Xabi Alonso is relishing his "very special" first taste of managing in the Champions League as Bayer Leverkusen aim to ignite their European campaign with victory over Porto.

The 40-year-old replaced Gerardo Seoane as Leverkusen head coach last week and made a winning start to his tenure against Schalke in the Bundesliga at the weekend.

Focus now turns to Wednesday's visit of Porto in UEFA's flagship competition, which Alonso won as a player with Liverpool in 2005 and Real Madrid nine years later.

Leverkusen are third in Group B at the midway stage after last week's 2-0 loss to Porto, who they are level on points with, while Club Brugge lead the way with a perfect record.

Asked about managing in the competition for the first time, Alonso said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference: "It is something very special, for sure. 

"It is one thing to play, but it is something different to coach. Hopefully this will be the first of many games in the Champions League. 

"But it is always special: the lights, the atmosphere, the noise of the stadium. I think it is the most beautiful competition. 

"Every game is big, and you always have to show your highest level when you play these games."

Saturday's 4-0 win over Schalke at BayArena was the highest victory for a coach in their first match in charge of Leverkusen.

That was only the German club's third victory in 13 outings this season and moved them out of the Bundesliga relegation zone.

Leverkusen are now looking to win successive home games in a single Champions League campaign for the first time since October 2014 when Porto visit.

The visitors will be without experienced centre-back and captain Pepe, who Alonso previously played with at Madrid, in what the Leverkusen boss says will be a loss.

"We were team-mates in Madrid and had a great time. He's a great guy, one that you want to have on your side," Alonso said. 

"I wish him a great recovery. Well, from tomorrow! He's a very important player for them, the captain, but he's a leader as well.

"His absence is what it is. You never know if it's good or bad, but we know what Pepe means for Porto. 

"Because of the qualities he has, because of the big personality he has. He's been able to show that hunger and that motivation the way he plays on."

Patrik Schick had a penalty saved in last week's reverse fixture and is without a goal from 12 shots in this season's competition – at least twice as many shots as any team-mate.

However, Alonso has backed the Czech Republic international – Euro 2020's joint-top scorer – to find his scoring touch once again.

"His goals will come, for sure," said Alonso, who previously spent three years managing Real Sociedad B and a period with Madrid's youth sides. 

"He has the quality, the personality and the desire to work on these things. He will help the team and the team will help him."

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly prepared to activate the €150million release clause in the contract of Milan forward Rafael Leao.

Leao, 23, has emerged as one of the top attacking players in the Serie A since arriving for €35million back in 2019, tallying a career-high 14 goals in all club competitions in the 2021-22 season before starting this campaign in blistering form.

The Portuguese star with 11 international caps has four goals and four assists from his first eight league games, as well as three assists from three Champions League fixtures, and it seems Paris Saint-Germain have seen enough to justify a substantial investment.

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO PULL THE TRIGGER ON MASSIVE LEAO RELEASE CLAUSE

French outlet Media Foot is reporting Paris Saint-Germain will return with bids for multiple big names they were unable to land in the past transfer window, and they could come in January.

The report mentions Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Luis Campos was responsible for bringing Leao to Lille in 2018, and as a result he has been monitoring the young talent for years.

With the futures of Lionel Messi and Neymar uncertain, Leao could represent the future of the club going forward, with Kylian Mbappe, and he is not the only big-money target mentioned in the report.

Paris Saint-Germain are said to also be returning with another offer to Inter for Milan Skriniar, and remain interested in Manchester City's Bernardo Silva.

ROUND-UP

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting Real Madrid have plans to replace Karim Benzema with City star Erling Haaland in 2024.

– According to The Independent, Manchester United are only going to make a move for one of Jude Bellingham or Frenkie de Jong, with the target yet to be decided.

– Liverpool's Naby Keita is a target for Barcelona, with the 27-year-old's contract set to expire at the end of this season.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli is demanding his wages be tripled before he agrees to a new contract.

– According to The i, Newcastle United are preparing bids for Leicester City midfielder James Maddison and Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby.

Xabi Alonso hailed Bayer Leverkusen's "complete performance" after his new side thrashed Schalke 4-0 in his first match as head coach on Saturday.

Former Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Alonso took the reins at the Bundesliga club on Wednesday, replacing Gerardo Seoane after Leverkusen were beaten 2-0 by Porto the previous day.

Jeremie Frimpong's brace – as well as goals from Moussa Diaby and Paulinho – handed Leverkusen just their second win of the Bundesliga season, ensuring Alonso made a flying start.

Speaking at a post-match news conference, Alonso said: "We're happy. After two days with the team, we didn't have much time, but the players understood what we want and how we want to play.

"It was a complete performance today, both offensively and defensively. I think we can still improve a lot. We talked about some concepts and the players understood them. It's a good start for the road ahead.

"I saw good quality in the team, and I have to help to bring them onto the pitch. We were very focused today, we always have to be. Good concentration and a good mentality are the key.

"As a player you play on the pitch, as a coach you play on the sidelines. You have to be part of the game and try to influence the game." 

Alonso must quickly switch his team's attention to the Champions League, however, with Leverkusen at risk of an early exit after losing two of their first three matches in Group B.

The Bundesliga outfit will host second-placed Porto on Wednesday, and Alonso is acutely aware of the match's importance.

"The game against Porto is very important for us," he added. "We still have every chance of progressing, but we need the three points to avoid being under too much pressure in the last two games."

Pep Guardiola is backing Xabi Alonso to make a success of his big break at Bayer Leverkusen.

Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder Alonso was named head coach of the Bundesliga team on Wednesday.

It is the 40-year-old's most prominent role since retiring from playing in 2017, since when he has been building towards a top job, spending three years as coach of Real Sociedad B.

Like Guardiola, Alonso's playing career was spent largely as a deep-sitting central midfielder. Both men played for Spain, with Guardiola earning 47 caps and Alonso representing his country 114 times.

Alonso won a World Cup and two European Championships in Spain's golden era of success from 2008 to 2012, a period which coincided with Guardiola's reign as Barcelona boss.

He later played for Guardiola at Bayern Munich, where Alonso made a great impression on his compatriot and coach.

"He was an exceptional holding midfielder, and when you are an exceptional holding midfielder you have to understand the game," Guardiola said on Friday.

"He reads perfectly, and he's a lovely, lovely person."

Speaking at Manchester City's regular Friday press conference, Guardiola sent best wishes to Alonso, whose Leverkusen side face Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Leverkusen sit 17th in the 18-team league, winning one of eight games in the competition so far, form that saw Alonso's predecessor Gerardo Seoane sacked.

They have finished in the top six in each of the last five seasons, and 12 of the last 13 campaigns, so the club's standards are high.

Now Alonso steps in, and Guardiola said: "It's an incredible opportunity. He goes to the Bundesliga, a league that he knows quite well.

"It's a really good team in the Bundesliga, prestigious, still playing Champions League, I wish him the best, and hopefully he can do the job."

Leverkusen have failed to win any of their first four home games of a Bundesliga season (D1, L3) for the first time ever. The Schalke game comes at the BayArena, giving Alonso the chance to immediately halt that dismal run.

It happens that Leverkusen have only had more Bundesliga wins against Stuttgart (39) than they have achieved against Schalke (34), with Alonso's new team unbeaten in their past six league clashes with Die Konigsblauen (W4, D2).

Xabi Alonso accepts he is taking a "risk" after being appointed as Bayer Leverkusen head coach, but felt the time was right to make the move into senior management.

The 40-year-old former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder was announced as Gerardo Seoane's replacement on Wednesday.

Alonso coached Real Sociedad B for three years before departing in May and previously spent time working in Madrid's youth system.

The Leverkusen job presents a new challenge for Alonso, who inherits a side sitting 17th in the Bundesliga and third in their Champions League group after three games.

"There is of course always a risk," Alonso said at his unveiling press conference on Thursday ahead of this weekend's visit of Schalke.

"But you have to always improve and take steps forward. I firmly believe that it will work out here and I am fully motivated.

"Even as a player, I always wanted to take the right steps. I had the chance to coach good teams. But I felt I needed more time. Now I've realised that I'm ready."

Alonso confirmed "there have been inquiries" from teams in Spain but he was eager to return to Germany, where he won three Bundesliga titles in three seasons with Bayern.

"For me, things stay in my head that I feel good about from my time at Bayern," he said. "I already know about the German mentality, so that will help.

"Being here is very important for me. It's a great honour. After five years I must have forgotten some German, but I'll try my best to remember." 

Leverkusen parted company with Seoane on the back of Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Porto, which followed a 4-0 league defeat to Bayern.

They have finished in the top six in each of the past five seasons but are inside the relegation zone with eight games played this term.

"These players have shown great quality in recent years. They should start to enjoy playing again and that way the fans will too," Alonso said.

"I've kept following the Bundesliga and the teams have gotten better. That means I had to feel even more ready. There are a lot of good coaches in this division.

"I'm hoping I can mix up the play. As a former midfielder, I like control. I want to create a winning mentality here."

Xabi Alonso has replaced Gerardo Seoane as Bayer Leverkusen's head coach.

Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder Alonso coached Real Sociedad B between June 2019 and May 2022, having previously worked in Los Blancos's youth system.

The 40-year-old has now been handed his first head coach role at the top level on a two-year deal, with Leverkusen opting to part ways with Seaone after a dismal start to the season has left them sitting 17th in the Bundesliga.

"Gerardo Seoane has done a good job for Bayer 04 over the past year and a half, above all by qualifying for the Champions League," said sporting director Simon Rolfes. 

"Unfortunately, we have strayed from the road to success. From our point of view, the early elimination from the DFB-Pokal, but especially the fact that the current position in the Bundesliga is far below our expectations, made the change of coach imperative.

"In Xabi Alonso, we have signed a coach who, as a player, was an absolute world-class professional for many years, an intelligent strategist and extremely successful in three of the most demanding European leagues."

Alonso, who helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup, made 79 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern between 2014 and his 2017 retirement, winning three successive league titles under Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti.

"I know Leverkusen from my time in Germany as an excellent club," Alonso told his new team's official website. 

"Bayer 04 have always had great players, and I see a lot of quality in the current squad too.

"During discussions with the club, it quickly became clear that, despite the current difficult situation, ambitious goals are still being pursued in principle. I am very excited about this task and I am sure that we will live up to this claim."

Seaone's final game in charge was a 2-0 Champions League loss at Porto on Tuesday, Leverkusen's fourth defeat in their last five away games in the competition. 

Chelsea's admiration of 23-year-old Milan forward Rafael Leao is not a secret.

The Blues, along with several other clubs including Manchester City, are keen on the Portuguese.

Chelsea have also been linked with Christopher Nkunku in recent days but are plotting ways to land Rafael Leao too.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA AND MILAN PLOTTING SWAP DEAL

Chelsea and Milan are considering a swap deal whereby Rafael Leao would join the Blues, claims Calciomercato.

Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi would be part of the deal, although the Italian champions would still demand a £90million fee for the Portuguese.

According to the report, Milan will use their Champions League game on Wednesday against the Blues at Stamford Bridge to talk with Pulisic, along with Trevoh Chalobah.

ROUND-UP

– 90min claims that West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is top of Chelsea's transfer wish list. The Hammers slapped a £120m price tag on the England international in the off-season, although that will likely drop as the length of his contract shortens.

– Football Insider claims Arsenal have reached an agreement in principle with 21-year-old winger Bukayo Saka on a new contract. Saka's current deal expires in 2024.

Everton are eager to use the option-to-buy trigger in Conor Coady's loan deal from Wolves, claims The Times. Coady would cost the Toffees less than £10m.

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper could be sacked by owner Evangelos Marinakis, according to The Mail, with The Guardian linking Rafael Benitez with the role along with ex-Burnely boss Sean Dyche.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that former Inter and Lazio midfielder and Red Star boss Dejan Stankovic has reached a full agreement with Sampdoria to become the Italian Serie A club's new manager to replace the sacked Marco Giampaolo.

Jose Mourinho is set to be offered a new contract by Roma, potentially keeping him in the Italian capital until 2026, reports La Repubblica.

– Sport1 claims ex-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has declined the opportunity to take over at Bayer Leverkusen amid their poor start to the season.

Erling Haaland has enjoyed a remarkably prolific start to life in England with Manchester City.

Ahead of Sunday's derby with Manchester United, Haaland has netted 14 goals in 10 appearances in all competitions for City since his off-season move.

The Norwegian joined City from Borussia Dortmund in June on a five-year contract, following interest from several top clubs.

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDERING IMPROVED HAALAND DEAL

It is only a few months into Erling Haaland's first Manchester City contract, but the English champions are ready to offer him a new and improved deal, reports the Daily Star.

City have gone early on revised contracts in the past to shore up key players before they become transfer targets for rivals and they will do the same with their star striker if he can keep up his goalscoring prowess.

Haaland is already one of City's top earners alongside Kevin De Bruyne, pocketing around £375,000 per week.

City may opt to bump that up with an improved extension in May, with reports that Real Madrid are planning to chase him in 2024, when they can trigger his termination clause.

ROUND-UP

– PSV's hot property winger Cody Gakpo is attracting interest from Milan, claims Calciomercato. The 23-year-old Dutchman was pursued by Manchester United and Leeds United during the last transfer window, and has also been linked with Southampton and Everton.

– The Sun reports that French Ligue 1 outfit Nice are in the lead in the race to sign Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. The Ukrainian club are demanding £50million (€56.86m) for him.

Arsenal are in the race for Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, claims the Express, and are hoping to win him over amid rival interest from Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United.

West Ham United are the latest club to be interested in Club Brugge winger Noa Lang, reports Calciomercato. Milan are also credited with an interest in the 23-year-old.

Arsenal are weighing up a move for Bayer Leverkusen's Ecuadorian defender Piero Hincapie, according to Teamtalk.

– Marca claims Sevilla could bring back former boss Jorge Sampaoli, who led the club from 2016 to 2017, if they dispense with current head coach Julen Lopetegui after their poor start to the campaign.

Bayern Munich pair Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich have gone into isolation after testing positive to COVID-19.

The German champions announced the news on Saturday, with Muller and Kimmich having both been in the starting XI for Friday's 4-0 Bundesliga win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern said the pair had tested positive on Saturday, were asymptomatic, doing well and isolating at their respective homes.

The Bundesliga outfit are due to face Czech club Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League at Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

The positive tests come after Bayern pair Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka were withdrawn from Germany camp last week after their own infections.

Kimmich has started every game in all competitions this season for Bayern, netting two goals and providing four assists.

Muller has started all bar one of Bayern's games in all competitions, scoring twice and providing four assists.

Bayern Munich proved they can handle the persistent pressure they face, Jamal Musiala said after a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen that boss Julian Nagelsmann described as "satisfying".

The Bundesliga champions snapped a four-match top-flight winless streak with a rampant showcase at Allianz Arena.

Germany international Musiala got on the scoresheet, alongside Leroy Sane, Sadio Mane and Thomas Muller, as the hosts inflicted further misery upon their visitors, led by Gerardo Seoane.

Musiala acknowledged there is seldom an unburdened moment at Bayern, and that it is their resolve when under the microscope that helps them succeed.

"The pressure was on us all," he told DAZN. "We are focused on ourselves. We all want to win and be number one, and we showed that today. The pressure is always there at Bayern. We need to deal with it."

Nagelsmann meanwhile alluded to reports of dressing room unrest in his post-game comments.

"I've always said you can tell, when players leave the dressing room, if they respect the manager," he added.

"You can see in each game that the players are fully into it. That was very satisfying today."

Opposite number Seoane meanwhile was left to question how his Champions League side continue to slip towards the bottom of the Bundesliga table, with a leaky defence causing no shortage of problems.

"It is a question of will," he mused. "We didn't have the necessary aggression. It is a mental process."

A brusquely assured first-half demolition job from Bayern Munich reaffirmed their Bundesliga title defence credentials in a 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Goals from Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and Sadio Mane all before the interval put the champions firmly in the driving seat for a deserved victory at Allianz Arena on Friday, before Thomas Muller added a fourth close to the end.

After a dismal domestic run saw them go four league games without a win, questions had been asked about Julian Nagelsmann's side and their purported chances of claiming another top-flight crown.

But for now, they have been emphatically silenced, while Gerardo Seoane's side saw their horror-show start to the campaign worsened in painful fashion on the road.

It took Sane just three minutes to split open the visitors, fed off the right wing and able to roll a deflected strike beyond the wrong-footed Lukas Hradecky.

Musiala followed suit just after the quarter-hour mark, playing a one-two with Muller off a long ball before squeezing a shot in, and Sane added a third from the edge of the box six minutes from the break.

Mane saw a second overturned 10 minutes after the interval when VAR deemed Odilon Kossounou to have been fouled, but that call was likely scant consolation for Leverkusen.

Yet Bayern were not done, and when Muller pressed Hradecky late on, a tragicomic slip from the goalkeeper left an open net for the veteran to turn home and round off a comprehensive win.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann says he cannot help but "take every criticism to heart", after a poor recent run of form led to questions over his position.

A 1-0 defeat to Augsburg last time out made it four Bundesliga games without a victory, dropping them to fifth in the table.

Some feel Bayern's streak of winning 10 league titles in a row is under threat, with them sitting five points behind early leaders Union Berlin, and there is also talk of sacked Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel being a potential replacement for Nagelsmann if he was axed.

And Nagelsmann admitted he takes the negative assessments of him personally, telling reporters: "I take every criticism to heart. It's normal that the last two weeks have been tough.

"I am aware that I am not responsible for everything. I know that I invest a lot in the job. I claim to be an orderly person. Football is a very important part and an important passion for me. But it doesn't define me as a person."

Sadio Mane, brought in from Liverpool in the transfer window, is another Bayern man under fire, having scored three in three league games to start the season but failing to find the net in his last five for his new side in all competitions.

But his head coach is not worried about the Senegal international returning to form with his coaching staff's help, with Nagelsmann adding: "I have individual talks with all the players.

"In the end he has to help implement the plan, then he is a great support. In the end, it's the player's job to implement what the coach tells him to do.

"Then he will quickly find his way back to top form, I'm in good spirits. The performance is the responsibility of the coaching staff to get him where we want him to be."

Bayern are in action on Friday as they look to end their winless run, but will face a Bayer Leverkusen side who themselves are desperate for points, sat one place above the relegation zone having won just one league match this season.

Nagelsmann is expecting an improved performance from the defeat to Augsburg, commenting: "From my side, I expect that the players show what they're made of.

"I know that we haven't shown some things yet. It is still important to be brave. We still have to be aware that we are Bayern Munich.

"Leverkusen doesn't have an outstanding situation either, but it's a top game."

Robin Gosens has revealed he rejected a move to Bayer Leverkusen as he is determined to establish himself at Inter.

Injury woes have meant Gosens has made only three starts since joining the Nerazzurri from Serie A rivals Atalanta in January.

Leverkusen wanted to sign the wing-back before the transfer window closed at the start of this month, but he was not interested in leaving San Siro.

Following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the Germany international is relishing the challenge of making his mark at Inter when he returns from Nations League duty.

Gosens told Sport1: "I have put a year of suffering behind me and I am naturally happy to be here again. This call-up [to the Germany squad] I see as a reward for hard work.

"But the ticket to the World Cup in Qatar is definitely not in my hands yet. I am ready to fight back again.

"I am not yet in that state of form in which I was in Bergamo when my performances were so good. I'm close to it, but I know at the same time that there is still a lot to work on."

He added of a potential move to his homeland: "I spoke on the phone with Simon Rolfes [Leverkusen director of sport] and we had a sincere and open exchange.

"I told him that I have not finished at Inter yet and that I would like to fight.

"I feel very good now at Inter. I'm super-motivated and happy with the tasks that await me. But I'm only satisfied when I'm on the pitch, this is a goal that I have with myself.

"I play in a top world club and I am happy at Inter. My goal is to establish myself in this great club. Now I have to play three, four, five consecutive matches."

Harry Kane remains at the centre of significant transfer speculation after the Tottenham striker failed to secure a move to Manchester City last year.

The England star appears more settled under Antonio Conte but has been linked with Bayern Munich recently.

Kane has started this Premier League campaign strongly, netting six goals in seven appearances.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PLOTTING KANE-LUKAKU SWAP

New Chelsea boss Graham Potter wants to bring Harry Kane across town from Tottenham, claims Calciomercato.

The Blues boss is ready to offer Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, currently on loan at Inter, as part of an exchange for Kane. The England forward's contract at Tottenham expires in 2024.

Chelsea are at the start of a new era after Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel, while they are set to appoint Salzburg's Christoph Freund as their new sporting director.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes reports Atletico Madrid are desperate to add a versatile attacker to their squad next year, with Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, Brighton and Hove Albion's Leandro Trossard and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino on top of their wish list.

– Calciomercato claims Liverpool are considering a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. Newcastle United, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax are also tracking the Ukrainian, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs. TalkSPORT reports that the Reds are also keeping an eye on Flamengo midfielder Joao Gomes .

– Manchester City are interested in a big-money move for Milan winger Rafael Leao next year, according to the Manchester Evening News.

– Football Insider reports West Ham have informed Manuel Lanzini he is free to leave the club in January.

– Former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro is close to a return to management with talks to take over at Serie B club Benevento progressing well, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Todd Boehly made it clear to Callum Hudson-Odoi that he wants the Chelsea loanee to return to Stamford Bridge after gaining experience with Bayer Leverkusen.

The 21-year-old was left frustrated during his time with the Blues under former coach Thomas Tuchel, moving to Leverkusen on loan in August after failing to make an appearance for Chelsea this season.

A lack of opportunities was the driving factor for the loan spell in the Bundesliga, where Hudson-Odoi has appeared three times and assisted once.

Chairman Boehly acknowledged in recent weeks Chelsea have too often lost bright young prospects, such as Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, and does not want to make the same error.

That is the reason Boehly refused to include a buyout clause in Hudson Odoi's loan to Gerardo Seoane's side, insisting he wants the forward to return to west London next season.

"It's definitely different," he said. "When a club is trying to get a player [on loan], they always want that option to buy at the end of the season. Todd was saying: 'Listen, we want you back here.'

"You're still on the radar of being wanted by the club. The way he's trying to set it up, there are a lot of young players he's trying to buy for the next few years.

"It shows he wants to integrate the players into the team and help them develop."

Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Jamal Musiala are all more recent examples of players to leave Chelsea for more opportunities, and Hudson-Odoi is aware of the benefits his loan can have.

"It's good for young talents to come here, play games and experience something new," he added. "Sometimes you're from London, you want to stick to that.

"But it's time to come and develop, try something new and be open to it."

Tuchel was dismissed from his role shortly after Hudson-Odoi departed for Germany, though the latter holds no grudges against his former boss.

He added: "It was one of those difficult moments when you look at yourself and say, 'What am I doing wrong? Have I done anything wrong to not even be in the squad?'

"I would never say anything bad about Thomas, he was a good guy, a good manager. [But] the first game of the season, it was frustrating. Any footballer that isn't in the squad would understand how frustrating it is.

"Regular football gives you consistency and the more games you play, the more consistent you become, the more form starts to kick in.

"You feel fresher, you feel better, you feel like… not that you're getting treated fairly but that you've got the trust from the manager to push you and kick you on. You don't want to be on the bench thinking, 'Why am I not playing?'

"And then it becomes weeks and weeks and the legs are rusty when you do play. The most important thing is consistent football. That's what I'm getting here and it's making me feel better.

"Right now, playing games, momentum is kicking on and you feel refreshed: new country, brand-new experience. It's definitely refreshing to know I get an opportunity to play games week in, week out, enjoying it and smiling!"

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