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Why Newcastle want Emenalo as director of football

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Former Chelsea director of football Michael Emenalo is in line for a senior role at Newcastle United.

The Nigerian, 56, has emerged as the No1 target to fulfil the same position he did with the Blues from 2011-2017, where he is credited with building the infrastructure for their incredible youth academy.

With his army of scouts he helped identify Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah and Romelu Lukaku as signings for the club.

Noble Emenalo also offered to resign when Jose Mourinho returned in 2013 – believing the Special One wouldn’t want to work with a director of football.

This is why the Magpies are desperate for his know-how, as they begin their own revolution following a Saudi takeover.

Emenalo, himself, was a talented player.

An international, he played for his country in the 1994 World Cup – coming up against Diego Maradona and having to mark the-then best player in the world, Roberto Baggio.

Experiences in Belgium, Germany and on our shores with Notts County prepared him for what would happen next.

10 years after calling time on his career after a spell in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he was appointed as a head of opposition scout at Chelsea, when Avram Grant was in charge.

His knowledge struck a chord with owner Roman Abramovich, who kept him on when Grant was sacked following defeat in the 2008 Champions League final.

“Mr Abramovich validated me after two and a half months,” Emenalo told The Guardian.

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“I didn’t apply for any of my roles. I came in as head of opposition scout, to help Avram Grant, and met Roman a few times. Apparently what I said made sense to the owner.”

By 2011, Emenalo was named as the club’s director of football.

Abramovich trusted the international relations and diplomacy graduate with shaping his vision for the club.

The first task was reinventing the failing youth system. However, that wasn’t easy while trying to build a team that could win things to appease the Russian.

“My argument was that all big clubs had great academies. Ajax, Barcelona, Real Madrid,” Emenalo revealed.

“But creating a new identity at Chelsea, rooted in the academy, while his ambition is to win trophies, was difficult.”

The infamous Chelsea loan system, which has seen somewhere in the region of 30-plus players getting game time elsewhere, was Emenalo’s brainchild.

He wanted older youth players to play 45 games a season, so they could get used to the gruelling demands of the game.

Emenalo recalled: “At first everybody said: ‘Nobody’s come from the academy.’ But a kid who comes to the academy at seven won’t be ready to challenge Frank Lampard when he’s 19.

“It became key to look at that space between 19 and 22 where we can prepare him to be a Chelsea player.”

The fruits of Emenalo’s labour have seen fruition in the last few years with the likes of Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount following that pathway to the first team, even earning Three Lions recognition.

Well before they became established stars, Emenalo identified Belgium was a hotbed of emerging talent.

He had scouts monitoring players across the globe, but there were glowing reports regularly about wonderkids at Genk and Anderlecht.

“My scouts had identified something was happening in Belgium. Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Chadli, Vertonghen, Courtois,” he said.

“The manager looked at me and said: ‘When did Belgium become Brazil? Who’s this Kevin De Bruyne?’

“I told him: ‘I don’t look at passports. I just watch the player. And this player doesn’t miss a pass. I don’t know if he will be a superstar but there’s something here.’”

Unfortunately for the West Londoners, De Bruyne was the one who they missed a trick on.

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Rennes hit out at decision to postpone clash with Tottenham

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Rennes have released a statement following the news their Europa Conference League clash with Tottenham on Thursday would be postponed.

With Spurs confirming in a statement of their own earlier on Thursday, the Ligue 1 have now responded on their club website.

“Following the press release published by Tottenham at 9 p.m. this Wednesday, Stade Rennais FC would like to clarify the following facts,” it read.

“In a video conference at 7.45 p.m. between representatives of UEFA, Tottenham and SRFC, the Spurs director of football announced her intention not to play the UEFA Europa Conference League game. Thursday evening. Unilateral decision which has not been confirmed by UEFA in any way.

“The Tottenham representative did not want to announce the number of her players affected by the Covid when the rule states that a match must be played as long as the team has 13 outfielders and a keeper.

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“She argued for a decision by the English authorities without advancing any official document. As the match was not officially canceled by UEFA, Stade Rennais FC upheld their decision to play.

“Faced with this “London fog”, the SRFC reserves the right to approach UEFA. This lack of fair play is all the more glaring as Tottenham had confirmed by email that the match would be held at the start of the afternoon before warning Rennes of their intention not to play just after their landing in London City.”

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Chelsea striker Kerr bowls over pitch invader

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Chelsea striker Sam Kerr was cautioned after doling out some rough justice to a pitch invader during a Women’s Champions League match against Juventus in southwest London on Wednesday evening.

The Australian was described by her coach Emma Hayes as the best striker in the world after helping Chelsea seal a domestic treble with two goals in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.

Kerr showed skills more in keeping with the Australian Rules code she played as a child when she barged into the fan who had run onto the Kingsmeadow pitch late in Wednesday’s game, leaving him in a heap on the ground.

Read Also: UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

The yellow card contributed to a frustrating night for Kerr and Chelsea as Juventus held on for a 0-0 draw, leaving the English champions needing a draw from a trip to Wolfsburg next week to be certain of progressing to the quarterfinals.

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UCL: Okafor strike sees Salzburg to historic win over Sevilla

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Noah Okafor scored the only goal as RB Salzburg claimed a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sevilla at the Red Bull Arena on Wednesday to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

Salzburg finished as runners-up in Group G with 10 points from their six matches, one behind pool winners Lille. Sevilla ended in third place and will play in the Europa League playoff round.

The first half had little goal-mouth action but the game burst into life after the break as Salzburg were helped by a second yellow card for Sevilla’s key midfielder Joan Jordan on 65 minutes.

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The match was played behind closed doors without fans due to heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Austria, so the hosts were unable to celebrate their achievement with their supporters.

For two sides with reputations as attacking teams, it took 35 minutes of cagey football for the first shot on target as Ivan Rakitic warmed the palms of Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn.

It was the only occasion where either keeper was worked in the first half, though Sevilla defender Jules Kounde headed wide from a corner with the best chance of the opening period.

Sevilla should have been ahead minutes after the break when Munir El Haddadi had a free header six yards from goal but saw his effort come back of the crossbar.

It was a big chance the visitors would rue missing as Salzburg went up the other end and scored with an excellent team goal.

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Read Also: UCL:  Atalanta-Villarreal tie postponed due to snow

They finally managed to string passes together and Karim Adeyemi was worked into space on the left. His low cross into the box was turned in by Swiss forward Okafor.

Sevilla’s night got worse on 65 minutes when Jordan received a deserved second booking for pulling back the pacey Adeyemi and they were left to find two goals with 10 men.

Salzburg were able to comfortably hold out to the end, with Rakitic’s first half shot the only one Sevilla, who are second in Spain’s LaLiga, could muster on target.

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