Another week has flown by with the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League group stages now well underway. However, while all that has been happening midweek, there have been significant goings-on elsewhere across Europe and beyond including the first two Serie A coaching casualties. We also look at Leon Goretzka’s contract extension with Bayern Munich and much more.
Our under-the-radar picks below:
Verona replace Di Francesco with Tudor
The first managerial changes in Serie A have arrived with Hellas Verona opting to part company with Eusebio Di Francesco after three losses from as many games to start the season. The former AS Roma boss, who oversaw a famous 4-2 win over Liverpool back in 2018, has been replaced by Igor Tudor after his Juventus assistant spell ended when Andrea Pirlo was dismissed. The immediate task for the former Croatia international is to get Verona away from the relegation zone.
Mazzarri is back with Cagliari
Verona were not alone in making changes this midweek with Cagliari confirming the dismissal of Leonardo Semplici and the arrival of Walter Mazzarri as his replacement. The Sardinian side have not fared much better than Verona with just one point from a possible nine at the start of this season and now the experienced Italian will look to help reverse the islanders’ fortunes with his knowhow from spells with Inter Milan and Napoli among others.
Goretzka extends with Bayern
Leon Goretzka has finally put pen to paper with Bayern Munich over a contract extension until 2026 and the Germany international is delighted to be staying at Allianz Arena: “We’ve won everything there is to win over the past three years. But what would be even better than winning titles is confirming and repeating these successes. We want to build on this in the coming years.”
“The team, the club and the environment are not just highly professional, but also familiar,” added the 26-year-old. “This mixture is one of the things that guarantees success at this club. I’m very happy to be extending my contract until 2026.”
It is also that time of year again where Bayern take to the pitch in one-off Oktoberfest-themed kits to celebrate the period which usually starts this weekend and runs until early October. However, it has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will not take place.
Braithwaite undergoes surgery
Barcelona have confirmed that Martin Braithwaite has undergone surgery on a left knee problem which could keep him out for several months. The Denmark international scored twice and assisted another goal at the start of the season against Real Sociedad and Barca find themselves light on numbers as the pressure increases on Ronald Koeman. Making matters worse is the fact that losses of around $566 million were posted with club president Joan Laporta also issuing a public statement calling for calm.
Dani Alves leaves São Paulo
The experienced Dani Alves is a free agent once again after he agreed terms with São Paulo over the termination of his contract which had been due to run until late 2022. The 38-year-old refused to report back to the club after the international break due to unpaid wages. Alves has been linked with Flamengo and wherever the former Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus man ends up next, he will be aiming to add to his record 43 pieces of silverware.
Falcao explains No. 3. choice
Rayo Vallecano’s new signing Radamel Falcao has explained why he has opted to wear the No. 3 shirt despite playing in attack: “It has a lot of meaning. It is a tribute to my father. He passed his passion for this sport to me, and he played with this number. What better memory now that he is no longer with us?”
Ake’s emotional first UCL goal
Manchester City’s Nathan Ake scored his first Champions League goal against RB Leipzig this midweek and later revealed that it happened just before his father passed away.
“I know you’re always with me, you will always be in my heart and this one was for you, dad,” wrote the Netherlands international on Instagram. “The past few weeks have been the toughest of my life, my dad has been very ill and there was no more treatment possible. I was lucky to have a lot of support from my fiancé, family, and friends.
Yesterday after a difficult time I scored my first Champions League goal, and only a few minutes after he passed away peacefully with my mum and brother by his side. Maybe it was meant to be, watching me play always made him proud and happy.”
PSG fans mobilize for Phil Collins
A minor controversy was brought to a close on Friday as PSG supporters ensured that Phil Collins will remain the players’ pitch entrance theme song at Parc des Princes after the French giants tried to change it. A track by fan and artist DJ Snake replaced the longtime staple of Collins’ hit “Who Said I Would” from “Serious Hits … Live!” for the home clash with Strasbourg and the change was confirmed permanently ahead of last week’s win over Clermont Foot.
However, DJ Snake distanced himself from the long-term move by saying that the piece was produced solely for Lionel Messi’s introduction to his new home crowd and fans have since been extremely vocal in their disapproval of Collins’ relegation to warmup entrance music. Finally, on Friday, PSG confirmed that Collins will be restored to his rightful place as the two teams emerge “in the face of the emotion aroused” by the decision and that the the club will remain on the lookout for more “contemporary and Parisian” artists to reinforce their identity.
Also on the topic of PSG, the return of the club’s midseason Qatar Winter Tour has been confirmed with the squad due in Doha from Jan. 16-20, 2022 and their involvement in the Riyadh Season Cup against Al Hilal and Al Nassr superstars has been revealed by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.
Lienard recovering after collapse
RC Strasbourg Alsace’s Dimitri Lienard is recovering after collapsing during last weekend’s defeat to Olympique Lyonnais and coach Julien Stephan explained post-match that the emblematic 33-year-old is on the mend.
“He joined us in the locker room and just told us he felt a little uneasy,” said Stephan. “He did some tests, and he was fine. We are going to make a very clear and precise diagnosis to determine what happened. He was immediately taken care of by competent people. He is recovering slowly, but he is recovering.”
It is a worrying trend with Girondins de Bordeaux’s Samuel Kalu another to have collapsed earlier this season during a clash with Olympique de Marseille at Stade Velodrome.