Thursday 19 April 2018

Van Nistelrooy and Raul to renew acquaintances in Germany

Pete Jenson

There will be 126 Champions League goals on the pitch when Hamburg kick-off their season against Schalke 04 today. The match sees former Real Madrid captain Raul make his debut against his old strike partner Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Raul spent 15 seasons at Real Madrid, scoring 66 Champions League goals, and after being told he was surplus to requirements under Jose Mourinho, he moved on to Schalke. The former Spain international has already asked for patience from his new supporters.

"I ask for people to give me time. It was only two weeks ago that I played 90 minutes for the first time in eight months. I need match practice," he said.

Raul has promised Schalke coach Felix Magath that he will be 100pc fit by September. The new signing will have a tough first match against Armin Veh's Hamburg. Veh won the league with Stuttgart in 2007 and leads a host of clubs trying to topple Bayern Munich.

Hamburg are concentrating on the league after failing to qualify for Europe last season and they will battle with Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, who have the returning Michael Ballack making his second 'debut' tomorrow against Borussia Dortmund.

In France, Bordeaux are still looking for their first points of the new season after losing their two opening fixtures. New coach Jean Tigana has made a bad start after replacing Laurent Blanc, with Bordeaux lying one place off the bottom, having failed to replace the striker Marouane Chamakh, who left for Arsenal in the close season.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted yesterday that the club had not finished signing players.

Still angry that his new president failed to deliver Cesc Fabregas, Guardiola is understood to have vetoed the signing of Mesut Ozil, who has ended up at Real Madrid.

Yesterday he denied preventing Ozil from switching to the Camp Nou but said: "We will sign another player and I have made my preference as to who that player should be known."

A prickly Guardiola responded to questions about Barca's summer transfer activity with a stream of one-word answers until he was asked about Javier Mascherano, who Liverpool insist is going nowhere.

Asked if he would want the Argentine should he be offered, Guardiola did not rule out the arrival of Lionel Messi's international team-mate. "We will have to wait and see," he said.

Guardiola, who signed only a one-year deal this summer instead of the three-year contract he was offered, also seems to be unhappy with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Asked earlier in the week about the former Internazionale forward's position at the club, he said that it was best for him not to say anything.

Yesterday he refused to clarify his comments and Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola fanned the flames when he said: "To me it seems more straightforward that Guardiola goes than Ibrahimovic goes.

"Guardiola has one year left on his contract and Zlatan four years."

By contrast, Real Madrid are understood to have reached the end of their summer spending spree. Sporting director Jorge Valdano said this week that no more players would arrive after the capture of Ozil.

It was reported in Spain that Mourinho was demanding a No 9 be bought before next weekend's season-opener against Mallorca but defender Alvaro Arbeloa said: "It's up to the manager of course, but we have two fantastic centre-forwards in Gonzalo Higuain and Karem Benzema, and Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Angel) Di Maria can also play in that position."

Irish Independent

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