Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior must learn a has the humility to improve after making an impressive start to the season, according to head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The 21-year-old has played an instrumental role in Madrid's surge to the top of the LaLiga table after their opening 13 games.

Only team-mate Karim Benzema (10) has scored more times in the Spanish top flight than Vinicius, whose tally of eight is as many as he managed in the previous three seasons combined.

The forward has attempted (89) and completed (41) more dribbles than any other player, while only Young Boys' Moumi Ngamaleu (42) has attempted more in the Champions League.

 

The Brazil international has also registered three assists in Europe's premier club competition; a tally only bettered by Bruno Fernandes and Ajax's Antony.

Nevertheless, Ancelotti insists that Vinicius can get even better.

"Because of the way he plays, [he] is the most unbalanced there is in football, there are not many players who do these things at the moment," he said.

"He has to improve because one-on-one is important in football, but it is not the most important thing. 

"But he has the humility to improve and not be happy about what he's doing; he wants to learn and he has to learn. 

"His head is fine – he doesn't have the head of someone who has won everything; he has the head of a young man who thinks he has to improve."

 

Ancelotti also played down suggestions of a fall-out between himself and Isco.

The Spain international abandoned his warm-up during Sunday's 4-1 win over Granada after being told he would be introduced at a later point in the game.

"I don't have to talk to Isco, I'm very fond of him and it's not much of a problem," Ancelotti added.

"He tells me that he had already warmed up, he was ready to go in and he has entered. 

"Isco is professional, serious, and angry because he doesn't play, but he has never disrespected me and I have never disrespected him. And he will never disrespect me, and I will never disrespect him. 

"We have a relationship that is not only professional; we have spent a lot of time together, we respect each other to the fullest."

Mainz were hit with an €8,000 beer bill on Tuesday after their fans showered Union Berlin forward Max Kruse during a recent Bundesliga game.

Former Germany international Kruse was targeted after he was substituted in the 83rd minute of Union's 2-1 win at Mainz in early October.

He had beer cups thrown over him as he walked behind the goal on his way off the pitch, resulting in a soaking for the 33-year-old.

Kruse kept his cool and said in a post-match interview with DAZN: "Why should something like that provoke me? What should I say to such nonsense heads?"

Mainz were charged over the behaviour of their fans and German Football Association (DFB) chiefs have now passed judgement.

"The sports court of the DFB fined the Bundesliga club Mainz 8,000 euros in single judge proceedings after the DFB control committee brought charges for unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of its supporters," the DFB said in a statement.

"In the 83rd minute of the Bundesliga game against Union Berlin on October 3, 2021, the Berlin player Max Kruse was showered with beer by spectators from Mainz after his substitution. The association has agreed to the ruling, the ruling is now final."

Mauricio Pochettino says his future is "not debatable" as he is happy at Paris Saint-Germain amid reports that he is Manchester United's top target to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United sacked Solskjaer on Sunday following a 4-1 Premier League thrashing at Watford and placed Michael Carrick in temporary charge.

The Red Devils stated that they plan to appoint an interim boss until the end of the season, but there has been increasing talk that they are set to make an approach for Pochettino to take the role on a permanent basis before then.

Former Tottenham head coach Pochettino insisted he is not looking to leave PSG as the Ligue 1 side prepare to face Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.

He told the media on Tuesday: "I thought I was clear. I said I have a contract for 2023. This season and next. I'm happy at PSG. It's a fact. It's not debatable, I'm happy in Paris."

The 49-year-old Argentine only took over as PSG head coach in January and says he is focused on the job in hand.

Asked again about being linked with United, he said: "We are not here to talk about that. I respect my club, PSG. What the other club does, it does not concern me.

"I am not going to comment on it because everything I am going to say or not will be used. When I was at Espanyol I said I wanted to get to know Sir Alex [former United boss Ferguson].

"If I say it again it will be taken back. I'm happy in Paris. I love the club, I love the supporters. It's wonderful to be at PSG. We have a point lead in Ligue 1 and we face City. "

He added: "Football is today and not tomorrow. In football only results count. Two years ago I left Tottenham and a month before, there were rumours. You have to live in the present, to think that I will stay for life, where I am today.

"But it all depends on the results in football. For the future, we must build our way of playing, have fun and have good results."

Al Hilal lifted the AFC Champions League trophy for a record fourth time as Nasser Al-Dawsari's memorable first-minute strike set them on the way to a 2-0 win over Pohang Steelers.

At the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, left-back Al-Dawsari produced a spectacular opener, and a clinical finish after the break from Moussa Marega tied up the triumph.

The breakthrough came inside 17 seconds with a remarkable long-range strike from Al-Dawsari, who snatched the ball in midfield and drove forward before lashing into the top-left corner from 28 yards with his left boot.

There was almost an equally dazzling reply from Sin Jin-ho in the 12th minute when he rattled the bar from the edge of the penalty area, the fingertips of goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayoof preventing the ball dipping in.

The ball fell to Lim Sang-hyub, but again Al-Mayoof made the save, scrambling to block the close-range shot.

Matheus Pereira thrashed a free-kick over the bar as Al Hilal looked for a second goal, while Pohang's Go Young-joon sent a shot skidding wide at the other end.

It was Marega who made sure in the 63rd minute, taking a throughball from Bafetimbi Gomis in his stride and firing low across goal into the left corner.

Victory means Al Hilal are now the outright most successful team in competition history, edging ahead of Tuesday's opponents who came into the game also with three previous titles.

Liverpool playmaker Thiago Alcantara has not considered a return to Barcelona, insisting he is "100 per cent' happy with his choice to move to Anfield.

Thiago has not had it easy with injuries since his transfer to Liverpool from Bayern Munich in 2020.

The Spain international contracted COVID-19 shortly after his arrival, before suffering an injury due to a tackle from Everton's Richarlison during his full debut in October last year.

He played just 24 league games last season, starting 20 of them, scoring once.

More niggling injury issues have restricted the 30-year-old to eight appearances across all competitions so far this term. However, he does seem to be rediscovering something close to his best form, at least from a creative standpoint.

Per 90 minutes played, Thiago creates on average 2.2 chances, tied with Mohamed Salah for third place in Liverpool's squad behind Trent Alexander-Arnold (3.2) and Konstantinos Tsimikas (2.7), while 305 of his 345 attempted passes have found a team-mate (an 88.4 per cent accuracy).

Following Xavi taking over from Ronald Koeman at Barca, however, there had been reports linking Thiago with a return to his former club, with the Blaugrana's new coach reportedly keen to reunite with his old team-mate.

Thiago, though, says he is perfectly happy at Anfield.

"As always, I am a guy who plays football," he told a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League meeting with Porto on Wednesday.

"I am not focused on the rumours, I am focused on the duty I have with my team, the years that I have on the contract and I just want to know about this new adventure that I have here in the Premier League, trying to win all the trophies that I can with this team."

"One hundred per cent I made the right choice, the right move," he added when asked if he had any doubts over his move to the Premier League due to the amount of injuries he has sustained.

"The injuries stop the frequency to play, and to know how the team performs on the pitch.

"You can watch football and all the time it's awesome but putting it into practice is even better. It's a pity football has [injuries] but it's part of football, part of life, when we are fit we have to put in as high performances as we can.

"I think the first year was very interrupted because of the COVID situation, injury. I had a quick adaptation. We struggled last season, for many reasons.

"This year, you know much better your team-mates, the runs that they make, the way they prefer to receive the ball, the way they defend, how they attack. To me the most important thing is to try to win in the way we want to win."

Thiago has collected four LaLiga titles, seven Bundesliga crowns and three Champions League winners' medals across a glittering career, working under some of Europe's top coaches, including Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick and, now, Jurgen Klopp.

"First of all, I had the luck to play with great players, great teams. I remember the time with Pep was different to Ancelotti and time with Tito [Vilanova] was different to Pep also," he said when asked to compare playing under Guardiola and Klopp. 

"With these two coaches [Guardiola and Klopp] we can see, they both have the same charisma. Also, they have the group in their hands, they make them perform better. The similarities are there. 

"The difference is how the teams play. One is much more possession. It's great both are doing what they want in the greatest way football can bring."

Napoli star Victor Osimhen will miss the Africa Cup of Nations after undergoing surgery on broken bones in his face.

The forward was hurt in a clash of heads with Inter defender Milan Skriniar as the Nerazzurri ended leaders Napoli's unbeaten start to the Serie A season on Sunday.

He was substituted in the 55th minute and taken for tests, which the club later confirmed had revealed "multiple displaced fractures of the left orbit and cheekbone".

Osimhen had an operation on Tuesday that included the fitting of titanium plates and screws.

The club confirmed he will be out of action for three months, meaning he will play no part in Nigeria's AFCON campaign in Cameroon, with the tournament beginning on January 9.

Osimhen is Napoli's leading goalscorer in 2021-22, with five in Serie A and four in the Europa League.

He scored seven times in September alone, a tally matched only by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema across Europe's top five leagues.

Only Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland was younger than Osimhen, who turns 23 next month, among players in the top five leagues to score 10 or more goals in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.

 

 

Eric Abidal has pleaded with wife Hayet to forgive him after she demanded a divorce and claimed the former Barcelona and France star confessed to an affair with Kheira Hamraoui.

Hamraoui is the Paris Saint-Germain footballer who was struck with an iron bar by masked attackers outside her home on November 4.

Police investigations into that attack are reported to have led to the discovery of a link between Hamraoui and Abidal, in the shape of a phone chip in Abidal's name being used by Hamraoui.

According to a widely referenced statement from Hayet Abidal's lawyer, Nicolas Cellupica, that was first released to the AFP news agency, the discovery of the phone chip prompted the former footballer to admit he had strayed.

The 42-year-old has now asked his wife to forgive him.

Hamraoui was a member of Barcelona's women's team when Abidal was director of football at the Spanish club from 2018 to 2020, and she moved to PSG in July of this year.

Abidal wrote on Instagram on Tuesday: "Hayet Abidal forgive me. Whatever your decision, you will remain in my eyes the woman of my life, and especially the mother of our wonderful children.

"I deserve this humiliation even if it kills me alive. El hamdouli'allah. An sha' allah one day you will forgive me."

Hamraoui is recovering from the attack for which her PSG team-mate Aminata Diallo was initially considered a suspect.

Diallo has since been released without charge, having strenuously insisted she is innocent of any wrongdoing as police investigations continue.

Hamraoui has not made a public comment on the claims she and Abidal had a relationship.

Pep Guardiola has insisted a lack of trophies does not stop Mauricio Pochettino from being considered among the world's top managers.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino has been widely tipped as the leading contender to take over at Manchester United following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking on Sunday.

Pochettino arrived at the Parc des Princes in January and missed out on Ligue 1 and Champions League success in his first half-season in charge.

However, the Argentinian has lifted the Trophee des Champions and Coupe de France this year – his first cup triumphs following five trophyless years with Tottenham.

With speculation mounting that Pochettino is interested in the United job, Guardiola has defended the ex-Espanyol and Southampton coach's major trophies record.

"I am sure managers become better every year. Every season you have a lot of learnings. I am pretty sure [Pochettino] is an excellent manager," he said ahead of City's showdown with PSG on Wednesday.

"You can be a top manager and not win titles. For the managers who have a chance to win, it is because you are at top clubs with good investment and top players. 

"That doesn't mean managers in the Championship or not at the top of the Premier League aren't excellent managers."

City welcome PSG to the Etihad Stadium requiring a point to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, while a win will seal top spot in Group A with a game to spare.

PSG are winless in three games on their travels in the competition and could go without an away victory throughout the group stage for the first time since 2004-05.

English champions City were beaten 2-0 in the reverse fixture in Paris two months ago, with Lionel Messi getting off the mark with his first of four goals for PSG to date in all competitions.

PSG's travelling party is packed full of superstar attackers and Guardiola acknowledged there is little advice he can give his players when it comes to stopping Messi in particular.

"It's so difficult. Sometimes when he has the ball he doesn't know what he's going to do – so imagine you have to know what he is going to do," Guardiola said.

"There are players who you can say if they will go right or left. When he has the ball, not even he knows exactly what he is going to do.

"I cannot tell the players what he will do, but hey, it happens with Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe, with [Angel] Di Maria, with all the players up front in this team.

"Every player could be a complete star in any team around the world, and all four are in the same team. But I am still glad and happy that he is still playing at the level he plays."

City have scored 15 goals in the Champions League so far this season, a tally bettered only by Bayern Munich's 17, with the Citizens averaging 3.4 expected goals per game.

Last year's beaten finalists are averaging a goal every 37 minutes in all competitions this term, meanwhile, despite playing without a recognised striker through the middle.

Guardiola, who is hopeful of having Jack Grealish back from injury in midweek, explained that playing with or without a number nine is not too dissimilar.

"If a full back goes into midfield you can say he is an attacking midfielder, for example" he said.

"The movements of the players – on the tactics board you put out the names, but after, everyone has permission to drive in the box and has permission to get back and help."

Lionel Messi has been impressed by Cristiano Ronaldo's start to life back at Manchester United and retains fond memories of their "beautiful" rivalry in LaLiga.

Portugal international Ronaldo has scored nine times in 13 appearances for United since making a sensational return to the club at the end of August.

That is a goal tally bettered by only six other players from clubs in Europe's top five leagues over the same period, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (17) leading the way.

Despite Ronaldo's form and ability to bail out his side with late goals, United have endured a poor campaign and sacked manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday.

But with less than half of the campaign played, Messi does not believe a Ronaldo-inspired United can be entirely ruled out of the Premier League title race.

"They're a very strong team with great players," he told Marca. "Cristiano already knew the club, but that was in another stage and now he has adapted in an impressive way. 

"From the beginning he has scored goals as always and had no problems adapting. In the Premier League, United have not been as good as we all thought.

"But it is a very difficult and even competition in which things take a lot of turns. After December it changes a lot and anything can happen."

 

Messi and Ronaldo have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d'Or between them – the exception being Luka Modric's triumph in 2018 – in a period that has been dominated by the pair.

Not only have the superstar forwards fought for individual honours, they also battled it out for domestic and European team honours during nine years together in LaLiga.

While Ronaldo has long since departed Real Madrid and Messi is no longer at Barcelona, the latter believes their rivalry will live long in football folklore.

"It's been a long time since we stopped competing in the same league," Messi said. "We competed individually and as a team for the same goals. 

"It was a very beautiful period for us and also for the fans because they enjoyed it very much. It is a beautiful memory that will remain in the history of football."

With Messi aged 34 and Ronaldo approaching his 37th birthday, the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are now considered the next big talents in world football.

Mbappe is a contender for this year's Ballon d'Or after scoring and assisting a combined 50 goals in 46 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain in all competitions in 2021.

Only Lewandowski (58) has been directly involved in more goals this year, but PSG risk losing Mbappe to Madrid next year when his contract expires.

Messi, now a team-mate of Mbappe's following his shock free transfer from Barca in August, is unsure whether the France forward will still a PSG player next season.

"The truth is I do not know," he said. "Only he knows what he has in his head and what he is going to do. I can only say that I am happy that he has stayed here this year.

"He is a very important player for us and to fight for the objectives we have. He is fully focused on our goals. And then he will decide what he will do when the season is over."

Vinicius Junior has signalled his intent to sign a new long-term deal as he sets out to match the achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos in a Real Madrid shirt.

Brazil international Vinicius is into his fourth season as a Madrid player and has made 135 appearances in all competitions since his debut in September 2018.

Only four Madrid players have featured more times for the club during that period – Luka Modric (138), Thibaut Courtois (142), Casemiro (143) and Karim Benzema (155).

However, Vinicius is still some way short of the 438 appearances made by Ronaldo and the 671 games Ramos played for Madrid before the pair departed for pastures new.

The 21-year-old still has another two-and-a-half years to run on his existing contract and appears happy to stay on beyond that, with talks over a new deal reportedly ongoing.

"I am lucky to have been here for three years and I want to be here for much longer," he told El Larguero. 

"I want to have a great career like Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos did. And also like Marcelo is doing here."

 

Vinicius declined the chance to join Barcelona in favour of signing for fierce rivals Real Madrid in 2017, a decision the Flamengo academy product does not regret.

"The two clubs looked for me and I decided to go to Real Madrid for the project and for what they did for me," he said. 

"I thought it was the best project for me and it was the club with which I had the most affinity. 

"I always loved Real Madrid I always loved Cristiano Ronaldo and all the players. I chose well and I want to stay here for a long time."

Vinicius has enjoyed a fine start to the 2021-22 campaign with 10 goals and five assists in all competitions for Madrid.

Benzema is one of only seven players in Europe's top five leagues to have been directly involved in more goals this term, the prolific striker having scored 14 and set up eight.

The pair have built up a good connection at Madrid and Vinicius believes his team-mate's form across 2021 should see him crowned as the world's best player next month.

"Karim is a great player, I love playing with him," Vinicius said. "He always helps me. I want to continue playing with him to have a great season.

"Now we are playing a lot more time together. We already know what the other one is going to do. I hope he wins the Ballon d'Or."

Zinedine Zidane is not interested in the Manchester United job but he could replace the man who gets it. 

The hottest name in the mix at Old Trafford is Mauricio Pochettino. 

Paris Saint-Germain could have a replacement for him ready and waiting. 

 

TOP STORY – POCHETTINO, ZIDANE IN DELICATE DANCE

Manchester United's manager opening could set off a chain reaction, reports Marca. 

With Mauricio Pochettino perhaps interested in a way out at Paris Saint-Germain, he could head to Old Trafford. 

That would leave the PSG job to Zinedine Zidane, who has made it clear he is not interested in moving to Manchester. 

The Mirror reports United would have to pay PSG €10million (£8.4m) for Pochettino, but Marca says PSG's players believe Zidane's arrival at the Parc des Princes could be "imminent". 

 

 ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich are willing to make Pedri their most expensive signing ever if they can lure him from Barcelona despite his €1billion release clause, reports AS. 

- If Alexandre Lacazette leaves Arsenal for LaLiga, he would prefer Atletico Madrid over Barca, according to El Nacional. Milan and Marseille also reportedly are interested in the 30-year-old. 

- Renato Sanches could be headed for Milan after the season, reports Calciomercato, with Arsenal and Barca also linked to the Lille midfielder. 

- Villarreal are eyeing Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic for a January move, reports the Mirror. 

Jose Mourinho made good on a promise to buy Felix Afena-Gyan an €800 pair of trainers after his match-winning exploits for Roma at the weekend. 

The Ghanaian 18-year-old scored a double off the bench to lead Roma to a 2-0 Serie A victory over Genoa on Sunday, ending their three-game winless streak in all competitions. 

He became the first player born since January 1, 2003 to score in the Italian top flight and the third-youngest foreigner to score at least twice in a single Serie A game. 

Afena-Gyan celebrated his first goal, which came when he slotted home Henrikh Mkhitaryan's throughball in the 82nd minute, by running over to Mourinho. 

"I promised him a very expensive pair of shoes, for 800 euros, and he came to me to make sure I didn't forget," Mourinho told broadcaster DAZN. 

"I really like his coldness, his physicality, but above all his humility." 

Afena-Gyan on Monday shared a video on Instagram of himself unboxing the new shoes in the presence of Mourinho. He included the caption: "Forever grateful Sir. I'll make you proud."

Speaking to Roma's official website after the game, Afena-Gyan said of Mourinho: "He is teaching me a lot and I am learning a lot from him. He is someone who has achieved a lot during his career and he is a great person. I am glad to be working with him. 

"He encourages me day in and day out to do everything that will help me improve in future. So I am happy to be working with Jose Mourinho. I thank him very, very much. I thank him a lot. He's a great person." 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic acknowledged his shoulder charge on Cesar Azpilicueta was stupid but insisted he would "100 per cent" do it again. 

In the closing stages of Sweden's 1-0 defeat to Spain this month, which meant they would have to go through the play-offs to reach the 2022 World Cup, Ibrahimovic steamed into Azpilicueta and sent him flying to the ground. 

The veteran striker was shown a yellow card that has ruled him out of Sweden's play-off semi-final in March. 

But Ibrahimovic felt it was important for him to stand up for a team-mate and teach the Chelsea defender a lesson. It is not a decision he would change if he had his time again. 

"The other day in the national team, I gave a tackle to [Azpilicueta]. I did it on purpose. I'm not ashamed to say it because he did something stupid to my player. Acting big to my player," Ibrahimovic told The Guardian. 

"It was a stupid thing but I would still do it to make him understand: 'You don’t f****** do that. You don't have balls to do it against me. But I will show you what happens if you do it to me.' That’s why I did it. 

"It's not about missing the play-offs. It's about making the guy understand you don't take the p*** out of somebody laying [on the ground]. You don't attack a dog that doesn't talk. Attack the one able to do something. It's too easy to pick on my team-mates who are 20 years old and very nice guys. I hope he understands now. 

"I'm not afraid to say it to you. I did a stupid thing. [But] I will do it again. 100 per cent. 

"That is what I say about being 'perfect'. Being myself is perfect for me. I don't need filters to ask them what kind of questions you will give me." 

Asked if Azpilicueta had said anything to him after the game, Ibrahimovic replied: "What can he say? He will not say it to me but he will say it to my player – who will do nothing because he's too nice. 

"It was not a good thing by me, but I would still do it. That's me. I'm not ashamed to say it." 

Xavi believes Pedri was a deserved winner of the 2021 Golden Boy award but will not rush the Barcelona midfielder back into action. 

Spain international Pedri was a landslide victor in the voting for Europe's best player aged under 21 – his 199-point advantage over runner-up Jude Bellingham making it a record-breaking success. 

The 18-year-old featured in more games in all competitions (52) for Barcelona last season than any other player, accumulating four goals and six assists in the process. 

He then became the youngest player to represent Spain at a major tournament during Euro 2020, finishing the competition with more passes completed in the final third (177) than any other player. 

Pedri followed that up by travelling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games and helping his country win a silver medal. 

The heavy schedule may well have taken its toll on him, with a thigh issue ruling him out since September and limiting him to just four appearances this term. 

Pedri signed a new contract until 2026 in October but reportedly suffered a second setback in his recovery from injury and could be facing another month out. 

Xavi was pleased for Pedri to have something to celebrate during a tough time and is keen to welcome him back into the fold, but acknowledged the club cannot rush him. 

"I'm happy for him because he deserves it [the Golden Boy award]. He has made a difference and is an extraordinary player," said Xavi. 

"It's an important, prestigious award. And I'm glad for him because he's having a difficult time. 

"We are going to try to get him back as soon as possible because he is a key player, a difference-maker. I don't have a specific date, but the important thing is he does not relapse again, plays calmy and recovers 100 per cent." 

Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange has expressed her regrets of the news of the passing of former Reggae Boyz team doctor Carlton Fraser, who died in a Florida hospital on Sunday, November 21, at the age of 74.

Fraser, who was affectionately known as “Pee Wee” was also the former physician of Reggae icon Bob Marley.

“It came as a shock to me to hear that “Pee Wee” died. His service was outstanding as a doctor to the Reggae Boyz and to Bob Marley, who for many years was not only his patient but was his close friend,” Minister Grange said.

“In this way, one might say that ‘Pee Wee’, for life, was a major contributor to both sport and entertainment.

“He will also be remembered for being the only Rasta doctor of his time and a member of Twelve Tribes of Israel Rastafari religious group.  I extend my deepest sympathy to his family, friends, former associates at the Jamaica Football Federation and to the members of Twelve Tribes.

“Rest well, “Pee Wee”.”

 

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