Djokovic: I will work hard to restore my confidence
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.”
Down and out? Former world number one, Novak Djokovic goes down during a match. He is struggling to regain his lost form