Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio has bizarrely refused to outright deny the possibility that he could join fierce rivals Barcelona in the future.
Despite once being tipped for superstardom, Asensio has seen his career stall even though he should now be approaching his peak at 26. The Mallorca-native managed 10 La Liga goals last season but only started 19 times and has played just 11 minutes in the league so far in 2022/23.
The versatile Asensio, who is also in the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu, is very much a back-up figure behind the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde.
Rumours of a controversial switch to Barcelona started earlier this week when agent Jorge Mendes was reported by the Catalan press to have got in touch over a potential free transfer next summer.
Asensio denied any knowledge of any contact between of his people and Barça but also didn’t rule it out as a potential option.
“Honestly, I don’t know if they have called. A lot of other clubs have been linked [with me] as well. But it’s normal because in seven months, well, from January actually, I am free to speak to other teams,” he explained to radio station COPE.
“It’s just that I have not thought about [joining Barca] or considered it. Honestly, right now, I can’t give you an answer. I don’t know,” he added.
Born and raised in Mallorcan capital Palma, Asensio joined Real Mallorca’s youth ranks from the age of 10 and made his first-team debut at 17, having previously been scouted by both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Los Blancos eventually won the race, paying €3.9m in 2014.
Asensio also supported Real Madrid while growing up, although his father has Basque roots and wanted the player to end up with Athletic Bilbao.
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Europa League & Europa Conference League roundup: 06/10/22
We’re halfway through the group stages of the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with tables now starting to take shape.
Arsenal played host to Bodo/Glimt in one of the later kick-offs, after fellow Premier League sides Manchester United and West Ham jetted off around the continent to face Omonia Nicosia and Anderlecht respectively.
Here’s a round-up of the evening’s action.
FC Zurich 1-5 PSV Eindhoven
Arsenal cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Bodo/Glimt under the lights at the Emirates.
Eddie Nketiah tapped home a rebound after Kieran Tierney’s thumping effort bounced back off the post, minutes before Rob Holding headed home from a cross from the excellent Fabio Vieira.
Bodo/Glimt grew into the game as things progressed but Arsenal killed things off with a third five minutes before full-time as a glorious Gabriel Jesus run ended in a tap-in from Vieira.
Rennes 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Fenerbahce 2-0 AEK Larnaca
HJK Helsinki 1-1 Ludogorets
A late meltdown from Roma saw them slump to a 2-1 defeat at home to Real Betis.
Betis were the most dangerous early on but Roma took the lead through a Paulo Dybala penalty just after the half-hour mark, although their lead lasted about five minutes as Guido Rodriguez fizzed in an equaliser before the break.
Nicolo Zaniolo hit the bar and Dybala saw a volley expertly saved before the interval and Roma continued that momentum after the break. They failed to find the back of the net, however, and were punished for their profligacy as Luiz Henrique headed home a winner with two minutes to go.
Things ended on a sourer note for Roma as they lost Zaniolo to a pointless red card in stoppage time. The Italian kicked out at an opponent and was deservedly dismissed, leaving him suspended for the next game.
Malmo 0-1 Union Berlin
Braga 1-2 Union SG
FC Sheriff 0-2 Real Sociedad
Manchester United came perilously close to a major European upset as they were forced to come from behind to seal a 3-2 victory over Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia.
United could have had a few goals early on – Antony fluffed a cut-back and Bruno Fernandes hit the bar – but some shocking defending saw the Red Devils punished on the counter by Karim Ansarifard ten minutes before half-time.
Seven minutes into the second half, substitute Marcus Rashford fired home a delightful equaliser following an excellent pass from Fernandes, before Anthony Martial came off the bench and fired United ahead shortly after the hour mark.
Rashford tapped home a third with five minutes to go but Omonia grabbed an immediate response to set up a nervy equaliser, but United held on to seal an uncomfortable three points.
Sturm Graz 0-0 Lazio
Midtylland 2-2 Feyenoord
Freiburg 2-0 Nantes
Olympiacos 0-3 Qarabag
Red Star 4-1 Ferencvaros
Monaco 3-1 Trabzonspor
Hearts 0-3 Fiorentina
RFS 0-0 Basaksehir
A late strike from Gianluca Scamacca fired West Ham to well-earned victory over Belgian giants Anderlecht.
West Ham were dominant from start to finish but had to wait until the 79th-minute for Scamacca to touch down Lucas Paqueta’s flick and fire across goal into the bottom corner to get the lead they deserved.
However, West Ham had goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to thank for the three points as the Frenchman pulled out what will surely be the save of the tournament to repel a close-range header and secure the victory. Sensational stuff.
Silkeborg 5-0 FCSB
Lech Poznan 0-0 Hapoel Beer Sheva
Villarreal 5-0 Austria Vienna
Slovacko 0-1 Nice
Koln 0-1 Partizan
Dnipro-1 2-2 Vaduz
AZ Alkmaar 3-2 Apollon Limassol
Molde 3-0 Shamrock Rovers
Gent 0-1 Djurgarden
Sivasspor 3-4 Ballkani
Slavia Prague 0-1 CFR Cluj
Pyunik Yerevan 2-0 Zalgiris
Basel 0-2 Slovan Bratislava
Chelsea drops Fofana update after initial tests on knee injury
Wesley Fofana’s knee injury is better than initially feared after the first set of tests returned positive results.
The defender suffered a knee injury in a collision with Rafael Leao in the 38th minute of Chelsea’s 3-0 home win against AC Milan, as his night ended in frustrating fashion having scored his first goal for the club earlier in the match.
There is hope that Fofana could return before the World Cup, with Chelsea’s final match before the tournament taking place away to Newcastle on November 12.
The centre-back is likely to miss this weekend’s clash against Wolves and the away match at San Siro against Milan next week.
Fofana was seen leaving Stamford Bridge on crutches on Wednesday night, with his right knee in a brace as there were worries he may have suffered a serious injury.
Speaking in his post-match press conference after Chelsea’s victory over Milan, Blues boss Graham Potter admitted he was unsure how bad it would prove to be for Fofana.
‘We’ll have to scan it tomorrow and see how he is but there’s nothing to report at the moment,” Potter said.
“That’s the one disappointing thing about the evening so we have our fingers crossed. We’re concerned but I don’t want to speculate on it now.
“These things happen. He’s a young guy and a strong guy but we’ll support him.”
Erik ten Hag explains decision to substitute Jadon Sancho in Omonia victory
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has confessed that he was unimpressed with the left side of his team in the first half of Thursday’s 3-2 victory over Omonia Nicosia, leading to him substituting both Jadon Sancho and Tyrell Malacia at half-time.
United were woeful in the first half and trailed at the break after Sancho and Malacia conspired to give away the ball for the cheapest of counter-attack goals, and both were hooked at the interval.
Sancho was replaced by Marcus Rashford, who went on to bag a goal and an assist, while fellow substitute Anthony Martial also scored just moments after being introduced on the hour mark.
Asked to explain his logic behind removing Sancho while his team were losing, Ten Hag said: “It [the goal] was not what I wasn’t happy with, it was the movement with our ball.
“The width on the left side, for me, was no good first-half – the movement from behind the defending line.
“So I hoped with Luke [Shaw] and Marcus we get more effect from that and so in my opinion that happens.”
Asked what he told Rashford and the rest of the team at the break to inspire a comeback, Ten Hag told BT Sport: “More runs, we are too static, we have to make the opposition move to get behind – that is why we made two subs.
“The subs really had an impact today.”
The boss added: “I would call it stay composed. It can always happen, football is a game of mistakes. I agree with you, first 30 or 35 minutes, we played quite well, the only thing we didn’t do was score a goal.
“When you score a goal you make your life easy, we didn’t. Then we concede a goal and it was the worst 10 minutes from the game from us. After half-time, we dealt well with the setback.”
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