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Liverpool’s David Ngog Can Be The Player Ryan Babel Should Be

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It seems that any substitution involving Yossi Benayoun causes surprise these days. Less than a week ago the Israeli’s late withdrawal, during Liverpool’s loss to Lyon drew a chorus of boos from the club. Last Wednesday, he emerged from the bench 15 minutes from time as the Reds chased the game at Arsenal, and his introduction raised more than a few eyebrows.

It was not that it was Benayoun being brought on, of course. The 29-year-old’s guile and composure was more than welcome at a stage when Liverpool were on top of their energetic but inexperienced opponents. The consternation from the travelling pocket of Reds supporters packed into a sold-out Emirates Stadium came from seeing that it was David Ngog who was to be replaced.

Ok, it is not the same as removing, say, Fernando Torres, but still it was surprising. The young Frenchman had given Rafa Benitez 75 minutes of hard-work, and plenty of quality. It was his clever back-heel which opened up a glorious chance for Philipp Degen in the early stages, one that the Swiss full-back wasted.

Contrasting his performance with another Liverpool player looking to establish himself as an understudy (or partner) for Torres, Ryan Babel, and it is clear to see which player is showing more promise at this stage.

Babel cost more than £11 million, seven times as much as Ngog, when he arrived at Anfield from Ajax in 2007, and the early signs were highly promising. Moving with a fluidity which reminded Kopites of John Barnes or Thierry Henry, the Dutchman netted ten goals in his debut season at the club, and looked set to push on and establish himself as first choice.

That he has not is a damning indictment, at a time when quality attacking players at the club are apparently in such short supply. Torres is undoubtedly the top dog at Anfield, but there is an undoubted chance for someone like Babel to nail down a regular place. A chance, it appears, he is unable, or unwilling, to grasp.

On Wednesday night, he flitted around halfheartedly, offering only a partial threat as Liverpool were second-best for large spells. One nod down for Emiliano Insua’s goal, and a skimming 30-yard free kick that Lukasz Fabianski fielded well was the sum total of his night’s work. A night that was capped with a poor miss, as he failed to connect with Dirk Kuyt’s low cross late on.

Babel’s apologists point to the fact that he is yet to fully earn the faith of Benitez, and that he has never received a prolonged run in the first team. There may be an element of truth in this. Babel has already been named as a substitute 55 times in his short Anfield career, and has been substituted on countless other occasions. But when confronted with statistics such as those, is it not logical to wonder why?

The answer, it seems, is a case of attitude. Ngog may not be the darling of the Kop, though his strike against Manchester United last weekend will help, but his performances always display plenty of hard-work, a willingness to learn and improve, and a team-first attitude. Supporters respond to such traits, and the Frenchman is currently reaping the rewards.

For Babel, who has made plenty of noise in the past about needing to leave in order to secure first-team football, the long-term prognosis is less promising. It is clear that the talent is there, but Benitez could be forgiven for doubting if this Liverpool side are able to unlock it on a regular basis. The January transfer window may represent Liverpool’s best chance to pick up a sizable fee for Babel, who will be 23 by the time Christmas comes.

Obviously things can change. Babel’s pace and shooting power means he will always appeal as an alternative option from the bench, but at this moment in time, it makes more sense to back the Frenchman than it does to go Dutch.

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‘I Can Discover Ballon d’Or Winners In Nigeria’

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Ex-Nigeria international Usman Abdallah has declared that he can help the country groom future Ballon d’Or winners if he is handed the U20 job.
Abdallah, who led Enyimba to win the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League and a Confederation Cup semi-final finish, is favourite to replace Paul Aigbogun for the Flying Eagles’ head coach role.
His outstanding CV features a Uefa A license, a degree in football coaching and team management (France) and a Strength and Conditioning level 1 coaching certificate in Australia.
According to reports, the Nigeria Football Federation will announce the Franco-Nigerian in the coming days, a claim the tactician is unsure of when quizzed by newsmen.
“Just like every other person, I applied for the job but I’m yet to get confirmation if I was picked or not.
“Nigeria is my country and it will be nice if I eventually get this role because it will be a big chance to serve. Also, I have what it takes to discover future Ballon d’Or winners for the country.
“Without sounding immodest, I strongly believe that I will excel in this position not only because of my wealth of experience but because of my closeness to grassroots football.
“As I have always said, this level deserves a lot of serious work because players picked at this level form a pivot of future Super Eagles,”he told newsmen.
After a failed expedition at the 2019 Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland, Nigeria will be hoping to qualify for Indonesia 2021 through the Africa U20 Cup of Nations scheduled for Mauritania.

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Champions, Europa Leagues Finals Likely For August

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The Champions League and Europa League look increasingly likely to be played exclusively in August after more talks about the remainder of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday.
Uefa told the 55 associations on Tuesday there was still the possibility of the competitions being played throughout June, July and August.
But Tidesports source understands that the latest discussions revolved almost exclusively around a plan to complete the domestic leagues by 31 July, with European competition following after that.
Nothing definitive has been agreed but Uefa is keen to leave all options on the table for as long as possible given the general uncertainty across Europe and in the knowledge there is no guarantee the season will be finished.
However, there is a view that travel restrictions are more likely to have eased in August, which would be necessary for a cross-border competition.
The scenario envisaged would be for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the respective European competitions to be played as two-legged ties between 11 and 22 August, although these could yet become one-off games.
In the plans now being discussed, there would be some flexibility for domestic fixtures to be played in August, should a July conclusion prove impossible.
The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy, two countries that have been badly affected, there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively – although both have fewer cup games to fit into their schedules.
Uefa hopes the situation will become clearer in the next fortnight but completing the season in this way would cause the least disruption to its qualification competition for the 2020-21 season, which was supposed to start at the end of June but has been delayed indefinitely.

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S’Eagles’ll Miss Mikel, Ighalo -Etebo

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John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo would remain a big miss for Nigeria, concedes Oghenekaro Etebo, with the Super Eagles still coming to terms with their retirement.
After the Super Eagles clinched third-place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the duo drew the curtains on their international careers.
Mikel, 32, was the first to bow out before Egypt 2019 top scorer Ighalo followed the path of the former Chelsea star.
Coach Gernot Rohr is prepared to put faith in the likes of Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen as replacements for the duo.
The Getafe man said it was clear that the three-time African kings would miss Mikel and Ighalo for their leadership attributes, but believes Osimhen can fill the vacuum left by the Manchester United striker.
“They are leaders who we are going to be missed in the dressing room,” he stated.
“Mikel was a leader; I recall how he helped us during the Olympics when we had issues during our preparations for the Games. Not because I played with him but for the impact he had on me as a player.
“They helped the team make vital decisions during tough times and I guess it was just time for them to move on.
“Ighalo on his part is a goal poacher that we also miss but thank God that we have another goal poacher in [Victor] Osimhen, but we have to be patient with him to settle in well into that role.”
After the coronavirus pandemic, Rohr is expected to begin life without the retired players as Nigeria would be hoping to qualify for the 2021 Afcon billed for Cameroon.

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