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    Chelsea coach Neil Bath is the man behind Blues’ youth academy, and has developed £500 million worth of amazing talent

    IN 2004, after 12 years with the club, Chelsea named Neil Bath as their academy director.Little did anyone know at that time, if you fast-forward 17 years, the fruits of his labours would be dominating the football landscape in England and overseas.
    Chelsea’s head of youth development Neil Bath has run the club’s brilliant academy since 2004 moulding £500m worth of talentCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    When the die-hard Blues fan, now 55, was installed in his new position he set about completely restructuring the West Londoner’s youth programme – with a greater emphasis on procuring and developing the best talent in London and the South-East.
    In the last year, the likes of Porto slayer Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi have been testament to his work – heralding a new dawn in the Chelsea first team of talented youngsters.
    While another Bath protege, Andreas Christensen made his 100th appearance in a Chelsea shirt in the FA Cup fifth round tie against Barnsley – the first academy graduate since John Terry to achieve that feat.
    And just as impressive are the ones who the club let go, including Declan Rice, Nathan Ake, Ryan Bertrand, Tariq Lamptey and more.
    German website Transfermarkt, which offers conservative transfer values of players, crunched the numbers.

    However, taking into account Hudson-Odoi was subject to a £70million bid from Bayern Munich in 2020, the transfer fees could be at least double those suggested figures.
    All in all, through the years, SunSport believes Bath has remarkably overseen the development – on and off the pitch – of around £500million worth of football talent.


    In 2020, Bath, now head of youth development, was recipient of the Eamonn Dolan award in recognition of his excellent work in youth development for Chelsea.
    His former students queued up to pay their tributes to the man who moulded them into the players they are today for a clip on Chelsea TV.
    Mason Mount called Neil Bath an inspiration to him who helped him achieve his dream to play for ChelseaCredit: AP:Associated Press
    Tammy Abraham, lifting the FA Youth Cup, revealed his years working with Bath were the “best of his life”Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Mason Mount was one of the many graduates who shared his gratitude for his former coach. “I have nothing but praise to say about Neil,” he said.
    “He’s an inspiration to us all – all the academy players coming through.
    “I started in the academy when I was six-years-old and he helped me so much.
    “The way the academy is set up, the way we work, when we’re younger it puts us in the right mould to push us and keep getting better and better.
    “The winning mentality that he brings, it shows in every game we try to play and try to win, and it shows in the youth academy with how many trophies we’ve won.”
    While Tammy Abraham revealed his days working with Bath were the “best years of his life”.
    “He’s shown so much belief in the young lads and myself, and that’s what drew me to Chelsea,” he divulged.
    Bath chats with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in 2007Credit: AFP – Getty
    Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his assistant Jody Morris show their appreciation for BathCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    ‘What they are doing at the academy is an amazing job, there’s nothing like it.
    “Them years I had in the academy were probably the best years of my life.”
    From the offset, Bath, who began working for Chelsea in 1992 as a part-time schoolboys’ coach, focused on developing Premier League talent, once a significant investment was made into the academy.
    In the exciting revamp, the club relocated its youth and first-team training facilities from Harlington to Cobham.
    As he put it on Chelsea’s website back in 2019, it was a plan that was 15 years in the making.
    “It’s what we’ve been working towards for 15 years since we restructured the Academy in 2004,” he said.
    “We’ve always been very clear that our job is not really to win youth trophies year after year, but to develop and produce Chelsea and Premier League players.”
    Bath added: “We have to set our ambitions high because we want to be the best football academy in the world and the number one choice for players and parents.”
    Chelsea fan Bath explained his masterplan was 15 years in the makingCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Bath oversees everything at the academy, here standing with Joe Edwards, ex-assistant manager Jody Morris and U23 Manager Andy MyersCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Turning rough diamonds into winners is, perhaps, the hardest thing to do in youth football.
    But since 2010, Chelsea have proved their academy to be, if not the best, one of the most successful in world football.
    They’ve won the FA Youth Cup an astonishing seven times during that period, including five in a row from 2014 – equalling the record of the infamous Busby Babes of Manchester United that stood for 50 years.
    Their U18s have been national champions twice and southern champions four times.

    While on the European stage, the kids have won the Uefa Youth League twice.
    But it’s not all about making first class footballers. Developing the boy into a respectful and educated man is also part of the process.
    Bath has spoken in the past how he and his assistant Jim Fraser understand the importance of that.
    “We’re currently the reigning Premier League champions from Under-13 to U16, which is a really positive sign,” he said in 2019, “and we’ve just achieved our best-ever GCSE results.
    Chelsea’s youth teams have tasted incredible success since 2010Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Mason Mount lifts the FA Youth Cup in 2017 alongside Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi who are now first team starsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Ola Aina, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma pose with the Premier League trophy 2017Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    “We need to make sure these boys have all the characteristics and attributes, as footballers and as young men, to follow the likes of Ruben, Mason, Fikayo and Tammy.
    “When first-team coaching staff speak so highly about them as people, how they are humble and respectful, how they work so hard every day and set the standards in training, that’s also incredibly nice to hear and reinforces the culture we have built.”
    Of course, not every young player is going to make it – that is the harsh reality of football.
    For every Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Abraham or Christensen there’s a Declan Rice, Eddie Nketiah, Tariq Lamptey and Nathan Ake that had to prove their worth elsewhere, and who would now command huge transfer fees.
    But perhaps the biggest star who slipped through the net was Kylian Mbappe.
    In 2012, the French superstar, then 13, was invited for a trial to Cobham. However, when he was asked to return for another trial, his mum refused point black.
    Daniel Boga, who worked as an international scout at Chelsea until 2014, explained to Goal: “He took a trial and didn’t end up convincing us because he didn’t offer enough defensively.
    “So, they asked his mother if he could come back for a second trial and she said no.”
    Mbappe was playing at a small club in the suburbs of Paris called Bondy at that time, and his mum Fayza believed he was destined for the top.
    Kylian Mbappe was on trial at Chelsea, but didn’t impress Blues coaches
    £70m-rated West Ham star Declan Rice was schooled at Chelsea’s academy before he was released in 2014Credit: Rex Features
    “My son will not go back, either they sign him now or within five years they’ll have to offer 50 million euros to tie him down,” she said as per Boga.
    The reason for Chelsea’s reluctance to sign Mbappe on the spot was that they didn’t see enough quality in him when he wasn’t with the ball.

    “Defensively, he wasn’t quite there,” Boga said.
    “When he received the ball he was incredible, but without the ball he didn’t do much.”
    It goes to show, you have to do more to impress Bath and his team to get your chance to learn at this fame academy.
    Mason Mount reacts to grabbing his first Champions League goal in Chelsea’s 2-0 away win against Porto More

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    Man Utd kid Anthony Elanga, 18, idolised Arsenal legend Thierry Henry growing up and his dad was Cameroon World Cup star

    MANCHESTER United’s youngsters have profited from the club’s Europa League campaign by getting valuable minutes and experience on the pitch.And we could see exciting forward Anthony Elanga handed his opportunity next, after he was seen getting on a plane to Granada for the quarter-final tie.
    Anthony Elanga is the latest promising talent coming through the Man Utd ranksCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    18-year-old forward and Swedish youth star Elanga won the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award last seasonCredit: Sportsfile
    Elanga was spotted on the flight to Granada for the Europa League quarter-final tieCredit: Getty
    The 18-year-old Swedish youth star is the latest talent off the United conveyor belt that could be set for his debut in the competition.
    His dad Joseph was a professional footballer, who earned 17 caps for Cameroon and was called up to the 1998 World Cup squad.
    Last season, Anthony was handed the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, previously won by Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
    Elanga was rewarded for his rapid progress with a new long-term deal at Old Trafford.
    Anthony’s father Joseph could say he taught him everything he knew.
    But the elder Elanga, now 41, wasn’t a forward like his son. He was a defender, who made a career for himself in Europe – in countries including Greece, Sweden and Denmark, before retiring in 2012.
    His best years were with Malmo from 2000-2005, who he won the Swedish championship with in 2004. He would join the club for one season again in 2010 and win a second league title.
    Joseph was a member of the Cameroon 1998 World Cup squad, but didn’t play a game.
    During his career, however, he did manage to gain 17 caps for his country.
    Joseph Elanga played in Europe for clubs including Malmo and Brondby (pictured here)Credit: Getty
    Elanga Sr played 17 times for Cameroon and was picked for their 1998 World Cup squadCredit: Alamy
    United’s youth sides are blessed with promising forwards, with the likes of Shola Shoretire, Charlie McNeill and Dillon Hoogewerf all showing they have a bright future in the game.
    Like them, Elanga has the ability to play out wide or though the middle as a No9.
    Predominantly right-footed, he uses his pace and skill to beat his man, often cutting in before unleashing a shot on goal.
    His solo runs are reminiscent of a young Ryan Giggs, who could take three or four players out of a game in one swashbuckling gallop.
    Elanga has been with the Red Devils since the U12s, joining the academy from Sunday League side Hattersley FC.
    In March Elanga signed a long-term deal with the Red DevilsCredit: Getty
    Elanga has an eye for goal, scoring six times in 12 games for the U23s this seasonCredit: Getty
    Predominantly right-footed, Elanga likes to drift to the left and cut in towards goalCredit: Getty

    In 2019-20, after a prolific season with the U18 side with who he scored seven times in nine games, he was the recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award
    This season, he graduated to the U23s, where he has six goals and two assists in 12 Premier League 2 games. But his season was recently disrupted by a broken collarbone.
    With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer giving youth a chance, Elanga – who scored two goals in five matches for Sweden’s U17s – has already excited the Norwegian boss in training.
    “He’s got an X factor, some attributes, it’s not like a gift, but he’s got the acceleration, pace, speed, that’s a given for wingers and he’s got qualities I like,” Solskjaer explained.
    “He’s a goalscoring winger, he’s confident, he likes to beat men, right foot, left foot, he’s got a great attitude.”

    Humble Elanga understands he has to work hard to achieve his goal of first team footballCredit: Instagram anthonyelanga
    Elanga can see a pathway to the United first team after seeing the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood flourish under Ole Gunnar SolskjaeerCredit: Getty
    Elanga is equally as positive for his future, and knows what he has to do to impress his boss.
    Back in November he told PA, “You look at the likes of Mason and Rashy, there is a pathway there.
    “It just shows you that if you’re willing to put the work into it and continue to work hard day in, day out in training there’s a pathway for you there.”
    In an interview with The Athletic last year, Elanga revealed who he styles his game on.
    “Thierry Henry was my idol and I tried to match my game with his,” he said.
    “He was quick. He could play anywhere across the front three – striker, left wing, right wing – and that’s how I want to replicate my game.”

    Solskjaer says Elanga has an X-Factor about him and a promising futureCredit: Getty
    Elanga idolises Thierry Henry and tries to copy his hero’s gameCredit: Getty

    Manchester United legend Gary Neville caught a glimpse of Elanga in full flight, when he co-commentated on United Under-21s 6-0 win over Salford City in the EFL Trophy last year.
    He said the youngster was a “nightmare to play against” and called his goal “Thierry Henry-esque.”
    If he’s half the player Henry was, United have got themselves some talent here.
    Solskjaer says Man Utd striker Marcus Rashford in doubt for Granada match More

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    How Chelsea star Thiago Silva almost died from tuberculosis aged 21, and his wife saved his career

    THIAGO Silva is one of the best defenders of his generation, but over a decade ago the Brazilian was weeks away from death after catching tuberculosis.The Chelsea centre back, 36, was diagnosed with the bacterial infection while at Dynamo Moscow in 2005.
    Chelsea centre back Thiago Silva became one of the best defenders of his generation after tuberculosis scareCredit: Getty
    In 2005 while playing for Dynamo Moscow Silva was diagnosed with tuberculosisCredit: Dynamo Moscow
    At just 21 years old, Silva was hospitalised for six months while Russian doctors treated him for the condition he contracted six months before the illness was detected.
    The tuberculosis was so advanced, docs even considered removing part of his lungs to ensure his survival.
    But his mother, Angela, and wife, Isabelle stepped in and advised against surgery that would’ve put pay to Silva’s football dreams before it had even started.
    “That would have ended my career, I needed guardian angels to take me away,” Silva told AP.
    Silva was signed by Dynamo from Porto in January, 2005 for a fee of around £3.5m.
    Despite not playing a single game for the Portuguese giants, other than a smattering of matches in the reserves in the second division, Dynamo took a punt on the unknown entity.
    The Russian club’s President, Alexei Fedorychev had big plans for Dynamo that year, bringing in seven players from Portugal that January.
    He even appointed experienced Brazilian manager Ivo Wortmann to ensure the language barrier wasn’t a problem for any new arrivals and his team could challenge for the Premier League.
    But club doctors were surprised that Silva was getting tired so quickly.
    Silva goes toe-to-toe with Robert Lewandowski in the Champions League finalCredit: Manu Fernandez
    They also were shocked that most of their new recruits were bought without proper medical checks.
    Silva became very ill, suffering with symptoms including a high temperature, coughing fits and severe sweating.
    Clearly it wasn’t a case of the flu, he was sent to hospital where doctors conducted a series of tests to determine what was wrong.’TWO WEEKS FROM DEATH’
    They were stunned to learn he was suffering from tuberculosis, and had been for six months prior to their discovery.
    Simply put, doctors told him he was two weeks away from death and was extremely lucky the disease was caught when it was.
    “In 2005 I was sent out on loan to Dynamo Moscow, but the city was horrible, I was cold and got ill,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sport Week back in 2011.
    “I was in hospital for six months. I was 10kg overweight and, despite everyone else in the hospital being so skinny and not wanting to eat, I was always hungry.
    Doctors said Silva was two weeks away from death if he remained untreatedCredit: AFP or licensors
    “My mother said I didn’t look ill, but I couldn’t move.
    “The doctors would tell me to get up and go for a walk, but I couldn’t do it. This disease is also contagious, so I was put in isolation, only able to play computer games and go on the internet.
    “Every now and then a doctor would come in and give me an injection, three or four times a day, plus 10-15 pills.
    “I eventually found out that I’d had tuberculosis for six months. The doctors said if another two weeks had passed, I might not have been able to recover.
    “I almost died. This is why, whenever I play, I think back to those moments in Russia.”THREAT TO HIS CAREER
    During his treatment, medical staff advised the central defender he needed to have a part of his right lung cut out to survive the ordeal.
    Effectively, that would’ve meant he would have to quit football.
    Thiago Silva’s wife Isabelle went against doctors’ advice of surgery to remove some of his lungCredit: Instagram @thiagosilva_33
    Brazilian star Thiago Silva’s mum Angela convinced her son to carry on playingCredit: Bruno Henrique/ Divulgação
    “I told them no one would open my husband up and end his dream,” wife Isabelle told AP.
    “I am not a doctor, but no one believed he should go through surgery.
    “To see him wearing the Brazil shirt is a victory for us all, especially those that know him from those days.”
    During that dark time, Silva thought about retiring, despite being given a clean bill of health. It was the second time in his life he considered quitting the game.
    “I had thought of quitting football altogether,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport magazine Sport Week.
    “There was another occasion when I went to Flamengo for a trial and after two sessions they said I could go, as I was no better than any of the players they already had.
    “I told my mother I didn’t want to play football anymore, as nobody wanted me.
    “However, she said in that case I’d have to go work for my brother, so I immediately changed my mind and looked for another club!”
    Silva’s adventure/nightmare in Russia ended in 2006 when he returned back to his homeland with Fluminense.
    Ivo Wortmann gave Thiago Silva a second chance at FluminenseCredit: Coritiba
    At Fluminense, Thiago Silva managed to rebuild his careerCredit: AFP – Getty
    Thiago Silva earned a move to AC Milan in 2009 and has since become one of the world’s best defendersCredit: Getty – Contributor
    His redemption came from a familiar face too. Wortmann, a man responsible for bringing him to Dynamo in the first place, had moved back to Brazil too.

    Believing in Silva’s talent, he told Fluminense he’d be their coach if they bought his protege too.
    They did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Silva showed his promise, earning moves to AC Milan, PSG and now Chelsea.
    And he could finish his first year in London as a Champions League winner.
    talkSPORT set out minimum expectations for Chelsea next season amid busy transfer window More

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    Footballers who showcased a talent for singing in X-Factor-style initiations, like Fabinho, Alisson and Buffon

    LOOK away now, Simon Cowell.When footballers across Europe join up with new clubs, the traditional a cappella initiation of performing in front of their team-mates happens, and Cowell would certainly be poker-faced with these performers.
    Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech was one of the standout performers in initiationsCredit: Instagram @m10_official
    The Jose Mourinho of the music world would not be impressed by the standards being set as players take to their stage of a plastic chair and sing their hearts out.
    From Petr Cech dropping the f-bomb to John Bostock’s moonwalking, there has certainly been some eye-catching performances.
    And as the old tradition will rise again this summer, SunSport takes a look at the best and worst performances of the past.
    Gianluigi Buffon got in character with a pair of shadesCredit: Instagram @marco_verratti92
    Gianluigi Buffon
    After 17 years at Juventus, it was a long time since Buffon had to meet a new set of team-mates.
    But when the 43-year-old goalkeeper signed for PSG, he had to jump on a chair in front of the whole squad. He donned a pair of shades, and provided a fist-pumping, hair-flicking performance.
    It left his team-mates in fits of laughter and cheers. He’s now back at Juve, we wonder if he had to sing again?
    Gianluigi Buffon looks cool as he sings his heart out at a PSG dinner
    Petr Cech
    Having joined Arsenal in 2015, there was some uncertainty about why Cech had the microphone – but it was a memorable moment in his career.
    As the enthusiastic drummer waltzed around the tables rapping, he dropped an F-bomb that sent all his teammates into cheers.
    Petr Cech drops F-bomb in brilliant team initiation rap on Arsenal pre-season tour
    Cech dropped the F-bomb in his rap to team-matesCredit: Instagram @m10_official
    Virgil van Dijk
    As the costliest defender in the world, you’d expect Van Dijk to be multi-talented.
    He certainly left his team-mates entertained with his smooth rendition of the 1998 R&B hit ‘So Into You’ by Tamia.
    Outside, under the stars, the former Dutch defender brought some romance to proceedings.
    Liverpool stars show off their vocal talents at training camp in Evian
    John Bostock
    He was known for his potential at Spurs rather than his dance moves.
    But when 29-year-old Bostock moved on to Toulouse in 2018, the midfielder provided the pick of the dance moves.
    Performing a rather mediocre version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ he moonwalked around the middle of his team-mates.
    John Bostock’s performance at new club Toulouse is a perfect Michael Jackson tribute
    Demetri Mitchell
    With a water bottle for a microphone, Manchester United youngster Demetri Mitchell made his name known on the club’s pre-season tour.
    He performed a smooth version of Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ which not only received a standing ovation, he was also thrown in the air by team-mates.
    It can’t have impressed Mourinho too much though as the 24-year-old defender was then loaned out to Hearts. He now stars for Blackpool.
    Watch ex-Hearts loan star Demetri Mitchell show off his singing voice for his Man United
    Alisson Becker
    It’s a real crowd-pleaser.
    Alisson, the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, stood up in front of team-mates and performed Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.
    It may have come as a bit of a surprise to the Liverpool stalwarts though as it tends to be heard more commonly at the Etihad Stadium.
    Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker performed Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’Credit: Instagram @amplfc18
    A nervous-looking Fabinho was one of many new signings at Anfield in 2018 to get up and perform.
    The Brazilian tentatively got to his feet but was helped on by a supportive crowd of Reds who cheered him on.
    Fabinho will be glad it’s over – and will be looking forward to the 54,000 fans at Anfield instead.
    Fabinho is looking forward to getting on the pitch after a nervous initiation
    Naby Keita
    Liverpool had to wait so long for Keita to join, but it has been worth it.
    The former RB Leipzig midfielder had the tunes and the moves to get his team-mates involved.
    Even Daniel Sturridge got on his feet to join in with Keita’s silky moves.
    Naby Keita’s dance moves were even better than his singingCredit: Instagram @amplfc18
    George Marsh
    After being promoted to the first-team, Marsh’s first big performance was stood on a table rather than a pitch.
    Another with water bottle in hand, another bashing out a bit of Oasis, the 22-year-old holding midfielder gave a rather shouty version of ‘Wonderwall’ in 2018.
    Marsh is still at Spurs, so it can’t have gone down too badly.
    Spurs youngster George Marsh was one of a few players to use bottles for a microphone
    Tottenham players George Marsh and TJ Eyoma sing their initiation songs on club’s USA tour
    TJ Eyoma
    An initiation classic, 21-year-old defender TJ Eyoma was joined by the rest of the squad for a version of Stand By Me.
    Tottenham’s website describes him as a “reliable figure” in defence and this was a solid performance by the Spurs youngster.
    Currently on loan at Lincoln, he is also the U23 captain.
    TJ Eyoma provided a classy performance of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’
    Sam Jones
    If you needed a Britain’s Got Talent moment as the golden buzzer is plunged down and confetti falls from the sky, this is it.
    Sam Jones’ move from Grimsby Town to Shrewsbury may not have caught that many headlines in January.
    But his powerful version of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ drew more than 300,000 hits on YouTube and many more headlines.
    Sam Jones shows off his vocal talents for his Shrewsbury Town initiation More

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    When footballers met their idols when they were kids, including Kane’s encounter with Beckham and Neymar with Ronaldo

    THEY were young lads who wanted to be just like their heroes too.Before they made it, these footballers just wanted to emulate the players they watched on the TV and pretended to be in the school playground.
    David Beckham and a grinning Harry Kane smile for the cameraCredit: Getty Images
    So it’s no wonder the moment they were sidled up to their favourite player they asked for a snap as a keepsake.
    SunSport has rounded up the best footballers as kids coyly posing next to their idols.
    See Danny Welbeck looking in awe of United hero Rio Ferdinand, Kane embarrassed to be the next to David Beckham, while Jesse Lingard has his hair ruffled by Cristiano Ronaldo!
    Rio Ferdinand and Danny Welbeck
    Danny Welbeck idolised Rio FerdinandCredit: YouTube
    When Danny was a promising youth player at Man United, the starlet hoped he could emulate hero Rio and play in the first team.
    The former England centre half was always there on the training ground giving youngsters advice, Danny once revealed.
    And this image was taken in 2003 when the Arsenal forward was just 12-years-old.Cristiano Ronaldo and Jesse Lingard
    Cristiano Ronaldo was impressed by Jesse Lingard’s skillsCredit: YouTube
    When Ronaldo first signed for United in 2003, Jesse was part of the famed Red Devils youth set-up.
    The Portuguese forward paid a visit to the training ground to rub shoulders with the kids and he found Jesse there.
    He was obviously impressed by the 11-year-old, patting his head for good measure.
    Bobby Charlton and David Beckham
    A young David Beckham shakes hands with Bobby Charlton in 1986Credit: John Jones
    You can’t get better than meeting ‘Mr. Manchester United’ can you?
    In 1986 one England great met a future England legend and created this pictorial masterpiece.
    Becks knocking about with Bobby must’ve given him the needed desire to make it. And check out his haircut!

    England World Cup 2018 squad’s WAGs include stunning lingerie model Ruby Mae and reality TV star Rebekah Vardy

    Fernando Torres and Koke
    Fernando Torres and Koke (second from the right) became teammatesCredit: Twitter
    Amazingly, these two ended up being teammates at Atletico Madrid.
    When Fernando Torres was a teenage sensation for Los Rojiblancos, Koke was just 9-years-old.
    The former Liverpool striker happily posed for a snap with the Atleti youth team that featured the midfield schemer and Spain international.Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappe
    Kylian Mbappe looks delighted to be snapped with Thierry Henry
    The comparisons between the two have already been made, but we wonder if Thierry saw them in the youngster at the time?
    Who knows, but Mbappe looks delighted to have his picture taken next to his idol.
    Sadly, there’s no date on the photo, so we can’t tell how old it is. But Mbappe and Henry both look young!Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Davy Klaassen
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Davy Klaassen would one day play against each other in the Champions LeagueCredit: Twitter
    It seems like years ago that Zlatan was at Ajax.
    But when Davy was 11-years-old he grabbed the Swedish striker for a photo op.
    Incidentally, the two played against each other in a Champions League tie in 2014 between PSG and Ajax.
    Unbelievably, they were both on the scoresheet that day too.Ronaldo and Neymar
    Neymar is the heir apparent to RonaldoCredit: Social
    When the heir apparent meets the king, but either of them doesn’t know it yet.
    Everyone wanted a picture with the Brazilian hotshot then, so teenage Neymar must’ve been the envy of his pals with this snap.
    Neymar has gone through a few haircuts since then and is now the pin-up of Brazil.
    David Beckham and Harry Kane
    Harry Kane met David Beckham when he was 12-years-oldCredit: Getty Images
    When Becks launched his own football academy, Spurs star Harry was one of its stars.

    In 2005, he got to meet Becks when he was just 12-years-old and he looks chuffed to bits.
    We wonder if David remembers this moment as well as Harry?
    Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe
    Kylian Mbappe was a Cristiano Ronaldo superfan and had his posters on his bedroom wall
    Featuring twice on the list, the French teenager showed why he’s a total superfan of football.
    Mbappe had pictures of Ronaldo on his bedroom wall when he was a kid with pipe dreams of becoming professional.
    When he was 14-years-old all his dreams came true when he met the Real Madrid ace.
    Robin Van Persie and Jordy Clasie
    Jordy Clasie grabs Robin Van Persie for a photo opCredit: Twitter
    When the former Arsenal striker was a hot prospect at Feyernood in 2002, Clasie was coming through the ranks at the Dutch club.
    The ex-Southampton midfielder was only 11-years-old when this photo was taken alongside his hero.
    Little did he know then, he’d play in the Premier League just like the Holland striker.
    Gabby Agbonlahor doesn’t believe Trent Alexander-Arnold will make the England squad for the Euros More

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    Aguero has never won football’s biggest prizes so has extra motivation to take down Dortmund in final Man City season

    SERGIO AGUERO will be keen to end his time at Manchester City with the big one, the Champions League title.He needs it to prove that he still has a future at the highest level, and because so far in an undoubtedly great career the most glittering silverware has eluded him.
    Sergio Aguero will be keen to end his time at Man City with a Champions League titleCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
    He won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid 11 years ago, setting up Diego Forlan for both his goals in a 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. But he has yet to land the Champions League – or the main prize with Argentina.
    In both 2005 and 2007 he was part of a national team that won the World Under-20 title. And in 2008 came the Olympic gold medal. But there has been no silverware at senior level.
    He has played four versions of the Copa America, losing two finals on a penalty shoot out. And there have been three World Cups, including the final in 2014.
    Aguero is Argentina’s all time third top scorer, behind Lionel Messi and Gabriel Batistuta, and in front of a lot of great players. But he lacks an outstanding tournament at senior level.
    Often he seemed to be feeling the effects of the long club season by the time the tournaments came round.  He was at his sharpest, with thanks due to the Pep Guardiola fitness regime, in Russia 2018.
    But the team around him were a shambles, and his two excellent goals counted for nothing.
    There still may be a last chance with Argentina. There is a Copa America co-hosted by Argentina in just over two months time, and, more importantly, there is the World Cup at the end of next year.
    Aguero may feature, though he is being eased out as national team centre forward by Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan.
    But what about his future at club level?  Many fans of Independiente are excited by the prospect of a return to Argentina. Aguero started with Independiente, making his first team debut at the age of 15.
    Aguero shows off his gold medal with pal Lionel Messi he won at Beijing 2008Credit: Getty Images – Getty
    Only Messi and Gabriel Batistuta have scored more goals than Aguero for ArgentinaCredit: Getty

    The club managed to rebuild their stadium with the proceeds of his sale to Atletico Madrid. There has always been a dream – which the player has done much to nurture – that he will come back and grace the stadium he helped build.
    By an amazing coincidence the current coach, Julio Cesar Falcioni, was also in charge when he was sold.
    But the time might not be right. And there is a big obstacle – which goes by the name of Lionel Messi.
    Back in 2005 Aguero and Messi roomed together in Holland where Argentina were playing the Under-20 World Cup. They struck up a firm friendship, which has stayed strong over the years.
    It is perhaps a pity that their off the field chemistry has not been seen on the field at club level. But that might be coming to an end.
    Aguero began his career at Independiente and he has been linked with a move back to ArgentinaCredit: AP:Associated Press
    Could Aguero team up with his best pal in football, Messi at Barcelona?Credit: AFP

    Both Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain have expressed an interest in signing Aguero at the end of the current season. This probably has as much to do with Messi as it does with Aguero.
    In the case of PSG, bringing Aguero on board is a way of enticing Messi to move. In Barcelona’s case, it would be encouragement for Messi to stay.
    Meanwhile, though, Messi is already out of this year’s Champions League.  Sergio Aguero is still in the hunt – as Borussia Dortmund might find out to their cost on Tuesday.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Where next for Sergio Aguero after he leaves Man City in the summer More

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    15 weird football injuries, including Barcelona star Frenkie De Jong’s swollen hand from a painful bee sting

    THEY don’t just get injured on the football pitch.Last year, Frenkie De Jong suffered a bizarre injury that looked painful and threatened to leave him sidelined.
    Frenkie De Jong shows off horrific bee stingCredit: Instagram / @mikkykiemeney
    De Jong wore a bandage during Barcelona’s Champions League tie with NapoliCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The swelling can be seen clearly on De Jong’s hand in trainingCredit: FC Barcelona
    The Barcelona midfielder showed off a swollen hand in his side’s 3-1 win over Napoli in a Champions League tie.
    According to reports, the ailment was the result of a nasty bee sting that caused the severe reaction.
    That’s prompted SunSport to look back at some of the weird and wacky injuries to befall other footballers over the years.CHRIS SMALLING
    Ex-Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was on holiday in Bali, when disaster struck.
    After local reports claimed he was stung by a jellyfish while out surfing – the truth eventually came out, and it wasn’t as exciting.
    He fainted in the hot heat and banged his head, hence the bandages.
    Chris Smalling pictured in hospital in Bali
    The Wimbledon FA Cup hero was at Chelsea when he suffered a hilarious foot injury.
    The keeper dropped a bottle of salad cream in his kitchen and tried to control it with his bare foot.
    The bottle ended up breaking and tearing a tendon in his big toe, causing Beasant to miss two months of football. Clearly, he should’ve used his hands.
    Dave Beasant attempted to control a bottle of salad
    The former Manchester United and England captain managed to strain his knee while at Leeds.
    Ferdinand rested his leg for too long while playing a game of Pro Evolution Soccer on his PlayStation.
    We’ve all done it.
    Rio Ferdinand suffered a leg injury while playing a video game
    The ex-Leeds United enforcer had been out injured with a knee problem.
    Then, his two-year-old daughter ran over him while on her tricycle – causing a setback to his ankle.
    The hardman was crocked by a two-year-old, which must’ve taken some explaining to his team-mates.
    David Batty’s daughter ran into him on her tricycle
    Captain Dynamo was given the task of trying to wake mercurial star Paul Gascoigne from his slumber ahead of the 1990 World Cup.
    Robson tried but couldn’t wake the midfielder, instead tipping the bed to push Gascoigne out.
    Robson then dropped the bed onto his toe, breaking it.
    Bryan Robson broke a toe trying to wake up Paul Gascoigne
    The former West Ham forward didn’t impress Sam Allardyce with this injury.
    Somehow, Enner Valencia managed to badly cut his toe after stepping on a broken cup.
    The incident left ‘Big Sam’ striker-less for his next match.
    Enner Valencia seriously cut his toe stepping on a broken cup
    The former Valencia NO1 had waited an age to take over in the sticks of the Spanish national team.
    He was given an opportunity in 2002, but just before the World Cup was about to start he dropped a bottle of aftershave on his foot.
    Like Beasant, he severed a tendon and missed the tournament. Butter fingers, perhaps?
    Santiago Canizares missed out on the 2002 World Cup because of a bottle of aftershave
    The former Aston Villa left-back was a cult hero in the Midlands.
    But the 5ft 4in Wright once had a spell out the game after injuring his knee in the strangest way.
    He did it trying to reach the pedals on his Ferrari. True story.
    Former Aston Villa defender Alan Wright got injured driving his Ferrari
    While at Sunderland, the former Scotland international was once seen ‘walking a bit like John Wayne’.
    It was all because his eight-month-old son knocked a bowl of boiling water onto his crotch.
    Kevin Kyle’s son dropped hot water on his crotch
    At Reading, the striker managed to hurt his back by stretching too vigorously.
    But this wasn’t done on the training pitch, no.
    It happened while laying in bed.
    Steve Coppell said at the time: “It’s not an injury that should be ridiculed or made light of.”
    Leroy Lita injured himself by stretching too far in bed
    We’d definitely avoid recreating this one.
    The ex-Aston Villa and England striker tried to get rid of a blood blister on his toe by using an electric drill.
    It didn’t go well.
    Darius Vassell tried to pop a blister with an electric drill
    Former Oxford midfielder Chapman was heating some milk for his baby, a normally harmless job.
    But as he went to shake it the lid flew off, burning his chest and nipple.
    He had to go to hospital but was passed fit to play the next day.
    Adam Chapman burnt his nipple trying to heat baby milk
    The former England shot-stopper has two entries.
    He once pulled a muscle in his back while trying to reach for a remote control.
    Another time, James hurt his shoulder while fishing for carp.
    David James should stay away from remote controls… and carp

    Arsenal legend George didn’t let this injury stop him. The 1971 FA Cup hero once cut off a finger with his lawnmower.
    Thankfully, it wasn’t a leg.
    Charlie George managed to cut off a finger while mowing the lawn
    When at Newcastle the England man damaged his left eye – because he ran into a stationary training pole.
    It wasn’t an eye-for-an-eye in this case, leaving Dyer with a nasty shiner.
    Kieron Dyer ran into a training pole
    Gareth Bale urged to quit Real Madrid as Rio Ferdinand bemoans ‘generational talent’ being wasted on sidelines More

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    Footballers who have taken the Tube, from ex-Arsenal star Mesut Ozil to the German national team and Tottenham’s Dier

    FOOTBALLERS… sometimes they’re just like us.Former Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil showed what a regular guy he was by taking the Tube for a sightseeing tour before he left out shores for Turkey.
    Mesut Ozil isn’t the only footballer to take the TubeCredit: Instagram @m10_official
    But the German star isn’t the first footballer to brave the rush hour crowd and take a trip on the London Underground.
    Messrs Dier, Eriksen and Zaha have all charged up their Oyster cards and got on a train.
    And there’s an honourable mention for former Spurs manager Christian Gross who bragged about getting the Tube to his first press conference as Tottenham boss. A pioneer in these circles.The German national team
    Per Mertesacker looks thrilled to be on the London UndergroundCredit: Handout – Getty
    Before they played England in an international friendly at Wembley back in 2013, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels and manager Joachim Low tried the underground.
    They ventured on the Bakerloo Line, talking to other commuters and did the best to fit in with the locals.
    They said they did it to escape the congested streets of London, and the German FA were delighted it was their first time on the Tube.
    Apparently, they changed at Baker Street, had a nosey at the Sherlock Holmes museum before heading to the Metropolitan Line to get to Wembley Park.
    The German national team went to Wembley Park for a friendly against EnglandCredit: Handout
    The German national team changed at Baker Street to take in the Sherlock Holmes museumCredit: Handout – Getty
    Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier
    Because it’s always best for footballing team-mates to travel in pairs.
    Former Spurs star Eriksen and his pal Dier were snapped a day after celebrating a 4-1 win over Sunderland in 2016 on the Tube.
    They seemed in jovial spirits as they joked with each other and passengers, happily posing for snaps.
    No word on where they got off, but they were enjoying some downtime before a crucial game against Leicester.
    Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen share a laugh on the London UndergroundCredit: Twitter
    Wilfried Zaha
    The Palace winger uses his dazzling feet to good effect on the pitch, so he definitely should’ve paid attention to those ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements.
    After a game against Manchester City in 2016 at the Etihad, Zaha was seen completing the final leg of his journey home on the Tube.
    Better still, he even wore his full kit – just so he couldn’t be missed.
    And like a seasoned traveler, he had some headphones on and wasn’t ready to talk to any other commuters, preferring to keep to himself.
    Wilfried Zaha kept his headphones on during his London Underground rideCredit: Twitter
    Juan Mata
    You would’ve thought they’d lay on a car…
    Before Spanish international Mata joined Man United, he was snapped getting on the Tube to get a connecting train to Manchester in 2014.
    But he clearly wasn’t a Tube regular, oh no, no, no, because he was wrapped up far too warm. Everyone knows how sweaty you can get underground.
    He should’ve ditched the hat!
    Juan Mata took the Tube before heading to Manchester to sign for UnitedCredit: Twitter
    Joey Barton
    He’s just a regular Joe now…
    The former Man City midfielder turned manager showed he’s just like one of us when he was pictured getting on the train back in 2014.
    One keen fan decided to share his snap on Twitter, telling the world Joey was ‘slumming it’ but we think it’s commendable.
    However, not too sure of the John Lennon-style breton cap though.
    Joey Barton tried to go inconspicuous on the Tube by wearing a hatCredit: Twitter
    Peter Crouch
    There would definitely be far more comfortable ways for the big man to travel!
    ‘Crouchy’ was spied squeezing his 6’7″ frame into a carriage shortly after announcing his missus Abbey Clancy was expecting their third child.
    Arsenal star Mesut Ozil becomes London tourist for the day as he takes tube on day off-
    Trying to go as incognito as possible, Peter wore a baseball cap over his face and a white shirt to seem like an every man.
    It was a busy Friday night, but that didn’t stop Peter enjoying his ride though on the Northern Line.
    Peter Crouch stood out like a sore thumb when he took the trainCredit: Splash News
    Hatem Ben Arfa
    When the Frenchman was plying his trade at Newcastle United in 2014, he thought he’d give the Tube a go.
    Shortly after wearing the black and white of the Toon, he topped up his Oyster card and touched into the Underground.
    One eager fan managed to get a snap with his hero, even hashtag calling the midfielder a ‘#toplad’ for his efforts.
    Ben Arfa doesn’t look that thrilled to have been spotted though.
    Hatem Ben Arfa looked thrilled to be recognised by a fan on the London UndergroundCredit: Twitter
    Marc Albrighton
    When the Leicester City wide man was at Aston Villa, he made one young fan’s day by posing for a snap.
    Albrighton was traveling on the Tube, presumably the District and Hammersmith and City lines, after a game against West Ham United.
    Good on Albrighton for happily smiling for a photo, as well as taking the Tube like a normal fan in 2012.
    Marc Albrighton made a young fan’s request a dream on the TubeCredit: Twitter
    Joe Ledley and Martin Kelly
    Palace full back Kelly and former Eagle Joe Ledley took on the commoners route by going underground.
    The pair were tickled pink when they were spotted and snapped sat down in their full sports regala on the Tube in 2015.
    But by the looks of Kelly attentively gazing at the Underground map, he needed to have a good look to see where he was going.
    Martin Kelly and Joe Ledley found something to laugh about on the TubeCredit: Twitter
    Vlad Chiriches
    You would never recognise him…
    The former Spurs centre half could’ve gone completely unnoticed on the Tube if one eagle-eyed fan hadn’t sneaked this picture.
    Casually dressed in a hoodie and jeans, with his earphones plugged into his ears, Chiriches seemed at ease on the train in 2014.
    In fact, we’ve never seen him look so comfortable in North London.
    Vlad Chiriches blended in on the TubeCredit: Twitter
    Lewis Holtby
    While on loan at Fulham, the German midfielder endeared himself to The Cottagers faithful by taking the Tube home after a game.
    After all, he just starred in a 1-0 win over Newcastle back in 2014 and wanted to share a snap of himself being a regular punter.
    He wrote for the caption: “What a Relief!! Very happy to have won today:-))) as u probably notice “smile””Still.. Next Station, Home!;-))))) Thx for The brillant Support, amazing Spirit at craven cottage!” Legend.
    Lewis Holtby gave Fulham fans cheer by taking the Tube home after a winCredit: Twitter
    Christian Gross
    The modern day Tube pioneer.
    When Christian Gross took up his post at Tottenham Hotspur in 1997 he decided he would take the Tube to his press conference.
    Proud of his efforts, he then told a pack of journalists (proudly flashing his travelcard) and calling it “the ticket of his dreams.”
    A year later he was sacked, but we’ll never forget that moment.
    Christian Gross flashed his travelcard as the ‘ticket of his dreams’Credit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
    Oriol Romeu
    A cheeky pretender to the crown…
    The Southampton midfielder had a pop at Mesut Ozil’s Tube snap by posting his own on Instagram.

    Romeu even slyly captioned the pic, where he looked moody, “Doing Ozil’s things” with a winking face emoji, as well as a train emoji.
    Maybe Romeu had the hump because no one recognised him?
    Oriol Romeu poked fun at Mesut Ozil when he took the TubeCredit: Instagram
    Roberto Mancini
    When our SunSport reporter Gary Stonehouse spotted Roberto Mancini on the Tube, he couldn’t wait to get a snap.
    We spied the Italian don heading to Wembley for his former club Man City’s semi-final clash with Arsenal.
    “Legend” Mancini posted for pictures with fans, telling one he wanted to be Arsenal manager next season.
    He also gave our Gary some great Tube banter.
    SunSport’s Gary Stonehouse poses with Roberto Mancini on the TubeCredit: Twitter More