‘He’s my little friend’ – Griezmann plays down spat with Real Madrid ace Ramos

Antoine Griezmann said he has a lot of respect for Sergio Ramos after the Real Madrid captain publicly questioned the Atletico Madrid star’s ambition.

Ramos urged Atletico head coach Diego Simeone to teach Griezmann some “values” after the Frenchman and World Cup winner talked up his Ballon d’Or chances.

Griezmann claimed he is on the same level as Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, prompting a response from the Madrid skipper.

Atletico forward Griezmann and Ramos went head-to-head in Saturday’s Madrid derby, which ended goalless at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Asked about Ramos afterwards, Griezmann said: “He’s my little friend, I have a lot of respect for him. 

“He’s an example for the kids and a great centre-back.

“For me, this is a game, I like to have fun with my team-mates and with players from other teams.

Sergio Ramos Real Madrid UEFA Super Cup 2018

“Sometimes I’m ‘poking’ and this time I was ‘poked’.”

Ramos also discussed Griezmann following the clash and the Spain international told Movistar Plus: “I have not spoken with Griezmann, regardless of the opinion of each other, one must always have the utmost respect for a fellow professional.”

Barcelona and Madrid are level on 14 points atop the LaLiga table, two points ahead of fourth-placed Sevilla.

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MLS Review: Zlatan hits 20th, Dallas clinches playoff place

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at it again for the LA Galaxy on Saturday, scoring twice to hit the 20-goal mark on the season and lead his side to a 3-0 win over the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Ibrahimovic opened the scoring from the penalty spot inside the opening five minutes and doubled his side’s lead just before the hour mark.

And while the former Manchester United star didn’t finish off his hat trick, he won a penalty late on that was put away by Romain Alessandrini to round out the scoring and leave the Galaxy just one point back of the playoff places in the Western Conference. 

Ibrahimovic wasn’t the only former Manchester United star scoring in MLS on Saturday, with Wayne Rooney netting two goals of his own as D.C. United earned an impressive, and vital, 5-0 win over the Montreal Impact. 

Luciano Acosta opened the scoring for United, with Rooney’s double coming either side of two goals from Paul Arriola as the home side strolled to the win. 

The result leaves D.C. just two points back of the Impact and final playoff place in the East, with United holding two games in hand. 

Toronto FC stayed alive in the playoff hunt as well, taking a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution. The defending MLS champion will still need some help to earn a place in the postseason, but survived to fight another day. 

For FC Dallas there are no such worries, with the Texas club locking up a playoff spot with a 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. 

That result, coupled with Seattle’s 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, did do some harm for the Houston Dynamo. Despite taking a 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday the Dynamo could be knocked out the playoffs on Sunday should Real Salt Lake beat Sporting Kansas City. 

The San Jose loss was also notable for Chris Wondolowski’s goal, scored from the penalty spot, which ran his career MLS total to 143, leaving him just two shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time mark. 

LAFC took a tough 3-1 loss to the lowly Chicago Fire, denting the expansion club’s prospects of finishing in the top two places in the Western Conference.

Bob Bradley’s side sit four points back of West leader FC Dallas and could end the weekend four back of SKC as well. 

The top two places in the Eastern Conference were also decided on Saturday when New York City FC fell to Minnesota United. 

The loss cliched a playoff bye for the New York Red Bulls, who will fight it out with Atlanta United for the top spot in the conference starting with tomorrow’s showdown between the two at Red Bull Arena.

For Philadelphia and Columbus, a 0-0 draw gave both clubs a point but means that neither will end the weekend assured of a playoff place.  

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‘He has been a leader’ – France boss Deschamps defends under-fire star Pogba

Didier Deschamps insisted Paul Pogba cannot win games for Manchester United on his own as the France head coach defended the star midfielder and his leadership qualities.

Pogba helped France to World Cup glory in Russia but he has struggled to replicate that form at United in the Premier League amid a tense relationship with manager Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho stripped Pogba – who was substituted in Saturday’s shock defeat to West Ham – of his vice-captaincy responsibilities, while the pair were involved in a training-ground confrontation on Wednesday.

Mourinho has also insisted that “no player is bigger than the club” while addressing the issues with Pogba and claimed that “after weeks of analysing and changing opinions with my coaching staff, we made the decision Paul is just a player and not a captain.”

But Deschamps has come to the defence of one of his star men, claiming that the 25-year-old’s attitude has always been positive and pointing out that the way of playing and the team around him may be the issue at the club level. 

Asked about Pogba’s performances for France compared to his displays at United, Deschamps said: “For Paul it depends not only on him but also the team he is in, the collective way of playing. It is not a case of one player who makes the team win.”

Deschamps went to explain that, in his opinion, Pogba’s “demonstrative” attitude may lead to some false representations of him as a player and a person.

“There are a few things people ought to know,” he continued. “First of all there is an image of Paul that doesn’t correspond to who he is.

“Maybe it is because he is a bit eccentric, a bit demonstrative.

“He has been with me since 2013 – that is five years now – and the way he functions is not about him for himself, it is him as part of the group. That is really important.

“His image in the media makes everything quite complicated. The amount of the transfer to Manchester United is ridiculous … it wasn’t easy to manage.

“During this World Cup he managed to get a normal image back. The fact he talks, it liberates him a bit, but the most important thing is that Paul came to this World Cup with a very precise idea: he wanted to prepare himself to be world champion. That is what he had in his mind.”

Deschamps also praised Pogba and his leadership within the France squad, saying: “He has taken many things upon himself. He has been a leader.

“Each time he had to talk and express himself it was always very positive. It’s the words he uses and the atmosphere and feeling that comes across.

“He is not the only one but he is one of the leaders who took it upon himself because the group needed it. On the pitch he did what needed to be done as well.”

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Neymar feeling back to his best after double against Nice

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar said he feels “good and in form” after shining in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Nice.

Neymar excelled against Nice, scoring twice as Ligue 1 champions PSG recorded an eighth consecutive league victory to kick off the season.

The 26-year-old Brazil international also scored a penalty in Wednesday’s 4-1 rout of Reims.

Speaking afterwards, Neymar told reporters: “It was an important win. We won playing good football, everybody chipped in and we head back to Paris with all three points.

“I am very happy with my performance — I feel good and in form right now and I am very happy to have scored.”

Neymar curled in the opening goal in the 22nd minute at Allianz Riviera before Christopher Nkunku doubled the lead at the start of the second half.

The Brazilian added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time to extend the club’s lead to nine points atop Ligue 1, though that lead could be cut to eight points should there be a winner in the clash between Lille and Marseille on Sunday. 

PSG have been utterly dominant in French top flight so far this season with Saturday’s result the fourth time in eight outings the Parisians have won by three or more goals, with the front three of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, along with winger Angel Di Maria all at or near the top of the league’s scoring charts. 

And while Neymar tends to draw the headlines, team-mate Thilo Kehrer was quick to point out that there were plenty of contributors in Thomas Tuchel’s side. 

“I think it’s important that we are a team,” he said. “There also are some players who give the assist to Ney.

“Of course we are happy when our strikers score goals. Ney did it today. But it’s a real hard work from everyone during the game. We played well today, we helped him to score so it’s good for us.”

PSG will now turn their attention to the Champions League where Red Star Belgrade await on Wednesday. 

The French side opened the group stage with a loss to Liverpool, while Red Star are coming off a 0-0 draw with Napoli. 

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‘It’s a gift for me’ – Tuchel praises Di Maria after PSG beat Nice

Thomas Tuchel says it is “a gift” working with Angel Di Maria following Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-0 Ligue 1 victory over Nice.

Neymar’s brace and a goal from Christopher Nkunku were enough to secure an eighth successive top flight win for PSG, who are now nine points clear at the top.

Neymar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also had goals disallowed for offside, but it was Di Maria – who also hit the woodwork – who drew praise from Tuchel.

“I like Di Maria a lot, he is so gifted,” Tuchel said of the Argentine, who was impressive as part of a three-man forward line alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

“I watched him play with Real Madrid and for me I could not believe I could train him at some point back then.

“Now he is my player, it’s a gift for me. It’s easy with him as he is every day one of the first to come to training.

“He has a lot of skills, he always plays for the team, it’s really a gift.”

Tuchel rested Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti for the trip to Allianz Riviera, with half an eye on PSG’s Champions League encounter with Red Star Belgrade in midweek.

And the former Borussia Dortmund boss claimed it was important to keep his players fresh while ensuring his ideas got across.

“First of all, I appreciate the fact that my players trust me and my ideas,” he added.

“It was important, our third game in one week, Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday. So the structure was important, to play 3-5-2 today.

“Nice are brave when they have the ball. I did not want my team to run without the ball. That’s why we change to play in 3-5-2.

“[The] players were open to this idea. We trained once yesterday like that and it was top. They played bravely.”

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