Interesting! Dutch star reveals how club director punched me

Jonathan De Guzman launched an extraordinary attack on Napoli, accusing the chief medic of derailing his career and director Cristiano Giuntoli of punching him.

Now at Eintracht Frankfurt, the 31-year-old was owned by Napoli from 2014 to 2017, but spent much of that on loan to Carpi and Chievo.

He ultimately made only 36 competitive appearances for the Partenopei, scoring seven goals and providing three assists.

In a remarkable interview with Dutch site De Voltkskrant, De Guzman reveals a series of shocking incidents during his Napoli tenure.

In March 2015, he started to feel a strange bulge in his stomach that felt painful, so went to chief medic Alfonso De Nicola – who is still at the club.

I was put on a diet, had my carbohydrates cut and told to take a rest, but the pain kept coming back. Rafa Benitez told me to go see another doctor, but that was not allowed by the club, because De Nicola had the power.”

That summer, Benitez moved on to Real Madrid, while Coach Maurizio Sarri and director of sport Giuntoli arrived. Despite his struggles, De Nicola passed him fit to train and a harsh judgment was inevitable.

I am a player who can run 10km in a game, but if I can only manage 6km and doing that at half-strength, then of course a Coach isn’t going to want me in the team.

Napoli didn’t believe I was hurt. I could walk and run, but I couldn’t turn or shoot properly. They thought I’d made it up, that it was all in my head. That was said to me so often that I started to doubt the signals my own body was sending to me. It was sick.”

As the transfer window was coming to a close in August, De Guzman was sent to a hotel in Milan where he could negotiate for a move away.

Talks were held with Sunderland and Bournemouth, but “I wanted to be fit first. Giuntoli was really angry and his assistant told me that if I didn’t sign for someone else, my career would be dead in Naples. I would not be allowed to play anymore.

This went on for the whole day until Giuntoli had to leave to make other deals.”

After flying to the Netherlands to consult with his agents, De Guzman decided he wanted to regain his fitness at Napoli before moving on.

However, when arriving back at the training ground in Naples on September 1, after the transfer window had shut, he met a furious Giuntoli.

I was in the locker room and he called me over as a ‘piece of ****’ to go into the players’ lounge. He said I had promised to leave, but I did no such thing.

He suddenly hit me in the face. Then I went crazy. We started fighting, chairs were knocked over. My teammate Camilo Zuniga dived in and pulled us apart. He told me to take my things and go home.

As I was going, I passed by De Nicola. I said: ‘What the hell did you do? I’m not fit because of you!’ The next day, the fitness coach told me I could only jog around the training ground.

I tried to call President Aurelio De Laurentiis, but there was no reply. Edoardo De Laurentiis, the son of the President who I had a decent rapport with the year before, came in and told me: ‘You’re not going anywhere, so you stay here and you’re dead to us.’ I thought I was now completely lost.

The players didn’t help me. If they tried, the club would criticise them. I wanted to train by myself, but where could I go? Everyone knows the players in Naples.”

After four months of this and weeks of begging, De Guzman was allowed to see another Italian doctor, Americo Menghi, who diagnosed a sports hernia and suggested surgery – an option rejected by De Nicola.

The player and his agent eventually flew to Denmark for a consultation with specialist Per Holmich.

It took 10 minutes! He needed just 10 minutes to figure out it was a sports hernia and needed an operation. But De Nicola again said no, that he didn’t believe in the surgical option and didn’t want to be the one who destroyed my career.”

Come January, after six months of inactivity, De Guzman was loaned out to bottom of the table Carpi and they finally allowed him to have the operation in Munich.

The pain was gone quickly, but my body was so weak that I just lurched from one injury to the next. I returned to Napoli in 2016. Sarri said I could prove myself. He is a good Coach, he’s proving that now at Chelsea.

Everything was top at Napoli, from the supporters to the facilities, all except for a few men. Football is a business and business is tough, I understand that, but this treatment was inhumane.”

After another dismal loan spell at Chievo, he was sold to Eintracht Frankfurt, having first rejected a big money move to Asia, and won the German Cup last season.

Italian Soccer Serie A – Milan vs Napoli – Milano – San Siro Stadium – 14/12/2014. Jonathan de Guzman – napoli – fotografo: Fabrizio Forte

Napoli was a dark chapter and I want to put it behind me with this interview. I love this game so much, otherwise I wouldn’t have run around an empty training ground for six months at the age of 28.

There are football players who are completely broken. From the outside, you can’t see what’s going on. A player who doesn’t play is no longer of interest to anyone. The clubs have their way of communicating. Now it’s my turn.”

De Volkskrant point out they contacted Napoli for this story, but that the club refused to comment.

BBC shuns Super Eagles duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi for big award.

Super Eagles stars Wilfred Ndidi and Alexis Iwobi have been snubbed in the nominations for BBC African footballer of the year award with Egypt’s Mo Salah hoping to retain the award he won last year.

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This year’s nominees are Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Thomas Partey (Ghana) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt). The vote opened on Saturday, 17 November at 19:00 GMT and closes on Sunday, 2 December at 20:00. The result will be revealed in a programme on BBC World News on Friday, 14 December at 17:30.

Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Thomas Partey (Ghana) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

The shortlist has been compiled by a panel of African football experts which included former Nigeria international Peter Odemwingie . Liverpool forward Salah won last year’s award, with previous winners including Jay-Jay Okocha, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Riyad Mahrez.

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The contenders
Juventus centre-back Benatia, 31, won his fourth consecutive league title this year – two with Bayern Munich and two with Juve – and captained Morocco at this summer’s World Cup.

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Napoli defender Koulibaly, 27, played his part in his club’s battle with Juve for the Serie A title, including the winner against the eventual champions in the run-in. He played all 270 minutes for Senegal in the World Cup.

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Liverpool forward Mane, 26, also played in all of Senegal’s World Cup games, captaining his country in two and scoring against Japan. He was the joint-second top scorer in last season’s Champions League – with 10 goals for Liverpool, including one in the 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in the final.

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Atletico Madrid midfielder Partey, 25, established himself as a first-team regular for Diego Simeone’s side, including a late appearance as a substitute in the Europa League final win over Marseille. He scored in international friendlies for Ghana against Japan and Iceland.

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Liverpool forward Salah, 26, won the Premier League Golden Boot with 32 goals in May and, like Mane, scored 10 Champions League strikes in their run to the final. He scored both of Egypt’s World Cup goals – 40% of their all-time total at the tournament.

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The list was announced live on BBC website shortly after Super Eagles sealed Qualification for next year’s AFCON holding in Cameroon.
Do you think Nigeria should have had a representative on the list ? share your thoughts below.

Croatia explains why Ivan Rakitic will miss England match

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic has confirmed that Ivan Rakitic will not be available for Sunday’s crucial Nations League clash with England at Wembley.
Group A4 remains finely balanced as a result of Croatia’s win over Spain on Thursday night, which means that any of the three teams in the group could still finish top.

The winners at Wembley would progress through to the semi-finals while the losers would be relegated, but if it is a goalless draw then Spain win the group and Croatia will be relegated on goal difference, while a score draw would see England demoted due to their head-to-head record.

However, Croatia will go into the showdown without one of their key men after Rakitic returned to Barcelona due to an unspecified injury.

“We have the solutions and we go to Wembley to enjoy the football,” Dalic told reporters.

Rakitic has won 101 caps for his country, scoring 15 goals.

NFF thanks President Buhari for support

Three –time champions Nigeria flew majestically back to the biggest football houseparty on the continent after being held 1-1 by South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.

It was certainly not one of the classics, but the result meant only one other team in Gourp E (either Libya or South Africa) could end up with the same 10 points that Nigeria already have, by the of the qualification series in March 2019. But Libya’s 8-1 defeat of their hosts Seychelles on Mahé Island would create real fear in the Bafana Bafana going into that last battle against the Mediterranean Knights in Tunisia.

At the FNB Stadium in Soweto on a sunny afternoon, Nigeria made the brightest start with stand –in Captain Ahmed Musa watching his shot held by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the 6th minute, and two minutes later Nigeria had the ball in the net after a sweet combination by Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho. But Gambian Referee Papa Gassama ruled it off-side, on the prompting of the assistant referee.

A minute later, Nigeria pushed their noses in front as Samuel Kalu, playing in an unaccustomed wing back role, outpaced Sfiso Hlanti and pulled out, only for Buhle Mkhwanazi to divert it past Khune into the net.

In the 11th minute, Bafana had a glorious chance to equalize as the irrepressible Percy Tau got behind the Nigerian defence, only to be thwarted by Kalu.

It became a ding-dong as the match gathered some vibrancy, with Captain Thulani Hlatshwayo arriving late for a free –kick and Mothiba wrong –footed, and at the other end, William Ekong’s run to a good chance from a corner was foiled and Kalu shot too high from an Ahmed Musa corner.

Bafana were level in the 26th minute though, as the nimble –footed Tau, appropriately named Man-of-the-Match, left Ekong and Omeruo in no-man’s-land and drilled a selfless pass to Mothiba, beyond a sprawling Ikechukwu Ezenwa, to slot into an empty net.

Nigeria could have reclaimed leadership in the 36th minute, but after Musa did all the work, Iheanacho’s atrocious first touch bungled the opportunity.

In the second period, both teams sought to conserve energy in a high altitude environment. Two minutes before the hour, midfielder John Ogu’s header from another Nigerian corner was headed for the net before Themba Zwani headed it away, and 15 minutes later, Kenneth Omeruo’s lofty header from yet another corner missed narrowly.

In the 83rd minute, another big talking point surfaced when Musa ran onto a great pass and slotted past Khune, only to be deemed off-side.

Having missed the last two AFCON finals, Nigeria have now joined hosts Cameroon, Madagascar, Senegal, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Uganda as the teams already guaranteed slots at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, to be hosted by Cameroon.

An ecstatic President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick heaped encomiums on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government for providing the conducive environment for Nigerian Football to continue to thrive, while praising specially Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State who led the Nigeria delegation to the big match.

This is great day for Nigerian Football. Just as happened in the qualifying series for the FIFA World Cup, we have won the ticket to the AFCON with a match to spare. This victory is for President Muhammadu Buhari and the Government and people of Nigeria. We commend the technical crew and the players, and I must praise Governor Simon Lalong who is here with his wife to support the team. He has been a pillar of support. I also congratulate the Members of the NFF Executive Committee, NFF Management and Staff, Members of the NFF Congress, Football Stakeholders and the media.

We will begin the preparations for the AFCON immediately. As I have said several times, we do not want the AFCON ticket just to go there and make up the number, but to make a massive impact at the finals,” said Pinnick, who is also the President of the AFCON Organizing Committee, aside being the 1st Vice President of the Confederation of African Football.

The Nigerian delegation is expected to fly back to Asaba, Delta State in the early hours of Sunday. The Super Eagles have a friendly international with the Cranes of Uganda at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Tuesday evening.

South Africa, who host Paraguay in the annual Nelson Mandela Memorial Challenge in Durban also on Tuesday, must avoid defeat to Libya in Tunisia in March to qualify for the 2019 AFCON, while Nigeria have a relatively easy session at home to Seychelles.

AFCON Qualifier: Libya Beat Seychelles In Nine Goal Thriller

Libya humiliated hosts Seychelles 8-1 on Saturday in Victoria in their final qualification round Group E fixture for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The North Africans are now with seven points from five matches and lie third in the group behind leaders Nigeria who have 10 points and South Africa who have nine points.

Five second half goals by the visiting side, including Anis Saltou’s hat-trick at the Stade Linite boosted Libya’s confidence for a ticket to Cameroon next year.

Motasem Sabbou opened scoring for Libya three minutes into the game, while Saltou extended their lead just 18 minutes later.

Saltou got his brace in the 32nd minute as Khalid Almaryami shamed their hosts with the fourth goal nine minutes into the second half.

Salem Baleid delivered the fifth goal four minutes later.

Saltou grabbed his hat-trick and his fourth in the qualifiers as he found the back of the net in the 62nd minute.

Perry Monnaie’s 72nd consolation goal for Seychelles was not enough to stop the Libyans as Rabia Alshadi gave his side another goal five minutes to the end of the game.

Libya squad

The relentless visitors finished the game with an Hamdou Elhouni strike exactly at regulation time to embarrass their hosts 8-1.

You can leave comments below to tell us your opinions

MUST READ: How Cristiano Ronaldo Dethroned Lionel Messi

The argument over whether Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi or vice-versa has raged for over a decade, but there is a stage where one is the undisputed victor.

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In 2012, when Messi won his fourth-straight Ballon d’Or title, it seemed inevitable that the Barcelona star would finish his career far ahead of his arch-rival, who had just one Golden Ball to his name.

But Ronaldo has since claimed four of the last five awards in the ensuing years to leave them tied on five apiece. His recent dominance of football’s most prestigious individual prize has been down to his success in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo has overcome a slow start to become a Champions League specialist

The 33-year-old has finished as either the tournament’s top goalscorer or joint-top scorer in each of the last six campaigns and lifted the trophy with Real Madrid on four of those occasions.

Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Ronaldo has hit a scarcely believable 83 goals in 76 games, a formidable strike-rate that has seen him become by far and away the tournament’s all-time top goalscorer.

Lionel Messi stormed the European stage early on but is now struggling to find his best form

Before the start of 2011, when he broke double figures in the competition for the first time, it was Messi who shone brightest on that stage. The Argentine finished top scorer in the competition four years running between 2008 and 2012, coinciding with his run of four straight Ballon d’Or titles.

Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi
Season Games Goals Total Games  Goals Total
2003-04 5 0 0 DID NOT PLAY 
2004-05 7 0 0 1 0 0
2005-06 6 0 0 6 1 1
2006-07 11 3 3 5 1 2
2007-08 11 8* 11 9 6 8
2008-09 12 4 15 12 9* 17
2009-10 6 7 22 11 8* 25
2010-11 12 6 28 13 12* 37
2011-12 10 10 38 11 14* 51
2012-13 12 12* 50 11 8 59
2013-14 11 17* 67 7 8 67
2014-15 12 10** 77 13 10** 77
2015-16 12 16* 93 7 6 83
2016-17 13 12* 105 9 11 94
2017-18 13 15* 120 10 6 100
2018-19 3 1 121 2 5 105
*Competition’s top scorer **Joint-top scorers

Ronaldo's goalscoring form in the last six seasons has seen him overtake Messi in Europe

By the end of that fourth year, Messi had 51 Champions League goals compared to Ronaldo’s 38, a healthy lead of 13.

But the tide began to turn in 2012-13 when Ronaldo ended Messi’s run as both the Champions League top-scorer and Ballon d’Or winner. He scored 12 goals in Europe compared to Messi’s eight and won his second Golden Ball with 27.99 per cent of the votes.

Messi was a revelation for Barcelona in the Champions League during his early days

When Real Madrid finally sealed La Decima in 2013-14, it was Ronaldo’s astonishing 17 goals throughout the campaign that lead them to the final. With Messi scoring a comparatively paltry eight in that season, the 13-goal lead he enjoyed two years previous was wiped out. They were tied on 67 each.

Anyone intent on winning the Ballon d’Or will know that finishing as top scorer in the Champions League will generally get you there. Each of the last 11 Ballon d’Or winners have been either top scorer or joint-top scorer in that season.

Messi finished top scorer in the competition four seasons in a row between 2009 and 2012
Champions League: Top goalscorers
Cristiano Ronaldo 121
Lionel Messi 105
Raul 71
Karim Benzema 59
Ruud van Nistelrooy 56
Thierry Henry 50
Robert Lewandowski 49
Andriy Shevchenko 48
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 48
Filippo Inzaghi 46

Messi last won the Champions League title and finished top scorer in a triumphant 2014-15

Perhaps that is why Ronaldo started to reserve his very best performances for the competition and showed no mercy against lesser opponents in the group stage. He netted four goals in an 8-0 win over Malmo in 2015 and, before that, collected group-stage hat-tricks against Ajax (2012), Galatasaray (2013) and Shakhtar Donetsk (2014).

However, what Ronaldo has achieved in the knockout stages goes far beyond what a flat-track bully could do. From his 121 goals in the Champions League, a total of 60 have come in the latter stages. He has scored 20 in the round of 16, 23 in the quarter-finals, 13 in the semi-finals and four in the final.

Ronaldo's rise to become a Champions League-winning machine started with the title in 2014

Ronaldo’s rise to becoming a Champions League specialist has coincided with both Messi and Barcelona struggling to assert themselves like before in Europe. They have failed to make it to the semi-finals in each of the last three seasons with Messi scoring 23 goals.

Twenty three goals in three seasons is an impressive return by most measures but it pales in comparison to Ronaldo, who scored 43 goals in the same period.

The result is that Ronaldo bagged the significant milestone of reaching 100 goals in the Champions League before his rival, something he will always hold over him. He also looks likely to end his own career as top scorer as he now leads Messi by a significant 16 goals.

He has since grown a reputation for producing his best performance in the knockout stages

As Messi, 31, is over two years younger than Ronaldo, there is a good chance that he may ultimately overhaul him, especially as he still enjoys a better goalscoring rate in the Champions League (0.83 goals per game compared to 0.78).

What is certain is that neither of them will be sharing their positions in the exclusive centurion club any time soon. Karim Benzema (59 goals) and Robert Lewandowski (49) are the only players in the top 10 other than Ronaldo and Messi who are still playing in Europe.

Ronaldo has now got more Champions League goals (121) and more titles (five) than anyone

JUST IN: Real Madrid to sign another wonder-kid

Having burst onto the scene as part of a swashbuckling River Plate side that is fighting for Copa Libertadores glory, Exequiel Palacios is not short of admirers.  The River youngster hit the gossip columns in August due to his multiple relationships, but it is his on-field abilities that have caught Madrid’s eye.

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Real Madrid are one of the clubs interested in the 20-year-old midfielder, while over in Italy Inter are also closely following one of the top prospects to come out of Argentina in recent years. But he is also getting attention rather closer to home, and not all of it wanted.

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Palacios was the star of a minor celebrity scandal at the end of August, product of a romance with former TV weather girl and model Sol Perez. There was one issue with this budding relationship: the player’s girlfriend, manicurist Karen Gramajo, whose existence was revealed to a stunned Perez live on television during one of Argentina’s infinite gossip shows.

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If that were not enough, a third squeeze, called Juliana emerged to claim that she was also involved with Palacios. But that domestic strife has had little effect on the youngster’s form as he continues to go from strength to strength at the Monumental – nor has it had any visible impact on his energy levels.

A roving, dynamic central midfielder, Palacios represents a rare breed of player in Argentina, where those in the engine room tend to be divided into two broad categories: stoic anchormen whose job is to break up play and move the ball along with little fuss; and the more creative playmakers who contribute little in their own half or out of possession.

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Palacios thrives while on the ball, driving through the heart of the pitch and showing intelligence beyond his years to move it on at the right moment. But he also works incessantly in the recovery of possession, while also popping up to score the odd goal at crucial moments.

It is the type of player that Lionel Messi’s Albiceleste for one have been crying out for in recent years, a priceless commodity in modern football.

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For that reason his path into the national team has been accelerated, interim coach Lionel Scaloni handing him his international debut in September against Guatemala.

But his time in Argentine football could be running out, with Madrid in particular ready to announce him as a Merengue player following the Copa Libertadores final on November 24 if nothing goes awry in the final stages of negotiations with River.

Exequiel Palacios Pavon Boca River Superclasico Superliga 23092018

Palacios currently has a buyout clause of €15 million (£13m/$17m) written into his contract, a bargain given the current inflated market. Even if they cannot hold on to their young star River are logically keen to raise that sum, with their hope a fresh deal that would double his release clause.

Publically at least, the Millonarios hope to keep him at the club, reacting angrily to the news he had been approached. “Up to now we thought it was all false, but no,” president Rodolfo D’Onofrio fired to Marca.

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“We have confirmed it through his agent and we at River are surprised, if it is all true, that a respected institution like Real Madrid has negotiated directly with the player, without respecting a club like River and behind its back.

“I wasn’t expecting it, this does not fit with the historical ties we have with Madrid that date back from the age of Alfredo Di Stefano up to the present day.”

Exequiel Palacios River Plate GFX

Behind the scenes, however, those in charge at River are resigned to losing Palacios. A fee worth €20m (£18m/$23m) after tax would be sufficient to discourage the Millonarios from renewing his deal and let him go to Santiago Bernabeu, with a move now likely as early as January 2019 as talks between the two clubs recovered from that rocky start to find common ground,even if River continue to deny that any agreement has been reached.

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The prospect of Palacios joining up with newly confirmed Madrid boss Santiago Solari – who himself made the step up from River to Real, by way of rivals Atletico – is a tantalising one, and one which can only be a positive step not just for the Blancos’ efforts to rejuvenate their flagging squad, but also Argentina’s endeavours to bring in the next generation of talent, with or without Messi as their standard-bearer.

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In the meantime there is only one thing on the club – and Palacios’ – mind. Sunday’s Copa Libertadores final first leg against hated rivals Boca Juniors ended in a 2-2 draw at the Bombonera, a game in which Palacios uncharacteristically failed to make his usual impact leading a midfield left rather stretched by River’s decision to line up with five defenders and play a more direct counter-attacking game.

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November 24 sees the two giants meet again in the second leg of the showpiece, with no more than a place in the Club World Cup and a date with none other than Madrid in Abu Dhabi on the line. If the Millonarios are to prevail Palacios’ attacking dynamism and quality will be key – and you can be sure that with so much on the line he will not be distracted by any more off-field scandals.

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DEBATE: Is Vinicius Junior ready to be a Real Madrid Galatico?

After the storm of Julen Lopetegui’s brief, turbulent reign, something approaching calm has returned to the halls of Santiago Bernabeu.  The Brazilian has seen his participation in the first team increase since Santiago Solari’s arrival, but finding a regular spot is still a challenge.

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Thrown in at the deep end with form and morale at rock-bottom, Santiago Solari has repeated Zinedine Zidane’s early heroics in stepping up from Castilla to steady the ship after the departure of a more established name.

Four straight wins have convinced the Madrid hierachy to hire the Argentine on a permanent basis, while also sending the club hurtling back up the Liga standings having fallen as low as the purgatory of mid-table following their humiliating Clasico reverse.

It is clear, though, that for Solari the real challenge is just beginning. A relative lack of goals – just 20 in the league, compared to Barcelona’s 34 – is a real problem in the pressure-cooker of the Bernabeu, and a key factor in Lopetegui’s dismissal after just two months of the season.

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The new man, however, might just have a not-so secret weapon up his sleeve: Vinicius Junior, whom Solari perhaps knows better than anyone else in the Madrid set-up.

According to Blancos sources consulted by Goal, Lopetegui’s failure to integrate the Brazilian teenager in his starting line-up was a secondary factor in the decision to relieve the coach of his duties.

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Vinicius played a paltry 12 minutes of senior football under his first Madrid boss, scant return on the £40.5 million ($54m) paid out to Flamengo for the teenager’s services in the summer.

The feeling was that Lopetegui had no clear idea on how to introduce his prospect to the first team, which was not exactly firing on all cylinders following the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus and the entirely predictable drop in potency in front of goal that followed.

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It was then Solari who gave Vinicius his first start in his debut on the bench, albeit in a match in which he almost certainly would have featured even if Lopetegui had continued in charge. And he did not disappoint.

The youngster gave Madrid fans a taste of his potential with two assists in a 4-0 drubbing of Melilla, and the following Saturday jumped off the bench to break the deadlock against Valladolid and score his first senior goal , albeit via a huge deflection.

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A further assist followed as Viktoria Plzen were put to the sword, and while he is still waiting for a maiden start in La Liga or the Champions League, all indications suggest he has a big part to play under Solari.

“Vinicius is one more member of this squad, he is very young and very talented,” Solari himself signalled in his introductory press conference in the Madrid hotseat.

Vinicius Jr Real Madrid Florentino Perez

“He has a lot to learn, but also a lot to give. If he is here, it is because he is good enough.”

The Argentine has the privilege of commenting with no little knowledge of his charge. Vinicius smashed an impressive four goals in five Castilla outings under Solari, helping the feeder side break into the promotion play-off places in Spain’s third-tier Primera Division B.

While the quality of football down the pyramid is logically far inferior to that on offer in the elite, Vinicius had been making all the right noises. It is therefore little surprise to see many onlookers calling for him to play a bigger role in the first team, including some of famous Brazilian luminaries.

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“He should have been playing right from the start of the season,” ex-Barcelona favourite Rivaldo signalled to Betfair .

“Now he has more opportunities under Solari and I think he will keep winning the right to more minutes, he is a great player who has shown great personality on the pitch. He is showing huge maturity for such a young player, only 18 years old.”

Vinicius GFX

Vinicius repaid the favour, praising his former Castilla coach as both step up to the rigours of Madrid’s senior ranks. “Solari has always helped me since I arrived in Madrid,” the youngster stated.

“Thanks to him, I have a clear mind and I concentrate only on the game. That’s what he has done with me in the first team, and I’m happy.”

Of course, it will not be easy even for a player of Vinicius’ obvious quality to stake out a regular first-team place. Ahead of the teenager are players of proven world-class ability, with a host of Champions League and other winner’s medals hanging from the mantlepiece.

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Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Mariano Diaz, Marcos Asensio, Isco: there is certainly no shortage of attacking potential at Solari’s disposal, no matter how disappointing the start to this season has been. Vinicius’ prior links with the Argentine will count for little unless he begins to show he has what it takes to find the net on a regular basis at one of the most demanding clubs in the world.

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What Solari’s arrival does mean, however, is that the Brazilian is now working under a coach who is also learning the ropes, a man who is sympathetic to the situation of Madrid’s young stars and who, since his days starting out with the club’s Cadete B (Under-15) division in 2013, has earned a reputation as a trainer more than proficient in the development of promising talents.

It is still too early to say whether Vinicius will follow through on his early potential and become a household name around the Bernabeu. But with Solari on the bench and hungry for success he has a golden opportunity to make a case for selection – the rest, naturally, will be up to him.

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Drop your comments in the comment box, to share your opinion on whether the young Brazilian is ready for the spotlight.

2019 AFCON: Arsenal star comments on Egypt vs Tunisia match

Arsenal and Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny has praised his teammates for their enthusiasm, performance and spirit that helped them secured a 3-2 victory over Tunisia.

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Mohamed Salah’s last-gasp effort separated both teams at the Borg El Arab Stadium after goals from Mahmoud Trezeguet, Baher El Mohamady matched Naim Sliti’s brace for Tunisia.

Image result for Egypt 3-2 Tunisia: Mohamed Salah scores last-gasp winner in African Cup of Nations qualifying to end opponents' 100 per cent record

The Pharaohs had already sealed their place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations before the encounter but the result moved them levelled on points with the Carthage Eagles at the summit of their group – 12 points from five matches.

Baher El Mohamady put Egypt ahead with a 59th-minute header before Ahmed Hegazi's error

Meanwhile, Elneny returned to action on Friday and featured for the entire 90 minutes after recovering from a thigh injury that kept him out of action for the past two weeks.

Salah had a quiet game but once again scored a late goal to give his side all three points

And the 26-year-old, pleased with his team’s overall display and fans’ support, hopes that they continue to put smiles of the faces of Egyptian fans.

Egypt have won four matches under new coach Javier Aguirre since the World Cup in Russia

“I am very proud of all the players without exception for what they gave in today’s game,” Elneny wrote on Instagram.

Tunisia and Egypt had both already qualified for the African Cup of Nations before the game

“The enthusiasm, performance and spirit were very high and I wish to continue this to delight the great Egyptian fans and thank them for their presence today on the pitch as usual in our support.”

SHOCKING!!! Hazard says he does not deserve Ballon d’Or

Despite an impressive campaign for Chelsea and Belgium, Eden Hazard sees himself someway off the pace of claiming the Ballon d’Or this time around. The winner of this year’s prestigious award, however, remains unclear following a ten-year period of domination split between Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.

Image result for hazard ballon d'or

On Potential winners

“I would have said Luka Modric, but between August and October he didn’t play that well. So if you take the beginning of the season into account, I would say Kylian Mbappé,” the Chelsea forward told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

In the interview Hazard was in no way dressing up his chances of being voted the best player on the plant: “I don’t deserve the Ballon d’Or. I think there are players who have been better than me. Even if I have played very well this year, I’m not getting carried away,” he added.

Eden Hazard: "I don't deserve the Ballon d'Or"