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Am Close To The First Eleven, Very Close –  Xherdan Shaqiri *Prefers A No 10 Role. 

The winger has only made two starts for the Reds since joining for a cut-price fee from relegated Stoke in the summer.

But the Swiss star has shown promise, particularly in his first Premier League start in which he played a major role in two of Liverpool’s three first-half goals.

That game, Shaqiri took up an unusual role as the most advanced player of a three-man midfield and effectively played as a No 10 – a position he played in several times in pre-season.

That’s with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah – who contributed 64 goals last term – ahead of him in the pecking order in his usual positions out wide.

Despite Shaqiri’s display against Southampton, he was taken off at half-time with Klopp not satisfied with his team’s defensive organisation while playing with Shaqiri in a new role.

But he hinted that Liverpool could try it out again later in the season, saying: “Offensively it was a good idea. But we have to work on that more often. But he was good and I liked it.”

And the 27-year-old has suggested he too would like to try out operating as a play-maker again, despite having played on the right flank the Carabao Cup clash in Chelsea.

“It is certainly different if you as a player have such freedom [as a No.10],” Shaqiri told Swiss publication Blick.

“The trainer [manager] gives me the freedom and I try to use it so that I can help the team as much as possible with decisive passes or with shots.

“Against Portugal I almost had to play as right-back. I play where the coach sets me up.

“But sure, on the side you have more defensive work than in the middle.

“I know that from Bayern Munich. There I also played as a full-back.”

Much was made of a heated exchange between Klopp and summer signing Shaqiri on the pitch after Liverpool’s Carabao Cup exit to Chelsea last month.

But Klopp explained that his frustration towards Shaqiri was over a late wasted free-kick rather than his general performance.

And ex-Bayern Munich and Inter Milan attacker Shaqiri insists he gets on well with his manager at Anfield.

“I have a very good relationship with [Klopp],” said Shaqiri.

“It is a lot of fun to work [with him]. We did not talk much about the League of Nations.

“I am happy. I think I’m relatively close to the first 11. Very close.”

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Barcelona Announce New Financial Boost

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Barcelona

Barcelona have announced they’re getting their finances on track.

 

 

Barca has issued an official statement communicating that it has received a stable triple B negative rating from the credit rating agency Fitch.

 

 

This is an important vote of confidence in terms of the club’s image. It is worth remembering that the club has already reached an agreement with the American investment fund Goldman Sachs, which has loaned the club 500 million euros.

 

 

The same fund already injected 90 million euros into the club during Josep Maria Bartomeu‘s presidency, with said loan conceived to aid the development of the Espai Barça project.

 

 

In a statement, the club announced:

“The sporting and financial project of the new FC Barcelona board of directors has received a vote of confidence in receiving a stable triple B negative credit rating from the credit rating agency Fitch.

 

 

“The credit rating agency gives a triple B rating to companies that are satisfactory at the time of rating, just as has happened to FC Barcelona after their assessment.

 

 

“With this BBB stable negative rating the Fitch agency values positively the Club’s financial project, which will have to undergo important readjustments to balance books.

 

 

“The confidence shown by Fitch allows the Club to look to the future with optimism and at a moment when the organisation is adjusting is financial viability plan as well as its strategic plan.”

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Gerrard Frustrated With Liverpool Links: I Don’t Welcome It, I Don’t Add To It…

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Steven Gerrard

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard does not welcome the speculation linking him with replacing Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

 

 

The Reds legend is consistently linked as a future replacement for Klopp, who is expected to leave Anfield when his contract expires in 2024.

 

 

But Gerrard is unhappy about the speculation as he is “very happy” in Glasgow.

 

 

Asked about the constant links to his old club and England, Gerrard told ESPN: “I can’t control any media speculation about my position.

 

 

“I don’t welcome it, I don’t add to it. All I do is focus on the job I have here and I’m very flattered and grateful for the position.

 

 

“I’m very happy here, I’ve said it on numerous occasions, it’s a huge club, I’m settled, I’m happy and I can continue to develop and keep trying to push this team forward.”

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Tokyo Olympics: Nigeria Leads Countries With Highest Figure Of Banned Athletes

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OLYMPICS

Ten athletes from Nigeria have been banned from participating in the Tokyo Olympics.

 

 

While the names of the affected athletes were not released, a statement from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), revealed that a total of 18 athletes have been declared ineligible, with Nigeria being the most affected.

 

According to AIU, the 10 athletes from Nigeria failed the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15.

 

 

“Under the framework of Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations, which came into force in January 2019, National Federations are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.

 

 

“Among other things, the Rule sets out minimum requirements for testing on the national teams of ‘Category A’ federations deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport.

 

 

“The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.

 

 

“For the year 2021, the seven identified ‘Category A’ National Federations are: Belarus, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Ukraine.

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