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Lukaku to rejoin Inter on loan
Internazionale have reached an agreement in principle for Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku to rejoin them on loan.
The £97.5m striker has been desperate to return to Italy after a turbulent year at Stamford Bridge and the move is on the verge of being completed, the Guardian reported.
Inter have been in talks with Chelsea over the arrangement of the loan since last week. Chelsea had been pushing for €10m plus add-ons to be paid as a loan fee, but they have accepted an offer of €8m plus add-ons from their Italian counterparts. The one-year deal does not include an obligation or option to make the loan permanent and Lukaku has agreed a pay cut to make the move happen.
Chelsea have decided to move their record signing out following his failure to adapt to Thomas Tuchel’s system. Lukaku had an uneasy relationship with Tuchel, who wants to rebuild his attack, and has pushed for a move back to Inter since the end of the season.
Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s new co-owner, decided to give the move the green light following talks with both Tuchel and Lukaku. Boehly wants to back Tuchel on football matters and does not see any point of keeping an unhappy player at the club.
Lukaku’s goals helped Inter win the Serie A title in 2021. However Inter’s financial problems forced them into a sale last summer. They cannot afford to buy the 29-year-old, who earns £325,000 a week at Chelsea.
Chelsea will step up their transfer plans once Lukaku has gone. They are interested in Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé and RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, while Everton’s Richarlison has emerged as a target. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski wants to join Barça.
Iran 0-3 Bulgaria:
Ataei’s evolving side far from finished article
Iranian head coach Behrouz Ataei was again reminded of the massive rebuild project on his hands, after watching his young team fall to a straight-set defeat against Bulgaria on its return to Volleyball Nations League action.
Backed by the home crowd at Sofia’s Armeets Arena, Bulgaria started right on the front foot, easing to a 25-19 victory in the first set.
Perhaps Iranian players’ immaturity was most evident in the latter stages of the final two sets, when the team surrendered three-point leads on both occasions, as the host came out victorious 25-23, 26-24 for a first win in five outings.
“We delivered a decent performance except for the first set. Bulgarians had nothing to lose after four defeats and put in all their energy in front of their supporters,” Ataei said after the match.
“The lack of experience cost us again in the second and third sets. Overall, it was not a bad display compared to our previous matches, but we’re still paying the price for our naivety,” added the Iranian.
Iranian defense struggled all night against teenage outside hitter Aleksandar Nikolov, who chipped in a match-high 20 points, with Martin Atanasov also making a significant contribution to his team’s triumph with 14 points – including four aces.
Opposite spiker Amin Esmaeilnejad topped the scoring in the Iranian outfit with 17 points, followed by Morteza Sharifi, who had 11.
The result leaves Iran on two wins in five matches.
Four-set victories over China and Australia were coupled with straight-set setbacks against the Netherlands and Japan in the first week of the competition in Brazil.
Next for Iran is a double-header – starting tonight – against two heavyweights in USA, which made a clean sweep of four victories in Week 1, and Brazil.
Iran will conclude the visit to Sofia with an encounter against Canada, which rallied past Australia in a four-setter, on Saturday.
Portuguese Sa Pinto named Esteghlal manager
Ricardo Sa Pinto was appointed as the new manager of the Persian Gulf Pro League champion Esteghlal, the Iranian club confirmed.
The Portuguese coach arrived in Tehran late on Tuesday ahead of signing a two-year deal with the Iranian Blues.
Esteghlal will be the 14th club on the 49-year-old’s CV since his managerial debut with the Portuguese giant Sporting CP in 2012.
His longest spell as coach came with the Belgian outfit Standard Liège, where he capped off his one-year stay with a Belgian Cup title in 2018 – the sole trophy for him as a manager.
His latest stint, an underwhelming one, was at Moreirense, which ended with relegation from Portuguese top-flight last season, after a run of 10 defeats in 15 matches.
The Iranian champion will be the second Asian team in Sa Pinto’s career, after he was in charge of Saudi side Al Fateh for five games in 2016.
The Portuguese’s appointment ends weeks of speculations surrounding the future of the Tehran-based Blues’ bench, after the abrupt departure of Farhad Majidi.
Having led Esteghlal to a first league title in nine years – following a remarkable unbeaten season – Majidi parted ways with the club to join Emirati club Ittihad Kalba.
Numerous names – including former Esteghlal players Javad Nekounam and Reza Enayati, as well as German-Iranian Alex Nouri – had been linked with the Esteghlal job before Sa Pinto was eventually unveiled as the new boss.
Joshua confident of victory in Usyk rematch
Anthony Joshua has branded himself the “comeback king” before his heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia on 20 August.
Joshua came face-to-face with Usyk for the first time since losing his WBA (Super), IBF, and WBO titles in London in September, BBC reported.
At a media conference, Joshua was full of confidence as he aims to become a three-time world champion.
“If you know my story, you know I’m the comeback king,” Joshua, 31, said.
“You can put me down, but it’s difficult to keep me down.”
Joshua had his new head coach by his side, Robert Garcia.
The switch of trainer is one of many changes the Watford-born fighter says he has made for the rematch.
“In the fight in September, I was wrong and he [Usyk] was right,” said Joshua who added that he had to “take that defeat like a man as well, I have to be accountable”.
He added: “Definitely the hunger is still there. Blips happen, things happen in life, but resilience, mental toughness and consistency will always prevail.”
Usyk has spent time in Ukraine helping the war effort against Russia and earlier in the summer it appeared the rematch would have to be postponed.
But the 35-year-old Ukrainian was given permission to leave the country in March to train for his second fight with Joshua.
Unbeaten in 19 professional fights, Usyk did not say much, only that he was fighting for Ukraine.
“We are not in the best conditions at the moment back home [in Ukraine],” he said.
“I never made some very loud and bright speeches, all I did was just work hard in my training camp, my gym, that’s what I’m going do until the date of the fight.”
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