FC Bayern Midfielder Thiago Set to Make Return Against Wolfsburg at the Weekend

?Thiago Alcantara is set to make his long-awaited return to football at the weekend in FC Bayern München’s Bundesliga clash against VfL Wolfsburg.

?The Catalan has been out injured for almost three months since the Champions League win over Anderlecht. 

Thiago has been limited to just fifteen appearances across all competitions, but could be set to break the duck very soon.

?Manager Jupp Heynckes spoke on the issue before the win over FC Schalke: “I’m considering fielding Thiago from the start away to Wolfsburg next Saturday.”

The club also stated Thiago was so motivated about his imminent return he turned up to the Säbener Straße on Tuesday, despite no scheduled training.

Kingsley Coman and Christian Früchtl also partook in some light training, with the young goalkeeper testing their shooting skills.

“It is very nice to have a top player like him returning,” Heynckes added. 

The coach is expected to not risk the former Barcelona player in the Champions League first leg Besiktas, but an eighteen-point lead in the Bundesliga will act as a good buffer for the return.

However, Thiago is on schedule for featuring in the away match in Turkey, as he looks to impress once again before the arrival of Leon Goretzka in the summer.


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World Cup Countdown: 18 Weeks to Go – Karl Rappan’s ‘Libero’ & the Global Icons Who Evolved the Role

?The ‘libero’ – a role almost extinct in the modern game, yet a role so crucial in the evolution of professional football.

Greats such as Franz Beckenbauer and Gaetano Scirea have performed this duty to devastating effect, with both players iconic in the annuls of football. The role currently serves no purpose in the modern game as we know it, yet it was game changing in the world of football prior to World War II.

The architect is understood to be legendary Switzerland coach Karl Rappan. The Austrian spent almost his entire career managing within the Swiss domestic league system, taking charge of their national side on four separate occasions.

Karl Rappan

He led the Swiss into the 1938 World Cup having worked on a tactical philosophy fully intent on adapting to the situation of any given game, inventing a role that would revolutionise the game over the forthcoming years. 

Rappan believed that if a side did not have eleven naturally gifted players, they must adopt strict discipline and tactical nouse in order to be successful. This ideology has become increasing influential over time, with weaker teams often setting out to frustrate better quality opposition.

As part of his tactical setup, Rappan distanced himself from the popular 2-5-3 ‘WM’ system implemented by many coaches during that time, instead introducing a system consisting of four defenders. Within that troop of four, would be a player tasked with sitting behind the defensive line, now commonly referred to as the ‘libero’.

Karl Rappan

(You may also be interested in World Cup Countdown: 18 Weeks to Go – Remembering the Infamous ‘Battle of Bordeaux’) 

The ‘libero’s responsibilities have evolved as the years have gone by, though Rappan’s version focused stringently on defensive duties. The first player renowned for playing in the role under his guidance was Adolf Stelzer. Given little license to move up field, Stelzer instead dropped as deep as possible in order to clear up loose balls, quickly sending long kicks up-field in order to launch counter attacks.

The system was met with much scepticism at the time, with many coaches failing to understand the principles of Rappan’s idea. Some observers praised it’s unique traits, while others were won over despite Switzerland’s limited success with it at the 1938 World Cup.

The Rossocrociati defeated Germany 4-2 in the first knockout round, before being eliminated 2-0 by Hungary in the quarter-finals. Initially drawing their first round encounter 1-1, Rappan’s team impressed in the replay against the Germans, as the potential benefits of fielding a deep lying ‘libero’ began to emerge.

Switzerland Hungary

Stelzer occupied the role against the Hungarians, with historians identifying him as the first player to understand and command the role fully. He may have been the innovator, but the role soon took on more significance during the 1960’s and 1970’s through legendary figures Beckenbauer and Scirea.

Indeed, the mention of the ‘libero’ role associates many avid football fans with German and Italian football, not it’s Swiss/Austrian origins. It also resonates with a player possessing a more rounded skill set, comfortable on the ball and eager to burst forward in possession, in order to instigate fast paced, counter-attacking football.

Beckenbauer was the epitome of such traits. Operating as an attacking ‘libero’, he could be a used as a potent weapon in attack given his vast skill and tactical brain. His knowledge of the game was fundamental, with ‘the Kaiser’ well versed in knowing when to surge forward and when to stay back. 

WORLD CUP-1974-BECKENBAUER

“He was a great player, very positive, very fast and always dangerous. So it was my job to stop him in 1966 and 1970. He was the most dangerous player they had. He could do extraordinary things with his pace, control and ability, but if someone ran with him all the time it seemed to limit his danger.” — Sir Bobby Charlton

Such an unusual and forthright style of play often caught opposition defences out, as Beckenbauer would emerge in attack unmarked, with the transition from defence into attack so much slicker with his all around ability. The German great perfected his craft, dominating opponents on the European and international stage.

He was not the only player of his era though to embrace this footballing ideology, as ?Juventus legend Gaetano Scirea would prove. The Italian enjoyed a stellar career at the top of the game, earning a reputation as one of the most talented footballers of his generation.

What was most impressive about Scirea’s success was his adaptability. He started his career as an out and out midfielder, but learned the craft of playing the ‘libero’ role during his early days at the Bianconeri. He would go on to contribute heavily to the identity of the ever modernising ‘libero’ role, combining his vision, passing ability and general composure.

Like Beckebauer, he was a devastating attacking threat in his own right; utilising pace, movement and awareness to carve open many Serie A defences. As his physical attributes diminished towards the end of his career, Scirea seamlessly transitioned into a more conventional centre-back, demonstrating again the versatility that had made him one of the greatest footballers of his generation.

Gaetano Scirea

“Scirea’s languid passing and fluid ball skills fitted right in. He was an elegant ‘libero’ who flitted around the pitch, helping to create angles and opportunities for his team-mates” 

— Blair Newman, Guardian Sport

The days of using the ‘libero’ had reached their peak though. Rio Ferdinand, Leonardo Bonucci and David Luiz, a trio many would describe as the closest examples in the modern day. Defensive minded by nature, yet instinctively keen to step out of defence with the ball, their composure and natural ability symbolic of their talents. In possession, positive and forward thinking. In defence, less willing to drop deep, in part due to an era infatuated with using a flat-back four.

On the surface, it would seem the role is a thing of the past. Yet as the game continues to evolve in many other ways, it seems almost inevitable that the use of the ‘libero’ role will be revisited at some point in the future.


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Atletico Enter Race for Timo Werner as Leipzig Draw Up New Deal for Hotshot Striker

?Atletico Madrid have reportedly entered the race for RB Leipzig hotshot Timo Werner, according to reports in Germany.

?Bild has claimed that Los Rojiblancos sent scouts to watch the striker in action last weekend amid supposed desires to lure Werner to La Liga.

Werner is being lined up as a prime target to replace Antoine Griezmann, if the France international decides to leave and join Barcelona in the summer, and Atleti scouts are believed to have watched Werner in action against Augsburg last Saturday.

RB Leipzig v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga

Werner is a man in demand thanks to his predatory abilities in front of goal, with Bayern Munich and Liverpool also among those supposedly expressing interest in the 21-year-old over the past 12 months.

Atletico and the above duo could face serious competition for Werner, however, with city rivals Real Madrid (via ?Goal) also apparently running the rule over the Germany international.

To further complicate matters for Diego Simeone’s side, Leipzig are desperate to tie Werner down to a new long-term contract to prevent him from leaving his homeland on the cheap.

(You may also be interested in ?Stay in Your Lane: 4 Strikers Better Than the Self-Proclaimed ‘Best German Striker’ Sandro Wagner)

Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick was quoted by ?ESPN as he explained why his club would do everything in their power to hold on their talismanic attacker.

He said: “Timo knows in any case that he right now, and also the next season, plays for us. We are already in talks to adjust and extend his contract.”

Werner has plundered 35 goals in just 60 matches for Leipzig since he joined them from fellow Bundesliga club Stuttgart in the summer of 2016.

The 10-times capped German international has a ratio of one goal every two games for Die Bullen this term, but has gone three clashes without registering a goal in Germany’s top flight in recent times.

Werner is contracted to Leipzig until June 2020 but, with the amount of interest in his services growing, his team would do well to hand him fresh terms to give themselves a firmer stance from which to refuse bids or demand more in the way of cash if they elect to sell.


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MLS Outfit FC Dallas Sign Talent Development Deal With Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich

Major League Soccer outfit FC Dallas have signed a new agreement with Bundesliga champions  Bayern Munich regarding a reciprocal youth development policy for the foreseeable future, according to the  Sports Business Journal.

FC Dallas are always looking to improve their talent base and this reported deal is indicative of the forward strides made by the club. They will become the first MLS side to team up with an elite European team to develop young players.

The deal will allow the two clubs to exchange youth talent on a regular basis, meaning young players can work with both sets of coaches and scouts from both organisations. Coaches will also look to exchange expertise, as well as organise matches between youth players.

The deal has been finalised on Tuesday morning, as the Toros travel to Arizona for their last full week of preseason games before the CONCACAF Champions League.

FBL-CHN-GER-BAYERN

There is currently no financial or specific commercial initiative attached to the deal, but the Toros’ President Dan Hunt claims “there is room for the partnership to evolve.”

(You may also be interested in –  PHOTO: Hotel Chain Set to Offer Chance for Fans to Watch Home Game at Allianz Arena From Hotel Suite)

The American outfit has been one of MLS’s top producers of homegrown talent in recent years, and Bayern has placed an emphasis on supporting youth since its arrival in the US; including a partnership with Global Premier Soccer.

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Chelsea Transfer Target Sets Impressive Record in Hard-Fought Victory Over Schalke

Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal set a new record for the most completed tackles in a match this season in Bayern Munich’s 2-1 victory over Schalke 04 on Saturday.

Vidal ran himself into the ground at the Allianz Arena and completed 14 tackles during the game, the highest tally that has been recorded across Europe’s top five leagues this season.

Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, either side of Franco Di Santo’s impressive strike, earned Bayern all three points on Saturday. 

However, it was the dominating performance of Vidal that caught the eye as the Bavarians extended their lead at the top of the table to 18 points.

The 30-year-old got up close and personal with future Bayern employee Leon Goretzka throughout the game, amidst rumours suggesting that Vidal could leave Bavaria during the summer transfer window with his first-team spot now at risk.

However, the Chilean has since issued a plea to Bayern Munich to put a new contract on the table and end any further transfer rumours.

Vidal will be hoping to be as influential for Bayern in their trip to Wolfsburg next week, although the Chile international could find himself rested by Jupp Heynckes – who missed the game against Schalke with the flu – ahead of their Champions League match against Be?ikta?.


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