England beware Leeds’ Italian wonderkid… Willy Gnonto, 18, is Italy’s youngest ever goalscorer

When Italy flopped in the play-offs against North Macedonia and were condemned to miss their second World Cup finals in a row, Roberto Mancini promised to rebuild his team with the next generation of talent.

His search led him to Willy Gnonto, an explosive teenage striker from Inter Milan’s youth ranks who helped FC Zurich win the Swiss title last season and joined Leeds United on transfer deadline day earlier this month.

Gnonto’s £3.8million move to Elland Road was largely unheralded, eclipsed at the time by the furore of their failed £20m swoop for Bamba Dieng of Marseille and since by the postponements following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the subsequent period of mourning.

Yet he is an exciting signing — a diminutive player of 5ft 5in with supreme balance and electric speed, likened to a young Raheem Sterling, who can play either side of a centre forward or as a second striker — and Leeds fans could get a glimpse of him when England face Italy in Milan tomorrow.

Mancini promoted Gnonto to Italy’s senior squad for the Finalissima match against Argentina at Wembley in June, then handed him a debut three days later against Germany in the Nations League.

He started the next game, against Hungary, and came on in the 64th minute against England, behind closed doors at Molineux, before scoring in a 5-2 defeat by Germany in Dortmund.

In doing so, Gnonto became Italy’s youngest goalscorer at the age of 18 years and 222 days, breaking a record that had stood since 1958. He was nominated for this year’s Golden Boy prize, a prestigious award founded by Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport to find Europe’s top emerging talent.

‘He is a boy, 18 years old, and should not be put under too much pressure,’ said Mancini in June.

‘He has to grow quietly. For his age, he knows how to play football like few other players and is very fast. If he grows calmly, without too much pressure on him, he can show his important qualities and he is an intelligent boy, he can grow.’

Gnonto was born in Verbania to Ivorian parents and raised in Baveno, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, where his mother Chantal worked for more than 20 years as a waitress at one of the resort’s big hotels.

His talent was clear from an early age. At eight, he joined Inter and progressed well, earning Italy call-ups, and he was a star of the 2019 Under 17 World Cup in Brazil, scoring three goals.

At 16, he quit Inter for Switzerland in search of a clearer pathway towards first-team football, and went straight into the squad at Zurich, making his senior debut before his 17th birthday.

He scored eight goals in 33 games last season as Zurich won the Swiss Super League and he featured in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League before moving to Leeds.

‘The first time I saw him, I thought he had the potential to be an international talent,’ said Zurich’s sporting director Marinko Jurendic. ‘In the first season, he did well and we saw his potential in a team fighting relegation.

‘In the second season came the transformation, his evolution under a new coach in a team performing well. Playing mostly as a substitute, he became the best substitute in the whole league. Every time he entered the game he made a difference, scoring goals and making assists.

‘He has the talent in his body and the strength in his mind to become a big player.

‘In some ways, like a boy, he’s unpredictable. It is a joy to see him play. In some ways, he is mature like a 25-year-old player. It doesn’t matter who he plays against. We have to be patient with him but he has everything to become a regular starting player for the Italian national team.’

Gnonto’s first action in the colours of his new club came for Leeds’ Under 21s in a 6-2 win over Southampton, in which Patrick Bamford scored a hat-trick.

‘Willy was really good,’ said Under 21s boss Michael Skubala after the match. ‘You can see what he can do in possession. He’s new to the way we want to play so he’s got lots of learning to do, and he’ll do that, but at times he was really exciting to watch.’

His strengths will suit Jesse Marsch’s full-throttle style but this week Gnonto’s journey will take him back to Milan, where it all began.

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    Andy Murray denied Novak Djokovic Laver Cup wish but Roger Federer might be delighted

    Andy Murray has been denied his wish of playing alongside Novak Djokovic in the Laver Cup today (Sunday), although his desired Serbian team-mate has revealed that he is the ‘worst’ on the team to play with in the two-vs-two matches. Instead, Murray will play with Matteo Berrettini as Team Europe look to retain their crown at the O2 Arena.

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  • 1 час, 7 минут назад 25.09.2022Sport
    Roy Keane in ‘most Roy Keane moment ever’ in Man Utd legends game as he pushes team-mate

    Despite it being 17 years since he hung up his boots, Manchester United legend Roy Keane showed in a legends match that he is still the same figure he used to be. The Red Devils icon shoved away team-mate Ronnie Johnson as he attempted to hand over the captain’s armband against Liverpool at Anfield.

    United were beaten 2-1 by Liverpool in the second leg of the Legends of the North Clash at Anfield, with the match finishing 5-2 on aggregate after they also played at Old Trafford. Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring for the away side early on when he rolled back the years to fire home a fantastic volley.

    But Liverpool, managed by Sir Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Aldridge, soon bounced back early in the second half when Mark Gonzalez slotted home to continue his good form in the fixture. The Reds then snatched a late winner when Florent Sinama-Pongolle pounced on a loose ball in the United box to win the match.

    Though one of the moments of the match was when TV pundit Keane entered the fray to a chorus of boos, which he soaked up with glaring stares into the stands. Soon after, he found himself palming away team-mate Johnson, who was keen to honour the 51-year-old with the captain’s armband after his success in the role as a player.

    Johnson quickly got the message that Keane wasn’t having it and the players dispersed, though Keane will have been hoping for a more positive influence as he was unable to strengthen the United midfield prior to Liverpool’s late winner. The former Nottingham Forest star enjoyed plenty of success at Old Trafford, winning the Premier League on seven occasions and the Champions League once, with his influence in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side instrumental.

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  • 1 час, 54 минуты назад 25.09.2022Sport
    Australian legend Drew Mitchell admits Wallabies have arrogant perception after loss to All Blacks

    In the wake of the Wallabies 40-14 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday evening, Aussie rugby legends have explained where it is going wrong for the much-maligned side.

    Australia could not rebound from the controversial heartbreaker in the first Bledisloe Cup match, and instead put in an error-riddled display to go down to New Zealand by 26 points at Eden Park in Auckland.

    It’s a venue the Wallabies haven’t won at since 1986 – and some pundits suggested the side capitulated in the face of patriotic Kiwi support, and were overawed by the imposing All Blacks.

    Ex-Wallabies star Justin Harrison, however, refused to believe it was because the All Blacks have more pride in their jersey.

    ‘I think it’s important to recognise that New Zealand don’t have a mortgage on the jersey and national pride when they lose or win Test matches and they have fear of losing,’ a fired-up Harrison told host Alanna Ferguson on Stan Sport’s post-match coverage.

    ‘Every single time you take a Wallaby jersey onto the field, you have the same amount of pride in wearing that jersey.’

    The towering lock, who earned 34 caps for Australia, said the rollercoaster ride for Wallabies supporters wasn’t due to a lack of passion for the green and gold jersey from the players.

    ‘What we’re searching for is a team that has consistency … we had some adversity thrown at us, we had over 25 missed tackles and we had over 13 or 14 handling errors,’ said Harrison.

    ‘Now that is not a lack of pride and a lack of knowing what it means to wear the Wallaby jersey.’

    Harrison’s concerns about the Wallabies alarming lack of consistency was echoed by coach David Rennie after the match.

    ‘We were shaded in all areas tonight. We know when we’re at our best, we can compete with anyone. But we’ve got to be in and around 100 per cent every week,’ said the disappointed Wallabies coach.

    Rennie has been under relentless pressure ever since being appointed to the top job in November, 2019.

    Australia continues to show flashes of brilliance – namely stirring wins against both Argentina and South Africa earlier in the Rugby Championship, when all the odds were stacked against them.

    On paper, however, it doesn’t look pretty.

    In the 29 games since Rennie took charge of the side, Australia has won just 11 of 29 matches.

    Every time they seem to take one step forward in their development, they take three steps back: much like we’ve seen across the last two Bledisloe Cup games.

    Of course many fans will still be ropeable that referee Mathieu Raynal’s controversial penalty seemingly cost the side a certain victory in game one of the Bledisloe Cup.

    Harrison’s fellow Wallabies great and Stan Sport commentator, Drew Mitchell, said he had a theory as to why Australia never appears to get the rub of the green.

    The side are – rightly or wrongly – perceived as ‘arrogant or maybe whingers.’

    ‘Look, if there is a perception, then perception is reality,’ Mitchell said on the Stan Sport’s broadcast when asked about Australia’s reputation for arrogance.

    ‘If that’s the perception the ref is holding, let’s just assume they do … look, I’m guilty of it, we’re all guilty at times of whingeing because we’re emotionally invested in this.

    ‘When there is a 50/50, of course, you’re going to go to the bias where you’re emotionally invested. Last week I was against Mathieu Raynal because emotionally I felt like we got the wrong rub of the green.

    ‘It does work against you,’ added Mitchell.

    Mitchell then pointed to a few examples in Saturday night’s loss that would appear to back up that perception.

    ‘You look at the way the ref spoke to Nic White today when he told him ‘If that was directed at me, you’re going off the field’. Ask me again, was it reinforced further? ‘Be really careful, be really careful’,’ he said, when describing player-referee interactions.

    ‘Those types of interactions with referees give you an insight as to how they feel or how they position themselves against these players or teams.’

    That wasn’t the only example of perception seemingly being reality.

    Raynal was adamant he made the right call despite drawing the ire of (almost) the entire rugby world in Australia’s heartbreaking loss on September 15 – the first match of the Bledisloe Cup.

    When explaining his controversial decision to Australian skipper Nic White, his words drew the ire of Wallabies players and supporters.

    Raynal’s language implied the threat to his ego appeared to be the greatest motivation for his decision to blow a penalty – which would .

    ‘Nic (White) I’m sorry, you know exactly what I wanted,’ he could be heard saying on the vision, which was released by Stan Sports.

    ‘So that’s not fair what you did at the end, you just run the time and you know exactly. If you think I’m not capable to give a scrum, you’re making a mistake.

    ‘So now you know it.’

    For now, the perception does appear to be the reality.

    The Wallabies will look to put the disappointing finish to the Rugby Championship behind them, with a gruelling European Tour set for October and November.

    They’ll face Scotland in October before a quartet of tough Tests against France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in November.

  • 1 час, 54 минуты назад 25.09.2022Sport
    Socceroos beat New Zealand by two goals in final football friendly ahead of 2022 World Cup

    The Socceroos will head to the World Cup as winners after a youthful side overcame New Zealand 2-0 in their final friendly ahead of Qatar.

    Graham Arnold blooded a pack of youngsters at Auckland’s Eden Park – a venue the Wallabies famously haven’t won at since 1986 – but the squad’s oldest outfielder, striker Mitch Duke, grabbed the first goal.

    Jason Cummings then converted a penalty after fine work from fellow debutant Garang Kuol, giving Arnold plenty to think about as he mulls his World Cup squad.

    With Thursday night’s XI that beat the All Whites 1-0 spared the trip to New Zealand, Arnold said he wanted to use the match to find his ‘Plan B’ for Qatar.

    He offered Harrison Delbridge a full debut while Kuol, Cummings – aka the Cumdingo – Ryan Strain, Cameron Devlin, and Keanu Baccus all got their first taste of senior international football.

    The match might have been a friendly but there was plenty at stake for both sides.

    The Socceroos, two months out from Qatar, were each competing for places in the 26-man squad, while the All Whites were playing at home for the first time in five years.

    It was surprising then that the first half was so tepid; perhaps the result of nerves, or playing on a surface chopped up by Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup Test.

    Disappointingly for the bumper crowd of 34,985, hometown hero Chris Wood was taken off after half an hour, complaining of a side strain.

    The Newcastle United striker spent his afternoon signing autographs for fans, rather than playing for them.

    The Socceroos were inexperienced but had time on the field previously; eight of the team were past or present Melbourne City players, while nine featured in Australia’s 2-0 defeat of Argentina at last year’s Olympics.

    Despite the links, there was little understanding shown between teammates in a stop-start first half.

    Oli Sail had one save to make – an early effort from Riley McGree’s drive – as Australia struggled for industry or creativity.

    Nathaniel Atkinson and Mat Leckie provided an outlet down the right, but to little effect, with Denis Genreau particularly wasteful in the middle.

    Marco Tilio produced a horror miss as halftime loomed, sidefooting wide with the goal at his mercy after Duke’s centre.

    After a lacklustre first 45 minutes, the Socceroos returned full of spark.

    Tilio drew a fine save from Sail before Connor Metcalfe served up a curling cross for Duke to head home on 54 minutes, giving Australia a deserved lead.

    With five fresh debutants inserted into the contest, the game opened up, and Kuol helped win it with his pace.

    The 18-year-old stole the ball in his own half and raced through on goal, the ball eventually falling to Cummings – whose shot was saved by the outstretched hand of Liberato Cacace.

    Cummings stepped up for the resultant penalty, dispatching it strongly to the bottom right corner, and perhaps booking his place to the World Cup.

    Cummins explained afterwards how he felt on the park. ‘Absolutely buzzing,’ he said. ‘I was chomping at the bit. I just wanted to get on the pitch.’

    Manager Graham Arnold was very happy with how the young team performed.

    ‘I’m really proud of those young boys,’ Arnold said on Network 10.

    ‘I’ll go back and review it and have a close look at things before I’d say publicly. But it’s just refreshing to see the young faces, their energy was fantastic. It’s great that they’re knocking on the door.

    ‘I wanted this to happen, I wanted to have [selection] headaches. I didn’t want to be sitting at home, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, where am I going to get players from?’ They’ve shown me today, we can do it,’ said Arnold.

    Socceroos fans on social media had largely positive things to say about the team’s performance – especially in the second half.

    ‘Interesting to see the mindset shift in the second half, need to see that aggressive line at the World Cup from the opening minute. Kuol and Cummings probably booked their spots alongside Devlin and Metcalfe,’ said one Twitter user.

    ‘Much better second half from the Socceroos, get Cummings and Kuol on the plane to Qatar!’ added another.

    ‘Seriously we need to get Mathew Leckie to Captain the Wallabies. First Aussie Capt to win at Eden Park in a while,’ joked a third.

  • 1 час, 54 минуты назад 25.09.2022Sport
    Penrith Panthers skipper Isaah Yeo slams South Sydney Rabbitohs star after sickening NRL hit

    Panthers skipper Isaah Yeo has slammed Rabbitohs flyer Taane Milne for his brutal stiff-arm on prop Spencer Leniu, which landed the winger a six-game ban – but a World Cup loophole could mean he misses just two NRL games.

    Trailing 24-12 in the final quarter, Leniu burst through Souths middle when Milne came in from his wing and took out the young gun with a high shot.

    Milne’s finals track record has plagued him all season, having been sin-binned twice against the Roosters in their elimination win.

    Former NRL star Braith Anasta called out the winger, saying ‘is that the worst shot you have ever seen? That was a shocking tackle.’

    Post game Penrith lock Isaah Yeo blatantly labelled the tackle as a lazy arm, which visibly disgruntled Leniu.

    ‘He’s a tough thing,’ Yeo said of Leniu.

    ‘He’s not going to stay down. He’s usually chipping blokes if they stay down. He’s obviously not going to stay down for no reason. It copped him flush.

    I feel like he got warned last game Taane too. It’s happened a couple of times now. He had every chance to drop his arm or make contact somewhere else but he flushed him in the head.’

    Mline was sent off after his illegal shot, which flared up Leniu on the sidelines, giving shades of the Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart brawl of Brookvale in 2014.

    Fox League pundits jumped in on the hot discussion, roasting Milne’s poor tackle attempt.

    ‘It was awful and stupid and puts everyone under pressure, it also alleviates any sort of comeback,’ Corey Parker said.

    ‘Seriously, that tackle got outlawed in 1980, if he says that he is not thinking it is even worse,’ Gorden Tallis added.

    Yet, given Milne’s selection in the Fijian World Cup side, he could serve four games of the ban at an International level.

    Fiji are pencilled in to play a warm-up game against England and then take to their Cup campaign with three pool games.

    Milne was the first player to be sent off in a preliminary final since North Sydney’s Gary Larson and Canberra’s John Lomax in 1994.

    Fellow banned NRL stars Jared Warea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins have also worked around the loophole.

    Rooster Collins was granted the Prime Minister’s XIII clash against Papua New Guinea as part of his four-game ban, for a nasty hip drop back in round 24.

    Hardman Hargreaves will be free to play in the Kiwi’s final pool game.

    Souths loss is their fourth preliminary exit in five years, a hard pill to take given they were leading 12-0 30 minutes in.

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Sport England beware Leeds' Italian wonderkid... Willy Gnonto, 18, is Italy's youngest ever goalscorer