Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard is reportedly considering a move to Serie A, with AC Milan interested in his signature.
Lingard has fallen down the pecking order at United recently, with a significant dip in form over the past 18 months resulting in poor seasons this term and last. He was substituted off against Manchester City in January after a disappointing performance, with head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seen expressing his dismay with Lingard on the touchline.
The 27-year-old carried the burden of not registering a Premier League goal or an assist throughout 2019, which has prompted criticism from Manchester United fans and seen his stock plummet from previous seasons.
Considering his drastic downturn form, Manchester United are said to be willing to let Lingard leave the club this summer. While 90min understands that Lingard won’t be forced out of the club, it has left him evaluating his options going forward, one of which could be Serie A.
Lingard has remained in regular contact with former teammates Chris Smalling and Ashley Young, with the former joining AS Roma on loan from United last summer in similar circumstances to Lingard, while Young headed to Inter in January. The midfielder is ‘greatly tempted’ by a move to the Italian top flight according to the Independent, having asked Smalling and Young what Italy is like.
Milan are one club who are said to be interested in Lingard’s signature. The Rossoneri have endured a downward spiral of their own in recent years, falling from Serie A royalty to mid-table mediocrity in a matter of years.
Despite once being a fan favourite at United, famously scoring a brace against Arsenal and proceeding to ‘Milly Rock’ at the Emirates in December 2017, Lingard’s recent form has seen him subject to heavy criticism from the Old Trafford faithful.
A move abroad might just be the spark he needs as he faces a career crossroads, but with United in no rush to sell him and the impending effects of the coronavirus on the summer transfer window, he could yet stay in Manchester for another season.
English clubs dominated Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In eight seasons from 1976/77 to 1983/84, an English side lifted the European Cup no fewer than seven times as Liverpool (4), Nottingham Forest (2) and Aston Villa conquered the continent.
English teams also lifted the UEFA Cup three times in nine years during a similar period, while Everton won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985.
That was the same year that Liverpool reached their fifth European Cup final in the space of just nine seasons, only for violence and tragedy to mar the clash against Juventus in Brussels.
Although the exact cause of the Heysel Stadium disaster is still debated, a group of Liverpool fans charged at Juventus fans in an adjacent section of the stand, separated only by a temporary fence and what has been described as a ‘thinly-policed no-man’s land’.
Heysel Stadium was in a state of disrepair at that time, while the perhaps ill-advised ‘neutral section’ resulted in rival sets of supporters during an era of rife hooliganism being too close to each other without sufficient protection or separation.
Juventus fans fled the charge towards a perimeter wall, part of which collapsed. 39 people, most of whom were Italian, were killed and an estimated further 600 injured.
14 Liverpool fans were convicted of manslaughter and UEFA threw the book at the club and English football as a whole, banning English clubs from European competition until the suspension was lifted in 1990 – Liverpool were banned for a further year on top until 1991.
There is reason to believe that had unthinkable tragedy not transpired that awful night, English clubs might well have continued to dominate the European Cup as the 1980s progressed, before Arrigo Sacchi’s mighty AC Milan arrived as the new force at the end of the decade.
Everton were crowned English champions in the 1984/85 season and the 1985/86 European Cup that they weren’t allowed to compete in is the one that got away for the Toffees.
Everton were already Cup Winners’ Cup holders and had beaten a very strong Liverpool side to the First Division title. What’s more, they had also strengthened that summer by signing Gary Lineker, who went on to score 38 goals in domestic competitions and finished the 1985/86 season by winning the World Cup Golden Boot and joining Barcelona.
In the end, the 1985/86 European Cup was won by Steaua Bucharest and is not remembered as a particularly vintage season in the history of the competition.
Manchester United were denied entry in the Cup Winners’ Cup, while Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton and Norwich were barred from the UEFA Cup.
Liverpool were the English champions who could not enter the 1986/87 European Cup. Had things turned out differently they might have fancied their chances as a functional Porto side are not considered among the all-time great European champions.
Everton, FA Cup runners-up to Liverpool in 1986, missed out on the Cup Winners’ Cup. West Ham, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Oxford would have been UEFA Cup entrants.
It was another chance lost for Everton in 1987/88, the season that PSV Eindhoven became the third Dutch club to lift the European Cup, led by an emerging coach by the name of Guus Hiddink.
Coventry City were denied a place in the Cup Winners’ Cup, which would have normally been the reward for their famously unexpected Wembley win over Tottenham the previous season.
It was a bitter blow as the Sky Blues’ only other major European adventure in their history came in the 1970/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a predecessor to the UEFA Cup, when they were thrashed over two legs by a Bayern Munich side who soon won three back-to-back European Cups.
The 1987/88 UEFA Cup places for English teams would have gone to Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Norwich that season.
Liverpool missed out on the 1988/89 European Cup as reigning English champions.
As with Coventry the year before, perhaps the bigger kick was for Wimbledon, who would have normally received entry into the Cup Winners’ Cup for their heroic FA Cup giant killing of Liverpool in an iconic 1988 final at Wembley.
Wimbledon had been a non-league club barely a decade earlier and ultimately never played in a major European competition before they were dissolved to become MK Dons in 2004.
Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Everton and Luton were denied UEFA Cup entry.
Having snatched the First Division title from Liverpool in truly historic fashion, the UEFA ban on English clubs cost Arsenal what would have been their first entry into the European Cup in nearly 20 years, since the 1971/72 season.
The Gunners actually struggled domestically that season, making it much less of a ‘what if’ question than had been the case for Everton in the very first year of the ban. The 1989/90 season was also when AC Milan were at their best, actually becoming the last club to successfully retain the European Cup until Real Madrid won back-to-back Champions Leagues 27 years later.
Liverpool would have entered the 1989/90 Cup Winners’ Cup in normal circumstances, while Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Derby and Tottenham would have entered the UEFA Cup.
Liverpool were the only English club barred from European competition in 1990/91. The ban on English sides had been generally lifted in 1990 but was kept in place specifically for Liverpool.
Red Star Belgrade went on to beat Marseille in an infamously stale 1991 European Cup final.
Elsewhere, Manchester United took full advantage of other English clubs being allowed back into European competition and lifted the 1990/91 Cup Winners’ Cup by beating Barcelona in a famous final in Rotterdam. It was only Alex Ferguson’s second trophy since taking charge.
Aston Villa didn’t make quite the same impact in an Italian dominated UEFA Cup. Nottingham Forest would have qualified, but England’s absence from European competition for five years hurt the country’s ranking within UEFA and only one place was available.
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The Premier League’s current legendary goalscorers all started somewhere and at one point or another were looking for that next milestone goal, whether it be 50, 70, 100, 150…
Among the players of today, several will end up all-time legends in their own right in due course, with Sergio Aguero close to becoming only the third player in Premier League history to reach 200 goals.
Here’s a projection of how many goals 10 of the Premier League’s best current forwards will end up with by the time their careers in the English top flight are at an end.
There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Arsenal future of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is only under contract in north London for one more year.
90min has previously reported that Arsenal, a club who have struggled with the final impact of coronavirus, could sell Aubameyang. The Gunners have negotiated a pay cut with the squad and senior official Josh Kroenke has previously warned against the problem of having a squad on Champions League wages funded by a Europa League budget.
Even if there is no market for Aubameyang this summer as a result of coronavirus obliterating the buying power of clubs across Europe, the Gabon star may not be around much longer.
Aubameyang scored 22 goals in his only full Premier League season so far, following on from 10 in 13 games when he first arrived. Another 17 in 26 so far in 2019/20 is equally impressive, but his final tally will stay relatively low because his stay is likely to be brief.
Current PL Goal Tally: 49
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 54
A projected final Premier League tally of 54 is only five more than Aubameyang has now.
If Manchester City lose their fight against a UEFA ruling to ban them from the Champions League for two seasons, it puts Raheem Sterling in a difficult position. At 25, if he wants to spend his peak years somewhere he has a chance of winning it, he would have to leave City in order to do it.
There are links with Manchester United that have emerged just this month, but if Sterling goes anywhere it is highly probable to be somewhere overseas.
If City do lose their appeal, it could mean Sterling leaving quite suddenly ahead of next season. Of course, there has to be a willing buyer with the funds to make it happen, and those could be even scarcer in the current climate.
If Sterling doesn’t leave City this year to ensure he is playing Champions League football, the chances of him leaving at all suddenly drop dramatically because half the ban would already be elapsed.
Sterling has only found his feet in front of goal since 2017 and has actually had a down year by his own new standards in 2019/20. If he leaves English football sooner rather than later, perhaps returning in his thirties, it is feasible he might not add too many more goals to his tally.
Current PL Goal Tally: 77
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 115
Robbie Fowler is the youngest player to reach 100 Premier League goals at 23 years and 282 days.
Predicting when Mohamed Salah might leave Liverpool is not easy. The Egyptian has been a key part of the club’s growing success over the last few seasons and is arguably the most expendable member of the Reds’ existing front three.
That being said, it has been well established that Liverpool have no intention of breaking up that trio, while there may not be much of a selling market for a 30-year-old Salah in 2022.
At some point in the not too distant future the Reds will have to start moving on and begin the process of rebuilding for the next cycle.
Salah is under contract at Anfield until 2023 and perhaps with a shorter-term extension in the intervening years to protect his value could be allowed to leave in 2022.
If that proves to be the case, there would likely be no end of suitors willing to take him, but it wouldn’t be a blockbuster deal because of the lack of clubs prepared to spend big on players with minimal long-term potential in the post-Neymar transfer market.
Salah will easily break 100 Premier League goals if he continues his current scoring rate for the next two years. The question will be by how much because in 2019/20 he’s on course to fall just shy of his 2018/19 tally, which in turn was less than his 2017/18 return.
Current PL Goal Tally: 72
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 115
The only African player to break the 100-goal barrier in Premier League history is Didier Drogba.
For someone who hadn’t played league football before the age of 25 or top flight football until he was 27, it is remarkable that Jamie Vardy is only a single goal shy of a Premier League century.
Leading the Golden Boot race this season, the 33-year-old will almost certainly reach the 100-goal milestone when the 2019/20 resumes. Then it will be a case of how much longer he can continue playing at this level and maintain a good output.
Vardy suggested in 2016 that his late arrival to the professional game might help him extend his career and it is easy to imagine he could remain a Leicester player until the end of his current contract in 2022 and perhaps a short extension on top of that to 2023, by when he’ll be 36.
Before coronavirus, Vardy was on course to eclipse his most prolific Premier League campaign to date. He could still do that by reaching 25, despite the lengthy break in play, and it is easy to imagine decreasing tallies could follow in the next two years.
Current PL Goal Tally: 99
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 125
125 Premier League goals would put Vardy level with Nicolas Anelka.
Anthony Martial is on the cusp of becoming a potentially very good goalscorer and has reaped the rewards of a noticeable shift in his mentality this season. He is also benefitting from being the main man at Manchester United for the first time since he was a teenager in 2015/16.
Fitness and consistency still hold Martial back occasionally, although it is easy to forget that he is still only 24. His improvement this campaign has therefore come at the right time as he prepares to enter his peak years next season and beyond.
The Frenchman has averaged a goal almost every other game in the Premier League this season, so 15 each campaign shouldn’t be beyond him. He also appears to have won over manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and so is unlikely to be shipped out before he is 30.
If he signs one more long-term deal in the next couple of years to extend his contract beyond its current expiry in 2024, it is plausible to think United would accept an offer for Martial around 2026, giving him six more years to score goals in the Premier League.
Current PL Goal Tally: 45
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 135
As things stand, only Wayne Rooney has more than 135 Premier League goals in United colours.
If Liverpool could be tempted into letting Mohamed Salah go within a couple of years, one player they surely won’t want to part company with is Sadio Mane.
The Senegalese winger is arguably a more important player, along with Roberto Firmino, in Liverpool’s system than his fellow African. However, the lure of a club like Real Madrid or Barcelona, should either be able to afford it, might be hard to resist as a once in a lifetime chance.
Financially, the likelihood is slim and it is possible to envisage Mane lining up for Liverpool into his early thirties, which means more opportunity to add to his existing Premier League goal tally.
With 80 to his name already, Mane could reach 100 by the end of 2020/21. Averaging between 15 and 20 at a similar scoring rate to the last 18 months could see him get to 140, on the lower end of the estimate, by the end of 2023/24.
Current PL Goal Tally: 80
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 140
Mane could join the likes of Michael Owen (150) and Robbie Fowler (163).
Tammy Abraham has proved his worth in his debut Premier League season with Chelsea by scoring 13 times in 25 appearances. No doubt the young Englishman has thrived thanks to a lack of other options, but he has at least taken the opportunity that came his way.
Only time will tell if he can replicate that longer term.
Abraham is far from a bad player and could conceivably have a long Premier League career that lasts another 10 years. Whether all that time is at Stamford Bridge is another question as he could so easily find himself with much tougher competition within the next two or three years.
Current PL Goal Tally: 18
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 150
Age could be what ultimately helps Abraham get among the top Premier League goalscorers of all time, with 150 more than both Teddy Sheringham (146) and Robin van Persie (144).
Marcus Rashford has still been finding his way until this season when, at 22, he appears to have settled on his best position – operating wide from the left.
His goal return has improved year on year since breaking into the Manchester United first-team in 2016, to the point where 2019/20 has been the most prolific of his fledgling career so far.
Those yearly increases actually make it quite difficult to project what his output will be in the future as theoretically there is not yet a discernible ceiling on his numbers. He could continue to hit 14 Premier League goals per season, or keep increasing it until he hits 20, 25 or even 30.
Despite reportedly flirting with Barcelona last season, Rashford now appears more committed to United than ever and is fast emerging as the centrepiece of the rebuild.
If he lasts another 10 seasons at Old Trafford and matches an average of the 14 Premier League goals he got in little more than the first half of 2019/20, Rashford would reach 181 – and that would be a distinctly conservative estimate.
Current PL Goal Tally: 41
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 185
If Rashford plays abroad during his career it would obviously impact his numbers in English football. If he doesn’t and spends his whole career in the Premier League the sky is the limit.
Sergio Aguero has one more year left on his Manchester City contract and will be 34 by the time that deal expires. He is already City’s all-time leading goalscorer and arguably greatest ever player and has long been tipped to play for boyhood club Independiente before he retires.
The timing of a 2021 departure, which would mark a full decade in Manchester, in order to head back to Argentina just seems right.
In eight full previous seasons as a Premier League player, Aguero has averaged 20.5 goals per season, a supremely impressive level of consistency. Even into his thirties, he has shown little sign of slowing down and had 16 in 22 to his name before 2019/20 was halted.
Current PL Goal Tally: 180
Project Final PL Goal Tally: 205
By the end of next season it is feasible that Aguero has 205 Premier League goals to his name, third behind only Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208) in the all-time list.
Harry Kane has long been tipped to surpass Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League goal record of 260. The Tottenham talisman will be 27 next month and is just over halfway there.
The problem is that he’s suffered badly with injuries in three of the last four seasons and is now way short of his 2017/18 peak when he plundered 30 in the Premier League.
Kane may grow frustrated if Spurs continue to fall away from the upper echelons of English and European football, but with a contract until 2024 his club holds all the cards. A move before 2023 seems unlikely because no buyer will pay what Spurs will ask for.
Given his recent injury track record as it stands, it is difficult to imagine Kane will hit his existing 24.4 goals per season Premier League average, certainly with any degree of consistency.
He could be pushing 200 goals by the time 2022/23 finishes and he closes in on his 30th birthday. Then, whether he has any chance of breaking the record would be determined by whether he heads abroad or stays in England.
Current PL Goal Tally: 136
Projected Final PL Goal Tally: 240
If he stays in England, Kane will get close to Shearer’s landmark. But he may not break it.
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Manchester United are to pay Shanghai Shenhua £6m in order to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan deal until January 2021, while covering at least a third of the striker’s wage packet.
Ighalo joined United in January, scoring four times in eight appearances before the coronavirus brought football to a near-universal halt.
His loan move was due to expire on 31 May, but United confirmed on Monday that a deal had been reached between the two clubs to keep the striker at Old Trafford for the remainder of the 2019/20 season and the first half of the following campaign.
Seen as a short-term, budget option, the Times have reported that the Red Devils will pay Shanghai a loan fee of £6m for the extension, in addition to covering around one third of Ighalo’s £300,000 per week wages.
The Mirror claim the amount United will pay is actually £130,000 per week, while adding that there is not option to buy at the end of the loan, which has a total cost of £10.5m.
Prior to the official announcement, Shanghai had been proving to be stubborn negotiators, stating they would only accept a permanent deal for the Nigerian international, who they valued at £20m.
However, the uncertainty surrounding when the Chinese Super League will resume, coupled with the fact Ighalo is not allowed into the country at the moment due to China’s current strict border laws, meant Shanghai’s stance softened, and a formal agreement was reached.
The former Watford man was initially brought in on transfer deadline day as cover for Marcus Rashford, after United’s first choice forward suffered a back fracture against Wolves in January.
Ighalo was primarily used in the Europa League and FA Cup, and with United still in both competitions and facing the prospect of nine Premier League matches in the space of six weeks once the top flight resumes, he could still feature heavily for the Red Devils despite Rashford’s return to fitness.
The signing of the 30-year-old was initially mocked as a deadline day panic buy, but Ighalo soon proved to be a shrewd acquisition, popping up with a brace and turning in a man of the match performance against Derby in the FA Cup fifth round.
Shanghai have offered Ighalo a new year four-year deal, which they still expect him to sign once his extended loan spell at United finishes.
Manchester United have announced a deal to keep Odion Ighalo on loan for another seven months until the end of January 2021. In short, it is a smart move that had to be done.
Ighalo’s continued presence at Old Trafford was really the only sensible option in a marketplace turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis. It ensures not only that there is still sufficient cover up front, but also allows the club to focus recruitment on more pressing positions.
United were mocked by onlookers when a rushed through temporary deal for Ighalo was announced at the 11th hour of the January transfer window. But there can be no denying that the 30-year-old Nigerian, a boyhood United fan, has been an objective success and served a valuable purpose.
The club had wanted teenage sensation Erling Haaland as their primary long-term target. But having lost out on his signature to Borussia Dortmund, United – a club heavily focused on getting the right characters after being undermined by numerous failings in the past seven years – opted for short-term cover instead of rushing into any expensive potential mistakes.
If the right player isn’t available, don’t force it. That is a mantra the club appears to have thankfully now adopted over the last 12 months, with former manager Louis van Gaal suggesting in the last few days that United would settle for players who might have only been seventh on the shortlist.
Long-term, United do absolutely need another striker if the squad is to be strong enough to compete for major honours. For now, Ighalo fills it until the right player in the right circumstances is available.
Nobody can deny Ighalo’s short-term success at United. He was never intended to be a regular starter and instead was expected to provide relief in FA Cup and Europa League games. That is exactly what happened and he made an impact when called on – four goals in three starts.
Marcus Rashford was missing through injury and Ighalo’s presence allowed Anthony Martial to be rested. Now, Rashford is once more fit again, but Ighalo will still have a crucial relief role to play as games come thick and fast in the coming weeks to finish the Premier League season before August.
Beyond providing the necessary cover up front, Ighalo staying in Manchester until next January also allows United to focus their recruitment strategy on other positions, ensuring funds and time can be dedicated to more pressing gaps in the squad and altogether lessening pressure.
Another striker is not now critical because Ighalo remains on board, but had it been that might have taken away from the money and time the club is expected to put into signing Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham, ticking off right winger, attacking midfielder and central midfielder.
No club, not even one as wealthy as United, is completely immune from the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said as much in April and that was reflected in the club’s financial figures for the three months to the end of March when matchday and broadcasting revenue were slashed and they actually recorded an overall loss for the period.
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