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Who should sign Azzedine Ounahi?

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When the World Cup rolls around every four years, we all want to predict which previously unknown player is going to announce themselves at football’s top table.

Whether it’s James Rodriguez bursting onto the scene with his golden boot-winning performances in 2014 or Michael Owen proving himself to be one of the world’s greatest back in 1998, there is always someone who uses the competition to go from zero to hero in the space of one month.

This year, there is no stronger contender for that title than Morocco’s Azzedine Ounahi.

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The 22-year-old midfielder was an entirely unknown quantity a month ago, playing his club football in France for Angers. Having helped to inspire Morocco to become the first African side ever to reach a World Cup semi-final, Ounahi is now the subject of interest from clubs all across Europe and a big transfer could soon be on the cards.

Where Ounahi goes next could be the biggest decision of his entire career and determine whether he blossoms into the star we saw in Qatar, or slides back into irrelevance over the coming years.

So, without further ado: who should sign Azzedine Ounahi?

Between spending over £200m on new signings in the last 12 months and Eddie Howe’s genuinely impressive work getting the best out of his players, Newcastle’s squad looks a lot better than it did this time last year.

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All the same, their squad still lacks strength in depth and this is something they will need to address before becoming a true Premier League heavyweight. Ounahi would provide Howe’s side with better options in midfield, while his youth means he could grow into a superstar on Tyneside.

Leicester are among the Premier League clubs reported to have sent their scouts to take a look at Ounahi. While his World Cup heroics might have just seen him move out of the Foxes’ price range, this could actually be a very sensible move for the Moroccan.

While their season so far has been a mixed bag, Leicester have a good record when it comes to signing young players, improving them and selling them on for a large profit. With Youri Tielemans likely to move on in 2023, a space could be opening up in midfield for a bright-eyed young star like Ounahi.

If ever a club needed some fresh blood in midfield, it’s Juventus.

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The Bianconeri have fallen on tough times and lack quality in midfield, with Paul Pogba injured and the likes of Fabio Miretti and Nicolo Fagioli still finding their feet in Turin.

Their present financial situation might prevent a move for Ounahi materialising, but it would make a lot of sense if they could pull it off.

I mean, why not, right?

Like Juventus, Barcelona are, by all accounts, so financially crippled that a move for Ounahi might not be feasible. That said, they somehow managed to pull off one of the most decadent summers of transfer spending ever seen this year, so who knows?

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In terms of where he fits into the side, it’s no secret that Frenkie de Jong and Franck Kessie are among the players Barca want to move on in the new year. There could be space for another midfielder with Ounahi’s creative ability – that is, if he’s happy to compete with Gavi and Pedri for game time.

Liverpool haven’t been linked with Ounahi to the same extent as the other clubs on this list, but it could be a perfect match.

Jurgen Klopp’s side is in dire need of new legs in midfield, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara fading fast. Ounahi would provide some much-needed creativity in midfield, while being combative enough to function in Klopp’s heavy metal pressing system. Surely that’s a win-win for everyone?

Conclusion

After his displays in Qatar, it seems Ounahi will have his pick of suitors come January. Meanwhile, Angers president Said Chabane has confirmed he is keen to negotiate a deal for the midfielder as quickly as possible and cash in while Ounahi’s stock is high, meaning it should be easy enough for a club to get a deal done.

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But which club is the best match for a player of Ounahi’s talents?

While a move to a European giant such as Barcelona or Juventus will always carry a certain allure, the financial peril and scattergun transfer policy of these clubs in recent years makes joining them a serious risk. If that wasn’t bad enough, neither club is performing at the level they are accustomed to and can’t even guarantee a strong push for the Champions League title these days.

If we were in Ounahi’s shoes, we’d prioritise long-term stability and growth over the biggest name. Leicester have a strong track record with signings of Ounahi’s profile, and with signings from Ligue 1 in general. They could provide a strong platform for the midfielder to develop his career – but would this be ambitious enough? There is no way of knowing if Ounahi’s stock will ever be this high again, and it could be his only chance to get a move to a ‘big’ club. Leicester, meanwhile, have struggled for consistency over the last two years and cannot guarantee European football now or in the near future.

Taking all of this into account, 90min believes that Newcastle could be the perfect move for Ounahi at this moment in time. While the Magpies are now one of the world’s richest clubs, they are still developing on and off the pitch and are a long way from becoming a major heavyweight in the competitive sense.

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Eddie Howe has predominantly sought to bring in young, hungry players with room in their careers to develop. With Howe’s track record for improving players young and old, Ounahi would be getting round-the-clock attention from one of the most promising coaches in the English game and this could do wonders for his career. On top of all that, he would most likely be playing in European competition – potentially even the Champions League – from as soon as next season. What’s not to like?



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EPL

Cody Gakpo reflects on first month at Liverpool

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Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo has opened up on his first month on the books at Anfield, admitting he is still getting used to Jurgen Klopp’s tactics.

The Dutchman was wanted by a number of elite sides, with Manchester United expected to win the race for his signature, but it was Liverpool who snuck in and agreed to pay an initial £35m to bring Gakpo to England.

The 23-year-old, who made his name as a left winger but has spent time as a striker at Liverpool, is yet to score after four appearances for his new side, but he told club media that is it just a matter of getting to grips with his new surroundings

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“My feeling, personally, is everyone in the team has so much quality,” he said. “That is what I see in training and in phases in the games.

“It is also a part of football, that sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to. We just have to keep improving, working hard, and the quality will come out. Then, you’re going to see the real Liverpool.”

He continued: “From a football perspective, it’s a new environment on the pitch, with new players and a new team. I can tell it’s a really great group. Every day I am looking forward to working with them, to train hard and to play the games. I am trying to adapt as quickly as possible, to improve every day and in the end show the best version of myself.

“Off the pitch, to be honest, I haven’t been in the city so many times yet. Most of the time I have been in the hotel. I am moving this week, actually. That’s also something I’m looking forward to.”

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Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Gakpo also confessed that he is still trying to adapt to his new role in Liverpool’s team.

“It is a little bit different to what I’m used to,” the Dutchman admitted. “Normally, I have played on the left for almost the past three years.

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“It’s something I can improve, playing in the striker role, and I want to show my quality there. It’s a great position and playing there makes me more complete as a technical player.





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Fulham launch bid Fluminense midfielder Andre

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Fulham have made a bid to sign Fluminense midfielder Andre, 90min understands.

The 21-year-old has quickly established himself as one of Fluminense’s top players and a number of sides across Europe have expressed an interest in luring him away from his homeland in 2023.

Sources have confirmed to 90min that Fulham have approached Fluminense to try and thrash out a deal, but the Brazilian side are reluctant to part ways with their star player during the 2023 campaign.

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Andre, who has been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool, has spoken out about the interest and insisted his focus remains solely on his current employers.

“Obviously, I’m focused and very happy,” Andre said recently. “I just renewed my contract until 2026.

“It’s normal to get offers, but I’m focused here on Fluminense and having an excellent season.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

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If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Andre’s agent, Carlos Leite, also took to Instagram to confirm that the 21-year-old had agreed to remain with Fluminense until the end of the current campaign, which runs over the entire calendar year.

“Thanks to the great work carried out, Andre entered the radars of some of the biggest European clubs and, with that, he has received several enquiries and some official proposals,” Leite wrote.

“However, the player and Fluminense, through president Mario Bittencourt, sealed an agreement for the midfielder to remain at the club at this time, with all the dedication and commitment, always seeking the best for Fluminense in all competitions.”

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Sporting CP manager makes Pedro Porro admission as Tottenham talks continue

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Sporting CP manager Ruben Amorim has warned Tottenham that he will not take right-back Pedro Porro out of his starting lineup until a transfer has been 100% agreed.

90min understands Tottenham are confident they will get a deal over the line for the 23-year-old eventually, but Sporting’s reluctance to budge from their asking price of Porro’s €45m release clause has led to some lengthy negotiations which are not yet over.

And while Porro is still contracted to Sporting, Amorim will not hesitate to use the right-back and risk an injury which could see the entire move collapse.

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“Porro does not leave before the game,” Amorim said ahead of Saturday’s Allianz Cup final against Porto. “Clubs have to come first, and as far as I know, a player who is able to play and is signed up by a club, he has to go to games.

“I realise that [negotiations] involve a lot of players’ minds, but the indication I have is that Porro is fit, and the most important thing for me, as a manager, is that if he wasn’t there, there would be someone else. The game cannot be played with just one player. Porro is fit. Whatever has to happen will happen, we are prepared for all scenarios.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Amorim continued: “Is this Porro’s last game at the club? I don’t know. There are a few days left until February 1, then everyone will know if Porro stays or leaves.

“Porro hasn’t left yet. We are scouting, but not everything is easy, you’re in a real hurry to send Porro away!”

Spurs have repeatedly tried to lower Sporting’s asking price for Porro by including at least one player in the deal, but the Portuguese side have been clear about their determination to hold out for the right-back’s release clause – in full.





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