15 The Daily Telegraph Monday 21 September 2020 *** Wolves on verge of £29m Semedo deal the team wasn’t playing well, trying to give information, even in training sessions to get the team going. That is what Virgil does all the time, and that is what I have been trying to learn. I think I have got better over the last year. I still have things to improve but I’m sure I can do that.” Speak to anyone who has worked with Ake and they will tell you the same things about him: dedicated, strong-willed, vocal and low maintenance. Ask him why he is teetotal and his response offers a neat illustration of his driven mindset. “It’s because I’ve always said to myself that I want to make sure I don’t have any regrets after my career and think, ‘I shouldn’t have done that or I could have done that better’,” he explains. “I want to be able to say that is the best I could have done because I gave everything.” Where Ake fits in Guardiola’s plans remains to be seen. Despite spending an eye-watering £365million on goalkeepers and defenders during his four years at City, the Catalan remains in the market for another centre-half and could yet be tempted to play a three-man back on his way out, John Stones also facing an uncertain future and Eric Garcia wanted by Barcelona, the onus is on Guardiola to find a settled partnership and address the miscommunication and individual errors that cost City dearly last term. Ake should have an important role to play, the only downside about moving to Manchester being that he no longer has a beach nearby along which to walk his Pomeranian dog, Mallow. Still, the prospect of silverware should soothe that minor inconvenience for a player who was in demand this summer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester United manager, was heard telling Ake he needed a left-footed centre-back after Bournemouth’s 5-2 defeat at Old Trafford in July and Chelsea had a £40million buy-back option on their former player. Ake is reluctant to start discussing what might have been, beyond admitting there was “interest from others”, but, for Chelsea supporters, it must be curious to see two players who were at the club early in their careers now lining up as expensive recruits for direct title rivals. Kevin De Bruyne and Ake’s paths crossed at Stamford Bridge and the Belgian, the PFA Player of the Year, is one of those who has been busy helping his new team-mate to settle. “Kevin has been helpful – we were in contact when I was looking to find a house,” Ake says. “We know each other from Chelsea, even though that was quite brief in the end. It’s always good you can speak to someone you know. “I’m just very happy I’m able to come to a club like this, to play with players like Kevin and for this manager as well and to learn from them. Nothing is scripted, you know.” While Van Dijk is an obvious source of inspiration for Ake, it is another Liverpool and Holland player whose achievements the City defender hopes to mirror. Georginio Wijnaldum was relegated with Newcastle in 2016 but bounced back to win the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool and Ake hopes to do similar with City. “I’ve not spoken to him specifically about that experience but it’d be nice if I could do the same,” he says. “Obviously it’s a big step [from Bournemouth] and different expectations but I’ve been in those situations before, with Chelsea and the national team, where you’re expected to win, so I know the feeling.” midlands football correspondent By John Percy Nuno closes in on Barcelona wing-back to replace Doherty Manager asks fans to trust in transfer strateg y after Jota sale lenge ahead of us is more difficult than before, so this is why we must build a squad stronger than before,” the Portuguese said. “We have to keep going, trusting we have good options inside our squad and we will be OK. “We have to find what Matt and Diogo did for us somewhere else in the team. I’m confident that we can do that because there were roles and players must step up and try to achieve the same goals. It will be hard, but we are confident about it. “We are still working, this [the Jota sale] is a wake-up call and we have to be ready to operate as long as the transfer window is open. “We know what the squad needs and we want to finish our squad as soon as possible.” Wolverhampton Wanderers are close to signing Barcelona defender Nelson Semedo in a £29million deal, as Nuno Espirito Santo moves to strengthen his squad. Semedo is expected to put the finishing touches to his move to Wolves this week after the club had a bid for the 26-year-old accepted. Nuno has prioritised a right wingback following the £15million sale of Matt Doherty to Tottenham and Wolves have moved swiftly to use the funds generated by Diogo Jota’s £45million move to champions Liverpool by pouncing for Semedo. A Portugal international, Semedo is set to fly into England after Wolves’s Premier League meeting with Manchester City tonight. Ahead of the clash with Pep Guardiola’s side, Nuno has urged Wolves supporters to “trust” in his transfer window strategy, insisting his squad will be stronger despite two player sales. Jota and Doherty have both left this summer, after scoring 23 goals between them in all competitions last season, in the first real setback of Nuno’s reign. Nuno has signed Ki-Jana Hoever, the 18-year-old defender, from Liverpool and Semedo will be the next new arrival. The decision to sell Jota to Liverpool was a calculated decision by Nuno as he moves to modify the style of play ahead of this third season in the Premier League. And the Wolves head coach has urged his players to seize their chance by ensuring the departure of Jota does not affect the club’s upward trajectory. “With or without Diogo we must be stronger because the new chal- ‘It’s a big step up from Bournemouth but I know the feeling of being expected to win’ Wolves v Manchester City 8.15pm, Sky Sports Nuno faces City in Wolves’s first home game of the season tonight, having completed the league double over Guardiola in the last campaign. Wolves won 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium and then secured a dramatic 3-2 win two days after Christman in the rematch. The absence of supporters at Molineux could prove significant for the home team. “Games are never the same – new things will happen,” Nuno said. “You only have to look at the way Manchester City play and their talent, their speed on the ball – all these things we have to look at and pay attention to. “But at the same time, we’re looking to build on our idea and play our game and do things well. It’s a new game and a new challenge ahead of us. You know the talent and the quality of Man City’s squad, it’s amazing the quality of their players, their manager, Pep, all this. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be very difficult. We expect a very, very tough match and we want to compete against a fantastic team.” line with flying wing-backs if he lands one. But Ake is unfazed by the prospect of competition and says it was not a topic of conversation with Guardiola when he joined. “It was more about me, I didn’t really ask about other things,” he says. Equally, Ake says he sees no reason why he and Laporte, two leftfooters, could not operate together and, while he would prefer a central role, the Dutchman insists he is comfortable at full-back. “You don’t really see it [two left-footed centrehalves] often but I played on the right side [of central defence] for Bournemouth in the last few games,” Ake says. “Both [centre-back and left-back are options] really. My preference has always been in the centre but everyone knows that I’m quite versatile and can play multiple positions so I’ll just have to see where the manager needs me and he knows he can put me wherever.” With Nicolas Otamendi seemingly as a priority. Tom Heaton is not expected to return until next month at the earliest from a knee injury, so Martinez, who starred for Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup final, has the chance to stake a claim. “He’s fought for eight to nine years at Arsenal to get regular football and he didn’t think, with the messages that were coming from them, that he was going to get that,” said Smith. Villa’s preparations for the season received another huge lift with captain Jack Grealish signing a new five-year contract. Grealish’s deal, worth at least £125,000 a week, will take him to his thirties and Smith believes the 25-year-old could become a “one-club man”, which has become rare in the modern era. up by merit and there were certainly many goals chalked off which shouldn’t have been last season. “It is one of those one in a million things. It has never failed before and it failed on that day. I am not one for religion or anything like that but my dad had just passed away. His old steward’s jacket was in the Holte End and he had a thing about watches, so maybe he just wanted to play a bit of a trick that day.” Smith is confident of avoiding another relegation battle in his second season at Premier League level, after a £75million summer spend on new players, with Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore, Matty Cash and Martinez being signed. Nyland’s mistake in the draw with United was one of many by the Norwegian and, with loan signing Pepe Reina also suspect at times, Smith identified the signing of a goalkeeper Aston Villa v Sheffield United 6pm, Sky Sports
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