win rate (71.2 per cent - minimum 50 games managed).

    Her legacy will be more than just the 16 trophies she won, including the WSL title this term.

    The growth of women's football during Hayers' tenure has been meteoric, and she could have only dreamed of the farewell she received as, at one of England’s most iconic football stadia in Old Trafford, Chelsea thrashed Manchester United 6-0 to seal their fifth straight WSL crown.

    Millie Bright, Chelsea's captain, had labelled the team as "mentality monsters", and that was certainly a fitting tag, as the champions scored four first-half goals to dash any lingering hopes Man City had of winning the title.

    Hayes' final triumph came despite star striker Sam Kerr suffering an ACL injury in January, though Colombia forward Mayra Ramirez arrived from Levante for a British record transfer fee of £384,000 plus a further £42,000 in potential add-ons.

    Ramirez proved her worth, grabbing two goals in a first half in which she was unplayable and a delight to watch. Fran Kirby, meanwhile, came on to score on her final WSL appearance for Chelsea, and leaves the Blues as their all-time leading goal scorer (63) and assister (33) in the competition.

    City only managed a 2-1 win away to Aston Villa, meaning the WSL title was settled on goal difference for just the second time after Liverpool finished ahead of Chelsea in the 2014 season, with the Blues goal difference of +53 this campaign the fourth best in the competition’s history.

    The champions also scored the most goals by a team in a single WSL season (71).

    Hayes reflected on her special time at the club in her first interview as the USWNT boss.

    Speaking to the USWNT media channel, she said: "I am proud of the fact that I could leave that club in a better place and one that I hope continues to compete. But for me, the challenge of competing for World Cups, for the Olympics, and the dream of coaching a team that I have always wanted to get the opportunity to do. I simply couldn't turn it down."

    So close, yet so far, for City

    City once again came so close to bursting Chelsea’s bubble and spoiling Hayes’ party. However, after it being in their own hands, a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the penultimate match gave the advantage back to Chelsea.

    Gareth Taylor's team City became the first team in WSL history to win 10 away games in a single season, with their only failure to win on the road coming at Arsenal in November.

    City missed plenty of chances in that game, and their bad luck in front of goal correlated with the injury to Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw against West Ham.

    Shaw missed the final three league games, having become the first player in WSL history to record a goal or assist in 10 consecutive appearances (15 goals, one assist).

    The Jamaican was prolific for City, scoring 21 times in 18 appearances, securing the Golden Boot award. Shaw was also named Football Writers Award Footballer of the Year and the WSL Player of the Year. She even became the second-quickest player to score 50 WSL goals, behind only Vivianne Miedema. Kerr is the only other player to have netted 20+ goals in back-to-back seasons, meanwhile.

    Yet City still fell short of what would have been their first title since 2016. They have now been runners-up six times (five times to Chelsea), four more than any other side. 

    Glory glory Man Utd

    Despite the end-of-season drubbing for United, the previous weekend had seen Marc Skinner and his side create history of their own, this time in the FA Cup. For the first time in 11 years, the trophy was not lifted by Arsenal, Chelsea or Man City, proving the true development around the league.

    United were featuring in the FA Cup final for the second consecutive year, having not reached this stage before 2023, and headed into the tie against Tottenham as favourites. They lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the 2022-23 final and did not want history to repeat itself.

    They duly banished last year's demons in front of a packed Wembley, with an emphatic 4-0 win.

    Ella Toone's eye-catching strike in the first half set the tone before a goal for Rachel Williams and Lucia Garcia's double added gloss to a convincing scoreline, despite Beth England hitting the crossbar for Spurs.

    United became the 18th different winner of the women’s FA Cup. 

    Gunners have their say

    Arsenal pushed Man City and Chelsea all the way this season and although in the remaining few weeks they struggled to keep pace, they did have their say on both their rivals’ seasons endings.

    The title race was effectively lost for Man City after they lost 2-1 in the dying minutes of their clash with Arsenal.

    Similarly, the Gunners also got the better of Chelsea with a last-minute winner in the League Cup final, with Arsenal having won that trophy in successive seasons.

    Striker Stina Blackstenius scored on both occasions, netting three important goals to secure silverware for Arsenal, frustrating Chelsea and ultimately ensuring City went empty-handed for another season. The Swede has 43 goals in 83 appearances for the Gunners and these big moments helped secure her a new contract.

    So long, but maybe not farewell

    The WSL has had some legends grace it over the years. World Cup winners and European champions have rocked up in the competition and it has become arguably one of the most sought-after leagues to play in.

    But Hayes' was not the only shock departure.

    Arsenal striker and the WSL's all-time leading goalscorer Miedema announced she would be leaving the Gunners at the end of her contract on a free transfer. With 125 goals and 50 assists for the Gunners over a seven-year period, the Dutch European Championship winner is bowing out a legend.

    She has been out for most of the season, recovering from an ACL injury, but it's a shock to see such a talent allowed to leave. 

    Many clubs in the WSL and around the world will relish the chance to have Miedema, who is only 27, pull on their shirt next season.

    This season has been one of fond farewells, great goals, and record attendances. Next season promises to be continue the trend.

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