Georginio Wijnaldum has given a unique insight into "special" Jurgen Klopp's man-management methods after revealing the Liverpool boss addressed his team ahead of the 2018 Champions League final wearing Cristiano Ronaldo-branded underwear.

The Reds boss has carved a reputation for his jovial antics and, according to midfielder Wijnaldum, the German's pre-match team-talk for the showdown against Real Madrid - for whom then-star player Ronaldo was the chief threat - was no exception after he lightened the mood in his own inimitable style.

"We saw he was wearing the boxer shorts of Cristiano Ronaldo," the Netherlands midfielder told The Athletic. 

"He did the meeting with his shirt stuffed inside his 'CR7' boxers. The whole changing room was on the floor laughing their heads off. That really broke the ice. Usually in those situations, everyone is serious and concentrated. But he was relaxed and made this joke.

"He's done hundreds of jokes likes that. If you see that your manager is really confident and relaxed, it will have an effect on players. He is a father figure in those things for the players. With his jokes and his body language, he takes the pressure off players."

Liverpool ultimately lost the game 3-1 but went one better the following season, defeating Tottenham 2-0 to claim a sixth triumph in Europe's premier competition.

It has cemented Klopp's status as one of the world's leading coaches and Wijnaldum has paid tribute to the German's man-management style.

Wijnaldum said: "He always tries to empathise with the other person, to feel what they're going through. He is a really special man for me. I see him as more than a manager - a really good friend."

He continued: "He is the kind of manager that will be angry about things in the game, or will show emotion during a game, but when it comes to half-time, he speaks with you and gives you confidence. 'You can do it better. You have to do this, have to do that…'

"He is one of the first managers I've had who doesn't get angry when you try to do the things that you are good at. He will never be angry when you try to use your talent or quality. Even if it goes wrong.

"Since I am at Liverpool, he has helped me a lot. Not only with football, but also as a person, the way you think about things. That is why I enjoy every day of working with him. I can be really mad at him one day. But the next day the anger is gone and we will love each other again."

Ajax star Donny van de Beek says he could stay at the club despite interest from "fantastic" Real Madrid.

The 22-year-old has already confirmed Madrid have contacted Ajax over a possible transfer as a successful move for Manchester United's Paul Pogba looks increasingly unlikely.

Van de Beek, who excelled in Ajax's run to the Champions League semi-finals last season, says there is nothing certain about his future but is not ruling out staying in Amsterdam.

"They're a fantastic club, but Ajax are too," he said to Ziggo Sport when asked about Madrid.

"I've nothing to complain about in that regard. There's a very good chance I'll continue playing here, but nothing is certain yet."

When pressed on whether it would be better for the club to have clarity on his future, he said: "I hope so, too, because I'm a bit fed up with all the questions about it."

Van de Beek was involved on Tuesday as Ajax claimed a 3-2 win over PAOK to secure a 5-4 aggregate triumph in the third round of Champions League qualifying.

Speaking ahead of that match, director of football Marc Overmars voiced his confidence that Van de Beek could decide to spend a little longer with the Eredivisie champions.

"I don't think it will take long for things to be clear," Overmars told Ziggo Sport.

When asked if he thought Van de Beek would stay, he replied: "I'll go for yes."

Overmars did, however, confirm there is "absolutely" interest in the player.

"I said a few weeks ago that, by a certain date, I want clarity. That date is set," he added.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag said Donny van de Beek could stay at the Eredivisie champions despite interest from Real Madrid.

Van de Beek has already confirmed Madrid are in talks with Ajax over his transfer as the LaLiga giants struggle to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United.

However, it seems €60million target and 22-year-old Netherlands international Van de Beek will remain in Amsterdam.

"[Van de Beek] only dedicates himself to playing," Ten Hag said ahead of Tuesday's second leg against PAOK, with the third-round Champions League qualifier locked at 2-2.

"I guess and I hope that he stays with us this season.

"Otherwise, I will hear from [Ajax's director of football,] Marc Overmars."

Van de Beek starred as Ajax earned a draw away to PAOK in the opening leg in Thessaloniki, while he has managed two goals in two Eredivisie matches this season.

He made 57 appearances for Ajax in 2018-19, scoring 17 goals and supplying 13 assists as Ten Hag's men clinched an Eredivisie and KNVB Beker double and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

 

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and five Liverpool players have been shortlisted for 2018-19 Champions League positional awards. 

Liverpool defeated Tottenham in the Champions League final and have seen goalkeeper Alisson, defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk, midfielder Jordan Henderson and forward Sadio Mane named among the contenders in their respective categories.

Tottenham also have representation through keeper Hugo Lloris and midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Barcelona superstar Messi, who was the top scorer in last season's competition with 12 goals, will vie with Mane and old adversary Ronaldo for the forward award.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong and defender Matthijs de Ligt – who are now at Barcelona and Juventus respectively – were also nominated after playing pivotal roles in Ajax's run to the semi-finals.

The awards will be presented during the 2019-20 Champions League group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday 29 August.

The shortlisting jury comprised the coaches of the 32 clubs from last season's group stage and journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations.

 

Full list of nominees for 2018-19 Champions League position awards:
  
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur); Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona).
 
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax, now Juventus), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool).
 
Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong (Ajax, now Barcelona), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
 
Forwards: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus).

Ajax star Donny van de Beek will play against PAOK in Champions League qualifying amid interest from Real Madrid, insisted head coach Erik ten Hag.

Van de Beek confirmed Madrid were in talks with Ajax over his transfer following Saturday's 2-2 Eredivisie draw against Vitesse.

The Netherlands international midfielder emerged as a €60million target for the LaLiga giants, who have been unable to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United.

Ajax – Champions League semi-finalists last season – will face Greek side PAOK in Tuesday's opening leg of their third-round qualifier.

Asked about Van de Beek, Ten Hag told reporters: "He has come here and is going to play.

"He'll play next week too [in the second leg]."

Van de Beek made 57 appearances for Ajax last season, scoring 17 goals and supplying 13 assists as Erik ten Hag's men clinched an Eredivisie and KNVB Beker double and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Ajax will meet either APOEL or Qarabag in the Champions League play-offs if they defeat PAOK in the third qualifying round.

Last season's semi-finalists will take on the champions of Cyprus or Azerbaijan in a two-legged tie if they overcome the 2018-19 Greek Super League winners.

Scottish champions Celtic will take on Slavia Prague if they make it through their third-round tie with CFR Cluj.

Porto or Krasnodar will face Istanbul Basaksehir or Olympiacos, while Basel or LASK will meet Club Brugge or Dynamo Kiev.

Swiss champions Young Boys await Red Star Belgrade or Copenhagen, and Dinamo Zagreb or Ferencvaros will play Maribor or Rosenborg.

The first legs of the third-round matches are on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the return games on August 13.

The play-off matches take place on August 20-21 and August 27-28.

 

Pep Guardiola insists he will not gamble Manchester City's domestic dominance to go all in for Champions League glory.

City became the first team for a decade to win back-to-back Premier League titles last season before going on to complete an unprecedented domestic treble.

However, as was the case during his time at Bayern Munich, two-time Champions League winner Guardiola found Europe's top competition to prove elusive once more as eventual runners-up Tottenham prevailed against City on away goals in a thrilling quarter-final.

On the eve of beginning his fourth season as City boss with a Community Shield showdown against Liverpool, the Champions League looms even larger as the one major prize left to win, but Guardiola feels the consistency that has returned top-flight points hauls of 100 and 98 in consecutive seasons is too valuable to sacrifice.

"The Champions League is an important tournament, difficult to win," he said. "But I don't want to go to the casino and gamble everything I have in my pocket for seven games [the Champions League knockout stages]. I don’t want it.

"I think I want to be happy during 11 months. It makes me happy, the Premier League, every game in the cups. When I win, the days after I am happier. I go to the restaurants better, I feel better, I work better with my players. That's what it gives me.

"Am I going to wait until February to play seven games with everything on black colour? From my point of view, it's too risky.

"Normally, when you have history behind it helps a lot. We are trying to build it and I think in Europe we will be closer when we win more Premier Leagues and Premier Leagues and Premier Leagues.

"I would sign right now to do what we did last season again. Right now. Not winning the Champions League and four titles [including the Community Shield] again in this season."

City's status as a relatively newcomer among Europe's elite was a factor Guardiola also touched upon when discussing the absence of his players from this week's FIFA Best Awards shortlist.

"It is because Manchester City is in this position the last decade. We are new in these situations," he said.

"I cannot imagine Real Madrid and Barcelona winning four titles and not one single player being there [on the shortlist].

"I don’t think there is one player who made a better season than Bernardo Silva last season, even winning [The Nations League] with Portugal.

"This club, for example, in eight years won four Premier Leagues. It is quite remarkable. And never in these four seasons was one of our players nominated the best in the league. Never

"Huge respect for Mohamed Salah [who won the PFA and FWA awards in 2017-18], but Kevin De Bruyne that season, guys, when we made 100 points was above and beyond the normal situations."

That description could be applied to both City and Liverpool collectively last time around, as they amassed a combined 195 Premier League points.

Liverpool overcame the disappointment of City pipping them to the title by winning the Champions League.

Guardiola phoned Jurgen Klopp to pass on his congratulations after they beat Spurs 2-0 in Madrid and dismissed the suggestion that the Reds' exploits had taken the shine off his own team's achievements.

"Why can we not share the glory?" he asked ahead of the latest chapter in a burgeoning sporting rivalry. "We would like to win the Champions League – big respect to Liverpool. Winning the Champions League is so difficult, so, so complicated.

"That's why winning the Champions League gets all credit. But why is it higher than what we have done over 11 months?

"I'm pretty sure Liverpool would have liked to win the last Premier League after 30 years not winning the Premier League.

"Both teams were fantastic last season. Why do you have to say this team is better than the other one? Both were good."

Alisson has warned Liverpool's rivals at home and abroad that a Champions League triumph will not be enough to satisfy the club's ambitions this season.

Jurgen Klopp's side were crowned kings of Europe last term but had to settle for second spot in the Premier League behind Manchester City.

The Reds' top-flight title drought now spans 29 years but optimism is rife around Anfield.

Liverpool pushed City all the way in the 2018-19 campaign and Pep Guardiola's side ultimately won the Premier League by just one point. 

Alisson wants to go one better in the league this time around as Liverpool eye success across all competitions. 

"We are excited but we have to keep our feet on the ground, just as we did last season," Alisson told Liverpool's official website.

"We want to try for everything this season so we need to work.

"The level of the football is high and similar at every club so we need to work hard to achieve the same things and achieve even more this season."

Alisson only returned to Liverpool this week after a busy off-season in which he helped Brazil to Copa America glory.

"It's a special title, as is the Champions League," he added.

"So it was an important title for me, for the nation. For Brazil, it's been a long time since we won it – the last time was 2007, if I am not mistaken, so it was important for us.

"To win two titles, two big titles during the season was great for me. I hope this season – and I will work this season – to make it more."

Cristiano Ronaldo is confident Serie A giants Juventus will win the Champions League, insisting "it's coming".

After eight successive Serie A titles, Juve are eyeing European glory following five runners-up medals since their last Champions League triumph in 1996.

Ronaldo – a five-time Champions League winner who celebrated four titles with Real Madrid – was unable to help Juve past the quarter-finals in his first season last term.

However, Ronaldo believes Maurizio Sarri's Juve are poised to conquer Europe, sooner rather than later.

"After winning what I won at Madrid I needed a change and new motivation," Ronaldo told Marca.

"I still have the strength to keep winning.

"Juventus will win the Champions League. I don't know if it'll be this year or the next, but it's coming."

Ronaldo was speaking after receiving the prestigious Marca Leyenda award "for his successful career as a professional footballer and for the standing he has attained across the world."

The 34-year-old superstar made a seamless transition from Madrid to Juve, helping the Italian giants to their eighth successive Serie A crown in 2018-19.

The veteran scored 28 goals in all competitions last season, 21 of those coming in the league.

Neymar has been defended by his father after the Paris Saint-Germain star claimed Barcelona's 6-1 Champions League win over his current employers was a career highlight.

PSG forward Neymar caused controversy when he failed to report in the French capital for pre-season training, with the club stating they would take "appropriate action", although the player's camp insisted it had been agreed he would not return until July 15.

The club's sporting director Leonardo later confirmed Neymar wished to leave PSG, though he stressed a move would only be sanctioned if a suitable offer was made, with Barca seemingly favourites to land their former forward despite the €120million arrival of Antoine Griezmann.

And Neymar - who is due to return to PSG on Monday - risked causing further anger when he declared Barca's magnificent comeback victory at Camp Nou in 2016-17 as one of his best memories from a professional dressing room.

However, Neymar's father has come to his son's defence, insisting the 27-year-old has not disrespected PSG with remarks that are similar to some he made two years ago.

"My son has not been lacking respect to PSG or the athletes who played that game in 2017," Neymar Sr. wrote on his official Instagram account.

"Some of them [involved in that game] are currently his club mates in France. From the end of that game to today, he always remembers this match as one of the most important in his career.

"There are a few journalists and fans around the world who consider this as the most important game of the athlete at the club. So why the controversy this time?

"My son is an athlete of PSG, but he cannot just ignore his history, history that made him reach the French club."

Harry Kane says Tottenham are motivated to become an even stronger team following last season's Champions League final heartbreak.

A 2-0 loss to Premier League rivals Liverpool in June's showpiece denied Spurs what would have been a first major trophy since 2008.

Goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi gave Liverpool victory in Madrid, where Kane returned from injury but struggled to make an impact.

But Kane is hopeful the European run will not be a one-off for his side, who have moved to strengthen by bringing in Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club-record fee.

"I think it just motivates you to get better," Kane told Sky Sports. "With the Champions League final, you want to play in those games all the time.

"We know it's going to be tough to get back there this year and it's down to us to perform."

Spurs finished the 2018-19 campaign fourth in the Premier League to guarantee themselves a place in the Champions League group stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo will do everything in his power to ensure next season is one to remember for Juventus after a mixed first campaign in Turin following his move from Real Madrid.

The Portuguese forward won the Serie A title in 2018-19 and was named the division's Most Valuable Player after scoring 21 times and setting up a further eight goals for his team-mates.

But he could not inspire his side to glory in the Champions League as Juve exited the competition at the hands of Ajax in the quarter-finals – although his hat-trick knocked out Atletico Madrid a round earlier - while Juve also crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Atalanta at the same stage.

Ronaldo, enjoying an extended break at home in Madeira before heading back to Juventus for pre-season training, has now set his sights on adding more silverware to his collection following Portugal's collection of the inaugural Nations League crown.

"I am proud to be here [in Madeira], to see my family. I will stop here for the next two days," he told O Jogo.

"I am always ready for a great season. The goal is to always give the maximum to try to win trophies."

Juventus, now coached by ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, take on Tottenham in their first pre-season friendly on July 21.

The wait for Tottenham is over – they have finally signed a player!

After what felt like an eternity since their last new arrival, Mauricio Pochettino's side have signed teenage winger Jack Clarke from Leeds United - and there could be more to follow in this transfer window.

The previous time Tottenham added a new face to the squad was on January 31, 2018, when Lucas Moura arrived from Paris Saint-Germain.

Plenty has happened in the period since the Brazilian landed in north London. We take a look at how the world has changed in the past 18 months.

MADRID'S MANAGERIAL MERRY-GO-ROUND

Five days after winning a third successive Champions League, Zinedine Zidane announced his departure from Real Madrid. But his replacement - Julen Lopetegui - did not last long, and was sacked in November.

Santiago Solari took over, but he too found himself out of the role within a matter of months, and on March 11, Zidane returned for his second spell in charge of Los Blancos.

Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, left Madrid for good, going on to star as Juventus cruised to another Serie A title - in total, the Portuguese star has scored 55 goals for club and country since January 31, 2018, while Lionel Messi has netted an astonishing 72.

CITY'S DOMESTIC DOMINANCE AND FOOTBALL (ALMOST) COMES HOME

By the end of January 2018, Pep Guardiola had yet to win anything at Manchester City. Since then, however, the Spaniard has lifted the Premier League twice, the EFL Cup in successive seasons and also the FA Cup, completing a domestic treble at Wembley in May.

Meanwhile, Liverpool, who ran City close in the Premier League last term, have made it to two Champions League finals, losing in 2018 to Real Madrid before beating Spurs 2-0 this year in an all-English showdown in Madrid.

While English sides have enjoyed success in Europe, England have also undergone a rejuvenation under Gareth Southgate, reaching the semi-finals of a World Cup before also enjoying further success in the Nations League.

TRANSFER RECORDS TUMBLE

While Liverpool had already brought in Virgil van Dijk for a record fee for a defender by the time Lucas signed for Tottenham, the Reds then smashed the previous amount paid for a goalkeeper when they drafted in Alisson from Roma for a reported £56million.

The record did not last long, with Chelsea paying £72m for Kepa Arrizabalaga a few weeks later.

Overall, the rest of the Premier League's so called 'big six' have spent over £600m on new players since Spurs' previous signing.

PREMIER LEAGUE LEGENDS HEAD INTO MANAGEMENT

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both took their first senior management roles in 2018, taking charge of Rangers and Derby County respectively.

Lampard's efforts with the Rams look set to have landed him the Chelsea job after Maurizio Sarri's one-season stay, with the Blues in talks to bring their former player and record scorer back to Stamford Bridge.

Paul Scholes also took charge at Oldham Athletic, but quit after just 31 days. Thierry Henry tried to arrest an alarming Monaco slump, yet his reign was short and not so sweet, the Frenchman spending 104 days in charge of the Ligue 1 club.

BOLT'S FORAY INTO FOOTBALL, ZION GRADUATES AND AUSTRALIAN DUO BANNED

Usain Bolt finally started his football career - at the age of 32 - when he joined A-League side Central Coast Mariners in August, scoring two goals on his first start for the club in October, before retiring from sport in January.

In the NBA, Zion Williamson became basketball's next star, graduating from high school and, following a dominant freshman-year stint with the Duke Blue Devils, he was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Steve Smith and David Warner both received 12-month bans for their participation in the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket. The duo have since returned to action, taking part in the Cricket World Cup on English soil.

Rafael Nadal has won two French Open titles while Tiger Woods returned to the pinnacle of golf with his victory at the Masters.

IN THE NEWS

The political landscape in Britain remains uncertain, with Theresa May, amid ongoing furore over failed Brexit negotiations, announcing her resignation as Prime Minister.

Donald Trump has sent in excess of 3,000 tweets, while North and South Korea came together in an historical summit in September.

And finally, Elon Musk's SpaceX programme managed to launch a Tesla Roadster into space, complete with a mannequin in a spacesuit. Well, why not?

Celtic will take on Nomme Kalju or Shkendija in the second round of Champions League qualifying should they first overcome FK Sarajevo.

Tuesday's first qualifying round draw pitted Celtic with Bosnian side Sarajevo, with the first leg taking place on July 9 or 10 and the return leg - switched to Celtic Park - to follow a week later.

And should Neil Lennon's side prevail, they will face either Nomme Kalju or Shkendija - the reigning champions of Estonia and Macedonia, respectively.

In the league path of Champions League qualification, Viktoria Plzen will tussle with Olympiacos and PSV are to face Basel.

Meanwhile, Rangers' possible reward for beating Kosovan side Prishtina or St Joseph's of Gibraltar in the Europa League first qualifying round could potentially be an all-British tie.

Cork City and Cardiff Met University are both possible opponents, as are Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, who beat Rangers in 2017.

Eintracht Frankfurt, semi-finalists last season, face a double-header against Radnicki Nis or Flora Tallinn, and Roma will start their European campaign against Debrecen or Kukesi.

Aberdeen will take on Finnish side RoPS before facing either Fola Esch of Luxembourg or Chikhura Sachkhere of Georgia, while fellow Scottish side Kilmarnock go up against Connah's Quay Nomads in the first round and will then face a tricky tie against Partizan Belgrade if they progress.

Premier League team Wolves also discovered their Europa League fate on Wednesday. They will take on the winners Northern Irish side Crusaders and Faroese minnows B36 Torshavn.

All second-round qualifying games in the Europa League ties will be played between July 23 and August 1, while the Champions League ties will be on July 23/24 and a week later.

Cristiano Ronaldo hailed 2018-19 as an "unforgettable season" after he set records and lifted trophies with both Juventus and Portugal.

Ronaldo ended his nine-year stay at LaLiga giants Real Madrid in July 2018, moving to Italian champions Juve for €120million.

The 34-year-old more than repaid his transfer fee, scoring 21 Serie A goals as Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus cruised to an eighth successive Scudetto.

Ronaldo also became the first player to reach 100 wins and 125 goals in the Champions League, though Juve were eliminated by Ajax in the quarter-finals – a defeat which ultimately may have been the reason for Allegri's departure at the end of the campaign.

But Ronaldo was not done there, and after his success with his new club, led Portugal to a Nations League Finals triumph on home soil, scoring a stunning hat-trick in the semi-final win over Switzerland.

And, taking to his official Instagram channel, Ronaldo shared his joy at achieving so much over the course of the season.

"What an unforgettable season! New experiences, gigantic club, exciting city, broken records and three more titles," Ronaldo posted.

"I have to thank all of Juventus fans for the wonderful way I was welcomed in Italy! You're a very important part of our victories! 

"Thanks to all my fans around the world and particularly to the Portuguese people that helped us reach another historical win for Portugal! You'll always have a special place in my heart!

"Personally, I'll never forget the great moments and new record-breaking achievements I've had so far in 2019."

Ronaldo then went onto list some of his accolades from the season, including becoming the first player to win 10 UEFA titles, and being the first to score in all national team finals.

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