More stories

  • in

    Why Premier League conquerors Olympiacos’ European success is no miracle after Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool triumphs

    OLYMPIACOS have officially made history as the first ever Greek club to win a European trophy.The Greek giants also became the first team to win a Uefa honour outside of the world’s top five league competitions since 2011 after beating Fiorentina 1-0 in the Europa Conference League final at rivals AEK Athens’ OPAP Arena ground.Olympiacos’ Europa Conference League triumph was no miracleCredit: GettyOlympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis has been building a European club since 2010Credit: RexOlympiacos have beaten some of the biggest Premier League clubsCredit: GettyMany have understandably coined the Piraeus outfit’s success as a miracle, but there is a lot more to it.The Greek Superleague has made headlines around the world often in recent years for all the wrong reasons due to fan violence and alleged corruption.In turn, football fans around the globe wrongfully dubbed Greek football with a series of unflattering monikers, such as “farmers’ league”.But Olympiacos transcend the Greek league and their recent track record proves that as they have made it out of the group stages of a major European competition in 14 out of their last 16 attempts.Read More on FootballUnder Evangelos Marinakis, who took over the club in 2010 and won 10 Superleague titles as well as four domestic Doubles, the team has made it out of the group stages of a major Uefa competition 11 times out of the last 13 attempts.And all of that has been under a Greek budget at a time when Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and US money is taking over football.Olympiacos have evolved into a European club that has also picked up some major scalps along the way from Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and more.All of the above also fell at the fiery Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium which poses as a powerful fortress filled with passionate, rowdy and loud fans who have been the backbone of this club since its creation in 1925 and always demand nothing less than perfection.Most read in FootballBEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKERSThe Red and White have bested a series of Premier League clubs along the way, such as Liverpool whom they beat 1-0 in 2004 in their first ever European match at Karaiskakis, a few months before the miracle of Istanbul.Olympiacos went on to overcome the likes of Manchester United, Burnley, West Ham and Aston Villa, while Tottenham, Chelsea and Wolves couldn’t win in Piraeus.Olympiacos receive FIERY heroes’ welcome after Europa Conference League triumphBut no Prem club has ever struggled more against Marinakis’ club than Arsenal.So far the two clubs count six wins each against one another with none of their 12 previous meetings ending in a draw.In fact, Olympiacos have beaten Arsenal three times at the Emirates, which is more than the Gunners’ home losses to rivals Tottenham who have only won twice across all their visits at that ground.The Greeks rose to prominence in Europe largely thanks to a series of milestones they have reached in recent years, all of which set new standards that were never lowered.Arsenal pose as one of those unforgettable nights as they became the first ever English club Olympiacos ever beat away in 2015 after a 3-2 victory at the Emirates.The Gunners also became the first Premier League club the port city outfit eliminated in the knockout stages of a major competition in 2020 when they knocked them out of the Europa League’s Round of 32.Olympiacos’ milestone victories over the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United laid some strong foundationsCredit: GettyHow it all startedBut the night that truly changed everything took place in 2007 in Germany when the pride of Piraeus finally won an away game in the Champions League following 10 unsuccessful years.The unfancied conquerors defeated Werder Bremen 3-1 at the Weserstadion and never looked back since.Olympiacos, though, for years couldn’t even tie their previous best finishes that saw them making the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Europa League in 1999 and 1993 respectively.That came to an end this year in the Europa Conference League, and they did it in style as they eliminated Maccabi Tel Aviv from the Last 16 with the greatest comeback victory in Greek football history as they won 6-1 away after an embarrassing 4-1 loss at home.Other than the title win in Nea Filadelfia, Villa pose as the most recent milestone as Unai Emery’s side became the first ever Prem side Olympiacos eliminated by winning both legs – a 4-2 in at Villa Park and a 2-0 victory in the return fixture.But those milestones wouldn’t have happened without all the hard work that went into the club the last few years with Marinakis – also owner of Nottingham Forest – adhering to European standards since his arrival at the wheel.Jose Luis Mendilibar’s impactManagers like Ernesto Valverde, Marco Silva, Pedro Martins and now Jose Luis Mendilibar have left bits of their philosophy deeply ingrained into the club’s mentality, philosophy and character.Mendilibar especially transformed Olympiacos in just three months and has already made a strong case as the club’s greatest ever manager ahead of past legends like the aforementioned tacticians as well as Dusan Bajevic and Marton Bukovi.The Spanish tactician brought his experience and winners’ mentality a year after winning the Europa League with Sevilla but simply unlocked the best of the abilities of every star he already had at his disposal, unlike predecessors Diego Martinez and Carlos Carvalhal.Mendilibar found the likes of Kostas Tzolakis, Santiago Hezze, Rodinei, Vicente Iborra, Francisco Ortega as well as Ayoub El Kaabi and just let them play their game by implementing his own philosophy while reinstating some much-needed confidence to the team.The Basque head coach was also helped by the club’s greatest ever January transfer window that saw the likes of David Carmo, Chiquinho and Andre Horta taking things to the next level.Veterans like Giorgos Masouras, Youssef El Arabi and captain Kostas Fortounis also kept the standards sky high in the meantime with their past experience of European success.Star signingsThe club’s structure has attracted a number of stars thanks to its own star quality which is headed by Champions League and World Cup winner Christian Karembeu, who has been working with the club since 2013 as an ambassador.That led to the signings of Mathieu Valbuena, Esteban Cambiasso, Marcelo, Eric Abidal and Daniel Podence, who came back for another stint last summer on loan from Wolves.The work Olympiacos have put in behind the scenes was proven this season when the Under-19s became the first ever Greek club to win the Uefa Youth League.Marinakis’ investment and support shown for the likes of Jose Anigo and Thomas Benedet who ran the academies as well as youth manager Sotiris Silaidopoulos also led to two league titles in the last two years.There was a method and logic into this year’s miracle, which coincidentally took place 20 years after Greece’s stunning Euro 2004 triumph.SunSport previously analysed the Greek national team’s triumph all those years ago which carried many similarities to Olympiacos’ recent success.Learning from Euro 2004 failuresAnd the Superleague outfit will now need to avoid the same mistakes that saw Greece decaying and missing out on all major competitions in the last 10 years, including the upcoming Euros.Olympiacos have been raising the bar for years, and now it has been higher than ever.Thus, the demands have shattered whatever glass ceiling there was and there is a major hangover awaiting the club, who won’t have to worry about qualifiers for the first time since 2015 as they made it straight into next season’s Europa League.READ MORE SUN STORIESGreece lost their first match after Euro 2004 at Albania and missed out on the 2006 World Cup before completely dropping their standards following the 2014 World Cup.Marinakis has claimed those standards will be raised even higher as he suggested the Europa League is on Olympiacos’ sights next, and that’s exactly what needs to be done to follow such a hard act as this past season.PLAY DREAM TEAM EUROS NOW!The best fantasy football game for this summer’s tournament. More

  • in

    Man Utd learn Europa League fate as Uefa make decision after club faced relegation to Conference League

    MANCHESTER UNITED will be allowed into next season’s Europa League as Uefa prepare to make an announcement on multi-club ownership rules.The Red Devils secured Europa League football after beating Manchester City in the FA Cup final.Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s clubs Manchester United and Nice are both set to compete in next season’s Europa LeagueCredit: PABut they faced fears of being relegated to the Europa Conference League due to new minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, 71, controlling Ligue 1 side Nice – who have also secured Europa League football.But now, according to The Times, Uefa will permit both of Ratcliffe’s clubs to participate in the competition for the 2024/25 campaign.Uefa’s Club Financial Control Board is expected to issue a ruling on Monday regarding multi-club ownership that will allow the teams to play in the same European tournament.This will be subject to certain conditions including Nice being operated by a “blind trust”, a panel approved by Uefa.READ MORE IN FOOTBALLThe same procedure will enable City Football Group clubs Man City and Girona to compete in the Champions League.The “blind trust” model was used this season to allow Red Bird Capital-owned clubs AC Milan and Toulouse to play in the Europa League.Girona’s links to the City Football Group have been scrutinised after three of their key players were loaned or sold via the ownership’s influence.Uefa’s alteration to their rules will act as a “temporary alternative… granted on an exceptional basis for the 2024-25 Uefa competitions”.Most read in FootballCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERSThe report states the rules could change and that “not as much leeway” will be given in future seasons.Ratcliffe’s Ineos own 27.7 per cent of Man Utd, while the Glazer family still hold a controlling stake in the club.Who could be Man Utd’s next manager after Ten Hag?British billionaire Ratcliffe also owns Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, but they failed to qualify for European football this season after finishing 10th in their country’s 12-team top flight. More

  • in

    Chelsea plunged into further financial woe as Man Utd’s FA Cup win costs Blues £7MILLION and dents future earnings

    MANCHESTER UNITED’S FA Cup final triumph cost Chelsea £7million – and added to the Blues’ Profitability and Sustainability issues.The Stamford Bridge side’s sixth place Prem finish would normally have been enough to earn them a Europa League spot alongside Spurs.Man Utd’s FA Cup win has put Chelsea into deeper financial woe due to being bumped into the Europa Conference LeagueCredit: RexChelsea have lost £7m as a resultCredit: PABut United’s Wembley win earned the Old Trafford club a place in Europe’s second competition – and sent Chelsea spinning into the Conference.And that will have a significant knock-on financial impact on BOTH clubs next term – with the biggest impact on the London club as they seek to balance their books after their £1bn transfer splurge over the past two years.Uefa have redrafted the cash distribution for the three competitions with the expansion to a 36-team initial league phase.The vast bulk of that cash pot – totalling £2.82bn – will go to the Champions League, with the Europa League prize fund £481m and the third competition worth just £243m.READ MORE IN FOOTBALLAnd it means a huge £36m difference in the guaranteed money Manchester City will get without kicking a ball and the MAXIMUM Chelsea can earn if they win the Conference League.No matter what happens, City will earn a minimum £53.7m from the qualification bonus and the new merged TV and coefficient pool.Liverpool will bag £52.1m, Arsenal £46.3 and Aston Villa, back in Europe’s senior competition for the first time since they were defending European Cup holders in 1982-3, £31.1m.Depending on their progress, all four Prem sides could add a maximum £68.2m in prize money.Most read in FootballCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERSPremier League sides deducted points and others at risk
    Nottingham Forest
    Deducted four points during the 2023-24 season for breaching Premier League spending limit by £34.563m. Failed in their appeal with decision upheld.
    Everton
    Initial 10-point deduction for 2021-22 Premier League breaches reduced to six points on appeal. Were deducted a further two points later in the 2023-24 season. Appealed, but since withdrawn following Prem survival.
    Sheffield United
    Hit with a two-point deduction for their finances during the 2022-23 EFL season. Will begin the 2024-25 Championship season on -2 points following their relegation from the Prem.
    OTHERS WHO COULD FACE PUNISHMENT…
    Manchester City
    Etihad club emphatically denies the 115 allegations laid against them in February 2023. The lengthy Commission case has been scheduled to start in October or November but a final decision is not expected until March or April 2025.
    Chelsea
    Blues chiefs flagged up illicit payments made to agents and others during the Roman Abramovich era. Fined £8.6m by Uefa but still to be formally charged by the Prem despite an ongoing investigation.
    Leicester
    Foxes breached Prem PSR loss limits last season but did not have to report their 2022-23 accounts until this month because of their relegation. That puts the timetable back and means that they will probably face a Prem points deduction for the 2024-25 season following their return to the top flight.
    Everton (again)
    The Toffees are again at risk of breaking PSR rules and are in a race against time to raise funds and balance the books. Not only could that lead to another charge but also administration. That would lead to an automatic nine-point deduction for the 2024/25 season.

    United, who would not have qualified for Europe at all without their Wembley success, will bank an initial £12.8m, compared to Spurs’ £12.4m.Further prize money could add an extra £21.3m to their coffers if they win every game in the initial phase and go all the way.Meet Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo MarescaBut that means Villa would have to lose almost EVERY match to gross less than the absolute maximum either United or Spurs could earn in the Europa League.And Chelsea, who would have started with United’s £12.8m boost if City had won the Cup Final, will start with just £5.3m guaranteed and with a MAXIMUM total prize money of £17.3m, less than a third of the amount City are certain to take.United’s win also cost Newcastle a fraction under £5m and up to £17m after the Toon were evicted from the Conference League and any European football.Meet Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo Maresca
    ENZO MARESCA is considered among the most exciting young coaches on the planet.
    Born in Italy in 1980, he managed to guide Leicester to the Championship title in his first season as Foxes boss.
    His management career started at Italian minnows Ascoli before he was snapped up by Man City in 2020 to manage their Elite Development Squad.
    He guided the youth team to the Premier League 2 title in his one season working for the Citizens – with Cole Palmer in the side.
    His first senior job was with Parma but he was sacked after just a few months after failing to impress.
    Despite the team playing in Serie B and Maresca having an impressive squad he was unable to get them on course for promotion.
    He returned to Man City and worked as one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants for the 2022/23 season as they won the Treble.
    He took over relegated Leicester last summer and made an immediate impact, with the Foxes winning the Championship title.
    Maresca showed his dedication to the job by living at the training ground for the first two months after his appointment.
    He’s considered something of a Pep disciple and has said: “For a coach, it’s important to have the mentality of a chess player.”
    During his playing career he played under Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi – and alongside ex-Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi. More

  • in

    ‘If we got a two-year ban, is it worth it?’ – Why Chelsea may be better off PULLING OUT of the Conference League

    CHELSEA might be better off pulling out of the Conference League next season.And one journalist has suggested the board may have a discussion on the subject after Man Utd’s shock FA Cup final win saw them downgraded from the Europa League.Chelsea were demoted from the Europa League to the Conference League at the weekendCredit: GettyBlues chief Todd Boehly has the option of withdrawing from the competitionCredit: GettyThe Blues were demoted to the Conference League following the Wembley clash.A decision will now have to be made on whether or not they decide to accept a spot in the competition.Should they choose to take the opportunity, Chelsea will have to comply with stricter Financial Fair Play rules.And football writer Matt Law stated back in April that he felt the Blues hierarchy may hold talks on the matter.Read More on ChelseaHe told the London is Blue podcast: “The Conference League, they have a decision to make over whether they’d enter it.“Because of the European FFP being different to the English PSR, the chances of breaching European FFP may not be worth taking for the very very miniscule amount of money you can make on playing in the Conference League for a year.“AC Milan. I think, did it one year [the Italians pulled out of the Europa League in the 2019/20 season]. “Chelsea will have a decision to make on that because European Financial Fair Play is harder to meet than PSR.Most read in FootballCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERS“You have to weigh up the risk and reward of ‘if we got a two-year ban, is it worth it to play in the Conference League or is it actually worth giving ourselves an extra year to get into a situation where we can get back into Europe, into a better competition, and not be at risk of getting a European ban?’“I don’t think there’s a question on the Europa League or Champions League. I think the Conference League would spark a discussion.”Mauricio Pochettino LEAVES Chelsea despite promising end to season as Blues line up four potential new bossesChelsea have spent around £1billion on player transfers over the last two years, meaning they are now at risk of breaching the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules.If found guilty of a breach, they could receive a significant points deduction.Meet Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo MarescaEnzo Maresca is considered among the most exciting young coaches on the planet.
    Born in Italy in 1980, he managed to guide Leicester to the Championship title in his first season as Foxes boss.
    His management career started at Italian minnows Ascoli before he was snapped up by Man City in 2020 to manage their Elite Development Squad.
    He guided the youth team to the Premier League 2 title in his one season working for the Citizens – with Cole Palmer in the side.
    His first senior job was with Parma but he was sacked after just a few months after failing to impress.
    Despite the team playing in Serie B and Maresca having an impressive squad he was unable to get them on course for promotion.
    He returned to Man City and worked as one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants for the 2022/23 season as they won the Treble.
    He took over relegated Leicester last summer and made an immediate impact, with the Foxes winning the Championship title.
    Maresca showed his dedication to the job by living at the training ground for the first two months after his appointment.
    He’s considered something of a Pep disciple and has said: “For a coach, it’s important to have the mentality of a chess player.”
    During his playing career he played under Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi – and alongside ex-Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi.

    The Blues are currently on the verge of appointing a new manager following Mauricio Pochettino’s departure.Poch left Stamford Bridge by mutual consent last week despite having a positive end to the season.Leicester City boss Enzo Maresca is understood to be the frontrunner. More

  • in

    How Chelsea face epic 331-DAY season with whopping 74 games after Man Utd dropped them into Conference League

    MANCHESTER UNITED’S shock FA Cup final win has handed Chelsea an incredibly busy calendar.The sixth-place Blues dropped into the Europa Conference League as the Red Devils joined Tottenham in the Europa League despite finishing eighth thanks to their Wembley victory.Chelsea’s players are set for a busy seasonCredit: ReutersThe Blues could be in action for most of the yearCredit: GettyAnd that means Chelsea could rack up an incredible 74 games in a mammoth season.The incredible figure does not even include five pre-season fixtures, with the Blues potentially in action for 331 days.Chelsea are on a tour of the USA from July 24 to August 6 and return 11 days before the Premier League season, which finishes on May 25 next year.The Blues’ Conference League campaign kicks off on August 22 and, if they make the final, that takes place three days after the top-flight finale.READ MORE CHELSEA NEWAnd just when the end is in sight, the Club World Cup is slated to kick off on June 15, with the final on July 13.To make matters worse, many Blues stars will be in action at this summer’s European Championship.Chelsea are keen to get their business done early this window and their first priority is bringing in a manager.Mauricio Pochettino waved goodbye despite winning his final five games and reaching the Carabao Cup final.Most read in FootballCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERSSunSport exclusively revealed that Chelsea have held talks with Leicester boss Enzo Maresca.Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna and Brentford’s Thomas Frank are also in the frame.Watch Argentina World Cup winner and £107m Chelsea star Enzo Fernandez play hurling on holiday in Ireland Blues chiefs are keen to have the new man through the door by the end of next week so they can focus on players.Having a deep squad will be even more important next season due to the return of European football to Stamford Bridge and a jam-packed calendar.Chelsea are ready to launch a £20million bid for Burnley keeper James Trafford as they seek a long-term answer in goal.Boehly’s record would make even Abramovich blush… we’re back to square one
    HERE we go again.
    Just when some positivity was building around the place and an optimistic eye was being cast to the future, Clearlake Capital go hurtling full pelt back to the drawing board, write SunSport’s Tom Sheen.
    Mauricio Pochettino leaving will make it six different managers in less than two years when next season rolls around, a record that would make Roman Abramovich blush.
    But while the oligarch was keeping Chelsea’s HR department busy by regularly handing out P45s, he was also regularly delivering world class players in the hope of delivering instant silverware.
    There was no ‘Vision 2030’, talk of players as financial assets or ridiculous eight-year contracts that potentially hamstring the club.
    Hiring and firing worked under the previous regime because Chelsea had a spine of world class talent that they were always looking to improve upon – not a group of players who look light years away from the top teams in the land.
    One thing is for sure, though. If Clearlake carry on down this road they’ll need a rebrand to Vision 2060.
    Click here to read Tom’s damning verdict in full…

    Pochettino’s Chelsea record
    MAURICIO POCHETTINO had just started to turn Chelsea around.
    An impressive run of end-of-season form saw the Blues leapfrog the likes of Manchester United and Newcastle to finish sixth in the Premier League – and earn a Europa League spot.
    But it wasn’t enough to keep him in a job as it was announced on Tuesday evening that the Argentine had left.
    Here are all Pochettino’s Stamford Bridge stats:
    Premier League – 6th
    FA Cup – Semi-finals (lost to Man City)
    Carabao Cup – Runners-up (Lost to Liverpool)
    Total record:
    Games 51Wins 26Draws 11Defeats 14
    Goals for 103Goals against 74 More

  • in

    Ademola Lookman earns just the 18th 10/10 rating from L’Equipe for incredible Europa League final hat-trick

    ADEMOLA LOOKMAN’S hat-trick heroics in the Europa League final have led to him joining an exclusive club.The forward and Atalanta abruptly ended Bayer Leverkusen’s dream of an unbeaten season by thumping them 3-0 in Dublin.Ademola Lookman made history with his hat-trick for Atalanta against LeverkusenCredit: AlamyThe forward fired his side to the Europa League trophyCredit: GettyThe 26-year-old scored a brilliant treble to fire the Italian club to the Europa League at the Aviva Stadium and end their 61-year trophy drought.Lookman, who graduated from Charlton Athletic’s academy before going on to play for Everton in 2017, joined the Serie A side from RB Leipzig in a £12m deal last summer.And the ex-Fulham and Leicester City loanee has now written his name into Atalanta folklore and achieved legendary status with his exploits yesterday.However, his performance also earned him another highly-coveted accolade – a perfect and ultra-rare 10/10 rating from L’Equipe.READ MORE ON FOOTBALLThe Nigerian international firstly beat a defender to latch on to a ball that was played back across goal to score from inside the box.Lookman then “sent Granit Xhaka to a retirement home” with a moment of genius leading up to his second.He put the ball through Xhaka’s legs to set up the chance as he shifted his weight perfectly to meg his rival and then tee up a long-distance effort that he struck with serious venom to find the bottom corner of the net.Lookman then secured the trophy, and the matchball, with a finish into the top right corner after being slipped in down the left.Most read in Europa LeagueBEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKERSThat capped the perfect performance as the notoriously tough-to-please L’Equipe gave him a glowing assessment – and also made him just the 18th player to ever receive a 10/10 rating from them.They wrote: “The Nigerian scored three magnificent goals.Former Man Utd star brings Europa League trophy out after Atalanta thump Bayer Leverkusen“The first as a center forward, overtaking Palacios and putting the right foot area under the bar of Kovar’s goal (12th).“The second is a technical feat, a small bridge-rolling strike sequence, in the middle of several German players (26th). And the third is a masterpiece (75th). “It’s the perfect match. He scored three goals almost single-handedly in a European Cup final against a team that was favourite. It ticks all the boxes of the 10.”He is the first player to score that mark since Erling Haaland scored five past RB Leipzig for Man City in last season’s Champions League.The Norwegian goal machine is one of only two men to manage that feat – the other being the legendary Lionel Messi.However, Haaland is the only person to achieve both in the same season.The perfect 10 is something even Cristiano Ronaldo has never been able to achieve.Now Lookman says that he hopes his man of the match performance is just the start of big things to come.L’EQUIPE’S PERFECT 10sHere are the 18 times that the notoriously hard outlet has given 10/10:
    1. Franck Sauzee (France v Greece, 1988)
    2. Bruno Martini (France v Greece, 1988)
    3. Oleg Salenko (Russia v Cameroon, 1994)
    4. Lars Windfeld (Aarhus v Nantes, 1997)
    5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Arsenal, 2010) 
    6. Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen, 2012)
    7. Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid, 2013) 
    8. Carlos Eduardo (Nice v Guingamp, 2014) 
    9. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain v Dijon, 2018) 
    10. Dusan Tadic (Ajax v Real Madrid, 2019)
    12. Lucas Moura (Tottenham v Ajax, 2019) 
    13. Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich v Tottenham, 2019) 
    13. Kylian Mbappe (France v Kazakhstan, 2021)
    14. Alban Lafont (Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain, 2021) 
    15. Erling Haaland (Man City v Man United, 2022
    16. Dominik Livakovic (Croatia 1-1 Brazil (pens 4-2), 2022) 
    17. Erling Haaland (Man City v RB Leipzig, 2023)
    18. Ademola Lookman (Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen 2024)

    He said: “I’ve always had the confidence in my ability.READ MORE SUN STORIES“In the past two years I’ve been able to take my game to a new level and show it on a more consistent basis.“Maybe it could have come earlier but it’s come now. I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made but this is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this.”Lookman goes from Panenka laughing stock to European hat-trick hero
    ADEMOLA LOOKMAN will go down in Atalanta, and European football, folklore after his stunning Europa League final hat-trick vs Bayer Leverkusen.
    Lookman’s treble was the first in the final of a Uefa competition since 1975.
    But some Premier League fans won’t have believed their eyes – after witnessing his infamous Panenka miss for Fulham.
    Lookman was spotted playing Sunday league in Lambeth by Charlton just TEN YEARS ago, at the age of 16.
    Twelve months on, in 2015, he was already the Addicks’ best player, shining on the wing in the Championship.
    And before he knew it, Lookman was in the Premier League after a massive £11million move to Everton.
    Lookman, by now 20, made an instant impact, scoring on his debut in 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City.
    He even won the U20s World Cup with England, netting three goals in the tournament.
    But he struggled to earn regular football with the Toffees, before defying boss Sam Allardyce’s wishes by snubbing a loan to Derby to push through a move to RB Leipzig instead.
    Lookman impressed in the Bundesliga with five goals and earned a permanent move.
    But he again failed to settle and soon found himself back in the Prem on loan with Fulham
    His spell at Craven Cottage saw moments of brilliance overshadowed by costly mistakes.
    None more so than his ill-fated Panenka penalty against West Ham.
    Lookman’s scuffed chipped effort dropped tamely into motionless Lukasz Fabianski’s waiting hands, leading to widespread criticism and ridicule from fans and pundits alike.
    A loan at Leicester followed but it was a switch to Atalanta in Serie A which saw Lookman finally fulfil his potential.
    Now playing international football for Nigeria, he helped them reach the Afcon final earlier this year.
    But he didn’t have to wait long to add his first senior trophy as the undisputed man-of-the-match in Dublin against the previous unbeatable Leverkusen. More

  • in

    Forgotten Premier League star ‘sends Granit Xhaka to a retirement home’ with genius moment in Europa League final

    ADEMOLA LOOKMAN dented Bayer Leverkusen’s undefeated hopes and Granit Xhaka’s ego in one fell swoop in the Europa League final.The Atalanta star pulled off a superb bit of skill before dispatching a stunning goal to put his side 2-0 up just 26 minutes into the final.Ademola Lookman tore apart Granit Xhaka with a superb bit of skill in the Europa League finalCredit: AFPLookman charged at Xhaka with the ballCredit: TNT SPORTSHe shifted the ball straight through Xhaka’s legsCredit: TNT SPORTSThe skill opened up a pocket of space and Lookman took full advantage, putting his side 2-0 upCredit: TNT SPORTSFans have torn into Granit Xhaka onlineCredit: GettyLookman had already put the Italian’s 1-0 up after 11 minutes and added his brace to put his side well and truly in the driver’s seat.It was his second goal that caught the eye though with the former Leicester and Charlton attacker putting the ball through Granit Xhaka’s legs to set up the chance.Lookman shifted his weight perfectly to see the ball roll through the ex-Arsenal midfielder’s legs and tee up a long-distance effort.He then struck the ball with some serious venom to find the bottom corner and net past Matej Kovar.READ MORE IN FOOTBALLFans couldn’t believe the brilliance of the move and took to social media to berate Xhaka for his defensive efforts.One wrote: “Lookman’s sent Xhaka to a retirement home there.”While another added: “Lookman just sent Xhaka back to Arsenal.”A third joked: “Granit Xhaka has brought his inner Arsenal this game.”Most read in FootballBEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKERSLookman’s career so farA look at Ademola Lookman’s up -and-down career so far…
    2015 – 2017: Charlton AthleticApps: 49Goals: 12Assists: 3
    2017 – 2019: EvertonApps: 48Goals: 4Assists: 2
    2018 – 2022: RB Leipzig (including one-year loan in 2018)Apps: 24Goals: 5Assists: 4
    2020 – 2021: Fulham (loan)Apps: 35Goals: 4Assists: 4
    2021 – 2022: Leicester (loan)Apps: 42Goals: 8Assists: 5
    2022 – present: AtalantaApps: 75Goals: 30Assists: 16

    And a fourth chimed in, writing: “Xhaka is having the stinkiest stinkers ever.”Lookman went on to add a third goal to seal a European final hat-trick and a 3-0 victory for Atalanta – single-handedly winning his side the Europa League.Frimpong trolls Arsenal after Xhaka wins the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen Atalanta’s victory puts an end to Leverkusen’s dreams of completing an undefeated treble and etching their name into the history books.Xabi Alonso’s side already wrapped up the Bundesliga without losing a game this season – finishing 17 points ahead of second place Stuttgart and 18 points ahead of Bayern Munich in third.And Leverkusen could win the German cup this weekend when they face second division side FC Kaiserslautern in the final on Saturday.But that dream of an unbeaten treble is now over after they slipped on the biggest stage and failed to lift the first European trophy for the club in over 35 years.Lookman goes from Panenka laughing stock to European hat-trick heroBy Matt Heath-Smith
    ADEMOLA LOOKMAN is will go down in Atalanta, and European football, folklore after his stunning Europa League final hat-trick vs Bayer Leverkusen.
    Lookman’s treble was the first in the final of a Uefa competition since 1975.
    But some Premier League fans won’t have believed their eyes – after witnessing his infamous Panenka miss for Fulham.
    Lookman was playing Sunday league in Lambeth at the age of 16, when he was spotted by a Charlton scout.
    Just one year later, in 2015, he was already the Addicks’ best player, shining on the wing in the Championship.
    And before he knew it, Lookman was a Premier League player after a massive £11million move to Everton.
    Lookman, now 20, made an instant impact, scoring on his debut in 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City.
    He even won the U20s World Cup with England, netting three goals in the tournament.
    But he struggled to earn regular football with the Toffees, before defying boss Sam Allardyce’s wishes by snubbing a loan to Derby to push through a move to RB Leipzig instead.
    Lookman impressed in the Bundesliga with five goals and earned a permanent move.
    But he again failed to settle and soon found himself back in the Prem on loan with Fulham
    His spell at Craven Cottage saw moments of brilliance overshadowed by costly mistakes.
    None more so than his ill-fated Panenka penalty against West Ham.
    Lookman’s scuffed chipped effort dropped tamely into motionless Lukasz Fabianski’s waiting hands, leading to widespread criticism and ridicule from fans and pundits alike.
    A loan at Leicester followed but it was a switch to Atalanta in Serie A which saw Lookman finally fulfil his potential.
    Now playing international football for Nigeria, he helped them reach the Afcon final earlier this year.
    But he didn’t have to wait long to add his first senior trophy as the undisputed man-of-the-match in Dublin against the previous unbeatable Leverkusen.

    Lookman bagged a hat-trick as Atalanta won the Europa LeagueCredit: APLeverkusen saw their unbeaten treble hopes come to an endCredit: Reuters More

  • in

    Atalanta 3 Leverkusen 0: Charlton kid Lookman nets amazing hat-trick in Dublin to ruin Alonso’s dream of unbeaten Treble

    CHARLTON kid Ademola Lookman’s breathtaking hat-trick inflicted Bayer Leverkusen’s first defeat in FIFTY-TWO games to clinch the Europa League title.The script had been written that Xabi Alonso’s German side, who went the entire league campaign unbeaten to lift the Bundesliga, would make it a double with victory in Dublin.Ademola Lookman inspired Atalanta with a hat-trickCredit: GettyBayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run came to an endCredit: ReutersYet former Addicks, Everton, Fulham and Leicester man Lookman, 26, clearly did not read it as he left Alonso and his invincibles stunned at the Aviva Stadium.The former England Under-21 star broke the deadlock on 21 minutes, acting quickest to lash home Davide Zappacosta’s cross into the top corner.His second on 26 minutes was a thing of beauty, as he cut in from the left and curled into the far corner.Bizarrely, Alonso had begun the game without a recognised striker.But even when bringing on top-scorer Victor Boniface, it made no difference as Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta side continued their dominance.Leverkusen have come back in dramatic fashion in plenty of games this season to keep their unbeaten status intact.But any hopes of that happening here were dashed when Lookman, who now plays internationally for Nigeria, blasted into the top corner with his weaker left foot with 15 minutes to go.Lookman – known in the Premier League for his infamous botched Panenka for Fulham – became the first ever player to score a hat-trick in the Europa League final.BEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKERSLookman goes from Panenka laughing stock to European hat-trick hero
    ADEMOLA LOOKMAN will go down in Atalanta, and European football, folklore after his stunning Europa League final hat-trick vs Bayer Leverkusen.
    Lookman’s treble was the first in the final of a Uefa competition since 1975.
    But some Premier League fans won’t have believed their eyes – after witnessing his infamous Panenka miss for Fulham.
    Lookman was spotted playing Sunday league in Lambeth by Charlton just TEN YEARS ago, at the age of 16.
    Just one year later, in 2015, he was already the Addicks’ best player, shining on the wing in the Championship.
    And before he knew it, Lookman was a Premier League player after a massive £11million move to Everton.
    Lookman, now 20, made an instant impact, scoring on his debut in 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City.
    He even won the U20s World Cup with England, netting three goals in the tournament.
    But he struggled to earn regular football with the Toffees, before defying boss Sam Allardyce’s wishes by snubbing a loan to Derby to push through a move to RB Leipzig instead.
    Lookman impressed in the Bundesliga with five goals and earned a permanent move.
    But he again failed to settle and soon found himself back in the Prem on loan with Fulham
    His spell at Craven Cottage saw moments of brilliance overshadowed by costly mistakes.
    None more so than his ill-fated Panenka penalty against West Ham.
    Lookman’s scuffed chipped effort dropped tamely into motionless Lukasz Fabianski’s waiting hands, leading to widespread criticism and ridicule from fans and pundits alike.
    A loan at Leicester followed but it was a switch to Atalanta in Serie A which saw Lookman finally fulfil his potential.
    Now playing international football for Nigeria, he helped them reach the Afcon final earlier this year.
    But he didn’t have to wait long to add his first senior trophy as the undisputed man-of-the-match in Dublin against the previous unbeatable Leverkusen.

    And Atalanta won their second EVER trophy – some 61 years after their first, the Coppa Italia.To do so by beating a team who have gone the entire season unbeaten up until this point is even more impressive.Xabi Alonso announces he will stay at Bayer Leverkusen after showdown talks with clubBut it’s not all doom and gloom for Leverkusen who now have a chance to right their wrongs in the German Cup final this weekend.They face second division side FC Kaiserslautern in the final on Saturday – a game that would still crown them undefeated domestic double winners.Although it’s time to knuckle down and focus for Leverkusen, it’s time to celebrate for Atalanta.And star of the show Lookman made it clear his intentions are to celebrate the superb win after labelling it as one of the best nights of his life.Speaking after the game, he said: “One of the best nights of my life. Amazing performance by the team and we did it. Not got many words to say!”He added: “We’ve got to celebrate, we made history tonight.”Lookman, who just 10 years ago was discovered playing Sunday League by Charlton Athletic, has now etched his name in European history.And The Addicks were keen to point out their part in his rise with a post on social media.It read: “The first ever player to score a hat-trick in a Europa League final! 🤩 Made in Charlton ❤️”.Lookman was the star of the show as Atalanta won the Europa LeagueCredit: AFPThe star celebrated with his family after the winCredit: GettyREAD HOW IT HAPPENED… More