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TODAY’S HOTTEST FOOTBALL NEWS: Red Devils Freeze Pogba Contract Talks, Ronaldo Replacement: Real Madrid Told To Sign Mbappe – Not Neymar PLUS MORE…

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Manchester United have postponed contract talks with Paul Pogba.
That’s according to ESPN FC, who claim the Red Devils were planning to open preliminary discussions with Pogba and renowned agent Mino Raiola in September.
Pogba, 25, still has three years remaining on his £290,000 per week contract and United executives were eager to extend his stay at Old Trafford.
However, with questions over the club-record signing’s happiness under Jose Mourinho over recent months – United have decided to freeze negotiations until the situation is resolved.
ESPN FC report that the World Cup winner is not pushing for a January move to Barcelona, but could be tempted should the Catalan giants renew their interest.
It’s also claimed by sources close to the player that Pogba’s recent comments are not designed to secure a pay rise.
ESPN FC continue to say that Manchester United are NOT worried about the situation because of the one-year extension option embedded in his current contract and had originally hoped to initiate talks early because of agent Raiola.  (express.co.uk)

Ronaldo replacement: Real Madrid told to sign Mbappe – not Neymar

REAL MADRID would be better off signing Kylian Mbappe to replace Cristiano Ronaldo than breaking the bank to land Neymar, according to Steve McManaman.
Ronaldo left the Bernabeu in July to join Italian champions Juventus, a transfer which saw the Spanish giants pocket £105m.
Real were expected to make a marquee signing to replace the Portuguese and were linked with moves for Paris Saint-Germain’s star strikers.
However, the reigning European champions surprisingly opted to re-sign Mariano Diaz from Ligue 1 side Lyon.
Should the option to sign Mbappe or Neymar arise in the future, McManaman believes his old side would be better served buying the France international, who he reckons will play at the highest level for the next decade.
“If Neymar comes, the situation will be difficult, because he previously played for Barca. I know Florentino [Perez] really wanted him,” the former Real and England midfielder told Goal.
“But when you need a reliable star figure for the next ten years, I think you have to bring in players like Mbappe. He’s only 19 years old and seems to be a rising star.
“If I had to choose, I would go with the future, so I’d say Mbappe [as the ideal replacement for Ronaldo].”
Real’s decision not to replace Ronaldo – their record goalscorer – with a big-name player has led many to question their transfer policy, but not McManaman.
“Madrid are actually spending a lot of money this summer but didn’t replace Ronaldo with a superstar. They brought in [Thibaut] Courtois, brought back Mariano, and a promising young Brazilian [Vinicius Junior],” he added.
Real president Perez will face a difficult task to lure Mbappe away from the Parc des Princes in the future as the 20-year-old hitman has his heart set on staying in the French capital.  (express.co.uk)

‘I was wearing the Real Madrid shirt… Wenger changed my mind – Pires

ARSENAL legend Robert Pires has lifted the lid on why he ended up at Highbury in 2000 even after he was pictured in a Real Madrid shirt. Pires joined Arsenal from Marseille 18 years ago having established a reputation as one of the top players in France.
And over the course of the subsequent six seasons he helped the Gunners win four trophies and reach a Champions League final.
Pires is fondly remembered by Arsenal fans for his efforts prior to his move to Spain with Villarreal.
And he’s now revealed how Arsene Wenger played a key role in luring him to north London despite interest from Real.
“One day, I met the Spanish journalists and I was wearing the Madrid shirt,” Pires told Arsenal Player.
“Some journalists took the picture of me because the people in Spain thought it would be nice as they thought I was signing for Real Madrid.
“The problem was that maybe two or three days after the picture, I called Arsene Wenger and he changed my mind.
“That’s why I signed for Arsenal and it was the best decision I ever made.”
Pires admits his decision to snub Real’s advances was questioned by people close to him.
“For me, the first destination was Madrid because Madrid is, even now, one of the best clubs in the world,” Pires added.
“Some people, after my decision, especially in my family, told me I was crazy because Madrid is the best club in the world.
“I said: ‘Yeah, maybe’ but I called Arsene Wenger, talked a lot with him and he changed my mind.
“That’s why I signed for Arsenal in 2000. “It was a great decision.”
Pires paid tribute to Wenger after the veteran Frenchman announced he was leaving Arsenal after 22 years at the end of last season.  (express.co.uk)

Pogba to Barcelona: Man Utd alter transfer stance as Mourinho eyes replacement

PAUL POGBA could be allowed to join Barcelona with Manchester United less opposed to selling the midfielder and Jose Mourinho eyeing up a replacement, reports claim.
Pogba has experienced mixed fortunes since returning to Old Trafford in 2016 but is widely accepted to have failed to justify his £89m price tag.
The France international has laboured at times this season and was powerless to prevent back-to-back defeats to Brighton and Tottenham.
Paul Pogba’s inconsistency on the pitch has come amid speculation of a rift between himself and United boss Mourinho.
And he poured fuel on the transfer rumours fire on Thursday by hinting he could look to leave Manchester once again.
“My future is currently in Manchester, I still have a contract, I’m playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the next few months,” Pogba said.
United have deemed Pogba priceless since re-signing him due to his obvious talent and considerable commercial value.
And that resolve was tested over the summer as Barcelona lined up the 25-year-old as one of their principal targets.
However, The Independent indicate United’s stance has altered with their position on Pogba being unsellable “already loosening”.
Pogba is said to be eager to call time on his United career a second time in order to head to Spain with Barcelona.
And United might “seriously consider” an offer around the £200m mark if he was to make his desires clear to them.
That would also involve Barcelona abandoning their usual policy of courting players in the media by getting straight to business.
Mourinho would apparently not be opposed to the idea of selling Pogba, on whom he splashed out a then-world-record fee.
And the Portuguese is thought to have lined up a direct replacement for him in the form of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Milinkovic-Savic has forged a reputation as one of Serie A’s top midfield talents over the past couple of years.
And it would take a sizeable portion of the fee United would secure for Pogba in order to prise him away from Lazio.
Liverpool signed Keita in the summer from German side RB Leipzig, securing an agreement back in January before splashing out a massive £48million to land their man.
The 23-year-old has made a positive start to his Reds career, helping them win their first four Premier League matches.  (express.co.uk)

Ander Herrera swoop

AC Milan are looking to sign Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera, reports claim.
The Spanish midfielder, who was signed from Athletic Bilbao in 2014, has entered the final year of his contract and is facing an uncertain future at Old Trafford.
Italian website Calciomercato claim Herrera, 29, is wanted by AC Milan, who view him as a viable alternative to Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and PSG star Adrien Rabiot.
The report adds that Herrera is “completing a move elsewhere” and AC Milan believe they could take advantage of his contract situation by securing him on a cut-price deal in January.  (express.co.uk)

‘I want to manage Liverpool… Steven Gerrard will challenge me for the job’

HARRY KEWELL wants to manage Liverpool – and he thinks Steven Gerrard will challenge him for the job.
Kewell and Gerrard were team-mates when Liverpool pulled off the greatest comeback of all time in the 2005 Champions League final.
The pair have since both moved into management with Kewell at League Two Notts County and Gerrard at Rangers
Aussie Kewell, 39, rescued Crawley Town from League Two relegation last season and he has similar problems to deal with at Notts County after replacing Kevin Nolan.
But that hasn’t stopped him having lofty ambitions of managing one of Premier League big boys.
Kewell said: “Why wouldn’t you want to manage Liverpool?
“Liverpool are one of the best clubs in the world. It would be a huge honour. I’m sure I’m going to have a lot of challengers for it.
“The biggest challenger would probably be Steven (Gerrard). He’d be the first one that they would want to have.
“But why not set yourself a goal and try and get to that level?”
Kewell has chosen to do things the hard way by learning his trade in the lower leagues.
He started his coaching career as Watford under-23 coach before moving to Crawley and now County. (express.co.uk)

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Messi Is Not God – Pope Francis Warns Fans On Calling Barcelona Talisman God

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Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church believes fellow Barcelona talisman and fellow Argentine Lionel Messi, “is not God”.

Many consider the mercurial South American to be a sporting deity, with his achievements raising the bar of individual excellence.

He is worshipped as a hero by millions around the world and has seen his record-breaking on-field efforts lead to him being showered with praise and major honours – both collective and individual.

A five-time Ballon d’Or winner may not seem human to some, but Pope Francis feels it is wrong to bestow labels of “God” onto those who are mere mortals.

Asked by Spanish television show Salvados on La Sexta whether such a billing for Messi could be considered sacrilegious, as it breaks the third commandment by using the Lord’s name in vain, Pope Francis said: “In theory, it’s a sacrilege.

“You can’t say it and I don’t believe it. I think people say ‘he is God’ just as they say ‘I adore you’. You have to adore only God. “It’s expressions that people use. This is a god with the ball on the pitch. It’s a popular way that people have of expressing themselves.

“Of course, it is a joy [to watch Messi play]. But he is not God.”

Pope Francis is known to be a football fan. He is a member at Argentinian side San Lorenzo, having been born and raised in Buenos Aires, and has mingled with stars of the sporting world in the past.

During the summer of 2013, Messi and the rest of the Albiceleste squad took in a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Barcelona’s superstar forward told reporters the event was “short but beautiful”.

Messi and his international team-mates also sent a signed shirt to Pope Francis on the back of their display at the 2014 World Cup which saw them finish as runners-up to Germany. They are back in the trophy hunt for 2019, with the next staging of the Copa America in Brazil fast approaching.

Messi will be excepted to lead the charge once again for his country in that competition, as he waits on a first senior title with Argentina, but he has recently admitted that the pressure placed on his shoulders and the reaction of those in his homeland to his performances can be difficult to handle at times.

Additional reporting from Goal.com

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Uganda Cranes To Bank On Onyango’s Brilliancy Against Tanzania

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AFCON 2019 Qualifier Group L:

Sunday, 24th March 2019

Tanzania Vs Uganda Cranes,6:00

CRANES SKIPPER Denis Onyango, currently alias Mr. Clean Sheets in the Africa Cup qualifiers will be determined to extend his record as they take on Tanzania in the last game.

Cranes qualified in November with Patrick Kaddu’s goal ate Namboole and Sebastien Desabre is expected to experiment with some few young players as he prepares for CHAN.

“We have already qualified and one of our tasks is to take a clean-sheet to Egypt but I give a lot of respect to Tanzania,” Onyango said.

Cranes had a week-long camp in Ismailia Egypt and Farouk Miya was the last professional player to arrive in camp from HK Gorica were he does his professional duties. The game will take place on Sunday.

They are 15 foreign-based players summoned by the French tactician Sebastien Desabre.

What Tanzania need;

Tanzania, the hosts only need to beat Uganda and hope Lesotho falter in Cape Verde to qualify.

Lesotho are second in Group L on five points, same as Tanzania but have a better head-to-head record. The two are a massive eight behind Uganda. All three – Lesotho, Tanzania and Cape Verde – can still qualify on the final day.

“All I am asking for is for Tanzanians to continue to supporting Taifa Stars with prayers for the team to down Uganda Cranes and sail through,” chairman of a special committee formed to ensure the Taifa Stars qualify for the finals Paul Mukonda said.

Head To Head:

Uganda      0-0 Tanzania                

Uganda      1-1 Tanzania                

Tanzania 0-3 Uganda           

Uganda      2-2 Tanzania                

Uganda      3-1 Tanzania                

Tanzania 0-1 Uganda           

Tanzania 0-3 Uganda

Players in camp: Defenders: Murushid Jjuuko (Simba, Tanzania), Timothy Awany (KCCA, Uganda), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers, Uganda), Geofrey Walusimbi (Free Agent), Joseph Ochaya (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Kirizestom Ntambi (Ethiopian Coffee), Nico Wakiro Wadada (Azam, Tanzania)

Midfielders: Khalid Aucho (Churchhill brothers, India), Hassan Wasswa Mawanda (Free Agent), Tadeo Lwanga (Vipers, Uganda), Ibrahim Sadam Juma (KCCA, Uganda), Moses Waiswa (Vipers, Uganda), Moses Opondo (Vendsyssel FF, Denmark)

Forwards: Faruku Miya (Gorica, Croatia), Emmanuel Arnold Okwi (Simba, Tanzania), Allan Kyambadde (KCCA, Uganda), Allan Okello (KCCA,Uganda), Edrisa Lubega (SV Ried, Austria), Muhammad Shaban (Raja Casablanca, Morocco), Henry Patrick Kaddu (KCCA, Uganda), Milton Karisa (MC Oujda, Morocco).

Betting Tips:

Saturday:

Senegal vs Madagascar-‘over’

Burundi vs Gabon-1/gg                 

Cameroon vs Comoros-1              

Niger vs Egypt-2

Zambia vs Namibia-2           

G.Bissau vs Mozambique-1 

Côte d’Ivoire vs Rwanda-1  

Ghana vs Kenya-1

Mali vs South Sudan-1

Sunday:

Zimbabwe vs Congo-GG                

Congo DR vs Liberia-GG                

Central Africa vs Guinea-X1

Benin vs Togo-‘over’/gg info

Tanzania vs Uganda-‘over’  

Cape Verde Islands vs Lesotho-GG                  

Libya vs South Africa-‘over’/gg

Betting Tips

Saturday:

Georgia vs Switzerland-‘over’       

Gibraltar vs Republic-2

Sweden vs Romaia-X1/GG

By Senior Reprter, Kussam Kalema

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AFCON QUALIFIERS: Who Occupies The Last 10 Slots?

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AFCON QUALIFIERS

Friday games:

Malawi vs Morocco, 4:00

Nigeria vs Seychelles,6:00

Burkina Faso vs Mauritania,8:00

Botswana vs Angola,8:00

Sudan vs E.Guinea,8:00

Tunisia vs Swaziland,9:15

Algeria vs Gambia,10:45

Saturday games:

Burundi vs Gabon,4:00

Cameroon vs Comoros,6:00

Niger vs Egypt,6:30

Guinea-Bissau vs Mozambique,7:30

Zambia vs Namibia,7:30

Ivroy Coast vs Rwanda,8:00

Ghana vs Kenya,9:00

Mali vs South Sudan,10:00

Sunday games:

Senegal vs Madagascar,5:00

DR Congo vs Liberia,4:00

Zimbabwe vs Congo,4:00

C.A.R VS Guinea,5:00

Cape Verde VS Lesotho,6:00

Tanzania VS Uganda,6:00

Benin VS Togo,6:00

Libya VS South Africa,8:00

AS the last Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers take place this weekend, the Grapevine breaks down all the games of the teams that are fighting for the last 10 slots.

Cameroon will look to secure a place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when they host the Comoros for their final Group B qualifier. The match is set to be staged at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on Saturday.

Cameroon come into the match in second place in the standings with eight points from five matches, and they hold a three-point lead over the Comoros.

The Indomitable Lions, therefore, need only a draw to secure a place at the 2019 finals. Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf says he is working hard at ensuring his team takes full advantage of their strengths and improve their attacking potency.

“Scoring goals comes and goes with time but the most important thing is that we continue creating chances. The entire team must work and we then we have to score goals,” Seedorf told reporters in Yaounde earlier this week.

“We have to improve on our free-kicks and corners. We have to take advantage of our great physical power and the height in the team. This is something we’ve analysed and are keen on improving.”

Comoros coach Amir Abdou has done credible work with his team, he was recently rewarded with a new contract. The very fact that the minnows still have a shot at qualifying heading into the final round of matches is a highly creditable achievement.

Can Aubameyang Save Gabon?

Burundi and Gabon will battle it out for a ticket to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when they lock horns at the Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura on Saturday afternoon. Two points separate the two nations in Group C heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures, with first placed Mali having already booked their place at this year’s showpiece in Egypt.

Burundi head into Saturday’s fixture as clear favourites to confirm their place at a first ever Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The hosts sit two points clear with the Panthers in third and nine ahead of winless South Sudan – who have already been eliminated from qualification contention.

The Swallows will advance to this year’s continental showpiece with either a draw or win, while Gabon need nothing but victory if they are to pip their hosts and join Mali in Egypt.

Joint top-scorer in qualifying Fiston Abdul Razak scored four goals for Burundi in a 5-2 win over South Sudan last time out, to fire his nation onto the cusp of qualification.

Battle For Top Place As Ghana Hosts Kenya

Kenya and Ghana will battle for top spot in 2019 Africa Cup qualifiers slated to take place in Ghana Accra on Saturday.

Both nations have already qualified for the tournament in Egypt, following a qualifying campaign that included the disqualification of Sierra Leone.

The Harambee Stars currently top the group with seven points from three fixtures. Kenya beat Ghana 1-0 in Nairobi lasy year thanks to an own goal from Nicholas Poku in the first half.

By Kussam Kalema, Senior Reporter

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