Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola looking at Aymeric Laporte and Fred

• Laporte and Fred at Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar respectively
• Duo would make City stronger in defence and central midfieldManchester City are weighing up approaches for Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred as Pep Guardiola seeks to strengthen his squad before the end of the January transfer window. Having seen primary target Alexis Sánchez join Manchester United on Monday, Guardiola is determined to bring in new faces before the end of the month and has opted to make a renewed attempt to secure Laporte after the French defender decided against a move to the Etihad Stadium in June 2016. The 23-year-old signed a four-year contract containing a release clause of €65m for two seasons, which is now believed to have risen to €70m (£61.5m) but that has not put off City from contacting his agents – former Spain internationals Carles Puyol and Iván Continue reading "Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola looking at Aymeric Laporte and Fred"

‘It matters more when there is money on it’ is a dangerous indoctrination | David Conn

Relentless marketing, advertising and sponsorship by betting companies is exposing fans to the threat of a gambling addiction on an unprecedented scale and needs curtailingJoey Barton, whose football career was in effect ended early by his suspension last year for gambling, now says the ban on players betting is hypocritical given the game’s dependence on gambling sponsorship and that half of all players could be breaching the rule anyway. He sharply made that point at the time of his 18-month ban last April, later reduced to 13 months; pointing out the Football Association, which solemnly imposed the suspension on him, was sponsored by Ladbrokes. Barton argues the rule, which is aimed at preventing match-fixing, is too absolute, because players like him casually or even addictively gambling on matches are a world away from taking money to throw or fix games. But given huge wages and match-fixing’s existential danger, there Continue reading "‘It matters more when there is money on it’ is a dangerous indoctrination | David Conn"

Phil Neville named as new coach of England women’s football team

• Former Everton captain replaces Mark Sampson until 2021
• Neville holds pro licence but lacks experience of women’s game Phil Neville has been confirmed as the new coach of the England women’s football team. The former Manchester United, Everton and England player has signed a three-year deal and replaces Mark Sampson, who was sacked from the post last September for “inappropriate behaviour” with a player in a previous job. Continue reading...

The Fiver | Some more golden-age-of-Hollywood slapstick combined with pathos

Sign up now! Sign up now! Sign up now? Sign up now! It’s been a week of seismic shocks in sport. A British man who isn’t fated to be bagelled by Novak Djokovic in the final has reached the last four of the Australian Open. Ronnie O’Sullivan didn’t win the Masters snooker, bad news for those of us who like to watch rocket-fuelled century breaks, good news for anyone whose teeth are set on edge by desperate phlegm-rattling bellows of CAHMONRONEEEE from members of the audience whose ability going forward to pay the mortgage may be seriously compromised by the book they’ve been running down the drinker. And in the football on Monday night, there was a classic for fans of cognitive dissonance, as Southampton supporters tried to balance the sight of Virgil van Dijk turning into Dejan Lovren II with the view of Swansea City coming up hard in Continue reading "The Fiver | Some more golden-age-of-Hollywood slapstick combined with pathos"

Transfer round-up: Burnley sign winger Aaron Lennon from Everton

• Walcott arrival at Everton pushed winger down pecking order
• ‘I think I’ve still got a lot to offer,’ says former England internationalWinger Aaron Lennon believes he still has plenty to offer after joining Burnley from Everton for a nominal fee, with six months left on his contract. Lennon played 77 matches for the Toffees but the arrival of Theo Walcott last week pushed him further down the pecking order at Goodison Park and he is now looking for a fresh start at Turf Moor. Continue reading...

What is the Uefa Nations League – and will it be successful?

Designed to end the ‘meaningless friendly’, Wednesday’s draw for the inaugural competition has good intentions. But will it actually work?When Uefa first began seriously discussing the prospect of a brand new international competition, back in 2011, their intentions were honourable enough. The lustre of national team football had faded steadily over the previous decade, largely due to the club game’s suffocating spread but also due to the contemporary nature of the beast. Friendly matches, seen by managers as valuable testing grounds but by the public and – in some cases – players as halfhearted trudges, had become little more than ballast in the calendar; qualifying for major tournaments had, for the leading lights, generally become a procession. If the latter owed partly to the geopolitical changes within Europe since 1989 and a slew of successor states whose football infrastructure lagged behind the rest, it merely emphasised that a little Continue reading "What is the Uefa Nations League – and will it be successful?"