UEFA Champions League: Picking a Combined XI Ahead of the Mini-Tournament

Sergio Ramos, Kevin De Bruyne
Sergio Ramos and Kevin De Bruyne – two of the Champions League’s top performers | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s been a long 16 weeks without it, but the Champions League is very nearly back.

Europe’s elite knockout competition will play out to its conclusion later this month with an impromptu mini-tournament, where the clubs lucky enough to have made the quarter-finals – or haven’t played their round of 16 second legs yet – will vie for the showpiece prize of the 2019/20 season.

We’ll see some of the best players on the planet go head to head, so to build the hype, we’ve analysed the 12 remaining squads, and come up with the best XI of all of them combined.

It hasn’t been easy, so please don’t shout.

Jan OblakJan Oblak
Oblak is the best keeper around | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Where would Atléti be without their Slovenian Superman between the sticks this season? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

The title of best goalkeeper in the world has rarely been more tightly contested than it is now, but Oblak is a truly special talent who can probably now lay claim to it.

You don’t often come across a keeper with cat-like reflexes, sublime distribution, and the authority to command his box like a military sergeant preparing for battle, but here is is.

Honourable Mention: Marc-André ter Stegen, Thibaut Courtois

UEFA Champions League"Red Bull Leipzig v Tottenham Hotspur FC"UEFA Champions League"Red Bull Leipzig v Tottenham Hotspur FC"
Klostermann impressed against Tottenham | ANP Sport/Getty Images

Liverpool’s elimination means the default instinct to just select Trent Alexander-Arnold is void. As it turns out, outside of the England right-back, there isn’t really an outstanding choice for this position.

Lukas Klostermann has been a consistent, versatile and energetic presence for an impressive Leipzig team, however, and continues to grow under the radar as one of the most quietly impressive full-backs on the continent.

Honourable Mentions: Hans Hateboer, Kieran Trippier

Sergio RamosSergio Ramos
Ramos saw red against City but is still one of the tournament’s outstanding defenders | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Ok so he might have had a bit of a mare against Manchester City, but c’mon, this is Sergio Ramos we’re on about.

The best goalscoring centre half ever, Mr. Champions League, Captain Sh*thouse himself.

This Real team by no means look like the best in Europe, but purely through virtue of having Ramos there to kick ass and take names, you wouldn’t bet against them going at the way…if they can first manoeuvre their way past City without him.

Neymar, MarquinhosNeymar, Marquinhos
Marquinhos celebrates with Neymar after his goal against Borussia Dortmund | UEFA – Handout/Getty Images

If you think Marquinhos is the best ball-playing central defender in the world, you’re kidding yourself. That’s Virgil van Dijk.

If you think Marquinhos is the best ball-playing central defender left in the Champions League, however, you’re probably right.

Marquinhos’ ridiculous passing range and composure on the ball have been a massive part of why PSG are still in with a chance of advancing beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. He’s not bad at the old defending either – Paris have conceded just three goals in eight UCL matches this term, a run through which he has been a virtual ever-present.

Honourable Mentions: Aymeric Laporte, Dayot Upamecano, Felipe, Matthijs de Ligt

Davies’ star is rising about as quickly as he can sprint – and that’s very, very, very fast.

He was famously monikered ‘Roadrunner’ by Thomas Muller earlier this season, and his pace and dynamism have already proved too much for Tottenham and Chelsea to handle.

A real creative bright spark down the left hand side, Davies adds another string to Hansi Flick’s fearsome attacking bow – as if he needs it.

Honourable Mentions: Roben Gosens

Kevin De BruyneKevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne helped City to a key first leg win over Real Madrid | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

38 goal-involvements this season. And counting.

From central midfield.

Honestly, De Bruyne, just give it a rest.

Joshua KimmichJoshua Kimmich
Kimmich swings in a corner against Chelsea | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

It doesn’t seem to matter where you play Kimmich. Centre-midfield, right-back, centre-back, in goal, assistant manager; it really has no bearing, because he’ll still chip in with ten assists every year.

He’s the definition of reliable, and at times this season he’s held together a Bayern team that might have otherwise fallen apart.

Saul NiguezSaul Niguez
Saul pays his respects to Liverpool | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid’s midfield warrior rounds out our fantasy trio after yet another impressive season in Los Rojiblacos’ engine room.

He might have picked up more bookings (13) than goals or assists (7) in all competitions, but if anything that just further emphasises that he’s doing what he’s in the team for; to win battles, stifle creativity, and move the ball on.

He does like the odd important goal, however – just as Liverpool about that one.

Honourable Mentions: Houssem Aouar, Marcel Sabitzer, Casemiro

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Messi on the prowl against Napoli | DeFodi Images/Getty Images


Barcelona may be reaching the limits of how bad they can be while still relying on Messi to drag them over the line, but that hasn’t stopped the little magician from trying.

He single-handedly got them through the group stage, scoring or assisting five of their nine goals, and looks poised to try and repeat that feat when Napoli come to town to keep his team in with a chance of actually winning a trophy.

Honourable Mentions: Christian Pulisic, Serge Gnabry

Robert Lewandowski, David Alaba, Alphonso DaviesRobert Lewandowski, David Alaba, Alphonso Davies
Lewandowski celebrates scoring against Chelsea | Visionhaus/Getty Images

11 goals in six Champions League games. Eleven goals, in six Champions League games.

Lewandowski’s had a good season in the same way Michael Jordan was good at basketball. He looked a shoe-in for Ballon d’Or before it was unceremoniously cancelled, but you’d safely bet he’d happily trade that individual accolade to finally get his hands on the Champions League.

Honourable Mentions: Josip Ilicic, Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe

Olympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First LegOlympique Lyon v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Ronaldo advancing on goal against Lyon | RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

We have to apologise for choosing the most predictable and obvious front three in Champions League history, but when you’ve got Messi, Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo all available, what are you going to do? Not pick them?

Ronnie has hit the ground running this season after using 2018/19 to settle in at Juve, and although his European form doesn’t quite match his Serie A exploits, his 35 goals in all competitions means he still warrants a place in this team.

That and the fact that he’s, y’know, the all-time Champions League top goalscorer.

Honourable Mentions: Raheem Sterling, Papu Gomez


Lionel Messi: Remembering La Pulga’s First Year as a Professional

A fresh-faced Messi in 2005
A fresh-faced Messi in 2005 | Luis Bagu/Getty Images

With 25 La Liga goals and 21 La Liga assists, Lionel Messi finished the 2019/20 season as the top-scorer and top assist provider in the Spanish top division, further demonstrating his other worldly footballing ability.

For almost 15 years, Messi has been the star of the show at the Camp Nou and the best player in the world (sorry Cristiano) – collecting a record six Ballons d’Or along the way.

Having won 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and numerous other trophies throughout his career, Messi is regarded by many to be one of, if not the, greatest footballer in the history of the beautiful game, and after watching the Argentine smash every record known to man over the past 15 years – who are we to argue?

Haven’t you always wanted to see how the all time greats started out? Muhammad Ali’s first boxing match, Shakespeare’s first play, Lionel Messi’s first season in football, well you’re in luck. 90min invite you to hop into our hypothetical Delorean and take a little journey back to where it all began, back when a 17-year-old Messi took to the field for Barcelona for the very first time, and changed football forever.

Having shot through the ranks at Barcelona, Messi began training with Barcelona’s first-team during the 2003/04 season and instantly caught the eye of his elder teammates. French winger Ludovic Giuly even admitted the young Argentine destroyed them in training, insisting the team’s starting centre-backs were even terrified to come up against the prodigy.

Messi was that impressive that Barcelona great Ronaldinho – a man many considered to be the best footballer in the world at the time – admitted to his teammates that he thought the then 16-year-old would go on to become a better player than him.

Barcelona's coach Frank Rijkaard (L) hugBarcelona's coach Frank Rijkaard (L) hug
Frank Rijkaard gave Messi his debut at Barcelona | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

The Argentine’s first appearance for the club was actually in a friendly against Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Messi would only play the final 15 minutes, but was already showing signs of the player he would go on to become, with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard saying the following after the game:

“He only had 15 minutes, but he played really well and he had two chances to score. The future he has is promising.”

Mourinho would go on to face the Messi many times over the years as manager of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter, and while the Special One’s record against Barcelona isn’t great, he credits facing La Pulga for making him a better coach.

This debut was back in 2003, but it wasn’t until October 2004 that Messi finally got a chance in La Liga. In a testament to just how much talent he’d shown in training, numerous first-team players had asked Barcelona’s then-manager Frank Rijkaard to utilise Messi in a competitive game, leading to his debut on 16 October against Espanyol. Traditionally a left winger, Messi was moved to the right so Rijkaard could fit both the youngster and Ronaldinho in his team, and it paid off tenfold.

Ronaldinho, Lionel MessiRonaldinho, Lionel Messi
Ronaldinho could see the potential Messi possessed even at the age of 16 | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

At the time of his debut, Messi – aged 17 years, three months and 22 days – was the youngest ever player to represent Barcelona in an official competition, but despite impressing his teammates and manager alike, the Argentine found gametime hard to come by during his first season in Barcelona’s first team.

Throughout his debut season, Messi only played more than 20 minutes in three of his nine appearances, but with Ronaldinho taking the youngster under his wing, his debut season was a huge learning curve and helped shape what would go on to be a monumental career.

“This award says I’m the best player in the world, but I’m not even the best player at Barcelona. Leo Messi reminds me more of Maradona, both left-footed and short, Messi is the best player in the world, along with Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. For us it is not a surprise. Since he began to come and train with us and we knew we would go down this path. Someday I will explain that I was at the birth of one of the footballing greats: Leo Messi.”

– Ronaldinho – After 2005 Ballon d’Or win

It wasn’t until Messi’s final appearance of the season, the last La Liga game of the season, that he scored his first senior goal for Barcelona, with an audacious chip following a perfectly weighted lob from Ronaldinho. The goal made Messi the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona’s history at the time. The attacker would go on to see his side win their first La Liga title in six years, a feeling he would become all too familiar with in the years to follow as the club dethroned Real Madrid as Spain’s kingpins.

Although it was a fairly uneventful first professional season for Messi, he’d return the year after and improve significantly, with eight goals in 25 appearances – and, as you know, it only got better from there. Despite being in his 16th season as a Barcelona first team player, Messi hasn’t failed to hit double figure goals scored since his second season in the side, a testament to the truly remarkable player he’s gone on to become.


Mauricio Pochettino Opens Door to Replacing Quique Setien at Barcelona

Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino has been out of work since his sacking from Tottenham last November | Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images

Former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has backtracked on previous comments saying that he’d never take up the managerial job at Barcelona, opening the door a crack for him to be Quique Setien’s successor at Camp Nou.

The pressure has mounted exponentially on Setien after the Catalans surrendered their La Liga title to Real Madrid for the first time since 2017, with the Spaniard struggling to impose his ideals and manage the bigger egos within the Barcelona squad.

Quique SetienQuique Setien
It’s been a mixed bag for Quique Setien thus far, but losing the title to Real Madrid was a huge blow | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Despite receiving constant backing from the Barça board, Setien’s future at the club is in serious doubt and he may even depart following the conclusion of La Blaugrana’s Champions League run this month. It may take European glory for Setien to keep his job.

Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, has reopened the door to any potential managerial vacancy in Catalunya by backtracking on comments he made in 2018.

A club legend at Barça’s cross-city rivals Espanyol both as a player and coach, the Argentine once famously said that he would return to his farm in his homeland before taking over the reins at the Camp Nou.

The Catalan giants had a serious interest in hiring Pochettino following the January departure of Ernesto Valverde but Setien was hired instead, with the Argentine displaying a distinct lack of enthusiasm when Barça made an approach.

Espanyol's coach Mauricio Pochettino froEspanyol's coach Mauricio Pochettino fro
Pochettino oversaw 160 games in charge of Espanyol – his first of just three jobs in management thus far | JOSEP LAGO/Getty Images

He appears to have changed his tune, though.

“I did not want to disrespect Barcelona. I could have said things differently. Espanyol has made a name for me. But I’m not arrogant and I didn’t like making a statement like that. Maybe now I wouldn’t because in life you never know what will happen,” Pochettino said speaking to El Pais (via Forbes).

It appears the Argentine has dropped his name in the hat for the potential managerial sweepstake at Barcelona this summer, with the former Spurs boss out of work since his sacking from N17 last November.


The World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams in 2020 – Ranked

Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the most valuable teams worldwide | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s been a bit of a weird year for sports teams of all kinds around the world, but there’s still a crazy amont of money in sport.

As they do every year, the people over at Forbes have put together a list of the most valuable sports teams across the globe, and a solid number of football teams managed to make their way into the rankings.

Let’s take a look at the top 50 teams – we’ll dive deeper into the ones that we care about over here.

Maintaining the same value as last year is Arsenal, who have fallen five spots down to 47th.

While it hasn’t been the best year on the pitch for Arsenal, inconsistent performances and sacking manager Unai Emery haven’t had too much of an impact financially.

Thanks to their FA Cup final triumph, the Gunners will have the chance to build on that in next year’s Europa League.

Just like Arsenal, Chelsea have also dropped five places while still retaining their same value from 2019.

The Blues had planned to have a busy year, with a brand new stadium complex on the cards, only for Chelsea to allow their planning permission to expire while they evaluate the current financial landscape.

Frank Lampard managed to guide Chelsea back to the Champions League, ensuring their income won’t take much of a hit over the coming year.

Yet again, City retained their value from 2019, but growth from teams from other sports has seen them drop nine spots down to 34th.

City’s financial power is no secret, and they flexed their muscle last summer by striking huge deals for Rodri and João Cancelo, and there’ll probably be a fair bit of money spent this year too.

Pep Guardiola’s side managed to get their Champions League ban overturned, ensuring they can remain competitive for years to come, although they did have to swallow a hefty fine.

Despite no drop in value, Bayern Munich find themselves falling from 17th in 2019 to 24th in 2020.

Being so far down in any rankings is an alien concept for Bayern, who have been overwhelmingly dominant in the Bundesliga in recent years.

Perennial favourites to win the Champions League, their value would enjoy a tidy rise if they can get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2013.

Despite dropping from sixth to tenth, Manchester United remain the third most valuable football team in the world.

It’s that kind of financial power which has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some big plans for the summer transfer window, and qualifying for the Champions League will only help United strengthen, both on and off the pitch.

The Red Devils hope to be back on track after a few years of turmoil, so don’t be surprised to see them climb higher up this list in 2021.

Dropping down four spots are Barcelona, who still sit second on football’s rich list.

There was no drop in value for Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and co. this year, but the impact of the coronavirus outbreak might have a pretty rough impact on Barcelona’s finances for the 2021 rankings.

It’s been a frustrating year for the Catalan club, who need to win the Champions League to finish the campaign with any silverware. No pressure.

Sitting atop football’s financial Mount Olympus for the second straight year are Real Madrid.

Los Blancos spent big money last summer, recruiting Eden Hazard, Luka Jovi?, Éder Militão, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo Goes, and their reward was yet another La Liga title.

The spending might be a little calmer this time around, with Zinedine Zidane instead focusing on selling some of the club’s fringe players.

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!


Barcelona President Hits Out at ‘Disrespectful’ Arthur for Champions League Choice

Arthur Melo
Arthur Melo has refused to leave Brazil until his Juventus agreement kicks in | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has hit out at midfielder Arthur for his refusal to return to Camp Nou this summer.

Arthur has already agreed a deal to join Juventus, despite publicly admitting he wanted to stay in Barcelona, and he has now refused to come back and compete in the Champions League in an attempt to force through an early exit.

Arthur MeloArthur Melo
Arthur wants his Barcelona contract to be terminated | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Speaking to Sport, Bartomeu claimed that Barcelona simply could not afford to pay Arthur what he wanted and therefore allowed him to leave, but the Brazilian had agreed to remain at Camp Nou and compete in the Champions League.

“What Arthur’s done is a lack of respect towards his teammates because the team is desperate to do well in the Champions League, as is the club,” Bartomeu said. “It’s not normal that, with such a big trophy on the line, a player decides to remove himself from selection. It’s unjustifiable and completely incomprehensible.

“We reached an agreement for him to continue with Barça until the end of the Champions League. He’s an important player that could help us. But he didn’t come back after a mini-break. It’s an unacceptable act of indiscipline. And for that reason, we have opened disciplinary proceedings because there’s no argument to justify his absence. He called and he said: ‘I won’t come back, I am staying in Brazil.’ It’s his decision. No one gave him permission.”

As well as all the controversy surrounding Arthur, manager Quique Setién has also found himself dominating headlines recently, with many reports suggesting the boss could be sacked this summer after a poor end to the campaign.

“Setién has a contract. When we appointed him, we explained it was a project for this season but also for the next one,” Bartomeu added. “Measuring a coach by a few months, with a pandemic in the middle, is tough. Arturo Vidal said it, he’s had very little time to get to know the players and work.

“At no moment have we thought about a change of coach. I know there were some reports about [reserve manager Francisco Javier García Pimienta] but that’s never been spoken about. Setién is our manager. We’ve not spoken with anyone. Not with Laurent Blanc or anyone. I speak with Xavi because we have a good relationship but he just renewed with his team. He will coach Barça one day, but he will decide when.”

Finally, Bartomeu took the chance to discuss the future of young winger Ansu Fati, who has been the subject of ‘interest from some clubs’.

Ansu FatiAnsu Fati
Fati’s emergence has been one of the best parts of the season | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

“Barça’s response has always been no. Ansu is not for sale. He’s essential for the club’s future,” the president added. “He represents La Masia from which players come out, learn and earn a spot in the first team.

“There are not many players like him and Barça cannot sell him, even if it was an economic solution for the club in these times of pandemic. At no time have we considered selling him. On the contrary: what you have to do is help him in his growth and renew him for the future, so that he plays here for life.”

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!


Man City Keen to Tie Eric Garcia Down to New Deal Amid Barcelona Interest

Eric García - Soccer Defender
Garcia is wanted by is hometown club, Barcelona. | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Manchester City are keen to offer young centre-back Eric Garcia a new contract amid transfer interest from former club Barcelona.

19-year-old Garcia, who joined City from Barça’s famed La Masia youth academy in 2017, made his Premier League debut this season and featured in 19 games in all competitions in 2019/20.

After an impressive breakthrough campaign, Barcelona have been linked with a move to re-sign their former starlet, whose contract expires in 2022.

Watford FC v Manchester City - Premier LeagueWatford FC v Manchester City - Premier League
Garcia battles with Watford’s Troy Deeney | Pool/Getty Images

While there is talk that Garcia could be keen to re-join his old club, especially if Pep Guardiola does not renew his contract in Manchester, Goal say City are determined to tie the teenage defender – seen as a possible successor to Gerard Pique by Barcelona – to a new long-term deal.

Meanwhile, Catalan publication Sport claim Man City will negotiate for Garcia but are insisting on including versatile star Sergio Roberto as part of a part-exchange deal.

For their part, it is said that Barça would rather let full back Nelson Semedo leave the club.

Sport assert that City’s interest in Roberto goes back to the beginning of the year, before transfer plans were brought to a halt by the coronavirus crisis.

Eric GarciaEric Garcia
Garcia has proven to be a promising centre-back since the restart. | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The report adds that the two clubs have been negotiating potential swap deals for a number of players over recent months. Barcelona – who have already completed a complicated swap-deal of sorts this summer with Miralem Pjanic joining from Juventus – initially offered Nelson Semedo to City, as part of a deal with Joao Cancelo going the other way.

City’s supposed preferred swap player, Roberto, has been an important utility player for Barcelona in recent years, playing both at right-back and central midfield.

The 28-year-old has spent his entire career at Camp Nou, making 388 career appearances for the club and famously scored the decisive goal in Barcelona’s 6-1 Champions League comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.


Samuel Umtiti Determined to Fight for Barcelona Place Despite Transfer Interest

Samuel Umtiti
Samuel Umtiti is not ready to leave Barcelona | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona star Samuel Umtiti is unwilling to leave Camp Nou this summer and wants to fight for his place in the team, despite the Frenchman supposedly being offered to other clubs in the transfer window.

The 26-year-old was once an integral part of the Blaugrana defence, but a string of injuries over the past two years have seen his value diminish. He has subsequently lost his place in the first team to national compatriot Clement Lenglet.

Barça are looking to significantly reduce their wage bill in the coming weeks, and the Catalan giants believe the dispensable Umtiti is likely to command a hefty transfer fee. But the player is not so keen on the idea of leaving Spain.

Arturo Vidal, Jordi Alba, Samuel UmtitiArturo Vidal, Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti
Umtiti warming up before Barcelona’s match against Celta de Vigo | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

According to Sport, the Barça centre-back is not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Umtiti is determined to overcome his injuries woes and fight for his place in the starting lineup, as he is content with his current life in Catalonia.

In fact, the former Lyon defender has even begun a number of personal projects in Barcelona, believing that he would remain in Spain for the remainder of his career.

For Barça however, their aspirations of improving the club’s finances have left them in a tight spot, and cashing in on Umtiti is a priority for the board. The former Spanish champions would even consider sending the World Cup winner out on loan next season, if the receiving side would be prepared to pay the entirety of his wages.

Samuel UmtitiSamuel Umtiti
Umtiti in action in the Champions League | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The relationship between player and club has become strained over time due to his constant fitness struggles, and his latest knee injury was the final straw, after he went against the club’s medical advice.

La Blaugrana are also targeting Manchester City defender Eric Garcia as a possible replacement for the Frenchman, as well as retaining the services of Uruguayan youngster Ronald Araujo to complete their backline options.

This news comes as a blow to plenty of interested parties around Europe, and particularly in the Premier League. Everton and West Ham have both been linked with a move for Umtiti thus far, while the defender’s profile and experience will be tempting for many top tier sides – should he remain fit.


Individuals Who Have Won the Same Trophy as a Player and Manager

Frank Lampard, Mikel Arteta
Arteta and Lampard have both won the FA Cup as players | Getty Images/Getty Images

Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday afternoon – a competition in which both of the two competing clubs and managers have a proud history.

Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard both enjoyed considerable success in the FA Cup as players, with the former tasting victory at Wembley on two occasions, and the latter hoisting the famous trophy aloft four times.

With victory on Saturday, one of Arteta or Lampard will join a select group of individuals who have won the same trophy as both a player and a manager. Let’s take a look at the current members of this elite club.

Alf RamseyAlf Ramsey
Ramsey kickstarted his managerial career at Ipswich | Express/Getty Images

Sir Alf is probably better known for that thing he won with England back in 1966, but he enjoyed a stellar club managerial career before landing the top job in 1963.

Ramsey spent his playing days with Southampton and Tottenham, winning the First Division with the latter in 1950/51.

It’s no secret that the most successful England managers are bred at Ipswich Town, and that’s where Ramsey started his career in the dugout. He led the Tractor Boys from the third tier to a remarkable First Division title in 1961/62 before going on to win the World Cup with England. History looks sure to repeat itself at Portman Road with Paul Lambert in 2020/21.

Bob PaisleyBob Paisley
Paisley spearheaded Liverpool’s dominance in the 70s and 80s | Getty Images/Getty Images

As all-time greats go, they don’t come much bigger than Bob Paisley on Merseyside.

Paisley played over 250 times for Liverpool, and hung up his boots with one First Division title during the 1946/47 season to show for his playing career.

He went five better as a manager. Paisley guided the Reds to six league titles between 1976 and 1983, as Liverpool dominated English football.

As a manager, he also lifted the European Cup three times and bagged a UEFA Cup. Greedy.

Dalglish got his hands on a fair few trophies throughout his careerDalglish got his hands on a fair few trophies throughout his career
Dalglish got his hands on a fair few trophies throughout his career | Getty Images/Getty Images

There are 33 years between Kenny Dalglish’s first domestic triumph in England – the First Division title in 1978/79 – and his last – the League Cup in 2012.

King Kenny won the lot with Liverpool as a player: five First Division titles, four League Cups, three European Cups and the FA Cup.

Dalglish won the first Division a further three times as a manager with the Reds – and once with Blackburn after the top flight had transformed into the Premier League – and he guided Liverpool to FA Cup glory twice. The Anfield icon was parachuted in once more in 2011, beating Cardiff on penalties in the 2012 League Cup final for his final honour with the club.

He also enjoyed success back in his native Scotland as both a player and manager, despite only being in temporary charge of Celtic for four months. Dalgish won the Scottish League Cup in 1975, and then again as a manager in 2000.

Howard KendallHoward Kendall
Kendall led Everton to the most successful spell in the club’s history | Fox Photos/Getty Images

Those just across Stanley Park have also enjoyed their fair share of success, with Howard Kendall the mastermind behind the most fruitful period in Everton’s history.

The midfielder won the First Division with the Toffees in 1969/70. He took the Goodison Park hot seat in 1981 initially as a player-manager – but only mustered four games as a player before formally hanging up his boots.

Kendall would go on to enjoy greater success in the dugout than he had on the pitch, winning the First Division title twice in the space of three seasons between 1985 and 1987.

George GrahamGeorge Graham
Graham enjoyed huge success in the Arsenal dugout | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

George Graham remains the last person to have won the league title in England as a player and manager.

Graham’s first piece of silverware came as a player with Chelsea, as he lifted the League Cup in 1965, before winning the league and cup double with Arsenal in 1971.

He won every domestic trophy as manager of Arsenal in the 80s and 90s, including the famous league title triumph over Liverpool on the final day of the 1988/89 season.

Johan Cruyff of BarcelonaJohan Cruyff of Barcelona
Cruyff was just as good in the dugout as on the football pitch | Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

Imagine being Johan Cruyff. Imagine being one of the most gifted, artistic, graceful footballers of your generation and winning the lot… and then doing it all over again as a manager.

The Dutch icon’s glittering career was bookended with spells in his native Holland – beginning with Ajax, before ending with Ajax again and finally Feyenoord. He was part of the glorious Ajax side that won three consecutive European Cups, and he lifted Holland’s domestic cup – the KNVB Cup – on five occasions with his boyhood club, and once with Feyernoord.

Sandwiched in between his success in his homeland was a five-year spell at Barcelona, where Cruyff won La Liga in 1973/74, and the Copa del Rey in 1978.

He returned to both Ajax and Barcelona as a manager, winning the KNVB Cup twice with the former. Although he never guided Ajax to league success as a manager, he made up for this in Spain, winning four La Liga titles, in addition to the Copa del Rey in 1990 and the European Cup in 1992. Not a bad career’s work.

Neil LennonNeil Lennon
Lennon has guided Celtic to domestic dominance | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

On any list, the natural successor to Johan Cruyff is of course Neil Lennon.

Lennon didn’t play in Scotland until he was 29, but he has gone on to win 20 domestic honours there as a player and manager.

The Northern Irishman won five Scottish Premier League titles, four Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups with Celtic between 2000 and 2007.

Lennon has had two separate spells in the Celtic Park dugout, adding a further five Scottish titles to his trophy cabinet, in addition to three Scottish Cups, and the League Cup in 2019/20.

Roberto Di MatteoRoberto Di Matteo
Di Matteo has a proud history in the FA Cup | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Lampard will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Roberto Di Matteo on Saturday – the last Chelsea man to win the FA Cup as both a player and manager.

Di Matteo scored after just 42 seconds with an absolute belter as Chelsea beat Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final, and won the same competition three years later with the Blues.

The Italian guided Chelsea to FA Cup glory during his ridiculously successful spell as caretaker manager at Stamford Bridge, with his 2012 FA Cup victory slightly overshadowed by the small matter of their Champions League win.

Antonio ConteAntonio Conte
Conte kickstarted Juventus’ dominance in Serie A | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Conte spent 13 glittering years as a player with Juventus, and after he began his managerial career it was always anticipated that he would return to lead the club.

Conte won five Serie A titles during his time as a player – four of which as a captain. He eventually returned in 2011, six years after departing Juventus.

The Italian guided Juventus to their first Serie A title in nine years during his first season in charge. He won three league titles on the bounce before leaving the club in 2014, and was the catalyst for the unprecedented decade of dominance that Juventus have since enjoyed.

Barcelona's Spanish coach Josep GuardiolBarcelona's Spanish coach Josep Guardiol
Guardiola won the Champions League twice with Barcelona | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

As playing and managerial careers go, Pep Guardiola’s done alright for himself.

During his 11 years at Barcelona he won La Liga on six occasions, before returning to his boyhood club as a manager to win it a further three times.

Guardiola also tasted victory in the European Cup with Barcelona in 1997 – a competition he would win twice in the space of three years when in the hot seat at Camp Nou.

Zinedine ZidaneZinedine Zidane
Zidane won his second La Liga title in 2019/20 | Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Another generational talent, Zidane has actually won more honours at Real Madrid as a manager than he ever did as a player.

The Frenchman spent five years in the Spanish capital as a player, winning the Champions League in 2002 and La Liga in 2002/03.

Zidane has been in the Real Madrid hot seat for a little over three and a half years – over two separate spells – and has already guided the Spanish giants to two La Liga titles and a hat-trick of successive Champions League crowns.

You wouldn’t bet against him eventually completing his double honours list by winning the World Cup as France boss one day either.


West Ham Remain ‘Attentive’ in Pursuit of Barcelona’s Moussa Wague

Moussa Wagué
Wagué joined Barcelona in 2018 | Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

West Ham remain interested in signing Barcelona’s Moussa Wagué this summer, with one report stating he is close to a move away from Camp Nou.

The Senegal international joined the Catalan giants from K.A.S Eupen back in 2018 but has failed to make the grade in La Liga.

The 21-year-old was promoted to the first-team under former manager Ernesto Valverde, yet his struggles saw him sent out on loan to Ligue 1 side OGC Nice for the second half of the season.

Wague made just five appearances for Nice during his loan spellWague made just five appearances for Nice during his loan spell
Wague made just five appearances for Nice during his loan spell | VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

With his future in Catalonia seemingly up in the air, Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo (via Sports Witness) report that the Hammers remain very keen to sign the player and are one of the clubs to have shown the ‘most interest’.

The young full back has previously been linked with a move to the London Stadium following the club’s failure to tie promising defender Jeremy Ngakia down to a new contract.

With Ngakia now having having left the club following the expiry of his deal – and with veteran defender Pablo Zabaleta also departing in June – the club is in desperate need of reinforcements on the right side of defence.

David MoyesDavid Moyes
David Moyes guided West Ham to safety following a turbulent season | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Wagué may have been limited to just six appearances in all competitions during his time at Barça, but he has valuable experience at international level, having played at the 2018 World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.

The report also suggests the player is potentially close to securing a transfer, although it is unclear if that deal would see the player moving to the Hammers.

As for Barcelona, they have already been linked with a number of right back options, with current full back Nelson Semedo expected to depart the club. One name that has bizarrely been rumoured for a move to Camp Nou is Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot, who Barça have previously tried to sign.


Arsenal Lead Tottenham in Race to Sign Philippe Coutinho on Loan

Philippe Coutinho
Arsenal are leading the charge for Philippe Coutinho | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Arsenal have emerged as the frontrunners to secure a deal for Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from Barcelona this summer.

Addressing a lack of creativity is at the forefront of Mikel Arteta’s plans this window – along with the obvious defensive issues – having struggled desperately in that area throughout the 2019/20 season.

One avenue the Gunners are following in a bid to bring in a creative player is to offer outcast Matteo Guendouzi as a makeweight in any deal, something that has been proposed to Barça as they attempt to lure Coutinho to the Emirates.

However, per the Evening Standard, this player-plus-£9m cash deal to secure him on a permanent contract is not something the Spanish side are overly keen on. Due to that, another loan appears the more likely scenario, with Arsenal leading the chase.

A temporary move to Bayern for Coutinho failed to end in a permanent switch, but Barça had still hoped to sell the Brazilian in the current window to inject some desperately needed additional funding into the club. Due to the effects of the coronavirus, this is nigh on impossible as they’re seeking €120m.

Coutinho’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has close ties to the Gunners’ board, with the relationship he has with the club and his client accelerating the possibility of Arsenal securing a temporary deal. The 28-year-old has been offered to Premier League rivals Tottenham as well, but Arteta is thought to be most enticed about bringing him to north London.

Philippe CoutinhoPhilippe Coutinho
Coutinho won a league and cup double with Bayern this season | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

With three years left to run on his deal, Barça are resigned to keeping him on their books for another season at least, therefore shipping him out on another loan with the club in question paying a chunk of his wages is as good as they’ll get. Their wage bill is the highest in world football.

The 28-year-old’s annual wages of around €13.7m are too much for Arsenal to pay by themselves though, therefore La Blaugrana willing to subsidise half of that salary and charge the Gunners a €10m loan fee.

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