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Claudio Ranieri revealed on Thursday that Jose Mourinho was the first manager to welcome him back to the Premier League when he was appointed Fulham boss last month.


Fulham visit Old Trafford on Saturday, where Mourinho’s Manchester United will hope to secure their first Premier League victory in five games, reuniting the pair for the first time since Ranieri’s departure from Leicester.


It was after that dismissal, just nine months after leading the Foxes to the title, that Mourinho wore the Italian’s initials, CR, in a show of solidarity with a fellow manager and Ranieri has revealed they have remained in regular contact.


The Portuguese has frequently clashed with other high-profile managers and had previously criticised the job Ranieri did at Chelsea and in Serie A with Roma when they were both managing in Italy.

But the Fulham manager said: “He was the first who sent me a message to say ‘welcome back’. He is a very friendly friend.

“He told me, ‘Welcome back, all the best’. We speak about everything. It was a text message. Sometimes we speak. He’s a fantastic man.

“I have known him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea and when he was in Italy, and he was very polite with me. He’s a great man, coach, manager. Bottom side Fulham produced an encouraging performance in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Leicester, giving the 67-year-old Ranieri one victory, one draw and one defeat from his three matches in charge. In United they face a team that are under pressure and struggling for form, but Ranieri insists his side will need to be “perfect” if they are to succeed. “Manchester are one of the best teams in the Premier League and also in the Champions League,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic team and stadium and we want to make a point. We know it’s hard, but nothing is impossible.” 

AFP

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"Inspirational" wrestler Thomas Billington, known as "The Dynamite Kid", has died on his 60th birthday.


Mr Billington, of Golborne, Greater Manchester became a worldwide star in the 1980s with his cousin Davey Boy Smith.


The pair fought in a tag team known as "The British Bulldogs", with their English Bulldog mascot Matilda.


His ex-tag team partner's son Davey Boy Smith Jr said he was "an inspiration" who "revolutionised" wrestling.



In a tribute, he said:

"I was really happy and glad I got to see 'Dynamite' one last time last June in the UK.
"Dynamite was certainly an inspiration to myself and many others and really revolutionized professional wrestling as we know it today.
"He flew high, and gave it his all every match."


The cause of his death has not yet been released but it is thought he had been suffering from ill health for a number of years.


He passed away on his 60th birthday. 


About 'The Dynamite Kid'

Mr Billington came from a boxing family and fought in the UK and across the world.


The British Bulldogs won the WWF World tag team title from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania II in 1986.


A World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) spokesman said Dynamite got into wrestling to "avoid a life as a coal miner".


He added: "Although somewhat undersized, he possessed a ferocity and determination that earned him the nickname The Dynamite Kid."


His former partner Davey Boy Smith, from Bolton, died suddenly in May 2002 aged 39 while he was on holiday in British Columbia, Canada.


An inquest found he was suffering from an enlarged heart.

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This is what you should know just in case you didn't already know, Pele is the whole of football so comparing him with Lionel Messi is just wrong.

Football legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé has stated that he isn't in anyway in the same league with Lionel Messi and therefore, there is no basis for a comparison of any sort.


Pele said, Lionel Messi “only has one skill”, and even his fellow Argentine Diego Maradona was “much better” than him, reports Goal.com.


Pele made his point by stating that the 31-year-old is one-dimensional and too reliant on his left foot to be compared to other iconic figures at the top of the football game.


The man, who netted over 1000 goals in his career and won the World Cup on three occasions told Brazillian media, Folha de Sao Paulo,

“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?”


“How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers.”

Pele added, “As far as I’m concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever. If you ask me, ‘Was he better than Messi?’ Yes, he was. Much better.

“[Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff were also excellent players.”

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Maurizio Sarri accused his Chelsea players of over-confidence after throwing away a lead to lose 2-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.


Chelsea looked to be on course for victory thanks to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s early opener as the visitors dominated the first-half, but two goals in four second-half minutes saw Wolves secure their first win in seven games and inflict just Sarri’s second defeat since taking charge in the summer.


Next up Chelsea face the daunting task of halting Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and Sarri suggested a jolt to their confidence could be a blessing, but declared himself “worried” by the manner of their defeat at Molineux.

“After this match we are less confident but maybe it’s better because sometimes my players show me that they have too much confidence,” said the Italian.

“We played well for 55 minutes. After the goal for 1-1, which was an accident because we were in full control of the match, we were suddenly another team without the right distances and without our football.

“I don’t know why. I am really very worried, not for the result but the fact that after the first goal we conceded we did not react very well. I am really very worried for this, not for the result.”

Chelsea missed several chances to extend their lead and were denied a possible penalty early in the second half when Alvaro Morata tangled with Wolves defender Willy Boly. Yet Sarri refused to discuss the penalty appeal and insisted his decision to make five changes also wasn’t the cause of his side’s defeat.

“In the first 10 minutes of the second-half we could have scored four or five goals. We had four goal opportunities but I don’t want to discuss those or the referee,” he added.

“I don’t think it depended on the changes, it depended on the mentality of the team. I saw a team without a reaction. You can lose a match but not without a reaction.”

Chelsea are now 10 points off City at the top of the table, but of more immediate concern are now only in the top four above Arsenal thanks to their superior goal difference. “Manchester City are in another category", said Sarri. “We have to play and fight for the top four. It is a very difficult result for the top four.

“For me, City at this moment are the best team in Europe or maybe the best in the world.” Chelsea took an 18th-minute lead when Loftus-Cheek cut in from the left and hit a curling shot that struck the head of the unlucky Conor Coady to wrongfoot goalkeeper Rui Patricio and creep inside the near post. However, on his first Premier League start, 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White lead the fightback as he fed Raul Jimenez, who drilled a low shot under goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. Moments later Molineux erupted when Matt Doherty crossed and Diogo Jota side-footed home for the winner.

“He is one of the best generations of English players for a long time,” claimed Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo of his midfield starlet. Aubameyang stars as Arsenal fightback stuns Spurs “He is a reality of the fantastic job that national teams are doing, so well done to them.”

AFP

 

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Ralph Hasenhuttl has been tasked in reviving Premier League strugglers Southampton’s fortunes after being named their new manager on Wednesday.


The 51-year-old Austrian — who comes into the role on the back of Mark Hughes being sacked on Monday — has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the club.


Hasenhuttl attracted Saints’ interest through his success at his previous club, RB Leipzig, guiding them to second in the Bundesliga in the 2016/17 season and the Europa League quarter-finals last term.


He left Leipzig after they finished sixth in the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign.


“The urgency to find a path back to our potential and to the results that we expect cannot be underestimated,” said Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger in a statement.


“For that reason, we are extremely pleased that Ralph Hasenhuttl has agreed to become our new manager and do all he can to help guide us back on that path.”


Hasenhuttl takes over a side that did show some improvement in a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United last Saturday — although it was too late to save Hughes’s job.


Southampton, who parted ways with a long-serving head of football development Les Reed earlier in the season, are third from bottom of the Premier League ahead of a tough match away to Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.


Krueger said the qualities Hasenhuttl displayed in taking unheralded German side Ingolstadt from the foot of the second tier to promotion to the elite augured well for Saints’ future.


“We have been aware of Ralph since his days at FC Ingolstadt, where he showed the qualities that we believe we need at the club,” said Krueger.


“He has since gone on to develop those attributes with a track record of success in the Bundesliga and with a progressive and ambitious club in RB Leipzig,” added the 59-year-old Canadian, a former coach of the Swiss ice hockey team.


Krueger said Hasenhuttl represented an ideal match for the club.


“As soon as we met, Ralph’s enthusiasm for football was contagious and his hunger to take on a new and challenging job in the Premier League was evident,” said Krueger.


“In our discussions, he very quickly aligned himself with the values and the vision of the club.”


AFP


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Lionel Messi’s fifth-place finish in this years Ballon d’Or vote was absurd, his FC Barcelona coach, Ernesto Valverde said of the Spanish champions’ Argentina forward on Tuesday.

Real Madrid’s Croatia midfielder, Luka Modric, took the prize on Monday in Paris after winning the UEFA Champions League and being named the tournament’s player at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The 33-year-old’s triumph ended Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s decade-long reign, with the Juventus’ Portugal striker finishing second and Messi fifth in a vote by 180 journalists.

“I will not get into discussing the inconsistencies of the prize,” Mr Valverde told reporters.

“We congratulate Modric for winning the Ballon d’Or but Messi being in fifth place is absurd.”

Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, led Barca to a La Liga-Copa del Rey double last season but Argentina went out of the World Cup in the last 16 to eventual champions France.

The Barca No 10 also won a record fifth European Golden Shoe after finishing with 34 top-flight goals last season.

Modric got 753 points, followed by Ronaldo on 476, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann with 414 and Paris St-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe was fourth with 347, ahead of Messi on 280.

FC Barcelona host Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey round of 32 tie, in which they hold a 1-0 advantage.

However, Messi is not expected to feature.

(Reuters/NAN)

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Sierra Leone have been disqualified from the preliminaries for the 2019 African Nations Cup finals, confirming places for Kenya and Ghana at the continental championship next June-July.


Sierra Leone’s fate was decided by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Monday after the nation was suspended by FIFA over government interference in football in October.


That meant that the Leone Stars were unable to fulfill their last three qualification matches, and have now officially been withdrawn from the preliminaries by CAF and their previous two results annulled.

Cameroon stripped of hosting 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Kenya, who will make a first Nations Cup finals appearance since 2004, head the revised three-team qualification pool with seven points, followed by Ghana who are a single point behind. With the top two sides advancing to the expanded 24-team finals, Ethiopia are a distant third with a one point from four games and no more fixtures to play.

FIFA’s decision to ban Sierra Leone came after it wrote to the African country’s sports minister expressing “grave concern” about the removal of SLFA president Isha Johansen and general secretary Christopher Kamara. The Anti-Corruption Commission in the country had followed through on a threat to raid the SLFA amid allegations of match-fixing involving the national team. It barred Johansen and Kamara from the offices.

FIFA are also looking at matches as far back as a World Cup qualifier against South Africa in 2008 as part of their own investigation into the match-fixing allegations. Both Johansen and Kamara deny any wrongdoing. Relief for ‘rebuilding’ French after victory over Argentina The host nation for the Nations Cup next year will be decided by Dec. 31 after CAF stripped Cameroon of the tournament after concerns over the slow pace of preparations. Morocco and South Africa are the likely replacements for what will be the fourth successive Nations Cup to have a change of host. 


(NAN)

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AFP- Senegal replaced Tunisia as the highest ranked African national team when the monthly statistics were released by FIFA on Thursday.


The Senegalese rose from second place on the back of a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying victory in Equatorial Guinea during November.


Tunisia lost away to Egypt in the same competition and were also beaten at home by Morocco in a friendly.


Only five African countries — Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — were among the top 50 in the world.


African Top 20 (world ranking in brackets)


1. Senegal (23)


2. Tunisia (26)


3. Morocco (40)


4. Nigeria (44)


5. DR Congo (49)


6. Ghana (51)


7. Cameroon (55)


8. Egypt (56)


9. Burkina Faso (61)


10. Mali (64)


11. Ivory Coast (65)


12. Guinea (66)


13. Algeria (67)


14. Cape Verde (72)


15. South Africa (72)


16. Uganda (75)


17. Zambia (82)


18. Congo Brazzaville (84)


19. Gabon (85)


20. Benin (94)


AFP


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AFP- Paris Saint-Germain had been waiting for such a performance from Neymar and the Brazilian more than delivered on Wednesday’s Champions League victory over Liverpool.

 

The world’s most expensive player scored what proved to be the winning goal as PSG beat last season’s runners-up 2-1 to step back from the brink of an unthinkable group-stage exit.


His 14th goal of the season came at the end of a move he had initiated with his blinding pace. Neymar celebrated by performing a dance by the corner flag with Kylian Mbappe and posing for the cameras.


But Neymar’s evening was about so much more than that.


Shortly after Juan Bernat’s opening goal, Neymar rushed across to the touchline in front of the dugout to make a challenge and then waved his arms in a frenzy to whip up the crowd.


He spent much of the second half running his socks off to help PSG defend their lead, and he also upset Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for being supposedly “clever” in winning fouls and buying time.


“For us, it was all or nothing. We suffered quite a bit but we are relieved that we won, played well and showed the strength of our squad,” Neymar said.


“We need to celebrate that. After the game we were shouting, jumping around, dancing, so we are happy.”


PSG could have been eliminated with a defeat, but are now above Liverpool in Group C and head to Red Star Belgrade in their final game in a fortnight with qualification for the last 16 in their hands.


It was a big night personally for Neymar, in PSG’s most important Champions League game since the last 16, second leg against Real Madrid last season, which the Brazilian missed due to injury.


 ‘Monster’ Silva 

This was probably the French club’s most significant result in the competition since they beat Barcelona 4-0 in the last 16 two seasons ago. Neymar was far from the only man responsible.


There were big performances throughout, with Marco Verratti impressive in midfield, even if he was lucky not to be sent off for a dangerous tackle on Joe Gomez in the first half.


Thiago Silva towered over everyone in central defense, the 34-year-old Brazilian living up to his nickname of “The Monster” by helping shut out Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.


Yet it was telling that Silva was so keen to praise his coach at the end of the game, as he described Thomas Tuchel as “fantastic”.


 Tuchel gets better of Klopp 

The German has won all 14 games in Ligue 1 this season since being appointed, but he desperately needed a signature European performance.


Tuchel made some big decisions, none more so than selecting defender Marquinhos in midfield rather than Adrien Rabiot.


Marquinhos was particularly impressive, playing in a holding midfield role without the ball and dropping into a three-man defense in possession.


Tuchel, therefore, won the tactical battle against his compatriot Klopp and crucially seems to have won over his players.


“The attitude was extraordinary. I am very proud that all the supporters in the ground saw the efforts of a team,” said Tuchel.


The question now is whether this result can act as a trigger for PSG to go on to the latter stages of the competition.


“I hope so. It is very important to go through this experience together to create a special atmosphere for the weeks ahead,” Tuchel added.


AFP

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Nigeria is now placed fourth in Africa and retains its 44th spot in the world with 1427 points as against October’s 1431 points in the FIFA/Coca Cola Rankings on released on Thursday.

Tunisia that led the continent’s teams in the last rankings dropped to second place behind Senegal, with the North African side dropping four places, now 26th in the world with 1493 points.

Senegal now top the CAF teams with 1505 points and placed 23rd in the world, while Morocco rests in third place with Congo DR in fifth after garnering 1440 and 1420 points as 40th and 49th placed respectively.

Belgium, France and Brazil remained unchanged as the highest ranked in the world with 1727, 1727 and 1676.

According to FIFA website, “www.fifa.com’’, defeats for the leading duo in the UEFA Nations League resulted in both dropping six ranking points.

Brazil, though still 50 points behind France added seven after wins over Uruguay that is seventh ranked and 55th placed Cameroon.

Meanwhile, the big climbers included African quintet of Mozambique (117th, up 5), Angola (125th, up 5), Sudan (127th, up 8), Comoros (143rd, up 5) and Gambia (166th, up 7).

The rise of Kosovo (131st, up 6) was also notable as it took them to their highest position ranking to date.

The next FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will be published on Dec. 20.

(NAN)

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