Press Association QPR were “out of their minds” to break the bank to land defender Christopher Samba from Anzhi Makhachkala, according to the Russian club’s director. He added: “In my view QPR have lost their minds. When they agreed to pay his release fee we wept. He [Samba] wept. “Everybody says that he ran away from the club, but that’s not true. He didn’t put any pressure on the club until we received an offer from QPR for £12.5million, the amount required by his contract.” Tkachenko revealed former Blackburn defender Samba was keen to return to western Europe for family reasons. “It was linked to the threat that he would lose contact with his children,” Tkachenko added. “That was a big blow. He was a guy who loved all of us. And besides, he is a very good defender. I think he is one of the top five defenders currently playing in Europe.” Samba’s contract with QPR has sparked much discussion of how it will burden the club financially if they do not survive, although Redknapp has maintained, “there will be takers for Samba all day”. Anzhi would certainly be keen on a return move. Tkachenko said: “If we are successful and playing in the Champions League, I dream that Samba will become an Anzhi player again.” The Congo centre-half was recruited into the Hoops battle for Barclays Premier League survival after they triggered a release clause to push through a £12.5million transfer, with a contract which is reported to be worth around £100,000-a-week. QPR manager Harry Redknapp described Samba as a “monster” and will aid their relegation battle, although his side remain seven points adrift of safety. Anzhi director German Tkachenko, however, revealed no-one there could quite believe what QPR were willing to pay to get their man, telling Russian news site www.sports.ru: “At QPR he will earn almost as much as he did at Anzhi.”
Fernandinho made a personal financial sacrifice to make his “dream” move to Manchester City happen, Press Association Sport understands. Press Association The 28-year-old’s desire to move to City had been well documented and his wish has now come true with what is thought to be a five-year contract. Fernandinho, capped five times by Brazil, told the club’s website, www.mcfc.co.uk: “This is a change, a challenge and a chance that I have been waiting a long time for. Playing in the Premier League for City is like a dream. “My ambition here is to win all the titles, the team here is strong, and so is the greatness of the club and the supporters. Professionally this is a spectacular thing. Playing for a huge club in a huge league makes me so happy. “I hope I will be able to repay City for what they have done for me. I know I will face challenges but I am prepared for them. Every player at a high level faces pressure and must respond and I am ready for that too. I know a lot about City. Ever since they expressed an interest in me, I have been learning more.” Fernandinho’s arrival is likely to be followed by that of Manuel Pellegrini as new manager in the coming days, possibly early next week. City have been in discussions with the Chilean, long their preferred choice to succeed the sacked Roberto Mancini, since he took charge of Malaga for the final time last weekend. Despite a perceived delay there is not thought to be any complications and his appointment should be a formality. The signing of Sevilla winger Jesus Navas, for a fee understood to be worth around £15.9million, is also imminent. The Brazilian midfielder has moved to the Etihad Stadium from Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee the Ukrainian club have reported as £34million. That fee is more than City were initially willing to pay but a compromise has been reached for a player who had a reported £42.5million release clause in his Shakhtar contract. It is understood that Fernandinho, who was City’s top summer target, agreed to take a financial hit of some kind in his eagerness to join the Eastlands outfit.
Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo believes Lionel Messi could be tempted to come to the Barclays Premier League if he gets bored of life in the Primera Division. Press Association However, Negredo, who has enjoyed a fine start to life in England since his summer move to City from Sevilla, can see that possibly changing in the future. Asked if he could see the Argentina ace moving to the Premier League, Negredo told several national newspapers: “I suppose so, it could happen. “Maybe in two or five years he will get bored with La Liga, want a change and come over here.” The Spain international added in the Sunday Mirror: “I could see someone like Messi coming to England and following players like David Silva, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, David de Gea and myself. He could play well in any league in the world. “The Premier League is the best place to be for the world’s top stars. Having been here for a few months it is better than I thought it would be. Your expectations go up here.” There has been a steady stream of world-class talent moving from Spain to England in recent years, including stars such as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Mesut Ozil, and Negredo believes the Premier League is now the place to be for the game’s leading players. Arguably the best footballer on the planet is not currently plying his trade in England though, with four-time reigning world player of the year Messi, 26, continuing to torment opposition defences for Spanish giants Barcelona, where he has spent his whole professional career so far.
Press Association The Republic of Ireland international’s deal at The Hawthorns runs out at the end of the season, with a further year in the club’s favour. Long came close to joining Hull in the summer, and the likes of Stoke and Newcastle, along with the Tigers, have been linked with a move for him in January. West Brom striker Shane Long is confident his contract situation will sort itself out but admitted there has not yet been any progress. Long’s position has been strengthened by his two goals in Monday’s derby against Aston Villa, and manager Steve Clarke expressed his confidence that the club ”will sit down sometime in the future and sort his contract out”. Long said in the Birmingham Mail: “The manager has always been good to me. “He reassured me I was always a big part of his plans and I get on really well with the lads here as well. “I am settled in Birmingham so I’m enjoying my time at West Brom and hopefully the rest will take care of itself. “There are no developments yet but there is plenty of time left on my contract and I’m sure the club will think about what’s best for them and me and we’ll see what happens.”
“That straightaway has been one of the benefits. He has been able to work with the group with no effects to him.” Everton have spent all week in the Canary Islands and return to England on Thursday evening to begin preparations for the Premier League game at The Hawthorns. Martinez believes the break has been productive for the squad. “It has been terrific so far. It has been a unique opportunity to spend a lot of time together and to work on the training pitch,” he added. “The facilities and the hospitality have made a perfect environment for our warm weather training. “The players have benefited because of the humidity and the weather. We have been working hard and getting the benefits from it. “The boys who are carrying a little bit of an injury or a problem have been able to work extra time and it’s been very beneficial for the whole team.” Press Association Everton defender Sylvain Distin has returned to full training and is likely to be in the squad for Monday’s trip to West Brom. The French centre-back has missed three matches with a hamstring problem but is back in contention after stepping up his workload during the club’s warm-weather training in Tenerife. “Sylvain has come through four sessions now and has had no reaction,” manager Roberto Martinez told evertonfc.com.
Andy Reid, Kevin Doyle and Rob Elliot have withdrawn from the Ireland squad for this week’s friendly against Serbia. Press Association Nottingham Forest midfielder Reid underwent hernia surgery on Friday and is expected to be ruled out for up to six weeks. QPR striker Doyle has a thigh injury which will keep him out of the clash at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, while Newcastle goalkeeper Elliot has a knee problem. The Football Association of Ireland revealed the news on Twitter and Republic boss Martin O’Neill has not called up any replacements for the trio.
Fulham manager Felix Magath is certain the Premier League’s bottom club will win their fight to avoid relegation. “He is not match fit,” Magath said. “He played only 60 minutes and has hamstring problems. We have to wait, he comes back today, our doctor has to see him and maybe if he is fit he will play. “We need a player in our situation who is prepared for 90 minutes relegation fight.” Mitroglou’s situation has confused Fulham fans, but Magath insists it is unfair to heap hopes on a player who will take time to adapt to English football. The manager said: “The Premier League is the best league in the world, so it cannot be compared with the Greek League. Every player who comes from the Greek League needs a few weeks to adapt. “You cannot expect such a lot from a player who is new in the Premier League. You have to give him time to adapt. “We know that and we make a contract with Mitroglu not for the game against Liverpool or Manchester United, but for the last games. “If he’s not fit now, he will be fit next week.” As a result Mitroglou was not risked for last week’s loss to Chelsea. Magath added: “Why should I spoil him in a game like Chelsea? Chelsea is the best defending team in the league and so we would get not many chances against Chelsea. “He’s new and he needs confidence, too. To get used is not good for him and not good for us.” Lewis Holtby, on loan from Tottenham, also did not start. The forward, who played under Magath at Schalke, has been told he is not the right sort of player for a relegation fight, but may be given a chance against Cardiff, where he may have more space to play to his strengths. Magath added: “We are not in a normal situation. Now is not the time to play very well, now is the time to fight. “Lewis Holtby is not a fighter. He is very smart, he is a very skilful offensive player who has very good passes. “A game against Chelsea, the best team in the league, we had not much space to create chances and therefore he was out for that game. Saturday is another game. We will see.” Winger Damien Duff, who is out of contract this summer, may have played his last game for Fulham as a knee injury is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the campaign. Magath said: “We have to expect that he will not play this season any more.” Midfielder Scott Parker is out of the Cardiff match with a knee injury. “It’s not so bad, but for Saturday he can’t play,” Magath added. Defender Fernando Amorebieta is still sidelined, while William Kvist is likely to miss out with hamstring problems, despite playing 90 minutes for Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night. “The team is growing together and that is what makes me sure that we can avoid relegation.” Three points at Cardiff would provide a welcome boost, Magath admits, but the west London club are not too worried about their predicament at present. Magath added: “These three points are very important for us, not only to step up from the last place, we need a win for ourselves, for our confidence. “I get the feeling here that everybody knows that and everybody sleeps well with the knowledge there are games ahead of us we can win. “We are in London, we are not in Cardiff or Sunderland where the whole city is interested in playing Premier League. “The atmosphere here is really relaxed for the situation we are in; it’s not typical for a team fighting against relegation. “We have to be aware that we are not only dreaming, but everybody has to put in a shift and push the team and push the players to give their best.” Magath knows that relaxed approach cannot filter through to his players, but he is undecided if Kostas Mitroglou will feature in Wales, despite the £12million striker playing an hour for Greece in midweek. Press Association Fulham are four points adrift of safety with 10 games remaining, six coming against teams in the bottom half of the table, including Saturday’s at 19th-placed Cardiff. “I’m convinced that we will avoid relegation because we’ve developed in the last 14 days,” said Magath, who was appointed last month.
Press Association Leinster stalwart O’Driscoll has already mentored Robbie Henshaw and Darren Cave in the Ireland squad, and Schmidt believes Ulster’s Jared Payne will be a definite contender. New Zealand-born Payne qualifies through residency in November, and Schmidt admitted the 28-year-old will be in immediate international contention. “To be honest the search for his successors started when I got the job, and he and I sat down,” said Schmidt. “There were pretty clear parameters about how long he would be available. “We’ve been doing that for the last nine months really, because we knew this day was coming. “We’ve tried to bleed him dry over the last six months, in camp sitting down with Robbie Henshaw and Darren Cave, talking through things as we’ve done them. “We’ve tried to bleed as much as we can out of him. “Brian would be the first to say that Les [Kiss] has brought a bit to his defensive game this season as well. Joe Schmidt has been building Ireland’s new dynasty of outside centres to replace Brian O’Driscoll for nine months. “We’ve certainly been watching players, and I think both Robbie and Darren have profited from the time they spent working with Brian. “One of the real success stories as a group was how much those players brought. “We’d be delighted if Brian stayed reasonably close to the group, because of the character he is as well as the on-field intelligence he brings to the group. “I guess that depends a little on Sadie and Amy [O’Driscoll’s daughter and wife] and other commitments he might have beyond the end of the season. “I know right now his full focus will probably just be recuperating for a couple of weeks, then targeting several massive games coming up for his province.” Schmidt said “class player” Payne will do battle with the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Fergus McFadden, Henshaw and Cave in the long-term fight for Ireland’s now-vacant 13 shirt. “Robbie Henshaw was almost whistled in every week during the tournament, because we were very much patched together at points and certainly for that last game,” said Schmidt. “There were some players who were starting to creak, as I said. “There are a few players who didn’t manage to finish training that week. “It did make preparation a little difficult, but those players knew they would be physically able to play, as long as we managed them carefully during the week. “And thankfully that was the case. “Robbie and Darren have been involved there. “Guys like Luke Fitzgerald who might play there a bit for Leinster, and came on and did a good job there against the All Blacks considering he hadn’t had a lot of time at centre. “Those sorts of guys, we’ll obviously keep an eye on as well. “And Jared Payne would definitely be another guy in the frame. “He’s a class player, an experienced player and he has a natural intuition on the field. “He’s a very good decision-maker on the field, he tends to be able to avoid the first tackle or beat the first tackle. “He’s a little bit flexible in where he plays on the field, he’s played on the edge or at full-back.” Head coach Schmidt said Ireland have tried to “bleed as much as we can” out of iconic centre O’Driscoll in his final moments on the international scene. Schmidt wants to keep O’Driscoll close to the national set-up until the 35-year-old retires fully in the summer, following his 141st and final Test as Ireland saw off France 22-20 to claim the RBS 6 Nations title.
Press Association Lyons said: “In a nutshell, he was professional. We’ve done Dundalk, we’ve done horrible ground in Naas and now horrendous ground at the Curragh. Gary said he was hating the ground and his hooves were spinning early on. “I told him to ride him like a good horse and take him off the bridle as late as possible. They say good horses can go on any ground, but I know he was hating that. “He’ll go five or six furlongs, but at the moment my gut feeling is the Norfolk Stakes (Royal Ascot). Hopefully the wheels don’t fall off the wagon, but I’m happy with where he is at the moment. “I want as many as possible of my team to go to Ascot – it’s our Cheltenham – but unfortunately it’s at the start of the season and we’re trying to fit square pegs into round holes a bit. There’s some nice races here and it’s not the be all and end all, but at the minute mine are being aimed at Ascot.” His task was made much easier when likely red-hot favourite The Great War was withdrawn on account of the ground, but there was still much to like about the Ger Lyons-trained two-year-old (4-6 favourite), who had previously won at Dundalk and Naas. Held up through the early stages by Gary Carroll as Coto led, he made smooth progress over a furlong and a half out when pulled out for his challenge. The writing was on the wall at the furlong pole and he swept past 150 yards from home, winning by three and a quarter lengths from Sors. Cappella Sansevero took his unbeaten record to three with an impressive performance in the Cold Move EBF Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh.
Cabella has indicated his willingness to consider a move to St James’ Park despite Montpellier president Louis Nicollin’s antipathy towards Newcastle, but all efforts to prise him away have to date come to nothing. But Pardew is keeping his fingers crossed that managing director Lee Charnley can make a breakthrough to land one of his top summer targets as the club prepares to head to New Zealand as part of its pre-season preparations. The Magpies have already drafted in Siem de Jong, Jack Colback and Ayoze Perez, but even before full-back Mathieu Debuchy’s anticipated exit for Arsenal, their need remains pressing with midfield flair, as well as strikers, the main priorities. Cabella’s capture would aid that quest, but there is still a long way to go before that becomes a reality despite optimism that a deal can be struck. Newcastle remain hot on the trail of Montpellier midfielder Remy Cabella but have not yet tabled a fresh bid. Reports from France on Wednesday evening suggested that the Magpies had made an offer of 12 million Euros – around £9.5million – for the 24-year-old France international they first tried to sign as a replacement for Yohan Cabaye in January. However, sources on Tyneside have insisted that is not the case, although their interest in the player is ongoing as Alan Pardew looks to further bolster his squad for the new season. Press Association