Djokovic: I will work hard to re­store my con­fi­dence

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Weekly Trust - - Interview - I salute An­dres Ini­esta, one of the true greats Sane could be the new Giggs Rafa makes de­mands Viera in the frame at Ar­se­nal Spurs fright­ened off Sesseg­non

Mo Salah’s fan­tas­tic form this sea­son has high­lighted how im­por­tant African play­ers are be­com­ing on the world soc­cer stage. Win­ning Foot­baller of the Year and now the Pro­fes­sional Sports Writer’s Award, Mo is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of fel­low Africans Al­ge­rian Riyad Mahrez and N’golo Kante who have both won the top award pre­vi­ously. If Guinea’s Naby Keita con­tin­ues to im­prove in the Ger­man Bun­desliga and Gabon’s Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang con­tin­ues to im­prove on his ex­cel­lent start at Ar­se­nal they will be up there in the award cat­e­gory next year.?

I can­not let this col­umn go out this week without pay­ing my re­spects to one of the most gifted play­ers ever to grace the world of foot­ball. Adres Ini­esta was in

tears as he an­nounced he would leave Barcelona at the end of the sea­son. The 33 year-old mid­fielder was sur­rounded by his Barca team­mates as he re­vealed that it is time to call it a day in one of the most suc­cess­ful teams of all times. He broke through into the big time from the Barca youth

pro­gramme, turned pro­fes­sional in 2002 and has been a reg­u­lar for Barcelona and the Span­ish na­tional teams since 2006. He said, “This is my last sea­son here. I know what it means to de­mand, what it means to play here year after year. I know what it means to be cap­tain of this club. So be­ing

hon­est with me and the club, I un­der­stand that my stage is over.” There is no higher ac­co­lade than from Pep Guardi­ola who man­aged the Barca team and he said of Ini­esta, “I want to say thank you. He helped me un­der­stand the game bet­ter. Just watch­ing him and what he could do on a foot­ball

pitch.” The Spa­niard is wanted by Chi­nese Su­per League club Chongqing Dang­dai Li­fan and said he won’t move to an­other Euro­pean club so that he never faces Barcelona in a match. He won eight La Liga ti­tles, four Cham­pion’s League ti­tles and scored the only goal when Spain beat Hol­land to win the

World Cup in 2010 in South Africa. I truly salute one of the games great­est ever play­ers as he de­parts the Euro­pean stage.

Manch­ester City’s Leroy Sane has been told by his boss Pep Guardi­ola to model his progress on United’s su­per­star Ryan Giggs. Leroy was named PFA Young player of the year and he has been one of the big suc­cesses in City’s team. Giggs is the most dec­o­rated player in United’s his­tory. Pep has urged Leroy to study

Giggs on videos and in train­ing pro­grams. Ex­actly like Giggs, Sane op­er­ates on the left, is quick, tricky and full-backs find him dif­fi­cult to de­fend against. Sane has been con­sis­tent all sea­son which is why he is one of the first names on the team sheet ev­ery week. In sug­gest­ing that Leroy stud­ies

Giggs, Pep says, “With Leroy, you have a spe­cial feel­ing – it is the most ex­cit­ing thing for a man­ager - he still has a gap in his game and there­fore he has room to im­prove on his ex­cel­lence.”

Rafa Ben­itez has opened con­tract talks with New­cas­tle who want him to stay on as man­ager. How­ever, Rafa misses man­ag­ing at the very top level and his de­mands pre­sented by his agent to New­cas­tle are tough. De­spite man­ag­ing the Mag­pies in the Cham­pi­onship, achiev­ing pro­mo­tion and driv­ing them up the Premier League ta­ble to 10th po­si­tion, he wants the club to be chal­leng­ing for the top prizes or he will leave. The fans and play­ers all wor­ship him. Rafa ap­pre­ci­ates that and his loy­alty to New­cas­tle is known to be very strong. His de­mands are not so much per­sonal but more of ben­e­fit to the club. He wants proper trans­fer fees made avail­able so he can bring in some top tal­ent and he wants changes be­hind the scenes at the club.? When Pa­trick Viera was ap­pointed as head coach of US side New York City in Jan­uary 2016 he faced his first man­age­rial press con­fer­ence. When asked to name any man­ager who in­flu­enced his ap­proach to coach­ing he did not hes­i­tate, “Arsene Wenger” he replied. He spoke of Roberto Mancini’s de­ter­mi­na­tion, Jose Mour­inho’s at­ten­tion to de­tail and Manuel Pel­le­grini’s level-headed ap­proach. Then he turned his at­ten­tion to Wenger who he says has un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for and be­lief in, his play­ers. He was, he said, a Wenger fan. And now, two years on it is pos­si­ble, just pos­si­ble, that Pa­trick might be given a chance to step into his men­tor’s shoes. Big­ger coach­ing names are be­ing talked about: Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri, Carlo Ancelotti and Luis En­rique to name but a few. But these men do not have the emo­tional and pas­sion­ate at­tach­ment to the Gun­ners whereas Viera has it in bucket loads. He loves his Ar­se­nal, the club he cap­tained and led to glory. Whether sen­ti­ment is enough and the board goes with loy­alty re­mains to be seen but the 41 year-old would jump at the chance. The last US man­ager to try his luck in the Premier League was Bob Bradley at Swansea and he lasted just 64 days. The US ma­jor league is cer­tainly no Premier League but Viera knows the turf, knows how the club works and he could bring a lot to the Emi­rates.? Up­dates on Four BIG play­ers Man United man­ager Jose Mour­inho is back­ing his Bel­gian de­fender Marouane Fel­laini to stay at Old Traf­ford de­spite all the claims that he would leave at the end of the sea­son. Big Marouane has de­manded a pay rise and United were re­luc­tant to pay it but have had a change of mind. He is one of the few play­ers who is able to come off the bench and change a game as he did last Sun­day by scor­ing the win­ner against Ar­se­nal. Mean­while Roberto Firmino has signed a new con­tract up at Liver­pool and back at Ar­se­nal the Gun­ners have said that Jack Wil­shere will def­i­nitely stay and his heart is with the club. De­spite all the ru­mours about John Stones leav­ing Manch­ester City my sources tell me that Pep Guardi­ola has no in­ten­tion of selling his Eng­land de­fender. The 21 year-old has not played for the Premier League cham­pi­ons since the be­gin­ning of March after he sus­tained an ab­duc­tor mus­cle in­jury whilst on in­ter­na­tional duty. Pep said that the sources re­port­ing on Stone’s leav­ing are not telling the truth. “It is fake news”, he said.?

I have spo­ken about Ful­ham’s bright young full back Ryan Sesseg­non be­fore and Spurs still have a wish to buy him. How­ever, Ful­ham have put a price on Ryan which, I am told from Spurs, they can­not pay. ?100mil­lion is the fig­ure Ful­ham will want if Ryan leaves and that leaves Spurs look­ing else­where.

How­ever, if Ful­ham are pro­moted to the Premier League, cur­rently be­ing in a strong po­si­tion for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion, they will prob­a­bly try and hang on to the 17 year-old.

No­vak Djokovic has said his con­fi­dence had been rocked by a string of poor re­sults after a pre­ma­ture re­turn from el­bow surgery but the for­mer world No 1 vowed to work hard to get back to win­ning ways.

Hav­ing ex­changed a few shots with a young prospect after an in­tense train­ing ses­sion in searing heat at his own ten­nis com­plex in cen­tral Bel­grade, the 30-year old Serb con­ceded that the last 18 months have been test­ing.

“I have al­ways be­lieved in my­self and that’s why I was able to make all my child­hood dreams come true, but right now my con­fi­dence is not at the high­est level,” he told re­porters.

“That’s not sur­pris­ing given the lack of re­sults and all I can do is knuckle down to hard work to re­store it. A few good matches and one good tour­na­ment and it will come back.”

Djokovic’s slump be­gan after he won his maiden French Open ti­tle in June 2016 to com­plete a ca­reer slam and amass 12 ma­jor hon­ours.

A string of be­low-par per­for­mances were fol­lowed by Djokovic hav­ing to re­tire against Czech To­mas Berdych in last year’s Wim­ble­don quar­ter­fi­nals with an el­bow in­jury which kept him side­lined un­til Jan­uary’s Aus­tralian Open.

After a last 16 de­feat by South Korean up­start Hyeon Chung in Mel­bourne, Djokovic had an­other spell on the side­lines fol­low­ing el­bow surgery and said he had come back too early be­cause he was hun­gry to play again. EARLY EXITS Since re­turn­ing he has suf­fered early exits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Mi­ami and In­dian Wells.

“That was my de­ci­sion be­cause I missed play­ing ten­nis so much but I was not ready and it back­fired,” he said.

“After ev­ery­thing I have been through in the past year or so, I have had to lower my ex­pec­ta­tions but my mo­ti­va­tion and my am­bi­tions re­main un­changed.

“After this year’s Aus­tralian Open I wasn’t sure whether I’d have el­bow surgery or not. I was re­luc­tant but then I re­alised it was the best long-term so­lu­tion.

“The re­cent re­sults have not been what we are used to but com­ing back is a process and all I can do now is knuckle down to some hard work.

“I have had some sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in the past but not one quite as chal­leng­ing as this, so I have to ac­cept it as part of a learn­ing process.”

Satur­day, May 5, 2018

Down and out? For­mer world num­ber one, No­vak Djokovic goes down dur­ing a match. He is strug­gling to re­gain his lost form

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