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Bacary Sagna Coin Poker interview

On Arsenal It was another season of progress for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal. Arsenal were very close to winning the title this season, the club achieved another runners-up finish. I was pleased to see the growth in the team this season, and that was highlighted by Arsenal’s ability to take the Premier League title race Bacary Sagna Coin Poker interview

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On Arsenal

It was another season of progress for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal. Arsenal were very close to winning the title this season, the club achieved another runners-up finish. I was pleased to see the growth in the team this season, and that was highlighted by Arsenal’s ability to take the Premier League title race to the final day. They improved their mentality and they coped with the pressure of pushing Manchester City all the way, whereas last season, Arsenal collapsed.

Why did Arsenal collapse last season? I think injuries played a part, but this season, with an almost fully fit team, Arsenal pushed Manchester City. It is a special achievement to challenge this Manchester City team, who are probably the best team in the world, regardless of Real Madrid winning the Champions League. Manchester City has a bigger squad with more depth, they also have the experience of winning titles, and I think that gave them a small advantage this season.

Over the course of the season, Arsenal couldn’t afford to rest and rotate their key players, while they also had to juggle competing in the latter stages of the Champions League for the first time in a long time.

It’s very important that Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal players take a moment to reflect on the season the team had and look at the positives. They can’t have any regrets about not winning the title and they shouldn’t. Everyone including the fans needs to stick together, because it’s very, very difficult to compete with Manchester City. It was a special season, even if they didn’t win any major trophies.

Arsenal took the Premier League title to the final day, which is a brilliant achievement against a fantastic Manchester City team. There’s always analysis afterwards. If you were to pick a moment or give a reason why Arsenal fell short this time, what do you think it would be?

It’s difficult to break down a season of tangible progress into moments. Many people think the Aston Villa game at home was where the title was lost, but I actually think both of Arsenal’s games against Fulham were the ones that really made the difference in the end.

Dropping points to a ten-man Fulham at home at the beginning of the season was costly. They were winning that game and conceded a sloppy goal from a corner really, really late. Then when they played Fulham on New Year’s Eve, they could have gone back to the top and they lost. That was a game they needed to win to keep the pressure on their rivals.

If Arsenal had beaten Fulham twice, they would have finished the season with five more points. The performances against Fulham cost them the title. Had they won those game, at the end of the season, they wouldn’t have been chasing, and phycologically, that can make a massive difference. It changes your mindset, and the pressure would have been on Manchester City.

Who do you think was Arsenal’s best player this season and what about them impressed you?

There were so many excellent performances from Arsenal this season, so it’s hard to name one player as the best, but if I had to pick one then it would be Declan Rice. I think he was a really important player for Arsenal this season both on and off the pitch.

I’m really pleased Arsenal captured him. He’s a natural leader and a winner. He is a player that increases the standards of everyone and makes players better. We’ve seen him have a massive impact in his first season, and he popped up with some crucial goals as well. He’s a big game player.

I like his attitude. I like his mentorship with the other players, and I like his intensity. I like the way that he dealt with the price tag. Not everyone can handle that kind of price tag and the pressure that comes with being a record signing. He was phenomenal.

Mikel Arteta is reportedly close to agreeing a new contract as Arsenal manager. Is this the most important signing the club will make this summer?

The most important signing Arsenal will make this summer is Mikel committing to the club with a new contract. The reason Arsenal are competing at the top is because of Mikel Arteta.

You have to applaud the way that he has transformed Arsenal since becoming the manager. He has turned Arsenal into a proper family, and he has completely changed the vibe and the energy of the entire football club. There is a real connection between every single part of the institution; from the players, the staff – even the guys that don’t work on the football side – and the fans.

He made Arsenal compete again. There is a competitiveness and hunger in the squad that was missing until he walked through the door. When they came over to Dubai for the winter break, I spent time with Arteta and his coaching staff, and you could see how invested every single member of his team was in the project. He’s created an environment where everyone is constantly pushing to be better, and he deserves so much credit for that. It was amazing to see that closeness between everyone connected with the club.

It’s important to have this feeling within a club. Mikel understands the human-side of management. When players or staff have a problem, he listens. He helps and supports.

You have to perform many roles as a manager and Mikel understands that. Sometimes he will have to be a father-figure to his players, a brother to the staff and a son to the board of directors. I’m not surprised he is flourishing as a manager because he is a really intelligent and warm person. We were great friends when we played together at Arsenal because of his human qualities. He is a straight talker. He respects everyone.

It’s very likely that he’s going to sign this new contract. He worked under Arsène Wenger. He’s obviously very, very happy at Arsenal. He definitely has the power to make all of the big decisions. You know him really well. Do you think he’ll be thinking about his legacy at Arsenal? Can you see him staying for another five years or even longer?

I don’t see Mikel managing another team. I don’t see him leaving his home. He was there as a player, and he is now the manager. Arsenal Football Club is Mikel’s club. He loves Arsenal and he loves his players.

I think he will stay at Arsenal for many more years, and I hope that he does, because he is the man that will lead Arsenal to the summit of the game and will bring major trophies to the Emirates Stadium.

He understands the demands of Arsenal and where the club should be because of his experience playing for the club. He understands the vibe and the philosophy of the club. Anyone that came into Arsenal would have to start from zero; there isn’t a better person to lead Arsenal than Mikel.

I don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon.

There are reports that Arsenal are looking to add certain players in the summer. Apparently, they want another midfielder, a forward, maybe a left-back even. What do you think Arsenal are missing? Is there a player or a position out there you think Arsenal should be looking at?

I don’t think so. I think every single position is covered and Arsenal now has a squad with top players in each position.

Last season, the problem was that some players were injured. Arsenal lost Timber for an entire season on his debut, Gabriel Jesus wasn’t 100% fit. I think that Jesus was a major loss for Arsenal because when he’s at his best, he’s an unbelievable player that offers Arsenal something that no other players in the squad have.

Havertz stepped up and played really well, but Jesus is a different type of player. I hope he can focus on his recovery this summer and can return to peak fitness.

When I look at the squad, there isn’t an obvious weakness for me. Of course they will sign players, and that’s important because it has a phycological effect on the squad. Players need to be kept on their toes and new signings bring a different energy to the group. Players need that, but you have to find the right players and personalities. Arsenal shouldn’t sign players for the sake of it.

Players need to see new faces to appreciate the new challenge. When a player sees a new face, they know it’s a new season. That’s why City are always constantly adding two or three new players every season – top teams that challenge for trophies need to keep things fresh.

Marcus Rashford is another name that has been linked with Arsenal. It would be a bit of a risk given the likely price and his performances this season, but Arteta has form when it comes to players who he sees as a project.

I would love to see Marcus Rashford at Arsenal. I think if you added Rashford to Arsenal’s attack, with the pace that he has, Arsenal would destroy the opposition.

Adding Rashford to an extremely talented squad would be a frightening prospect for Arsenal’s rivals.

Rashford is so quick. I think Arsenal having Rashford would enable Arsenal to have more variety in attack and I would love to see Gabriel Jesus and Marcus Rashford in the same team, pressing with so much intensity. It would be a brilliant capture and I think there is room in the squad for a player of Rashford’s ability because Gabriel Jesus won’t be able to play every game and Kai Havertz can also play in a number of roles. Rashford joining Arsenal would be a wonderful signing for the club and a real statement of ambition.

Can Arteta unlock Rashford’s undoubted potential? Could he have the same impact on the player as he has had with Kai Havertz?

I think Rashford has had some personal issues; his mum spoke out about it. There is no doubt that Marcus Rashford is a fantastic player.

People have been too harsh on him. Sometimes people need to remember that footballers are human and can be affected by events off the field and in their personal lives.

Everyone that watches football would say that Rashford hasn’t been at his devastating best this season. We can all see the quality, the potential. He has the ability to be one of the best players in the world.

This season has been a challenge for him. Mentally, he hasn’t been at his best, but when that happens you need support and a good environment to bring you back to your best level. You need your teammates and your manager to lift you up. You need people to believe in you. The vibe at Manchester United hasn’t been good this season. When analysing a players performance, you need to look at the bigger picture, and there have been a lot of reported problems at the club. There were a lot of unhappy players, and the training ground wasn’t a happy place. When things go wrong at football clubs, they can be hard to fix.

Manchester United had a really difficult season, but they still managed to win the FA Cup.

Rashford is young. I think he will get on well with the other players in Arsenal’s squad. I think he could have amazing chemistry with Gabriel Jesus. I can see those two players clicking, pushing each other, and respecting each other. I think they could complement each other really well.

Manchester United

Manchester United saved the best for last. They won the FA Cup with a wonderful performance against Man City, probably their best of the season, but United’s league form was disappointing.

There’s a lot of speculation about the manager. Do you think they’ll stick or twist with Eric ten Hag?

I believe they will probably be interviewing potential replacements for ten Hag at the moment. If I was Jim Ratcliffe, I would stick with Eric ten Hag. He finished the season on a high by winning a trophy and he knows the club after spending two years in the hot seat.

When a club appoints a new manager, you go back to zero. Do Manchester United want to keep starting over and over again? A new managerial appointment doesn’t always work – we’ve seen that at the club in the past. Things won’t necessarily improve with the appointment of a new manager.

Maybe it would be better for Manchester United to start building around him. The club are putting together a proper infrastructure in terms of support for the manager, and I don’t think ten Hag has really had that stability since taking over the club.

He joined the club when they were rebuilding, and they are still on that journey. Erik ten hag is not a magician. He can’t transform Manchester United into the winning machine that the club were under Sir Alex Ferguson by clicking his fingers.

Look at Arsenal. When Arteta was appointed, he had some tricky periods. Two eighth place finishes and an FA Cup in his first two seasons. A lot of fans wanted him sacked, but Arsenal stuck by him and are now reaping the rewards of doing so. He was given time that not all managers receive. There are lessons that Manchester United can learn from Arsenal. Mangers need time.

Raphaël Varane’s contract expires at the end of the month. Do you think the Frenchman has still got the ability to play at the highest level and could he be a useful addition for a Premier League club?

Of course, Raphaël Varane would be a good addition for a leading Premier League club because he’s a top player. He has such a wealth of experience and has won so many trophies during his career.

I played with him for France. He is a fantastic player with a lot left to offer because he is only thirty-one-years-old. I actually think he would be a brilliant signing for Arsenal. Varane would be a perfect fit for the vibe of the club because of his winning mentality and personality. He would get on really well with the players in Arsenal’s squad because he is a great player and a great man.

I saw him a couple of days ago at the Champions League final and he was in great spirits. He is a football lover before anything, and he still has that desire and competitiveness to play at the top level for a few more seasons.

As an addition to the Arsenal squad, I think he would be perfect. He would be perfect cover for either William Saliba or Gabriel and could step into the team when either of those players needed a rest or if they were to get injured. Arsenal need some more quality in reserve in central defence and Varane would be a wonderful addition.

Manchester City

It’s been reported that this could be Pep Guardiola’s last season in charge of Manchester City. What do you think the Spanish boss will decide to do at the end of next season, marking ten years in the job?

The question is: what more does Pep have to achieve at Manchester City as a manager? Pep may be thinking about all of his achievements, the trophies, the impact that he has had on English football and feel that the time is right to move on at the end of the season.

He has broken nearly every single record in English football. He is a curious person, and after you’ve won everything, maybe you want to look at a different challenge. It is a question that will worry Manchester City’s owners and their fans.

He has raised the level of football around the world. I was at the club when he arrived, and he changed everything. He made everyone fitter. All of the players needed to change their lifestyle under his management. Overnight, our diets changed, we were weighed on a daily basis. Discipline was very important to him. When people think of Pep, the first thought is the beautiful football and the style of play, but to reach the performance levels his teams have achieved, you have to have a laser-guided focus on absolutely everything within a football club. There is so much invisible work that he orchestrates that nobody sees.

He is a mentor. Not just to his players, but to the next generation of managers that are coming up. He was raised as a kid in La Masia (Barcelona’s academy system) and he has carried that approach and philosophy into every part of his personality as a manager.

He’s a little bit like Alex Ferguson in terms of his influence as a coach and the impact that he’s having on the overall game. Arteta is the prime example, but you can talk about Vincent Kompany and now the latest guy is Enzo Maresca who’s gone in at Chelsea.

I don’t know much about Enzo Maresca, but I know that he has worked alongside Pep and will have been hugely influenced by his managerial approach as a result of that.

Maresca will want the same things that Pep wants as a coach; he will have the same demands over his players at Chelsea. They will share the same values and Maresca will have a very similar approach to how he sets up his team tactically, both offensively and defensively.

Being schooled by Pep Guardiola must have been a major part of Maresca’s appeal to Chelsea’s owners. He had a great season at Leicester in The Championship, but this will be a more challenging environment for him to manage in. I don’t know an awful lot about him, but I’ve heard good things. Hopefully he can find a working relationship with Chelsea’s executive team and bring some stability to the club because that is what Chelsea need if they are going to be successful. 

Just to go back to Man City, Kevin De Bruyne, it’s his last year on his contract, he’s 32 now, he wants assurances over his future. What do you think is going to happen with De Bruyne?

Kevin De Bruyne is a vital member of the Manchester City squad. He has been such an important player for them over the years. He’s having some problems with injuries, but he always recovers and shows his quality.

I think De Bruyne is a really special player. He hasn’t had the same impact as he did last season, but that’s because he was only available for half of it. Whenever City need a big player to step up, De Bruyne always delivers. His comeback game against Newcastle was ridiculous.

He is thirty-two now. I think he could stay for another two more years at Manchester City. He’s a brilliant player. He’s a competitor. If you want to win trophies and stay at the top, you need players like De Bruyne who demand the highest possible standards.

Away from the pitch, he’s a special guy too. He would be a major asset to Manchester City over the next two years, even if he isn’t able to play in every minute of every game. He is very self-critical and is never satisfied with his own performances. He won’t want to sit on the bench, but Cit would be a much weaker team without him in their squad.

On Real Madrid’s bright future

Well, first of all I want to say that that Real Madrid have got such a bright future. They have a perfectly balanced squad, and the worry for the rest of the big clubs around Europe is that this is a team that will continue to challenge for the Champions League for the next five or six years.

The young players at Real Madrid are already vastly experienced. Players like Camavinga, Tchouaméni, Bellingham, Vinicius Junior are already key players for their national teams – they have so many minutes under their belts at the highest level. Winning trophies comes naturally to this generation of players.

Real Madrid deserve a lot of credit for the way they have assembled their team. They have been very smart with their squad planning. They have integrated young players alongside experienced winners like Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Carvajal over the last few years.

Brahim Diaz, he’s a great example of Real Madrid’s ability to plan for the future. I know him well from my time at Manchester City. He wasn’t a regular starter for them, but he is twenty-four and has made an impact when called upon. At his age, he already has experience of being part of three massive clubs in Manchester City, AC Milan and now Real Madrid. Every player is like Diaz, when they are called upon, they deliver. Look at what Joselu did in the semi-final against Bayern. Every player in that squad has had an impact at some stage over the season.

If you’re a footballer player that plays for Real Madrid, you must have both the personality and the ability to wear the shirt. You have to be able to cope with the pressure.

When it comes to the Champions League, Madrid always seem to conjure up a magic that other teams just don’t have.

They always find a way (to win). It’s crazy what Real Madrid can do in the Champions League. Every single season you know that Real Madrid will be ready to lift that trophy. They deserve a huge amount of credit. We’ve seen this team come back from the dead; we’ve seen this team suffer. It’s insane how they always find a way through.

And, when you add Mbappé to that mix, it’s going to make them even more dangerous. Next season they will have Mbappé, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Endrick. It’s a mouth-watering attack. Where will Mbappé play because we know he prefers to play on the left of the attack, but that is where Vinicius plays.

I don’t think there will be any issues integrating Mbappé into the Real Madrid team. Madrid will have already sorted that problem; they would have been speaking about his role and explained the project to him in great detail. He will know where he will play and what Ancelotti will expect from him.

If Mbappé signs, he will understand that there is a hierarchy within the squad and that Vinicius Junior will likely start most of the games from the left because that is a position that he has made his own over the last few years.

Mbappé is a really clever kid. He will be able to adapt, and I expect Real Madrid to play in an even more fluid style when he joins. Mbappé, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo will be given a lot of freedom to express themselves and they will rotate. When players like that have the freedom to move around the pitch and swap positions, it makes them even more dangerous.

Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have a brilliant understanding. They move around into various positions all the time; we saw that on Saturday night against Dortmund. When you add a player like that to the team, with his intelligence, that if a frightening prospect for defenders all over the world!

Mbappé’s starting position will be as a number nine, but those three players will interchange at will. I think these three players will have the same impact and play in the same style as Barcelona’s legendary combination of Messi, Suárez and Neymar. They will have the same vibe; great players, great friends having fun on the football pitch and scoring lots and lots of goals.

With Vinicius, he’s been superb for a number of years now, he’s still a really, really young guy at the age of twenty-three. He’s one of the main men at Madrid, he’s taken on the role of being the main man for Brazil because of Neymar’s injury problems. He’s definitely in the conversation for the world’s best players. Is this the moment for Vinicius to be crowned the best player in the world with the Ballon d’Or?

I would personally give the Ballon d’Or to Toni Kroos. I think Toni Kroos has been a complete player and he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or. This isn’t a sentimental gesture because he is retiring, it’s not an end of career gift. Look at how he’s performing. He and Modric, they do things on the pitch that a lot of people don’t see. They make players better.

Vinicius Junior will always command the spotlight because of the goals he scores, but the key to Real Madrid’s success is Toni Kroos not Vinicius. Kroos sets the tempo of everything that Real Madrid do. He keeps the standards high with his mentality. How many passes does he miss during the game? How many assist has he made over his career?

He was crucial in big moments. Away at Bayern, he supplied the pass for Vinicius, and the delivery for Madrid’s first goal on Saturday, Kroos took the corner.

This is taking nothing away from Vinicius because he is an unbelievable player, but Toni Kroos should be awarded the Ballon d’Or this year and I hope he has a great European Championship with Germany.

From a defender’s point of view, who was the defender that you were really impressed with in the Champions League this year?

I think the best defender in the Champions League this season was Dortmund’s centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a player that is so calm on the ball when he’s under pressure and the delivery of this pass is always spot on. In possession, he managed to commit and attract players when he had the ball, and he had the composure and the ability to pick a pass and play his way out of a press.

He understands football perfectly. To me, as a defender, he’s been the best defender this season in the Champions League.

Big players produce big moments when it matters, and he did that in the Champions League this season. Against PSG, over the two legs, he was outstanding. He set-up the winner in the first leg with a delightful long ball, so he has everything in his locker. He’s been magnificent and he sees everything.

Schlotterbeck is a player that I admire a lot. He’s twenty-four and has a very bright future. I think Dortmund will struggle to keep hold of him if I’m being honest. I think bigger teams are looking at him and will move for him, and Real Madrid could be one of them.

Bayern Munich and the challenge facing Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany has just been announced as the Bayern Munich manager. I think it was a little bit of a surprise given that Bayern were looking at a number of other candidates. His Burnley team was relegated, but he’s a promising young manager. This is a massive opportunity for him. Do you think he’s going to grab it with both hands?

I believe it’s going to be difficult for him because he has a lot of expectations at Bayern Munich. Of course, he has the background and history of winning major trophies as a player, and he is another young manager that worked under Pep Guardiola and follows Pep’s coaching principles.

The Bayern manager will always attract scrutiny – it’s a totally different challenge from Burnley, where, after an outstanding first season in The Championship, he was allowed to learn on the job in terms of what it takes to manage in the Premier League. He will not be afforded that luxury at Bayern Munich, who will be looking for instant success.

I think he did an amazing job at Burnley when he guided them from The Championship into the Premier League. We all know how difficult The Championship is, and they were beating everyone. He sets high standards. Even in that record-breaking season, where they finished with 101 points, he was never pleased with the results or the player’s attitude. He always demanded more. I saw footage of him going crazy when they drew one of the games because the players didn’t follow his instructions. I think his personality is one of the reasons why Bayern appointed him. He’s been an important player; he knows how to win and he can relate to the younger generation of players.

It would be unfair to judge him purely on last season. It’s so difficult for promoted teams to compete in the Premier League. You don’t have the same quality of player or financial power as most of the other teams. I’m not making excuses for him, but it was always going to be a huge challenge to keep Burnley up.

At Bayern, he’s going to be working with better players and a much bigger squad. The Bayern players will understand what he wants perfectly, and that will be easier for him. It’s a new challenge for him and a new environment to work in. Without being disrespectful to Burnley’s players, he will be able to achieve more as a manager in terms of getting his ideas and his playing philosophy across because he is working with a group of world-class players.

Kompany is reportedly looking at Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes. Do you think that is a transfer that could materialise and what would that say about the ambition of Manchester United under the stewardship of Jim Ratcliffe if it was to happen?

If Manchester United were to sell Bruno Fernandes, I don’t think it would be a massive disaster. Fernandes is a great player, but I think Manchester United need a complete reset if they are going to be successful in the future.

There are some very talented young players at the club who Manchester United should build their team around. Garnacho, Mainoo and Højlund are wonderful prospects. Manchester United’s leadership need to look to the future; these are the players that can form the spine of the team for the next ten years. Manchester United have a history of giving young talent an opportunity. That is in the DNA of the club.

It’s never a disaster when a player moves on. There will always be players that come in and replace them. There are a lot of brilliant young players who could come into Manchester United and make the difference. In France, a market that Jim Ratcliffe should know because of his involvement in Nice, there are several prospects who are ready to play for a big club like Manchester United.

Mainoo was given an opportunity to express himself and he grabbed it with both hands. I was pleased to see him breakthrough this season. I was pleased to see him given an opportunity over the more experienced Christian Eriksen.

Sometimes you need to give the next generation an opportunity to flourish, and if that means players like Bruno Fernandes need to move on, then so be it. There are probably a number of other prospects in the academy that are ready to step in to the first team, they just need to an opportunity to show the fans what they can do.

Vincent Kompany is reportedly looking to make Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko his first signing. Is that a transfer that you can see happening given Zinchenko’s limited game time at Arsenal last season?

I love Zinchenko. I love the way he plays. I love this technique. I’m trying to understand why people say he didn’t have a great season. It is because he made one mistake against Liverpool where he was caught out of possession and Arsenal were punished?

Zinchenko is a wonderful player. Arteta puts so many demands on him as a footballer; he performs several roles in the team from his left back position. When Arsenal lose the ball and he moves into the midfield, he can find himself out of his position, but this is a product of the bravery Arteta demands from his players and the football he wants to play. When you play football this way, there is always a danger you can get caught out and find yourself in trouble, but this is part of the game. Is Kyle Walker a bad player because he got caught out on a number of occasions against Real Madrid? No. It’s part of the game, but if you want to be able to have so much position, you need to take risks. Sometimes you can get exposed.

I don’t understand people who think he had a bad season.

When Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus joined Arsenal from Manchester City, they immediately raised the standards on and off the pitch. They were very demanding, and you need players like that if you want to be successful. When I look back to my time at the club, I think we missed that. We were too nice. When mistakes happened, we brushed them off and focussed on the next game. You need to be critical of each other. You need to have the characters in the squad that challenge people and say: “what’s happening with you, wake up!” The only way to reach the top is by constantly pushing each other.

Transfer Rumours

Another player that has recently been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League is Youssouf Fofana. He is wanted by Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. Do you think his attributes suit the Premier League?

Youssouf Fofana is definitely ready to come and join one of the top teams in the Premier League.

I think he is a great player. He’s very active. He’s good on the ball, very aggressive without it and he’s been a part of the French national team for months now.

He knows what it’s like to compete for a place with world-class players. He has big-game experience. He played the World Cup.

I think he’s ready for Premier and I won’t be surprised to see him leaving Monaco this summer. Out of all the teams that have been linked with him, I actually think he would be a perfect fit for Chelsea. Chelsea are lacking a player like him in the middle of the park – they need some more strength in the middle of the pitch, because there were times last season where they were getting overrun. They were exposed. Fofana would bring that security and a real physical presence to their midfield.

Bruno Guimaraes is a player that Arsenal and Manchester City are apparently keen on. He has an eye-watering £100,000,000 release clause, do you think he would be a good addition to either side? Do you think he needs to leave Newcastle United fulfil his ambition?

I don’t think that Manchester City need a player like Bruno; I think City are covered in the middle. I really respect the player – I think he has wonderful ability. He is such an important player for Newcastle, I can’t see how they could justify selling him, especially to another team in the Premier League.

It’s really important that Newcastle United hold onto their best players if they want to challenge the best team in the Premier League. I think he’s going to be a big part of Newcastle’s project for the next few years and is a player that they should be looking to build around, not sell.

He can fulfil his ambitions with Newcastle if they continue to strengthen the squad.

French youngster Leny Yoro has been linked with a move to the Premier League, with Liverpool a reported suitor. Do you think the youngster is ready to come and play in England?

Yoro is ready to play at a higher level. This kid is a real talent. He is only nineteen-years-old but I think he is ready to test himself in the Premier League.

It looks like he will definitely be moving on this summer, and I think he could be an excellent signing. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the world in his position and is a very exciting talent.

Roberto De Zerbi is a manager that you’ve worked under and someone you really rate. What does the future hold for Roberto? Apparently, Man United have been talking to him.

One of the first things I said to the media when he joined Brighton was that Roberto De Zerbi was a really special coach. I worked with him at Benevento after I left Manchester City, and I called him a mini Pep Guardiola. A lot of people laughed at me when those comments were published, but I think most people would agree with that assessment now.

He’s not only a special coach, but a special person. I believe he can be one of the best coaches in the world one day. I think he’s already a top coach, and after I was able to work with him every day, I could see his quality and how good he was.

He has the same spirit as Pep Guardiola. He takes the same pleasure in coaching football teams. I think he is destined for the top and I think he could be one of the most important coaches of this new generation (of managers).

I hope he gets a job with a really big club in the Premier League. I would love to see Roberto competing with Man City and Pep and Arsenal and Arteta because I believe he is good enough to challenge them. I love him.

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