City pre­pared to walk away from Sánchez deal

Guardi­ola will not be held to ran­som which could open door for Mour­inho and United

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - JAMIE JACK­SON and ED AARONS

Pre­mier League Liver­pool v Manch­ester City An­field, 4.0pm, Sun­day Sky Sports Foot­ball and Main Event

Manch­ester City have in­di­cated that they are ready to walk away from ne­go­ti­a­tions to sign Ar­se­nal’s Alexis Sánchez, as José Mour­inho ad­mit­ted he is in­ter­ested in adding the Chile for­ward to his Manch­ester United squad.

Hav­ing come close to sign­ing Sánchez in the sum­mer, City had felt that a deal to se­cure the ar­rival of the 29-year-old in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow was im­mi­nent af­ter they agreed per­sonal terms with his rep­re­sen­ta­tives over a con­tract worth £13 mil­lion a sea­son.

A ver­bal of­fer of £20 mil­lion was lodged last week, with City in­form­ing their Ar­se­nal coun­ter­parts that they were un­will­ing to raise their of­fer de­spite be­ing in­formed it would take a £35 mil­lion bid to make the move hap­pen this month.

How­ever, af­ter United in­di­cated on Thurs­day that they were will­ing to of­fer Sánchez higher wages and pay £25 mil­lion to bring him to Old Traf­ford, their neigh­bours have warned that they will not be held to ran­som for a player whose con­tract at the Emi­rates ex­pires in June. It is un­der­stood that the Pre­mier League lead­ers feel the over­all price in­clud­ing trans­fer fee, wages and agent costs are too high, with City un­con­cerned that their stance may cause Sánchez to sign for an­other club in the mean­time.

That ap­pears to have opened the door for United, with Mour­inho ad­mit­ting yes­ter­day he would be in­ter­ested in what he de­scribed as a “phe­nom­e­nal player”.

“At the gen­eral level what I can say is my­self and Manch­ester United board, own­ers, we don’t be­lieve a lot in the Jan­uary mar­ket, we don’t be­lieve in sign­ing a player just to sign a player,” Mour­inho said. “What we be­lieve re­ally is there are some play­ers in the foot­ball world if you have the chance to sign them in Jan­uary, March or July, you have to try and that’s it.

“But in re­la­tion to Alexis Sánchez I don’t say a word. The only word I can say is he is a phe­nom­e­nal player, apart from that an Ar­se­nal player, and I feel I shouldn’t say much more than this.”

Pep Guardi­ola, whose City side travel to An­field to face fourth-placed Liver­pool to­mor­row look­ing to ex­tend their un­beaten run in the Pre­mier League this sea­son to 23 matches, re­fused to dis­cuss any move for Sánchez.

“I un­der­stand com­pletely this ques­tion, I un­der­stand you are do­ing your job, but you know my an­swer,” he said. “I am not go­ing [to speak about it]. I’m fo­cused on Liver­pool, be­lieve me. Alexis – ev­ery­one knows how good he is, but I am not go­ing to an­swer about Alexis or other play­ers.” – Guardian

Leroy Sané’s wel­com­ing de­meanour sug­gests a young foot­baller en­joy­ing his stel­lar rise at Manch­ester City. There is an in­tel­li­gence in his eyes and a will­ing­ness to dis­cuss any­thing – in­clud­ing Alexis Sánchez’s pos­si­ble ar­rival this month – as he re­laxes in a chair at the club’s train­ing com­plex.

Sánchez’s reg­u­lar berth is on the left of at­tack, the area from which Sané ter­rorises de­fences. Yet there is no con­cern should the Ar­se­nal for­ward, the sub­ject of a £20 mil­lion bid, join City dur­ing the trans­fer win­dow and threaten Sané’s place in the start­ing XI.

“No, it doesn’t worry me per­son­ally,” the Ger­man says. “He’s a very good player. If he comes to us – I don’t know it will hap­pen – he can help us. No player would say: ‘Oh I hope he doesn’t come.’ Ev­ery one of us is play­ing re­ally well right now and ev­ery­one has con­fi­dence. But there are so many games – so ev­ery­one is go­ing to get games.

“If you don’t get chal­lenged, then you can’t find out how good you are. Even if he is bet­ter, you can look up to him, learn and try to im­prove with him. That makes you a bet­ter player. Even if some­one like that comes in and is in front of you – if he plays more – the tar­get is to get in front of him in the first XI. So it makes you work harder.”

City are at Liver­pool to­mor­row and Jür­gen Klopp’s side know how good Sané can be. In Septem­ber’s re­verse fix­ture he pro­duced one of his finest dis­plays since join­ing from Schalke for £37 mil­lion in the sum­mer of 2016.

Af­ter 57 min­utes he re­placed Gabriel Je­sus. City were 3-0 ahead, Sa­dio Mané had been sent off for the visi­tors, and Sané was ruth­less in killing off Liver­pool, scor­ing twice to com­plete a 5-0 win. He says: “I try, like al­ways, to help the team, and to score two goals was very good for the team and for me, too.”

Near-pro­ces­sion

City’s ti­tle chal­lenge is a near-pro­ces­sion 22 matches in. Pep Guardi­ola’s team hold a 15-point lead over Manch­ester United and are a fur­ther three bet­ter off than Liver­pool. Yet Sané knows the trip to An­field will be a bat­tle.

“They have a very good team, good strik­ers,” he says. “[Roberto] Firmino, [Mo] Salah, Mané – quick play­ers. They will look for mis­takes from us and try to play coun­ter­at­tacks. That’s why it’s a tough game. It was an equal game at the start of the sea­son be­cause they also had chances to score the first goal.

“They didn’t and then Mané was sent off, that was bet­ter for us. Af­ter we got the goal, we had much more con­fi­dence, they had a player less. The coach has also said it will be a tough game; it’s against Liver­pool, they’re at An­field and that’s why we are all look­ing for­ward to it.”

Klopp is a long-time ad­mirer of Sané. He had hoped to sign his coun­try­man for Liver­pool. “Yes, I was also talk­ing with them,” says Sané, who made his se­nior de­but for Schalke in April 2014. “Jür­gen was call­ing me too, talk­ing to me. That was be­fore I joined City. He did a good job at [Borus­sia] Dort­mund – I met him when he was there. He’s a good guy, nice guy – hon­est. He [has] worked well with Liver­pool.”

City are fly­ing in all four com­pe­ti­tions. They are 90 min­utes away from the Carabao Cup fi­nal at Wem­b­ley as they take a 2-1 lead to Bris­tol City for Tues­day week’s semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg. There is an FA Cup fourth-round date at the win­ner of the Cardiff City-Mans­field Town re­play. And next month the Cham­pi­ons League chal­lenge is re­sumed with a last-16 tie against Basel.

Sané, who has nine Ger­many caps, can look for­ward to an ex­cit­ing sum­mer at in­ter­na­tional level too, when Joachim Löw’s team de­fend the World Cup in Rus­sia. His eyes sparkle when the no­tion of a clean sweep with club and coun­try is put to him. “I think I’d re­tire – at 22,” he says and laughs. “One sea­son and four ti­tles with City and then the World Cup – that would be enough. If it hap­pened, it would be an amaz­ing year, but I don’t think it will hap­pen. I hope but I don’t think so.”

Sané’s haul of nine goals means he has equalled last term’s tally. He is City’s fastest player and the sight of him burn­ing away from de­fend­ers is a joy of watch­ing this Guardi­ola team. What fas­ci­nates most is how good Sané may be­come. He is a first choice, but City’s man­ager speaks of how much Sané can im­prove.

Chal­lenge

He agrees. “No player at the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer knows how good he can be,” he says. “It’s ex­cit­ing and for me it’s a chal­lenge to see how good I can be, how I can get to the best level. It’s re­ally nice to see how it will go.”

While tak­ing noth­ing for granted, Sané would love to help City claim the ti­tle and then re­tain it, a feat only United and Chelsea have achieved in the Pre­mier League era.

“We al­ways say we want to keep go­ing on – we want to go as far as we can,” he says. “The fi­nal of the Carabao Cup, the fi­nal of the FA Cup, the Pre­mier League; we want to go through and also to be in Kiev for the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal.

“It’s a dream for ev­ery­one. That’s why we are all work­ing so hard. It’s very good for the team – ev­ery­one wants to win ti­tles and im­prove.”

– Guardian PHO­TO­GRAPH: CLIVE BRUN­SKILL/GETTY IM­AGES GOLF Wa­ialae CC NBA Milwaukee GOLF Glen­marie TEN­NIS WTA TEN­NIS WTA TEN­NIS ATP CRICKET 2nd Test, D1 GOLF Glen­dower SOC­CER (12.00) SOC­CER Previews SOC­CER (12.30) RUGBY (1.00) ATHLETICS Ed­in­burgh RACING Kempton Pk DARTS Lake­side RUGBY (3.15) SOC­CER (5.30) SOC­CER (5.30) Sky Sports Golf, 12-3.30am Sony Open in Hawaii BT Sport 3 from 1am War­riors @ Bucks Sky Sports Golf, 3.30am-6am EurAsia Cup BT Sport 1, 3.30am-6am Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional fi­nal BT Sport 1, 6am-8.30am Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional fi­nal Eurosport 1, 8am-10am Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional fi­nal Sky Sports Cricket from 8.25 South Africa v In­dia Sky Sports Golf, 10am-2.30 South Africa Open Sky Sports Mix from 11.55am La Liga: Girona v L Pal­mas BBC 1, noon-1pm Foot­ball Fo­cus Sky Sports Main from noon C: Cardiff City v Sun­der­land Sky Sports Ac­tion from 12.30 CC: Ul­ster v La Rochelle BBC 1, 1.15pm-3.15pm Cross Coun­try race ITV4, 1.30pm-4pm Lan­zarote Hurdle Day Chan­nel 4, 2pm-6pm BT Sport 2, 6.45pm-10.15pm BDO World Cham­pi­onships BT Sport 2 from 3pm CC: Ex­eter v Mont­pel­lier BT Sport 1 from 5pm PL: Tot­ten­ham v Ever­ton Sky Sports Main from 5.15pm C: N For­est v Aston Villa GOLF Honolulu UFC St Louis CRICKET 1st ODI GOLF Malaysia CRICKET 2nd Test, D2 GOLF Glen­dower SOC­CER (1.30) (4.00) Sky Sports Golf, 12-3.30am Sony Open in Hawaii BT Sport 2 from 3am J Stephens v D Choi BT Sport 1 from 3am Aus­tralia v Eng­land Sky Sports Golf, 3.30am-6am EurAsia Cup Sky Sports Cricket from 8.25 South Africa v In­dia Sky Sports Golf, 10am-2.30 South Africa Open Sky Sports Main from 12.30 PL: Bournemouth v Ar­se­nal Liver­pool v Man City Lake­side SOC­CER (5.00) RUGBY (5.30) RUGBY (5.30) NFL (6.05) (9.40) RUGBY High­lights SOC­CER (8.00) NBA New York SOC­CER High­lights GOLF Wa­ialae CC World Cham­pi­onships fi­nal ESPN from 5pm B Dort­mund v Wolfs­burg BT Sport 2 from 5.15pm CC: Cas­tres v Le­ices­ter BT Sport 3 from 5.15pm CC: Cardiff v Toulouse Sky Sports Ac­tion from 6pm Jack­sonville @ Pitts­burgh New Or­leans @ Min­nesota TG4, 6.10pm-7.12pm Cham­pi­ons Cup eir Sport 1 from 7.45pm BT Sport 3 from 7.45pm Ligue 1: Nantes v PSG BT Sport 1 from 8.30pm Pel­i­cans @ Knicks BBC 1, 10.30pm-11.30pm Match of the Day 2 Sky Sports Golf, 11pm-3am Sony Open in Hawaii

Ar­se­nal for­ward Alexis Sanchez: his con­tract at the Emi­rates ex­pires in June

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