Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku will resume their domestic rivalry on the international stage on Sunday as holders Portugal and in-form Belgium face off in the biggest tie of Euro 2020’s last 16.
Ronaldo is the Euro’s leading scorer after netting five times in the group stage while Lukaku, who is in the form of his life, is lurking behind the Portugal captain with three goals.
Juventus forward Ronaldo is also just one goal away from breaking Ali Daei’s all-time international goalscoring record of 109, which he equalled with a brace against France in the European champions’ final Group F game.
The pair lock horns at the Euro after doing battle in the Serie A scoring charts last season, with 36-year-old Ronaldo being crowned ‘capocannoniere’ after scoring 29 times in a difficult season for Juventus.
However, Lukaku pipped Ronaldo to the league’s player of the season award last campaign despite scoring five fewer goals as he played a key role in Inter Milan winning their first league title in over a decade.
His game seems to have moved up a level since he arrived at Inter in 2019 and Jan Vertonghen was full of praise for the 28-year-old’s progress on Saturday.
“I’ve known him since he was 16 years old … the way he has developed from being a strong, quick kid into one of the best strikers in the world is one of the best things I’ve seen in my career,” defender Vertonghen told reporters.
Both teams will have their work cut out to reach the July 11 final at Wembley with Italy, who squeezed past Austria on Saturday, and either world champions France or Spain the opponents in the next two rounds if they get beyond the last 16.
However, Portugal coach Fernando Santos is “firmly convinced” his side will come out on top in the clash in Seville.
“We know our opponent is capable and very competent but I’m firmly convinced we’re going to be better than they are,” he told a video media conference.
– Dutch goal ‘to win it’ –
Netherlands coach Frank de Boer, meanwhile, has his sights set on winning the whole thing as his flamboyant ‘Oranje’ take on the Czech Republic in at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.
The Dutch strolled through Group C, winning all three games in Amsterdam and scoring eight goals in the process, and De Boer was not shy in saying his aim was to make and win the Wembley final.
“Our goal is not only to reach the final but to win it, that’s the objective, then the tournament will be judged a success for us,” De Boer said ahead of Sunday’s clash in Budapest.
“You don’t become a European champion easily but I think we have the quality to do so.”
Whoever comes out on top between the Dutch and Czechs will face in the quarters a Demark side who thrashed Wales 4-0 in another exuberant display which increased hopes of a repeat of their triumph in 29 years ago.
Kasper Dolberg struck twice to set the Danes on their way before Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite added more goals late on to cap a dominant display — on the anniversary of their shock winning of Euro 92 — in front of hordes of fans who descended on Amsterdam.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side became the first to score four goals in successive European Championship games and are riding a wave of emotion after having to deal with the fallout of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest during their opening match against Finland.
“We dreamed about this and at the end of the day I think we also believed we could get here,” said striker Dolberg.
“We have a lot of great players. It is hard to say we expected to be here but we are happy to be through to the quarter-finals.”
Perisic tests positive for COVID-19, to miss Spain, Croatia clash
Ivan Perisic will miss Croatia’s Euro 2020 last-16 tie against Spain on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus.
Croatia are due to take on Spain at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen but will do so without Inter winger Perisic following the latest results of tests within the national team camp.
Perisic must now spend 10 days in self-isolation and could play no further part in the European Championship depending upon the outcome of Croatia’s clash with Luis Enrique’s side.
The Croatian Football Association released a statement which read, “During the evening, the Croatian Football Association received the results of regular testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which showed that national team member Ivan Perisic was positive for coronavirus.
“The medical service of the national team isolated Ivan from other members of the national team and immediately informed the relevant epidemiological service in detail about the situation, with evidence of compliance with all measures to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
“Perisic will spend 10 days in self-isolation and in that period he will not compete in the matches of the Croatian national team.
“All other national team members, staff members and delegations are negative.”
The 32-year-old has been an integral figure for the national team for many years now and has won over 100 caps for Croatia.
He was a huge influence in Croatia’s run to the 2018 World Cup final, delivering a man-of-the-match display in the semi-final success over England before scoring in the final defeat by France.
At Euro 2020, Perisic started all three of Croatia’s group games, against England, the Czech Republic and Scotland.
He scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with the Czechs and the third goal in the 3-1 victory over Scotland which secured the team’s place in the last 16.
Osimhen, Chukwueze’s financial value drops ahead transfer window
The valuation of six top Nigerian players has drop ahead of the summer transfer window, The PUNCH reports.
The summer transfer window for 2021 will be reopened on July 1 and closes August 31.
The players, who have already seen their market values drop significantly are Alex Iwobi, Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi, Samuel Kalu and Henry Onyekuru.
According to Transfermarkt, Osimhen, who joined Napoli for €81.3m, saw his valuation drop (by 38.5 per cent) to €50m. The 22-year-old scored 10 goals and made three assists in 30 games across competitions.
His compatriot, Iwobi, who will be in his third season at Everton, also saw his valuation drop by 31.25 per cent from €32m to €22m.
The 24-year-old scored once in 30 appearances last season and has bagged four goals in 64 games since his debut for the Toffees.
Villarreal midfielder Chukwueze’s market value also dropped by 33.33 per cent from €30m to €20m, while Kalu’s valuation is now at €7m from €10m – a reduction of 30 per cent.
Onyekuru, who spent the final part of last season on loan at Galatasaray, also saw his value crash down by 46.15 per cent (€13m to €7m).
Speaking with our correspondent on the drop of the players’ valuation, football agent, Marshal Mbre, said it was down to their performance in the outgoing season and the effects of COVID-19 on the European economy.
“This is down to two reasons – the players overall performance and the harsh economy in Europe at the moment,” Mbre told The PUNCH.
“But with fans returning to the stadium in Europe now, I believe their valuation will increase again so long they improve on their performances at club level.
“At the moment we can only boast of few players who were outstanding last season for their clubs. Wilfred Ndidi, Paul Onuachu, and Kelechi Iheanacho towards the end of the Premier League season are some of the players who did well; Iheanacho particularly, considering how he finished the season as Leicester City’s second top scorer with 12 goals, three behind (Jamie) Vardy following a poor start to the campaign.”
Another Nigerian football agent based in Portugal, Paul Onomano, also shared Mbre’s thought.
He said, “It’s just down to their performances, that’s all. Onuachu’s value rose because he shone for Genk last season, scoring goals, same goes for Marcus Abraham – a player who was valued at €100,000 and now a €1m player just because of his performance with CD Feirense.”
Abraham, who made his debut for the Super Eagles in an international friendly against Cameroon last month, scored 11 goals in 26 games for Feirense in the Portuguese second division before his first Nigeria game.
“Look at Chukwueze, for instance, his form has dropped, so will his valuation. His goal ratio has reduced from the time he broke onto the scene three years ago.
The Villarreal winger scored five goals and made eight assists in 40 games – a far cry from the 10 goals and eight assists he recorded in his debut season with the Yellow Submarines in 2018.
Premier League to renew £5bn TV deal
The Premier League in England has agreed to renew its £5bn domestic television deal.
It is a move that provides greater financial certainty to clubs at all levels amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The English top-flight sought and secured government approval in principle to roll over its existing rights agreement with Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport.
This is for a further three years through to 2025.
Under normal circumstances, the rights would have been contested in an open tender, but the league was able to demonstrate “exceptional and compelling reasons” to the government.
This is for it to agree to an exclusion order under the Competition Act and go ahead with a private sale.
The renewal of the deal means that the Premier League’s current commitment of £1.5b to the football pyramid over the three years of the next rights cycle can be maintained.
This is with an additional £100m to be distributed over the next four years.
The deal is a huge boost to the Premier League at a time when the value of broadcasting rights has generally been in decline around the world.
The league’s chief executive Richard Masters said, “The Premier League would like to express our gratitude to our broadcast partners for their continued commitment to the Premier League and support for the football pyramid.
“We are hugely appreciative of the government agreeing in principle to allow this arrangement and for their continued support for the Premier League and the English game.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on football, and renewals with our UK broadcast partners will reduce uncertainty, generate stability and promote confidence within the football pyramid.
“We know that once concluded, this will have a positive impact on the wider industry, jobs and tax revenues.
“It will also enable us to maintain and increase our existing solidarity and community financial commitments to the football pyramid for the next four years, even though we are yet to understand the full impact of the pandemic.
“It comes at an important time and will enable us to plan ahead with increased certainty against a more stable economic backdrop.”