Torres: Iniesta encouraged me to make Japan move

Fernando Torres says Andres Iniesta encouraged him to move to Japan and join Sagan Tosu.

The Spanish striker left Atletico Madrid at the end of last season after winning the Europa League title and announced last week that he has signed for the J1 League side.

Torres is the second big-name player to move from La Liga to Japan, following in the footsteps of Barcelona icon Iniesta, who moved to Vissel Kobe in May.

And former Liverpool and Chelsea forward Torres says he spoke to his fellow World Cup winner before choosing a switch to Japan over a country in Europe.

“We are playing against each other on the penultimate day of the season! I spoke with Iniesta when the possibility came up for him,” Torres told Goal. “He told me the idea he had. Then everything went as he expected and it became official.

“He was also aware of my option and encouraged me to go there. The references he had to the league and the country were very similar to the ones I was given.”

Although he is looking forward to playing against his old national team-mate, Torres hopes he can convince Iniesta to join his side eventually.

“We have had parallel lives: we debuted together in Spain Under-15, we have achieved the greatest successes with the national team as main players and now we finish the same year at our clubs to go to the same league.

“It will be a pleasure to play against Iniesta. I wish it was with him, but we can make him a place in Sagan Tosu whenever he wants!”

Torres expects to settle in well in the Japanese top flight because of the pace and time on the ball he will have.

“It’s a very fast football, very dynamic, with very explosive players in short distances,” he said. “We had the chance to see [Takashi] Inui here in La Liga and it is that profile of an electric player, who attacks the spaces very well.

Fernando Torres Europa League 16052018

“From what I’ve seen of the Sagan Tosu matches that have been sent to me, it’s a very fun type of football. I am going to have fun, I will have space, I will have time to be on the ball, options to attack and defend. I was looking for that fun football, back and forth, with a lot of rhythm. We’ll see if I’m ready and if I’m up to the challenge, but of course I’m really looking forward to it.

“I was looking for a competitive league that would make me feel like I have a challenge ahead of me. And I’m thinking 100% about football, about being a football player, about doing my best, like a hard-working player, a team player. I’m available to the team for anything.

“I want to be important, to make myself important, to become a reference for my teammates, for the club, and to ensure that when I finish my time in Japan, they can remember me only with good words, as has happened in all the places I’ve been before. It’s my goal, and that’s what I’m going to try to achieve.”

Torres has already had his taste of Japanese pop culture, having been influenced as a child by the iconic manga and anime series Captain Tsubasa, known in Spain as ‘Campeones: Oliver y Benji’.

“Yes! I started to like football because of Oliver and Benji,” he added. “I was between five and seven years old and I had not touched a ball in my life when they started to put Oliver and Benji on TV.

“I remember that you had to turn the wheel on the television to find the channel. And I stayed glued to the television watching Oliver and Benji. I promise.

“In fact, once when the president of Sagan Tosu visited Madrid, he brought us a picture of Oliver and Benji where I was one of the characters with the Atlético shirt, and the painting was signed by the author. They found out that I liked it, and they brought this kind of gift.”

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France’s World Cup winners given heroes’ welcome in Paris

France’s World Cup winners were treated like royalty by hundreds of thousands of supporters upon their return to Paris on Monday and have been promised the Legion of Honour award ahead of a presidential reception.

A 4-2 win over Croatia in Moscow on Sunday secured France their second World Cup triumph, sparking non-stop celebrations back home.

Supporters swarmed the Champs-Elysees, Paris’ most famous avenue, after the game and saw their heroes projected on to the Arc de Triomphe, with more than a million people reported to have taken to the street in the area to celebrate through the night.

The France team set off from their Istra base in Russia on Monday morning and were greeted by swathes of fans at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport upon landing – coach Didier Deschamps and bleary-eyed captain Hugo Lloris appearing first from the aircraft with the famous trophy.

In an open-top bus, France were taken through Paris with the trophy held aloft, the public screaming their adulation at their heroes as they were driven down the Champs-Elysees amid clouds of flare smoke.

Despite many of the Parisian population spending much of the night in delirium, they were still out in numbers for France’s return and trophy parade.

Defender Presnel Kimpembe appeared particularly confident he was now untouchable, as he leaned especially far off the top deck of the bus, arm outstretched and clutching the trophy.

Their destination was the Elysee Palace, where they met with president Emmanuel Macron, who himself was joining in with the team’s celebrations in Russia the night before.

Several metro stations around the city have been temporarily renamed after France’s heroes, with their coach securing arguably the biggest coup with the Champs-Elysees stop renamed Deschamps-Elysees.

But that will not be the only tribute, as the office of Macron said on Monday that France’s players will all be awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest recognition for “exceptional service” to the country.

Over 3,000 people are reported to be attending Macron’s reception for the World Cup winners, including an estimated 1,000 youth players from football clubs across France.

Although 24 hours have passed since victory, France’s celebrations have only just begun, with the squad and Macron getting things started with a hearty rendition of the national anthem – ‘La Marseillaise’ – on the front steps of the presidential palace.

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Juventus director reveals how ‘crazy’ Ronaldo move happened

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici said his club got the idea to sign Cristiano Ronaldo after his stunning bicycle kick against them in April.

The then-Real Madrid star lit up the Champions League quarter-final first leg in Turin with two goals, including a sensational overhead kick in the second half.

Ronaldo’s strike was so stunning that it even caused fans at the Allianz Stadium to stand up and applaud the visiting player’s effort.

In addition, Paratici has revealed it was the moment that set the move in motion.

“The crazy idea started after the crazy goal he scored against us,” Paratici told Sky Italia.

“(Ronaldo’s agent) Jorge Mendes told us that Cristiano was stunned by the attention he received, he said that one day he would like to come to Juventus.”

That vision became a reality earlier this month, when Ronaldo signed for Juve in a deal worth €100 million (£88m/$117m).

Ronaldo was officially unveiled on Monday, when Paratici revealed more details of the transfer.

“I asked Mendes about Cristiano when we closed the deal for [Joao] Cancelo,” Paratici said of a transfer completed at the end of June.

“[Mendes] explained the situation to me,” Paratici continued. “I talked to our president, Andrea Agnelli. In the first place, the figures were the most difficult thing.

“Agnelli took a few hours, he told me to go ahead and see if there was really an opportunity.

“Cristiano is the strongest player in the world and the negotiations were done between two big clubs like Juventus and Real Madrid.

“It’s easier to do business and make transfers with a great player like him and a great agent like Mendes.”

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Liga MX transfer news: The latest rumors and chisme in Mexican soccer

Ochoa still has Italian interest

Guillermo Ochoa still has Serie A interest, according to CalcioMercato.

Napoli’s early July move to bring in a pair of goalkeepers looked to end any possibility of Mexico’s No. 1 arriving in southern Italy. But after Alex Meret broke his arm in training, there may still be a market for Ochoa. Genoa also retains interest in the 33-year-old.

Herrera an option to replace Kovacic

Hector Herrera could be a target for Real Madrid if Mateo Kovacic leaves the club, according to various outlets.

While Porto’s sporting director said last week the club has no interest in selling its captain after a title-winning season, new Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui, who used to manage Porto, has a good relationship with Herrera and may call on the Mexico midfielder.

Ospina potential replacement for Guzman at Tigres

Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman continues to draw closer to Boca Juniors, a move that could set off a domino effect for goalkeepers, according to MedioTiempo.

The Argentine may be headed home, though he said in a news conference this week he’s not keeping close track on transfer talks. Tigres would turn to David Ospina of Arsenal, or Racing’s Juan Musso as potential replacements.

Ochoa out at Standard

Standard Liege is lining up a move for a new starting goalkeeper with Guillermo Ochoa set to leave Belgium, according to  La Derniere Heure.

Ochoa reportedly has interest both in Spain, where he played with Malaga and Granada, and Italy.

Lyon looking at Hector Herrera

Hector Herrera has drawn interest from Ligue 1 side Lyon, according to Le10Sport.

The Baja California native just captained Porto to a championship but has been linked with a move elsewhere. While Lyon is yet to make a formal offer for the midfielder, the club has reached out to begin the process.

Ben Arfa has offer from Tigres

Tigres have an offer on the table for Hatem Ben Arfa, according to L’Equipe.

The former Newcastle and PSG winger is out of contract after spending most of his time the past two years out of the squad in Paris. While Tigres’ offer may be his best at the moment, he’s hoping to find a way to play in European competition next season.

Spanish clubs have Lainez interest

Villarreal, Betis and Espanyol scouted Club America midfielder Diego Lainez at the Toulon Tournament, according to Marca.

Already rumored to have interest from French clubs, the 18-year-old has made no secret that he’d like to move to Europe. America, however, reportedly is willing to hold out for a $25 million fee.

Toluca makes Negredo bid

Toluca has made a bid to bring Spanish forward Alvaro Negredo to Mexico, according to Record.

Currently with Besiktas in Turkey, Toluca reportedly has offered $3.5 million for the 32-year-old. That should be enough to pry away the former Real Madrid and Manchester City man, but his salary near $5 million annually is currently the roadblock.

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