Super-agent Mino Raiola has launched a blistering verbal attack on Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, telling Dutch magazine Quote last week that he can never forgive him for his treatment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at Barcelona.

Raiola, who represents star players like Paul Pogba, Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku, as well as Ibrahimovic, said that while he respects Guardiola’s managerial record, he had no time for him as a person.

“As a manager Guardiola is great, but as a human he’s a zero!” he said. “He said we had to talk to him if we had any complaints, but then he stopped playing Zlatan and ignored him. He didn’t even greet him.

“Guardiola is like a classic priest: Do what I say, don’t do what I do. I advised Zlatan to go to work in a Ferrari and to park it in his spot.”

Raiola revealed that he almost came to blows with Guardiola when he left out Maxwell for the 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United.

“Guardiola is a cowardly dog,” he added. “He pulled the same trick on Maxwell, who is a great guy. I went to London for the Champions League final and saw in the stadium that he wasn’t on the list. So that f—ing Guardiola wanted to let [Eric] Abidal make his re-entry [after recovering from liver cancer]. That was fine of course, and you can see why, but be honest about it.

“I was livid, almost went for him [Guardiola] in the catacombs, but luckily Adriano Galliani, AC Milan’s president, was able to stop me.”

Ibrahimovic and Guardiola did not see eye-to-eye during the Swedish striker’s one season at Camp Nou in 2009-10, before he was sent on a season-long loan to Milan — eventually joining them permanently in 2011-12.

Ibrahimovic scored 11 goals in his first 14 league games at Barcelona, but his relationship with Guardiola soon deteriorated and he later wrote in his autobiography: “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari, you put premium petrol in the tank, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas. Guardiola filled up with diesel and took a spin in the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat.”

The falling out has likely ensured Raiola will not work with Guardiola again. When asked if he thought Manchester City would win the Champions League this season, the agent replied: “Yes, but I don’t want him to. Also because none of my players are with him.”

Raheem Sterling in England action
England are unbeaten in their last seven matches

England forward Raheem Sterling has urged fans to “give love” to the team going into this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

They have three more warm-up games before the tournament, starting with Italy at Wembley on Tuesday, having beaten the Netherlands 1-0 on Friday.

Sterling told BBC Radio 5 live: “I feel sometimes there is too much negativity.

“I would love to hear some positive notes coming in, just to let the boys know everyone is behind them.”

England were unbeaten as they topped their World Cup qualifying group, winning eight out of 10 matches, but their recent performances have not always impressed the supporters.

Gareth Southgate’s team, who face Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in their World Cup group, have gone five matches without conceding a goal, but have scored only three times themselves in that period.

‘They are probably not doing it in a malicious way’

Sterling, 23, made his international debut in 2012 and has won 36 caps, although he has been subjected to boos at stages of his England career.

“If you want your country to do well as everyone says, bring a positive light to it,” the Manchester City winger said.

“Make the boys go off to the World Cup with a clear head, that everyone is behind them and everyone is with them, and trust me I think you would definitely see a better England.

“I think if we get behind those players, give them love, you wouldn’t know how much that will help them, how much that would boost their confidence.”

Asked about receiving criticism from the England supporters, he said: “Obviously it’s disappointing when you put on a shirt and get negative feedback, but at the same time it’s what the fans want to see, they want to see you perform well.

“They are probably not doing it in a malicious way, but doing it in a way to make you know you need to step up. In a way it’s good for someone like me, I kind of thrive on stuff like that to try to build.”

The pacy forward praised City manager Pep Guardiola, who has guided the team to a 16-point lead in the Premier League plus a place in the Champions League quarter-finals – against Sterling’s former club Liverpool.

Asked about the Spaniard’s leadership, Sterling said: “It’s fantastic because he is a great coach. He helps you in little details, nothing spectacular, it’s just getting you back to basics, doing simple stuff.

“And you realise doing the simple stuff how much it can affect the game. That’s what he has brought back to my game, try to simplify things and that’s what I give him a lot of credit for.”

Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker
This is the first time two reigning heavyweight world champions have met in Britain

Anthony Joshua believes Joseph Parker will face an “overwhelming” experience in a unification bout which will go down in “history” on Saturday.

WBA and IBF world heavyweight champion Joshua meets WBO title-holder Parker at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

It will be Briton Joshua’s fourth stadium bout but, with 80,000 fans expected, represents a new level of interest for New Zealand’s Parker.

“It took me a few times to get used to it,” Joshua told BBC Radio 5 live.

“It’s an experience he hasn’t faced yet. It is daunting, it is overwhelming.

“You have a fighter that will block out the noise, which takes a whole heap of energy. Then you have a fighter who rides the wave, which can leave you too excited.

“The fight is won or lost in training camp but the last bolt is screwed on during the spell from your changing room to the first bell.”

Anthony Joshua and Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis became undisputed champion by defeating Evander Holyfield on 13 November 1999

Joshua told BBC Sport he has recently been watching videos of Lennox Lewis, who held the IBF, WBA and WBC titles in 2000.

Since then, only Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko have held three heavyweight titles at one time.

And as well as three of the four heavyweight titles, Joshua and Parker will put undefeated records on the line in the Welsh capital.

“This is history,” Joshua told BBC Radio 5 live’s boxing podcast.

“This is a unification fight with two heavyweights undefeated and it’s in the UK.

“It’s going to be electric. You know when you come here to fight myself, you know there’s going to be blood, a fighter hurt and 20 times out of 20 I’ve been victorious, so expect the same routine.”

‘Parker will be 30% better’

‘Fun and games’ – at home with Joseph Parker

Joshua has made subtle tweaks to his training since defeating Carlos Takamin October.

He now focuses on boxing during morning sessions, with running or strength work later in the day. The reverse of his old routine aims to see him fresher when doing technical work under the guidance of trainer Rob McCracken at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

And Parker – undefeated in 24 bouts – has undergone changes of his own after having surgery on both elbows late in 2017, a move which his camp claim has led to a 20% improvement in his punching since he out-pointed Hughie Furyin September.

“He is dangerous,” added Joshua. “He’s a king where he is from so he has that pride on his back as well. He has to represent the heritage and that’s important.

“I just believe that when people come to fight me, they come 30% better. If he’s known to be quick, he will be rapid. If he’s known to take a punch, I will have to throw the kitchen sink at him.

“They all come with that bit more ambition. I have to make sure that when I’m throwing my best shots, that I’m confident to know who I am dealing with.”

‘I’ve fought them both’ – Analysis

GB Boxing super-heavyweight and Joshua’s sparring partner Frazer Clarke

I’ve boxed AJ and Parker. AJ and I boxed in 2009 at my local sports hall.

I was meant to box a guy from Nottingham as an amateur, a bit of a pudding if I’m honest. It’s common in amateur boxing you get pull-outs. I was on the scales, a few rolls of fat on me and this shadow comes over me, a guy who looks like he’s been chiselled out of stone. It’s Anthony Joshua.

We had a proper good tear up. Straight away I knew this was a proper fighter who would go a long way.

When I was on the Great Britain squad, I fought Joseph Parker in India. A good fight and I’m told he remembers it. It was close, he got it on points and was probably a little bit fitter at the time. He carries similar things now to then, a lot of combinations, fast hands, a vicious puncher. I think these two will gel and it will be one of the best fights yet.

I can’t look past Joshua. I have done the whole camp sparring with him. We have sparred 60 or 70 rounds in this camp.

In the build-up to this, the Klitschko and Takam fights have done so much for him as a boxer. They have taught him being big, strong and fit is not enough at world level. You have to have a brain, know what to do when times get tough. He also learned the importance of patience and I think he has found his optimum boxing weight. Look at him now, he’s gliding, flowing, fast. This man can do it all.

Mohamed Salah’s stunning four-goal display in Liverpool’s 5-0 win over Watford at Anfield drew comparisons with Lionel Messi.

Even Jurgen Klopp refused to pour cold water on them, saying that Salah is “on his way” to being mentioned in the most exalted of company, while Steven Gerrard — one of the finest to ever pull on the famous Red shirt — gushed: “We are witnessing the start of greatness.”

Salah’s first and third were the kind of goals we’re used to seeing only Messi score. Given they occupy the same area of the pitch, are of similar height, build and are both left footed, comparisons are only natural. They are also misguided.

The Barcelona man is not only the best player on the planet, but many would say that he’s the greatest there has ever been.

Salah is a wonderful player in his own right but attempting to put him in the same bracket at Messi at this stage is akin to anointing a tennis player “the new Roger Federer” after one good year on the ATP Tour.

Salah is certainly the best “Messi tribute act” out there though, which in itself is quite the compliment. Some of the things he does and the goals he scores are undoubtedly Messi-like, but the Argentinian is the undisputed king of football and has been for the last decade (sorry Cristiano Ronaldo fans, but you know it’s true).

Salah is enjoying a phenomenal breakout season and he may even be in the Ballon d’Or conversation this year, alongside Messi. If Liverpool were to somehow triumph in the Champions League then he even could win it (as Liverpool’s cup treble in 2001 secured the award for Michael Owen), but as of now he’s probably a bit of a long shot.

A more apt discussion therefore is whether Salah will win the Premier League’s Footballer of the Year award. The next couple of months will go a long way towards deciding that but as of now he appears to be neck-and-neck in a two horse race with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane could still force himself into the reckoning if he recovers quickly from the injury that is sidelining him and if his goals were to secure the FA Cup for Spurs. Salah’s four-goal salvo last weekend opened up a significant gap between him and Kane in the race for the Golden Boot (he has 28 league goals to the Tottenham man’s 24) so the more interesting contest now is between Salah and De Bruyne as to who will be named Footballer of the Year.

Both are undoubtedly worthy but choosing between them is tough because it is not an apples to apples comparison. De Bruyne is an attacking player but his primary job is to create chances rather than take them. This puts him at something of a disadvantage when someone like Salah, who is not even a No.9, is scoring at an almost unprecedented rate.

De Bruyne has been phenomenal this season and is the brightest jewel in City’s glittering crown. Yet Salah has scored 36 goals in just 41 matches and in his scoring form, he might even be averaging a goal a game or more come the end of the season. Goals win games and goalscorers win the most headlines.

With Liverpool and City scheduled to meet in the Champions League quarterfinals that might go a long way toward settling the outcome. If De Bruyne pulls the strings as City progress to the semifinals that ought to be enough for him to secure the award. If Salah’s goals allow Liverpool to upset the odds then it would surely be impossible to overlook him.

Nobody, not even Klopp, had any idea that Salah could have made the kind of stunning impact he has. The signs were there in preseason but that was dismissed as “only preseason”. When the real action got under way Salah got off to a blistering start, but we were rightly told that it was “a good start, nothing more.” The real acid test would be whether he could sustain it. He has.

For eight months the Egyptian has kept scoring goals at a rate that few before him have managed. Liverpool have been blessed with countless great forwards over the years but Salah’s strike record compares favourably with any of them.

He’s closing in on 40 goals for the season and only two Liverpool players have ever reached that landmark before. Ian Rush hit 47 goals in 65 appearances in 1983-84 and then three years later found the net 40 times in 57 games.

Before that Roger Hunt tallied 42 goals from just 46 games in 1961-62, although that was in the old Second Division.

The 40 goal milestone is certainly within reach for Salah but he will be hard pressed to catch Rush. He is nine goals short of the mark set by the Welshman with a minimum of nine games to play.

If the Reds can get past City then they will have a further two games and hopefully even a third, so while it will be difficult it is not inconceivable that Salah could chase down Rush.

Should that happen then it would be the single greatest goalscoring season in club history, and perhaps even the greatest individual season by a Liverpool player full stop.

And he still wouldn’t be Lionel Messi.

“Fergie, sort ’em out!” was a regular cry from the Stretford End in Sir Alex Ferguson’s early years. The chant would come just before half-time when Manchester United were playing poorly or losing, in hope that the manager could turn things around. It was a criticism of the players but not a direct, personal one, more the fans’ way of suggesting they had to raise their game.

The support at Old Trafford didn’t really have need to complain on Saturday night when their team beat Brighton 2-0 in the FA Cup quarterfinal. The performance was mediocre against well-drilled opponents but a 37th-minute goal from Romelu Lukaku, United’s best player so far in 2018, raised spirits, as did Nemanja Matic’s late header.

A freezing cold night didn’t stop those in L Stand — usually the away end but given over to 1,400 vocal United fans in a trial — working through a medley of terrace classics. Credit goes to the club, the organisers and the participants for making the experiment work. Old Trafford needs more people making noise and Jose Mourinho has been right to call out the lack of atmosphere. But is he also right to call out his players, as he did — again — after Saturday’s game?

You won’t find anyone more critical of their own players than fans. The words of journalists can sting, but none are as harsh as those which come from those supposed to be behind them. Players will say that there’s nothing worse than getting berated by supporters of the club for which you play, but is it a necessary evil?

“If you’re not playing well, you should get stick,” said Ryan Giggs when I asked him about getting criticism. Others disagree with him, citing the potentially destructive effect on confidence that might be already very low. But while it’s true that players generally have to be able to withstand criticism, tweets from the anonymous online are very different from public condemnation from your boss.

Mourinho has been critical of many of his players, usually because he wants a response. He doesn’t want to be their friend; he wants an improvement and an “I’ll prove him wrong” attitude. When it works, as with Henrikh Mkhitaryan last season or, at times, with Luke Shaw, the manager can feel vindicated.

United’s manager is consistent: He would rather not need to publicly admonish — and he’s also generous with praise, especially for young players like Scott McTominay — but he’s used his methods for years and you’ll also struggle to find a more popular manager with his squad.

It is possible to defend Mourinho’s public censure. After all, if he doesn’t point out failings, who will? Players are surrounded by people who tell them what they want to hear; money talks, and agents make so much from their top clients that they want to keep them happy, even if that means having members of their family on the payroll.

So if relatives or employees would balk at undermining players with uncomfortable home truths and people at the club hardly want to upset the apple cart either, you’re left with one man to dispense discipline or strong words, and Mourinho does it because he thinks that’s what best.

It can look harsh when he’s singling out a 22-year-old like Shaw, but the undeniably talented left-back has not always helped himself. For example, to the consternation of others, he was last to board the team bus one day during his first preseason; Darren Fletcher had to go and hurry him up. A year later, Shaw admitted to me that he could have worked harder. When he did, he was cursed by injury.

Sometimes things are not meant to be. Shaw will have plenty of time to prove his manager wrong if he does leave, and Mourinho, like any in his line of work, doesn’t always get it right. He had Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah at Chelsea but let both go; the pair have been the best players in the Premier League this season.

Mourinho is frustrated because his talented, expensively assembled squad is not playing to its potential. Whom do you blame for that? Mourinho is pointing his finger at the players, but there have been plenty of times when he’s turned attention to himself to deflect criticism.

Match-going fans are still overwhelming behind their manager: In a United We Stand fanzine poll, 83 percent thought Mourinho should get a third year, with 11 percent saying he should go now. The remaining 6 percent put off deciding until the end of the season.

United’s boss is under severe pressure, with critics convinced that he’s finished at the top level, but while he makes mistakes, it’s worth remembering that, seven days ago, his stock was as high as it had ever been since he joined United. A week is a long time in football.

Andreas Christensen revealed that a conversation with former Chelsea captain John Terry has helped him recover from a series of recent mistakes on the pitch.

The 21-year-old’s emergence as a regular starter in the heart of defence has been the bright spot of a disappointing Chelsea season, but costly errors against Barcelona and Manchester United prompted speculation that Antonio Conte could bench the youngster in favour of more experienced alternatives.

But that did not come to pass and speaking after an assured display in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, Christensen said he had sought out the advice of Terry, who is now at Aston Villa.

“My teammates have seen all my other performances, so they know that these mistakes aren’t typical for me,” Christensen told Sportdominion.

“I have had a smaller talk with John Terry. He has also experienced setbacks and it is always nice to talk to someone watching it from the outside and to learn that they have experienced the same.

“He told me that it is natural to make mistakes and he tried to put it in perspective for me saying that … we can’t change a goal scored against us, so when we make mistakes it is more crucial and it is easy for people to point fingers. I have realised it, looked at it and now I have moved on.”

Christensen displaced David Luiz from Conte’s preferred starting line-up in November and the Brazilian’s ongoing injury issues have enabled the youngster to keep playing through his recent slump — a fact that he says has helped him to emerge stronger from the experience.

“I thought I might be out of the next match [after the errors] but I try to tell myself that before these matches I have played all the other ones almost with no mistakes at all,” he said.

“I hope that is the reason I get to start, because the coach knows he can trust me, I haven’t made any mistakes, but been very solid for a long period. I am focusing on all the good games I have played this season.”

Chelsea and Atletico Madrid are tracking RB Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, sources close to the Bundesliga

Both sides are considering goalkeeping options for next season should their respective No. 1s Thibaut Courtois or Jan Oblak depart in the summer.

Belgium international Courtois has yet to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge amid reported interest from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, while Atletico’s Oblak is being looked at by Arsenal and PSG.

Gulacsi has emerged as a target for both, with the Hungary international having impressed this season, helping Leipzig to a win over Bayern Munich last weekend.

Gulacsi, who topped the rankings for goalkeepers in the Bundesliga earlier this season, has conceded only 34 goals in 26 league games so far.

The 27-year-old is an attractive proposition for Chelsea because he qualifies as a homegrown player following a five-year spell at Liverpool.

Leipzig, who are currently sixth and two points outside the top four, would be reluctant to lose Gulacsi, but could face a fight to keep their best players if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.

Tours midfielder Thomas Rodriguez has died at age 18, the French club announced on Friday.

Rodriguez died overnight from Thursday to Friday. No details were given as to the cause of death.

“Tours FC is devastated by this drama, which plunges the club into an immense sadness,” the Ligue 2 side’s statement said.

Rodriguez joined in 2016 and progressed through the Tours youth academy before playing for the reserves.

“His footballing qualities, his drive and his motivation made him a player promised a bright future as a professional,” the statement said. “The club offers its most sincere condolences to his family, his loved ones, and all the teammates and friends of Thomas.”

Tours’ game against Valenciennes scheduled for later on Friday was postponed. A minute’s silence will be held at all stadiums in Ligues 1 and 2 this weekend.

Rodriguez’s death comes after Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before an Italian match at Udinese.

In January 2009, 23-year-old Clement Pinault, a defender with Clermont in Ligue 2, died in hospital four days after suffering a heart attack at home.

'Dortmund is my home, my club,' says Marco Reus after penning a new five-and-a-half year deal
‘Dortmund is my home, my club,’ says Marco Reus after penning a new five-and-a-half year deal

Marco Reus has signed a new contract with Borussia Dortmund until June 2023.

Reus, whose previous deal was due to expire at the end of next season, turned down “the best clubs in the world” to stay with Dortmund, according to the club’s chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke.

After signing the five-and-a-half year extension, Reus said: “I am happy and proud to be able to announce today that I’ll continue to wear the shirt of Borussia.

Reus last represented Germany two years ago, in a 4-1 friendly win over Italy
Reus last represented Germany two years ago, in a 4-1 friendly win over Italy

“Dortmund is my home, the BVB is my club. Since my childhood I dreamed in black and yellow to run and play for this club.

“This signature is a clear sign of the future. The fact that I can renew my commitment to the club today is also a thank you to our fantastic fans who have always helped me.”

Watzke added: “We are very pleased to be able to announce the extension of the contract with Marco Reus.

“Although the best clubs in the world have made offers to him again and again in the past, he has decided to extend his contract.

Hans-Joachim Watzke says Marco Reus turned down offers from some of the biggest clubs to remain at the Westfalenstadion
Hans-Joachim Watzke says Marco Reus turned down offers from some of the biggest clubs to remain at the Westfalenstadion

“I have a special personal relationship with him. The talks with Marco and his advisers were constructive and harmonious from the beginning.”

Reus has scored three goals in seven appearances since his return from a long-term cruciate ligament injury, and sporting director Michael Zorc said: “Marco makes any team better.

“He is the man for the important moments and especially the important goals. He is the cornerstone of our attack.

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