Chelsea have been heavily linked with a move for Napoli star Victor Osimhen and transfer market expert Matteo Moretto has provided an update on the story.
The 25-year-old Nigerian striker seems destined to leave the defending champions in the summer following the chaotic events of their post-Scudetto season. In an interview earlier this month, he claimed to have already decided the ‘next step’ of his career ahead of the summer transfer window.
Osimhen has a €120-130m release clause in his new Napoli contract and reports last week suggested that Chelsea are willing to activate this in the summer, keen to snap him up ahead of their rivals. The West London side have also reportedly prepared a lucrative contract for the star striker.
Transfer market expert Matteo Moretto told Fabrizio Romano’s Daily Briefing that Chelsea still haven’t made contact with Napoli yet to explore a deal for Osimhen and that there haven’t been any steps forward since his interview with CBS.
The Blues aren’t the only club interested in the 25-year-old Nigerian star, with clubs across Europe ready to compete for his signature in the summer, and the tough negotiating skills of Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis mean it’s likely his release clause will have to be paid.
There are rumours that Antonio Conte has already agreed terms with Milan for 2024-25, but according to Tuttosport newspaper, Thiago Motta remains in the race provided that Stefano Pioli leaves in the summer.
Telelombardia reported earlier this week that Conte had agreed personal terms with Milan for next season, but other Italian sources in Italy insist the race for the Rossoneri job is open and still includes current coach Pioli.
Tuttosport newspaper, via Football Italia, claims that it would be ‘surprising’ to see the Parma-born coach remain in charge of the Diavoli next season, but with a contract expiring in June 2025, Pioli could be confirmed on the Rossoneri bench if he gets convincing results in the second part of the campaign.
However, Conte and Motta are the leading candidates to replace Pioli if he does leave.
Conte is ‘appreciated’ by many club directors but is known to be very demanding regarding transfers, and his salary is also pretty high.
Motta, on the other hand, is an exciting emerging coach with a lower salary and a solid bond with one of Milan’s primary targets for next season, Joshua Zirkzee.
The ex-Italy international has also been monitored by his former club Barcelona and his contract with Bologna runs out this coming June.
Real Madrid icon Karim Benzema will NOT be making a move to the Premier League after deciding to stay in Saudi Arabia.
According to The Athletic, he will stay with Al-Ittihad and honour his contract with the club. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United were all previously credited with an interest in the French forward.
Speaking previously about a move, he said: “It’s completely false! The French media don’t know what to invent any more. The bigger the better.”
Arsenal defenders Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ben White were involved in a furious post-match row after Bukayo Saka fired them back into the thick of the title race after a stormy win at Nottingham Forest.
Saka struck Arsenal’s crucial second goal to seal a 2-1 victory after Gabriel Jesus had put the visitors in front following a goalless first half. But it was substitute Taiwo Awoniyi’s late strike for the home side that caused the spat in the Arsenal backline.
With the three points secured, Zinchenko and White berated one another on the pitch, apparently about the defensive confusion that led Awoniyi in and caused a nervous ending.
Arteta had to step in to calm his arguing players but insisted he had enjoyed their reaction.
He said: “I love it, they demand more from each other and they are not happy with the way they concede that and they are trying to resolve it.
“It was a bit heated, but that means it is not enough playing the way we played, the result has to be bigger.
“That’s pushing each other and being not happy conceding and I have to encourage that and promote it in the right way and a respectful way.
“Sometimes after the game, it’s emotional and heated but I love that the players are pushing each other and demanding excellence.
“We wanted to generate some momentum in the league and I thought we did that. The performance was very good, we completely dominated the game.
“We had to be patient but we always had an eye to the opponent, we didn’t allow them to run. We generated chances in a number of ways. I think we showed a lot of maturity to deal with the game in the way we had to.”
Arteta also revealed Arsenal had been inspired by their title collapse at Forest last season after the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat at the City Ground in May ensured Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy.
Arsenal were particularly poor that day and it has clearly preyed on their minds ever since.
The Spaniard added: “I could feel it, they were talking about it coming to that dressing room, it really reminds you, our brains and bodies are really intelligent and coming to the same situation they know what happened and they were really active and engaged and they were talking about the game with each other. I thought it was really good.”
Hosts Ivory Coast eliminated reigning champions Senegal in a penalty shootout to book their place in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals following a 1-1 draw after extra time in Yamoussoukro.
Franck Kessie, who had scored from the spot four minutes from the end of normal time, converted the winning penalty to seal an extraordinary victory for the hosts, who redeemed themselves after a humiliating group-stage display which culminated in two defeats.
Senegal had made a dream start when Habib Diallo struck in the fourth minute from a Sadio Mane cross.
Ivory Coast, who squeezed into the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams from the group phase, grew into the match against The Teranga Lions, despite going behind so early.
Diallo, a forward for Saudi Pro League club Al Shabab, profited when Mane swung in an impeccable delivery from the left, bringing the ball down with his chest and firing it into the roof of the net to open the scoring.
Mane was lucky to escape with a caution for a rash challenge five minutes later on Nottingham Forest midfielder Ibrahim Sangare, who had to be stretchered off for treatment before coming back on.
The Elephants began to settle into the game after such a frenetic start, enjoying far more of the first-half possession and pushing for an equaliser, with Seko Fofana and Oumar Diakite both looking lively.
Senegal started the second half as they had the first, Ismaila Sarr’s shot across goal forcing a fingertip save from the diving Yahia Fofana.
Winger Sarr was again at the heart of the action when he felt he had been brought down in the box by Odilon Kossounou, with a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check deciding there was not enough contact for a penalty to be given.
Ivory Coast’s interim coach Emerse Fae, an emergency appointment following the dismissal of Jean-Louis Gasset last week, brought on forward Sebastian Haller and midfielder Frank Kessie – and the latter made an immediate impact, having a header saved by Edouard Mendy before failing to capitalise on the rebound.
Another substitute, former Arsenal man Nicolas Pepe, also brought a new energy to the hosts, running in behind on two occasions, only to shoot straight at Mendy.
And Pepe proved instrumental in Ivory Coast’s equaliser when he was brought down by Mendy in the box.
Gabonese referee Pierre Atcho initially waved off appeals for a penalty, much to the frustration of the home fans and players.
VAR sent Atcho to the monitor – with Senegal coach Aliou Cisse and one of his assistants picking up a yellow card for their protestations.
Atcho reversed his decision, awarding a spot-kick to Ivory Coast which Kessie duly despatched to Mendy’s left, sending the Charles Konan Banny de Yamoussoukro Stadium into raptures.
After an absorbing 90 minutes, the first period of extra-time also proved eventful.
Ivory Coast, who had restored their self-respect by pushing the holders, saw two glorious chances go awry, Brighton winger Simon Adringa and Forest’s Serge Aurier both missing the target.
At the other end, Mane latched onto a cross to force an instinctive save from Fofana with a shot.
Mane and Pepe were again involved in half-chances in the second period of extra-time but no winner could be found, with Haller, who has been on the comeback trail following an injury, also missing when given a sniff of goal during the dying seconds.
It was left to a penalty shootout to determine whether Senegal – the only side at this Nations Cup to have won all three of their group games – or Ivory Coast, who had never lost three matches in a row at a single tournament, would progress to the quarter-finals.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Pape Matar Sarr both scored their penalties, with Nicolas Pepe and Christian Kouame matching their opponents.
But a miss from Moussa Niakhate handed Ivory Coast the advantage. Sebastien Haller and captain Serge Aurier then scored theirs as much of the crowd willed them on.
Mane kept the shootout alive, blasting his finish past Fofana. But up stepped Kessie to deliver the ultimate redemption for the host nation, who march on to the quarter-finals.
Petrovic made four big saves, including an exceptional one from Matty Cash. The Serb deserves to keep the no1 spot when Robert Sanchez returns.
Alfie Gilchrist – 7
The 20-year-old defender was thrust into the line up when Levi Colwill got injured in the warm up. He rose to his toughest test since coming into the first team.
Axel Disasi – 7
He was a dominating presence at the back, not giving Ollie Watkins a sniff of a chance.
Thiago Silva – 5
Booked for a heavy challenge on John McGinn early on and almost scored an own goal.
Benoit Badiashile – 6
The Frenchman was forced into left-back for the first time after a month-long injury lay-off due to Colwill’s injury. He was solid but, understandably, lacked impact in the final third. He also missed a big chance from a corner.
Enzo Fernandez – 7
The Argentine is quietly building a good run of form and looked at his creative best, with some great long balls from deep areas, creating a big chance for Madueke.
Moises Caicedo – 7
The Ecuadorian midfielder was the main target of Villa’s press but handled it well. He took several heavy tackles for his troubles.
Conor Gallagher – 6
The England midfielder played very high up the pitch, and his pressing forced errors, but he lacked that cutting edge in attack.
Noni Madueke – 6
Madueke got Chelsea’s first chance of the game in the 17th minute but couldn’t beat Emi Martinez.
Cole Palmer – 5
Cole Palmer missed the best two chances of the game, which came from Clement Lenglet and Martinez’s mistakes. He produced some nice passes, touches and dribbles but badly misfired.
Raheem Sterling – 6
The 29-year-old winger is starting to build a positive run of form and was immaculate in his passing and dribbling but faded as the match wore on.
Ben Chilwell – 6
The left-back was only fit enough for 30 minutes and was fairly quiet after coming on.
Mykhailo Mudryk – 5
Made practically no impact after coming on.
Armando Broja – 5
Could not control the ball shortly after coming on, missing the chance to run in behind. He needs a goal, and maybe, his future resolving.
Carney Chukwuemeka – N/A
Unused subs Bergstrom, Gilchrist, Chilwell, Williams, Castledine, Washington
Mauricio Pochettino said he is desperate to win the Carabao Cup in his first season at Chelsea after watching his team sweep aside Middlesbrough 6-1 to reach next month’s final at Wembley.
Stamford Bridge has suffered from a quiet atmosphere in recent months, often exacerbated by Chelsea failing to break teams down early, but a repeat here never looked like being a risk as they booked a meeting with either Liverpool or Fulham on February 25.
“I’m desperate to win a trophy here,” said Pochettino. “We won in three trophies in one and a half years at Paris (St Germain) and we want to win here.
“I’m desperate to win. That is the headline.
“It’s really important for us, we’re going to have Fulham or Liverpool, two amazing teams, it will be difficult. But now is the moment to believe we can win.”
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg at the Riverside Stadium, the hosts tore into their Championship opponents and banished memories of a chastening loss on Teesside.
Boro’s captain Jonny Howson inadvertently got the ball rolling by diverting past his own goalkeeper after 15 minutes, though Armando Broja was poised to tap home had the defender not intervened.
From there on, Chelsea steamrollered Michael Carrick’s side. Enzo Fernandez scored after being set up by good link-up play from Axel Disasi and the excellent Raheem Sterling, then Sterling feeding the surging Disasi to sweep home the third.
Boro caused problems for themselves trying to play out from the back, the match-winner from the first leg Hayden Hackney losing possession and gifting Cole Palmer Chelsea’s fourth before half-time.
Palmer, the top scorer for Pochettino’s side since his move from Manchester City, made it five late on before substitute Noni Madueke curled home via a deflection.
Morgan Rogers’ goal was greeted with a roar from travelling fans who had long since their Wembley dream slip away.
Pochettino added: “Now we need to prepare for Friday against Aston Villa (in the FA Cup), but this is an important step for us. The confidence and the belief in ourselves is so important.
“That is going to help because of the motivation. Players who are so close to coming back (from injury) – tomorrow, maybe a few injured players will want to come for training, seeing that the final is close.”
Boro manager Carrick reflected on a tie that ultimately proved too great a hurdle for his side despite heroics on Teesside two weeks ago.
“(The players) will learn from that after they have gotten over the disappointment,” he said.
“We had a big night at the Riverside where we managed to beat a really good Chelsea team. We just couldn’t get it done here unfortunately.”