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    Before Arsenal play Bodo Glimt on a plastic pitch, teams likes QPR and Luton used artificial turf to their advantage

    THERE’S nothing like a plastic pitch as a leveller.Tonight, Mikel Arteta takes his in-form Arsenal team, who sit top of the Premier League, to play against Bodo Glimt – who play at the 8,270 seater Aspmyra Stadion.
    Bodo Glimt play on an artifical pitch as the club battles the elements of the Norwegian weather
    Mikel Arteta said Arsenal are ready for the artificial surface
    But what will make their task much harder – and what undid Roma last season who were humbled their 6-1 – is the turf they play on.
    Arsenal’s superstars, used to playing on the pristine carpets of our top division, will have to deal with an artificial pitch as they continue their Europa League campaign.
    Speaking in his press conference on Wednesday, Arteta revealed his players will have to adapt to their relatively unknown surroundings.
    He said: “Obviously, everybody is aware that there are a lot of things that are different. The speed is different, the way you can use the grass is different and we will have to adapt to it. We know that, we are here to win the game and tomorrow night for sure we are going to play on an artificial pitch.”
    Of course, this isn’t the first time a professional side has used an artificial pitch for a professional match.
    Here’s some SunSport have seen over the years  that would’ve had our knees jerking at the thought of having a run-out on them.
    In 1981, Queens Park Rangers became the first club in the country to replace grass for something called Omni-Turf.
    The West London pioneers were always looking for a solution to improving the Loftus Road surface, which suffered after treacherous winters and arid summers of the 1970s.
    QPR were the first side to embrace synthetic turf in 1981Credit: Hulton Archive – Getty
    Under Terry Venables Loftus Road became a fortress and QPR reached the FA Cup final in 1982Credit: PA:Press Association
    With Omni-Turf they got a green carpet, rolled on to a thick layer of concrete with sand acting as a cushion.
    Their first game on it was ironically against Luton Town, who joined the artificial pitch brigade soon after, and they lost 2-1.
    However, Terry Venables’ team managed to master their new pitch, and in 1982 Second Division QPR managed to reach an FA Cup Final after playing every round at home before a Highbury showdown in a semi-final with West Brom.
    Because of that run, many felt that Omni-Turf gave QPR an unfair advantage. Rangers became the first team to remove it in 1988.
    Luton Town clearly took notes from QPR’s experiment.
    In the summer of the 1984-85 season they installed a multi-layered £350,000 surface called Sporturf International that had base levels of broken stones and bitumen macadam (a mixture of aggregate, filler and bitumen), underneath an artificial surface finished with sand.
    Although it was said to be kinder on the joints, the carpet burn for many was unpleasant and the bounce of the ball made fans critical of the football they watched, even though it forced sides to keep it on the deck.
    The first game played at Kenilworth Road on the new surface ended in a 1-1 draw between the hosts and Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.
    It was an extremely difficult place for any of the high-flyers to get a result at, with many top sides dreading their visits to Luton. And that wasn’t helped by the thought of coming up against the might of Mick Harford too.
    Inspired by QPR, Luton Town soon installed a plastic pitch in time for the 1984-85 seasonCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    Boundary Park became a fortress for Joe Royle’s Oldham Athletic AFTER a plastic pitch was installed in 1986.
    They embarked on a 32-game unbeaten run at home, and in 1989 enjoyed arguably their best ever campaign reaching the League Cup final and the semi-final of the FA Cup, beating Arsenal, Southampton, Everton and Aston Villa along the way.
    That same year, cash-strapped Preston North End, who were nearly on the verge of extinction from the Football League after a disastrous campaign in Division Four, decided to install a plastic pitch, too.
    The idea was to help swell the club’s coffers by renting it out to local teams to play on, to reduce the number of postponed matches, and to use the Deepdale pitch as a training ground.
    A season later, Preston were promoted to Division Three.
    Incidentally, they were the last Football League club to play on a plastic pitch until it was ripped up in 1994.
    Joe Royle’s Oldham went from second division to First, reaching an FA Cup semi-final and League Cup Final thanks to a synthetic pitchCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
    Oldham’s Gunnar Halle shows off his moulded boots on the plastic pitchCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    Preston North End installed a plastic pitch at Deepdale as a money-spinner so they could rent it out to local teamsCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    In 2007, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Co walked out onto synthetic turf in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
    It was one of the first full international games to be played on such a surface that was approved by Fifa and Uefa, and the visitors slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat.
    Despite allowing England to toil on turf, Uefa insisted that the 2008 Champions League final in the same arena takes place on grass.
    The Three Lions would again play on artificial turf at the LFF Stadium against Lithuania in 2016.
    That game was notable for the Lithuanian fire brigade being called before kick off to water the pitch.
    In 2007 England played a Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on this plastic pitchCredit: AP:Associated Press
    Steven Gerrard and Co struggled on synthetic turf for EnglandCredit: Action Images
    The Three Lions slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Russia on a plastic pitchCredit: Getty
    Today, National League sides Sutton United and Maidstone United play on plastic pitches, but one of the last big teams in world football to embrace artificial turf was Mexican giants Chivas.
    In 2010 they opened their stunning Estadio Omnilife stadium in Guadalajara, which embraced the idea that plastic is fantastic.
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    Chivas owner Jorge Vergara said he wanted the stadium to be “environment friendly and as such, having grass would result [in] using too much water.”
    But when Johan Cruyff became an adviser at the club, he recommended they ditch the artificial pitch.
    In 2012, Chivas listened to the Dutch legend and the turf was replaced by grass.
    Arsenal, you have been warned.
    In 2017 Arsenal played Sutton United on their synthetic turf in the FA CupCredit: AFP and licensors
    Mexican club Chivas played on a plastic pitch until Johan Cruyff came on board as an adviser and told them to ditch it for grassCredit: AFP More

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    Chelsea talent Charlie Webster, 18, has been called the ‘next Jadon Sancho’ and wowed Kevin De Bruyne in KDB Cup

    GENERATIONAL talents are becoming the norm at Stamford Bridge.In the past few years, thanks to Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel and now Graham Potter, Chelsea’s youth talents are thriving in the first team.
    Chelsea wonderkid Charlie Webster is next off the conveyor belt at Stamford BridgeCredit: Getty
    Webster might get his opportunity in the Chelsea first team under Grahan PotterCredit: Getty
    Mason Mount wowed all and is the back-to-back Chelsea player of the season, while Reece James seems to be winning the bumper race to be Gareth Southgate’s first-choice right-back.
    And now, there’s another name you can add to the list of youngsters hoping to get their chance under Potter.
    England’s Charlie Webster, 18, is a rising star and has already been tracked by Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
    He’s been called the ‘next Jadon Sancho’, and with the Bundesliga giants losing the Three Lions winger last summer they might just make a beeline for Charlie.
    At just 15, Webster had Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne wowed by his ability.
    The setting was the prestigious KDB Cup – an international U15 tournament named after the Belgium ace – with the midfielder as the guest of honour.
    Players from clubs including Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and PSG were on show – all desperate to impress.
    It was Chelsea that ended up being victorious – beating Racing Genk on penalties after an exciting 2-2 draw.
    Star of the show was Webster, and his performances didn’t go unnoticed.
    Blues starlet Webster has been called the ‘next Jadon Sancho’
    Webster starred at the KDB Cup in 2019

    He was awarded player of the tournament – winning a golden ball, as well as a signed De Bruyne shirt.
    One feels it could be the first of many awards headed Webster’s way in the future.
    In similar vein to Billy Gilmour, who joined Brighton in the summer, Webster is a cultured midfielder – good on the ball and smart in possession.
    However, unlike the Scot who prefers to dictate play from deep – Webster likes to get in the box and score goals.
    He started playing football at the Pezzaz Street Soccer academy, which have bases in Wiltshire and Hampshire, before joining Chelsea in 2016 at the age of 12.
    Coaches there believe he has a bright future in the game, and in the past Webster has spoken about his football dream.
    “Obviously, it’s to play for this brilliant club,” he told a reporter at the KDB Cup after starring for the Blues.
    Webster is a cultured midfielder, good on the ball and in possession
    In the past Webster has said it was his dream to play for “brilliant” ChelseaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Webster’s qualities have seen him earmarked as a leader.
    In 2019, he captained England’s U16 team in a match against Republic of Ireland – scoring his first international goal.
    He’s also played for the Three Lions’ U17s – coming off the bench in a 4-1 rout over the USA in 2020.
    And that was the same month Webster made his U18 Premier League debut for Chelsea against Southampton, followed by his U23 debut last April.
    Then in January 2021, Charlie signed his first professional contract with the club on his 17th birthday. Given his progress, you can imagine it’ll be the first of many.
    Webster has captained England at U16 levelCredit: Getty More

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    Football’s most intelligent, as Petr Cech graduates with a Masters in Business Administration, including Mata and Lukaku

    THEY’RE football’s smartest men.For years footballers have had their intelligence questioned, but that’s just not the case with this lot.
    Petr Cech graduated with a Masters in Business AdministrationCredit: Instagram
    Fikayo Tomori revealed he was studying for a business management degree on England duty in 2019Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Sure, many players neglect their studies to concentrate on making it in the professional game, and that’s fine.
    But some like to use their brains further in getting degrees that could help them in life after football.
    Ex-Chelsea and Arsenal keeper Petr Cech is the latest brain box – graduating with a Masters in Business Administration.
    While AC Milan star Fikayo Tomori  talked about studying for a business management diploma, while on England duty back in 2019.
    “Football won’t go on for ever,” he wisely said in a press conference.
    “When I retire or, God forbid, I get an injury, then I have something I’m working towards that can stand me in good stead for the future.”
    And he’s not the only one who has thought about a life after football.
    Join SunSport in introducing the beautiful game’s most intelligent stars.
    Juan Mata could’ve been a journalist instead of a footballerCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Not only is he an all-round nice guy doing tons for charity, he’s also super smart.
    The former Man Utd man studied journalism at Universidad Politecnica e Madrid.
    And during his time at Old Trafford, dancing down the wing, he’s completed a sports science and finance degree too.
    Not many in the game can lay claim to two degrees.
    Former Man Utd ace Juan Mata also studied sport science and financeCredit: Reuters
    Most Read In Football
    If it wasn’t football, it would’ve been fashion for Arshavin.
    The mercurial Russian playmaker graduated from the St Petersburg State University of Technology and Design.
    He studied clothing technology, and has put that talent to use by launching his own clothing range in Russia.
    Andrey Arshavin studied clothing technology and has his own fashion label in RussiaCredit: Instagram @arshavin_official
    Former Arsenal favourite Andrey Arshavin graduated from St Petersburg State University of Technology and DesignCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
    He’s not just a talented keeper, you know.
    The Belgium shot-stopper has a coffee shop in his native country, so he’ll always have that to fall back on when his career ends.
    But should he want to, Mignolet could lean on his degree in law and political sciences for a career change.
    Simon Mignolet has a degree in law and political sciencesCredit: AFP or licensors
    Super Frank excelled at Derby, and did a credible job as Chelsea boss before the axe.
    But that should be child’s play for the Blues’ all-time leading goalscorer.
    After all, the Everton gaffer reportedly scored over 150 in an IQ test with Mensa.
    That result meant that Lamps is among the most intelligent 0.1 percent of the world’s population.
    Frank Lampard reportedly scored over 150 in an IQ test with MensaCredit: EPA
    Chelsea legend Frank Lampard  is among the most intelligent 0.1 percent of the world’s populationCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The tough-tackling Italian centre half isn’t as much of a brute as you’d think.
    Chiellini was a whizz at high-school, passing all his exams with ease.
    He later went to the prestigious University of Turin where he graduated with a business economics degree, just like Tomori is studying for.
    Must be something about uncompromising defenders.
    Giorgio Chiellini graduated with a business economics degree from University of TurinCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The former Stoke City right-back has commanded high-numbered transfer fees during his time, so it’s lucky he’s not numerically challenged.
    In fact, Johnson is so good with digits he enrolled at The Open University to do a degree in Maths.
    He can start negotiating his own contracts, surely?
    Glenn Johnson enrolled at The Open University to do a degree in MathsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Dubbed Britain’s most intelligent footballer, Clarke has the right CV to back that up.
    He was a contestant on Countdown, and was also the first player to appear on Question Time.
    Clarke has a degree in sports writing and broadcasting from Staffordshire University.
    Clarke Carlisle once appeared on TV show CountdownCredit: PA:Press Association
    Dubbed the most intelligent footballer, Clarke Carlisle became the first player to appear on Question TimeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The on-loan Inter striker isn’t just your average footballer.
    The skilled forward is also a natural linguist, speaking as many as five languages including English, Spanish, Dutch, French and Portuguese.
    Lukaku is also said to understand German and Swahili, as well as hold a degree in tourism and public relations.
    Romelu Lukaku speaks five languages, including English, Spanish, Dutch, French and PortugueseCredit: Reuters
    Belgium star Romelu Lukaku has a degree in tourism and public relationsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Another ex-Man United man with a great brain – no wonder they’re so successful.
    When the Red Devils Dutch keeper retired he studied for a masters degree in sports and brand management at the Johan Cruyff Institute.
    After becoming a marketing director at the Dutch giants, he’s now their CEO and has been linked with a move to Manchester United to become their director.
    Edwin Van der Saar finished a masters degree in sports and brand managementCredit: Kenny Ramsay – The Sun Glasgow
    Edwin Van der Saar is now a CEO at AjaxCredit: Bradley Ormesher – The Times
    Recognised for his headband and beard on the football pitch, the late Socrates was one of Brazil’s favourite sons.
    He held a bachelors degree in medicine from the Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto while he was still playing.
    Socrates also wrote columns for Brazilian newspapers on everything from sport to politics to economics.
    Socrates was a star of the Brazil sides of the 1982 and 1986 World CupsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Not only did Socrates finish medicine, he also wrote several newspaper columns about economics and politicsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The Middlesbrough footballer became only the second player in the Premier League ever to graduate with a first.
    Most read in football
    Midfielder Duncan studied economics and business management, which he finished at Newcastle University.
    He juggled breaking into the first team with catching up with lectures in the evening while poring over textbooks.
    Duncan Watmore graduated from Newcastle University with a first class honours degree in 2015Credit: Getty – Contributor
    Duncan Watmore is one of two Premier League players to graduate with a firstCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    Oliver Bierhoff has a degree in economicsCredit: Bongarts – Getty
    The former German centre forward, who famously scored the first golden goal of football at Wembley, is a smart man.
    Not only is he revered by his home nation for scoring 37 international goals, he’s championed for having a economics degree.
    Economics is a degree that runs in football, with former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also having a diploma in economics.
    It just goes to show, footballers are much smarter than you think.
    The greatest goals of Socrates More

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    Juventus legend Del Piero’s amazing LA life rubbing shoulders with Johnny Depp and living in a Bel Air mansion

    WHAT a life!Alessandro Del Piero, now 47, holds legendary status in Italy as a member of the Azzuri’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad.
    Alessandro Del Piero now lives in Los Angeles since retiring from the game
    He also won multiple titles with Juventus, including six Serie A championships and the Champions League in 1996.
    But, after all that hard work, Del Piero is now happily living a life of luxury in Los Angeles.
    ‘Pinturicchio’, as he was affectionately nicknamed by former Juve owner Gianni Agnelli, today rubs shoulders with A-list Hollywood stars.
    In 2018, he splashed £4.7m on a luxurious home in Bel Air and lives near Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez and Rod Stewart.
    He also opened a trendy Italian restaurant in West Hollywood called No.10, where he can often be found propping up the bar.
    And in 2019, United Premier Soccer League team LA10 FC proudly revealed that Del Piero has been their secret investor.
    If that’s not enough, he has three football academies in the States – two in LA, one in New York.
    Del Piero clearly loves hanging with the elite, and LA is just the place to do that.
    ‘Alex’ is in his element when he’s posing with new pals like Julia Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Depp and Dita Von Teese.
    In Hollywood, Del Piero is making friends in high places like Johnny Depp
    Julia Roberts has also posed for a snap with starstruck Del PieroCredit:
    Burlesque beauty Dita Von Teese visited Del Piero’s restaurant No.10Credit:

    Del Piero lives in a modern 5,300-square-foot mansion that sits on a hill and has views of the ocean, rolling hills and the Getty Museum.
    It’s got five bedrooms, six bathrooms and when you enter the property you walk into a hall that has a 20-foot high ceiling.
    There’s a dining room with a chandelier hanging from the top, a family room, a cinema room and private balcony joined to the master suite.
    Outside, you have a luscious garden, as well as a pool and a spa.
    The condo was on the market for four months before Del Piero managed to snap it up for £4.7m, £150k cheaper than its listed price.
    While it wasn’t a bargain, it’s certainly a plush house in keeping with Del Piero’s new found friends.
    He also often posts snaps of his wife Sonia and their children Dorotea, Tobias, and Sasha on Instagram enjoying relaxing by the pool.
    If you lived there, wouldn’t you?
    Del Piero’s Bel Air mansion is fit for a kingCredit:
    Del Piero splashed £4.7m on the five bedroom, six bathroom homeCredit:
    The stunning house has a pool and a jacuzziCredit:
    The master suite has its own balconyCredit:
    With food prepped by chef Fabio Ugoletti, former executive chef at Michelin star restaurant Al Gallopapa, Del Piero’s No. 10 restaurant on Third Street in West Hollywood provides brilliant Italian grub.
    On the menu, there’s the ‘Pizza N10’ special that has stracciatella cheese and fresh shaved white truffle, which will set you back a whopping £75.
    The pasta and risotto dishes, including a ravioli with butternut squash, sausage and porcini and a gnocchi with mussels, clams, shrimp, broccoli and chilli flakes will make your mouth water.
    The pasta dishes are priced competitively at around £15-£18.
    While the veal Milanese (£38) and a bone-in rib eye (£54) will satisfy meat-eaters, even if they have a heftier price tag.
    Alternatively, you could pop in during happy hour and score yourself some appetisers for half price.
    You may even see Del Piero sat at the bar, he has been known to greet customers as they walk through the doors of No. 10.
    And in the past year he’s been visited by his footballing mates, including former teammate Edgar Davids and Ajax legend Patrick Kluivert.
    No.10 has become a West Hollywood staple since its opening last yearCredit:
    Former Juventus teammate Edgar Davids has dropped in to see Del PieroCredit:
    While Patrick Kluivert also enjoyed a meal at No.10Credit:
    LA10 FC
    Three years ago, Del Piero was revealed as the secret co-owner of United Premier Soccer League team, LA10 FC.
    The team, who play in black and white, were actually taken over by Juve icon and businessman Jeffrey Whalen in a private takeover.
    “To me football is linked to pure passion. After all, this is what I’ve always wanted, to own a small football team. To feel the passion,” Del Piero confirmed on his website at the time.
    “At the end of last summer I decided to become an owner of a small football team based in Los Angeles, in partnership with EDGE Americas Sports, of which I am a co-founder, and my business partner, Jeffrey Whalen.
    “This adventure won me over immediately and today I’m officially revealing this exciting news for the first time. The team is called LA10 FC, our colours are black & white.”
    And Del Piero’s glittering career and success has robbed off on his team with LA10 FC finishing first in their league, earning promotion to a division just below the American second division.
    “After a period of anonymity, I decided to share this beautiful experience and give credit to the entire team for the amazing results they’ve achieved,” Del Piero added.
    “A big thank you goes to the technical staff, the management and all the players.
    In 2018, Del Piero was named as the secret co-owner of LA10 FCCredit: Getty – Contributor

    “Now we are returning to the pitch for the spring season.
    “Conquering the first success as an owner has had a special, different, new and fun feel.
    “I like it because it brings me back to when everything was just a game.”
    Ensuring he maintains his football status, Del Piero’s expertise on the football field lives on through ADP10 Soccer Academies.
    The all-time leading appearance maker and goalscorer for the Turin giants has two schools in LA and one in New York.
    For boys and girls aged between six and 16, ADP10 offers European style football training and a program designed by Del Piero himself, and carried out by Italian coaches he’s selected to work in the US with him.
    A three-day clinic costs around £320 per child, while there’s a three-month development program for around £380.
    And yes, Del Piero likes to get out on the field too to pass on his tips to the youngsters when he’s not busy.
    Since hanging up his boots in 2014, Del Piero has extended his business interests beyond footballCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Now a restaurateur, football club owner and soccer academy boss, Del Piero is living a charmed existenceCredit: More

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    Tottenham wonderkids who flopped and couldn’t reach the heights expected, including Ceballos, Bostock, Lancaster & more

    TOTTENHAM youngster Ryan Sessegnon was tipped to be the ‘next Gareth Bale’ in the past and has broken back into the first-teamHe quickly failed to live up to the hype in England following his move from Fulham and tried to kickstart his career at Hoffenheim last season.
    Ryan Sessegnon failed to live up to the hype at SpursCredit: Getty – Contributor
    But Sessegnon is back in Antonio Conte’s plans now and is making waves this campaign as Spurs aim to challenge for the title/
    Other wonderkids have struggled to make the grade, however.
    Here’s six Spurs youngsters who failed to set North London alight.JOHN BOSTOCK
    Bostock was tipped for greatness after becoming Crystal Palace’s youngest ever player when he made his debut aged 15 in 2007.
    A year later, Spurs fended off interest from Barcelona and Arsenal to sign the box-to-box midfielder, who seemingly had the world at his feet for £700,000.
    The move infuriated then-Palace chairman Simon Jordan, who revoked Bostock and his step-father’s season tickets.
    But, as fate would have it, Jordan need not have worried. Bostock’s development stunted after unsuccessful loans at Brentford, Hull, Sheffield Wednesday, Swindon, and then Toronto FC.
    A move to second division side Royal Antwerp reignited his passion for the game in 2013, and he then bounced to OH Leuven, Lens, Bursaspor and Toulouse.
    In 2019 Bostock returned to our shores, still only 30, on loan at Nottingham Forest. Last season, he was at Doncaster Rovers – but turned down a new contract in the summer and left.
    John Bostock infuriated Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan when he moved to Spurs in a £700k dealCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Now 30, Bostock was last seen playing for Doncaster RoversCredit: Getty – Contributor
    In 2012 Lancaster was reckoned to be Spurs’ best youth player in a team that also had Harry Kane in.
    The centre-forward even got a debut before the England hotshot against Wigan that same year.
    However, it all turned sour for Lancaster after a series of injuries hampered his progress, including snapping his groin to the bone and tearing his ACL.
    In 2014, he was released by Spurs and signed by Stevenage. Then a move to St Albans City followed, where he continued to struggle.
    A year later, he was enjoying his football in America playing for Louisville City in the USL Championship.
    After rediscovering his scoring boots, finding the net 36 times in 79 games for them, he was signed by Nashville Soccer Club in 2019, who make their MLS debut in 2020.
    After a loan spell at Louisville City, Lancaster joined the club permanently at the end of last season, ready for the 2021 campaign.
    Cameron Lancaster was rated as a better prospect than Harry KaneCredit: Corbis – Getty
    Lancaster now plays his football in America after two serious injuriesCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Arsenal aren’t the first club in North London to have a Ceballos on their books, you know.
    Back in 2011 Tottenham took a punt on a Christian Ceballos, also an attacking midfielder, who was formerly at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.
    By the age of 15, Ceballos had become a YouTube sensation after a video of him ball-juggling with Ronaldinho went viral.
    But he was released by Barcelona, and after an unsuccessful trial with Chelsea was snapped up by Spurs.
    Ceballos failed to make a first-team appearance for the Premier League giants and was sold to Charlton where he flopped.
    After a three-year spell at Belgium team Sint-Truidense V.V., Ceballos moved to Qatari side Al-Wakrah in 2019. He is now at Azerbaijani club Sabah.
    Spanish midfield maestro Christian Ceballos came from BarcelonaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Ceballos flopped at Spurs and now plays for Azerbaijani club SabahCredit: Getty – Contributor
    In 2006, when Martin Jol was Tottenham boss, he added Dervite to his squad.
    Signed from Lille, the 6ft 4in defender was a France under-18 international and tipped to become one of the leading centre-halves of his generation.
    Sadly for Dervite, he only made one appearance – in a League Cup tie against Port Vale alongside Michael Dawson in the heart of Tottenham’s defence – before injury curtailed his career.
    Surgery on his knee kept him out of the game for several months, but a loan spell at Southend United gave him renewed hope when he was voted second in a player of the season poll by their fans.
    But top-level football alluded him, and spells at Villarreal B, Charlton, Bolton and Charleroi followed.
    He moved to Cypriot minnows Doxa Katokopias and then to Belgian side Renaissance Mons 44, who were reformed this summer after being declared bankrupt in 2015.
    Dorian Dervite was rated as one of the best young defenders of his generationCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Dervite played for NAC Breda in the Dutch second division before spells in Cyprus and BelgiumCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Between 2004-08, Tottenham had high hopes for Republic of Ireland forward Dixon.
    That’s why they stood by the youngster after he suffered three crippling knee injuries before the age of 18.
    But it wasn’t to be, and he was picked up by West Ham after Spurs released him.
    A year later his contract was terminated by the Hammers when he failed to break into their first team.
    Since 2011 Dixon has stopped at Stevenage, Ware, Tooting and Mitcham United, Bradford City, Halifax Town, Dover Athletic, Dunstable Town, and Berkhamsted without leaving his mark.
    He’s been at Aylesbury United since 2014, before moving to Tring – although it is unknown if he still plays today.
    Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Three serious knee injuries before the age of 18 saw Terry Dixon fail to live up to his hype
    In 2002, Belgium midfield schemer rejected Man Utd’s advances after Sir Alex Ferguson earmarked him as one for the future.
    A few months later, in came Spurs who swooped for the-then Belgium under-19 star who was one of the most coveted young footballers on the planet.
    A good passer of the ball with excellent vision, Blondel suffered with the physical rigours of the British football.
    At only 5ft 8in and of slight build, he was often bullied out of reserve games and was deemed surplus to requirements within two years, playing just twice.
    However, Blondel did kickstart his career back in Belgium with Club Brugge, and ended up making 266 games for the club. He retired at 31 in 2015, but didn’t quite achieve what was expected of him in the game.
    Jonathan Blondel snubbed Man Utd to go to Spurs insteadCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Blondel ended up playing 266 times for Club Brugge before retiring at the age of 31Credit: Getty Images – Getty More

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    Ex-Tottenham star Ilie Dumitrescu now runs an art gallery in Bucharest, after starring for Romania at World Cup

    WORLD CUP hero Ilie Dumitrescu created works of art on the pitch — but now runs a lucrative business flogging them instead.The Romania legend and former Tottenham star — bought for £2.6million by then boss Ossie Ardiles — is a prominent art dealer in his homeland.
    Ilie Dumitrescu now makes a living selling exclusive pieces of art from his own galleryCredit: Instagram
    He arrived at White Hart Lane in 1994 saying he wanted to ‘add a nice patch of colour’ to the Premier League.
    Now, though, he looks for it in paintings hung and sold in his own gallery.
    Dumitrescu’s Hanul cu Tei gallery in capital Bucharest’s Old Town is home to a burgeoning portfolio, which also includes the Tea Inn restaurant and bar, a part of the Embassy chain he owns.
    A businessman even reportedly offered him close to £2m to sell his incredible art collection, only for the ex-West Ham man to refuse on the spot.
    He loves the gallery so much he even calls it his ‘second home’.
    The dapper-dressing 53-year-old frequently uploads selfies relaxing on its outside tables and chairs, sipping an espresso.
    But does the man who helped fire his country to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup show off any of his own work?
    Not if he can help it.
    The former Spurs attacking midfielder clearly has a taste for the finer things in lifeCredit: Instagram
    Ilie Dumitrescu also splits his time with analyst duties on Digi Sport TV channelCredit: Instagram, @ilie_dumitrescu
    Ilie Dumitrescu stands beside one of his favourite pieces of artwork, titled ‘The Beggar’Credit:
    The attacker arrived at Spurs after his impressive showing in the World CupCredit: Getty
    Ilie Dumitrescu became a national hero when he fired Romania to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World CupCredit: Getty Images
    Ilie Dumitrescu’s way of life now is a long way from how he made his wealth on the pitchCredit: Instagram
    Ilie Dumitrescu scored in the penalty shootout but couldn’t stop Romania going out of the 1994 World Cup at the hands of SwedenCredit: Getty
    The frontman, four from right, was also part of the famous Romania team who dyed their hair blond in the 1998 World CupCredit: EPA
    Ilie Dumitrescu was offered close to £2million for his collection of various artworksCredit:
    The former footballer shows off his flashy lifestyle on InstagramCredit: Instagram, @ilie_dumitrescu
    He said: “While I was playing in Mexico, I had a lot of painting. I took my easel, brush, paints.
    “But you had to have imagination and a certain state, and I, being more temperamental, realised I did not have a painting job.”
    Not that that stops the walls being adorned with religious artworks, Monet-style oil paintings of flowers and life-size drawings of nude models.
    And he encouraged the Art Walk Street project, which saw work exhibited on streets, some held up by models, and the use of workshops for wannabe artists.
    Dumitrescu himself started collecting works in 2004, the same year he took charge of AEK Athens.
    Ilie’s son Dan looks after the catering side of things at their Hanul cu Tei hotspot, with his old man even teaming up with Heineken to create a beer for the grand opening in 2012.
    Football is not gone from his life completely, though.
    Ilie Dumitrescu’s nomadic career
    The Romania legend was involved in a massive number of clubs throughout his career.

    As player…

    1986 – 1994 Steaua Bucuresti
    1987 – 1998 Olt Scornicesti (loan)
    1994 – 95 Spurs
    1995 Sevilla (loan)
    1996 West Ham
    1996 – 97 America
    1997 – 98 Atlante
    1998 Steaua Bucuresti

    As manager…

    2000 – 01 Otelul Galati
    2001 Brasov
    2001 – 02 Alki Larnaca
    2002 Romania Under-21s
    2002 – 03 Bacau
    2003 – 04 Apollon Limassol
    2004 AEK Athens
    2005 Egaleo
    2005 Akratitos
    2005 – 06 Kallithea
    2006 PAOK Thessaloniki
    2009 Panthrakikos
    2010 Steaua Bucuresti

    Ilie Dumitrescu walks down the staircase in his art galleryCredit: Instagram

    Ilie Dumitrescu is a popular pundit in RomaniaCredit: Instagram, @ilie_dumitrescu
    Ilie Dumitrescu has a thriving business portfolio to look after now… but still finds time for a glass of wineCredit: Instagram, @ilie_dumitrescu
    Dumitrescu, who managed a staggering 13 clubs in ten years after scoring 20 goals in 62 appearances for the national side, stars as a TV pundit.
    He features on Digi Sport’s Sport Special show as an analyst and looks a natural in front of the camera.
    His is a lifestyle that has clearly paid off well.
    Dumitrescu’s social media is full of images showing him enjoying the high life, toasting massive plates of food with friends and enjoying fine wine.
    The punters love what he has created too.
    Visitors frequently tag his thriving gallery – which can accommodate 250 people – in their Instagram photos. More

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    Meet Neymar’s entourage who earn $11k-per-month, go to exclusive celeb parties and mingle with stars

    WHO needs a real job?PSG star Neymar transcends the world of football, enjoying the glitzy showbiz lifestyle of a true celebrity.
    Being in Neymar’s entourage means you live a life of luxuryCredit: Instagram
    From attending elite fashion parties to taking fancy holidays, the Brazilian superstar knows how to live.
    And if you’re lucky, you will be part of Neymar’s inner circle, called the ‘parcas’ in his homeland, who indulge in the high-life with him.
    Parcas is a slang term in Portuguese meaning ‘partners’, and just like Vinny Chase in US TV show Entourage, the footballer has a group of pals he trusts more than anyone else.
    Enter the world of one of the most famous sports stars on the planet…
    There’s a popular joke in Brazil that if you’re Neymar’s friend, you won’t feel the current economic and unemployment crisis that’s sweeping the country.
    And these three live-in mates are reportedly all on the payroll, earning around $11k-per-month from the former Barcelona star.
    Gil Cebola, Jota Amancio and Carlos Henrique are key members of his entourage, each providing a different role within ‘Team Neymar’.
    Gil Cebola is Neymar’s personal photographerCredit: Instagram
    Carlos Henrique is the business brains of Neymar’s entourageCredit: Instagram
    They all live with him in the posh Paris suburb Bougival, in a mansion worth millions.
    Cebola worked briefly as his agent, before assuming his role as chief photographer, managing Neymar’s live broadcasts and videos on social media.
    Off the back of that, Cebola has launched a clothing brand, a tattoo shop and an events production company.
    He now has over 670,000 followers on Instagram, and was selected by Google to photograph an ad campaign in Brazil in recent years. It pays to know Neymar.
    Amancio, who calls himself Neymar’s personal adviser, is perhaps closest to the forward.
    Footballers like Neymar are stars on a completely different level. It’s insane. It’s like a huge cultNBA superstar Draymond Green
    The pair played together in the youth ranks at Santos, and he is akin to a “brother” to the footballer.
    “We met when we were only 13 years old and since then we have grown up together,” Amancio told Marca.
    “We lived in the same house for seven years, we studied together, and until 2010 we played in the same team,”
    While Henrique appears to be the brains of the trio, looking after his pal’s commercial and business interests off the pitch.
    Jota Amancio has known Neymar since they were 13 playing in Santos’ youth teamCredit: Instagram
    Neymar and his entourage live in a stunning mansion in the Bougival suburb of ParisCredit: EPA
    The three were seen partying with Neymar in Las Vegas, alongside Serena Williams, a host of stunning models and UFC Octagon Girls Jhenny Andrade and Camila Oliveira, while Brazil were playing in the Copa America in 2016.
    For Neymar’s 26th birthday his friends also helped him organise a party at the exclusive Pavillion Cambon in Paris, where guests included Lewis Hamilton, Brazilian Ronaldo, and Victoria’s Secret beauty Izabel Goulart.
    With a net worth of around $121m, Neymar isn’t afraid to show his entourage a good time.
    After all, he believes the parcas are the reason he is where he is today.
    Before his record-breaking transfer to PSG, he flew them to the party island of Ibiza where the gang partied on yachts, in super clubs and rented a huge mansion.
    most read in footbll
    It made NBA superstar Draymond Green take note.
    “We see stars in America and it’s amazing,” he said on ESPN.
    “But [footballers like Neymar] are stars on a completely different level over there. It’s insane. It’s like a huge cult.”
    And after his move to Paris, they all went straight to St Tropez, partying at a beach club.
    Club revellers saw 12 bottles of champagne delivered to his table, while a funk version of the Brazilian national anthem played as a backdrop.
    Neymar isn’t afraid of sharing his $121m fortune with his friendsCredit: Instagram
    Exclusive fashion parties thrown by Balmain are attended by Neymar and palsCredit: Instagram
    When Neymar sealed his move to PSG, he celebrated partying with his pals in St TropezCredit: Splash News
    However, there are those that believe having such an entourage is detriment to Neymar’s career.
    Former Santos marketing director Eduardo Musa worked exclusively as Neymar’s personal adviser for six years.
    One of his many jobs involved looking after an unlimited credit card that paid for the expenses of Neymar’s friends.
    He quit working for the Brazil star after he grew tired of working for such a big name in the game.
    “I can’t complain about anything; it was an amazing experience—my goal as a professional,” Musa told Bleacher Report.
    “But inevitably, when you work with such a huge guy [as Neymar], you have no personal life. I don’t want to pay this price again.”
    Musa encouraged the entourage to become a support system for their pal, but Neymar’s father wasn’t fond of that idea.
    “I have no doubt they’re very important for Neymar, but I tried to turn them into a professional support for Neymar’s career as well.
    “One of them would become a photographer, the other would work as a manager.
    “But his father didn’t accept it [at that time].”
    Former Santos marketing director Eduardo Musa worked as Neymar’s personal advisor for six years
    Musa stopped working with Neymar after falling out with his dadCredit: AFP or licensors
    Being Neymar isn’t easy.
    The expectation on the shoulders of one of the world’s best footballers for club and country could make a mere mortal crumble.
    Gustavo Almeida, another close friend, explained what the entourage provides.
    latest football features
    “He lives in a pressure-cooker and we are an escape [from it],” he told Brazilian outlet UOL Esporte.
    “We don’t talk about football. We’re a way for him to let go of the stress of his life. We’re together to chat, travel.”
    Every Brazilian kid dreams of becoming the next Ronaldo, Zico or Pele… but now just being friends with the new wonderkid on the scene seems to be just as lucrative.
    The pressure on Neymar’s shoulders for club and country is immenseCredit: Alamy Live News
    Gustavo Almeida says the entourage exists to relieve Neymar from the stresses of footballCredit: Instagram More

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    Jose Mourinho’s kids are branching out on their own, with daughter’s jewellery worn by Stormzy and son a budding coach

    HE is not the only Special One in the family.For years Jose Mourinho has lived off that moniker, leading the likes of Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Roma to success.
    Jose Mourinho’s daughter is an award-winning jewellerCredit: Getty
    His son Jose Jr is an aspiring footballer and coachCredit: Getty
    Stormzy teamed up with Matilde Jewellery for a music video shootCredit: Instagram
    But daughter Matilde is showing her own unique talents as a jeweller.
    The 25-year-old’s brand Matilde Jewellery scooped the Emerging Brand of the Year gong at the Professional Jeweller Awards.
    It was also worn by Stormzy in his new video Mel Made Me Do It, which dad Jose makes an appearance in.
    While son Jose Jr, 21, is an aspiring footballer and coach who has been on the books of Fulham.
    Back in December 2020, Jose’s ambitious offspring launched her own jewellery brand.
    What made it different from its competitors was her promise to make pieces from sustainable materials.
    Her passion for jewellery began in 2018, when she was gifted a gold bracelet for her 18th birthday by her parents.
    “I was so excited. It was my first piece of proper jewellery,” she told the Daily Mail.
    Read More Sun Sport
    She uses lab-grown diamonds because they “have the least impact on the environment.”
    Matilde studied her craft at the London College of Fashion before doing an MA in Entrepreneurship: Fashion and Creative Industries at Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design.
    It was on a shopping trip with her mum she learned that diamonds can be lab-grown.
    She said: “We walked into a shop where a jewellery brand was doing a pop-up. The founder came up and said: ‘Did you know all our jewellery uses lab-grown diamonds?’ I was like, ‘What?’ I was intrigued.
    Matilde’s jewellery line won a prestigious award at the Professional Jeweller AwardsCredit: Instagram @matildefmf
    Matilde Jewellery uses sustainable materials, including lab-grown diamondsCredit: Instagram @matilde.jewellery
    Pieces from Matilde’s range can cost up to £1,850Credit: Instagram @matilde.jewellery
    Dad Jose Mourinho has been seen wearing Matilde’s men’s jewellery collectionCredit: Instagram @josemourinho
    Jose Mourinho featured in Mel Made Me Do It
    “My mum was born in Angola, which is where a lot of the horrible impact from blood diamonds took place. She was always vocal about it. She thought it was amazing that lab-grown diamonds existed.”
    Matilde now has her own pop-up shop in the heart of London’s Soho that’s open until Christmas Eve.
    Inside, you’ll find pieces for men and women costing up to £1,850.
    Celebrity fans include actress Naomi Scott and film producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
    While dad Jose has worn a bracelet and ring made by his daughter at training with Roma.
    Most recently, Stormzy modelled some pieces for his latest music video, Mel Made Me Do It.
    Jose Sr shared images behind the scenes on his Instagram about his cameo.
    He captioned the image: “Was great fun doing this cameo for Stormzy’s new music video out today. I had a great time and it’s great to see him wearing @matilde.jewellery”
    Although he’s currently without a club, Mourinho’s son Jose Jr is an able goalkeeper.
    For three years he was on Fulham’s books before he was released in 2017.
    Now 21, he could consider a move into coaching.
    And, if his dad is to be believed, he could become a better coach than him.
    Back in 2018, the youngster was sat on the bench alongside his dad when Manchester United took on Swansea.
    For his work experience, he then delivered a tactical analysis of what was wrong with his father’s side.
    Jose revealed: “In a period of a few bad results one day, he comes up with some analysis on my team — obviously suffering because Dad wasn’t doing well.
    “We had lost to Watford and Manchester City, I think, and he came with the stats of the team. I showed them to my assistants and I told them, ‘Be careful as one day this boy will take one of your places’.
    Jose Jr was an able goalkeeper and was formerly on Fulham’s booksCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    When his father was at Manchester United, he Jose Jr sat in the dugout for work experienceCredit: Getty
    Jose Mourinho believes his son could one day become a great coachCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Most read in Football
    “But in fact I compare him with me at his age, where I would try to do the same sort of things for my dad — of course with different technology methods, but analysis from a kid aged 16 then.”
    The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, as Mourinho’s kids are making their own way in life.
    Clearly, the Special One has produced a couple of Special Ones.
    Generous Jose Mourinho give teen sensation Felix Afena-Gyan a £700 pair of shoes after netting first Roma goals More