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    Inside Man City’s panicky week after alleged financial rule breaches with top lawyer hired and stars fearing for futures

    PANIC is the word that best sums up Manchester City’s week so far.While City have turned to Lord Pannick KC to get them off the hook from the Premier League charges, many of their star players are in a flap about their futures.
    Pep Guardiola has much to ponder after a difficult week on and off the pitch for Manchester CityCredit: Getty
    City chief Khaldoon Al Mubarak is hoping to defend Man City against Premier League chargesCredit: Getty
    Kevin De Bruyne and co are trying to reel in Arsenal in the Premier League title raceCredit: Getty
    Certainly, there was much to ponder as most of the squad enjoyed a day off yesterday — with their club’s whole future up in the air all of a sudden.
    Boss Pep Guardiola faces a tough task to get their minds back on a huge few weeks in their season when they reassemble later this week.
    On Monday, they heard the news from the Premier League as they prepared to head to the Etihad Campus.
    There had been no mention of it when chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and other execs visited the away dressing room at Tottenham some 15 hours earlier.
    Yet club sources insist they had been given no heads-up about what was coming down the line.
    So the squad turned up for a warm-down session in the afternoon to recover from the disappointing 1-0 defeat to Spurs.
    But before they hit the training pitches, chief executive Ferran Soriano addressed the squad in the first-team building at the City Football Academy.
    Just as he did when Uefa banned the club from the Champions League almost three years ago, he insisted they have done nothing wrong — and will clear their name.
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    The former Barcelona executive was right that time — the punishment was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport five months later.
    City players, staff and fans around the world will be keeping everything crossed for a similar outcome this time.
    Yet after training — when the players headed for home — the enormity of the situation started to hit them and it is going to feel uneasy for some time.
    For the next few months at least, and possibly longer, there will be a huge cloud over the Etihad… and not just the traditional grey ones.
    The prospect of the club being kicked out of the Premier League is real and the extraordinary ride City have been on over the last 15 years could be about to come to a crashing halt.
    If they are found guilty and hit with the harshest sanction, where will that leave the first-­team players?
    City’s future is uncertain with the club facing over 100 charges
    Most of them joined City for the chance to play in the Champions League — not the Championship.
    Not many will have ‘relegation clauses’ in their contracts, as few agents would have deemed it to be necessary.
    That hardly matters as without the TV riches, the club could not afford their wages and would need a firesale to balance the books.
    Yet, somehow, they must put it all to the backs of their minds when returning to training.
    As unlikely as it may be given their current form, they are still in the hunt for three trophies this season.
    Nobody can be certain at this stage whether the response will be a girding of collective loins and an increased determination to make a point on the field.
    Lord Pannick KC has been drafted in to Man City’s legal teamCredit: Getty
    Or, if the threat creates a sense of resignation and doom that means players will not run the extra yard that can make the difference.
    So far, we have not heard from Guardiola or any of his players about the charges relating to 115 alleged breaches of Premier League rules over more than a decade.
    Guardiola, as he was three years ago, will be the one whose head is first above the parapet when he holds his press conference on Friday.
    But City fans will look back on the leadership and focus that the Spaniard demonstrated back in February 2020 — and hope they see a repeat now.
    Back then, Guardiola deployed the sort of tactics of which Sir Alex Ferguson would have approved.
    Fergie was the master of fostering a siege mentality, making any perceived slight against his club and players as a cause he expected the entire dressing room to buy into.
    Dark clouds loom over the Etihad after this week’s developmentsCredit: Getty
    That was very much the pose adopted by Guardiola — at least for the consumption of his squad and the wider City supporter base.
    When he gathered his players together in the immediate aftermath of the ban being announced, Guardiola looked them in the eye and told them all: “Whatever league we’re in, I will still be here.
    “Even if they put us in League Two, I will still be here. This is a time for sticking together.”
    And a few days later, he told the world’s media: “I’m completely sure of the commitment of our players.
    “It’s about what they’ve shown for many years. Nothing changes.
    “At the end of the season, nobody knows what is going to happen. With calm, we’ll decide what we want.
    “But for the next three months, the commitment will be incredible.”
    It got the response he wanted. Nobody will forget their brilliant and thoroughly deserved 2-1 win in the Bernabeu against mighty Real Madrid less than two weeks later.
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    By a twist of fate, the last game City had played before the ban was announced was an unexpected Prem defeat at… Tottenham.
    Three years later, it is history repeating. And it will be a similar response that Guardiola needs now. More

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    Why Aubameyang was not in Chelsea’s squad to face Fulham after devastating Champions League axe

    PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG is back at work with Chelsea amid rumours of a shock return to Barcelona this summer.The striker, 33, was dramatically axed from the club’s Champions League squad on Friday and wasn’t even on the bench for the 0-0 draw at home to Fulham that evening.
    Graham Potter gave Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a weekend offCredit: Getty
    On the pitch, the former Arsenal captain has only three goals this season, while his last start was back on November 6.
    The brutal chop last week only strengthened claims from Spain that Aubameyang could go back to the Nou Camp.
    He is six months into a two-year contract at Stamford Bridge, with the club holding the option of a third year.
    The Gabon international, who had his contract terminated at the Gunners by mutual consent after a string of misdemeanours and poor time-keeping, was given a weekend off by Chelsea boss Graham Potter as consolation.
    And Aubameyang promptly jetted out to Milan – just days after he was linked with a move to AC Milan.
    The striker has also attracted interest from LAFC, with the MLS transfer window open until April 24.
    Aubameyang was bang on time on Monday morning when the Blues squad resumed training ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime trip to West Ham.
    He is in contention for a place in the squad but faces a gloomy long-term future in West London, even though the club are struggling up front.
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    Potter brought on rookie David Datro Fofana, 20, in Friday’s stalemate in a boost to his striking options.
    That was despite the fact the little-known £10.5million Ivorian, only signed in January from Norwegians Molde, was set to go on loan at one point during last month’s transfer window.
    Keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga praised the influence of new signings £107m British record buy Enzo Fernandez and £35m defender Benoit Badiashile against Fulham.
    He said: “Everyone saw Enzo’s quality and how well he played.
    “He is a big player for us and, hopefully, he can help us a lot.

    “Benoit is a really good guy, very calm and has big quality with the ball.
    “He’s also strong in the air. He’s having a great impact on the team.” More

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    Real Madrid star Thibaut Courtois in race against time to be fit to face Liverpool after suffering groin injury

    REAL MADRID goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois faces a race against time to be fit for their Champions League tie with Liverpool. Courtois picked up an adductor injury during the warm-up before Real Madrid’s 1-0 defeat to Mallorca on Sunday.
    Thibaut Courtois was injured during the warm-up before Real Madrid’s loss to MallorcaCredit: Getty
    Courtois now faces a race to be fit for the Champions League clash with LiverpoolCredit: Alamy
    The Real Madrid No1 underwent medical tests on Monday morning.
    And, while Madrid were relieved to discover the Belgian’s injury is not serious, he remains a doubt for Los Blancos’ latest Champions League showdown with Liverpool.
    Courtois, 30, will miss Madrid’s Club World Cup Campaign which gets underway on Wednesday against Egyptian side Al Ahly.
    But he has 15 days to recover for the last-16 first-leg clash against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at Anfield on February 21.
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    The return leg between last season’s two finalists will take place in the Spanish capital on March 15.
    Real Madrid will have their fingers crossed as they already have major fitness doubt over Karim Benzema and Eder Militao.
    It is the second injury of the season for Courtois who was voted the best keeper in the world last year.
    Back-up Andriy Lunin stepped in for the shock loss to Mallorca, which allowed Barcelona to open up an eight-point lead at the top of LaLiga.
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    Boss Carlo Ancelotti said: “It’s a defeat that hurts a lot.
    “But it was the game we expected and we prepared for it, a difficult game with a lot of fouls, a lot of stoppages.
    “We didn’t play badly, especially in the second half. Conceding early affected us a lot, and we missed a penalty.” More

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    Chelsea ‘in talks with LAFC over Aubameyang transfer’ after striker is axed from Champions League squad

    PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG may be set to leave Chelsea for Los Angeles FC, reports suggest.Aubameyang has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge and was even axed from the Blues’ Champions League squad.
    Chelsea ace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be on his way to Los Angeles FCCredit: Getty
    According to Relevo, the West Londoners have entered talks with LAFC regarding a potential deal for the striker.
    The transfer window has just opened in the MLS as it runs from January 31 until April 24.
    The Gabon international returned to the Premier League only last summer and reunited with former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.
    However, new owner Todd Boehly axed Tuchel soon after and the 33-year-old soon fell out of favour under his successor Graham Potter.
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    Aubameyang fell even further down the pecking order during Chelsea’s January transfer spree and has since been linked with a move away.
    According to Gazzetta dello Sport, AC Milan are looking to re-sign the Gabonese star in the summer.

    The same report suggested that Milan are the “best positioned club” for his signature.
    Aubameyang fuelled rumours of a move to San Siro by jetting off to Milan with his family soon after he was cut from the Champions League squad.
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    Aubameyang has only managed a mere three goals and one assist in 18 matches across all competitions this season.
    Potter has shaken things up after a busy transfer window, which saw a whopping eight new players coming in.
    The arrivals of Mykhailo Mudryk and Joao Felix has created even more competition for a place in Chelsea’s attack. More

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    Man City starlet Rico Lewis’s weekly wages set to rise by 400 per cent – but Haaland still earns more in one afternoon

    MANCHESTER CITY wonderkid Rico Lewis will see his wages skyrocket by a whopping 400 per cent.Lewis, 18, has hit the ground running ever since his senior City debut in August during a Premier League clash against Bournemouth.
    Manchester City wonderkid Rico Lewis will see his wages rise by 400 per centCredit: Getty
    But Manchester City superstar Erling Haaland makes more in an afternoonCredit: Getty
    Manchester City ace Rico Lewis now makes £25,000 per week
    The right-back also made history by becoming the Citizens’ youngest ever Champions League scorer with a goal in the 3-1 victory over Sevilla during his full debut in the competition.
    City are set to reward the England Under-19 international with a bumper new deal that will see him earn £25,000 per week.
    That means the defender will be bagging an approximate £1,300,000 per year.
    Lewis, who has been on £5,000 per week, will now be making more than fellow young star Cole Palmer, who is the senior squad’s lowest earner with £20,000 per week.
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    Of course, the full-back is miles off City’s highest earners with the likes of Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne bagging more in just one afternoon.
    Haaland – the second highest earner – makes £19,500,000 per year, which means he pockets over £53,000 per day.
    And top earner De Bruyne, who is on £20,800,000 per year, earns almost £57,000 per day.
    But Lewis is definitely on the right path as he has already amassed 18 appearances across all competitions this season.
    Most read in Football
    The teenage sensation is also often being preferred by manager Pep Guardiola ahead of Kyle Walker.
    Lewis also started ahead of the now-departed Joao Cancelo, who joined Bayern Munich on loan last month.
    And the England youth ace’s continued selection contributed in Cancelo’s departure. More

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    Champions League winner looks totally unrecognisable 25 years on from lifting cup after ripped body transformation

    THIS former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid ace looks amazing for 48-years-old.Back in 1998, the ex-Brazilian international was a Champions League winner with the Spanish giants.
    Can you guess who this former Brazil international is?
    He’s bulked up since his playing days
    He made 85 caps for his countryCredit: Instagram zr11
    He regularly uploads fitness videosCredit: Instagram zr11
    He won five major European league titlesCredit: Instagram zr11
    During his illustrious playing days, he won two Copa Americas and finished runner-up at the 1998 World Cup.
    The versatile left-back-turned midfielder made 85 Brazil appearances and scored six times for his country.
    He also lifted one LaLiga and the Champions League with Real.
    He also claimed four Bundesliga titles in six years at Bayern spread over two stints in Germany.
    But can you guess who it is?
    It is, of course, ex-midfielder Ze Roberto who enjoyed a stellar career as a player.
    However, he never looked this buff and has clearly been working out religiously since retiring from the game in 2017.
    He has since stunned fans on social media, showing off his hench body transformation akin to a bodybuilder.
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    The Samba star uploaded an Instagram video of himself during a training session in the park during the coronavirus lockdown.
    Now a personal trainer, he gave an insight into how he was able to outlast so many of his former team-mates.
    He told local media in the past: “I have no vices. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, I don’t smoke, I eat very well, I sleep well.
    “I have my family, which is my greatest security.
    “I think those are important factors to reach the age I reached and still continue playing at a high level.”
    And back in 2020 he even claimed he has a better physique than the ripped Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
    He told TyC Sports: “Today I would say that I have a better physique, because I played until I was 43-years-old.
    “If he does [play until then], I will say it is him.”
    Although with Ronaldo revealing he plans to keep playing into his 40s Ze Roberto may well be forced into making the admission.
    That’s of course former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid ace Ze RobertoCredit:
    Ze Roberto claims he even has a better physique than Cristiano RonaldoCredit: Instagram / @cristiano
    Ze Roberto pictured in action for Brazil at the 2006 World Cup
    In 1997 Ze Roberto was playing for Real Madrid More

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    I won the Champions League more times than Lionel Messi, but now I have no club and I’m only 30… these things happen

    A SERIAL winner, a 38-cap international, boasting more Champions League titles than Lionel Messi and still in his prime years.Also… unemployed.
    Lionel Messi has won three Champions League titles – fewer than a recently-released former LaLiga rivalCredit: AFP
    Once upon a time, the skilful midfielder was one of the most-sought-after stars in Europe.
    The Spain star, still only 30, is one of the most-decorated players in world football.
    And yet, at the conclusion of the January transfer window, he finds himself without a club.
    The man in question: former Real Madrid maestro Isco.
    Part of Valencia’s talent factory of the 00s, Isco made his name at Malaga before securing a massive move to Real Madrid in 2013.
    In nine years at the Bernabeu, the midfielder contributed to over 100 goals in 353 games.
    Isco won a staggering five Champions League crowns, as well as three LaLiga titles until he departed in 2022, joining Sevilla.
    The 2012 Golden Boy was once on the radar of every Premier League “Big Six” side.
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    Isco won four Champions League crowns with Real Madrid during his nine-year stayCredit: AFP or licensors
    Isco lasted just four months – playing only 14 LaLiga matches – at SevillaCredit: AP
    But interest cooled in his later Los Blancos years, with Sevilla taking a chance on him in August 2022.
    After just four months and only 14 LaLiga games, his contract was terminated.
    On deadline day, Isco was on the brink of a free transfer to Bundesliga high-flyers Union Berlin.
    But the deal collapsed as the club cryptically claimed: “We have our limits.”
    Fabrizio Romano has since revealed the “deal collapsed because financial conditions of the deal changed after the medical tests.”
    According to Spanish pundit Anton Meana, the late shock is a blessing in disguise for Union Berlin.
    Meana brutally claimed: “I think Isco would have been a problem for Union.
    “I don’t think Isco is up to that level of football, I don’t think he suits the Bundesliga, and even less so Union Berlin.
    “I think that Union have come out of this winning from all of the noise this generated on social media.”
    As a result, Isco currently finds himself unemployed.
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    He has been linked with a move to Turkey – with the transfer window open until February 8.
    But for now, the man who was one of Spain’s brightest young talents faces the very real possibility of being tossed on the scrapheap. More

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    Surprise Chelsea star is AXED from Champions League squad as three new transfers signings make list and four miss out

    PIERRE EMERICK-AUBAMEYANG has been axed from Chelsea’s Champions League squad – and then jetted straight to Milan.The Gabon striker, 33, is left out in order to accommodate the club’s recent arrivals.
    Chelsea have named their Champions League squadCredit: Reuters
    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been axed from Chelsea’s Champions League squadCredit: Getty
    Chelsea’s record January transfer outlay led to them bringing in EIGHT new players in.
    However, Uefa rules mean that they are only able to include three of their signings in their Champions League squad for the knockouts.
    Chelsea forked out a whopping £107m upfront with a potential further £4m to follow in add-ons to Benfica for Enzo Fernandez.
    And the most-expensive player in Britain has been included along with Mykhailo Mudryk and Joao Felix.
    Therefore that means that fellow new boys David Datro Fofana, Noni Madueke, Andrey Santos, Gabriel Slonina and Benoit Badiashile have all missed out.
    Jorginho’s deadline day exit to Arsenal did free up one place in the squad – which was only initially a 24-man one for the group stages.
    But another player also had to be omitted to make room for the trio which has led to Aubameyang being left out.
    However, despite his lack of match action under Graham Potter, the former Barcelona man was still expected to get the nod in favour of Hakim Ziyech.
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    The winger saw a deadline day switch to PSG fall through and he was the favourite by many to be a casualty.
    But the 29-year-old is in – causing more frustration for Aubameyang.
    The striker only moved to Stamford Bridge in September but has scored just three goals and started nine matches since Potter took over.
    And he appeared to take the latest snub badly as he was pictured in Milan with his brother on Friday night – which his teammates were facing Fulham.
    Chelsea face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last-16 with the first leg taking place in Germany on February 15.
    Fernandez, Mudryk and Felix have all featured in the competition already for their previous employers but are all available to play for the Blues. More