90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: International Break Special

This past week we have been breaking. Internationally. It was an international break. And this kind of international breaking is bad.

So say a number of bespectacled, basement-bound (harsh stereotyping required for the bit) 14-year-olds who manage club admins and like to make digital drawings of rabbits with placards saying funny ‘controversial stuff’ out of hyphens and dashes and brackets and stuff.

Well, not me. Not today. In my mind, there’s only one true break that can be called bad in this cruel, twisted world. And it’ll be breaking till the end of time.


In honour of the release of ‘El Camino‘, this is ’90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: International Break Special’, brought to you by ‘Breaking Bad‘ Season Four. 

For the International Break is not in danger, admins, IT IS THE DANGER!


15. John McGinn (Re-Entry)

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“For what it’s worth, getting the sh*t kicked out of you? Not to say you get used to it, but you do kinda get used to it.”

This is John McGinn. Standing in the rain. Celebrating his hat-trick. Against San Marino. Has one man ever been so Scottish? 

And yes, that quote could apply to both the lads from the mountainous microstate or the mountainous tartan state.


14. Marcus Rashford (Now Entry)

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“Yeah, that’s cool and all, but I think I got like this cat? Think I’m like supposed to feed it.”

On a night marred by monstrosity, Marcus Rashford finally remembered he had a goalscoring habit that needed feeding. And feed it he did, with a swashbuckling net buster from an improbable angle after some intrepid work down the flank. 

Nice work, Marcus. Your prize? A first placing in these here prestigious rankings…and an invitation to a 6-0 drubbing of your own at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday, probably. Sorry son. 


13. Josh King (New Entry)

Norway v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

“No, no, this whole thing – all of this – it’s all about me.”

Spain were looking to make it all about their resurgence on Friday night. They were trying, like, really hard – even if they did play Jesus Navas (who’s been 33 for almost 33 years now) at right-back.

And yet, they were upstaged. Upstaged by one man. One King. The King of the South Coast. The one that fights them, well, not on the beaches but, like, right next to it. The one that makes Timothee Chalamet look like the 14-year-old he’s…well, supposed to be I guess.

No, not Martin Odegaard. No, not Erling Haaland. It’s Josh King guys. JOSH. KING.


12. Rodrigo (New Entry)

Mikel Oyarzabal,Robert Moreno,Rodri,Rodrigo

“At least now we all understand each other.”

But that was then. Then being Friday. And a lot can happen in a weekend. Just ask the folks who rocked up to Bernie’s beach house.

And so it came to pass that King’s reign was short and sweet, and a new Rey was discovered just five nights later. And he has but one name. Rodrigo. I mean, sure, he’s also got ‘Moreno Machado’ tagged on in his birth certificate. But he dropped those. Just like the guys at ‘The Facebook’ and ‘The Joker’ before him. It’s cleaner, you know. 

Anyway, Rodrigo broke Scandinavian hearts and secured Spain’s Euro 2020 qualification. Yay for him.


11. Georginio Wijnaldum (Re-Entry)

Georginio Wijnaldum

“You know, mister, I’ve been providin’ my services for the past thirty-odd years. You’d think in that time I’d learn better than to ask a man his business. Especially not one referred by the lawyer. But I feel the urge to ask you, we strictly talking defence here?”

It seems, on Netherlands duty, we are talking strictly no defence. And that suits Gigi just fine, it seems. Well, no, it doesn’t seem. It is. He scored. Twice.

Look, he even broke out into dance at one point. The man’s a pent-up goalscoring machine/matinee idol waiting to be unleashed. What are you waiting for, Jurgen Klopp/Mel Brooks?


10. Ilkay Gundogan (New Entry)

Ilkay Gundogan

“I’ve never used this stuff. Are you sure it will do the job?”

Germany are in a state of flux, that’s for sure. Hence the use of a number of new faces. And they did the job to… varying degrees of success. Kai Havertz? Exciting, but raw. Luca Waldschmidt? Raw, but…rangy? 

In any case, it was Gundogan who was forced to set the tempo, and set he did, with two deflected goals and one delectable assist. Match winner for the Mannschaft. And boy did he shaft some men from Estonia, after Emre Can had done his best to shaft his own men in the 13th minute. 


9. Tyrone Mings (New Entry)

Tyrone Mings

“Nazi zombies…”

In the face of a torrent of abuse from a number of braindead Nazis on the night of his first-ever outing for England, Tyrone Mings stood tall. He rose above the racists, delivering a man of the match performance from defence in a game that was won 6-0. 

Of course, his accolades were dogged by the acts of these despicable zombies, but taking that out of the equation for a moment, it looks like the Three Lions may have finally found the man to partner Harry Maguire at the back.


8. Gareth Bale (Re-Entry)

Gareth Bale

“Alright, let’s talk about Gale Boetticher. He was a good man and a good chemist and I cared about him. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. He didn’t deserve it at all. But I’d shoot him again and tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. When you make it Gale versus me, or Gale versus Jesse, Gale loses! Simple as that. This is on you, Gus, not me, not Jesse. I mean really, what’d you expect me to do? Just simply roll over and allow you to murder us? That I wouldn’t take measures – extreme measures – to defend myself? Wrong! Think again.”

Alright, let’s talk about Gareth Bale. He was a good footballer and a good golfer and I cared about him. He doesn’t deserve what’s happened to him at Real Madrid. But I’d play him for Wales again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. 

Because that’s the kind of performances he turns out for the Dragons.


7. Romelu Lukaku (Re-Entry)

Belgium v San Marino - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

“I played the game, bro. They ain’t exactly fleet of foot. I’m saying, where’s the challenge? At least the zombies in Left 4 Dead clock a respectable 40. You gotta lead ’em and sh*t.”

Yes, it was San Marino. Yes, Romelu Lukaku left ’em 4 dead. No, Romelu Lukaku doesn’t care. 

He has 51 goals in 83 Belgium appearances. He definitely leads ’em and sh*t.


6. Teemu Pukki (Re-Entry)

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“Who’d have thought that someday I would be handing these keys to you?”

A win against Liechtenstein in their next game will ensure Finland qualify for their first-ever European Championships. And it’s all – mainly – down to this man. In a competitive group, the Finns have held their own.

Who’d have thought that someday they’d be turning out at tournaments like this?

Who’d have thought that someday I would be handing the keys to the EPPR HQ to Teemu Pukki?

But both are on the brink of happening. MVP! MVP! MVP!


5. Andrea Belotti (New Entry)

Andrea Belotti

“I had to go to three different places to get the moisturiser that you liked, but I got that and I got your Shiner Bock and your chips and – I couldn’t resist – the complete encyclopedia to fantasy football. Look, it has all the latest rankings.”

Andrea Belotti had to go to Liechtenstein to nab a spot in the latest rankings, but he’s done it now and that’s all that matters. 

I mean, it’s a shame he didn’t do in that gorgeous green kit, but I guess he did it all the same.


4. Olivier Giroud (New Entry)

Olivier Giroud,Raphael Varane,Clement Lenglet

“Gus, you do this, all you’ll have left is an $8 million hole in the ground.”

Olivier Giroud has more goals for France than David Trezeguet, Zinedine Zidane, Just Fontaine, Jean-Pierre Papin and Antoine Griezmann.

He has more goals than Eric Cantona and Franck Ribery combined and ten more than the sum of Nicolas Anelka and Robert Pires’ efforts.

This should be said more. Especially to the guys at Chelsea, who seem to think they’d be better off with an £8m hole in the ground. 


3. Cristiano Ronaldo (New Entry)


“Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up. Disappears! It ceases to exist without me. No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger! A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!”

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is a new entry. With his 700th career goal against Ukraine, the wee lad finally did enough to warrant a place in these here rankings. 

Apparently, he wasn’t too happy about his previous snubs. 


2. Artem Dzyuba (New Entry)

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“Is there something about you I don’t know? Are you a former Navy SEAL? Do you have to have your hands registered as lethal weapons?”

And, presumably, CR7 won’t be too happy about getting plumped behind big man extraordinaire Artem Dzyuba. But hey, Portugal couldn’t even beat Ukraine, whereas we all know what Russia can do to their neighbours when they get the chance…

…Anyway, the 2018 World Cup hosts won both their qualifiers with an aggregate score of 9-0, and Dzyuba was at the heart of all their best moments. He’s a monster. A delicate one. But a monster all the same. Hell, we can’t even fit his entire wingspan in.


1. Robert Lewandowski (Up 2)

Robert Lewandowski

“Hey, nobody appreciates a passionate woman more than I do, but in this business – and Walt can back me up on this – the number one rule is: ‘Don’t take things personal’.”

Who else? 

Despite an admirable charge from Teemu Pukki, there’s only one man who can really be described as EPPR’s 2019/20 MVP so far, and that’s Robert Lewandowski. 

With yet another hat-trick against Latvia, the Pole confirmed his place atop the footballing world, and secured his side’s progression to Euro 2020 a game later against Macedonia. 

He takes things personally, alright, but he never lets them cloud his vision. The same goes with those passionate women, I suppose. 


Let’

Inter Eye Up ‘Unhappy’ Chelsea Star as Alexis Sanchez Undergoes Ankle Surgery

Inter loanee forward Alexis Sanchez has undergone surgery ahead of a long-term layoff, after picking up an ankle injury while on international duty with Chile, with the Italian side now considering Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud as a potential replacement.

​Sanchezsuffered a dislocated ankle during a friendly with Colombia on Saturday, simultaneously damaging tendons as well, for which he underwent surgery on Wednesday.

This was revealed by the Nerazzurri in a statement on their official website, which read: “Alexis Sanchez was in Barcelona this morning for consultation with Dr Ramon Cugat.


“The visit confirmed the diagnosis of the Inter medical staff and the decision was made to proceed with surgery on the left ankle. The operation was performed in the afternoon on the peroneus longus tendon and it went exactly as planned.” 

With that part of the process now complete, the real rehabilitation is set to begin now, with the star, whose huge wages of close to £500,000 a week are being split between Inter and Manchester United, is likely to be out until at least February. 

This, naturally, leaves a hole in Antonio Conte’s attack, one that, according to a report from Calciomercato, could be filled by Olivier Giroud.

The Italian boss landed long-term target Romelu Lukaku in the summer, but failed in his pursuit of Edin Dzeko as back up to the departing Mauro Icardi, and Sanchez’s sidelining now leaves him seeking further replacements. 

And it seems that Giroud, the player he signed for Chelsea back in January 2018, could be the man for the job.

The Frenchman recently conceded his displeasure at his displacing in the Blues’ starting lineup by Tammy Abraham, telling the press – as quoted by the Daily Express – after France’s clash with Turkey that he certainly wouldn’t be beyond departing.

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“I’m going to fight for my place at Chelsea and we will take stock of the situation in January,” he said. “If you ask me whether I want to leave I’ll say ‘not necessarily’ – but other things enter the equation. I cannot be happy with what I have at the moment. I am 33 but I still have several good years left in me.

“I still have the legs and a profile that I think will enable me to keep playing at the top level. I feel in good shape physically and I lead a healthy lifestyle. I want to enjoy myself and play matches.

“That could be for Chelsea – who are my first choice – or elsewhere. But if they force me to make a decision I will do it – just like when I left Arsenal.”

Let’

Inter Confirm Alexis Sánchez Has Undergone Surgery on Dislocated Ankle

​Inter have confirmed that Alexis Sánchez has undergone surgery on his ankle to address the injury which he picked up on international duty.

The winger suffered tendon damage in his ankle whilst away with Chile, and he was sent to Barcelona on Wednesday to meet with a surgeon to assess the severity of the injury.

Lega Calcio Serie A TIM"FC Internazionale v SS Lazio"

As noted by the club’s ​official website, ​Sánchez met with specialist Dr Ramon Cugat, who recommended that surgery was the way forward. He has now had the operation, which ​Inter say was a success.

There is no mention of how long Sánchez will be on the sidelines for, but Chile manager Reinaldo Rueda suggested that ​it could be up to three months before the winger is able to return to action.

Should Rueda be correct and Sánchez does indeed need three months on the sidelines, the winger will miss the remainder of Inter’s ​Champions League group stage fixtures, including meetings with both ​Borussia Dortmund and ​Barcelona.

Fortunately for Inter, the ​Serie A fixture list looks rather kind to them over the next few months. I Nerrazzuri will come face to face with the likes of Torino and Hellas Verona in the coming weeks, but their next top-of-the-table clash comes against Roma on 6th December.

After that, Antonio Conte’s side face meetings with Fiorentina, ​Napoli and Atalanta over a period of five weeks, so they will certainly be eager to welcome Sánchez back to action as soon as possible.

Inter currently find themselves second in Serie A, just one point behind league leaders ​Juventus. It has been a fantastic start to the campaign for Conte’s men, and they will hope that Sánchez’s injury does not bring their momentum to a halt.

Antonio Conte

Conte’s preference of playing two strikers means both ​Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez will likely play plenty of minutes over the coming months, whilst 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito also stands to feature in some capacity.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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The Top Scorers in Euro 2020 Qualifying After October Fixtures

​As the Euro 2020 qualifying stage reaches its climax, each group is beginning to level out, leaving Europe’s heavyweights to battle it out at the top of their mini-leagues. 

The same can be said for the list of top scorers in the competition, with the usual suspects jostling for pole position in this year’s pre-tournament campaign. 

That is, except for a pair of jokers in the pack. 

Jadon Sancho,Harry Kane,Raheem Sterling

The likes of Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo and 2016 qualifying champion Robert Lewandowski are being forced to kneel to a surprise one-two at the top of the charts this time round. 

Let’s take a look at the top scorers of the Euro 2020 campaign thus far. 


8. Romelu Lukaku – Belgium (6 Goals) 

​Romelu Lukaku loves playing for Belgium. In fairness, the ex-Manchester United man is blessed with some of the world’s best players supplying his goalscoring opportunities, and the ​Inter striker seems to find another level when he pulls on the Red Devils’ shirt. 

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier group I"Belgium v San Marino"

Lukaku is sitting on six goals during this qualifying campaign, and with his country’s 100% record still intact, Belgian supporters can look forward to another exciting tournament in 2020. 


-. Claudiu Keșerü – Romania (6 Goals)

Despite being handed an extremely tough group, Romania are holding their own in their bid for European qualification, and Keșerü’s ruthlessness in front of goal is certainly a big factor in their success. 

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The Romanian star has scored six goals for his country during their eight qualifying matches, and his side sit in third place in Group F, only one point behind rivals Sweden. 

Confidence is high ahead of the crunch match between the two sides in November.


-. Memphis Depay – Netherlands (6 Goals) 

Another ​ex-Man Utd player makes the top ten. Memphis Depay has breathed life back into his stuttering career after a miserable spell at Old Trafford, and the Lyon striker has bagged six goals for the Netherlands in the qualifying campaign so far. 

Memphis Depay

The Dutch national team were unfortunate to draw Germany in Group C, but Ronald Koeman’s men are joint top with Joachim Low’s side and look set to make a long-awaited return to elite football. 


-. Marko Arnautovic – Austria (6 Goals) 

​Stoke City and ​West Ham fan-favourite Marko Arnautovic is the eighth highest scorer in this qualifying campaign, bagging six goals for second-place Austria. Now plying his trade in the Chinese Super League, ​Arnautovic is still keeping himself very sharp for international duty. 

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Let’s hope he completes his childhood dream of winning the CSL before guiding Austria to European glory. 


5. Teemu Pukki – Finland (7 Goals)

Teemu Pukki’s dramatic rise from Celtic flop to eventual Ballon d’Or winner just won’t slow down. Pukki’s seven goals have propelled Finland to second in their group behind winners Italy, and qualification looks a certainty for Pukki’s posse.   ​

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​Norwich’s star striker hit the ground running on his Premier League debut, and he looks set to be a key figure for his nation next summer at Euro 2020. 


-. Aleksandar Mitrovic – Serbia (7 Goals) 

Mitro’s on fire, all of Europe’s terrified! It beggars belief that Aleksandar MItrovic is slugging it out in the Championship, when he could walk into a considerable chunk of Premier League teams tomorrow. 

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The Serbian hitman has seven goals this campaign and, as always, is a key component of his nation’s success. Serbia sit third in a tough group including Ukraine and Portugal, but they’ll be confident they can still reach Euro 2020. 


-. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal (7 Goals) 

It was only a matter of time before this guy’s name appeared on the list – if anything, its arrival is surprisingly premature. ​​Cristiano Ronaldo secured his seventh goal of this qualifying campaign against Ukraine on Monday evening, and in doing so claimed his 700th career goal. 700. Seven hundred. 

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Portugal’s place in Euro 2020 is not yet guaranteed, but with one of the greatest footballers of all time in their midst, it’s hard to see the Euro 2016 champions missing out. 


3. Raheem Sterling – England (8 Goals) 

England’s golden boy ​deservedly finds himself high up on the list of Euro 2020 qualifying top scorers. ​Raheem Sterling has been electric for club and country over recent months, and his eight goals have helped England to the brink of qualification for next summer. 

Raheem Sterling,Harry Kane

Sterling is becoming a leader on and off the pitch for the Three Lions, and after a long dry-spell in front of goal, the ​Manchester City star has finally unearthed his killer instinct. 


-. Harry Kane – England (8 Goals) 

​Harry Kane has hit a rough patch in recent weeks, but that hasn’t stopped the England captain from securing a podium place in qualifying – for now. Kane has bagged eight times for his country in six matches – albeit four of his strikes have come from the penalty spot. 

Harry Kane

Gareth Southgate will be desperate for Kane to recapture his form of old ahead of Euro 2020, and the ​Tottenham striker will hope to add another golden boot to his World Cup 2018 success. 


2. Artem Dzyuba – Russia (9 Goals) 

Coming in at number two in the list is Russian forward Artem Dzyuba! His nine goals have helped Russia to seven wins from eight during their qualifying campaign, and the World Cup 2018 hosts have already booked their place at next summer’s big tournament. 

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Dzyuba holds the record of a flat-track bully in Group I, as although he sits second in the scoring charts, seven of his nine goals have come against San Marino and Scotland, which is hardly fair on Europe’s other top-scorer hopefuls. 

But as the old adage goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you and Dzyuba and Russia have done just that. 


1. Eran Zahavi – Israel (11 Goals) 

Write this name down somewhere, because in a couple of years time it’ll come in handy during the football section of your local pub quiz. Eran Zahavi has been on absolute fire for his country this campaign and has notched 11 goals despite his side’s poor position in the group. 

Eran Zahavi

Zahavi has been a shining light during a dismal campaign for Israel, who currently sit fifth in Group G and are set to miss out on Euro 2020 next summer. The Guangzhou R&F forward has bagged two hat-tricks during qualification and has consistently found the net over the course of their fixtures. 

If anyone deserves a place at Euro 2020, it’s Zahavi. 

Let’

Inter Desperate to Increase Lautaro Martínez’s Release Clause Amid Barcelona & Man City Interest

​Inter are eager to tie down striker Lautaro Martínez to a new contract as soon as possible to try and fend off interest from both Barcelona and Manchester City.

The 22-year-old has long been identified as a star of the future, and he has been vital to I Nerrazzuri’s fantastic start to the campaign.

Lautaro Martinez,Frenkie De Jong

According to ​Tuttosport, Martínez’s performances have caught the eye of ​Barcelona, who are ‘not joking’ when they say they are targeting a deal to sign the young Argentine at the end of the season.

​Lionel Messi is said to be a huge fan of his fellow countryman, and Martínez is thought to be on Barcelona’s seven-man shortlist to replace ​Luis Suárez, so a summer move is certainly not out of the question.

As a result, Inter are eager to offer Martínez a new contract. His current release clause sits at €111m, but ​Inter want to raise that or even get rid of it altogether, in the hope of scaring Barcelona away.

However, ​Calciomercato claim that Inter may also have to deal with ​City, who are looking for the heir to ​Sergio Agüero’s throne at the Etihad Stadium. Now 31, Agüero is approaching the final years of his career with City, and Pep Guardiola is said to see Martínez as a potential replacement for his prolific forward.

As it stands, both Barcelona and City could realistically activate Martínez’s €111m release clause, so raising or removing it would give Inter some more leverage in negotiations.

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Inter are ready to do whatever it takes to keep the 22-year-old. He may have netted just 12 goals in 44 appearances for Inter, but his all-round game has impressed scouts from across Europe.

Seen by Conte as one of those players who makes the rest of the team better, Martínez has bagged three goals this season, including one against Barcelona in the ​Champions League before the international break.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

Let’

Crystal Palace Linked With Shock Move for €30m Inter Ace as Search for Striker Continues

Premier League high-flyers Crystal Palace are eying a shock move for Internazionale’s €30m rated striker Gabriel Barbosa as the Eagles scour the Italian market for reinforcements in January.

Roy Hodgson’s Palace currently sit sixth in the table with 14 points, the same amount as fourth placed ​Leicester City

However, the 72-year-old manager is keen to bolster his attack with Christian Benteke misfiring, while the future of talisman Wilfried Zaha remains in doubt after a failed summer transfer to fellow Premier League side ​Arsenal.

Wilfried Zaha

According to Gazzetta dello Sport as relayed by ​Calcio Mercato, the former Inter boss is eager to add reinforcements in January to continue his side’s strong start to the 2019/20 campaign, with top goalscorer Jordan Ayew finding the net three times thus far.

Gabigol is currently on loan at Brazilian Série A side Flamengo from Inter and is in scintillating form, finding the net 23 times and providing five assists in 28 appearances.

His stellar performances have seen him reintegrated into the Brazil national team, the striker coming on as a substitute in Brazil’s recent draw against Nigeria. 

I Nerazzurri are believed to be demanding a fee in the region of €30m for the 23-year-old, although this would not deter Palace from making a bid for the former Santos man, despite his underwhelming European cameos with Inter and Benfica.

Gabigol is still undecided on his next move and a meeting has been scheduled to take place between his entourage and representatives from Inter to outline the young striker’s next move. La Beneamata boss Antonio Conte could recall Gabigol to his January training camp before making a final decision on his future.

Gabriel Barbosa

As reported by Corriere dello Sport – relayed by ​Teamtalk, Inter and Flamengo have an agreement in principle for the purchase of Gabigol in the region of €15m, with the Italian side also implementing a 20% sell on clause. 

Whilst Gabigol remains an option for Crystal Palace, other strikers are being scouted by the London club. Francesco Caputo is another option who is currently plying his trade at Italian Serie A outfit Sassuolo, scoring three goals in five appearances so far this campaign. 

Crystal Palace host champions ​Manchester City at Selhurst Park on 19 November before heading to the Emirates Stadium to take on third placed ​Arsenal eight days later.

Let’

Roberto Mancini’s New-Look Italy are Ready to Win Euro 2020

​In November 2017, Gian Piero Ventura’s Italy hosted Sweden in the second leg of their World Cup playoff with a 1-0 deficit to make up.

‘They’ll be fine, it’s the Italians, you can’t have a World Cup without Italy!’ 

Well, it’s true, Italy have been apart of every World Cup finals since 1962 – winning four of them since 1930 – it’d be just plain wrong to not have them competing in a World Cup.

However, in Milan that night – just over 11 years on from one of Gli Azzurri’s finest hours in Berlin – Italy reached one of the lowest points in their footballing history. 

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Italy failed to create anything of any substance against a resolute Swedish defence, slumping to a 0-0 draw and more significantly, failing to reach the World Cup finals for only the second time ever. 

Inevitably, Ventura was sacked after 16 months in charge, and in his place Italy needed a manager who could reinvigorate a broken side and restore them as one of Europe’s powerhouses once again.

The man they went for was Roberto Mancini – who was appointed in May 2018 –  and since then, the Italian renaissance has well and truly been underway.

Roberto Mancini

Since Mancini’s arrival, Gli Azzurri have lost just twice in 16 games and have maintained their 100% record in Euro 2020 qualifying through seven games. 

In last year’s Nations League, we saw some very typical Italian performances, with Mancini’s men conceding just two goals in four games. During qualification however, we’ve seen the Italians at their free-flowing best, playing some of their best football they’ve played in years.

Although it’s by no means miraculous, the job Mancini’s done with an Italian side void of any identity just two years ago has been superb and there’s no doubt he’s turned them into contenders for next year’s Euros. 

So how’s he done it? 

And why are the Italians suddenly contenders? 


Well, first of all, their defence is outstanding and has been…for seemingly, well, ever. 

With Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the back – arguably the best centre-back pairing of the 21st century – Italy will have a chance in most games they play, we saw what happened at Euro 2016, where Italy reached the quarter-finals with Graziano Pelle and Eder leading the line. At Euro 2020, Chiellini and Bonucci will have a much stronger supporting cast ahead of them.

Let’s not forget that these two are the closest pair you’ll see to ‘born winners’, by the way.

Right, so let’s talk about that supporting cast.

Mancini has generally used a dynamic 4-3-3 with his Italian side and we’ve seen the emergence of Inter duo Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella under the ex-Man City boss. Sensi, in particular, will be pivotal for Italy over the next decade. At just 5’5, he possesses the dribbling ability of an elite winger and the passing ability of a deep-lying playmaker – he’s quickly developed into one of the finest midfielders in Europe.


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With Sensi teaming-up with PSG’s Marco Verratti and Chelsea’s Jorginho, you have a midfield that has a great balance of tenacity, technique and attacking threat. 

Barella, for now, maybe on the outside looking in, but we’ve already seen Mancini trust the 22-year-old many times since his appointment and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him part of Italy’s starting midfield three next summer.

While the defence is solid and the midfield is dynamic, the main issue for the national team in recent years has been their front-line, and it was an issue in the first few months of Mancini’s tenure.

In 2018, Mancini would often field three wingers as the trio up top – deploying Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne as the ‘false nine’. He was influenced by Maurizio Sarri and his use of winger Dries Mertens as a withdrawn forward in his fluent Napoli sides between 2015-18.

However, the Insigne experiment didn’t work and Italy still struggled to score goals. The solution: trust one of your number nines.

Andrea Belotti,Ciro Immobile

Despite being so prolific for Lazio in Serie A, Ciro Immobile has often disappointed when he’s put on the Italy shirt – scoring just eight times in 38 appearances.

Immobile has by no means set Group J alight with loads of goals – he only has one – but he’s proved that he’s more than a mere target-man. 

He often rotates the role with Andrea Belotti, also a prolific Serie A goalscorer, and whilst both have proven to fit tactically, there’s still a feeling that both should be scoring more for the national team.

Nevertheless, gone are the days of Manolo Gabbiadini leading the Italian line, Gli Azzurri now have three world-class performers in their front-line – a trio that will cause most international defences problems.

Federico Chiesa,Lorenzo Insigne

Pairing Insigne on the wing is Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa,  who has been a prominent figure in Italy’s qualifying campaign. 

Chiesa, 21, shone for Italy at the Under-21 Euros in the summer and, like Kai Havertz is destined for a future move to Bayern, Chiesa is seemingly set for a big-money move to Italy’s footballing giant, Juve.

Although not necessarily a goalscorer – scoring just six times last season – Chiesa has proven himself as a creator, a playmaker almost from out wide. Blessed with tremendous speed, he’s capable of running in behind or beating a player 1v1, however, Chiesa’s vision and ability on the ball mean he can also come short or central to try and create.

Let’s not forget that the mightily talented Federico Bernardeschi is also waiting in the rafters, highlighting the depth that this Italian side now has.

Italy v Greece - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Italy’s breeze through qualification under Roberto Mancini has shown they’re way beyond the side that was humiliated on that night in Milan back in 2017. 

The emergence of young talent has boosted a demoralised national side, adding dynamism and excitement to what has typically been a dull and ultimately unsuccessful Italy team over the past decade.

With two elite centre-backs still going, supported by the best supporting cast they’ve, arguably, ever had and a manager that has helped find a new identity within Gli Azzurri – don’t be surprised if Italy go all the way in 2020.


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Inter Provide Injury Update on Alexis Sanchez Following International Break

​Inter have confirmed that winger Alexis Sánchez has suffered dislocated tendons in his ankle while on international duty with Chile.

Sánchez picked up the injury in the dying embers of Chile’s 0-0 draw with Colombia, and manager Reinaldo Rueda admitted the winger may need surgery which could ​sideline him for three months.

Alexis Sanchez

He returned to ​Inter for further tests on his ankle, and I Nerazzurri have confirmed on their ​official website that ​Sánchez dislocated tendons in his left ankle, although whether he will need surgery is currently unclear.

They wrote: “Alexis Sánchez underwent clinical tests on Tuesday morning at the Humanitas Hospital in Rozzano. The tests showed the dislocation of the long peroneal tendon of the left ankle.

“On Wednesday, the player will have a further consultation in Barcelona with Professor Ramon Cugat, to decide whether to intervene surgically.”

Should Sánchez require surgery, he would be likely to miss two or three months of action, but that period on the sidelines could be reduced drastically if the consultation reveals that Sánchez does not need the procedure.

However, what is certain is that the winger is set to miss a substantial number of games while he recovers. 

That means he is likely to miss both meetings with ​Borussia Dortmund in the ​Champions League, and it’s even possible he could remain sidelined for the final group-stage game against his former side ​Barcelona on 10th December.

Alexis Sanchez

With Sánchez sidelined, manager Antonio Conte may have to get creative with his options in attack. ​Romelu Lukaku has also been nursing a few minor injuries and was reluctantly released on international duty with Belgium, but Conte will need him to be at his best to help cope with the loss of Sánchez.

Argentina international Lautaro Martínez will certainly be relied upon, while youngster Sebastiano Esposito could earn himself a few opportunities to impress in Sánchez’s absence.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Alexis Sánchez Facing 3 Months Out as Chile Boss Confirms He May Require Ankle Surgery

Chile manager Reinaldo Rueda has revealed that ​Inter winger Alexis Sánchez could miss up to three months of action if he requires surgery on the ankle injury which he picked up on international duty.

Sánchez suffered “​dislocated ankle tendons” and potential ligament damage during Chile’s 0-0 draw with Colombia, and the initial fear was that he could miss a few months to recover.

Alexis Sanchez,Davinson Sanchez

Speaking at a press conference (via Football Italia), Rueda confessed that surgery could keep ​Sánchez out for even longer, but he will undergo tests when he returns to ​Inter to see whether it will be necessary.

He said: “He could end up under the knife. Inter, his club, will decide. We could lose him for two or three months. It’s a shame because he had started playing again with Inter and scored two goals, while also playing in the ​Champions League.

“He was happy and super motivated. Now we have to wait for these decisive hours.”

Regardless of the severity of the injury, this will come as a huge blow to Sánchez, who was keen to use his loan away from ​Manchester United to try and rebuild both his confidence and his reputation.

After struggling to break into the Inter side initially, Sánchez netted a goal on his first start for I Nerazzuri in the 3-1 win over Sampdoria, but was also shown a red card to bring the occasion to an abrupt end.

He returned to action in the Champions League, grabbing an assist against former employers ​Barcelona in the recent 2-1 defeat, but now that momentum looks to have come to a halt.

Alexis Sanchez

The 30-year-old is scheduled to spend the rest of the season away from United, who declined the opportunity to put an option to buy in the loan contract in the hope that Sánchez would prove himself away on loan.

However, this injury will certainly be concerning for the Red Devils who, like Inter, will be eager to learn the outcome of the tests on his ankle.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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8 of the Best Stadium Concept Designs That Were Never Built

So AC Milan and Inter have announced intentions to leave behind one of world football’s most iconic venues in San Siro in order to build a brand new stadium.

It’s undoubtedly a real shame, but needs must if these two are to move forward as clubs.​

The club’s presented two concept designs for the new build recently, with one of the lead architects promising the finished arena will be ‘better than Tottenham’s’, as quoted by ​Football Italia.

One design – as seen above – features concentric rings around the stadium, while the other has designs elements based on the city of Milan’s famous Duomo cathedral and Galleria.

Still, as intriguing as they are, Inter and AC fans would be wise not to get too carried away just yet as concept designs are often rejigged, rehashed and altogether abandoned later on in the process.

And so, we present to you, the eight greatest football stadiums that were never built…


Portsmouth – Dockland Stadium

Back when Pompey were the big boys of Hampshire, winning FA Cups and playing in Europe and all sorts, they decided Fratton Park was too small for a club of their size.

Their solution? ​Build a stadium next to a naval base right on the coastline where unexploded World War II bombs are still found. Guess why this dream was never realised?


Chelsea – Battersea Power Station

Phwoar, now ​this was beautiful. History, tradition, class, as your dad likes to say about his generic football team. Roman Abramovich certainly had ambitious hopes.


Unfortunately for ​Chelsea, they lost the race to take over development at Battersea Power Station remain at Stamford Bridge and their plans to redevelop their current home have also gone down the pan.

Sorry to hear that, Chels fans.


Liverpool – Stanley Park

Liverpool's US co-owner Tom Hicks Jr (L)

Probably for the best that ​this stadium was never built; Anfield is just far too iconic to bulldoze.

Plans to move to Stanley Park came and went fairly quickly during the infamous Hicks and Gillett era, in hindsight probably to the delight of Reds fans everywhere, despite the ground’s obvious beauty.

It also would’ve moved ​Liverpool closer to ​Everton, and there were even tentative plans at the end of the 2000s to build conjoined stadiums for the Merseyside rivals!


Tottenham – Olympic Park Rebuild

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Remember the Stratford Hotspur meme? Good times.

Back before their wonderful new ground was given the green light, ​Spurs were in a battle with West Ham to move into the ​Olympic Stadium, proposing to completely demolish the arena and build their own specifically designed for football.

Rumour says it was just to pressure Haringey council into granting eventual planning permission back in north London, but the plans did exist.


Milan – Piazza Gino Valle

​Milan have priors to trying to leave their spiritual home of San Siro.

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Back in 2014, Barbara Berlusconi unveiled plans for a 42,000-seater stadium next to their new headquarters in the CityLife district of ​Milan, hoping to maximise their own club revenue streams.

The plans – which involved gardens built atop the block-like structures – were canned a year later, pathing the way for the designs we have now.​


Valencia – Nou Mestalla

Nou Mestalla stadium - Valencia

Okay, technically this stadium has been built. Kinda.

Valencia began building their new stadium all the way back in 2007, with plans for the capacity to reach 80,000 as they aimed to close the gap on ​Real Madrid and ​Barcelona.

However, financial difficulties over the years have downsized the project, which is standing in the city right now – it’s just not finished and might not be for several more years.


Forest Green Rovers – All-Wooden Stadium

Famous for their pioneering eco-innovation, League Two Forest Green Rovers, owned by green energy magnate Dale Vince, made the headlines back in 2016 when they announced plans for a 5,000-seater stadium in the Cotswolds to be made entirely out of wood.


The stadium was set to be the main feature of a £100m sports and green technology complex near Stroud. 

However, in 2019 the local council rejected the planning permission putting the project on ice indefinitely.


Dinamo Zagreb – Stadion Kajzerica​

Ah, ​the pièce de résistance. The ‘blue volcano’ was planned way back in 2008 when an architect won a competition to design a new ground.


The concept is made blue-coloured polycarbonate, with a structure resembling a cloud suspended above the stadium.

Safe to say it’s the most unique design on this list…


Further Reading – Meanwhile, see ​here for 20 football stadiums around the world that are scheduled to be built…

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