Europe: Sanchez scores twice for Marseille, PSG held by Monaco

New-look Marseille’s bright Ligue 1 start continued as Alexis Sanchez’s double lifted them within goal difference of leaders PSG, who were held at Monaco.

Igor Tudor’s new-look Marseille are looking good with Sanchez helping his side to a 3-0 at south-coast rivals Nice.

Nice recruited strongly, bringing in established Premier League players like goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe, but they are still seeking a win and sit 18th.

Marseille have made a strong start under Tudor, who is known as a disciplinarian and whose appointment was questioned by fans – especially when he left playmaker Dimitri Payet out of the first three games.

But a high-octane brand of pressing soccer is winning over fans, with 10 points from their first four games, and Sanchez already firing on all cylinders.

The Chile forward grabbed his first goal in the 10th minute and, after Nuno Tavares made it three goals in four games this season, the on-loan Arsenal full-back combined with Payet to help set up Sanchez’s second goal just before half-time.

Neymar won and scored a penalty as PSG rallied to draw 1-1 at home to Monaco.

After Kevin Volland had given the visitors an early opener in Paris, Neymar latched onto Lionel Messi’s pass down the left and cut inside central defender Guillermo Maripan, who appeared to catch him with an outstretched leg.

The referee waved away PSG’s penalty claims but then awarded a spot-kick following a video review.

Neymar used his usual staggered run-up to confuse goalkeeper Alexander Nubel before casually guiding the ball home. It was Neymar’s sixth goal in the league and eighth in five games overall.

La Liga: Lewandowski strikes twice as Barca hammer Valladolid

Barcelona thrashed Valladolid 4-0 with Robert Lewandowski on target again
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Barcelona thrashed Valladolid 4-0 with Robert Lewandowski on target again

Robert Lewandowski continues to make scoring look easy after joining Barcelona from Bayern Munich. He found the net twice to lead the Catalan club to a 4-0 rout of Valladolid in La Liga.

Real Madrid relied on Karim Benzema to maintain a perfect start with a third straight away victory. Benzema scored in the 88th minute and deep into stoppage time to give the defending champions a 3-1 win at Espanyol.

It was the third league goal for Benzema, while Lewandowski took his tally to four. The Poland striker had also scored a double in the 4-1 victory at Real Sociedad last weekend, and was twice denied by the woodwork at the Nou Camp on Sunday.

“He is extraordinary,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said of Lewandowski. “He is a natural leader who has been helping us greatly.”

Pedri González and Sergi Roberto also scored for Barcelona, which had opened their campaign with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano at the Nou Camp.

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Chelsea in advanced talks for Aubameyang

Chelsea are in advanced talks to sign Barcelona forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with all parties optimistic a deal can be struck.

One source has told Sky Sports News an agreement is close. The deal under discussion is thought to be worth between £15m and £25m.

Negotiations between Chelsea and Barcelona have been ongoing for the past few days and there is an agreement in place between Chelsea and Aubameyang.

Aubameyang moved to Barcelona on a free transfer from Arsenal in January. He has three years left on his contract.

Although Thomas Tuchel has been reluctant to talk about Aubameyang in public he is keen to work again with a player who scored 79 goals for him in two seasons at Borussia Dortmund.

Chelsea monitoring Leao contract talks with Milan

Chelsea have been encouraged towards a second set of discussions on a deal for AC Milan’s Rafael Leao.

Portugal forward Leao has numbered among the most highly regarded potential transfer targets all summer by the Blues’ new ownership set-up.

The 23-year-old has been deep in negotiations with Milan over a new long-term contract for some time now, and those advanced talks saw Chelsea’s interest cool earlier in the window.

But Chelsea chiefs are thought to have been urged to look into Leao’s status again, opening the door for what could now be a closer exploration of the chances of pulling off a deal.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's record under Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund
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Aubameyang’s record under Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer when the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Barcelona frustrated by gritty Rayo on Lewandowski debut

Robert Lewandowski’s Barcelona debut ended in a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou in their first LaLiga game of the season on Saturday.

It was a frustrating night for Barca whose fans showed up at an almost sold-out stadium to see their new team headlined by Poland striker Lewandowski, the twice FIFA Best Player of the Year winner, and Brazil winger Raphinha.

Barcelona dominated the match with almost 70 per cent of possession and 18 goal attempts to two for Rayo.

But the two best chances fell to the visitors, Alvaro Garcia thwarted by a brilliant save by Marc Andre ter Stegen and Sergio Camello shooting wide.

Rayo’s five-man defence did a superb job in shackling Lewandowski, who barely touched the ball the entire game.

Most of Barca’s chances in the first half came from wingers Raphinha and Dembele, who linked up well and gave the team an attacking threat.

Lewandowski, right, shoots past Rayo's Florian Lejeune
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Lewandowski, right, shoots past Rayo’s Florian Lejeune

Barca coach Xavi Hernandez tried to break the deadlock by sending on forwards Ansu Fati and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the bench, but Rayo showed real grit to hold out for the draw.

As the frustration mounted for Barca, their captain Sergio Busquets lost his cool and was sent off for an elbow to the face of Falcao Garcia in stoppage time.

Goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski kept a clean sheet for the third consecutive time against Barcelona after Rayo won both games against the Spanish giants last season.

He made a couple of crucial stops in the second half, one from a Busquets long-range shot and another from a strike by Raphinha.

“We tried as much as we could but we lacked aim and effectiveness. Maybe the pressure and expectation got a little under our skin,” Xavi told DAZN.

“It will be a process, Rayo knew how to defend deep and hold on to their strategy with an outstanding discipline.

“We have to be patient and keep working. Better days will come.”

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Chelsea in talks to sign Aubameyang from Barca | Alonso included?

Chelsea and Barcelona have been in talks in the last few days over the signing of striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Those talks – which have gone late into the night – have so far failed to find an agreement.

The deal under discussion is thought to be worth between £15m and £25m. Chelsea want to include Marcos Alonso in the package, while Barcelona want straight cash.

Barcelona want the money to help enable them to register Jules Kounde.

Barca have been interested in signing Alonso this summer, with one source claiming that has cooled given their issues in registering their new signings.

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Aubameyang continues to train as normal, with Barcelona playing away at Real Sociedad on Sunday night.

Discussions between Chelsea and Barcelona are ongoing and there is a willingness from both clubs to get a deal done.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's record under Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund
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Aubameyang’s record under Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund

Aubameyang moved to Barcelona on a free transfer from Arsenal in January. He has three years left on his contract.

Although Thomas Tuchel has been reluctant to talk about Aubameyang in public he is keen to work again with a player who scored 79 goals for him in two seasons at Borussia Dortmund.

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer when the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

The new Premier League season with Sky Sports

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  • First pick of matches for every weekend of the Premier League season.
  • The best punditry team in football including Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness, Micah Richards and Roy Keane.
  • Kelly Cates and David Jones will present our live coverage across Friday Night Football, Saturday Night Football, Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.
  • In-game goals and clips for mobile devices from Sky Sports live matches.
  • Extended highlights On Demand and our Premier League channel.
  • Sky Sports is your ultimate destination for domestic football with live coverage of the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and the Women’s Super League.
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Man City have no intention of selling Bernardo Silva

Manchester City do not want to sell Bernardo Silva and are not expecting other clubs to bid for the midfielder.

This is despite interest from Barcelona and now, reportedly, Paris Saint-Germain.

A report in The Times on Thursday claimed PSG are lining up an offer of almost £60m for the 28-year-old.

Any proposal would have to be much higher, however, to get City to listen to it seriously.

Until now, neither Silva nor his representatives have told the club he wants out of the Etihad this summer.

Bernardo Silva celebrates (right) scoring his sides this goal

City would also need to identify and sign a replacement, with less than two weeks remaining of the transfer window.

The Portugal international has started on the bench in both of Pep Guardiola’s team’s opening victories of the Premier League season so far.

Guardiola said earlier in the summer that he wants Silva to stay but would not stand in the player’s way if he had other ideas.

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says there is still time to sign a left-back and refuses to deny that Bernardo Silva could leave the club this summer

“What happens will happen,” he said. “And, if he stays, it is perfect.

“In the end, if he has to leave, it is because football is like this; the player has a desire. I will not be a person to stop someone’s desire.

“When you are a player, it is so short; you don’t realise and it’s nearly over.

“The player will have to talk to the club and I have never ever been involved in that.”

Meanwhile, City are unlikely to pursue another left-back before the deadline after signing Sergio Gomez from Anderlecht.

Guardiola said last week that he expects the Spaniard to be their final addition of the summer window.

Super Silva

Sky Sports’ Adam Smith:

Guardiola summed up his appreciation for Silva late last year: “He is the best. He has a special ability to do whatever he wants with the ball.”

The Portuguese was enjoying a purple patch in front of goal at the time, but the 27-year-old offers so much more than attacking abilities – but let’s start there.

Silva ranked second at City for goals from open play, creating chances, completing passes in the final third and attempting dribbles in the Premier League last season.

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His shot map below reveals an ability to find space and finish from prime locations just outside the six-yard box, in addition to finding the back of the net from acute angles.

Meanwhile, his chances-created map epitomises the variety of his passing range and positional versatility.

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Silva patrols the entire attacking third, whether deployed down the left or right, but it is his defensive action zone below that underlines defensive contributions, sheer coverage on the pitch and work rate.

The midfielder ran further than any other player at the club last term, clocking 381km over the league campaign – equating to nine marathons.

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In fact, only six players in the entire division ran further, and it is worth noting Guardiola rotates players more than most managers.

Factoring all positions, Silva also ranked third at the club across a raft of defensive metrics: tackles, winning duels and reclaiming possession in the middle third. In short, Silva excels in every aspect of the game.

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Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer before the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Barca expected to break women’s club world attendance record

Top five women’s club football attendances

1. 60,739 – March, 2019: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano

2. 53,000 – December, 1920: Dick, Kerr Ladies vs St Helens Ladies at Goodison Park

3. 51,211 – May, 2018: Monterrey vs Tigres at Estadio BBVA Bancomer

4. 48,121 – January, 2019: Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid at the San Mames stadium

5. 35,000 – May, 2003: Athletic Bilbao vs Hispalis at the San Mames stadium

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Euro: Barca win late at Elche | Morata goal helps Juve’s top-four push

Barcelona fought back to earn a 2-1 win at Elche on Sunday as a late penalty from Memphis Depay ensured they continued their revival after a difficult start to the season.

????Having fallen as low as ninth back in November, when former coach Ronald Koeman was sacked, Xavi Hernandez’s revitalised Barca have climbed into La Liga’s top three with 48 points, leapfrogging Real Betis in third place.

Mid-table Elche opened the scoring right before half-time when Pedri tried to clear the ball but gifted a perfect assist to Fidel Chavez, who out-ran Dani Alves and scored with an angled shot just inside the right post.

Ferran Torres, Barcelona
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Former Manchester City forward Ferran Torres scored Barcelona’s first goal

Ferran Torres scored the equaliser in the 61st minute after great play from Ousmane Dembele down the right flank. His cross was deflected by Jordi Alba and the former Manchester City forward, in the right place at the right time, turned it home from close range.

Barca’s winner came after the video assistant referee spotted a handball from an Elche defender inside the area and Depay rifled his penalty into the top-left corner.

Meanwhile, Joao Felix scored twice as he helped Atletico Madrid earn a 3-1 win at Real Betis, ensuring they leapfrogged their rivals into fourth place in the standings.

Atletico are tied on 48 points with third-placed Barcelona, who won 2-1 at Elche, although the Catalans have a game in hand. Both teams trail leaders Real Madrid by 15 points.

Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix celebrates after scoring
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Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix celebrates after scoring

Betis, who started the weekend in third place, dropped below Barca and Atletico to fifth place with 46 points from 27 games.

Felix opened the scoring in the first minute with a close-range strike from an Angel Correa cross.

Betis equalised just before the break when Cristian Tello fired home an angled shot from the edge of the box.

Atletico dominated following the break. Felix scored his second after Marcos Llorente led a quick counter-attack before crossing to the Portuguese, who made the final touch from inside the box.

Substitute Antoine Griezmann, who is slowly working his way back from injury, provided the cross that allowed Thomas Lemar to complete the 3-1 victory in the 80th minute.

Elsewhere, relegation-threatened Cadiz boosted their survival chances with a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano to move within one point of 17th-placed Granada.

Serie A: Giroud goal sends Milan back to summit

Olivier Giroud scored an early winner for AC Milan
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Olivier Giroud scored his winner for AC Milan

Olivier Giroud’s second-half goal sent AC Milan back to the top of Serie A as they battled to a 1-0 win away at Napoli on Sunday.

Victory means that Stefano Pioli’s table-toppers now have 60 points, two ahead of city rivals and reigning champions Inter – who have played a game fewer – and three more than Napoli in third.

Chances were few and far between in a nervous encounter, with the hosts only managing two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

After a low-key first half in which neither side really threatened, Giroud netted the only goal of the game as he turned in Davide Calabria’s cross-shot four minutes after the break.

Adam Ounas curled one wide for Napoli and Hirving Lozano dragged an effort wide late on as they tried in vain to find an equaliser.

Theo Hernandez and Alexis Saelemaekers were denied by smart saves from Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina on the counter in the closing stages as they sought to seal the victory.

Meanwhile, a first-half goal from Alvaro Morata was enough to give Juventus a 1-0 victory at home to Spezia in Serie A as they tightened their grip on a Champions League spot.

The hosts, who went close on the quarter-hour mark through midfielder Arthur Melo, took the lead after 21 minutes when the Brazilian latched on to a poor clearance from Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, picking out Manuel Locatelli on the edge of the box before the Italian fed Morata, who netted his first league goal since December.

Emmanuel Gyasi and Kevin Agudelo were both denied by Wojciech Szczesny from close range after the break as Spezia sought a way back into things.

Morata, meanwhile, missed a gilt-edged chance to seal the victory in stoppage time at the end of the game as Juventus held on to secure the win.

Juve move onto 53 points in the fourth and final Champions League spot, where they sit six points above fifth-placed Atalanta, who have played a game fewer.

Fiorentina were made to rue several missed opportunities as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Hellas Verona.

Only two points separated the two teams, who were both desperate for a win to close in on the European places.

Krzysztof Piatek fired Fiorentina ahead in the 10th minute, but Gianluca Caprari equalized from the penalty spot for Verona 10 minutes later.

At the other end of the table, Genoa drew 0-0 against Empoli to move within seven points of safety. Venezia also remained in the bottom three as they lost 4-1 at home to Sassuolo. Torino drew 0-0 at Bologna.

Bundesliga: Hoffenheim go fourth with win over Cologne

Stefan Posch scored the only goal as Hoffenheim beat Cologne 1-0, amid a host of missed chances by both teams, to move up to fourth in the Bundesliga, the last place for Champions League qualification.

Posch’s second-half goal was enough for the visitors to stretch their winning run to four games and move two points clear of Leipzig and Freiburg after their 1-1 draw on Saturday. Nine rounds of fixtures remain.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine again featured prominently in the Bundesliga. Cologne players wore jerseys with ‘Stop War’ written on the front.

John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ was played around the stadium before players and fans observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims.

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Highlights: Bayern Munich were held to a 1-1 draw by Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Saturday

Hoffenheim forward Ihlas Bebou missed several good opportunities to score, while Anthony Modeste missed the home team’s best chance of the first half when he fired over with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Bebou began the second half with a header against the post and Modeste had a goal ruled out for offside before Posch finally broke the deadlock in the 61st minute when he headed in a cross from Germany defender David Raum.

There were further missed chances for both teams, with Hoffenheim’s Christoph Baumgartner hitting the post when it looked easier to score. Cologne substitute Tim Lemperle headed just wide in injury time.

The scheduled earlier game between second-placed Borussia Dortmund and Mainz was postponed on Friday to March 16 due to a coronavirus outbreak at home team Mainz.

Ligue 1: Monaco’s Martins sinks Marseille

Gelson Martins scored a second half winner as Monaco inflicted more home misery on Marseille with a 1-0 victory in their Ligue 1 encounter on Sunday.

Martins reacted quickest to turn the ball in after Kevin Volland’s shot crashed back off the post. The goal was initially flagged for offside but that decision was overturned by the Video Assistant Referee.

Marseille, who have won only five of their 14 home matches this season, remain in third place in the table with 47 points from 27 games. They trail leaders Paris Saint-Germain by 15 points and are two behind second-placed Nice.

Denis Bouanga scored the only goal as St Etienne climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 home win over Metz, while Troyes claimed a crucial victory in their bid for survival away at bottom side Bordeaux.

Bouanga had a first-half goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee for handball, but there was no doubt about his effort on 52 minutes as a poor clearance landed at his feet and he thumped a shot into the back of the net.

Metz, who are second-bottom in the table, thought they had a penalty in the closing stages as Falaye Sacko committed a clear foul on Farid Boulaya in the box, but referee Jeremy Stinat overturned the decision after an infringement in the build-up was spotted.

Troyes did their chances of staying up the world of good after a 2-0 win at ailing Bordeaux.

They had a bit of luck early on when Mama Balde’s penalty was saved by home goalkeeper Gaetan Poussin, who then knocked the ball into the net with his trailing leg for an own goal.

The visitors added a second with five minutes remaining having been awarded a second spot-kick, this time converted by South Africa international Lebo Mothiba, who has recently returned from almost two years on the sidelines with injury.

Rennes moved up to fourth with a 2-0 victory over Angers, their third win in succession but a sixth straight loss for their opponents that has seen them tumble down the table.

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Gaetan Laborde scored the goals for Rennes, who are now a point off the Champions League qualification places.

They have leapfrogged Strasbourg, who were held to a third successive draw by Reims. Jean-Ricner Bellegarde put Strasbourg in front, but Jens Cajuste equalised for the home side with six minutes remaining.

Nantes also kept their Champions League hopes alive with a 2-0 win at home to Montpellier. Goals from Randal Kolo Muani and Willem Geubbels sealed the three points. They climb to sixth, five points behind third-placed Marseille.

Defending champions Lille continued their late push for a European spot by routing 10-man Clermont 4-0 to stay level on points with Nantes.

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Bojan: ‘Stoke is my second home’

“If someone had written on a piece of paper all the things that I would experience since joining Barcelona aged nine, reaching the first team at 17, playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, living those amazing experiences, I would sign it immediately.”

At 31, Bojan is reflecting on his career. A Champions League winner twice with Barcelona and a folk hero at Stoke City, he has played and scored for Milan, Roma and Ajax. Now he is enjoying a new adventure in Japan alongside his old pal Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta has still got it in case you were wondering.

“He has his ability for life, you know,” Bojan tells Sky Sports. “Of course, he is 37-years-old and not as physically sharp as he was when he was 27. But he is still making the difference for us. Everyone looks to Andres. He is a unique player. He could play on for years.”

Bojan himself is not finished either. He has been in Japan since New Year’s Day preparing for the forthcoming season with Vissel Kobe, embracing the culture on a new continent.

“I always felt I had a special connection to Japanese culture. Everyone wants to visit Japan at some point in their lives. I was talking to my friends about a holiday here last summer. Soon after, I received the offer to play for Vissel. It is a privilege.”

Communication has not been easy. “It is like living in another world here.” A translator is required in the dressing room. But there is lots to admire. “It is how they act, how they treat people. Everyone wants to help. It is a very respectful culture,” he explains.

“I am learning a lot about that culture. I am here to play football and I dedicate my day to that, making sure that my body is ready to compete. But the rest of the day I read books about Japan, I try to visit the typical things here. I want to know as much as I can.”

Andres Iniesta celebrates scoring for Barcelona against Chelsea in the 2009 Champions League semi-final as Bojan Krkic chases him
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Celebrating with Andres Iniesta after the latter’s goal for Barcelona against Chelsea

Although Bojan does not see himself as a teacher, there is much for his team-mates to learn from him too. It has been some journey, one that has includes stays at Montreal and Mainz, but he will forever be associated with perhaps the greatest team there has ever been.

Bojan played 163 gamed for Barcelona in four seasons. He won La Liga three times, the Champions League twice and scored in a Copa del Rey final win. Lionel Messi was the only other player to score at least half a dozen goals for the club in each of those seasons.

It has been years since he visited Camp Nou and it is difficult for him to watch the matches on television now because of the time difference. But he still feels that connection. “I will always be a Barca fan,” he says. “That is not a thing you decide, it is a thing you feel.”

It continues to shape his thinking. “That is the style that I can feel and I believe can bring success.” But he is also a product of his experiences elsewhere, something that he has been reflecting on since completing his qualifications to become a sporting director.

“The way I see football, I want the ball. I played in the best team ever, or one of the best teams ever, playing amazing football. But I also played in teams that did not have the ball and were just running all day. Between these two styles, you create your philosophy.

“Yes, I want technical players. But those technical players, they have to be competitive and they have to know how to work every day as well. At some times in the season, you will not have the ball in games and will have to defend more. You have to find that balance.”

Stoke City's Bojan Krkic
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Bojan Krkic had some of the best years of his career at Stoke City

His time at Stoke taught him that there was a world beyond Barcelona in which he could still thrive. He was a key figure in what became a top-half Premier League team under Mark Hughes and the warmth with which he speaks of that experience shines through.

“Stoke, for me, it is my second home,” he says. “It is the place where I enjoyed my football the most.”

But what was it that made it so special?

“The way the fans treated the players. The years when I was there, we had fantastic seasons, finishing ninth in the Premier League, beating the best teams in the league and competing in every game. I enjoyed it everywhere but that was something special.

“My favourite moment was when they sang my name for the first time, the whole stadium. What is this? They sung my name because they respected me, they loved me, not because my name was Bojan. There was a special connection from the day that I arrived.”

Stoke City's Bojan Krkic
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Bojan Krkic was adored by the Stoke fans and he still has fond memories

Perhaps there is also satisfaction there that he was a success in the Premier League, the competition that he still regards as the world’s best. He had heard the cliches of cold and windy nights in the Midlands. But this child of La Masia managed to make it work.

“It is the best academy in the world. I believe in that philosophy. But let’s be honest, how many players make it at Barcelona? So, the other ones, as soon as you leave, there are only a few clubs that have the same mentality. Elsewhere, it is completely different.

“These players are not ready to play in teams that don’t have the ball, teams that have to fight, teams where the running stats are more important than what you do with the ball. It is another world. These young guys are not really prepared to play in other teams.”

A move to Mainz provided new experiences. “One of the most special days in my career,” he says of the game at Bayern Munich in which his goal helped the relegation-threatened side stay in the Bundesliga. It meant he had scored in Europe’s four major leagues.

Could he go to France and make it five? “You never know, I am still young, only 31.” How about a move to Belgrade, his father’s home city? “It is a part of me the Serbian side. I had some interest in the past from Red Star but it was never the right moment.”

For now, he is enjoying Japan. “The quality is high. One of the things that has surprised me is the intensity of the game here. There are no easy leagues now.” But it will not be too long before thoughts are turning to life after football – a career he is already planning for.

“I have learned a lot from studying to be a sporting director. I prefer it to coaching. A coach has to manage 25 players. The sporting director can really build a team. I like the idea of discovering young talent and focusing more on the human side of the game.”

Bojan Krkic and Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrate in 2010
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Bojan Krkic was part of the legendary Barcelona team that included Lionel Messi

And when his playing days are over, there will be no regrets.

“Yes, you can say it could have been better. Everything in life could always be better. But it could have been a lot worse. How many players have the quality but did not even make it as a professional? Maybe they were not in the right moment. Maybe they got injured.

“I played four years for Barcelona and scored 40 goals. Many say I was not a success at Barcelona. I say, ‘OK, scoring 40 goals in four years in the best period in the history of Barcelona and you say I did not have success?’ OK, maybe I could have scored 80. But maybe I could have scored less. Maybe I could have not played at all.

“I am completely satisfied with my career. I always consider it a privilege to have experienced everything that I have experienced.

“Everything that I am still experiencing.”

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Europe: Abraham scores 99th-minute winner for Jose’s Roma

Tammy Abraham’s penalty more than nine minutes into stoppage time ended Roma’s winless run as Jose Mourinho’s scraped a 1-0 victory at 10-man Spezia in Serie A.

Abraham’s penalty came after Roma had hit the woodwork four times and wasted a number of chances at Spezia, who had played most of the match with 10 men after defender Kelvin Amian was sent off at the end of the first half.

It was Roma’s first win in five matches and lifted them up to sixth, six points behind fourth-place Juventus. Spezia remain four points off the relegation zone. All Serie A matches have started five minutes late this weekend accompanied by a peace message following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Roma coach Jose Mourinho was serving the first of a two-match suspension following his actions toward the referee during and after last week’s 2-2 draw against Hellas Verona.

Giovanni Simeone broke his goal drought in style with a second-half hat-trick to help Hellas Verona beat relegation-threatened Venezia 3-1.

They were Simeone’s first goals since mid-December.

David Okereke headed Venezia back into the match nine minutes from time but Simeone completed his hat-trick and sealed the result seven minutes later.

Venezia slipped into the drop zone, three points behind Cagliari after the Sardinian side won 2-1 at Torino.

Bundesliga: Dortmund lose ground on leaders Bayern

Noah Sarenren Bazee's goal moved Augsburg above Hertha Berlin on goal difference
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Noah Sarenren Bazee’s goal moved Augsburg above Hertha Berlin on goal difference

Borussia Dortmund stumbled again in the Bundesliga with a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Augsburg to let Bayern Munich open up an eight-point lead.

Thorgan Hazard scored in the first half for Dortmund but the visitors failed to build on their lead as Donyell Malen hit the post and were caught out when Noah Sarenren Bazee equalised late on.

The point lifted Augsburg out of the relegation zone on goal difference with Hertha Berlin dropping into the relegation/playoff place with 10 rounds of the league remaining. Hertha have not won in the league since beating Dortmund 3-2 at home on December 18.

Dortmund subsequently lost to Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen in the league, while they were knocked out of the German Cup by second division St Pauli and out of the Europa League last Thursday by Scottish side Rangers.

Hazard scored in the 35th minute when he surged past Augsburg defenders Mads Pedersen and Felix Uduokhai before shooting inside the far post from a tight angle.

But Augsburg stayed in the game and coach Markus Weinzierl brought on Bazee to reinvigorate his team’s attack with 20 minutes remaining. The 25-year-old winger scored the equaliser eight minutes later.

Earlier, Christopher Nkunku’s late goal was enough for Leipzig to reclaim fourth and the last qualification place for the Champions League with a 1-0 win at Bochum.

Nkunku scored in the 82nd minute after Bochum captain Anthony Losilla hit the crossbar and Christopher Antwi-Adjei hit the post for the home team. It was Nkunku’s 14th goal of the season.

La Liga: Villarreal teen makes club history

Yeremy Pino's four goals wrote him into Villarreal history books
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Yeremy Pino’s four goals wrote him into Villarreal history books

With four goals from four shots, Yeremy Pino became the first Villarreal player to score four times in a Spanish league game on Sunday.

Pino scored a hat-trick before half-time and added another goal in the second half of Villarreal’s 5-1 home rout of Espanyol.

The 19-year-old Spain forward had never scored more than one goal in a game in his career. He is the third-youngest four-goal scorer in the history of the Spanish league.

It was the eighth win for Villarreal in their last 11 league games, with the only loss coming at Elche in January.

Unai Emery’s team came into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League.

Keidi Bare scored Espanyol’s lone goal in the second half. Villarreal’s fifth was scored by Boulaye Dia in the final stages of the game at the La Ceramica Stadium.

The win moved Villarreal up to fifth place, three points behind fourth-place Atletico Madrid, who won 2-0 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Espanyol’s winless streak reached eight matches in all competitions, with five losses and three draws. They stayed in 14th place.

Ligue 1: Marseille fail to tighten grip in Champions League race

Yoann Touzghar fired in his fourth Ligue 1 goal of the campaign
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Yoann Touzghar fired in his fourth Ligue 1 goal of the campaign

Marseille missed the chance to move three points clear in second place in Ligue 1 after conceding a last-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw at struggling Troyes.

Striker Yoann Touzghar profited from poor Marseille defending to slide in the equaliser after playmaker Dimitri Payet’s penalty put Marseille ahead in the 28th minute. It was Payet’s club-best ninth league goal of the season.

Second place guarantees entry into next season’s Champions League, with Marseille one point ahead of Nice in third place, and a playoff spot.

Northern side Lens moved into sixth place in the chase for the European places after a 2-1 win at Angers, with Jonathan Clauss’ floating effort looping over goalkeeper Danijel Petkovic in the 77th minute.

Lens are three points behind fourth-place Rennes in the Europa League spot.

Monaco lost 2-1 at home to Reims, despite striker Wissam Ben Yedder’s league-leading 15th goal to move one ahead of PSG forward Kylian Mbappe.

The visitors equalised in the 84th minute when Monaco striker Kevin Volland headed in an own-goal and, soon after Monaco midfielder Jean Lucas was sent off, scored a stoppage-time winner through striker Nathanael Mbuku.

Lorient moved out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Brest as fellow strugglers Bordeaux and Metz both drew.

Bottom side Bordeaux drew 1-1 at Clermont, while 18th-place Metz were held 0-0 at home by Nantes.

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