Cristiano Ronaldo having no 'sleepless nights' over Juventus future

By Sports Desk June 14, 2021

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo insists his sole focus is on Euro 2020 and reports of interest from rival clubs are causing him no "sleepless nights".

Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juve in 2019, but the move has not worked out quite as planned.

Although the Bianconeri won the Serie A title for a ninth successive season in the forward's first campaign, they lost their crown to Inter this term and scraped Champions League qualification.

Success in Europe's premier club competition, which Ronaldo won five times with Manchester United and Madrid, continues to evade the Turin giants.

A frustrating season ended with Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Andrea Pirlo, and there has been speculation Ronaldo could follow his coach out of the door.

Madrid, United and Paris Saint-Germain have been credited with an interest in a player who continues to deliver superb individual results.

Ronaldo's 29 goals in 2020-21 won the Capocannoniere, having previously also been the top scorer in the Premier League and LaLiga.

Since joining Juve, only Robert Lewandowski (103) has scored more goals in all competitions than Ronaldo's 73 among players in Europe's top five leagues.

The 36-year-old's 83 goal involvements rank fourth behind Lewandowski (121), Lionel Messi (106) and Kylian Mbappe (97).

Those returns would surely interest a host of clubs, but Ronaldo is not looking any further ahead than the Euros, with Portugal starting their title defence against Hungary on Tuesday.

"I've been playing at the highest level for many years. This doesn't faze me at all," Ronaldo said ahead of the Hungary game.

"If I were starting out, if I were 18 or 19, I'd have some sleepless nights. But I'm 36 years old and whatever comes will be for the best

"Regardless of staying in Juve or being transferred, the crucial thing is the Euros. For me, it's my fifth Euros, but it's like my first. I want to start on the right foot and we want to play a good match."

 

Ronaldo holds the record for the most games (21), most goals (nine, tied with Michel Platini) and most tournaments with at least one goal (four) at the European Championship.

With 104 international goals, he is also closing on Ali Daei's benchmark of 109.

Adding to that tally in the group stage of Euro 2020 will be tough, though, with Portugal drawn into a pool with Hungary, France and Germany. They have not won their opening game at a tournament since Euro 2008.

But Ronaldo is confident his side are ready, explaining: "If you tell me that we're going to lose tomorrow and win the Euros, that's my choice.

"But I think the team is ready, physically and emotionally. Our players are young, but that doesn't prevent us from dreaming. I'm sure we will have a great tournament and I know, for sure, all the players are ready."

Only Spain, in 2008 and 2012, have previously won back-to-back European Championships.

"We are not the same team as we were in 2016," Ronaldo added. "This is a younger team, a team with great potential and only by playing will we know if we are better or worse than 2016.

"On a personal level, I'm not the same player I was 18 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago. We keep adjusting. The most intelligent thing about a football player is the ability to adjust.

"I'm more mature. If a player wants to play for many years, he needs to know how to adjust and adapt.

"The numbers speak for themselves; from 18 to 36, I've learned to adapt regardless of winning silverware.

"On a personal level, I've always been able to win. The same on a collective level, too. I think I've adjusted throughout my career."

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  • Transfer deadline day: Five standout deals as clubs went shopping for game-changers Transfer deadline day: Five standout deals as clubs went shopping for game-changers

    Chelsea completed an extraordinary spending spree by landing World Cup star Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, the biggest deal of transfer deadline day.

    It was Premier League clubs that featured front and centre as big-name players found new homes on Tuesday, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City kept busy.

    Deals struck on this day can be born of desperation; however, if the right player becomes available, those that jump at the opportunity to reinforce might be thankful they took that choice come May.

    Here Stats Perform assesses five deals that went through and could prove hugely significant come the season's end.

    Enzo Fernandez: Benfica to Chelsea, £106.8million

    A World Cup wonder for Argentina, Fernandez's stock soared over four weeks in Qatar, to the point he became linked to the wealthiest clubs in Europe.

    It was Chelsea owner Todd Boehly who lasted the distance in the race for his signature, adding Fernandez to the previous window deals for Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana, Joao Felix, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto.

    Fernandez has only played half a season in Europe after moving to Benfica from River Plate, so there is an element of risk in Chelsea's investment, regardless of his national team performances alongside Lionel Messi and co.

    He has played five Champions League group games, and the 22-year-old has looked the part, with his arrival handing Graham Potter another expensive plaything. This means there can be no excuses now for the head coach as he looks to turn the Blues into a winning machine.

    Marcel Sabitzer: Bayern Munich to Manchester United (loan)

    Bayern Munich decided they could afford to part company with Sabitzer, with the former RB Leipzig midfielder jetting out to secure a move to Manchester United, swapping one European giant for another.

    It was reported Erik ten Hag fancied Ryan Gravenberch, his former Ajax player, but Bayern were said to have resisted that interest and instead allowed United to take Austria international Sabitzer.

    He emerged as a surprising spare part for Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann, with Sabitzer having featured in 23 games for the Bundesliga leaders this season, albeit starting only 11 times.

    Ten Hag will certainly like the fact Sabitzer has a duel success rate of 58.77 per cent – the highest of his career – this season.

    He is not a like-for-like replacement for the injured Christian Eriksen, but Sabitzer brings his own qualities, will want to prove a point, and should not let United down over the coming four months.

    Jorginho: Chelsea to Arsenal, £12million

    Arsenal wanted Moises Caicedo and were prepared to pay a king's ransom for the Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder. They settled for Jorginho, a Euro 2020 champion with Italy and Champions League winner with Chelsea, paying a small fraction of the fee they would have had to spend on Caicedo.

    A deal worth around £12million looks sensible business, and Jorginho makes the jump from 10th-placed Chelsea to the table-topping Gunners, seeking the first domestic league title of his career.

    He played 25 games this season for the Blues, scoring three penalties but not managing any goals other than those spot-kicks, nor any assists.

    Some Arsenal fans have grumbled over the signing, but Jorginho brings defensive qualities and experience of winning, which for Arsenal in recent years has been in short supply.

    Joao Cancelo: Manchester City to Bayern Munich (loan with option to buy)

    Bayern brought in goalkeeper Yann Sommer earlier in the window after Manuel Neuer suffered a season-ending broken leg. That was a deal that many saw coming, but the move for Cancelo came out of the sky blue, reportedly after a disagreement with Pep Guardiola saw City happy to offload the full-back.

    It went through on Tuesday, opening up the possibility of Cancelo being a Premier League and Bundesliga winner in the same season.

    He looks set to feature at right-back for Bayern, with Alphonso Davies featuring on the left. It means Bayern will have a pair of attacking full-backs that will put the fear up opponents.

    With Bayern in a slump, drawing their past three Bundesliga games, it felt important for there to be a new face coming in. Cancelo, until very recently a favourite of Guardiola, is used to winning things with City so should fit in well at Sabener Strasse.

    Pedro Porro: Sporting CP to Tottenham (loan with obligation to buy)

    Three and a half years since he joined Manchester City, Porro should finally make his debut in English football after being recruited to fill the right-back role for Antonio Conte at Spurs.

    This has the makings of a masterstroke signing, with Spain international Porro having caught Spurs' eye in the Champions League group stage earlier this season. He previously played for Real Valladolid while farmed out on loan from City, for whom he never played a competitive senior game.

    He represents an upgrade on Matt Doherty, who was released to join Atletico Madrid, and may have the edge on Emerson Royal, with Conte bringing in a player with serious defensive and attacking qualities.

    Among defenders with 10 or more appearances and at least 10 tackles, Porro's 78.95 per cent tackle success rate ranks as the sixth-best in the Portuguese Primeira Liga this season.

    Meanwhile, only one defender, Benfica's Alejandro Grimaldo, has created more chances than Porro's 34 from 14 games, which have brought him six assists.

    Porro ranks second among defenders in the Portuguese top flight for the most crosses played too, with 108 to Grimaldo's 116. Significantly, though, Porro has played 526 minutes fewer than Grimaldo, illustrating how effective the Spurs new boy has been when on the pitch.

  • Is Chelsea new-boy Enzo Fernandez worth over £100million? Is Chelsea new-boy Enzo Fernandez worth over £100million?

    Football can feel like a Formula One race at times, with things moving so rapidly that if you blink for a second, you could miss something.

    For example, few would have been able to predict six months ago that in January 2023, a player called Enzo Fernandez would be joining Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee of £106.8million (€121m).

    Not even many Benfica fans knew much about the midfielder when he arrived from River Plate for a reported fee of €12m in July.

    Fernandez had been making a name for himself in his home country, with a loan spell at Defensa y Justicia under former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo convincing River Plate to give him a chance, which he took.

    After 52 appearances for Los Millonarios, interest from Europe saw Fernandez linked with some big names, and it was Benfica who took the plunge.

    The Lisbon club will be pleased they did after making a profit of well over €100m after just half a season, with the midfielder not only impressing in the Primeira Liga and Champions League, but also starring for Argentina as they lifted the World Cup in Qatar last month, with Fernandez claiming the FIFA Best Young Player of the Tournament award.

    Is he really worth all that money, though?

    Chelsea clearly think so, and in Fernandez they have bought a player who will feel like a dream come true for head coach Graham Potter.

    In his time at Brighton and Hove Albion, Potter delighted in building midfields that could dominate the ball, that could keep hold of possession while also making incisive passes to turn the opposition around.

    Despite being one of the smaller clubs in the Premier League, Potter's Brighton averaged 54.3 per cent possession in league games in 2021-22 (only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea had more), while averaging 496 passes per game, and 59 passes into the final third per game (sixth in the league for both metrics).

    Only Man City, Arsenal and, funnily enough, Brighton have a higher possession average than Chelsea since Potter took charge at Stamford Bridge in September, while only City have attempted more passes than the Blues, which will be where Fernandez comes in.

    The man who only turned 22 earlier on January 17 is a passing machine, having completed 1,431 in total in just 17 Primeira Liga games, over 200 more than the player with the next most in the Portuguese top-flight.

    It is not simply quantity over quality either, as Fernandez has also made 248 passes into the final third, at least 51 more than any other player.

    Not only do they lead the league in terms of the table, but Benfica are also league leaders in averages for possession (66.0 per cent), passes per game (623) and passes ending in the final third per game (70.6). Their style enables Fernandez, but in turn, his ability allows them to execute it, which must have Potter salivating. 

    Fernandez showed similar form in the Champions League as Benfica surprisingly won a group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, before going on to star in the World Cup as well.

    Several big clubs had already taken a shine to him, but the astonishing figure shelled out for him by Chelsea was no doubt rubber-stamped after his performances in Qatar, with Fernandez leading all players in the epic final between Argentina and France for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His 10 tackles were the most of any player in a World Cup final since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15).

    But is he better than what Chelsea already have?

    In the Blues' midfield this season, Mateo Kovacic leads the way in terms of number of passes per 90 in Premier League games (69.0), ahead of Jorginho (61.7), with no other player to have played more than five games averaging even 50.

    Fernandez has been averaging 84.18 successful passes per game in Portugal, though consideration must be given to the difference in strength between the Premier League and Primeira Liga. In fact, it is the second-most of any midfielder in any of Europe's top 10 leagues this season, behind only Manchester City's Rodri (84.58), and ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti (78.06) and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos (74.53).

    There is also the Argentine's creativity to take into account, with Chelsea struggling to score goals this season having only managed 22 in 20 league games so far.

    In league games, of those to have played more than twice, Conor Gallagher is averaging the most chances created from open play of Potter's midfield options at 1.59 per game, followed by Carney Chukwuemeka (1.38) and Mason Mount (1.24). Fernandez has averaged 1.62 per game.

    When you consider that Potter already had Kovacic, Mount, Gallagher, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Denis Zakaria, Lewis Hall and Chukwuemeka to choose from, with Jorginho having departed for Arsenal on deadline day, you might think spending nine figures on another midfielder to be somewhat indulgent.

    With the early promise and potential trajectory of Fernandez though, Chelsea have quite probably taken the next step in a long-term rebuild. Jorginho and Kante are both 31 years old and out of contract at the end of the season, and investing in the future rather than the past makes sense for a team that always wants to be challenging for the biggest trophies.

    With great spending comes great expectations though, and the pressure will be immense on Fernandez to not just shine on the big stage, but to do so immediately.

    Chelsea's newest addition could justifiably insist he has done just that with every challenge thrown at him in a short space of time, including the biggest challenge of winning the World Cup.

    Enzo will no doubt back himself to prove he can live up to the price tag and be the Ferrari that Graham Potter needs.

  • Chelsea sign World Cup star Fernandez for Premier League record fee Chelsea sign World Cup star Fernandez for Premier League record fee

    Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

    Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

    However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

    Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

    His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) in January alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the window.

    Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

    He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

    The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

    Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

    A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

    Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

    Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

    Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

    He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

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