Xherdan Shaqiri double sinks Man Utd as Liverpool tops EPL

Two second half goals from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri gave Liverpool a 3-1 win at Anfield over arch-rival Manchester United Sunday to take Jurgen Klopp’s high-fliers back to the top of the English Premier League. Follow @cnnsportLiverpool was struggling to capitalize on its overall superiority in the northwest derby until the Swiss international sealed the victory … Continue reading “Xherdan Shaqiri double sinks Man Utd as Liverpool tops EPL”

Two second half goals from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri gave Liverpool a 3-1 win at Anfield over arch-rival Manchester United Sunday to take Jurgen Klopp’s high-fliers back to the top of the English Premier League.

Follow @cnnsportLiverpool was struggling to capitalize on its overall superiority in the northwest derby until the Swiss international sealed the victory with 73rd and 80th minute strikes, both deflected past United goalkeeper David de Gea.

    But United’s poor performance raised further questions about the direction of the club under Jose Mourinho.”Will Mourinho leave? I think it will happen, my preference would always be to get to the end of the season,” former Manchester United defender Gary Neville told Sky Sports.”But the boardroom is so naive it’s unbelievable, to give him an extended contract knowing the cycle of Mourinho and his three years. The third year is always the difficult year for him.Read More”So 18 months in, with United second in the league having won two trophies in his first season, that was the point where the board had to hold their nerve and keep him hungry in that third season. The minute he came back from pre-season he was at it, and the club lost control.”It was Liverpool’s first home win in the fixture since 2013, taking the Merseysiders one point clear in the standings over reigning champion Manchester City and with a 19-point advantage over United which is languishing in sixth spot in the EPL and with pressure mounting on manager Jose Mourinho.

    ⚽️⚽️#LIVMUN pic.twitter.com/MgTWrkvGwf

    — Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 16, 2018

    “I’m completely over the moon about the performance,” said Klopp, whose side has emerged as genuine title contenders after a superb start to the season.By contrast, Mourinho conceded that a top four finish was the best that his side could achieve.”Win the title, of course not,” he told Sky Sports.”We can still finish fourth, it’s not easy. For sure we are going to finish in the top six. The best we can get is fourth.”Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane celebrates with his teammates after scoring the opener against Manchester United at Anfield. A total of 36 goal attempts for Liverpool summed up the frenzied intensity of the home side which took the lead after a spell of prolonged pressure through a Sadio Mane strike on 24 minutes after he chested down a fine through ball from Fabinho before beating de Gea.Other goals might have followed, but United were provided with a lifeline before halftime as Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker, the hero of the midweek Champions League win over Napoli, blundered, dropping a Romelu Lukaku cross at the feet of Jesse Lingard who gratefully accepted the opportunity.Jesse Lingard celebrates his equalizer for Manchester United at Anfield with Diogo Dalot (left).The goal prompted United’s best spell. “After that the game was controlled,” claimed Mourinho, but the introduction of Shaqiri changed everything.Mane burst down the left and his cross back eventually fell to the skilful midfielder whose fierce shot flew into the roof of the net via Ashley Young’s boot.There was little response from United and with Liverpool swarming forward the third duly came seven minutes later.Xherdan Shaqiri shoots to score the third goal for Liverpool against arch-rival Manchester United. Roberto Firmino’s flick set him up for a left foot shot that deflected off the lunging Eric Bailly for the clincher.”It was very good day for me and to score two goals was just perfect,” Shaqiri told Sky Sports.United has now conceded more goals (29) than the whole of last season in the EPL and despite Liverpool’s dominance Mourinho left French World Cup star Paul Pogba on the bench, instead introducing Marouane Fellaini at halftime to little effect.Visit CNN/com/Sport for more news, features and videos

      While Mourinho may covet fourth place, his side is 11 points adrift of Chelsea, 2-1 winners at Brighton earlier Sunday, in the fourth and final Champions League qualifying spot.Arsenal is fifth, three points adrift, after a shock 3-2 defeat at Southampton, ending a 22-game unbeaten run.

Manchester United fires Jose Mourinho after worst ever Premier League start

Manchester United has fired Jose Mourinho following the club’s worst ever Premier League start.

The club currently languishes in sixth place in the league, 19 points behind leaders Liverpool after Sunday’s insipid 3-1 defeat at Anfield.Visit CNN/com/sport for more news, features and videos

    A temporary caretaker manager will be appointed until the end of the current season while the club searches for his successor.”The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future,” a statement said.Read MoreREAD: Zinedine Zidane — The right man to replace Jose Mourinho at Manchester United?Mourinho had been in charge at Old Trafford for two and a half years, winning the Europa League and League Cup in his first season at the club. Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring Jose Mourinho’s coaching career the third season in charge of the clubs he has managed has always provided tricky …Hide Caption 1 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoWith United trailing English Premier League leaders Liverpool by 19 points, Mourinho was fired by United on Tuesday.Hide Caption 2 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoThe final straw for United’s decision makers was the club’s 3-1 defeat at rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.Hide Caption 3 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoFor a club that has won 20 league titles, the 2018/2019 season has been United’s worst ever Premier League start.Hide Caption 4 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring the season there’s been reported friction between Mourinho and United’s star player Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner was one of United’s unused substitutes in the defeat by Liverpool.Hide Caption 5 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoOne of the criticisms that Mourinho has faced during his Old Trafford tenure is the style of football his team has played. While Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have delivered stylish brands of football, Mourinho’s United hasn’t been very entertaining to watch.Hide Caption 6 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoIn October, stewards at Stamford Bridge had to hold back Mourinho after he was incensed by a member of the home team’s support staff — Marco Ianni — crossing into the United technical area.Hide Caption 7 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoMourinho gestures to the crowd after United beat Juventus in a Champions League group stage game. United’s qualification for the competition’s knockout stages has been the one silver lining this season.Hide Caption 8 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoUnited will face Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16 round of the Champions League.Hide Caption 9 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring Mourinho’s first season in charge at Old Trafford, United won the League Cup as well as the Europa League. Here Mourinho is pictured celebrating the Europa League final win against Ajax in Stockholm.Hide Caption 10 of 10But United’s tally of 26 points after 17 games is its worst at this stage since the 1990-91 season, before the inception of the Premier League.Mourinho’s future had been under severe scrutiny after several dismal performances, despite signing a 12-month contract extension less than a year ago.United has won just once in its previous six Premier League matches, including draws against struggling Southampton and Crystal Palace.The 55-year-old has been involved in several public spats with players during his tenure, most notably with Paul Pogba who Mourinho has singled out for criticism on several occasions this season.READ: Manchester United faces tough Champions League draw against PSGREAD: Xherdan Shaqiri double sinks Manchester United as Liverpool tops Premier LeagueTheir tense relationship came to a head in September when the pair were filmed arguing during an open training session.Pogba, a key member of France’s World Cup winning squad, was left on the bench for United’s defeat to Liverpool.Following the 2-2 draw to Southampton earlier this month, it was widely reported Mourinho had called Pogba a “virus” in the squad.

    Third season syndrome

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      Copa90: Liverpool v Man Utd, a history of hate 04:49Mourinho’s sacking means his record of never completing four seasons at a football club continues.Only once has the Portuguese coach made it into a fourth campaign — during his first stint in charge of Chelsea — but he left halfway through the season.Jose Mourinho's career trophy haul

        Premier League: 3Champions League: 2La Liga: 1Serie A: 2Primeira Liga: 2UEFA Cup/Europa League: 2Other domestic titles: 13

        Despite his immense success throughout a long career, Mourinho has always struggled in the third season at clubs he has managed.Two trophies in his first season in Manchester were followed by a second place finish in the Premier League a year later, but this season the team has stagnated.Reports suggested Mourinho was never settled in the city and decided to spend his two and a half years there renting a room in the five-star Lowry Hotel, rather than buy a house in the area.United, valued by Forbes as the world’s most valuable football club at $4.1 billion, has seen its share price plummet 34% since August.As well as poor results, Mourinho has been forced to defend his side’s style of football which is considered too defensive and lethargic, and not akin to United’s historic attacking philosophy.However, one silver lining in a torrid season has been the team’s qualification for the Champions League last 16, which included a stoppage time victory against Juventus in Turin.

          United did have the chance to finish top of Group H, but a woeful performance against Valencia consigned it to second place to set up a tricky clash against PSG.Perhaps now, without Mourinho in charge, Manchester United fans won’t look ahead to their clash against the star-studded side with quite so much resignation.

UCL draw: Manchester United faces tough PSG tie; Liverpool plays Bayern

Life for Jose Mourinho in charge of Manchester United shows no signs of getting easier as the Premier League side drew a star-studded PSG team in the Champions League last 16.

United crashed out of the competition at the hands of Sevilla at this stage last season and few will be backing Mourinho’s men this time around, with the club languishing in sixth place in the league after Sunday’s insipid defeat to Liverpool.Visit CNN/com/sport for more news, features and videos

    The French club, desperate to win a first Champions League title, topped Group C ahead of Liverpool and Napoli and remain unbeaten at home this season.Fellow Group C qualifier Liverpool face a mouthwatering tie against German side Bayern Munich, which continues to struggle this season under new coach Niko Kovac.Read More

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      Jay-Jay Okocha on PSG, Neymar and Cavani 02:55The defending Bundesliga champion sits in third place, nine points behind early leader Borussia Dortmund — although Bayern has enjoyed considerably more success in the Champions League.Bayern topped Group E ahead of Ajax, Benfica and AEK Athens and is unbeaten in the competition so far this season.

      It will be a fantastic battle🔥 Come on @FCBayern, we can do it! #UCLdraw

      — Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) December 17, 2018

      Spain’s two biggest clubs will have been left breathing a sigh of relief, drawing two of the weaker sides left in the Champions League.Real Madrid suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat by CSKA Moscow at the Bernabeu — its worst home defeat in European history — but still won Group G ahead of last season’s semifinalist Roma.READ: Real Madrid embarrassed by CSKA Moscow in record home lossREAD: Liverpool advance as Alisson and Salah star against NapoliLa Liga rival Barcelona faces an entertaining Lyon side which has already caused one upset in the Champions League this season, beating Group F opponent Manchester City at the Etihad and qualifying for the last 16 undefeated.Atletico Madrid, however, faces the daunting prospect of a round-of-16 tie against Juventus – and another meeting with Cristano Ronaldo.

      .@Atleti … 🇪🇸 Always tough games against them, it will be a real challenge, but we can do it! looking forward to it! #UCLDraw @ChampionsLeague @juventusfc

      — Sami Khedira (@SamiKhedira) December 17, 2018

      Diego Simeone’s Atletico side may have thought they had seen the last of the Portuguese star when he joined the Italian giant from Real last summer.But Ronaldo, who bagged 22 goals in 31 games in the Madrid derby, will return to the Spanish capital to try to haunt Antoine Griezmann and Co. once again.

      Draw in full

      Schalke vs. Manchester CityAtletico Madrid vs. JuventusManchester United vs. Paris Saint-GermainTottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia DortmundLyon vs. BarcelonaRoma vs. PortoAjax vs. Real MadridLiverpool vs. Bayern Munich

      Europa League draw

      Viktoria Plzeň vs. Dinamo ZagrebClub Brugge vs. Red Bull SalzburgRapid Wien vs. Inter MilanSlavia Prague vs. GenkFC Krasnodar vs. Bayer LeverkusenFC Zurich vs. NapoliMalmo vs. ChelseaShakhtar Donetsk vs. Eintracht FrankfurtCeltic vs. ValenciaStade Rennais vs. Real BetisOlympiacos vs. Dynamo KievLazio vs. SevillaFenerbahce vs. Zenit Saint PetersburgSporting vs. Villarreal

        BATE Borisov vs. ArsenalGalatasaray vs. Benfica

Zinedine Zidane: The right man to replace Jose Mourinho at Manchester United?

In taking the decision to sack coach Jose Mourinho on Tuesday, Manchester United are making a desperate attempt to halt five years of decline.

English football’s most successful team has made its worst ever start to a Premier League season, overseen by a coach who has seemingly lost his Midas touch. Sunday saw a drab, sluggish United team swept aside by an awesome Liverpool who lead the Premier League, playing a high-octane brand of football under charismatic coach Jurgen Klopp.

    They would never admit it, but what United fans would give to see Klopp in their team’s dugout. Likewise closer to home, the style of football being produced by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City has pundits and neutral supporters purring with delight.Zinedine Zidane poses with the Champions League trophy after the 2018 final against Liverpool.Read MoreREAD: United handed tough PSG draw in Champions LeagueWhile Klopp and Guardiola exude positivity, Mourinho has cultivated over a seemingly toxic environment at Old Trafford.In recent months, the 55-year-old Portuguese has looked increasingly irritable and isolated. United sit 19 points behind Liverpool, languishing in sixth place.Over five years, the board has put in place a succession of lucrative commercial deals but it has faltered when it comes to recruitment of players and coaches. It’s notable that United are one of only four Premier League clubs without a sporting director. Its youth academy, meanwhile, no longer produces talent like the vaunted “Class of ’92,” a group of players made up of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes who were the bedrock of the great Alex Ferguson’s teams.As for Mourinho, the swagger and charisma which made him one of the hottest properties in world football has gone. The suave, sexy, “special” Mourinho — who conquered Europe with Porto, transformed Chelsea into the dominant force in English football and dragged Inter Milan to Champions League glory — has been replaced by a snarling, shadow of his former self.David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Mourinho have all tried and failed to replicate the success enjoyed by the legendary Ferguson, who claimed 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs before ending his glorious 26-year reign at United in 2013.

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      Phil Neville: WWC win better than ’99 treble 03:18READ: England “reaching for the moon” under United greatThe steel and verve which came to define Ferguson’s teams has disappeared entirely, replaced by a turgid brand of football played by a disillusioned squad of players.And Mourinho’s relationship with that squad — expensively assembled over recent years by the club’s much-maligned CEO Ed Woodward — has deteriorated to the point where players of unquestionable potential rarely perform to their abilities, while others aren’t even given the opportunity.Notably Paul Pogba, United’s record signing when he arrived from Juventus in 2016, who watched Sunday’s dreadful defeat to Liverpool from the substitutes’ bench.A star of France’s vibrant 2018 World Cup-winning team, Pogba has been unable — or perhaps unwilling — to replicate that form for United.The situation with Pogba perfectly encapsulates what United must rectify with their next appointment.While Klopp has taken players to new heights — see Mohamed Salah’s incredible goalscoring numbers for the 2017-18 season — Mourinho has dragged his down.Given Mourinho’s habit of publicly singling out players for criticism, the Old Trafford hierarchy will be keen to make sure their new coach’s management style is more carrot than stick.One man who ticks that box is Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino.The Argentine has developed a Tottenham team that regularly competes with the Premier League’s elite, built around a core of exciting young players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli.Spurs consistently qualify for the Champions League despite lacking the financial firepower of teams like United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.It is unlikely, however, Pochettino would abandon what he’s so carefully built over four years for the chaos at United.His effervescent Spurs team is yet to convert its potential into tangible, trophy success. Pochettino will surely want to achieve at least that when the club moves into its spectacular new stadium in 2019.Pochettino is one of many candidates who would be unlikely to vacate their current jobs for the United hot seat. But there is someone who is available. Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring Jose Mourinho’s coaching career the third season in charge of the clubs he has managed has always provided tricky …Hide Caption 1 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoWith United trailing English Premier League leaders Liverpool by 19 points, Mourinho was fired by United on Tuesday.Hide Caption 2 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoThe final straw for United’s decision makers was the club’s 3-1 defeat at rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.Hide Caption 3 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoFor a club that has won 20 league titles, the 2018/2019 season has been United’s worst ever Premier League start.Hide Caption 4 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring the season there’s been reported friction between Mourinho and United’s star player Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner was one of United’s unused substitutes in the defeat by Liverpool.Hide Caption 5 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoOne of the criticisms that Mourinho has faced during his Old Trafford tenure is the style of football his team has played. While Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have delivered stylish brands of football, Mourinho’s United hasn’t been very entertaining to watch.Hide Caption 6 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoIn October, stewards at Stamford Bridge had to hold back Mourinho after he was incensed by a member of the home team’s support staff — Marco Ianni — crossing into the United technical area.Hide Caption 7 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoMourinho gestures to the crowd after United beat Juventus in a Champions League group stage game. United’s qualification for the competition’s knockout stages has been the one silver lining this season.Hide Caption 8 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoUnited will face Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16 round of the Champions League.Hide Caption 9 of 10 Photos: Manchester United fires Jose MourinhoDuring Mourinho’s first season in charge at Old Trafford, United won the League Cup as well as the Europa League. Here Mourinho is pictured celebrating the Europa League final win against Ajax in Stockholm.Hide Caption 10 of 10Zinedine Zidane was untested in top-level management when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid in 2016.By the time he left the Spanish capital earlier this season, the Frenchman had overseen three consecutive Champions League triumphs to go with a league title in 2017.His success at the world’s biggest football club, combined with his availability, makes him the outstanding candidate to replace Mourinho.Who better to get the best out of Pogba than a man who knows all about leading France to World Cup glory?Zidane was the undoubted star of France’s glorious team of 1998, while he also dazzled at Pogba’s former club Juventus.It’s a safe bet that Zidane would have more luck getting a tune out of the midfielder than Mourinho. The arrival of one of the greatest players to have ever laced up a pair of boots would undoubtedly inspire United’s world-weary squad. Attacking talents like Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez have seemed at a loss this season. “Zizou” could change all that.But there are doubts as to whether Zidane would be willing to end his current career break for a stint in Manchester.Earlier this season, his agent Alain Migliaccio dismissed speculation Zidane could arrive at Old Trafford and suggested the 46-year-old has no desire to work in England.

        Whether that is still the case now the job is available remains to be seen.One thing is certain. United needed a coach of Zidane’s caliber five years ago. They can’t afford to miss out on him now.

Champions League: Real Madrid embarrassed by CSKA Moscow in record home loss

Real Madrid was assured of a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League heading into the final match day, but for a club of its stature there is no such thing as a meaningless game.

Thus newish manager Santi Solari is sure to be feeling the heat after the three-time defending champions incredibly lost 3-0 at home to last-place CSKA Moscow in Group G on Wednesday. Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

    It was Los Blancos’ worst ever European defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and the first time the Kings of Europe lost a group stage game at home since 2009. Read: Alisson bails out LiverpoolRead MoreRead: Resurgent Reus Just as surprising was CSKA Moscow doing the double over Real Madrid — winning 1-0 in Russia in October — yet not even finishing in a Europa League position. CSKA was pipped by Plzen, which defeated the other team in the group already through, Roma, 2-1. Real Madrid manager Santi Solari saw his side suffer a record loss in the Champions League Wednesday. That result will pile even more pressure on Roma boss Eusebio di Francesco, whose side are now winless in five games and blew a late two-goal advantage to Cagliari in Serie A last weekend. Only roughly seven months ago di Francesco guided Roma to the Champions League semifinals. “We can’t be making fools of ourselves the way we are,” Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi told Sky Italia. In keeping with the theme of big clubs already into the second round who were upset, Valencia and Young Boys collected 2-1 home wins in Group H over Manchester United and Juventus, respectively. Only one spot remained in the round of 16 entering Wednesday, to be filled by Lyon or Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F. They met in snowy Kiev and the French Ligue 1 outfit avoided defeat, tying 1-1, to progress.

    Fielded young squad

    Even though Solari — who replaced Julen Lopetegui in October — fielded the youngest Real Madrid side since 2005 and omitted Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, the host still featured the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Isco and Marco Asensio. And Gareth Bale, he of the dazzling bicycle kick against Liverpool in last season’s final, played all of the second half. On Tuesday, Real Madrid’s arch rival Barcelona also rested plenty of its regulars but still managed a 1-1 draw with perhaps tougher opposition, Tottenham. CSKA players celebrate after scoring against Real Madrid. “I’m down because although we were through we wanted to finish the group with a win and we didn’t do that,” Solari, the former Real Madrid midfielder, was quoted as saying by UEFA. “We started the game well, especially the first 30-35 minutes, but we weren’t good enough in either box and they punished us.”I didn’t like what I saw in the second half. It is my job to get the side ready and I picked a young group today, but this allowed them to get some minutes into their legs and gain experience.”By the time Bale came on, CSKA led 2-0 thanks to a 37th-minute strike from Fedor Chalov and 43rd-minute effort from Georgi Schennikov. Arnor Sigurdsson rounded out Real Madrid’s misery in the 73rd minute.

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      The school that produced three sport icons 04:07CSKA became the first team in 12 years, according to UEFA, to finish last in a group despite amassing a healthy seven points.

      Early Christmas present

      “It’s sad to say the least to beat Real Madrid, earn seven points, but finish bottom and get eliminated from Europe,” CSKA manager Viktor Goncharenko was quoted as saying by UEFA. “But we only have ourselves to blame. “In any case, we’ve made sure we’ll spend the holidays in a great mood after tonight’s win.”Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t in a great mood for Juventus. Ronaldo, sorely missed by Real Madrid, saw his late header strike the post in Switzerland. Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo was held off the scoresheet by Young Boys. But Juventus stayed atop the group and lead Serie A. The Red Devils of Manchester, meanwhile, find themselves eight points adrift of the Champions League places in England ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash at Liverpool. Liverpool will be full of confidence after advancing in dramatic fashion Tuesday and leading the Premier League.

        Lyon finished behind Manchester City — a 2-1 winner over Hoffenheim — in Group F while Bayern Munich held off Ajax for top spot in Group E following a thrilling 3-3 draw in Amsterdam. Ajax led 2-1 prior to Robert Lewandowski’s penalty leveler in the 87th minute that sparked a flurry of goals.

        🏆 UEFA Champions League last 16!
        CONFIRMED ✅

        Best team left in the #UCL? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/7ecHZBlyNL

        — UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 12, 2018

        Follow @cnnsportKingsley Coman made it 3-2 for the German powerhouse, only for Nicolas Tagliafico to reply in the fifth minute of injury time.

Football agents pick up $548 million from transfers in 2018

They’re the wheelers and dealers, the people that make football transfers happen — and they’re in a lucrative business.

A report released by world governing body FIFA has revealed that intermediaries or agents have been paid a total of $548 million so far this year across 3,844 international transfers. Since 2013, agents have picked up a total of $2.14 billion.

    The report analyzed data from all global football transfers in the past five years, comparing instances when players and clubs had used an agent for a move to take place.Close to 20% of international transfers in this five-year period involved an agent, with individual players more likely to use them than clubs.Earlier this year the work and rivalry of “super agents” Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Jonathan Barnett, Fernando Felicevich and Kia Joorabchian was compared to football’s “Game of Thrones.”Read MoreMendes represents Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, Raiola works with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba while Barnett is the agent of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.Raiola has said he is friends with “99%” of his clients and goes as far as to call Pogba “family.”We just want the player to finish his career with the money he earned, and more — but not less,” he said in an interview with the FT.

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      Paulo Fonseca making his mark at Shakhtar 03:32Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videosIn terms of countries, Italian clubs most commonly relied on agents for incoming players in 2018 with over 45% of the country’s 175 transfers involving intermediaries. England was second, although agents that were employed by English clubs were the highest-earning, accruing a total of $155.8 million so far this year. Agents connected with European clubs accounted for 96% of the money paid to intermediaries in 2018. When transfer fees have been higher, agents have tended to earn less money from the transaction; between 2013 and 2018, they took an average of 28% of the transfer fee when it was less that $1 million, but this figure was as low as 7.3% for transfer fees over $5 million.READ: Real Madrid embarrassed by CSKA MoscowCurrently, anyone is able to act as an agent on behalf of a player, but it has been reported that FIFA is planning to reintroduce exams for agents, which were previously ditched in 2015. The aim is to add greater transparency to transfers, preventing agents from exploiting clubs and players. “These increasingly larger transactions are often not done in a clean, open manner and raise a lot of questions about potential misuse of funds,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino earlier this year.

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        Atlanta United wins MLS Cup in second season 01:53Some English Premier League owners have called for a ban on agent payments following “dual representation” — whereby an agent is paid by a player and a club for the same transfer.READ: Liverpool advance in UCL as Alisson, Salah star”They are starting to run football. They are certainly sucking tons of money out of football,” West Ham owner David Gold recently said. “We are all trying to pay less, they are doing nothing for football. I can’t believe it is even a discussion. Other than agents, everybody else is against them.”London-based agent Michael Di Stefano, an intermediary registered with the FA, has defended the influence agents have in football.”Players do need more often than not someone to help with the admin stuff,” he tells CNN Sport. “Not everyone has the words or know-how to be comfortable when talking money, contracts and obligations.””If Gianni [Infantino] wants to really set an example, he will cap the fee to a maximum of £1M ($1.26M), no matter how high the transfer fee, and for all those lower, cap it at 5% [of the transfer]. “He could also take away dual representation, forcing the club to represent itself via a club secretary, for example.”You cannot take the agent out of the game, it’s ridiculous to even suggest that. We are just people working (oftentimes for free) and offering fair advice about what is a nasty industry filled with inept, inadequate people at all levels, from the bottom to the very top!”

          Danish footballers are most likely to use agents to facilitate transfers, with close to 48% of players this year relying on an agent. This was followed by Norweigan, Dutch, Czech, and Australian players. The Association of Football Agents has yet to comment on FIFA’s report.

Phil Neville: ‘Winning Women’s World Cup would be my greatest achievement’

On a bleak December day, inside an indoor training pitch with as much coziness as an igloo, toes are quickly becoming numb in the bone-chilling cold. But Phil Neville is sanguine.

It would take more than an afternoon of interviews in a mammoth glass-roof arena more fitting a home to an ice rink than a full-sized artificial soccer pitch on a day such as this for the head coach of England’s women soccer team to lose his equanimity. “Ask me anything,” says the former Manchester United and Everton midfielder, flashing a smile as he takes a seat in front of CNN’s cameras.

    The loquacious Englishman rubs the palm of his hands together in a futile attempt to generate heat before eloquently talking about an array of subjects: how he is “aiming for the moon” with his talented squad, the advice he has heeded from his old boss Alex Ferguson and his belief that Jose Mourinho deserves “the utmost respect” despite Manchester United’s wretched results in the English Premier League. Visit CNN/com/sport for more news, features and videosEngland’s women have won 10 of 12 internationals during Neville’s time in charge.Read MoreClad in the national team’s tracksuit, Neville has not dressed appropriately for the temperature. It is rare for this scrupulous young manager with old-fashioned values to be caught unprepared. Thorough, organized, he is the sort who prepares for all eventualities. Ever since he was appointed to his first managerial role back in January, the 41-year-old has been plotting England’s path to World Cup glory in France next year. Neville is spending the day at English football’s impressive 300-acre National Football Centre, home to the country’s 28 national teams, in the Staffordshire countryside to help promote a Football Association initiative which aims to encourage women aged 40 or above to take up walking football. “We all love football but sometimes there’s not been those opportunities, particularly for women,” says Neville. “The knock-on effect is that it will inspire more people to get involved in football, more women to get involved in football.”Neville’s presence at the event helps demonstrate his commitment to the women’s game, nearly 12 months after his appointment as head coach raised question marks over his credentials. READ: Progress is made at a “snail’s pace” — Megan RapinoeREAD: It’s about respect for women and men — Ada Hegerberg Neville had been assistant coach at Manchester United and Valencia before taking the England job.With no previous experience in women’s football or management, and despite initially not having applied for the job, Neville became the most high-profile England women’s manager in history. It was a bumpy start for a man who, if rumor is to be believed, emerged as a candidate after a well-known broadcaster lightheartedly suggested him to FA bosses during a Christmas party. Within 24 hours of getting the job in January, the father-of-two was forced to make a public apology for Twitter comments made in 2012 which had prompted a sexism row. Neville weathered the storm and has since guided England’s women, third in FIFA’s world rankings, to next year’s World Cup finals.But when he took the job, Neville said he felt he had a point to prove and he still feels that way. “It’s an internal motivation,” he explains. “I wanted to prove people wrong that doubted me, and I’m still like that today. I think I’ve proven over the last 12 months my commitment to the team and to women’s football, and that I am here for the long haul. “But, ultimately, the proof is in the pudding — the pudding is the World Cup, the pudding is will we qualify for the Olympic Games — so it’s a results business.”READ: What you need to know about the Women’s World CupNeville was assistant to Ryan Giggs during the Welshman’s tenure as interim Man Utd boss.Neville had returned to Old Trafford as coach under David Moyes’ management.The Lionesses’ record under Neville’s stewardship is a fine one — two defeats in 12 internationals — and though there will be formidable barriers in France next summer in the form of defending champions USA and Olympic champions Germany, to name but two teams, the head coach has his sights set on history.

    We're going to have to do something we've never done before. We're going to have to go to places in our preparation, training, performance that we've never gone before

    Phil Neville

    “I was always taught to aim for the moon and the moon for us is to obviously win a World Cup,” says Neville of a competition England’s women have never before won. “We know it’s going to be unbelievably hard. We think we’re improving, but France, USA, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Japan … all the teams, they’re improving at the same rate as us. “We’re going to have to do something we’ve never done before. We’re going to have to go to places in our preparation, training, performance that we’ve never gone before, but that’s the commitment that we’ve made as a group. We’re the underdogs. We’re looking forward to it.”Neville’s playing career yielded 59 England caps and 10 major trophies with Manchester United and it comes as no surprise to learn that a man who has played under Ferguson, Britain’s most successful soccer manager, strives for excellence.

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      England manager creates spike in waistcoat sales 01:42″It’s just super, super high standards,” is how striker Ellen White describes the impact Neville has made in his first year with England.It has taken the squad time to adapt to a new style of play, she admits, before adding that the next year should be “exiting” for a squad attempting to win the country’s first major senior international trophy since 1966. Like Gareth Southgate, manager of England’s men, Neville is among a new breed of emotionally intelligent managers. In the summer he revealed that he knew “every facet” of his players’ lives and sent text and WhatsApp messages to them on a daily basis. There are 30 WhatsApp groups, one for every player. “It means that every single minute of the day I know what players are doing,” he explained.But for all the empathy, he also holds “old school” values dear, such as tidiness, punctuality and, most importantly, humility. “The biggest bit of advice [Alex Ferguson] gave me was that to be a manager you’ve got to take risks,” Neville says. “To be a manager you’ve got to gamble. Be brave, be bold, but be humble in everything that you do, and from the kit man to the physio to your best player to your youngest player, make sure you treat everybody the same.”READ: France to face South Korea in Women’s World Cup kickoffNeville made 263 appearances for Man Utd, scoring five goals.England’s football fans became joyously giddy during a heatwave of a summer as England’s youthful and multicultural side reached the semifinals of Russia 2018, the men’s most successful display at a major tournament since 1990. Though Neville speaks to Southgate, he admits that they do not talk as frequently as they should. The former Manchester United player wants to emulate and learn from a man he describes as one of the “most powerful people in England.” He wants his women to unite a divided nation and inspire, much like Southgate’s men did in the summer.

      If you're looking at figureheads that actually influence a nation I think Gareth Southgate is up with some of the most powerful people in England

      Phil Neville

      “We actually spoke today and we actually both said that we don’t speak to each other probably enough and exchange views,” says Neville. “It’s something that over the next six months I’d be foolish not to tap into his experience of what he’s been through the last four years with the Under-21s and senior men, because he’s been to European Championships, he’s been to World Cups. He’s been successful. “If you’re looking at figureheads that actually influence a nation I think Gareth Southgate is up with some of the most powerful people in England in terms of the influence that he has on the people of England because if you look at the way the country is inspired, the country is inspired by success and positivity.

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        Gareth Southgate: An unlikely hero 02:14″What Gareth and his team have given the country over the last 12 months has been great and we’ve learnt a lot about togetherness of that team and how they’ve inspired a nation and connected with a nation. “It’s that connection that I want with my senior women’s team. I want that little girl at school in South London or in the north east to actually connect with some of my players and if we do that it means that we’ve been successful.”[Winning the Women’s World Cup] would be the greatest achievement that I’ve ever achieved. “When I took the job 12 months ago, I took the job because I want to do something really special, and I wanted to win, and I want to be part of a legacy, of an inspiring group of people, which my players are, that leave a legacy for the next generation of footballers, and when you talk about how do we get something really special, that’s by winning.”While Neville is enjoying a relatively successful start to his managerial career, he is also aware that fortunes can quickly change in football. He returned to Old Trafford in 2013 as part of David Moyes’ backroom staff, but the Scot’s tenure turned into a nightmare and did not complete a season with the Red Devils.United is still trying to recapture the glory of the Ferguson years. This season United, Neville’s club by birthright, is sixth in the English Premier League — 16 points behind leaders Liverpool — and there are those who question Mourinho’s future in the north west, though Neville is not one of them. Though struggling in the league, Mourinho has guided Man Utd to the knockout stages of the Champions League.”He’s one of the most successful managers of all time and deserves the utmost respect,” he says. “I was involved at Man United when David Moyes was there so I saw a manager go through a difficult spell. I went to Valencia and played [sic] under five managers. Management is really tough and, obviously, at the moment United are going through a difficult moment. “But for all those difficult moments you get great moments and I’m sure Jose will return United to the place where I think they should be and that’s at the top.”

          For the next seven months, Neville’s task will be to create a legacy, make history. The passionate Englishman says: “We’re playing not just for the badge, we’re playing for the people that live in England. We’re playing for a country that’s so proud of the football culture and I feel very lucky.”

As Copa Libertadores played in Madrid, women’s champions get second-class treatment

As all the stops were being pulled out to fly Boca Juniors and River Plate from Buenos Aires to Madrid for Sunday’s Copa Libertadores final, the winners of the women’s competition were having an altogether different travel experience.

Players of Colombian side Atletico Huila Femenina, flying home from Brazil after shocking Santos on penalties in the final, endured a seven-hour layover.Visit CNN/com/sport for more news, features and videos

    To make matters worse, according to captain Yoreli Rincon, the paltry $55,000 prize money will go straight to paying off the debts of the men’s team, who themselves didn’t even qualify for the Copa Libertadores.

    Qué falta de respeto… no solo son campeonas, son mujeres y deportistas.. desconsiderados. La @CONMEBOL recoge pero no da! Indignante! @FCF_Oficial y @Dimayor qué? @AtleticoHuilaof pic.twitter.com/anH7kWdPyr

    — Carlos Antonio Velez (@velezfutbol) December 5, 2018

    Atletico Huila and CONMEBOL, South American football’s governing body, didn’t respond to CNN’s request for clarification on the distribution of the winnings.Read More”For being crowned champions we won $55,000, money that will never reach us,” Rincon said in a video published on social media. “That goes to Atletico Huila’s men’s team, which has a different president than we do. “Yes, we will get recognition from our president Diego Perdomo but it’s out of his pocket, not our prize money for being Copa Libertadores champions. Unfortunately, that is women’s football.”READ: The Copa Libertadores final is back on, and will be held in MadridREAD: Copa Libertadores final postponed after bus attackBy way of comparison, either Boca or River will earn $6 million for winning Sunday’s final.At a press conference in Bogota on Wednesday, Rincon said an agreement had been reached but declined to give any details.”The nice thing about winning is that it gives you the opportunity to express yourself and that is what we are doing right now,” said Rincon.”We managed to reach an agreement and it is a reward which we more than deserve. “When we arrived in Colombia they gave us a solution and that is what we wanted from the start, that this (reward) was ours and it’s normal for a winning team, to enjoy what they were given as a prize.”Colombia’s Atletico Huila Femenino players pose with the Copa Libertadores trophy at a press conference in Bogota.

    ‘Embarrassing’

    The decision to move the second leg from River Plate’s Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires to a neutral venue came after the initial match was called off due to River fans attacking the Boca Juniors team bus.Two Boca players, captain Pablo Pérez and midfielder Gonzalo Lamardo, were treated in hospital for eye injuries and the clash was called off indefinitely.Various venues in the Middle East and Europe were discussed, before CONMEBOL plumped on Real Madrid’s Bernabeu.It’s a decision that hasn’t gone down well with fans or players. Carlos Tevez, a Boca Juniors stalwart, believes the situation is “embarrassing for the people, not so much for the players.””They took away our dream of playing the final in our country,” he told reporters in Madrid. “It is important because it’s still a final.”It is rare because of where it will be played, but it is still a Copa Libertadores final.” Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyFollowing Saturday’s postponement of the Copa Libertadores final second leg, security was beefed up the following day around the area Boca Juniors’ bus was attacked.Hide Caption 1 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyBut only a couple of thousand River fans had made it into El Monumental when the match was canceled for a second time on Sunday.Hide Caption 2 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyUnlike a day earlier, when River’s stadium was packed to the rafters before the initial postponement.Hide Caption 3 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyNews eventually filtered through the stands, much to the despair of the 66,000 or so fans who had made their way into the ground.Hide Caption 4 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyBoca Juniors fans gathered outside the team hotel in support, but some were demanding the resignation of club president Daniel Angelici after he had signed an agreement for the game to go ahead, despite several players being hospitalized.Hide Caption 5 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyOne of the fiercest rivalries in world sport, violence has often marred clashes between these two South American giants over the years.Hide Caption 6 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyThere were reports that 29 River Plate fans had been arrested following the violence which saw windows on the Boca team bus smashed with projectiles.Hide Caption 7 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyPicture released by Telam showing the Boca Juniors team bus leaving their hotel on the way to the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires on Saturday before it was attacked.Hide Caption 8 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyPablo Perez of Boca Juniors needed medical treatment in a hospital due to an eye injury caused by fans that stoned the team’s bus and threw tear gas to the players on SaturdayHide Caption 9 of 10 Photos: Boca vs. River suspended indefinitelyAs of Monday morning, there is no official date for when the match — dubbed ‘the final to end all finals — will even begin.Hide Caption 10 of 10River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani, who played in goal for Argentina at the World Cup, believes their fans “deserved” to see the second leg played at home, despite their violence causing the move.Los Millonarios initially refused to play the rescheduled final — currently at 2-2 after the first leg — in Madrid, but eventually succumbed to CONMEBOL’s request.

      “We would have liked to play as locals in River’s stadium with our fans, they deserved it,” Armani said.”But the decision is made, so we will do our best, we will try to bring home the title. We deserve it, and the fans and everybody who supports us deserve it.”

Champions League: Liverpool advance as Alisson, Salah star against Napoli

A Liverpool fan favorite who emerged last season combined with a new goalkeeping hero in the Reds’ 1-0 win over Napoli that sent the 2018 finalist into the Champions League knockout phase.

Mohamed Salah netted a hat-trick in the English Premier League last weekend against Bournemouth and while he didn’t replicate the feat Tuesday — he could have given his chances — the Egyptian scored the lone goal in the 34th minute. Read: Was Ronaldo’s bicycle kick greatest goal ever?

    Read: Reus back from the brink, againSummer signing — from Roma — Alisson then bailed out the host in injury time, stopping substitute Arkadiusz Milik in what was easily the visitors’ best opportunity at Anfield. Beating Napoli and also qualifying for the last 16 could be worth as much as $13.8 million to Liverpool.Read More”What a goal from Mo, and the save Ali made — I have no words for that,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters. “I am very proud of the boys tonight.”I’m still full of adrenaline. This game was just amazing. The boys played with their whole heart. Our defending and pressing was some of the best I ever saw.”Alisson spared Liverpool’s blushes against Napoli with an injury-time save Tuesday in the Champions League. The Reds knew they needed to win by a 1-0 scoreline or two clear goals on the final match day to advance instead of Napoli if Paris Saint-Germain beat last-place Red Star Belgrade away — which it did 4-1 — and indeed Liverpool claimed second in Group C on goals scored. Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videosOut went Napoli’s 12-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. “We started well, but then we started making many mistakes in the middle due to their high pressure,” Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti was quoted as saying by UEFA. “The second half was tactically messy, we absolutely needed a goal. It’s true they missed many chances on the counter, but we also could have scored.”

    Two moments of pure magic tonight.💫#AllezAllezAllez pic.twitter.com/dXohLIuxc6

    — Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 11, 2018

    Only four spots remained in the round of 16 heading into the final match day and now there is only one.

    Another English team goes through

    Another Italian side was trumped by English opposition as Tottenham grabbed second place in Group B at Inter Milan’s expense. Former PSG midfielder Lucas Moura scored in the 85th minute for Spurs in a 1-1 tie at group winner Barcelona, while Inter could only draw last-place PSV 1-1 at home. Inter needed to better Tottenham’s result to progress but in the end departed on head-to-head away goals. “Congratulations to the players, I think they were fantastic — massive effort,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, the former boss at Barcelona’s city rival Espanyol, told BT Sport. “So happy for our fans who were here and our fans in London and around the world. It’s a massive, massive achievement for the club.” Tottenham’s task was made simpler when Barcelona didn’t start five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. Rather he entered as a 63rd-minute sub. There has been much talk in England about how Liverpool’s front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have yet to find last year’s scintillating form but Klopp’s side lead the Premier League without suffering a defeat and ultimately got the result it required against Napoli. Mo Salah scored the only goal of the game in the first half. There was thus more woe for Ancelotti against Liverpool — guiding AC Milan in 2005, he saw the Reds overturn a 3-0 deficit to win the Champions League final. AC Milan and Ancelotti, however, did top Liverpool in the final two years later. Mind you Liverpool made it nervy for the home fans by wasting opportunity after opportunity Tuesday. Of 22 shots, a mere eight were on target. It all started in the seventh minute when marauding left-back Andy Robertson found Salah with a wonderful cross in front of goal. Salah didn’t get the first touch he wanted and the ball fell safely to keeper David Ospina.

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      Mo Salah: The Egyptian King in Liverpool 22:48Napoli’s only other decent chance, besides Milik’s effort, probably came in the eighth minute when club legend Marek Hamsik curled his effort over the bar. James Milner’s header flashed wide and teammate Mane saw his goal rightfully crossed off for offside in the 22nd. Read: USA, Sweden in same group at women’s World CupRead: Atlanta wins MLS CupAlisson and Virgil van Dijk have been colossal for Liverpool since joining from Roma and Southampton, respectively, this year but Napoli felt the central defender should have seen red when his follow through caught forward Dries Mertens in the ankle. He was given a yellow instead.

      Salah shrugs off defenders

      Salah struck moments later when he shook off two defenders and poked the ball through Ospina’s legs from a tight angle. Lionel Messi began on the bench for Barcelona against Tottenham on Tuesday. And in the second half, the chances kept on coming for Liverpool, with Salah shooting wide when in alone, Firmino depositing his header straight at Ospina and the Colombian keeper foiling the Egyptian twice in the same sequence.Follow @cnnsportIn between Mane squandering two seemingly can’t-miss chances in the dying minutes, Alisson denied Milik before a follow-up was ruled out for offside. Again it appeared to be the correct call. No wonder Alisson received a big hug from Klopp at the final whistle.

        “(Alisson) has been fantastic for Liverpool and for us,” van Dijk told Liverpool’s website. “He gives confidence to everyone.” The final qualifier will come on Wednesday, either Lyon or Shakhtar Donetsk from Group F. But it will be difficult to match Tuesday’s drama in what was another memorable European night at Anfield.

Marco Reus: The man who came back from the brink — again and again

Rejected by his hometown club for being too small and a career hindered by a succession of serious injuries.

Say what you like about Marco Reus but when it comes to resilience he’s got very few peers.Follow @cnnsportDespite his undeniable talent, adversity has come to define the forward’s career and hampered his progression to the very top.

    “If Marco [Reus] didn’t have any injuries, he would be one of the top players in football” Bundesliga expert and former professional Lutz Pfannenstiel told CNN Sport. Marco Reus has been in impressive form this season, scoring 12 goals for Dortmund. Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videosRead MoreHowever, since returning from a miserable World Cup campaign with Germany, Reus has been in electric form. He’s scored 11 times in 18 appearances for his club — a record which has inspired Borussia Dortmund to the summit of both the Bundesliga and their Champions League group.

    Injury nightmare

    Reus’ quality has never been in question though. The pacy attacker combines a clinical edge to his creative flair, making him one of the world’s most potent threats in the game. But such praise comes with a caveat. The 29-year-old has battled with injuries throughout his career, a trait which has reared its ugly head at some of the most important moments of his career. Reus was forced to miss Germany’s successful World Cup campaign in 2014.Notably, an in-form Reus was forced to miss Germany’s successful World Cup campaign in 2014 after sustaining an ankle injury just weeks before the start of tournament.In 2017, Reus then suffered cruciate ligament damage and missed eight months of action — many doubted the player would ever return to his best.However, it appears the German has learned from his frustrating spell on the sidelines and has developed a better understanding of his body.”I think now he’s reached the point where he knows a little bit more about himself and how to look after his body,” said Pfannenstiel.

    ‘Beast’ mentality

    Injuries may have physically prevented Reus from fulfilling his frightening potential but they have “made him mentally into an absolute beast,” said Pfannenstiel, who believes missing the 2014 World Cup still plays on Reus’ mind. “He is always getting knocked down in the most important part of his career and he’s always managed to come back.”Having joined his beloved Dortmund’s youth academy, Reus was told he was too weak to make it as a professional at the top level. As a result, he reluctantly took a step down to pursue his passion, initially joining Rot Weiss Ahlen in 2006 before making his name at Borussia Mönchengladbach three years later. His performances for Mönchengladbach cemented himself as one of the best attacking players in the division, in doing so attracting the attention of his former club. After being dropped by Dortmund, Reus made his name at Borussia Moenchengladbach.READ: Barcelona spends more on wages than any other sports teamREAD: Cherno Samba enjoying ‘virtual’ spotlight after wanting to end his lifeHe returned to where it all began in 2012 and it was almost the perfect return.Led by Jurgen Klopp and fronted by the threat of Reus, Dortmund reached the final of the Champions League in 2013. Frustratingly, their dream was ended by bitter rivals Bayern Munich. Despite the obvious disappointment, Reus’ inclusion in the final came exactly six years after being rejected by the club, demonstrating the resilience shown throughout his career. “Being rejected gave him that motivation to become the player he is,” said Pfannenstiel, who has met Reus a number of times throughout his career. “It’s one of the football fairytales. Being small and being rejected and then coming back to be a national player and now the captain.”Reus returned to Borussia Dortmund in 2012.

    Captain’s role

    Perhaps the secret to his recent success lies in the club’s decision to hand Reus the captaincy, giving him added responsibility on and off the pitch. “He’s now not just one of the players, he’s a guy that other players look up to as a role model. I think it was a clever move by the club,” said Pfannenstiel.Reus is not a natural born leader though, nor is he your typical football player. The German is calm, quiet and modest about his undeniable talent. He tends to stay away from controversy and instead prefers to concentrate on his own brand, MRXI, and supporting a multitude of children charities. “He won’t be a Lothar Matthaus or a Stuart Pearce, one of those typical leading players,” Pfannenstiel admitted. “He’s more of a role model through his performances on the pitch, where he can pull people with him and make players better around him.”

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      Christian Pulisic: US can win World Cup soon 02:48

      Role model

      His form this season comes as little surprise to his teammates though, who have had the pleasure of seeing his ability in training every day. “I’ve always known what he’s been capable of doing, it doesn’t surprise me. We know what a great player he is, what a great finisher he is,” said Borussia Dortmund youngster Christian Pulisic.”We’re happy for him, he’s playing well and scoring goals and that’s what he loves to do.”Pulisic is part of a new generation coming through at Dortmund, along with the likes of former Manchester City starlet Jadon Sancho. Both are now in the best place to learn from Reus and benefit from his rich wealth of experience in the Bundesliga. “His composure on the field is incredible. How calm he is, how clinical he is. It’s a lot you can learn from him for sure,” said the 20-year-old Pulisic.Reus knows just how important a good role model is when starting a career. He idolized former Arsenal and Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Rosicky as a youngster, copying elements of his graceful attacking prowess. Reus has inspired Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga and their Champions League group. READ: Women’s team fed sandwiches at gala while men enjoy a three-course mealREAD: Richarlison: From borrowing football boots to starring for Brazil

      World class?

      It’s all seemed to click into place for Reus now. The game plan introduced by Lucien Favre at Dortmund has suited him and he looks to have matured into his position. A sustained run of form could finally cement the forward among the world’s elite but a place alongside the very best is perhaps out of reach. “Getting to the level of Ronaldo, Messi, and Modric is a really tough cookie to crack,” Pfannenstiel said. “You need to be injury-free, you need to be six or seven years in the top Champions League club to achieve that level.” Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballBorussia Dortmund – Borussia’s Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion Stadium is known for its “Yellow Wall.” The south stand is packed full of impassioned fans who together create one of the most spell-binding sights in football. Dressed in the team’s yellow and black, supporters create an intimidating atmosphere for the opposition. Hide Caption 1 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballLiverpool – There is something special about Anfield on a European night and the stadium’s Spion Kop seems to drag the ball into the goal when Liverpool are attacking that end. Fans also sing the stirring “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before every match to create a spine-tingling spectacle. Hide Caption 2 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballGalatasaray – The Turk Telekom Stadium is home to Turkish giants Galatasaray. The fans here don’t just wait for the big games to create an atmosphere. The stadium — which is the second biggest in the country with a capacity of 52,223 — is always awash with flags, scarves and flares.Hide Caption 3 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballNapoli – The Stadio San Paolo has one of the most raucous atmospheres in Serie A. Large flags and constant singing are common place in Naples, making this iconic stadium rock during home matches. Hide Caption 4 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballRoma – The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is a gladiatorial like venue. With a capacity of 72,698, the stadium is home to both Roma and Lazio. The fiery atmosphere is magnified by the traditional surroundings which helps produce a caldron of noise. Hide Caption 5 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballSevilla – With a capacity of 43,883, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan cannot compare to the size of some stadiums in La Liga but its atmosphere can. The home fans are a big factor behind Sevilla’s impressive home-record. The team went over a year without a loss at home in 2017. Hide Caption 6 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballBoca Juniors – La Bombonera is the home to Argentine side Boca Juniors. The fans are at most vocal for the Buenos Aires derby against River Plate where both sets of supporters combine to make a carnival like atmosphere. It may only have capacity of 49,000, but the tight surroundings make for an electric wall of noise. Hide Caption 7 of 8 Photos: Best atmospheres in world footballRed Star Belgrade – The Rajko Mitic Stadium in Serbia can be one of the most intimidating places to play football. Fans create huge banners in support of the team and frequently use pyrotechnics to intimidate the opposition.Hide Caption 8 of 8Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

        Led by Reus, Dortmund has a very good chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season. They host Club Brugge on Wednesday, with a win enough to secure their safe passage.