Gareth Bale has joined up with the Wales squad ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia, just 24 hours after being unveiled as a Real Madrid player.
The 24-year-old flew back to Cardiff on Monday night, having been presented at the Bernabeu at lunchtime following
Bale made it clear at his unveiling he was keen to join up with Wales in order to regain fitness ahead of his Real debut, and Chris Coleman is delighted to have him available.
But with the winger not having played since July, Coleman will not take any risks with his fitness.
Coleman told a packed press conference in Cardiff: "If he is not ready we will not risk him, regardless of whether it is a world record fee.
"We are aware a lot of people will want to see him play in the home game against Serbia. But he has no chance of playing 90 minutes on Friday or on Tuesday.
"He has not done much work in the last six weeks or two months," Coleman added. "His last training session was with us before the Republic of Ireland game (in which Bale played no part in due to a foot injury)."
"But he is here, he will train with us and we will assess him.
"For him to start on Friday would be a doubt, but that does not mean he cannot play a part."
In the face of insurmountable pressure, coaches in Serie A are forever being judged, sacked or compared to one another. Who is the best, who has improved the most, who is the best motivator, the best tactician?
Players come and go, but the Italian media often focuses to the man on the bench. So just who is making the best impression in Serie A after two games of the season?
“[Walter] Mazzarri is so far the number one coach this season for his ability to effect change in his team,” explained Sky Sport 24 journalist Stefano De Grandis. “I think he’s more influential than Antonio Conte.”
The new Inter boss has indeed proved effective so far. With the club lacking an identity last season, Mazzarri has quickly made his mark and constructed an side according to his own vision. Having scored five goals in two games whilst conceding none, the Nerazzurri are powerful, mature and most importantly lethal.
Renowned for his counter-attacking style of play, his love of a three-man backline and preference for experience over youth, Mazzarri wasn’t seen as the ideal choice for the job. For one thing, had heavily invested in youth. Fans had also been critical of previous coach Gian Piero Gasperini’s back three.
However, unlike Gasperini, Mazzarri favours fast, vertical football that relies on precision, heavy pressing and lethal finishing. Possession is not vital. As such, unsung players such as Ricky Alvarez and Jonathan have began to flourish, with the former exceptional in recent displays.
The chemistry within the side is already evident: the quick transitions are a pleasure to watch whilst they have an uncanny ability to create overlaps. Could Mazzarri be what Inter have needed all along?
Then there’s Antonio Conte.
Juventus took on Lazio over the weekend and produced a sublime performance, inspired by the maturity and perfect positional play of youngster Paul Pogba. put four past a hapless Lazio, who have now conceded nine goals in their last three competitive matches.
Unlike the start of last season, which saw Juventus win despite their indifferent attitude on the pitch, this current side seem hungry. The difference? Conte is on the bench this season whilst he spent the beginning of last term sitting in the stands, serving his four-month ban.
Between Carlos Tevez’s mouth-watering technique, Pogba’s passing and Arturo Vidal’s finishing, this Juve side is a well oiled machine that looks stronger with each passing matchday. They’re more efficient in front of goal: they have managed to score five from 23 shots on goal this term.
There are other success stories too. Vincenzo Montella (above) has created a romantic Fiorentina team that is both aesthetically pleasing and ruthless, whilst Massimiliano Allegri has once again started winning despite tabloid speculation over his future at Milan.
Again, for better or worse, it’s the coaches who come under the most scrutiny in Italy.
The three "imposters" who tried to "sabotage" Ander Herrera’s move from Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United have been identified as Spanish lawyers.
The men, who MirrorFootball understands were acting legitimately, arrived at the HQ of La Liga in Madrid, where they are reported to have tried to conclude the £30.5m transfer of Herrera from Bilbao to United, before leaving after an hour when it the deal hit a snag.
It was first thought the trio were nothing more than hoaxers intent on making a name for themselves. Reports in Spain described the suited trio as "imposters", while Manchester United denied any association with them.
But it has since emerged the three men are from Bilbao law firm Laffer Abagadosa and have been identified as Guillermo Gutierrez, Alvaro Reig and Rodrigo Garcia, all of whom specialise in sports law.
The trio are said to have been involved in football deals before – they helped broker Javi Martinez’s move from Bilbao to Bayern Munich last year – and were thought to be acting as intermediaries in the potential deal taking Herrera to United.
But the deal collapsed just an hour before Monday’s 11pm transfer deadline because United felt the £30.5m buyout clause in Herrera’s contract was simply too high – although sources have indicated David Moyes remains a fan of the 24-year-old and may , when then window reopens.
Theo Walcott finally feels like he belongs in the England set-up.
But admits it means he will deservedly have to take his share of the flak if are spectators in Brazil next summer.
Walcott’s all-round performance and first Wembley goal, against Scotland last month, was further proof of his growth into a key element of Hodgson’s thinking, 15 months after being behind Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Euro 2012 pecking order.
And seven years after he became England’s youngest player in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup, Walcott is ready to take on Moldova and Ukraine as one of themen Hodgson can rely on.
Walcott said: "I feel like I should be here. I think maybe a few years ago I was always a bit timid but now I feel like this is where I should be and where I want to play my football.
"People expect more from me at Arsenal now, and England. With the way I am playing for Arsenal I feel I’m getting there and the last couple of games for England have been a similar sort of thing.
"Themanager has shown faith in me. He’s now seeing me playing for England as I have been for Arsenal and I’m starting to show that belief in myself as well.
"I’m actually performing like I do for Arsenal, enjoying every single minute of it.
"But I know I can deal with the pressure. Now I feel like one of the oldest guys in the team.
"I’m24, I’m reaching the top of my game and I’m going to expect those demands. It’s a big challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it."
Walcotthas come a long way since his callow trudges round the ice-cream parlours of Baden Baden as he realised he was a passenger in Sven Goran Eriksson’s squad in Germany.
A personal-best tally of 21 goals for the Gunners last term – "It was more than I thought I was going to get, to be honest," he conceded – reinforced his credentials as more than just a speed machine and he has started the new campaign as well as he finished last term, boosted by the way he steered past Allan McGregor after exploding away down the flank.
But having, finally, made himself an England fixture – the pain of being axed from Fabio Capello’s2010 World Cup 23 remains fresh in his mind – Walcott agrees he will have no get-out if Hodgson’s side fail to negotiate the next six weeks successfully.
"It was great to be involved in the Euros but the next step is to have a consistently high level and play at the top in Brazil," he added.
"Going there will be a dream come true but Englandhave to be competing at the top level – and if you’re not at the World Cup, you’re not at the top of your game.
"We know the task ahead, that if we don’t get there it will be a big disappointment.
"When we didn’t make it to the Euros in 2008, as a fan I was gutted. If England aren’t there it doesn’t feel right.
"Youwant the best countries and the best players at the World Cup and you want to test yourself. It’s something you don’t want to think about but I’m not focused on that because I believe this team is good enough."
Struggling Sheffield United became the solvents of Arabia after selling a 50 per cent stake to a Saudi prince.
chairman Kevin McCabe last night hailed the arrival of Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al-Saud – whose family is worth an estimated £12billion – as a “game-changer” at Bramall Lane.
United,currently a lowly 17th in League One, were facing massive cutbacks without major investment after receiving the final £5m instalment of compensation from West Ham, in the fall-out from the 2007 Carlos Tevez scandal, this season.
Butthe arrival of a new benefactor from the super-rich Arab kingdom where the royal family governs petrochemical industry worth £10 TRILLION has turned manager David Weir’s side into Sheff-oiled United.
McCabe,who has pumped £90m of his fortune into the club over 10 years, announced Prince Abdullah would fund “substantial” refurbishment of Weir’s squad, crowing: “We’ve been looking for partner investors for sixyears and this is fantastic. This is game-changing for this club.
“Themoney being made available is for investment at first-team level and that means building a squad that can get us back to the upper echelons of English football.
“The partner is here for the long term and I’ve got to know him well, and I’m delighted that he’s on board.”
PrinceAbdullah’s personal wealth is estimated by the respected Forbes rich list at $144.5m (£93.5m), with his fortune locked into a massive paper manufacturing industry – but he is no paper tiger at the bank.
Sincetheir Saudi saviour joined the board, the Blades have already signed Stoke midfielder Florent Cuvelier for an undisclosed fee and Manchester City striker Harry Bunn on loan.
Inrecent years, United have been forced to sell star players including full-back Matt Lowton to Aston Villa and midfielder Stephen Quinn to Hull City, to balance the books – but they will now be able to keep prize assets like England Under-21 goalkeeper George Long and highly-rated defender Harry Maguire.
PrinceAbdullah insisted he would abide by financial fair-play rules, warning:“Money will be spent judiciously, and in any case we want to comply with the salary cost management protocol.
“I am delighted to invest in such a sensibly organised community club with a great history and heritage.”
TheSaudi prince, who has homes in Riyadh, London and Beverly Hills, joins the board as McCabe’s co-chairman along with James Phipps, who brokered the deal.
Phippsconfirmed the investment will not run to “ridiculous” sums of money, adding: “Think of Liverpool rather than Manchester City.”
In2007, McCabe rejected an approach from Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung – who later gained a controlling stake in Birmingham City. Yeung is currently fighting money-laundering charges in the Far East.
Unitedwere relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season six years ago, suffering an agonising home defeat by Wigan, while Tevez -whose arrival at Upton Park broke transfer rules – scored the winner for West Ham at Manchester United.
The Blades were awarded £25m compensation from the Hammers to cover lost income from their relegation.
Cristiano Ronaldo is impossible to man mark, claims Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill as he attempts to shackle him again.
managed to keep Ronaldo quiet when Northern Ireland earned a fantastic 1-1 draw in Porto last October.
AndO’Neill must find a way to contain the again when the Irish face Portugal in their World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park on Friday.
“If you look back to the game in Porto when Ronaldo won his 100th cap, I thought as a team wehandled him fantastically well,” said the Northern Ireland manager.
“That’s the way to do it. I don’t think you can designate one player to look after him.
“AaronHughes was up against Ronaldo more than anyone that night with Corry Evans in front of him and they were absolutely outstanding.
“He has licence to roam around the pitch and as we did last time, it will be up to us as a team to handle that.
“Attimes it isn’t so much about stopping him, it’s can you limit the supply to him and can you limit the space he has to operate in?
“Thatcomes through good organisation and hard work. We had that in Porto andwe’ll need that in Belfast. We’ll have to have a very considered approach because if players like him get space, they can hurt you.”
Gareth Bale proved his commitment to Wales – even on the verge of signing his £86million world-record move to Real Madrid.
Withinhours of his unveiling at the Bernabeu, returned to Cardiff and trained with his international team-mates yesterday ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Macedonia.
And Wales boss Chris Coleman was glowing in his praise for Bale after revealing the superstar called him while he was on his way to the Spanish capital for the biggest day of his life.
Colemansaid: “I’m delighted with Gareth and I can’t speak highly enough of hisattitude. If you imagine what was going on in his mind on Monday, the experience he was having and the relief of finally signing, but he stillcalled me to say he was on his way to Real Madrid.
“He said he had the unveiling to do but then he would jump on a flight and come straight back – that spoke volumes.
“Ijust said, ‘Text me when you arrive back at the hotel so I know your movements’ and that’s exactly what he did. That is the attitude you are looking for from your players.
“I know the type of lad he is – he’s a grounded boy who is passionate about Wales.
“Ifwe’re going to progress and get better then that’s the mentality we need in our squad.” Ex-Tottenham ace Bale has not figured since July 16 due to a foot injury as well as the major doubts over his future.
ButColeman insists Wales will not take a gamble on the 24-year-old’s fitness either in the Group A qualifier in Skopje or against Serbia nextweek.
Coleman added: “If Gareth’s not ready we won’t risk him or anyone else. We will have a lookand we will monitor how he goes in the next couple of training sessions. But he has no chance of playing 90 minutes in either game.”