x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Boloni's fear over star players

The Standard Liege coach admits it is hard to stop his best players from going to clubs in England, Spain, Italy or Germany.

Laszlo Boloni, right, with the Liverpool manager Rafael  Benintez, admits it will be tough to keep his best players at Standard Liege in the face of interest from other clubs.
Laszlo Boloni, right, with the Liverpool manager Rafael Benintez, admits it will be tough to keep his best players at Standard Liege in the face of interest from other clubs.

The Standard Liege coach Laszlo Boloni may have to rebuild his team as he admitted it was hard to stop his best players from going to clubs in England, Spain, Italy or Germany. After putting in two impressive performances in the Champions League final qualifier against Liverpool, several of his players became targets in the transfer window.

Despite praying they would stay, Boloni, a former Romanian international and the former coach of Monaco, Sporting Lisbon and, last season, Al Jazira, lost Marouane Fellaini to Everton in a £15 million deal (Dh98.5m). The midfielder, 20, was a commanding presence in his side's 1-0 extra-time defeat to Liverpool at Anfield last month, and the powerful DR Congo international striker, Dieumerci Mbokani could well join him at Goodison Park in January if the Premier League club maintain their interest in him.

Ironically, Boloni is back on Merseyside tonight when Liege face Everton in the first leg of their Uefa Cup first-round tie. He added: "We hope we can do well and go as far as we can in the Uefa Cup. "We played very well against Liverpool and did not deserve to lose, but we have to continue at that level for all the games. We know we can achieve this kind of performance now. "Our aim is to try to get into the Champions League again next season. We have good players here that teams may not know about and I hope they do not come and take them.

"But if they do, that is football and the life of a coach. You have to start from zero and build another team. I did the same with Jazira and now I have to do the same with Liege. "This is another new experience for me in Belgium and I am coaching at the highest level, which is what I wanted." For Everton, who come into the game on the back of a battling 3-2 win at Stoke last Sunday, tonight's game means a lot to defender Joseph Yobo as he faces his former club.

The Nigerian moved from Nigeria to the Belgian club 10 years ago as he began his career as a professional player. He has since played for Marseille and Tenerife before moving to Everton, but Yobo, 28, hasn't forgotten where he started his career. Yobo told Everton's website: "I enjoyed my time at Standard because they gave me an opportunity to come from Africa to be a professional footballer abroad.

"I had a really nice time and they really looked after me over there because I was only a young lad. I have great memories. "The fans were great to me and I'll be delighted to see them again. "It will be emotional, especially when we play them in Belgium, because that's where it all started for me. But football is football and I'll be professional and will make sure I go there and get the job done."

akhan@thenational.ae