28, Feb 2021
Shaw Claims Referee Attwell Told Maguire That Hudson-Odoi’s Handball Against Man Utd ‘Was A Penalty’

Referee Stuart Attwell declined to award a spot-kick after viewing the incident on the VAR monitor 

The decision not to award Manchester United a penalty against Chelsea after Callum Hudson-Odoi handled in the area prompted a confused reaction from Red Devils defender Luke Shaw.

Blues star Hudson-Odoi touched the ball with his hand in the area while tussling with Mason Greenwood for possession during the first half. 

After consulting with VAR, however, referee Stuart Attwell determined that the contact was not grounds for a penalty, to the chagrin of the visitors.

What was said? 

Shaw was puzzled by the referee’s behaviour, claiming that a United player was privately told the kick should have been given. 

“If it’s not going to be a penalty, l don’t think they needed to stop the game,” he said to Sky Sports after the game.

“The ref even said to H [Harry Maguire] that if I say it is a pen then it is going to cause a lot of talk afterwards. H got told it was a penalty.

I don’t understand why the game is stopped. It’s confusing with VAR. 

“I’m not going to moan about it because l don’t think either team did enough to win.”

Former United star Gary Neville said earlier on Sky Sports: “There’s no doubt two or three months ago that’s a penalty – and there’s no doubt the referee would have abided by the referral. 

“But the referees are more bold and the handball laws are being changed in front of our eyes as the season goes along.

“I’m in agreement with the referee going to the monitor. But that was the first time I’ve seen players berating the referee when he was watching [the monitor]. Both sets of players were shouting at the referee when he was watching it.

“There’s no doubt earlier in the season that this would have been a penalty. Hudson-Odoi’s panic is the fact that his arm shouldn’t be there.”

What does the handball law state? 

The current regulations around handball deem that any deliberate touch with the hand or arm should be penalised, while accidental contact is also grounds for an infraction if “the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger” or “the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm.”

There are several caveats to the law, however, which, if applicable, mean the player has not committed handball. 

Cases where a handball occurs in contact directly from the player’s own head or body, or those of another player, or if the limb is kept close to the body or used to support the player during a fall without being extended have been deemed non-punishable and should not result in a free kick or, if in the penalty area, penalty being awarded.

source:- goal

28, Feb 2021
Better Late Than Never: Willian Finally Shows Arsenal What They’ve Been Waiting For

The much-maligned summer signing laid on two assists for the Gunners as Mikel Arteta’s rotated team impressed in winning away at Leicester City 

Match statistics: Leicester City 1-3 Arsenal

Welcome to the party, Willian!

It has been a long time coming, but we may just witnessed the week that finally kickstarts the Brazil international’s Arsenal career.

Having come off the bench on Thursday night to play a major role in the Gunners’ comeback against Benfica in the Europa League, the former Chelsea man took centre stage as Mikel Arteta’s again came from behind to beat Leicester City on Sunday.

He contributed two assists in the 3-1 success, adding to the assist he picked up for Kieran Tierney against Benfica in Athens.

This was the type of performance fans had grown accustomed to from Willian during his seven-year stay with Chelsea, and one that was totally out of keeping from what we had come to expect from him at Arsenal.

As well as the two assists, for David Luiz and the equally impressive Nicolas Pepe, he also made a huge c3ontribution to the move that resulted in Arsenal being awarded the penalty that Alexandre Lacazette converted just before half-time.

He repaid the faith shown in him by Mikel Arteta, and Arsenal’s manager will hope his summer signing can maintain this form for the remainder of the season.

“He is a player who we all like,” Arteta said of Willian ahead of kick-off at the King Power Stadium. “His team-mates like him and we were expecting many more things from him since he joined, but for many different reasons he hasn’t found his best performances.

“He is a player I really like and I did a lot to bring him in and hopefully he can still give us more.

“In games now you can see that he is starting to produce what we think he can do for the team so everyone has to step up and create big moments in games because the front players in the end have to be the ones that decide the game for us.”

Willian was one of six changes Arteta made from the side that started against Benfica on Thursday night. Lacazette and Pepe also came into the front four, while Mohamed Elneny, Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari all started, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka among the players who dropped the bench.

It was the first game in February that Saka had not started for Arsenal, and Arteta would have been desperate to see those who were brought in prove that his side can cope without the prodigious teenager.

But when they fell behind to a Youri Tielemans strike on six minutes, he must have feared the worst.

So he would have been delighted by the way his side reacted to the early setback and hauled themselves back into the game.

Pepe and Willian had both seen chances go begging by the time the former sent in an excellent free-kick which was headed home by David Luiz to make it 1-1.

And then Lacazette’s penalty, given after a handball by Wilfried Ndidi, ensured Arsenal went into the break with a deserved 2-1 lead.

Pepe extended Arsenal’s lead seven minutes into the second half, tapping in Willian’s ball across the six-yard box to finish off what had been a fabulous Arsenal counterattack.

Arteta’s side comfortably saw out the remainder of the game to seal one of the most impressive results of the season, one that was achieved without Saka even having to come onto the pitch.

So much talk has been about Arsenal’s reliance on the 19-year-old, so the fact that they produced what was arguably their best performance of the campaign without him will be a big confidence booster ahead of the final months of the season.

It was their first victory away from home in the league against a side who kicked-off the top three since beating Manchester City in January 2015, and Arteta will want to use this performance as the benchmark going forward.

It has been a difficult year for Arsenal, but the past week could turn out to be a major turning point in what has been a disappointing season.

Having set up a last-16 tie against Olympiacos in the Europa League, they have now moved to win eight points of fourth-placed West Ham in the Premier League.

And, perhaps most importantly, they have proven that they can win games without the likes of Saka and Aubameyang in the forward line.

It’s taken a while, but in Willian they have a player who can come in and make a difference.

source:- goal

28, Feb 2021
Musty J – Mama

Mustapha Jibrin, also known as MUSTY J is the last child of a family of six children of Alhaji (Dr) and Mrs Maryam Jibrin, Obokhale of Ugbokhare, Irrua, in Esan central local govt area. of Edo State.

He has been around doing music for about two years and has worked with notable names such as Swaps, Tuzi, to mention a few. The light-skinned and handsome Edo-born singer is out with a song titled ‘MAMA’. Musty J is dedicating this song to his mother whom he says has stood by him and his siblings ever since he lost his father at the age of Four.

The song ‘MAMA’ is full of melody with some infusion of contemporary ragga, laced with some incredible cord and hook that certainly will be a listener’s choice on radio, in the club or even online. Plans are underway for a water-tight remix which is expected to feature seasoned media personality, Oscar Snuggles, and celebrity disc jockey, DJ Neptune before the end of the second quarter of 2021.

Musty J attended Oregbeni Estate Primary School Benin and Notre.Dame Secondary School also in Benin City.
He is a graduate of Igbinedion university, Okada, where he obtained Bsc in International Relations.

Worty of note is the fact that he shares same birth date with His mom, a very seasoned politicIan and believer in Christ.

Download and enjoy MAMA



28, Feb 2021
Fati, Pedri, Reyna And Now Saka: Arsenal Ace Adds His Name To The List Of Football’s Budding Superstars

The winger’s decisive display in Thursday’s Europa League win over Benfica has merely underlined that the Gunners have a special talent on their hands 

With Arsenal’s season on the verge of collapse on Thursday night, the ball found its way to Bukayo Saka on the right wing. Within a few seconds, a Europa League night that was heading for disaster had been turned on its head.

Saka, as he has done so often this season, rescued his side. With chaos raging all around him, he kept his head and found the quality needed to keep Arsenal’s campaign alive.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may have been the man who scored the goal to put Arsenal through against Benfica, but it was Saka who ensured the Gunners skipper couldn’t miss.

With the clock ticking down and crisis point looming, most players would have just fired the ball aimlessly into the crowded penalty area with the hope someone might get on the end of it.

But having been found by Martin Odeegard, Saka showed no sign of panic. He took his time, created some space with a stepover and whipped in a cross to the back post that was begging to be turned home.

Arsenal’s star boy had done it again, just when his side needed him the most.

Given what Saka is doing on a weekly basis, it’s easy to forget that he is just 19.

English football is currently blessed with a plethora of exciting young attacking talents: from Jadon Sancho dazzling at Borussia Dortmund to Phil Foden playing a pivotal role in Manchester City’s march towards the Premier League title.

However, in Saka, Arsenal have themselves a gem who compares favourably to the most promising players in the game today.

“How good can he be is a question nobody can answer,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. “He is a boy that is constantly willing to learn, to get better, to work on the things he can do better and he is very humble and hard working.

“When that happens, and you have the talent he has, normally you can go a long way.”

With six goals and six assists to his name, Saka now has 12 direct goal involvements this season – only Aubameyang (14) and Alexandre Lacazette (13) have more at Arsenal.

He may still be a teenager, but he is already firmly established as one of the leaders in Arteta’s side.

Arsenal were 15th in the Premier League when they lost at Everton on December 19, and just four points off relegation.

Since then, Saka has scored five goals and set up another four. He has almost single-handedly dragged his side away from the drop zone and now he has sent them through to the last 16 of the Europa League.

A glance at the action areas from Thursday night’s win against Benfica tells you all you need to know about Saka’s importance to this Arsenal side.

A mammoth 48 per cent of all their attacks went down the right flank. Wherever Saka goes, the ball follows. His team-mates now look to him whenever they can, as they know he is their best chance of making something happen.

“He’s in a great moment, he’s full of confidence,” Arteta said last week. “He’s been really important in recent results. His form is probably the highest that it’s been since I’ve been here and he’s been really consistent.

“He needs to keep going and [we need to] be wise with him because at the moment he’s a big part of the team.”

Since the start of last season, Saka is the youngest Premier League player to be in double figures for goals (10) and assists (18) across all competitions.

And when you compare him to Europe’s top performing teenagers, he is right up there too.

Indeed, with six goals, he has scored more than Barcelona duo Ansu Fati (five) and Pedri (three), and Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham (one) and Giovanni Reyna (four). He also has more assists than all four of those players since the start of the campaign although Fati has been absent through injury of late.

It’s rare that a player who is so young takes on so much responsibility at a top club. Sometimes they are so good, however, that a manager can’t afford to hold them back.

Arteta has spoken at length about needing to protect Saka from the pressure of expectation, but the level of his performances – no matter the opposition – make it almost impossible to do that.

Such is the teenager’s importance to Arsenal now that he has played 2,496 minutes across all competitions so far this season – no other outfield player has totalled more for the Gunners.

Since missing the 0-0 draw with Manchester United on January 30, Saka has been on the field for all but one minute of Arsenal’s six games throughout February.

Arteta is aware of the youngster’s need for a rest, but knows he must find a balance between easing Saka’s workload and ensuring his side still has the best possible chance of getting results.

“On Thursday night (against Benfica), at some stages in the game we were thinking about that because you could see [signs of tiredness],” the Spaniard told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Leicester.

“But obviously when things go well, the energy that creates sometimes overcomes fatigue and I prefer not to talk too much about fatigue anyway.

“If we have to rest players, we have to rest them, because we have to keep them fit as much as possible. But you also have to develop that mental toughness that you need when you are in competitions you want to win.”

Arteta added: “There are things and professions that are much harder than ours where people keep on going and going – like when someone is running a marathon and chasing somebody.

“So, fatigue is a lot of times mental, because if things go well and you score a goal, I’m sure you will still have the energy to sprint and celebrate that goal.

“But when you have to track someone back, you say you’re tired? I don’t really agree with that; if you are on that pitch – until you are absolutely done – you have to give your best.”

Arteta is expected to make changes against Leicester, with the Europa League and the upcoming last-16 tie with Olympiacos clearly now Arsenal’s priority.

The Gunners sit 11th in the Premier League ahead of the trip to the King Power and that lowly position would be an awful lot worse had it not been for Saka’s recent heroics.

Arsenal’s young star is known as ‘Little Chilli’ by his team-mates. “It’s because he has so much energy, so much power,” explained Aubameyang.

Saka has certainly been too hot to handle for plenty of teams in recent weeks but, on Thursday night, he showed he had ice in his veins when he produced the moment of quality that decided the tie in Arsenal’s favour.

Arteta’s side were staring into the abyss in Athens but now they can continue to dream of Europa League glory, and the Champions League place that would come with it.

There is still a long way to go, of course, but if Saka stays fit and fresh, anything is possible.

source:- goal

28, Feb 2021
‘Maybe It Is Our Fault’ – Tuchel Admits Chelsea’s Possession-Based Style Doesn’t Suit Werner

The Blues are keeping the ball well but it could be at the expense of their explosive striker, who likes to run into space 

Thomas Tuchel believes that Chelsea’s style of play sometimes holds Timo Werner back as the possession-hungry side cause opponents to sit in defensive shapes.

Chelsea have averaged 69 per cent possession in the six league games since Tuchel has taken over, which has caused their rivals to sit deep and hit them on the counterattack.

Werner has scored just once in the eight matches since Tuchel came in. Although the forward has shown signs of improvement, the Blues will demand more from their £47.5 million signing from RB Leipzig.

What Tuchel said?

Tuchel said he sympathised with Werner’s struggles and explained why he continues to select him despite a lack of goals.

“Maybe it is our fault because we have a lot of possession and we push opponent teams very, very deep in their half so spaces are not too big,” Tuchel said.

“The biggest strength of Timo is to attack the space behind the last line so it is maybe also our fault in the dominant game that we play in the moment, it is very natural that the spaces are closed by the opponents.

“A game like against Atletico, is there any team out there in the world that can close spaces like Atletico? I don’t know. This is not exactly the opponent that you wish for Timo to show all his skills, so what is left for him is to not lose faith and work for the team.

“We are reflecting a lot about this and working a lot with him.

“There are also solutions in tight spaces to use his speed in the first metres, to use his acceleration.

“But it is not easy for him and I can totally see this and it is why I am very patient and very supportive and I believe in his potential and character and of course his goalscoring skills.”

How has Werner fared at Chelsea?

The Germany international got off to a strong start under Frank Lampard, scoring eight times in his first 12 matches in all competitions. 

But as Chelsea’s form dipped under Lampard, so did Werner’s. The striker went 14 consecutive league matches without a goal – a run that stretched between November and February.

Lampard was replaced by Tuchel in January and though Werner has shown signs of life under the former PSG boss, his goal against Newcastle on February 15 is his only strike under Tuchel thus far.

What else was said?

Tuchel went on to talk about his six wins and two draws since coming in to replace Lampard at the end of January. Asked when would be the time to judge his impact, Tuchel began with a joke.

“How about now? It is a very good moment! Excellent moment for a five-year contract,” Tuchel said with a laugh.

“You know how it is. The point is to not get affected too much also in moments where you have good results, keep your feet on the ground and that is the big challenge as we know very well that you get judged on results.”

source:- goal

27, Feb 2021
Osimhen Suffered Head Trauma With Memory Loss, Napoli Doctor Reveals

Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen will be out of action until early March after suffering head trauma with memory loss, according to Napoli based Doctor Alfredo Bucciero.

The 22-year-old, who has endured a difficult season due to injuries and Covid-19 following his big money move to Naples was rushed to the hospital last weekend after he fell awkwardly and bumped the back of his head on the ground during the final minutes of the Serie A clash against Atalanta.

Despite the Nigerian dropping in and out of consciousness en route to Bergamo’s Papa Giovanni Hospital, new reports have emerged that Osimhen has no memory of the incident.

“He suffered head trauma with memory loss,” explained neurosurgeon Alfredo Bucciero to Radio Kiss Kiss. “Now the medical tests are showing good results, but we still need to wait for the natural recovery time to be completed.

“We don’t have signs of a haematoma on the brain, nor damage to the skullcap. We must be cautious, he needs at least a week of complete rest.

“I think he could be available again from early March. Osimhen is in a rush, he wants to play and asks me to hurry up the process, but in these situations, rest is necessary. We cannot run any risks.”

Osimhen did not feature in the Europa League round of 32 second leg clash against Granada at the Diego Maradona stadium in Naples.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Forgotten Super Eagles Forward Blasts Rohr Over Lack Of 2nd Chance

Forgotten Super Eagles forward Anthony Nwakaeme has blasted national team coach Genort Rohr over lack of second chance with the three-time African Champions.

The 31-year-old Nigeria international made his long-awaited debut on 10 November 2017 during the 1-1 scored with Algeria in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

However, Trabzonspor star Nwakaeme said he deserved to make a further appearance for Super Eagles after he featured 71 minutes only for Rohr side.

The Lagos-born attacker said in a TV interview via Score Nigeria: “If I had played in England or Spain instead of Israel, they would have given another chance. Because I played in Israel, the national team coach Rohr looked down on me,”

Nwakaeme has continued to shine in Turkish Super Lig after 25 goals in 74 appearances in all competition for Trabzonspor after in his last two seasons.

Former Hapoel Be’er Sheva striker has netted six goals and provided five assists as Trabzonspor stay in contention for the Turkish Super Lig title.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
EUROPA LEAGUE: Man United Get AC Milan As Super Eagles Stars Clash In The Round Of 16

Manchester United get AC Milan as Super Eagles stars of Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun clash with Peter Olayinka’s Slavia Prague in the round of 16 of the Europa League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side cruised into the draw with a 4-0 aggregate win over Real Sociedad on Thursday night, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic reunited with his former club after overcoming Red Star Belgrade.

Aribo’s Rangers booked their place in the last 16 with an emphatic win over Royal Antwerp take on Slavia Prague, who picked up their first win on English soil by beating Leicester 2-0 on Thursday.

Arsenal are looking for revenge against Olympiacos after losing to the Greek side on away goals in last season’s round of 32, North London outfit Tottenham travel to Dinamo Zagreb.


🔥 Round of 16 draw! 🔥

Best game? 🤩#UELdrawpic.twitter.com/LlPsMyZjgo

— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) February 26, 2021

The round of 16 first legs are scheduled for Thursday 11 March, with the second legs on 18 March.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Real Madrid, Barcelona And AC Milan Set Sight On Sevilla Playmaker

Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan have set sight on Sevilla playmaker Bryan Gil from SD Eibar, according to the report in Spain.

The midfielder currently plays for SD Eibar but Sevilla remain the parent club of the player and they are willing to welcome him back to Sanchez Pizjuan at the end of the current campaign.

One of Barcelona’s high-profile scouts – Vaya Ballabriga – has called him the best Spanish player at the moment. He is the same man who discovered Ansu Fati, Andres Iniesta and others, so his words should not be taken lightly.

The 20-year-old is likened to Neymar, Gil is young, strong and has high potential making him an ideal profile for Milan, who have put him in their sights. However, it is difficult to sign him as Sevilla do not want to deprive themselves of him.

AC Milan is not the only team as Real Madrid and Barcelona are also in the race to sign him but Sevilla want to renew his contract until 2025 (a two-year extension).

At the moment there is a release clause of €35million in his contract, but Sevilla want that to go up to €150m.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Johnson Names 2 Signing Tuchel Need To Challenge For EPL Title Next Season

Former Chelsea star Glen Johnson has named two big signings Tomas Tuchel need to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title next season.

The 47-year-old German coach has gone on an eight-game unbeaten run and two goals conceded in eight games to get his career in west London underway.

Tuchel has helped Chelsea narrow the gap on fourth-placed West Ham in the race for a Champions League spot but former PSG will be handed significant funds to invest his squad this summer, having joined the Blues too late into the January transfer window to add any new recruits.

Johnson believes the side are increasingly dependent upon the veterans and Tuchel should address the situation in the summer by finding younger replacements for the pair.

Former Chelsea, Liverpool and English defender to Metro.co.uk: “I think they need a top, younger centre half and they need a top striker.

“Obviously they’ve spent a lot of money in the wide areas and in midfield. I think they’re a far better side with Giroud and he’s the guy that they’ve been trying to get out of the door for the last few years. It shows you that they’ve tried to replace him and haven’t managed to do so.

“I think a top striker is the main thing. Giroud is 34 now so there’s only so much he can do. The same stands at centre-half because Thiago Silva is a different class but his body can’t cope with the Premier League every week.

“I think someone like Haaland would be ideal,’ said Johnson. ‘He’d be the perfect replacement for Giroud. He’s big, he’s quick, he’s powerful, he’s unbelievable in front of a goal.

“Those sort of signings give a lift to the rest of the dressing room and it would be a real statement if they could pull it off.’

Frank Lampard embarked on a £225m spending spree last summer but notable signings such as Kai Havertz and Timo Werner struggled to hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Super Eagles Star Targets 90 Points In England

Super Eagles vice-captain, William Troost-Ekong is targeting 90points for Championship side Watford as they chase automatic promotion to the Premier League.

The Hornets are on a four-game winning streak and have lost just one of their last 10 to move level on points with second-place Brentford ahead of their game on Saturday against Bournemouth.

“There is still a long way to go and we have to play Norwich and all the teams around us,” said the summer signing from Udinese. “I still think it’s difficult to say how many points we will need for automatic promotion. In the past it’s been between 75 and 90 points, so we want to reach that level before we start looking around at others.

“We’ve got a board up and just crossing off the wins we think we need. I know it’s a cliche, but we are taking each game as it comes and the coach is hammering that into us. We aren’t looking at any calculations.”

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Rohr To Releases List Of Super Eagles Players Next Week Ahead Of AFCON Qualifiers

Gernot Rohr will release the list of Super Eagles players next week ahead of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho.

Three-time African Champions take on Squirrels in Port Novo on March 25 before hosting Crocodile in their final qualifier on March 30 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

According to Completes Sport claim that a close source to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), where it revealed that the list may arrive next week with governing board ensures that the best players are selected by Rohr for the double clash.

“We’re still expecting the list of players from Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr. Like you know, Nigeria will face Benin on March 22 before confronting Lesotho on March 30 in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned because the team must qualify for the tournament. It will be a collective effort because we don’t want to give Nigerians any excuses.

“We must invite our best players for the two games and ensure that the players are well motivated to also give out their best.”

Nigeria is top of Group L on eight points from four games while Benin is second on seven points.

The clash in Benin may decide the fate of both nations as they hope to qualify for the tournament in next year in Cameroon.

source:- fcnaija

27, Feb 2021
Manchester City Extend Winning Run After Beating West Ham

Manchester City have extended a winning run after beating 2-1 West Ham in the Premier League encounter at Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Former Benfica defender Ruben Dias put Manchester City ahead 30th minutes into the encounter to scores his first goal for his new club after Kevin de Bruyne assists

West Ham broke Manchester City’s streak of seven consecutive clean sheets at home in all competitions when Michail Antonio scored before the end of the first half.

Riyad Mahrez provides the winner after the Algerian winger jinked past West Ham defence just inside the penalty box to set up Dias’ partner John Stone in the 68th minutes.

27 – Man City are unbeaten in their last 27 games in all competitions (W24 D3), the second longest such run in their history (28 games, Apr-Dec 2017). They have now also extended the longest ever winning run by a top-flight side in all comps to 20 matches. Astounding. pic.twitter.com/wLtXPXK2R7

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 27, 2021

Pep Guardiola’s men turn attention to Wolves on Tuesday in the Premier League encounter at Etihad Stadium.

source:- fcnaija

26, Feb 2021
VIDEO: Mannie Mims – Gudu Ft Max Mannie

Uk based International Ghanaian act Prince Anane Marfo popularly known as Mannie Mims releases the visuals of his street anthem #GUDU  which features Big Drama Army’s Frontliner Artist Max Mannie .

GUDU made a big impact when it was released in December 2020 .. By popular request, Mannie Mims teamed up with fellow UK based director MR Higgs and the outcome is historic…
Video was shot at where he was born and raised in Kumasi Asafo(Ghana ) .

check this banger out and don’t forget to share



23, Feb 2021
Oblak, Kepa And The £16m That Could Have Solved Chelsea’s Goalkeeping Problem

The Blues decided against signing the Atletico Madrid shot-stopper in the summer of 2018, a decision that they may live to regret on Tuesday 

When Chelsea line up to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, they will be forced to face the ghosts of transfer decisions past.

The Blues will start with Edouard Mendy between the posts, with the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, again forced to watch on from the substitutes’ bench.

At the other end will be Jan Oblak, a player so crucial in deciding results that his manager Diego Simeone has likened his impact to Lionel Messi.

For the small matter of just £16 million ($22m), things could have been very different.

Back in the summer of 2018, Chelsea were on the search for a new No.1, with it clear that Thibaut Courtois was on his way out of Stamford Bridge as he edged towards signing for Real Madrid.

The Blues had two players at the top of their shortlist of potential replacements: Alisson Becker and Oblak.

Liverpool won the race for Alisson as the Brazil international swapped Roma for the Reds, leaving Oblak as Chelsea’s primary option.

Despite the Blues having an outstanding relationship with the Spanish side, Atleti would not budge when it came to negotiating a deal for Oblak to leave.

The Slovenia shot-stopper had a €100m (£87m/$121m) release clause in his contract, and the Rojiblancos would not be accepting anything less.

Chelsea were unwilling to pay the price; they were set to receive only £35m ($49m) for Courtois as he entered the final year of his contract in west London, and went in search of alternatives.

That search led them to Kepa, almost two years younger than Oblak and, with a release clause of €80m (£71m/$99m), offered more long-term value for money if the potential he had shown at Athletic Club was realised in the Premier League.

It has not worked out and it is fair to ask whether Chelsea did the right thing in turning down the chance to sign Oblak for the sake of an extra £16m ($23m).

While Oblak – who has been courted by two other Premier League clubs in the past – continues to set the standard for goalkeepers around the world, Kepa has spent the past 18 months in and out of the Chelsea team after a string of errors.

The Blues are keen to move the Spain international on, though the fact he still has four years to run on his original seven-year contract makes selling him at a palatable price difficult.

The club were hopeful that during the summer of 2020 a buyer would emerge, and there was some interest from Valencia, albeit in an initial loan deal rather than a permanent transfer.

Last summer, Chelsea knew that even if Kepa did not depart they would need a new permanent No.1, which saw them circle back in Oblak’s direction.

In the two years since they first made their interest in him known, the 28-year-old signed a new deal at the Wanda Metropolitano, with his release clause increasing to €120m (£104m/$145m).

While Chelsea were quite happy to spend big in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, other clubs were not so forthcoming when it came to taking unwanted players off their hands.

As such, and with Atleti again refusing to budge on price, the Blues turned to Mendy at Rennes, who, at £22m ($31m), was more affordable, although an unknown quantity at the highest level.

The Senegal international has certainly been a far more reliable presence than Kepa ever was, though new manager Thomas Tuchel has opened the door to the latter earning more opportunities as he gets his feet under the table at Stamford Bridge.

As for Oblak, he continues to be linked with Europe’s biggest clubs, though Atleti maintain their stance that he will not be sold for a penny less than his release clause.

His current contract runs until 2023, though there might be few better places to be than with the Liga leaders right now.

Despite recent slip-ups, Simeone’s side remain clear of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish title race, and are on a far sounder footing, financially, than either of their rivals.

And, with Luis Suarez and Joao Felix combining well in attack, the three-time losing finalists may not have a better chance of finally claiming their first Champions League title this season. As such, Oblak has no reason to think about moving on.

“Now is not the time to speak about transfers,” his agent, Miha Mlakar, tells Goal. “Chelsea – Atletico is an important game.

“Chelsea are a new team with a new coach who have made some positive moves, but Atletico is always at their strongest in the most difficult games.

“They showed it against Liverpool last season. Atletico is Atletico and every team must be scared of them.”

The daunting prospect of trying to find a way to score past one of the game’s best goalkeepers would cause most strikers nightmares.

But if Oblak plays a key role in knocking out Chelsea over the next three weeks, the hierarchy in west London will be having sleepless nights too following the decisions that were made in the summer of 2018.

source:- goal