Ethan Ampadu: RB Leipzig Is the Perfect Loan Destination for the Wales Starlet

?As pre-season continues, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has made the big decision to let wonderkid Ethan Ampadu go on loan for the duration of the 2019/20 season. The Welsh youngster only featured scarcely last season, make a total five appearances for the senior team due to injuries and the depth of the squad.

According to reports, Ampadu has completed his medical ahead of a proposed loan move to Leipzig.

Below are some of the reason why this is the perfect move for the youngster to make: 


The Jadon Sancho Effect

Jadon Sancho

In recent seasons, the German top league has been somewhat of a haven for young British players to go and develop, as opportunities in the Premier League are few and far between. Their willingness to showcase talent bodes nicely for young players who want game time to develop.

Of course the standout example is Jadon Sancho, who at the age of 18 has managed to become a vital part of Dortmund’s first team. Other players who have played in the league include ?Ademola Lookman, Reece Oxford and ?Reiss Nelson.

Without the guarantee of first team football in England, the Bundesliga and Leipzig seem like a right fit for now. 


Healthy Competition for Places

Ethan Ampadu

But while there have been more chances made available to young British talent in the Bundesliga, Ampadu will face fierce competition for a place in the starting XI at one of Germany’s top clubs. 

The Leipzig squad currently boasts five centre backs and three defensive midfielders, which means the youngster will face an uphill battle to feature in the starting lineup week in, week out. However, if he is able to, it will be incredibly impressive, and will be viewed as such by his parent club Chelsea. 


Julian Nagelsmann

Julian Nagelsmann

Say hello to Leipzig’s new manage: Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most exciting tactical talents in world football. 

Nicknamed ‘Baby Mourinho’, he became the youngest manager in Bundesliga at the age of 28, and has blossomed into one of the very best in the years since. 

And, as Ampadu will be happy to hear, he has a great track record developing young players.

Due to this Ampadu, definitely will not be overlooked, as the fact that he can play in both midfield and defence will make him a hugely valuable asset to the young manager. 


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Ethan Ampadu Completes Medical at RB Leipzig Ahead of Loan Move Away From Chelsea

?Chelsea wonderkid Ethan Ampadu is on the brink of joining Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on a season-long loan this summer, having completed his medical with the Red Bull-backed club on Friday.

Blues boss Frank Lampard confirmed earlier this week that Ampadu was given permission to leave the club’s pre-season group ahead of a temporary move away from Stamford Bridge, but it remained a mystery where the teenager could end up this summer.

It’s now become clear that the 18-year-old defender is on his way to the Bundesliga on a season-long loan, and Sky Sports have confirmed that Ampadu underwent a medical with RB Leipzig on Friday.

Ampadu was even pictured in Leipzig’s city centre, with the versatile centre-back now set to be announced as a new signing in time for the club’s Bundesliga opener against newly-promoted Union Berlin on August 18.

For Chelsea, the arrival of Lampard was set to bring a new era of youth involvement at Stamford Bridge, with fans often being forced to see their brightest prospects shipped out to lower league clubs – or more notably Vitesse Arnhem – on loan over the last few years.

While the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham are expected to be given a chance under Lampard next season, Chelsea’s new manager has sanctioned Ampadu’s loan move as he can’t guarantee regular first-team football for the Wales international.

FBL-EURO-2020-QUALIFIER-HUN-WAL

Although Ampadu will be joining a Champions League club and one of German football’s most exciting managers in Julian Nagelsmann, chances could still be few and far between at the Red Bull Arena.

Defensive stars Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and Nordi Mukiele will limit his chances to start alongside Willi Orban, while Ampadu could also miss out in midfield to Diego Demme, Tyler Adams and a host of other talents at the club.

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Danny Drinkwater: Set for the Greatest Comeback in Sporting History at Chelsea?

When I started writing this, the pinned tweet on Chelsea’s official Twitter account contained a picture of Michy Batshuayi pouring water on the head of Danny Drinkwater, baptising him with life-affirming liquid, or something.

A quick look down the rest of the timeline showed the midfielder’s face in seven of the last 16 media posts, including a starring role in the three-year anniversary video for World Cup winner and Ballon d’Or nominee N’Golo Kante, in which he is the only midfielder chosen to talk about the Frenchman’s merits.

He’s similarly present on the club’s Instagram feed. So, what are Chelsea trying to tell us?

Well, it’s clear. We’re not gonna need to bring in the lads from David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac‘ to work this one out. The signs are all there. Danny. Drinkwater. Is. BACK. 

That’s right, the Dannaissance is here. The Drinkwateresurgence. The Second Noel (his middle name is Noel apparently, that’s the joke, but you probably wouldn’t have checked that). 

It’s not just increased social media showings wot dunnit, either. There’s actual, on-pitch football reasons, too! For example, the 29-year-old was one of just eleven men to start Frank Lampard’s first game in charge of the Blues. That’s hallowed stuff.

Danny Drinkwater,Keith Buckley

That was his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt since last August’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City, having been frozen out by Maurizio Sarri throughout the 2018/19 season. And, ironically enough, his last appearance before that had been against the same opponents in that ignominious (but not quite 6-0 embarrassing), pedestrian, uncompetitive 1-0 loss under Antonio Conte in March 2018.

And, in that ignominious, pedestrian, uncompetitive 1-0 loss to the Citizens, Drinkwater had been the only player in Chelsea blue worthy of praise. No, seriously, if I ever had the time/desire/skill to get into the YouTube highlights reel world, then that would be my first ‘out there’ choice. That would be the USP provider, and what a USP it would provide.

Because, in that game, Danny Drinkwater became Dañi Beberagua. Or Daniele Boirel’eau. He was classy. He was – Jesus Christ, am I actually going to say this? – Cesc Fabregas-esque. Hidden inside one of the worst games I’ve ever seen as Blues fan, was a miraculously conceived midfield masterclass.

Well, that might be stretching it. But it was a good, solid, fine performance. Akin to the one he put in against Liverpool a couple of months previously. You know, the one where the dearly departed Eden Hazard absolutely ROASTED him in the aftermath.

Danny Drinkwater

Speaking following the 1-1 draw at Anfield – the game where Willian scored that outrageously underappreciated chip which people said wasn’t on purpose for some reason – Hazard explained: “We changed the system, ?Danny Drinkwater was on the pitch and then we were a bit more defensive. The only player around me was Alvaro Morata, so if we wanted to win we had to do something together, just me and him.”

And, perhaps unsurprisingly for a man simultaneously named ‘Drinkwater’ and bought for £40m, that’s not the only cutting words he’s been on the receiving end of at Stamford Bridge.

There was, of course, the time that Maurizio Sarri ended him as an entity at Chelsea, with the immortal words: “He knows very well he has never played because in my opinion he is not suitable to my system, to my way of playing.

“I spoke with him in August, when the market was still open. I said to him he should look for something different. In my opinion, he doesn’t play. And I said to him the reasons, my reasons.”

Brutal.


And, to be fair, you could see how the ‘artistry’ of Danny could go missing in Sarri’s 4-3-3. But that was then, and this is now. This is Frank Lampard’s world we’re living in, and in Frank Lampard’s world there are 4-2-3-1 opportunities (not 4,231 opportunities, that’s too many) in which the Englishman could be deployed in a two-man midfield alongside his pal N’Golo, akin to those 4-4-2 days that the man, myth, legend thrived in under Claudio Ranieri. 

No, he was never worth £40m. No, he’s not a ‘modern’ player, he hasn’t got the industry. Yes, you’re right, the only reason he stayed was because he was on £100k a week and no one else in their right mind would be willing to cough that up. And, yes, his only notable outing in the last year has come in a vehicle, while under the, err, ‘influence’. Drinkwater will [not] Drink water, apparently.

But, he did stay, didn’t he? He didn’t kick up a fuss. In fact, he seems to be one of the most popular players in the dressing room. And, there’s no reason why he can’t chip in now and again with that infamous passing acumen, a la – ah sh*t, here we go again – Fabregas in 2016/17.

I mean, just look at the supreme influence he had as a supersub in this pre-season friendly against Kawasaki Frontale…


Huh. Maybe not then. Oh well. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

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Africa Cup of Nations: An All-Time XI From AFCON History

The Africa Cup of Nations 2019 edition comes to a close on Friday evening as Senegal vie for their first-ever title against a free-scoring Algeria in Cairo.

Bonafide superstars of European football like Kalidou Koulibaly, Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane all have the chance to become card-carrying legends for their countries, while the latter even admitted that winning ?AFCON would mean more to him than the Champions League medal he picked up with Liverpool just a month and a bit ago.

As the class of 2019 eye immortality, here’s an all-time XI of the tournament’s greatest stars…


Goalkeeper & Defenders

FBL-AFR-2017-MATCH32-EGY-CMR

Essam El Hadary (GK) – The incomparable El Hadary (gloriously nicknamed the ‘High Dam’) made 159 appearances for Egypt between 1996 and 2018, when he became the oldest player ever to feature in a World Cup finals at 45. He has won AFCON four times (1998, 2006, 2008, 2010) and was named as the tournament’s best keeper on three occasions. 

Honourable mention: Thomas N’Kono

Lauren (RB) – An ‘Invincible’ with Arsenal in 2004, Lauren is a two-time AFCON winner (2000, 2002) with the dominant Cameroon side of the early noughties that also won Olympic gold in 2000. His AFCON highlight came when he scored in the penalty shootout victory against Senegal in the 2002 final to retain the trophy.

Arthur Boka (LB) – Although never an AFCON winner, Ivory Coast’s Arthur Boka earns a place in the side for playing at five tournaments between 2006 and 2013, twice finishing on the wrong end of a penalty shootout defeat in the final. The pacey full back once dubbed the ‘African Roberto Carlos’ also won the Bundesliga against the odds with Stuttgart in 2007.

Rigobert Song (CB) – With eight tournaments under his belt, no-one has played at more AFCONs than former Liverpool, West Ham and Galatasaray star Song. He was captain as the Indomitable Lions won in 2000 and 2002 and was still wearing the armband in 2008 when they lost to Egypt in the final. The uncle of former Arsenal star Alex Song, he finished his international career in 2010 with 137 caps.

Wael Gomaa (CB) – One of the finest defenders never to play in Europe, Gomaa was a key member of the Egypt side that won the 2006 trophy and then defended it in 2008 and in 2010. 

The bald enforcer, who featured in all three of those tournaments’ Best XIs, retired in 2014 with six CAF Champions League titles to go with his AFCON medals.


Midfielders

Jay Jay Okocha and Pierre Wome Nlend

Geremi (CM) – An invaluably versatile operator, Geremi could play at the back on the right or in central midfield. He made seven AFCON squads for Cameroon winning twice in 2000 and 2002 alongside Lauren and Song. Among his other career honours, the free-kick specialist won two Premier Leagues, the UEFA Champions League and an Olympic gold.

Honourable mention: Yaya Toure

Abedi Pele (CM) – Regarded as one of the finest African footballers of all time and one of the first to make waves on the European game, Pele was also successful on his own continent, winning AFCON with Ghana in 1982 as a teenager. He scored three times and was named the tournament’s Best Player as the Black Stars returned to the final in 1992.

Jay-Jay Okocha (CM) – One of the most entertaining footballers to watch in the history of the modern game, Okocha’s dribbling, skill and invention saw him crowned Nigerian Footballer of the Year seven times. A key part of the 1994 AFCON winning Nigeria team, Okocha also won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Best Player award in 2004.


Forwards

Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match

??Samuel Eto’o (FW) – Eto’o might well be the greatest African footballer there has ever been. A three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona and Internazionale, the prolific striker was named African Player of the Year on four occasions, won AFCON twice (2000, 2002) and is the all-time top scorer in the competition’s history with 18 goals.

Honourable mention: Roger Milla

Mohamed Aboutrika (FW) – The talisman of Egypt’s AFCON wins in 2006 and 2008, the tricky forward is a bonafide legend in his homeland whose popularity is perhaps only just being matched by Mohamed Salah. The ‘Prince of Hearts’ scored the winning penalty against Ivory Coast in the final of AFCON 2006, while he coolly slotted a second-half winner past Carlos Kameni in 2008 to give Egypt a 1-0 win over Cameroon in the 2008 final.

Hossam Hassan (FW) – Representing the Pharaohs at seven AFCONs, Hassan is still Egypt’s all-time top scorer with 69 goals and, with 169 caps, is the second-most capped player in international football history. First winning AFCON in 1986, he then captained Egypt to their win on home soil in 2006 at the grand old age of 40.


Manager

Zambian coach Frenchman Herve Renard smi

Herve Renard – There can be only one. The immaculately dressed, unbuttoned Frenchman is the only manager to have won the tournament with two different nations, having led underdogs Zambia to improbable success in 2012 before repeating the feat three years later with Ivory Coast. 


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#LampardOut: Social Media Reacts as Football Manager Cult Hero Scores Winner Against Chelsea

?Leandro Damiao? Remember him? The Brazilian striker that was the next best thing up until the point he turned 29 (when?!) and was playing in Japan all of a sudden? Yeah, he’s just scored the winning goal for J-League side Kawasaki Frontale in a pre-season victory over Chelsea.

The defeat comes a little over a week after Frank Lampard’s first friendly in charge ended in a 1-1 draw with Irish side Bohemian FC and it’s may be only pre-season, but the very early signs aren’t exactly the best.

But hey, at least he still has the transfer window to bring a few players in and…oh. Awkward.

Anyway, in suitably Chelsea fashion, some fans already seem to have had it with the embarrassing results.




 


Not everyone was overreacting. Just most. 


??Chelsea travel to Manchester United in their opening match of the season, three weeks from Sunday. You know it’s a bad one when even the United fans think they’re hard. 


There was a lot of love for goalscorer Damiao, the Brazilian who somehow never actually played in Europe despite speculation to the contrary virtually every summer, and the odd January. Maybe now he’ll finally get that move to Tottenham…





Back at Chelsea, Christian Pulisic made his debut from the bench in what was a strong Blues side, and impressed some despite the circumstances.




Japanese football, never change. 

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