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Barcelona sack Valverde, appoints Quique Setien as new coach

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Barcelona have sacked coach Ernesto Valverde and named former Real Betis coach Quique Setien as his replacement, the club said in a statement on Monday.

“FC Barcelona and Quique Setien have reached an agreement for the latter to become first team coach until 30 June 2022,” the Spanish champions said in a statement.

The 55-year-old Valverde, who led Barcelona to successive La Liga titles in 2018 and 2019, came under fire this season for the team’s dip in performance levels even though they top the league standings at the halfway point of the campaign.

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Valverde is the first coach Barca have dispensed with in the middle of a campaign since Louis van Gaal was sacked in January 2003 with the team sitting 12th in the standings.

He also won the Copa del Rey in 2018 after taking charge in 2017.

Barcelona lead the standings on 40 points, ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.

Barca are also into the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face Napoli.

Even though he had a superb domestic record, Valverde’s standing was weakened by his failure to win the Champions League, suffering shock eliminations by AS Roma in 2018 and Liverpool in 2019 after taking a three-goal lead in each tie.

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The tide appeared to turn against the coach after a 2-2 draw at struggling Espanyol which was followed by a 3-2 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals.

“The club publicly expresses its gratitude to Ernesto Valverde for his professionalism, his commitment, his dedication and his always positive treatment towards all that make up the Barca family. We wish him luck and success in the future,” said Barcelona.

Setien, 61, coached Real Betis last season but left by mutual consent after leading the club to a 10th-place finish.

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The former Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander player is known for his possession football and attacking gameplan, which suits the way Barcelona were known for playing in the iconic Pep Guardiola era.

Setien will be presented on Tuesday, with his debut game at home against Granada on Sunday in La Liga.

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez and Ronald Koeman were both approached to replace Valverde, according to Spanish reports, but neither accepted the role.

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Nigerian basketball player, Michael Ojo is dead

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Nigerian-American basketball player, Michael Ojo has passed away after suffering a heart attack during training in Belgrade, Serbia.

The 27-year-old who previously played for Red Star Belgrade was reportedly having an individual practice at Partizan’s stadium when he collapsed on Friday, August 7.

Local media said he was rushed to the hospital from Partizan’s stadium but showed no signs of life and was confirmed dead.

“We are deeply saddened by the news”, Red Star’s spokesperson Igor Vujicin told AFP.

The Lagos-born who was 7ft 1in tall and weighed 22st played for Florida State University in the United States, before starting his professional career in Belgrade, Serbia with FMP for a year after which he played two seasons for Crvena Zvezda.

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He won the 2018 ABA SuperCup as well as the ABA League and the Serbian League in 2019. Ojo was a free agent this summer.

Ojo had been without a club since June 30 but was training with Red Star.

Red Star Belgrade released a statement mourning the shocking loss of their former star.

“The sudden and shocking death of Michael Ojo has deeply affected everyone — players, coaches and the management of a club that accepted him from the first day, and that he considered his own,” Red Star said.

His former teammates and EuroLeague also extended condolences to Ojo’s family, teammates, coaches, “and many fans who enjoyed his performances”.

 

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Aubameyang to commit future to Arsenal with three-year-deal

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Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal are close to agreeing a new contract with FA Cup hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after a breakthrough in talks with the forward, writes Dan Kilpatrick.

Following months of negotiations, the 31-year-old is believed to have verbally agreed to a new deal until 2023, thought to be worth more than £250,000 a week. Barring any late hitches, Aubameyang is now expected to commit his future to the club in a major boost to manager Mikel Arteta.

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The club captain has scored 70 goals in 109 appearances since signing from Borussia Dortmund for £56million in January 2018 and he has proved indispensable for Arteta, most recently with a match-winning performance in last Saturday’s FA Cup Final win over Chelsea.

Aubameyang is set to be joined in north London next season by Willian, with the Chelsea winger close to agreeing on a three-year deal with Arsenal, believed to be worth in excess of £100,000 a week.

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The Gunners are also eyeing Lille central defender Gabriel Magalhaes and want a central midfielder, with Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey among their targets.

A number of fringe players are expected to depart this summer, with AC Milan target Lucas Torreira and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who is wanted by Everton and Brighton, among them.

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Sane begs Alaba to shun Man City, stay at Bayern

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Former Ex-Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness believes any move away from the German champions would represent a step down for David Alaba.

Manchester City are among a number of clubs linked with the defender of late, with just 12 months remaining on his contract.

Former City star Leroy Sane has urged Alaba to stay at Bayern, while Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently insisted he’s confident of the Austrian’s stay.

“I can only say from my own experience that the last million is not that important,” he told DAZN and Goal.

“He gets a secure job here, a lot of fun, home, a lot of love from the fans and acceptance, which he would have to work for at another club.

“There is no club that is as familiar, cosy and pleasant as FC Bayern. For him, it would perhaps be a step forward financially, but in all other areas, it would be a step backwards.

“And according to my feeling, at least the clubs he would like to go to have never knocked, fortunately. And that’s why I hope that he will stay.”

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