Tag Archives: maestro

Lucas Leiva signs new long-term contract at Liverpool

Fan favourite Lucas is 'where he belongs' after signing new long-term Liverpool deal

By
Gerard Brand

PUBLISHED:

16:45 GMT, 10 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:49 GMT, 10 April 2013

Liverpool have announced that influential midfielder Lucas Leiva has signed a new long-term contract at the club.

The Brazilian who has made 20 appearances in the Premier League this season, has put pen to paper on a new deal as Brendan Rodgers looks to build a midfield capable of challenging for the top four in the coming years.

The news comes just over two years to the day that the 26-year-old signed another long-term contract with the club, that time being rewarded for his superb form by manager Kenny Dalglish.

Signing in: The midfielder has pledged his future to the club after several impressive seasons

Signing in: The midfielder has pledged his future to the club after several impressive seasons

He told the club's website: 'It's another long-term contract that I have signed – but it was the same feeling as when I first came here.

'I am really delighted to have the opportunity to play for this club. It's where I think I belong and where I wanted to stay, so I am very happy and looking forward to a few more years here.

'It was an easy decision because after the long period of my career I have had here, I would like to give the best of my time to this club. It was not a difficult decision to make and I am really looking forward to what will hopefully be a few more years with a lot of success.'

Lucas, who has appeared for Brazil on 20 occasions, joined the Merseyside club from Brazilian side Gremio for a reported 5million in July 2007, making 208 appearances since and slowly becoming a fans favourite after a slow start.

His previous deal was due to run out in the summer of 2015.

The club's managing director Ian Ayre showed his delight with the signing, which warns off any of Europe's top clubs making a move for the midfield maestro.

Ayre told the club's website: 'It's fantastic. He has been such a great servant to the club and I think during the period he went through with his two injuries, he put so much work into it and the club supported him through it.

'He just goes from strength to strength. We said throughout last summer and January, we wanted to keep our best, experienced players, and this is another great example of that.

'The manager has said several times that as well as having a great, young squad, it's important we have experience and it's important we have characters. People like Lucas fit that.

'He'll tell you he's still very young, but in footballing terms he's experienced and a big part of the team.'

Coming of age: After a slow start at the club, the Brazilian has been an influential member of midfield

Coming of age: After a slow start at the club, the Brazilian has been an influential member of midfield

Lucas

Lucas

Sachin Tendulkar is useless: The Little Master"s terrible run of form

THE USELESS COLUMN: If you have a shocker, beware…we'll be watching and branding men and women in sport Useless! Today it's the iconic Sachin Tendulkar

PUBLISHED:

12:23 GMT, 14 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

12:38 GMT, 14 December 2012

Your striker fluffs a sitter, your keeper drops a clanger or
your team's opening batsman has been out for a pair… all together now: 'Useless!' Here, in Sportsmail's new 'Useless' column, we
highlight sportsmen and women who flop and deserve a panning from our man who delivers it best… Today the dubious honour goes to the greatest batsman still playing the game Sachin Tendulkar…

Before we get started: Yes, he's the Little Master. Yes, he's a living legend. Yes, he's one of the greatest batsman ever to have played the game…

But Sachin Tendulkar's current run of form is USELESS! He's Jimmy Anderson's bunny and England no longer fear him when he walks to the crease.

The 39-year-old maestro has not scored a Test hundred for almost two years – he made 146 against South Africa at Cape Town in the 2011 new year Test – his scores in 2012 read two, 76, eight, 13, 17, 19, 25, 15 and 41. Plenty of starts but no 'Daddy Hundreds' as Graham Gooch might say.

Time to wave goodbye, Sachin Indian great Sachin Tendulkar fell to England's Jimmy Anderson again today (FILE IMAGE)

Time to wave goodbye, Sachin Indian great Sachin Tendulkar fell to England's Jimmy Anderson again today (FILE IMAGE)

THE USELESS HALL OF SHAME…

Gervinho's miss v Bradford
December 12, 2012
Click here to read more

His form belies his status as one of the greats – if not THE greatest. Tendulkar has over 15,000 Test runs to his name at an average well above 50.

Those stats are sensational, but his record against England's Anderson are shocking.

The dismissal of Tendulkar today for the ninth time in Tests, means Anderson has broken Muttiah Muralitharan's record total (see panel below).

It's a landmark achievement for the England paceman, but another failure for Tendulkar has left some commentators to wonder if it's time for him to hang up his bat.

We're sorry to say it, Sachin, but for a great, great player this run of form is…

USELESS! Click to hear the verdict….

Play Video

Loading video…

DM.has('rcpv32426','BC',
'renderConfig' :

'css' : “videoplayer-large”,
'autoplay' : false,
'muted' : false,
'adUrl' : “http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/adssz=8×8&iu=%2F7023%2Fdm.video%2Fdm_video_sport&ciu_szs=&impl=s&gdfp_req=1&env=vp&output=xml_vast2&unviewed_position_start=1&url=[referrer_url]&correlator=[timestamp]”,
'playerId' : “1989148206001”,
'playerKey' : “AQ~~,AAAAAFSL1bg~,CmS1EFtcMWELN_eSE9A7gpcGWF5XAVmI”,
'objId' : “rcpv32426”,
'videoPlayer' : “2018566078001”,
'width' : 636,
'height' : 358,
'linkBaseURL' : “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-2248050/Sachin-Tendulkar-useless-The-Little-Masters-terrible-run-form.html”

});

JIMMY'S TENDULKAR HOODOO…
James Anderson

March 19, 2006, Mumbai
A rare false shot from Tendulkar gifted Anderson (right) his wicket for the
first time. Having made only one, the batsman drove loosely outside off
stump and the ball took the toe of his bat and went through to
wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.

July 20, 2007, Lord's
Umpire Steve Bucknor adjudged Anderson's full inswinger, which hit
Tendulkar on the pad as he looked to drive through the leg side, would
have clipped leg stump and sent him on his way lbw for 37.

August 10 & 12, 2007, The Oval
Anderson established his dominance over Tendulkar by taking his wicket
in each innings, first via a regulation edge to Andrew Strauss at slip
when on 82 and then bowled off the inside edge for one second time
around.

December 22, 2008, Mohali
Another loose edge saw Tendulkar depart for five, with Graeme Swann at gully the catcher on this occasion.

July 25, 2011, Lord's
Tendulkar's likely last innings at Lord's brought him just 12 runs
before Anderson nipped one past his inside edge to dismiss him lbw.

July 29, 2011, Trent Bridge
In the second Test of the same series, Tendulkar managed 56 in a forlorn
fourth-innings chase before shouldering arms to a big inswinger which
trapped him leg before once again.

December 5, 2012, Kolkata
Tendulkar made 76 before an excellent outswinger from Anderson caught
his outside edge and was held by a tumbling Matt Prior behind the
stumps.

December 14, 2012 Nagpur
Tendulkar made just two before Anderson got one to nip back off the
seam, deflect off a thin inside edge and on to middle stump.

Manchester City"s David Silva passed fit for derby against United

Silva lining for Mancini as City's Spanish maestro recovers in time for crunch derby

|

UPDATED:

11:18 GMT, 7 December 2012

Manchester City talisman David Silva is fit for Sunday's clash with rivals United in the Barclays Premier League, according to manager Roberto Mancini.

Silva has been absent with a hamstring injury and missed City's embarrassing midweek Champions League showing in Dortmund.

But Mancini said at his press conference this morning: 'David is fit and will play.'

Welcome back: David Silva has handed his manager a boost for the derby

Welcome back: David Silva has handed his manager a boost for the derby

City go in to the game at the Etihad Stadium three points behind United and Mancini admitted Sir Alex Ferguson's team are favourites for the title.

He said: 'United are better than us at the moment. Last season was important for us. We won the first derby 6-1 and our mentality changed.

'But they have three more points than us at the moment. They were a strong team already and they bought Van Persie and Kagawa.

'They bought a player who had scored 25 goals last season but that (City's pursuit of him) is in the past now. If we continue to work we can improve.'

Despite Citys elimination from the Champions League, Mancini claimed he doesn't feel under pressure.

Eyes on the prize: Roberto Mancini is preparing for the biggest game of his season

Eyes on the prize: Roberto Mancini is preparing for the biggest game of his season

'I don't feel this,' he said. 'I'm happy with the job I have done these last two years.

'When you build a new team its normal to have difficult moments. You can't win all the games. You can lose important games. Its normal.'

Matt Le Tissier: Dennis Bergkamp to Wayne Rooney – top 10 Premier League flair players

Matt Le Tissier: From Bergkamp to Rooney, my all-time top 10 Premier League flair stars

PUBLISHED:

11:46 GMT, 7 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

11:46 GMT, 7 December 2012

Matt Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier is one of the Premier League greats. A master dribbler and scorer of outrageous goals, the former Southampton forward gained a reputation as one of the most skilful and creative players in the league.

But who would Le Tissier choose in his all-time top 10 of Premier League flair players

Dennis Bergkamp

His first touch and his vision were superb and he could also score a decent 25-yarder from time to time. He lit up the Premier League with some of his goals.

I was on the receiving end of his first two strikes for Arsenal at Highbury and his first two came against Southampton. They were both pretty special and he never really looked back after that.

He had a bit of a dodgy start but all he had to was play against us and we set him on his way. One of them was a 25-yarder that hit the inside of the post and I had the privilege to stand behind it and watch and the other was a finish from just inside the box.

With his first touch he just used to put the ball where he wanted to and he always gave himself so much time and space.

Off the mark: Bergkamp celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal against Southampton

Off the mark: Bergkamp celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal against Southampton

Gianfranco Zola

The little maestro has to be up there. He was the consummate pro. He had such a low centre of gravity so defenders had trouble with him twisting and turning and he took a mean free kick. He was a credit to the profession to be honest and a really top bloke.

He definitely scored a few against us over the years. He scored a lot of great free kicks and his flick at the near post from a corner stands out.

I had a few goes at that flick on the training ground but I don't think I ever tried it in a match. I don't think I got in that position where I was that close to the goal too often to be honest.

Thumbs up: Zola went on to become one of Chelsea's best players

Thumbs up: Zola went on to become one of Chelsea's best players

Eric Cantona

Cantona has to be on the list. He was arrogant, but you can get away with it when you're putting in the performances and he almost transformed Manchester United into a championship winning team on his own to be honest.

He scored against us at The Dell with a lovely chip over Tim Flowers from the corner of the box and stood there in that arrogant pose that he did. I remember almost hating and then going, “You know what That was a great bit of skill.”

French fancy: Cantona helped transform Manchester United into a championship winning team

French fancy: Cantona helped transform Manchester United into a championship winning team

Thierry Henry

The way Wenger transformed him from a wide man to the most feared centre forward in the Premier League was quite remarkable. I think he scored his first goal against Southampton too – there seems to be a theme here. But he was an awesome talent in his pomp.

You'd watch him and he'd just glide across the top of the pitch. It was like his feet hardly touched the grass. Even without trying he would just drift past players as if they were cart horses.

The flick up and volley against United was a special goal. I liked a flick too but I don't think I ever tried it with my back to goal.

Off and running: Henry scored his first goal for Arsenal against Southampton in 1999

Off and running: Henry scored his first goal for Arsenal against Southampton in 1999

Michael Owen

As a young boy Owen had plenty of flair. Obviously it's not quite worked out for him later in his career but he was awesome at Liverpool.

His natural confidence and exuberance as an 18-year-old, who then went on to score that goal in the World Cup, to do that as a teenager was pretty special.

It's a shame that injuries curtailed him because we'd have been talking about Michael Owen in a very different light if he'd stayed injury free throughout his career. I was a bit jealous of his pace – it often crossed my mind how much I'd have been worth if I was quick.

Curtailed by injury: Owen was blessed with flair - although it hasn't quite worked out for him

Curtailed by injury: Owen was blessed with flair – although it hasn't quite worked out for him

Le Tiss on the spot

When Sportsmail picked Ray
Stewart as the greatest penalty taker of all yesterday, it sparked a
fierce debate. So why not ask a man who knew a thing or two about taking
(and scoring) them…

Matthew Le Tissier

'I remember Ray Stewart taking penalties when I
was a kid. He used to rip the back of the net off. I'd be quite happy to
put my life in Ray Stewart's hands with a penalty to be honest. I had
confidence in my own but did have one blip. But I don't remember Ray
missing too many. He would smash his straight down the middle and go for
power. I went for accuracy and the side foot. Two very different
techniques but it just goes to show there's no one perfect way to take a
penalty.'

Paolo Di Canio

The mad Italian is another one who has to be on this list and even now he's still entertaining us as a manager with his interviews and his antics. If you're talking about flair players you can't leave him out.

His scissor kick volley was a special bit of skill and you almost applaud him for having the confidence to try it in the first place. There are so many players who would have attempted to do that and they'd have had no idea where the ball would end up – back in their own half, over the stand, anywhere. It was just a brilliant piece of skill.

He was controversial but you have to have an incredible amount of confidence to be one of these flair players. You have to have something in you that doesn't mind failing if it doesn't come off. All the best players will fail but still try it the next week.

Cristiano Ronaldo

You have to include him. He was very special in what he did at
Manchester United, the goal scoring feats and everything, and he's
continued that at Real Madrid.

It took him a little while to settle and I didn't get to play against
him but you could see with the skills that he had, if he could be
coached into knowing when to release the ball and become a tad more
unselfish he was always going to be a very good player.

Italian job: Di Canio's scissor kick volley against Wimbledon is one of the greatest goals in the Premier League

Italian job: Di Canio's scissor kick volley against Wimbledon is one of the greatest goals in the Premier League

With his pace and skill he just needed help to know not to overdo it and Sir Alex did that with him. With his free kicks he's experimented and used the new balls to his advantage. He's taken that ball and found a new way of striking it that's going to give goalkeepers problems and he's invented that on his own, so fair play to him, there's not many players who can say that.

Star man: Ronaldo was a special player for Manchester United

Star man: Ronaldo was a special player for Manchester United

David Ginola

You can't leave David out. In his pomp at Newcastle he was awesome. Even at Spurs he had some good times but when he was in Keegan's team he was superb. He was a genius at what he did.

John Beresford is my friend who played left back behind him and he never really got much help but it was entertaining to watch. David was one of the best dribblers ever, he had the pace but he was strong and well built so didn't have to just pass players, he could use his strength to get past them as well. And he had a decent shot with both feet, which not too many people have got.

Star: Ginola was a class act for Newcastle

Star: Ginola was a class act for Newcastle

David Silva

Though he's not been on form recently, last season he was outstanding. He looks so comfortable on the ball and is very difficult to mark. He's got a wand of a left foot on him and he's one of those players who can see a pass through the eye of a needle – he sees passes that a lot of people on the pitch don't.

He's been brought up in that Spanish passing culture and you can see it with other Spaniards like Santi Cazorla at Arsenal so it's nice to be getting those kind of players coming into the Premier League, it's very pleasing on the eye.

Silva service: The Manchester City star has lit up the Premier League

Silva service: The Manchester City star has lit up the Premier League

Wayne Rooney

You have to say Rooney is one of the best. He goes through dips in form like everybody else but he burst onto the scene as a young lad and had a big price tag to live up to when he went to Manchester United. But he's certainly given them value for money with the goals that he's scored for them.

When he came on for his Everton debut and scored against Arsenal, to do what he did against not only Arsenal but England's No 1 goalkeeper, you probably thought this boy's got something that might go a long way and he hasn't disappointed.

Roo beauty: The Manchester United striker hasn't disappointed after bursting on to the scene as a 16-year-old

Roo beauty: The Manchester United striker hasn't disappointed after bursting on to the scene as a 16-year-old

Matt Le Tissier was speaking at the opening of Decathlon’s new store in Southampton. As the world’s biggest sports retailer, Decathlon is a gateway to sport and is committed to putting sporting activity back at the heart of the nation’s local communities by making it accessible to all. To find out more about how your family can try a new sport go to www.decathlon.co.uk

Matt Le Tissier

Roberto Mancini ready to spend big on Isco

Mancini ready to splash 17m to land Malaga playmaker Isco in January transfer window

|

UPDATED:

14:00 GMT, 1 December 2012

Manchester City are poised to splurge 17.5million on playmaker Isco in January, before loaning the Spaniard back to Malaga for the rest of the season.

City’s new director of football Txiki Begiristain has discovered that Malaga are seeking to extend the 20-year-old’s current deal at Estadio La Rosaleda, which would likely raise his release fee to in excess of 30million.

Malaga sit in fourth in La Liga, and the youngster has been instrumental to their early season success, contributing five goals from midfield in all competitions.

Target: Manchester City are monitoring Isco (right)

Target: Manchester City are monitoring Isco (right)

City manager Roberto Mancini is hoping to wrap up the deal in next month’s transfer window, adding another creative midfielder to his star-studded squad.

Mancini wanted to bring Isco to Manchester for good in January, but could be willing to allow the talismanic midfielder to stay with Manuel Pellegrini’s side on loan until the end of the season, according to Goal.com.

Isco is a product of the same youth system at Valencia where City maestro David Silva graduated from. It was Silva who flagged up his compatriot’s ability to the champions' backroom staff.

He has also shown dazzling form in the Champions League, including netting a brace during an emphatic 3-0 victory over Zenit St Petersburg in September.

Should Malaga’s release fee be met, the Andalusia club would be making a marked profit on the 6.5million they spent on Isco when they lured him from Valencia in 2011.

Mancini missed out on the now Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard in summer, but the Italian sees Isco as the ideal replacement for the Belgian playmaker.

Diminutive: The Spaniard is a product of Valencia's academy, but plays for Malaga

Diminutive: The Spaniard is a product of Valencia's academy, but plays for Malaga

Alternative: City missed out on Eden Hazard, who opted to move to Chelsea

Alternative: City missed out on Eden Hazard, who opted to move to Chelsea

Premier League player of the season so far – is Harry Redknapp right?

Harry Redknapp says Cazorla has been the player of the season so far… but what about Suarez, Van Persie and co Sportsmail's experts gives their verdict

PUBLISHED:

13:32 GMT, 20 November 2012

|

UPDATED:

13:39 GMT, 20 November 2012

Appearing as a pundit on Match of the Day last weekend, former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp argued that Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has been the player of the Premier League season so far. The Spaniard has undoubtedly been a revelation at the Emirates this season, but there are plenty of other worthy candidates for the mantle. Here, Sportsmail's finest argue the case for the player that has wowed them the most over the last few months…

Midfield maestro: Santi Cazorla (centre) has been a revelation for Arsenal

Midfield maestro: Santi Cazorla (centre) has been a revelation for Arsenal

Neil Ashton – Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

He has put his past troubles behind him to become the driving force for Liverpool and the leading goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League with 10 already. Although opponents frequently complain of simulation, he appears unruffled and unaffected. A top player at the top of his game.

Laura Williamson – Robin van Persie (Man United)

Eight goals in 12 Premier League appearances (10 starts) for the Dutchman since his move from Arsenal. What happened to taking time to settle in at a new club An honourable mention, too, to Steven Fletcher, whose superb finishing has produced six of Sunderland’s 10 league goals so far this season.

Seeing red: Suarez (above) and Van Persie have been in fine form this season

Seeing red: Suarez (above) and Van Persie (below) have been in fine form this season

Seeing red: Suarez (above) and Van Persie have been in fine form this season

Sami Mokbel – Luis Suarez

The expression 'one-man team' is disrespectful to the man in question's team-mates. But just where would Liverpool be without their brilliant Uruguayan Simple, in a relegation battle. He has carried Brendan Rodgers' side this season in the way Steven Gerrard used to. Scores all types of goals. God help Liverpool should he get injured, or even worse, leave.

Riath Al-Samarrai – Michu (Swansea)

I interviewed him a couple of weeks into the season and he could barely sit still when talking about Cazorla, his former Oviedo team-mate with those wonderful feet. My view, possibly skewed by watching so many Swansea matches, is that Michu has made the same, if not more, impact. It’s about far more than numbers, although they tell you he has scored seven times in 12 Premier League games, and six of those have been decisive to results.

Swan song: Michu (right) has scored seven goals from midfield for Swansea

Swan song: Michu (right) has scored seven goals from midfield for Swansea

Dominic King – Luis Suarez

If I nominated the Liverpool striker as being the third best player in the world in print on Saturday, he can be my only choice for the best in the Premier League right now. Is playing at the peak of his powers, keeping Liverpool afloat and terrifying defenders. Top of the scoring charts and would be no surprise if he stays there.

John Edwards – Marouane Fellaini (Everton)

From heading Everton to victory in their opener against Manchester United to drilling a low shot through a crowded area to inspire a 2-1 win over Sunderland in their last home game, Belgium’s finest has looked the complete midfielder. An ability to control the ball on his chest and screen it from a defender at the same time has also contributed to Gary Neville recently calling him ‘unplayable’ on his day. There are others with strong claims, not least Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez, but Felli’s the feller for me.

Hair we go: Fellaini has been a dominant force for Everton

Hair we go: Fellaini has been a dominant force for Everton

Neil Moxley – Luis Suarez

I really enjoy watching this fella
play. He is such a clever, talented and dangerous forward. I know that
his conversion rate is not the greatest. But neither is Wayne Rooney's.
But if you look at his movement, his alertness and his goal-sense, he's
right up there. There are some aspects to his character that it's
difficult to warm to. He dives, ergo he cheats. With blanket television
coverage, it would help if he cut that out. But as for the rest of it,
carry on Luis. Please.

Lee Clayton – Luis Suarez

I would have picked Cazorla, because
his is the single individual performance I have most enjoyed in the
flesh. He dazzled West Ham. But he has been hot and cold in other games,
whereas Suarez has carried his club. They really are a one man team
this season and, while Liverpool are trying to escape mid-table, Suarez
has scored 13 goals in all competitions already: in an average team,
packed with kids. He's not popular, but he is brilliant.

Mark Alford – Leighton Baines (Everton)

Brilliant for Everton, solid for England. his ability to manipulate a football and cause havoc down the left with Steven Pienaar thrills every match. Tough in the tackle and skilful with his crossing, he's the main reason Everton have started well (for once).

Bolt from the blue: Baines has established himself as one of the best full backs in England

Bolt from the blue: Baines has established himself as one of the best full backs in England

Colin Young – Luis Suarez

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea,
and there is a sinister side to him which is not welcome in the Premier
League, but what a player. Suarez has added goals to his world class
repertoire this season, and brilliant goals at that, which is just as
well for Liverpool. Where would they be without him

Matt Lawless – Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

One word was all that was needed to
kick Raheem Sterling into shape this summer: steady. It was followed by a
terse warning from his new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who told
the teenager, in no uncertain terms, to improve his attitude. That
incident happened at Harvard University and provided the ultimate lesson
for the prodigious 17-year-old. Yes, Luis Suarez is Liverpool's man of
the moment but, for me, it's been
the young winger who has been their stand-out performer.

Sterling effort: The young winger (right) has become a key man for Liverpool this season

Sterling effort: The young winger (right) has become a key man for Liverpool this season

Matt Fortune – Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)

He's not been the most electric
performer in the Premier League this season, but the influence of Mousa
Dembele at Tottenham makes him perhaps the most invaluable. Since the
Belgian was sidelined by injury, Tottenham have won just one in the
Premier League – away at Southampton – having won five on the spin with
him at the heart of all their play. He has filled the void left by Luka
Modric with ease – at less than half the cost – and looked significantly
more of a threat on goal than the deep-lying Croat ever did. His return
to fitness can't come soon enough for Andre Villas-Boas.

And the winner is…

Luis Suarez (six) gets the most votes from our panel of experts by a country mile. Seven players picked up one vote. Do you agree with our decision Leave your thoughts below…

Tony Moore – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

He could get in any team in the Premier League. He plays football the right way, it's comes so easy to him. His passing, his balance, his link up play; he makes the ball talk. I loved watching him at West Ham. His play put a smile on my face, he was one step ahead of everyone else on the pitch.

King Luis: Suarez gets the vote from Sportsmail

King Luis: Suarez gets the vote from Sportsmail

Andrea Pirlo exclusive: I discussed personal terms with Chelsea

EXCLUSIVE: Peerless Pirlo! Juventus maestro opens up as he eyes another scalp

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 19 November 2012

Man on a mission: Andrea Pirlo

Man on a mission: Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo breaks into a wry smile as the interpreter translates a question he must have known was coming.

So how close was he to joining his old manager Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea three years ago, before AC Milan declared that the man now regarded as the best playmaker in the history of Italian football was not for sale

The answer, once the smile fades and Pirlo decides to speak about it for the first time, is very close indeed.

Not only were the two clubs in negotiation, Pirlo himself was sufficiently certain of following Ancelotti to Stamford Bridge that he had opened talks with Chelsea over personal terms.

Despite later expressing his delight at the ‘mutual’ decision to keep him in Milan, the truth was rather different.

‘Actually, Milan wouldn’t let me go,’ he now reveals. ‘I have a very strong connection with Ancelotti so I was in touch with him when he went to Chelsea and I’m still in touch with him now he’s at Paris Saint-Germain.

‘I had already started negotiating with the people at Chelsea but then finally Milan didn’t let me go. That’s why I stayed.

‘Certainly it would have been a different experience that I’d have liked, especially when I was 30 years old. So why not But unfortunately it didn’t happen.’

Now 33 and playing for Juventus, Pirlo almost seems to get better with age. Has the opportunity to play in England gone, or could he still come to the Premier League

‘Maybe, who knows’ There’s that smile again. ‘I don’t know what might happen. You never know. I still have two years left with Juventus, this season and next.

‘I like English football a lot. There are plenty of very good teams. They are very aggressive so it’s always entertaining to watch.

‘It wouldn’t be a problem for me fitting into that particular style because I’ve played with different players with different characteristics throughout my career.’

Be by your side: Pirlo has enjoyed a strong relationship with Carlo Ancelotti throughout his career

Be by your side: Pirlo has enjoyed a strong relationship with Carlo Ancelotti throughout his career

Be by your side: Pirlo has enjoyed a strong relationship with Carlo Ancelotti throughout his career

In Turin on Tuesday night, Pirlo faces the club he so nearly joined knowing that, realistically, Juve must beat Chelsea to progress in the Champions League.

They trail the European champions by one point and are away to Shakhtar Donetsk in their last game while Chelsea face Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge.

‘Absolutely,’ he says. ‘We have to fight hard because it wouldn’t be great going into the final match still one point behind. This is a vital game for us and them. There are great expectations.’

Kiev. June 24, 2012. As England chase shadows around the Olympic Stadium, a 33-year-old who looks like he’s 43 and plays like he’s 23 puts on another masterclass. The vision, the movement, the passing; Pirlo is simply on another level.

Roy Hodgson’s side are lucky to take a Euro 2012 quarter-final to extra time and a shootout.

As if to underline his total superiority, Pirlo dinks an outrageous penalty over Joe Hart. It’s known as il cucchiaio in Italian football. The spoon. Pirlo has been practising it since he was a kid at Brescia.

‘It’s a duel,’ he says. ‘The keeper has an idea and you have an idea, so you have to come up with the right reaction. It depends on the situation.

Running rings: Pirlo was the orchestrator of England's downfall at Euro 2012

Running rings: Pirlo was the orchestrator of England's downfall at Euro 2012

ANDREA PIRLO ON…

His favourite English player: Wayne Rooney. He’s the complete footballer.

His favourite English team: It used to be Manchester United and then Chelsea when Ancelotti was there. Now it’s Manchester City because they have an Italian coach in Roberto Mancini.

Mario Balotelli: He has a particular personality, but if you handle him the right way he’s definitely a good boy.

The wonder goal by his old AC Milan team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic against England: He scored four amazing goals but the last one was absolutely incredible. He’s a great champion and sometimes he can do things like that. It doesn’t surprise me because he’s such an instinctive player.

The best English players he’s faced
1. Rooney
2. Gerrard
3. Terry
4. Lampard

His top team-mates
1. Maldini
2. Baggio
3. Ronaldo
4. Shevchenko

‘I made the decision right at the last
moment. I was running up to kick the ball and saw the goalkeeper was
moving back and forth so I decided to do the cucchiaio.’

It was a bold move considering that Pirlo’s lowest point in football was losing the 2005 Champions League final to Liverpool on a shootout after Milan had led 3-0 at half-time.

People remember Jerzy Dudek’s decisive penalty save from Andriy Shevchenko but tend to forget that he had already denied Pirlo as well.

‘It was hard to go on after that,’ he says. ‘It was definitely the strangest game I’ve ever been involved in. From that point of view it’s unforgettable.’

If Liverpool’s comeback was cavalier, Chelsea’s Champions League triumph last season was rather less entertaining. So too was England’s negative approach to the quarter-final in Kiev.

It is safe to say that this is not now how one of the greatest exponents of football as an art form likes to see the game played.

‘Obviously Chelsea were successful and able to win the Champions League with their own tactics and style, but yes it’s true this is not the type of football I like,’ says Pirlo.

‘Then England played the whole match against us on defence so we had an opportunity to control the game.’

Cheeky: Pirlo was hailed the world over for his cool, calm and collected penalty in the shootout

Cheeky: Pirlo was hailed the world over for his cool, calm and collected penalty in the shootout

But how did he make England look so ordinary

‘It’s a pleasure to hear that. It’s normal to me but if you think that it’s amazing then all the better. I didn’t expect it to be so easy. I certainly expected England to be much more aggressive.’

So why does the man who helped inspire Italy to win the 2006 World Cup and reach the final of Euro 2012 think England always disappoint at big tournaments

‘Unfortunately these things happen,’ says Pirlo. ‘It happened to Argentina, it happened to England.

‘Maybe some teams can play well in qualifying but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, so to speak, they find it harder. Or maybe some of the players lack character to be able to handle those situations.’

The autumn sun disappears behind the Alps. Darkness descends and floodlights illuminate the two first-team pitches at Juve’s training ground in Vinovo, 20 minutes south-west of Turin.

The smart but unspectacular complex was built six years ago. The new Juventus Stadium opened last year, replacing the Stadio delle Alpi, so it’s fair to say the Old Lady has had a bit of a makeover.

Outside, youth team coach Fabrizio Ravanelli locks a little black Fiat and gets to work. Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, dropped for turning up late for training recently, heads off in a white BMW 6 Series.

Inside, Pirlo has granted Sportsmail a rare interview. He is a notoriously private individual. No dramas, no scandal, just football and life at home with his wife Deborah Roversi and their two children.

He oozes charisma. Not many people could get away with wearing a camouflage blazer, with a pair of designer sunglasses hanging from an unbuttoned denim shirt.

Old Lady luck: Juventus have enjoyed a brilliant upturn in fortunes since Pirlo's arrival

Old Lady luck: Juventus have enjoyed a brilliant upturn in fortunes since Pirlo's arrival

Old Lady luck: Juventus have enjoyed a brilliant upturn in fortunes since Pirlo's arrival

Words are offered thoughtfully but sparingly in a gruff low voice. And yet we’re told the real Pirlo is the dressing-room joker.

‘That’s right,’ he says. ‘People who don’t know me think I’m so serious. I’m a prankster, I like to have fun with the people who know me better.’

Milan let Pirlo go in the summer of 2011. Coach Massimiliano Allegri preferred Dutch stopper Mark van Bommel to play in front of his back four and the younger legs of former Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and Liverpool flop Alberto Aquilani.

Unforgivably, the man who had won the World Cup, two Champions Leagues and two Italian titles during a decade at the San Siro was allowed to join Juve on a free transfer and signed a three-year deal worth 9.5million.

It’s no coincidence that Juve duly took the Serie A title off Milan and are top again this season (Pirlo’s old club are 17 points behind in 10th).

With the man they call L’Architetto (The Architect) pulling the strings — or Il Metronomo (The Metronome) because of how he dictates the tempo of a game — Juve have lost only two games in more than a year; one in the league to Inter Milan a fortnight ago and last season’s Italian Cup final to Napoli.

‘I came here very motivated to prove I was still in good shape and able to play well,’ says Pirlo, who finished the season with the most assists in Serie A.

Not for the first time in his career, he refused to be written off.

Legend has it that Pirlo is descended from the gypsy people of Sinti. When his grandfather arrived from eastern Europe with little grasp of Italian and tried to register as a citizen, a cruel town hall official mockingly gave him the name Pirla.

‘It means jackass,’ says one Italian football observer. ‘So Pirlo sounds very funny to Italian people. When Andrea made his debut for Brescia at the age of 16 years and two days, all the journalists laughed. They’re not laughing now.’

Like any kid, Andrea grew up playing football in his backyard and with his cousins at their grandmother’s house in the countryside.

He modelled his fabled free-kick technique on his heroes, just as his team-mates at Milan used to line up and watch him in training.

‘Since I was a child I watched tapes of Baggio, Zico and Maradona, and then I tried to replicate them just playing on my own against the wall,’ he says. ‘Certainly it’s talent but you have to cultivate that talent.’

It was back at Brescia on loan at the age of 22 that Pirlo first played in the deep-lying role he was soon to master because there was little chance of replacing the legendary Roberto Baggio at No 10.

Pedigree: Pirlo showed promise as a No 10 early on before shifting to his now famed deep-lying role

Pedigree: Pirlo showed promise as a No 10 early on before shifting to his now famed deep-lying role

Example: Growing up, Pirlo had wanted to be like his idols, Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio

Example: Growing up, Pirlo had wanted to be like his idols, Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio

Example: Growing up, Pirlo had wanted to be like his idols, Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio

Milan boss Ancelotti spotted the potential and signed him from rivals Inter where he was in danger of becoming a wasted talent. Hence his bond with the former Chelsea manager, and Ancelotti’s determination to take him to England.

‘I will thank him forever,’ says Pirlo. ‘From that point my new career started.’

He has developed into one of the finest playmakers in the world.

Italy’s World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi called Pirlo his ‘silent leader’. Another former Chelsea boss, Luiz Felipe Scolari, described him as ‘an authentic Brazilian’ because his cool demeanour on the pitch is so un-Italian.

‘It’s true,’ says Pirlo. ‘I’m always very calm in every situation whenever I play. I’m happy to take on responsibility and I’m never stressed for this reason. I just like to be at the centre of the play.

‘I don’t know what my secret is. I’ve always had great fun playing football since I was a child and that’s what I try to do every time I go on the pitch.

‘I hope to play for as long as possible but I don’t just want to be tolerated in the team.

‘When I realise it’s over, it will be over.’

Burnley 2 Wolves 0: Match report

Burnley 2 Wolves 0: Dyche off to a flyer as Paterson and Austin strike

PUBLISHED:

17:29 GMT, 3 November 2012

|

UPDATED:

17:29 GMT, 3 November 2012

Sean Dyche's reign as Burnley manager got off to a fine start as a goal in each half deservedly saw off a lacklustre Wolves.

Martin Paterson gave the Clarets an 18th-minute lead and Dean Marney should have doubled the hosts' advantage before half-time.

Charlie Austin was left unattended to head a his 19th goal of an already phenomenal season as Wolves' defence – haphazardly marshalled by their beleaguered captain Roger Johnson – threatened to unravel.

Austin maestro: Charlie Austin (centre) celebrates after scoring the second goal

Austin maestro: Charlie Austin (centre) celebrates after scoring the second goal

Match facts

BURNLEY: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Edgar, Stock, Marney (Stanislas 81), Wallace (Ings 70), Austin, Paterson (Vokes 90). Subs not used: Jensen, Long, Stewart, Lafferty.

Goals: Paterson 18, Austin 53

Booked: Duff, Mee, Wallace

WOLVES: Ikeme, Foley, Berra, Johnson (Edwards 69), Ward, Pennant (Forde 68), Sako, Henry, Doumbia, Doyle, Ebanks-Blake. Subs not used: De Vries, Stearman, Sigurdarson, Batth, Davis.

Booked: Johnson, Ebanks-Blake

Referee: Mark Haywood

Att: 12,295

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

Bakary Sako rattled the post from distance for Stale Solbakken's side but they were unable to rally effectively.

A second successive home clean sheet
offers further encouragement for Dyche as he begins his efforts to cure
Burnley's defensive woes this term. Wolves, meanwhile, drop to ninth in
the npower Championship table, one point above their opponents who move
to 13th.

Ross Wallace and Ben Mee returned to
the Burnley line-up following injury and suspension respectively, while
Canada international David Edgar was handed a first start for almost a
month – taking on an unfamiliar midfield role in place of Chris McCann.

Wolves were unchanged from last weekend's 1-1 home draw against Charlton.

In the fifth minute Burnley
centre-back Michael Duff swept the ball forward and, after some neat
interplay, Ross Wallace fizzed a left-footed effort over from the edge
of the box.

Wallace was relieved to see a yellow
card from referee Mark Haywood moments later having clipped the heels of
Kevin Doyle as the Wolves striker broke clear.

Some more patient passing at the back from the hosts was rewarded when they took an the lead.

Left-back Mee spotted the opening,
arching a precise ball around the back of the Wolves back four for
Paterson to dart into the area and slot coolly below Wolves goalkeeper
Carl Ikeme.

Marney should have doubled Burnley's advantage as half-time approached.

Johnson ceded possession to the
former Hull midfielder, who drove straight at Ikeme when squaring to
either Paterson or Austin appeared to be the better option.

Within a minute of that let-off,
Wolves almost levelled when Sako dragged a shot across the face of goal
and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake almost stole in with the vital touch.

Austin collected Brian Stock's pass
and stormed into the box before firing over the angle of post and bar
two minutes into the second period.

The former Swindon man's goal duly
arrived in the 53rd minute as he won a corner and was unmarked to head
home Wallace's delivery.

Johnson was enduring a torrid
afternoon by this stage and was perhaps fortunate to escape with a
booking when he appeared to catch Austin with an elbow.

Sako almost dragged his side back
into the match when he drove forward and slammed a shot against the
upright. Ebanks-Blake and Doyle failed to pick up the scraps.

Another seemingly inevitable lapse from Johnson let in Austin to seal the points after the hour but Ikeme came out on top.

Burnley's momentum was interrupted in
worrying fashion when Wallace went down following an aerial challenge
with Jermaine Pennant, received oxygen on the pitch and left on a
stretcher to be replaced by Danny Ings.

Wolves failed to force the issue as
the clock ran down and Clarets substitute Sam Vokes almost increased the
misery for his former club in stoppage time.

Rory McIlroy on course to win FedEx Cup bonus as Tiger Woods falters

Over to you, Rory! Woods hands McIlroy initiative as battle for $10m FedEx Cup bonus nears end

|

UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 22 September 2012

He has no car and might shortly have no house but hey, it’s not all bad news.

The best known nomad in sport, Rory McIlroy, is now the favourite once more to collect the $10million FedEx Cup bonus cheque.

McIlroy has put his house on the market back home in Northern Ireland for no more sinister reason than what’s the point of owning a 2million mansion with its own practice facilities if you’re never there.

On course: Rory McIlroy could win a $10million dollar bonus over the weekend

On course: Rory McIlroy could win a $10million dollar bonus over the weekend

Tour Championship

Click here for the latest leaderboard

‘I’ll stay with my parents when I go
home and as I won’t get there for a while, they’ve got a good chance to
do some decorating and make it nice,’ he said, cheekily.

Friday was a good day for the 23 year
old. Not only did he move two clear of his main rival for the
$10million, Tiger Woods, who played poorly, he drew rave reviews for his
short game from the maestro in that department, Phil Mickelson.

‘Twice in the first four holes he
described a couple of my recovery shots as awesome and that’s high
praise indeed given how good he is at flop shots and out of bunkers,’
said McIlroy.

Both strokes, mind, were fully
deserving of the extravagant description. The first, at the opening hole
was a 30 yard bunker shot where he judged the pace and slope to
perfection to leave the ball tap-in distance from the hole.

Slipping away Tiger Woods has handed control back to McIlroy

Slipping away Tiger Woods has handed control back to McIlroy

In-form man: Jim Furyk shot seven under par in Atlanta

In-form man: Jim Furyk shot seven under par in Atlanta

The next one, at the fourth was even
better. From behind the green McIlroy made a full swing at a flop shot
in the manner of a Mickelson and threw the ball high in the air. It
landed like a butterfly and he rolled in the ensuing 6ft putt for a
miraculous saving par.

The other highlight of his round came
at the par five 15th where he hit the green in two and rolled in a 25ft
eagle putt. It all added up to a 68 that leaves him in joint seventh
place at the halfway stage.

‘I feel like I am exactly where I need to be going into the weekend,’ he said.

McIlroy lies four strokes behind the
leader Jim Furyk with Justin Rose a shot adrift. Both will like their
position when it comes to winning the tasty $1.44million first prize
that goes to the winner of the final FedEx event, the Tour Championship.

But neither can take the $10 million off McIlroy if he stays where he is right now.

McIlroy would have to finish worse than 13th for Furyk to have a chance, for example.

As for the main danger, Tiger Woods
went backwards in a hurry. Never mind him being intimidated by Rory.
These days he only seems to play his best golf when partnering McIlroy.

He began three shots ahead of his
young rival and now he is playing catch-up. At one point they were
exactly level on FedEx points.

Tough day: Woods hit some splendid shots but then fluffed his lines on other holes

Tough day: Woods hit some splendid shots but then fluffed his lines on other holes

If that happened on Sunday, they’d
have a sudden death play-off, with $7million on the line since second
place in the FedEx is worth $3million.

McIIroy whistled when I mentioned the
possibility. ‘I don’t know how I’d feel but I’d certainly take that
position,’ he said. ‘The bottom line is still nice, isn’t it’

There won’t be any chance of a
play-off if Woods continues to play like he did on Friday. This was
certainly a world away from the control and purpose he showed in the
opening round as he tumbled to a score fully seven shots worse than the
first day.

‘It was just a struggle from first to last,’ he conceded.

Woods’ playing partner Rose also looked as if he was in for a day of toil as he reached the turn in a mediocre 36 strokes.

But the Englishman dug in, making
four birdies on the back nine to salvage his day. None was better than
the two he made at the treacherous par three 18th, where his long iron
pitched just over the bunker at the front of the green and finished 5ft
from the hole.

The 32 year old rolled that one in to close with a 68.

‘Playing with Tiger was a great practice round for the Ryder Cup given they were mostly rooting for him,’ said Rose.

Midas touch: McIlroy has his eyes on the gigantic $10million prize

Midas touch: McIlroy has his eyes on the gigantic $10million prize

‘It was a great lesson for me to
stay in the moment and play my shots, and while it wasn’t pretty golf by
any means, I felt like I did that well.’

Furyk was a controversial wild card
pick for next week’s Ryder Cup as far as a lot of American commentators
were concerned, but this fine round of 64 must have made him feel an
awful lot better.

He gave a brilliant answer when asked
whether he felt he had proved a point. ‘I don’t really read much golf, I
have to tell you,’ he said.

‘I’ve always felt you’re going to
say something nice about me and I probably don’t need to read that. Or
you’re going to say something bad about me and I definitely don’t want
to read about that.

'What matters is that my captain Davis
Love asked all my team mates who they would pick and they also chose
me, so I’m humbled and honoured and looking forward to Medinah.’

The feeling that this is going to be
one of the great Ryder Cups was only emphasised by a leaderboard packed
with those who will also be in Chicago.

No fewer than nine competitors who will represent either Europe or the U.S are positioned in the top 12.

It promises to be some weekend, both this week and next.

Real Madrid scouting report: What lies in wait for Manchester City?

Real Madrid scouting report: What lies in wait for Manchester City

|

UPDATED:

21:39 GMT, 17 September 2012

Real Madrid’s season has not started well. Two La Liga defeats have left them eight points behind Barcelona and prompted Jose Mourinho to declare, rather dramatically: ‘I don’t have a team.’ On Tuesday we will discover how deep their problems run…

THE BACK DOOR LOOKS OPEN

Madrid fans are used to teams that place defending way down their list of priorities. But Mourinho is no offensive gambler and this is why his team’s current problems are troubling him so much. They have kept only one clean sheet from seven games this season and in Saturday’s defeat at Sevilla they looked remarkably porous.

Dodgy defending: Sergio Ramos has struggled at the back for Real Madrid

Dodgy defending: Sergio Ramos has struggled at the back for Real Madrid

The central partnership of Sergio Ramos and Pepe was far from secure as Madrid conceded in the second minute, Piotr Trochowski scoring unmarked from a corner, and was not helped by Marcelo’s difficulties with basic defensive duties down the left side. Madrid play with two holding midfielders but neither Xabi Alonso nor Sami Khedira are particularly defence-minded, meaning that Mourinho’s back four were often left exposed.

City will spend large amounts of time without the ball but when they do have it they will hope to push numbers up the field quickly to expose their opponents.

BEWARE THE QUARTERBACK

There is not much we don’t know about Alonso after his years with Liverpool but consider this: he is getting better with age. On Saturday, Alonso was one of the few players to emerge with any kind of credit. He will be 31 in November but his football is only maturing and much of what Madrid do that is good stems from or involves him.

Midfield maestro: Xabi Alonso (front) will be crucial to Real Madrid

Midfield maestro: Xabi Alonso (front) will be crucial to Real Madrid

Madrid’s attacking width is provided largely by their full backs, Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria tend to work in and around central striker Gonzalo Higuain. It will be Alonso’s job to feed the runs from the full backs, so the one thing City cannot afford to do is give him time to pop off his passes.

Responsibility will fall not only on City’s midfielders but on their own centre forward, in all likelihood Carlos Tevez. Not shy of hard work, Tevez — or indeed Sergio Aguero — must drop off quickly when Madrid build their attacks and be busy around the deep areas Alonso likes to work in.

ANOTHER BOMBING BRAZILIAN

After 11 years of Roberto Carlos, Madrid have another left back cut from the same cloth. Marcelo was given a difficult time on Saturday but the 24-year-old is dangerous when Madrid have the ball.

Bombing Brazilian: Marcelo (second right) will hope to feature on Tuesday

Bombing Brazilian: Marcelo (second right) will hope to feature on Tuesday

There was talk here that he may lose his place to Fabio Coentrao. If he does play, though, Marcelo will fly forward on to City’s right back at every chance and will be one of their greatest attacking threats. He likes to go to ground, too, and will think nothing of pushing the ball into dangerous areas and falling over outstretched legs. Mancini will think hard about who he chooses on the right side of his own midfield as, whoever Madrid’s left back is, the chances are they will have to help out defensively.

Micah Richards and Samir Nasri had a shocking time against Franck Ribery and Phillip Lahm in Munich a year ago and Mancini will not want that to happen again. Step forward James Milner

FEEL THE PRESSURE

Intimidation runs through this Madrid team and the pressure they place on referee Damir Skomina will be immense. The Slovenian will find himself dealing with a team feeling the strain and City will need to be ready for their opponents to hit the deck regularly. Against dead-ball technicians like Ronaldo and Alonso, City will not wish to give set-pieces away.