Benat set for Athletic Bilbao return

The Spain international has agreed a five-year deal with the Basque giants and is due to move back to his boyhood club for a sum of €8 million

By Gorka Posada

Athletic Bilbao are set to clinch the signing of Real Betis midfielder Benat for a fee of €8 million, Goal understands.

The 26-year-old spent time at San Mames as a youngster, but left the club in 2009 for the Andalusians on a free transfer after failing to break into the first team.

However, Benat has since resurrected his career in Seville, making over 100 Liga appearanes for the club during his glittering spell.

Although his form had seen him linked with a move to both Manchester City and Bayern Munich, Benat has always maintained that his dream was to return to his boyhood club, and the Basques have now won the race for his signature.

The Spain international has agreed a five-year deal with Athletic and Betis’ acquisition of Joan Verdu from Espanyol has cleared the way for him to return to the club.

Benat will be confirmed as Ernesto Valverdo’s first signing as the new boss of Athletic imminently.

Language barrier crucial for Guardiola – Van Gaal

The Netherlands coach has compared the Spaniard’s spell to his own at Barcelona, highlighting the importance of communicating with his players

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal believes the language barrier will be key to Pep Guardiola achieving success at Bayern Munich.

Guardiola officially took charge of the European champions on Monday, and impressed reporters by answering questions at his first press conference in excellent German.

The 42-year-old’s brother revealed earlier this month how Guardiola had been meticulously studying German during his sabbatical last year, and Van Gaal believes this could be vital in securing further success with the treble-winners.

“Language is a crucial factor for Guardiola,” Van Gaal told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

“German is a tough language for Spaniards, just as Spanish is for the Dutch.

“I compare his spell with Munich to mine at Barcelona. What I said at the very beginning to the players was: ‘Correct me if I say something wrong.’

“Then the social guys on the team will help you. So you get a faster connection [with the squad]. The German players are like that, so that will help.”

Van Gaal also pointed to the tactical decisions Guardiola must make with the current Bayern side, highlighting the different attacking approaches adopted by previous boss Jupp Heynckes and the Spaniard during his time at Barcelona.

“Most important is what he will do with the Bayern style of play. Jupp Heynckes and I have spent the last few years playing with a No.10,” he added.

Guardiola will miss someone like Messi at Bayern, says Koeman

The Dutchman believes his former Barca team-mate will miss the Argentine forward but has stressed the Bavarians still have plenty of quality

Feyenoord coach Ronald Koeman thinks that the absence of a player of Lionel Messi’s qualities could complicate things for Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

Attackers such as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have played a key role at the Bundesliga champions in recent seasons, yet Koeman feels they are not at the same level as Messi and he is curious to find out how Guardiola will fare without the Argentine.

“At Barcelona, Pep had Lionel Messi in his team, who could single-handedly decide matches,” Koeman was quoted as saying by De Telegraaf.

“In my opinion, Bayern Munich do not have a similar player.”

However, Koeman still thinks the Bavarians have plenty of quality, even without a player like Messi.

“He has inherited a fantastic team and then Bayern are also able to sign an amazing player like Mario Gotze. The players at his availability should not be the problem.”

Koeman played alongside Guardiola at Barcelona from 1990 until 1995 and his former team-mate’s success as a coach does not come as a surprise for the Dutchman.

“It’s only logical that he became a coach. I didn’t see it right away, because he was still in the early stages of his career when we played together. But he had fantastic qualities as a footballer. He had superb vision, was a real teamplayer and was always thinking about tactics.”

Betting Special: Could Dzeko replace Lewandowski at Dortmund?

The striker has long been rumoured to be leaving the Etihad Stadium this summer and our tipster thinks he may be tempted to return to the league where he made his name

Aside from the odd flash of brilliance, it is safe to say that Manchester City fans have not seen the best of Edin Dzeko, who has been strongly linked with a move away from the club this summer.

Nevertheless, the rangy striker would not be short takers should he decide to leave the Etihad Stadium, with his prolific Bundesliga form still not forgotten and his impact off the bench at times last season proving pivotal.

Jose Mourinho is thought to be a firm admirer of Bosnia’s leading scorer and Chelsea are 6/4 (2.50) favourites with BetVictor to land the man seen as the main fall-back option in their pursuit of the potentially Real Madrid-bound Edinson Cavani.

In fact, the Uruguayan striker could play a pivotal role in this transfer, as Napoli are next in line at 4/1 (5.00) to bring Dzeko in as replacement for their star striker, should he complete a much-anticipated departure.

However, there is another transfer saga worth keeping an eye on in this whole episode, as Robert Lewandowski’s determination to join Bayern Munich could leave Borussia Dortmund with a position to fill and money to burn.

Jurgen Klopp has previously expressed admiration for the former Wolfsburg man, whose exemplary pedigree in German football would make him a likely candidate for the Champions League runners-up,  and odds of 7/1 (8.00) are therefore well worth a nibble on him heading to the Westfalenstadion.

If, on the other hand, Bayern fail to secure their main target, then Pep Guardiola is available at 33/1 (34.00) to lure the City forward to Bavaria instead.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid have lost one of the hottest attacking properties in world football this summer in Radamel Falcao, and are on offer at 20/1 (21.00) to reinvest some of the estimated £50 million fee on the Bosnian striker.

Arsenal already seem set to add Gonzalo Higuain to their frontline, making 33/1 (34.00) odds best avoided on this market, while Juventus’ previous acquisition of Fernando Llorente mean those same 33/1 (34.00) odds offer little value on the Italian champions opening their chequebook for another expensive target man.

Money is no object for either PSG or Anzhi Makhachkala, who are both available at 33/1 (34.00) to complete a shock move for the 27-year-old.

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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.

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'Excuse my German' – Guardiola charms his new bosses in Bayern bow

The 42-year-old met the media for the first time in his new role on Monday as he looks to consolidate the Bavarians’ dominance of European football

By Enis Koylu

The wait is over. Five months and eight days after Bayern Munich confirmed that Pep Guardiola would take over from Jupp Heynckes at the end of the 2012-13 season, the Spaniard was ready to meet the media.

And he did not disappoint. Never in the history of ‘FC Hollywood’ has a single press conference attracted so many reporters – around 240 of them – all clamouring to hear his first words as a Bundesliga coach. “Excuse my German.”

Much had been made of the Spaniard’s ability to communicate with the locals. CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had always been adamant that anyone who could not speak the language would not be considered as a trainer, but Pep had spent four hours per day learning while on sabbatical in New York City.

The first impressions are very positive: Pep is rested, recharged and ready for his latest adventure. The Catalan coach charmed his audience by speaking good German and talked of his excitement about this latest project. He will adapt to Bayern, not the other way around. He promised attacking football – and he also promised to improve. That’s Pep. He apologised for his skills in German, yet spoke impressively in his new language – as well as answering questions in Spanish, Catalan and Italian. That is a mark of the man: he is obsessive, a perfectionist. So even though Bayern won an historic treble in 2012-13 and Pep admitted it will be difficult to improve the team in the coming campaigns, he made it clear that he aims to do exactly that. As Uli Hoeness remarked, this looks a great fit.

– Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

And the effort served him well, save a thick Spanish accent and one instance where he pronounced his predecessor’s first name with a hard J, he was erudite and articulate, able to understand and respond to questions with ease and charm.

And the content of his opening speech will have served him well too. Much has been made of his supposed revolution at Bayern on the back of their record-breaking past season, which saw them pick up that ever-elusive treble, losing just three matches on the way.

However, he was quick to emphasise that he would not overhaul their system in favour of the one he employed over the course of his wildly successful four years at Barcelona, stressing that Bayern have different players to the Blaugrana and that he would adapt to their style of football.

There was even a hint of humour in his unveiling, joking that his German teacher in the USA – a Borussia Dortmund fan – did not want him to show up, along with a picture of Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer and Guardiola going head-to-head in their playing days for Germany and Spain shown in the background.

His clear affiliation with the club, their history, tradition and prestige would have gone some way to endear him with the locals and he seems determined to make his mark at the Allianz Arena over the next three years.

And, of course, he has a tough act to follow. Heynckes’ side were simply brilliant, dismantling the Barca that Guardiola moulded 7-0 over two legs, sweeping everyone aside.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s statement that Bayern are below only the Catalans in the Uefa club coefficients due to Pep’s work at Camp Nou was telling. Heynckes has laid the foundations for a Bayern dynasty which the former Spain midfielder must build upon in order to surpass his old club.

Of course, there are many who feel that he will not find life at his new club that much of a challenge. Bayern are already streets ahead of the rest and the one team that looked capable of challenging them last term both in Germany and Europe, Dortmund, have been crippled by the loss of Mario Gotze – to die Roten.

Meanwhile, Jens Lehmann, a former BVB and Schalke star, took to Twitter to say: “Pep’s impressive, talking fluent German. He will inspire German football. But he will be disappointed that the Bundesliga won’t challenge him.”

And there are still several questions that remain unanswered, too. The only talk about transfers concerned Mario Gomez, with the new boss stressing that every player would get a chance. There was no word, for instance, on long-term target Robert Lewandowski, whom Dortmund are determined to keep.

The hard work starts here for Pep. In just over a month’s time, he has his first competitive match in charge of his club and it could not be harder – a trip to Signal Iduna Park to face Jurgen Klopp’s side on July 27 in the Supercup.

Before too long, he will be back into the the daily rigours of coaching a club. His task? To build on something remarkable.

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