EPL

Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly asks to leave Man Utd

By Sports Desk July 02, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester United for a second time, according to a report.

Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford last year, having enjoyed a remarkable career in 12 seasons away with Real Madrid and Juventus.

But the veteran striker's homecoming campaign did not go entirely to plan, even if he scored 24 goals in all competitions.

United finished sixth in the Premier League, enduring a fifth successive season without silverware and finishing with their lowest points tally in the competition.

Ronaldo, who won three league titles and the Champions League during his first United stint, has since been linked with moves away from the club.

And The Times reported on Saturday that the 37-year-old has now asked United to be allowed to leave if they receive "a satisfactory offer".

The report suggests Ronaldo wants to spend the final years of his career playing in the Champions League, with United having to settle for Europa League football in 2022-23.

United are expected to bring in the first signing of the Erik ten Hag era in the coming days, with Feyenoord defender Tyrell Malacia reportedly set to join. According to widespread reports, the club are also in talks with Barcelona over Frenkie de Jong.

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  • Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: France or Brazil? Plus Messi and Ronaldo's chances – Stats Perform AI predicts the finals Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: France or Brazil? Plus Messi and Ronaldo's chances – Stats Perform AI predicts the finals

    Fans' wait for the World Cup has, of course, been a little longer than normal this time around – ordinarily the tournament would've already been completed.

    Nevertheless, the big kick-off is closing in with Qatar 2022 now just 100 days away – we're into the final straight!

    As with any major tournament, predicting a winner in the build-up is just a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can often be a fool's errand.

    But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data might just give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform come in.

    Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

    Every match has been run through the Stats Perform World Cup prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

    It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

    Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.

    Let's check out the results…

    FAVOURITES: France (17.9 per cent)

    Suspend your disbelief! Yes, reigning champions France have the greatest probability of winning the World Cup this year, with our model giving them an almost 18-per cent chance of clinching a third title.

    But let's not overlook how remarkable an achievement that would be. No team has retained the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, and the only other occasion of that happening was in the 1930s when Italy won it back-to-back.

    France were the favourites heading into Euro 2020 but were ultimately disappointing – they'll need to do significantly better here otherwise their fate could be sealed by the dreaded winners' curse.

    Each of the past four European winners of the World Cup have been eliminated in the group stages, a trend that began with Les Bleus in 2002.

    2. Brazil (15.7 per cent)

    Another unsurprising entry. That's right, record winners Brazil come in at second in terms of likelihood of winning the World Cup.

    Tite's side qualified with ease and clearly have an extremely talented group of players available to them – the problem is getting them all on the pitch at one time while retaining a cohesive and balanced shape.

    If Tite can find the magic formula at the World Cup this time, at the very least you'd expect them to get beyond the quarter-finals, the stage they crashed out to Belgium four years ago in Kazan.

    Failure, however, will mean Brazil's World Cup drought will stretch to 24 years by the time the 2026 edition comes around, and that would make it their joint-longest barren run in the competition since claiming their first title in 1958.

    3. Spain (11.5 per cent)

    La Roja aren't the force they were as recently as 10 years ago, when they won a third successive major international tournament with victory at Euro 2012.

    However, Luis Enrique has turned them into a side that is easy on the eye and capable of carving open the best teams – their main issue in recent years has been finding a reliable striker, and that'll likely be what determines how far they get in Qatar.

    Either way, we can surely expect a better showing than they managed in Russia, where they were hindered by the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup as a result of accepting a post-tournament role at Real Madrid.

    4. England (8.0 per cent)

    The Three Lions almost won their first major international trophy since 1966 last year at Euro 2020, only to fall at the final hurdle against Italy.

    Either way, few can deny it was a sign of progress: they reached the Russia 2018 semi-finals, the final at Euro 2020, so surely Qatar 2022 is theirs already?

    Gareth Southgate has made England an effective tournament side, even if doubts remain over his ability to impose a style of play that sees the Three Lions take the initiative against the biggest teams.

    Similarly, their performances in the first round of Nations League fixtures in June left a lot to be desired, but that won't stop expectations from soaring in Qatar.

    5. Belgium (7.9 per cent)

    Squeezing into the top five ahead of the Netherlands (7.7 per cent) are Belgium, who reached the semi-finals four years ago before being eliminated by eventual winners France.

    It's fair to say this is likely to be the last opportunity for the Red Devils' so-called 'golden generation' to truly leave its mark on a major tournament – in fact, many original members of that Belgium generation have already retired.

    While success for Roberto Martinez's side looks unlikely, they are a match for any team on their day, and our probability score recognises they are by no means out of contention.

    THE REST OF THE FIELD

    Netherlands and Germany (7.2) are hard on Belgium's heels in our predictor table, though in both cases fans might feel their squads have more to offer than their neighbours.

    Both teams have solid blends of experience and youthful exuberance, while the two coaches have vast experience – Louis van Gaal needs no introduction, while Hansi Flick has been involved in the Germany setup for much of his coaching career.

    But the teams many will be looking out for because of certain individuals are Argentina (6.5 per cent) and Portugal (5.1 per cent).

    They are the only other two to be given more than a 2.3 per cent chance of World Cup success, and given the presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, they cannot be discounted.

    Argentina have rebuilt since a somewhat shambolic campaign in Russia, with Lionel Scaloni inspiring La Albiceleste to their first Copa America in 28 years in 2021.

    Messi was central to their triumph in that tournament, and now he's got the proverbial monkey off his back, there's hope Argentina could produce a respectable showing.

    With Ronaldo 37 and Messi 35, it's unlikely either will play another World Cup. Given the tournament is synonymous with those generally regarded as the best ever – Pele and Diego Maradona – they will be desperate to crown their respective careers.

    This is it.

    10. Croatia (2.3 per cent)
    11. Denmark (2.0 per cent)
    12. Uruguay (1.5 per cent)
    13. Mexico (1.4 per cent)
    14. Switzerland (1.0 per cent)
    15. Poland (0.8 per cent)
    16. Iran (0.6 per cent)
    17. Japan (0.5 per cent)
    18. United States (0.5 per cent)
    19. Wales (0.4 per cent)
    20. Qatar (0.4 per cent)
    21. South Korea (0.4 per cent)
    22. Serbia (0.2 per cent)
    23. Senegal (0.2 per cent)
    24. Ecuador (0.2 per cent)
    25. Australia (0.1 per cent)
    26. Ghana (

  • Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: Bremer, Botman, Bourigeaud and the uncapped players desperate for World Cup inclusion Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: Bremer, Botman, Bourigeaud and the uncapped players desperate for World Cup inclusion

    The European domestic season is now back up and running, meaning we are officially into a World Cup campaign.

    For some players, the main focus over the next few months will be remaining fit with the hope of entering Qatar 2022 in peak condition for their respective nations.

    For others, the first part of the 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to play themselves into contention for a squad place ahead of the biggest tournament of them all.

    That includes an array of talented stars who have yet to represent their countries at senior level, but who could be given the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage.

    With the big kick-off now just 100 days away, Stats Perform has identified five uncapped players who still have an outside shot of glory in Qatar.


    Gleison Bremer (Brazil) – 25, centre-back, Juventus

    If Bremer was not on the radar of Brazil head coach Tite ahead of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old certainly will be now. He ranked first among Serie A defenders last term for duels contested (451) and also led the way for headed clearances (75), showing that he can be relied upon at the back.

    Indeed, Bremer's form last time out led to Juventus splashing out a reported €50million to sign him from Torino during the close season. Brazil must be quick, though, as the Italian top-flight's best defender last season is also eligible to represent the Azzurri.

    Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Lazio

    Goalkeeper Maximiano is another who moved to a club of bigger stature just a few months out from the World Cup beginning after swapping relegated Granada, where he impressed in his only campaign, for Serie A side Lazio. The 23-year-old certainly had a chance to showcase his shot-stopping abilities last season, with his 127 saves the most of any keeper in LaLiga, and the fifth-most of anyone in Europe's top five leagues.

    Following the departure of long-serving Thomas Strakosha, Maximiano will be installed as first choice at Stadio Olimpico, where Portugal boss Fernando Santos may make a visit or two in the coming months.



    Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Newcastle United

    Despite catching the eye in Ligue 1 with Lille, particularly in 2020-21 when starting 37 of the 38 matches played in their stunning title-winning campaign, Botman has remained on the periphery of the Netherlands squad. He has been a regular for the Oranje at Under-21 level, but after joining Newcastle in a £31.8m (€37m) transfer last month, he is surely now in serious consideration for a place in the senior squad.

    Having led the way among Lille players last time out per 90 minutes for successful passes (53.4), blocks (0.84) and headed clearances (2.2), the Dutchman will hope to hit the ground running in another new league.

     

    Benjamin Bourigeaud (France) – 28, attacking midfielder, Rennes

    Reigning world champions France are blessed with world-class talent right across the pitch, but could there be room for a wild card in the form of Bourigeaud? The versatile attacking midfielder can play in a number of positions, though was predominantly used out on the right in what was a career-best season last time out in Ligue 1.

    While France are hardly crying out for another player to slot into the final third, Bourigeaud's 23 direct goal involvements for Rennes last season is a tally bettered by only four others, while his David Beckham-esque deliveries from wide can provide something a little different for Didier Deschamps' men.

    Inaki Williams (Ghana) – 28, forward, Athletic Bilbao

    Ghana's squad has been completely transformed since booking their place in Qatar, having persuaded six players to switch allegiance and represent them at the World Cup. Patric Pfeiffer, Stephen Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer are all available for selection, as are Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

    Each of those players will enhance Otto Addo's squad, with Williams – capped once by Spain in a friendly – possibly a game-changing option in attack. He is someone who can be replied upon, too, having appeared in each of Athletic's past 233 LaLiga matches, a run spanning back to April 2016. 

  • Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: Test your knowledge with our World Cup quiz! Qatar 2022 – 100 days to go: Test your knowledge with our World Cup quiz!

    It's getting close. We may have had to wait an extra five months than usual, but the 2022 World Cup is now just 100 days away.

    A likely last hurrah on the World Cup stage awaits superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, while new names will break through and rising talent will be put to the test.

    Eight nations have been champions of the tournament that was first staged in 1930, and it will be France looking to defend the title this time.

    Many of us pride ourselves on remembering World Cup trivia from past tournaments, but just how good is your knowledge?

    These Opta-assisted 20 questions should sort the group-stage flops from the champions of World Cup quizzing. The answers are below, but don't cheat!

    The first...

    1. Name the English boss who at Qatar 2022 will become the first to coach a team at both the men's and women's World Cups?

    2. Gregg Berhalter will become the first man to serve as player and manager of the USA at the World Cup. He appeared at the 2002 tournament and is now boss of the American side. To which present-day Premier League club did Berhalter then belong, becoming their first World Cup player?

    3. Who became the first player to score a Golden Goal winner at the World Cup when he netted for France against Paraguay in a 1998 last-16 clash?

    4. In the 2018 showdown between France and Croatia, who became the first player in World Cup final history to score for both teams?

    5. Qatar will attempt to become the first nation from the AFC confederation to win their first World Cup finals match. Ten of the previous 11 have lost (including Israel in 1970), but who were the team who in 1982 managed a 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia?

    The last...

    6. There have been 52 hat-tricks in the tournament's history, but who was the last player to score a treble in the knockout stages of the World Cup?

    7. A goalkeeper won his 159th and final international cap at the 2018 finals, when he became the oldest player to appear at the World Cup, at the age of 45 years and 161 days. He saved a penalty in a 2-1 defeat for his team against Saudi Arabia. Who was that goalkeeper and what team did he play for?

    8. Ghana reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010 and Senegal did so at the 2002 finals. But who were the first team from Africa to make it to the last eight, doing so at the 1990 finals in Italy?

    9. Brazil last lost a group game at the World Cup in 1998, since when they have won 12 and drawn three games at the first-round stage. Which team beat them in that 1998 tournament?

    10. Cameroon have lost each of their past seven games at the World Cup (between 2002 and 2014). Only one team have ever lost more games in a row in the competition's history – nine between 1930 and 1958. Who were that team?

    The most...

    11. Just Fontaine scored his 13 World Cup goals in just six games for France. The competition's all-time record scorer is Germany's Miroslav Klose, who netted 16 times for his country in how many appearances: 22, 23 or 24?

    12. Who will become the only team to have appeared at all 22 editions of the World Cup when they take part in Qatar 2022?

    13. Iran will be making their sixth appearance at the World Cup and have never gone beyond the group stage. Which country has made the most appearances (eight) without making it past the first round?

    14. Which forward had the most goal involvements of all players in European qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, scoring 12 and assisting six times in 10 games?

    15. Since 1966, only three players have completed more than 12 dribbles in a single World Cup game, with Brazil's Jairzinho achieving 13 against Paraguay in 1970 and Paul Gascoigne matching that total for England against Cameroon in 1990. Who managed the most – 15 in a game against Italy at the 1994 tournament?

    The GOATs...

    16. Which superstar, who scored eight times and provided eight assists in 21 World Cup games, also holds the record for the most handball decisions given against a player at the tournament (seven) since records began?

    17. Who holds the record for the most minutes played in World Cup history, having featured in 2,216 minutes of finals action?

    18. Portugal great Cristiano Ronaldo is one of only four players to score in four different World Cup tournaments. He will attempt to go one better this year, but Ronaldo currently sits alongside Pele, Klose and which other player?

    19. Between them, Ronaldo (seven) and Lionel Messi (six) have managed 13 World Cup goals. How many of those goals came in the knockout rounds?

    20. Ronaldo is one of just two European players to have either scored and/or assisted a goal in each of the last five major international tournaments (World Cup/European Championship). Who is the other player to have managed the feat?

     

    Answers:

    1. John Herdman (Canada – he managed Canada Women at the 2015 Women's World Cup)
    2. Crystal Palace
    3. Laurent Blanc (France)
    4. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
    5. Kuwait.
    6. Tomas Skuhravy (for Czechoslovakia against Costa Rica, last 16, 1990)
    7. Essam El Hadary (Egypt)
    8. Cameroon
    9. Norway
    10. Mexico
    11. 24
    12. Brazil
    13. Scotland
    14. Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
    15. Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria)
    16. Diego Maradona (Argentina)
    17. Paolo Maldini (Italy)
    18. Uwe Seeler (West Germany)
    19. Zero
    20. Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

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