Rumour Has It: Liverpool put Werner plans on hold, Dybala set to re-sign at Juventus

By Sports Desk April 03, 2020

Liverpool have reportedly put their plans to sign Timo Werner on hold, while Paulo Dybala's future could be clearer soon.

Werner, 24, was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool from RB Leipzig, but the coronavirus pandemic may have changed that.

Meanwhile, Dybala's future is set to be clear shortly.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL PUT WERNER PLANS ON HOLD

Liverpool have put their plans to sign Werner on hold and also stopped contract talks due to coronavirus, according to The Daily Mail.

There is uncertainty over the financial statuses of sporting clubs around the world due to coronavirus and Liverpool are waiting until there is greater clarity.

Star midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and defender Dejan Lovren are among the Liverpool players out of contract in 2021.

One club seemingly not prepared to wait are Juventus, with CalcioMercato reporting Dybala is getting closer to a contract extension with the Serie A giants.

 

ROUND-UP

- Luka Modric is going nowhere. AS claims the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2021, at Real Madrid. Just what Madrid's midfield looks like next season remains to be seen. Sport says Madrid will let James Rodriguez leave and bring Martin Odegaard back from his loan spell at Real Sociedad. It also reports Takefusa Kubo will be used as part of a deal to bring back Odegaard.

- Talk about a deal that would see Neymar return to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann join Paris Saint-Germain remains alive. According to Sport, PSG would welcome Griezmann while they attempt to re-sign Kylian Mbappe to unite the France team-mates at club level.

- One player unlikely to be at PSG is Edinson Cavani. Tuttosport reports Napoli are thinking about bringing the forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season, back to the Stadio San Paolo.

- Marc-Andre ter Stegen's future remains unclear. Sport claims Barcelona and the goalkeeper are no closer to renewing a contract that will expire in 2022.

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is seemingly happy on loan at Roma, but whether he stays remains to be seen. The Daily Express says Arsenal have rejected two bids – the last one around €11.4million (£10m) – from the Serie A club, who may instead turn to Chelsea's Pedro.

- As they plan a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Chelsea have told Willian he has no chance of getting a three-year deal, according to the Mirror. Willian is out of contract at the end of the season.

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    The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc globally, halting many leagues and competitions since March, including the Champions League and Premier League, but Algerian winger Mahrez is relishing a return to action.

    City stunned Real Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in February before the postponement.

    The Champions League could resume in August and City star Mahrez is confident Pep Guardiola's side can deliver a maiden European crown.

    "I think it is a good time to win the Champions League," Mahrez said. "We have the team, we have the manager, we have everything, so it is a good time. I don't know if we are the best, but we are good enough to win it.

    "The Champions League is difficult, everyone wants to win it, so it is going to be a big battle."

    The Premier League is set to return on June 17, with 92 matches still to be played following the coronavirus crisis.

    Defending champions City were second and 25 points adrift of runaway leaders Liverpool, though they had a game in hand.

    Mahrez said: "It was a bit long without football, but we adapted and now we are back, so it is good. With the pandemic going on [training at home and doing online sessions with the group] is something we had to respect and now we have come back to training it is very good.

    "Step by step we are getting fitter, so it is good. I am excited. It was good to see my team-mates and the coaches again. It was good to train with everyone and we have had very good weather as well!"

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  • Next Generation – Salisu, the trailblazing defensive jewel slipping through Barca and Atletico's fingertips Next Generation – Salisu, the trailblazing defensive jewel slipping through Barca and Atletico's fingertips

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    Although he didn't know it at the time, March 2017 was a momentous month in the career of Mohammed Salisu, the Ghanaian centre-back who is now interesting many of the world's biggest clubs.

    In the town of Nsawam, south Ghana, the African Talent Football Academy (ATFA) first began operating, coaching hopeful young footballers who dreamed of a career in Europe.

    With a brand new facility – comprising of pitches and a club house that included a common area, dining space and accommodation – and connections to European clubs, the ATFA began to mark itself as potential gateway for Ghanaian youngsters chasing a better future.

    Just six months after opening, the ATFA had its trailblazer, their first 'graduate'. Director Fran Castano travelled with one teenager to Spain.

    Salisu was signed then and there – his journey to the top had begun.

    Destined for the top

    Life at the ATFA didn't start particularly well for Salisu.

    "I remember my first time meeting him – he came without his boots and was late. I was very, very angry and I was close to telling him to go home," Castano, speaking to Stats Perform News, recalled. It proved a wise decision to hold that thought, however.

    "He took some boots from the goalkeeper and after 10 minutes playing we saw something different. I talked to him and told him that if he can be serious and work, I promised him in half year I could send him to Spain."

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    That would be considered a significant coup for the French side, as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid are all said to have considered a move for Salisu in the past six months.

    It's even claimed the latter were willing to pay €11m, but curiously wouldn't stretch to the full release clause. It's an oversight they could come to regret.

    "I told him he would make it [to the top]," says Castano, who previously held many roles in youth coaching and analytics for the Niger and Mauritania national teams, Real Jaen, Leganes and Hearts of Oak, Ghana's biggest club, before setting up the ATFA.

    "You always have doubt because it's not only about talent. To come and live in Europe was a big change for him, but I knew he would make it [on the talent side] because I saw his level compared with others in Spain at the same age and the way he can develop. You could see from the beginning he was different. The body, the technique, the winning mentality, the confidence and how he developed faster than anybody. If you increased the challenge, he increased his level."

    Persistence and a friend's trust lead to vindication

    Castano estimates Salisu played just 10 youth matches for Pucela before being promoted to their B team in the third tier, and then at the start of this season he became an undisputed starter for the senior side – indeed, he's one of just four defenders to play all 27 LaLiga matches in 2019-20.

    A former student of sport performance analysis at the University of Granada, Castano's pride in Salisu is obvious – joining Valladolid wasn't just a big deal for the defender, but also vindication for Castano.

    "I offered Salisu to a lot of teams, nobody gave us a chance. Nobody knew Salisu or me. I was just starting and it wasn't easy," he said. "I was lucky. My friend Victor Fernandez, who was a great striker in LaLiga for Valladolid and Villarreal, was coaching Valladolid's Under-19s. I called him and told him about Salisu. He told me he trusted what I say and my eye for scouting players.

    "After one training exercise, just a few minutes, he [Victor] told me: 'Fran, are sure you know the kind of player you have?' He said he [Salisu] could be a very important defender in professional football. I had thought so, but I wasn't that sure of it until he told me."

    Salisu's adaptation to LaLiga was impressive. In October, less than two months after his top-flight debut, he was being championed as a "star" on the league's official Twitter account after impressing in a 0-0 draw with Atletico.

    Jordi Masip has been a fixture behind Salisu in goal. The experienced goalkeeper applauded the youngster's capacity to learn and is convinced a big future lies in wait.

    "He's a player with an enviable physicality, he gets very fast when it comes to interceptions," Masip told Stats Perform News. "He's very young and he can grow a lot. He's a person that wants to improve and listen to us.

    "He has always had a little difficulty with the language, but he is adapting very well, he understands everything, he asks questions and his adaptation is going well. To be so young, his characteristics are very good, he still can give far more than he is already giving."

    A dominant defender

    It's easy to argue that Pucela would be in even worse shape this season if they didn't have Salisu. After all, when LaLiga resumes they will start in 15th place, just four points above the bottom three.

    But being in a team that has to spend longer stretches of time defending, Salisu's quality really shines through and it's clear he's making a difference, with only seven teams – all of whom are in the top half of the table – conceding fewer than Valladolid this term.

    When watching Salisu, you really get the impression he loves defending. A real unit with long, gangly legs, he has a habit of pulling off blocks or last-ditch tackles that one wouldn't expect.

    His 67 aerials won is bettered by just eight defenders, while Sevilla's Diego Carlos – widely regarded as one of the standout centre-backs in LaLiga this term – is the only player to make more headed clearances (71) than Salisu (67).

    Diego Carlos – and every other defender, for that matter – trails in Salisu's wake with respect to total clearances, however. The 21-year-old has completed 136, with the experienced Raul Albiol (131) boasting the next most.

    Salisu also ranks very high in terms of blocks with 22. Gabriel (26) is the solitary defender to have halted more shots. His 31 interceptions is also a decent figure, though the league-high among defenders of 48 is a fair way ahead of him.

    What's clear is Salisu's enjoying a wonderful season. Despite his age and lack of experience, he is marking himself out as a consistent and committed performer.

    While his technical attributes may not yet be at the required level for, say, Barcelona, he models himself on Blaugrana centre-back Samuel Umtiti and has already shown himself to be a quick learner on the pitch.

    Either way, one can certainly see why Diego Simeone and Atletico are said to be keen, but time appears to be running out for El Cholo. With Rennes seemingly circling, a defensive jewel could be about to slip through the fingertips of LaLiga's elite.

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    "Think of [Michel] Platini and [Zinedine] Zidane, they're the first two examples that spring to mind."

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