Leicester open talks with Liverpool over £12m Ward transfer

Liverpool are in talks with Leicester over the £12million ($13.5m) transfer of goalkeeper Danny Ward.

The Welshman is expected to miss the Reds’ friendly with Blackburn Rovers on Thursday night as he closes in on a move away from Anfield.

Liverpool are themselves set to finalise the £67m ($87m) signing of Alisson Becker, with the Roma ‘keeper undergoing a medical on Merseyside ahead of a world-record switch.

Ward had been set to get a chance to impress Jurgen Klopp this summer after a season spent as third-choice behind Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet. Anfield sources had even indicated, as recently as last week, that the 25-year-old could start the campaign as No.1.

However, the Reds have made significant moves since then, landing their top transfer target in Alisson. With Karius and Mignolet still on the books, Klopp is willing to allow Ward to leave and get the first-team football he believes he deserves.

Ward has made three senior appearances for Liverpool, but enjoyed successful loan spells with Aberdeen and Huddersfield Town. Both Burnley and Bournemouth had made enquiries about the former Wrexham man this summer, but it appears Leicester have won the race.

The Foxes themselves could soon be losing their No.1 goalkeeper, with Kasper Schmeichel attracting interest from both Chelsea, who look likely to sell Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, and Roma, who are in the market for a ‘keeper following Alisson’s exit.

Liverpool expect teenage star Ben Woodburn to travel with them for their three-game tour of the USA this weekend, despite loan interest from Sheffield United and Norwich. The Reds have also received numerous enquiries from Championship clubs over Ryan Kent, Sheyi Ojo and Pedro Chirivella, all of whom have featured so far during pre-season.

Gini Wijnaldum and Danny Ings will miss the game at Blackburn due to minor injuries.

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Who is Daniele Rugani? The €50m Chelsea transfer target who was too nice for Juventus

Daniele Rugani’s first season back at Juventus ended in Scudetto success. 

“I hope to stay for many years,” he enthused in May 2016, “and I’ll do everything to deserve staying for as long as possible, if I’m good enough…”

Nobody else at Juve has ever had any doubts over whether Rugani was good enough to become a stalwart of the Bianconeri backline; the question was whether he was tough enough.

When former Primavera starlet Rugani returned to Turin in 2015, he did so on the back of a successful two-year loan spell at Empoli.

Under the tutelage of Maurizio Sarri, he had helped the Tuscans secure a return to the Italian top flight and then enjoyed an immaculate debut season in Serie A, playing every minute of every match without collecting a single booking.

Inevitably, there were comparisons with the legendary Gaetano Scirea, who, during his time at Juventus, once went eight consecutive seasons without being cautioned once.

Such talk was, of course, premature but the then 20-year-old was undeniably a player of enormous potential: He was elegant, intelligent and composed.

The lack of bookings was unsurprisingly portrayed as a positive, evidence of his excellent reading of the game, evoking memories of Paolo Maldini’s wonderful line: “If I have to make a tackle, I’ve already made a mistake.”

Three years on, though, Rugani’s reluctance to go to ground is interpreted by some as a negative, proof that he lacks the requisite ‘nastiness’ to break into the Juventus defence.

When Rugani rejoined Juve, coach Massimiliano Allegri demanded more aggression from the centre-half. Come the end of last season, he was still waiting for it to show itself.

That is not to say that Rugani has not developed in Turin, or performed well when given a chance.

Furthermore, breaking up the Bianconeri’s legendary ‘BBC’ backline of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini was never going to be easy for one so young, so even this summer there was still a perception that Rugani’s time would come. 

Daniele Rugani Empoli

However, it is telling that when his big break came last summer, following Bonucci’s surprise departure to AC Milan, the Empoli youth team product failed to fill the void. 

He played his part in Juve’s seventh successive Scudetto but there were still only 22 appearances, while it was telling that he featured just twice in the Champions League. 

Surprisingly, it was Medhi Benatia who ended up benefitting from Bonucci’s sale – not his more obvious heir, Rugani. 

The 23-year-old rarely put a foot wrong – unlike the far more error-prone Benatia – but the perception was that the slender Rugani could not be trusted in the very biggest games; that he was lacking something, not just physically but mentally. 

Rugani is undeniably a nice guy. His girlfriend, Michela Persico, says “he debunks the typical stereotype of a footballer; he’s the complete opposite to that.” And nobody would disagree. He is a popular character, both in the Juve dressing room and within the media.

There is no shortage of drive, though. Rugani is a perfectionist; as diligent and disciplined as they come.

He does not eat junk food, he gave up Coca-Cola years ago, while he spends every Sunday night making copies of Juve’s games and putting them on a USB key so that he can watch them on his laptop.

Daniele Rugani PS

“It’s so that I can understand what I did and where I went wrong,” he told Tuttosport. “It’s the little details that make the difference.

“Some others are born a phenomenon; me, no. I know I’m good but I can’t be content. I have to work if I want to have a big future. I’m ambitious, never satisfied.”

Which is precisely why he will welcome the move to Chelsea, which represents a chance to grow, to test himself in another league. More importantly, it means a reunion with the man who made him the player he is today.

Allegri never appeared to have 100 per cent confidence in Rugani; Sarri has never doubted his former protege’s ability to become one of the best defenders in the world.

He even tried to sign him during his time in charge of Napoli but, at the stage, Juve refused to even entertain the idea of letting Rugani go. 

Things have changed, though. Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing has created a need to balance the books. Rugani is one of Juve’s most valuable assets at £45 million (€50m) but no longer considered indispensable.

The transfer, thus, appears to suit all parties: Juventus will receive a hefty fee; Chelsea get a young, classy defender around whom they can rebuild their defence; and Rugani gets to work with Sarri again.

“He is a person whom I respect a lot, who gave me a lot and who taught me many things,” he recently admitted.

The challenge now, though, will be to repay his former mentor’s faith in him. We know he is good enough to excel in England but is he tough enough?

We’re about to find out…

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Seaman sees Pickford joining top Premier League club after England heroics

Jordan Pickford’s performances for England are likely to earn him another big-money move to a leading Premier League side, claims former Three Lions goalkeeper David Seaman.

The 24-year-old only linked up with Everton in the summer of 2017, with a £25 million deal making him the most expensive British keeper of all time.

A promising debut campaign at Goodison Park earned him starting duties for his country at World Cup 2018, with his efforts helping Gareth Southgate’s side to an unexpected semi-final spot.

Pickford’s profile has risen again on the back of those displays, with German giants Bayern Munich reported to be keen, and Seaman believes a step up in class could be taken in the near future.

He told the Daily Star: “Jordan Pickford will probably end up at one of the top six clubs in the Premier League if he keeps progressing. 

“He’ll make it hard for the big clubs to ignore him.

“He needs that challenge, because he’s not even played Champions League football yet. 

“He’s just skipped that and gone straight to the World Cup and showed he can do it there. He had a great tournament.

“He’s a quality goalkeeper and has got to keep doing it.” 

Seaman now considers Pickford to sit among the Premier League elite, alongside the likes of David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois, but admits that he was initially surprised to see the Everton man given the nod by England ahead of Stoke’s Jack Butland.

A man who made 75 appearances for the Three Lions added: “If I’m honest, when the choice was between Pickford and Butland before the World Cup, I’d have probably gone with Jack, because he was a bit more consistent for me.

“But Jordan had a great competition, with some stunning saves and won a penalty shootout. 

“He just needs to keep improving now, and a move to a big club could do that.

“Pickford is among the top guys in the Premier League now, but he’s got to do it for a longer time to be classed as good as David De Gea, Thibaut Courtois, Petr Cech and Hugo Lloris.”

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‘Alisson a flawless signing for Liverpool’ – £67m deal makes perfect sense to Nicol

Alisson is a goalkeeper with no flaws, according to Liverpool legend Steve Nicol, with the Brazil international a shrewd addition at £67 million ($86m).

Goal revealed on Wednesday that the Reds had agreed a fee with Roma for a long-standing target.

Jurgen Klopp was expected to be in the market for a new goalkeeper this summer after seeing Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius struggle to convince between the posts.

He has now gotten his man, with Alisson heading to England to put the finishing touches to a record-breaking transfer.

Nicol believes the deal makes perfect sense to Liverpool, even when taking into account a sizeable fee, with the former Reds defender telling ESPN: “I’m very happy. It’s absolutely fantastic news!

“Ever since I heard they were going to sign him, I was thinking to myself ‘what can this guy not do’?

“I can’t come up with anything. He saves shots, he’s good with his feet. He commands his area and he’s vocal.

“What can this guy not do? I don’t really see a flaw.”

Alisson has seen his profile soar over the course of the last 12 months.

He joined Roma in the summer of 2016, but was restricted to European outings during his debut campaign.

His big break came in the 2017-18 campaign, with 49 appearances across all competitions seeing him showered with praise.

Interest in his services soon built, with Real Madrid reported to be rivalling Liverpool for his signature, while the 25-year-old headed to World Cup 2018 as the undisputed No. 1 for Brazil.

He is now about to get the chance to prove himself on a Premier League stage, with Alisson joining Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri in a new-look squad at Anfield.

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Real Madrid waiting for Chelsea to find Courtois replacement

Thibaut Courtois’s transfer from Chelsea to Real Madrid has stalled, but only temporarily. With Liverpool and Roma reaching an agreement on the £67 million ($87m) transfer of goalkeeper Alisson , Chelsea now have to look elsewhere to find a replacement number one.

With Roma initially unwilling to sell the Brazilian goalkeeper, they put a prohibitive asking price on the 25-year-old, which was enough to deter the Blues and Madrid, but matched by Liverpool with Jurgen Klopp seeking a permanent fix to his recurring goalkeeping problem.

Alisson’s transfer has had a knock-on effect in both Chelsea and Real Madrid’s summer transfer plans, as both sides had considered the Brazil international as their first choice. As a result, Real will once again turn to Courtois, with a transfer looking inevitable.

The Belgian has rejected Chelsea’s advances of a contract renewal, and with just one year left on his current deal at Stamford Bridge, will be sold this summer rather than leaving for free next year. Courtois has not hidden his desire to return to the Spanish capital , with Madrid determined to strengthen between the posts.

New Real boss Julen Lopetegui already has Keylor Navas at the club, but both fans and the board believe that the position could be strengthened even more. Los Blancos were keen on Athletic Bilbao stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga in January, but saw the transfer fall apart at the 11th hour with Zinedine Zidane not fully convinced, leaving them still in the market for a long-term replacement for Navas.

With Zidane now gone and goalkeeping coach Luis Llopis at Real Sociedad, the connection with Navas is not as strong as it once was. As soon as Zidane left Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid moved for Andriy Lunin , a player they had watched for two years but whose transfer was ‘blocked’ by the French coach.

With 19-year-old Lunin considered the future of the club, Real are still determined to continue with ‘operation Courtois’, but are willing to wait for Chelsea to find a replacement for the World Cup semi-finalist.

According to Goal information, both clubs have been in contact about the transfer of Courtois, and an agreement should be reached when Chelsea have found their new man in goal. The deal could reach £35m ($45m) for the World Cup Golden Glove winner, with all parties eager to reach a resolution and the transfer expected sooner rather than later.

Before that, new coach Mauricio Sarri must add another goalkeeper to his squad for the 2018-19 Premier League season. Until then, a time-out has been granted.

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