Tag Archives: credentials

Southampton set to sign 12m Liverpool target Davide Astori of Italy

Liverpool likely to miss out on 12m Astori with Southampton set to swoop

when there were doubts over the fitness of Andrea Barzagli.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are also struggling to close a deal with Blackpool for Tom Ince over the Championship club’s 7m valuation.

The winger impressed through 90
minutes of the Tangerines 1-1 FA Cup draw with Fulham on Saturday,
further underlining his top-flight credentials.

Andre Villas-Boas says Lyon draw is good Champions League preparation

Villas-Boas hopes Lyon draw will prepare his players for Champions League

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 20 December 2012

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas is relishing the task of taking on Lyon in a Europa League tie he hopes will prove to be a dress rehearsal for the Champions League football he is determined to bring back to White Hart Lane.

Far from being disappointed with drawing a side with plenty of experience of Europe’s top competition, Villas-Boas views the meeting with Lyon as an ideal opportunity to test his team’s Champions League credentials.

‘Lyon is a tremendous opportunity for us,’ said Villas-Boas.

Enthusiastic: Andre Villas-Boas is happy Spurs are going up against Lyon

Enthusiastic: Andre Villas-Boas is happy Spurs are going up against Lyon

‘It is a tremendous opportunity to see a wonderful Europa League fixture being played; they are like Champions League fixtures.

'The fact that we play Lyon, who are used to being in the Champions League, it’s an important reference for us.

‘If we want to set our targets for Champions League qualification, this is the kind of team we will face: teams with a winning mentality, full of quality.’

Tottenham are currently fourth in the Barclays Premier League but with just seven points separating them from Liverpool in 12th, Villas-Boas is aware his side must build on their recent run of form which has seen them win four of their last five league encounters.

‘It depends on a consistent run from now on,’ said Villas-Boas of Tottenham’s hopes of staying in the top four. ‘All of the teams that normally are within Champions League qualification have found that consistency.

‘We understand that we could be in a better position but still we are within what was expected of us for this part of the season. If we are able to keep this level of form we can finish fourth.’

Aiming high: Villas-Boas wants his players to reach the Champions League again

Aiming high: Villas-Boas wants his players to reach the Champions League again

Toulon v Sale match report: Armitage brothers to the fore as Sharks suffer nine-try blitz

Toulon 62 Sale 0: Armitage brothers to the fore as Sharks blown away in nine-try blitz

PUBLISHED:

17:59 GMT, 16 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:59 GMT, 16 December 2012

Sale suffered their heaviest Heineken Cup defeat as Toulon showed their title credentials with a crushing victory at Stade Felix Mayol.

The Top 14 leaders were sensational against the Aviva Premiership's bottom-placed side as they made it four wins from four in Pool Six.

The Armitage brothers, Steffon and Delon, were at the fore for the big-spending French outfit as the Sharks shipped nine tries in suffering a crushing loss.

Blitz: Sale's David Seymour is powerless to stop Toulon scrum half Frederic Michalak touching down near the post in the French side's resounding 62-0 win

Blitz: Sale's David Seymour is powerless to stop Toulon scrum half Frederic Michalak touching down near the post in the French side's resounding 62-0 win

No way through: Toulon's David Kubriashvili (centre) tries to break through a group of Sale players

No way through: Toulon's David Kubriashvili (centre) tries to break through a group of Sale players

Sale held firm for the first 30 minutes on the Cote D'Azur but they were cannon fodder after that as Jean-Charles Orioli, Freddie Michalak – who started ahead of Jonny Wilkinson – Joe van Niekerk (two), Davit Kubriashvili, Rudi Wolf and David Smith joined the Armitage boys on the scoreboard.

It was all Toulon in the early stages but they led just 3-0 after turning down a number of kickable penalties and being regularly rebuffed by a Sale side who initially refused to roll over.

Bakkies Botha appeared to have finally got the game's opening try as the match hit the 25-minute mark but the giant Springbok lock followed Steffon Armitage in seeing the TMO say 'no try' when referee Jon Lacey asked the question.

Delon Armitage then touched down out wide three minutes later only to see the score ruled out due to Matt Giteau's knock-on following a huge hit from Mark Cueto.

Dominant: Danny Cipriani tries to bring down Toulon's Samoan right wing David Smith

Dominant: Danny Cipriani tries to bring down Toulon's Samoan right wing David Smith

Dominant: Frederic Michalak was to the fore as Toulon ran in nine-try and inflicted Sale's heaviest European Cup defeat

Dominant: Frederic Michalak was to the fore as Toulon ran in nine-try and inflicted Sale's heaviest European Cup defeat

Sale finally cracked just past the half-hour, though, when hooker Orioli crashed over at the back of a driving maul. Former London Irish second row Nick Kennedy set the platform with a solid lineout take just five metres out and the rest of the pack completed the training ground exercise by powering forward at an impressive pace to give Orioli his chance.

Michalak added the extras for a 10-0 lead before Pierrick Gunther went close only to see the TMO again rule against Toulon as the pressure on the Sale pack continued to mount.

Michalak then showed his class to really dent Sale hopes four minutes before the break as he slipped outside Danny Cipriani's poor tackle from a five-metre scrum before ducking underneath Will Cliff's last-gasp effort to stretch over by the right-hand post.

The simple conversion pushed Toulon three scores clear at 17-0, leaving the game as good as dead by the interval despite Sale's superb rear-guard efforts in the opening 40 minutes.

Any thoughts Sale might have had of a remarkable comeback were ended just five minutes after the restart when Van Niekerk stepped past Rob Miller for his team's third try after a deft give and take from Steffon Armitage.

On the break: David Smith tries to escape the clutches of the Sale defence

On the break: David Smith tries to escape the clutches of the Sale defence

Grounded: Maxime Mermoz is brought to the floor by Danny Cipriani

Grounded: Maxime Mermoz is brought to the floor by Danny Cipriani

Toulon had the bonus point wrapped up by 50 minutes as Delon Armitage mirrored his brother in producing a wonderful offload to allow Kubriashvili to blast over while Fraser McKenzie was in the sin bin, with Michalak's third and fourth conversions making it 31-0 with nearly half an hour still to play.

Simon Shaw's yellow card threatened to halt Toulon's momentum but it made little difference as Steffon Armitage scored the try his all-round performance deserved as he crashed through Cipriani from two metres out after 58 minutes.

Delon then joined the party just moments later as he showed his footballing skills by chipping through three defenders, tapping on, picking up and diving over for Toulon's sixth score.

Michalak finally missed from the tee with his seventh attempt but he was back on target to claim a 20-point tally when Giteau's weaving run saw Van Niekerk add his second as Toulon hit 50 with 12 minutes left.

Rudi Wolf scored the eighth try after a fine pass from Wilkinson, before Smith completed the rout after picking up the former England star's kick ahead with the final play.

Tottenham midfielder Sandro sings and plays guitar – video

VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: The Tottenham midfielder as you've never seen him before… Sandro sings for Sportsmail

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UPDATED:

12:57 GMT, 29 November 2012

Sandro is 23. He's played 16 times for Brazil and is quickly becoming the fulcrum around which Andre Villas-Boas is building his resurgent Tottenham side. And away from the training ground, he fancies himself as a budding guitar hero.

In an exclusive commission, to promote a big interview in Saturday's Daily Mail, Sportsmail chief photographer Andy Hooper has captured Sandro demonstrating his rockstar credentials at his Chigwell home.

His love of British pop music shines through as he belts out numbers from Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas at the recording studio he has had built in his Essex house.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN SATURDAY'S DAILY MAIL…

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Chris Robshaw may lose Lions place, says Warren Gatland

Tough ruck for Robshaw: Lions skipper He's struggling to make the squad, says Gatland

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UPDATED:

01:02 GMT, 29 November 2012

As if Chris Robshaw hasn't suffered enough already this week, the England captain was dealt another hammer blow on Wednesday: to his Lions hopes.

The 26-year-old Harlequins flanker has had to endure criticism and scrutiny after England's defeat by South Africa last Saturday.

His decision to go for goal from a late penalty was questioned on the field and has been widely debated ever since.

Tough ruck: Chris Robshaw could lose his Lions place in the Lions squad

Tough ruck: Chris Robshaw could lose his Lions place in the Lions squad

For Robshaw, it has been an uncomfortable peek into the downside of captaincy but now his playing credentials have been called into question – by a man he would be hoping to impress.

Warren Gatland named Robshaw as a Lions captaincy contender when he became head coach in September but the Kiwi suggested that, far from being a potential skipper for the Australia tour, Robshaw may lack the specialist skills to be selected at all.

After England's defeat by the Wallabies on November 17, when visiting No 7 Michael Hooper put in a man-of-the-match display, there was fresh talk about England's lack of an out-and-out openside.

Gatland continued that theme: 'Sometimes they struggle for a genuine No 7. I know Chris (Robshaw) has been doing that role and people speak really strongly of his leadership qualities.

Hard week: Robshaw has endured a great deal of criticism this week

Hard week: Robshaw has endured a great deal of criticism this week

'The hard thing about the English game now is the way it's being very dominantly refereed towards the attacking side, which often makes it difficult for a genuine No 7 to get himself in the game.

'So you can go in there with sixand- a halves or sixes. We saw that with Leicester playing (Thomas) Waldrom at seven as well and being able to get away with it. Just watch how quickly referees are calling “ruck, hands off, leave it alone”.

'I think if they get that balance and allow the sevens to be more aggressive and compete legitimately, that's going to help develop more No 7s.

'You need genuine sevens going to Australia. You need sevens who are competing hard on the ball and being effective. It's not just about Pocock – it's Hooper and Gill as well (Wallaby opensides). They are all three quality No 7s.'

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Another factor working against Robshaw is that Wales skipper Sam Warburton, the early frontrunner for the Lions captaincy, is a No 7 with a poacher's instinct.

While the Cardiff player has been striving for form in a difficult summer tour Down Under and on into this season, Gatland yesterday offered him words of encouragement after an improved showing against New Zealand.

'I was pleased last week with Sam,' he said. 'He had been under a bit of criticism and I thought he was outstanding against the All Blacks. I thought he carried strongly in the second half.

'I spoke to Sam after the game and told him, “I thought you did a really good job on McCaw”.

'He said, “I didn't feel McCaw was a real threat at the breakdown. He was just a real nuisance in terms of slowing down the game, how quickly he gets back to his feet”.

'He said (David) Pocock is a different animal – he floats around the back, sees an opportunity and competes really hard on the ball. That was a pleasing conversation – Sam identified the difference in sevens he was playing against.'

Gatland has to appoint his assistant coaches, to be unveiled on December 12 in Edinburgh. Then comes a reconnaissance trip to Australia, to assess training venues and other logistics.

'The captaincy issue is the tough one at the moment,' he said at the launch of the adidas Lions shirt.

Bouncing back England are hoping to recover from defeat against the Springboks

Bouncing back England are hoping to recover from defeat against the Springboks

'Ideally, you are saying it is someone guaranteed selection for the Test side, but you are looking at the strength in certain positions; there is no guarantee in that.

'Someone like Jamie Heaslip has captained Ireland in the last couple of games – that puts him in the frame as well. There are a lot of potential options. It's a really interesting debating point but I don't think it's something we should get too hung up about.'

One issue Gatland is avoiding is the home nations' poor results against the southern hemisphere.

'We might not be as strong as we can be,' he said, 'but we'll be ready when we need to be.'

Meanwhile, England's reserve fly-half Owen Farrell is a shock nomination for the International Rugby Board player of the year award, with France No 10 Frederic Michalak and New Zealand's McCaw and Dan Carter.

Roberto Di Matteo could be set for Southampton job

Saint Robbie Di Matteo could be set for swift return with Southampton

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UPDATED:

09:52 GMT, 25 November 2012

Roberto Di Matteo could be set for a swift return to management with struggling Southampton, according to reports.

The Swiss-born Italian was sacked by Chelsea this week just six months after lifting the Champions League and FA Cup, but could be in line for the St Mary’s job if Nigel Adkins loses his job.

Adkins is clinging on to his job following a crucial win over QPR last weekend but has to have a great run of results over the next few weeks to prove his Premier League credentials.

Heading for the south coast Roberto Di Matteo could be given the Southampton job

Heading for the south coast Roberto Di Matteo could be given the Southampton job

Saints executive chairman Nicola Cortese is a good friend of Di Matteo’s and is not prepared to put the club’s top flight status at risk – especially with the bumper TV money coming next season.

Cortese likes the idea of having a Champions League-winning boss at the helm.

Will he stay or will he go: Nigel Adkins is fighting to save his job

Will he stay or will he go: Nigel Adkins is fighting to save his job

Di Matteo was the man who alerted Cortese to the chance of taking over Southampton in 2009 when Alan Pardew was sacked – but according to The People that move could now happen.

Tony Bellew fights through the blood to step closer to world shot

Bellew fights through the blood to step closer to world shot

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UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 17 November 2012

Tony Bellew survived a nasty cut to
jump a step closer to a world title shot with a unanimous decision win
over Argentina's Roberto Bolonti in Nottingham.

The fiery Liverpudlian was seeking
to build on his recent win over Edison Miranda as he looks to earn a
second bid for world honours.

Bellew had shown his world title
credentials in a premature and unsuccessful shot at Nathan Cleverly's
WBO light-heavyweight title last year and has been rebuilding towards
another crack since then.

Stepping stone: Tony Bellew celebrates his victory over Roberto Bolonti

Stepping stone: Tony Bellew celebrates his victory over Roberto Bolonti

He continued that progress at the Capital FM Arena with a solid win over Bolonti despite suffering a nasty third-round cut above the right eye which had initially looked potentially catastrophic to his hopes.

Tonight's scrap with Bolonti was essentially an eliminator of sorts for the WBC crown, with the body's inconsequential 'silver' belt on the line.

Evertonian Bellew, 29, had a record of 18-1 (12KO wins) heading into the bout while 33-year-old Bolonti (30-1, 19KO wins) was boxing outside Argentina for the first time.

Bellew provided the early pressure and landed a left which wobbled Bolonti mid-round.

Through the gate: Tony Bellew throws a punch

Through the gate: Tony Bellew throws a punch

A right to the top of the head then put Bolonti down, though the South American may have lost his footing.

He beat Victor Loughlin's count and survived the round as Bellew failed to capitalise, despite landing a big right.

The second round was all Bellew until a cheeky right from Bolonti gave him food for thought.

A left hook put Bolonti down in the third but again he rose quickly with a clear head.

He was certainly more wary as a result but things threatened to turn when Bellew suffered a bad cut over the right eye, thought to be from a Bolonti left hook.

Down and out: Tony Bellew knocks Roberto Bolonti down

Down and out: Tony Bellew knocks Roberto Bolonti down

The wound was far from superficial as blood flowed into the Englishman's right eye but Bellew at least had Mick Williamson, a renowned cutsman, in his corner.

A left hook to the body by Bellew punctuated a quieter fifth round with the Briton remaining patient safe in the knowledge Williamson had worked his magic on the cut.

Bellew landed a left uppercut in the ninth which was the best shot of the middle rounds while a left hook to the mid-section was correctly adjudged to have been too low.

A right uppercut seemed to hurt Bolonti and Bellew piled in, landing combinations for the first time in several rounds.

Tough test: Roberto Bolonti gets a shot in against Tony Bellew

Tough test: Roberto Bolonti gets a shot in against Tony Bellew

While the pace was slow and the action fractured, Bellew was winning the rounds with relative ease.

Another uppercut in the 10th led to another aggressive flurry but again Bolonti held it together.

At the final bell the fighters embraced, with both men claiming to have won. But the victory was clearly Bellew's, with scores of 120-106, 119-107 and 120-106.

Tottenham will qualify for Champions League – Kyle Walker

Champions League here we come! Walker believes Spurs have top four spot in the bag

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UPDATED:

13:31 GMT, 10 November 2012

Kyle Walker is convinced Tottenham are destined for Champions League qualification under Andre Villas-Boas.

Tottenham face perhaps the stiffest test of their top-four credentials tomorrow when they visit champions Manchester City.

Last season Spurs and City played out one of the most entertaining games of the season, which saw the hosts clinch all three points when Mario Balotelli scored an injury-time penalty just moments after Jermain Defoe came within inches of putting the away side 3-2 up.

Mission: Kyle Walker believes Tottenham are heading for the Champions League

Mission: Kyle Walker believes Tottenham are heading for the Champions League

Had Tottenham won they would have been two points off the Barclays Premier League summit with 16 games left.

The way the Tottenham fans booed Villas-Boas and his team during their 1-0 defeat to Wigan last week suggests some feel the Portuguese is perhaps not up to the challenge of leading the club to such heights this season.

But Walker has no doubts about the 35-year-old's ability to take Tottenham back in to Europe's elite once more after last season's disappointing relegation to the Europa League.

'With the players we have and the players we brought in, I am more than confident (we can finish in the top four),' the England right-back said.

'We just need to keep listening to the gaffer and his tactics.

'If we do that then I most definitely think that we will get the results we need.

'It was disappointing how it went last year but that's just the way it goes.'

Villas-Boas is on a mission to
restore his reputation in English football after having his reign cut
short at Chelsea after eight months.

Walker, like a number of other
Tottenham players, approves of the raft of information the Portuguese
gathers on each of his forthcoming opponents, and of Villas-Boas'
management style in general.

Main man: Walker has backed Andre Villas-Boas (right) to lead Spurs to glory

Main man: Walker has backed Andre Villas-Boas (right) to lead Spurs to glory

'He has been very good, not just on the training field but off it too,' Walker said at an event organised by the Topps Match Attax Tour.

'We have been looking at different teams, how they play and their strengths and weaknesses.

'It has helped me. It's just as important as training. If I go out not knowing about my opponent then it's an even playing field, but if I know which foot he prefers and how he likes to play then I have that upper hand. It's more than helpful.'

If Thursday's performance against Maribor is anything to go by, City will be given perhaps their toughest examination of the season tomorrow afternoon.

Defoe looked razor-sharp, scoring hisfirst hat-trick in a Spurs shirt since February 2010, and there were also impressive performances from youngster Tom Carroll and winger Gareth Bale.

Marching on: Spurs beat Maribor in the Europa League on Thursday night

Marching on: Spurs beat Maribor in the Europa League on Thursday night

Bale scored a 20-yard stunner against City last year and provided the cross that saw Defoe almost snatch what could have been the winner in the final minute.

Bale set up Defoe for two of his strikes against Maribor and the England striker thinks the Wales winger is in top form ahead of tomorrow's game.

'He is unbelievable,' Defoe told Spurs TV Online.

'Sometimes he picks the ball up in his own half and he runs the whole length of the pitch at pace and you've got to keep up with him to get the ball.

'He does it all game. He is a machine. If I look at all the players I've played with in my whole career I've never played with someone like that, someone with that pace, that power and those fitness levels.

'He has great ability on the ball. He's a special player.'

Villas-Boas hopes to have Sandro available after he made encouraging progress in his return from a calf injury.

The Spurs boss must also decide whether to retain former City striker Emmanuel Adebayor after he combined well with Defoe in his first start of the season on Thursday.

Lewis Hamilton dig from McLaren boss at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

EXCLUSIVE: Hamilton should have won more titles! McLaren fire parting shot at Mercedes new man

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 2 November 2012

Lewis Hamilton should have won more world championships with McLaren, insists team principal, Martin Whitmarsh.

The 27-year-old will end his 14-year association with the British team at the end of the season after signing a three-year contract with Mercedes.

Hamilton will join a Mercedes outfit, pointless from the last three races, with just one world title to his name.

Chilled: Hamilton walks though the pits during the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Chilled: Hamilton walks though the pits during the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

And speaking ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Whitmarsh hinted that Hamilton has underachieved in his six-season spell with McLaren.

‘Yes’, was Whitmarsh’s response when asked if Hamilton should have added to his maiden championship which he won in 2008.

‘All of us are at fault for that. We’ve still got an extraordinary record and have had some fantastic races, but between us, with Lewis and the team, we could have done a better job together than we did.’

Hamilton will be replaced by Sergio Perez at McLaren next season, but Whitmarsh has doubts over whether the young Mexican possesses the credentials to win a world title for McLaren.

Speaking exclusively to Sportsmail, Whitmarsh added: ‘He’s got something but we don’t know whether that something is enough to be groomed into a world champion. I think it might be but it is an interesting challenge.’

While Perez has caught the eye with a number of strong displays this season, he has failed to score a single point since his move to McLaren was announced in September.

On track: Hamilton, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, was flying during the practice sessionsOn track: Hamilton, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, was flying during the practice sessions

On track: Hamilton, who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, was flying during the practice sessions

Need for speed: Hamilton was at the top of the standing during practice

Phil Duncan F1 blog

The Sauber driver crashed out in Japan attempting to overtake Hamilton, managed 11th in Korea and then retired in India after sustaining irreparable damage after a collision with Daniel Ricciardo.

Whitmarsh said he wasn’t concerned with Perez’s poor form but hinted that he’ll need to improve before joining the Woking-based outfit.

‘Since 1966, McLaren has won more than 25 per cent of the all the races in which it has competed in,’ he said.

‘That’s an added pressure to being a McLaren driver. He might think he understands it, but he doesn’t.’

After a run of disappointing results, McLaren appeared to show signs of a resurgence in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton and Jenson Button led a McLaren one-two on Friday morning before seeing only championship leader Sebastian Vettel post a faster time in the second practice session.

Leading the way: Sebastian Vettel laid down a marker by setting the fastest time in the second practice session

Leading the way: Sebastian Vettel laid down a marker by setting the fastest time in the second practice session

Having led every lap of the last three grands prix, Vettel, who can equal Sir Jackie Stewart’s record of 27 grand prix wins from 99 races tomorrow, has opened up a crucial 13-point cushion over Fernando Alonso with just races in Abu Dhabi, Texas and Interlaogs remaining.

After a slow start, Red Bull have regained the dominant pace which saw Vettel stroll to the championship last term.

It’s led some to question whether he deserves to win this season’s title ahead of Alonso who has unearthed every single element from a below-par Ferrari en route to staking his claim to a triple world crown. But Button, 99 points adrift of the German, isn’t among them.

Making an entrance: Young British driver Max Chilton made his F1 debut at Yas Marina for Marussia during the practice session

Making an entrance: Young British driver Max Chilton made his F1 debut at Yas Marina for Marussia during the practice session

‘I don’t think people will look at him as being lucky. He is in a great car and the team are doing a fantastic job,’ he said.

‘The last few races were perfect for him and he has not put a foot wrong. He deserves it.’

Max Chilton, meanwhile, made his Formula One debut in Friday’s first practice session.

The 21-year-old Briton, who is expected to be on the grid in a full-time capacity next season, ended the session over five seconds adrift of Hamilton’s fastest time.

Abu Dhabi route

Amir Khan: I"ll only fight Ricky Hatton or Kell Brook if there"s a title on the line

I'll fight Hatton if titles are on the line… but Molina is first priority, says Khan

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UPDATED:

22:26 GMT, 9 October 2012

Ricky Hatton will have to win a world title before Amir Khan agrees to meet him in the richest all-British fight this century.

As Khan prepares to fly to California for his new training camp, he has also made world championship credentials a condition of any clash with Kell Brook.

It is the prospect of a classic war between Hatton, on his comeback, and Khan which has the home fans and TV networks salivating.

On the comeback trail: Amir Khan says Ricky Hatton will have to win a world title before the duo meet

On the comeback trail: Amir Khan says Ricky Hatton will have to win a world title before the duo meet

But Khan has made it clear that he will put the regaining of his world championship status ahead of the huge reward which would accrue in meeting the Manchester Hitman.

Khan, who begins his return from two defeats by fighting undefeated Mexican-American Carlos Molina in Los Angeles on December 15, said: ‘I know boxing is a business but my priority is world titles. I know how big a fight with Ricky could be but assuming all goes well against Molina, I will be hoping for a rematch with Danny Garcia next.’

Garcia’s knockout inflicted in the second — and least controversial — of Khan’s recent setbacks should offer a quick route back to world title action.

First things first: Khan faces Carlos Molina in Vegas on December 15

First things first: Khan faces Carlos Molina in Vegas on December 15

But Khan injected a sharp dose of reality into the Hatton speculation when he said: ‘Look, if Ricky and I lose these next fights of ours, there will be no point us getting it on. I have to face the fact I can’t afford a third straight defeat, so beating Molina is crucial for me.

‘Before that, we’ll have to see how Ricky goes in his comeback fight next month. But from my point of view, if he doesn’t bring a title it won’t happen.

‘He and I are friends and we’ve been to each other’s houses but if we both get the job done I wouldn’t be against us fighting in principle.’

Get in the ring: Ricky Hatton will return to boxing on November 24

Get in the ring: Ricky Hatton will return to boxing on November 24

Sheffield’s Brook has been calling out Khan, even though he fights in a heavier division. But Bolton’s former Olympic silver medallist said: ‘Although I expect to move up to full welterweight next year, I can’t see much reason for a fight with Brook. I doubt he is going to become a world champion in the next 12 months.’

Khan admits that for him to regain that status himself, he will have to work diligently on the defensive strategies being prepared for him by his new trainer, Virgil Hunter.

Khan, who laughed and waved away suggestions he had fought off street muggers by showing me his undamaged hands, said: ‘Virgil began at once working on the defensive skills which I know I need to add. I got caught by Garcia because, after so many comfortable wins, I thought all that was necessary was to go out on the offensive. I won’t make that mistake again.’