Fagioli apologizes for ‘naïve error’ after seven-month soccer ban for betting violations

Fagioli apologizes for ‘naïve error’ after seven-month soccer ban for betting violations
Fagioli apologizes for ‘naïve error’ after seven-month soccer ban for betting violations

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - With the October international break over, Manchester City return to domestic football on Saturday with a home Premier League match against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Looming are more big matches in the Champions League as well as the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Oct. 29.

Pep Guardiola’s team won a historic treble last year and City’s 2012 and 2014 title winner Joleon Lescott believes the club’s ambitions will not wane this season with another trophy to aim for.

“I don’t think the targets and the ambitions will change or differ,” he told Arab News while taking part in the club’s Treble Trophy Tour in Abu Dhabi. “There’s still the Club World Cup to achieve and to become club world champions is a huge accolade to have as well, so I’m sure they’re determined to win that.

“And I just think any trophy achieved after last season’s success is a huge thing, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. And again, the fact that they are the team to beat, to expect them to be the team to beat in all the competitions, proves that there is no demise in their ambition.”

Lescott has been impressed with the way City’s squad has continually been upgraded by Guardiola and the club’s management. He said it remained strong enough to be one of the favorites for this season’s Premier League title.

“I hope they win the title,” he said. “I don’t think any team ‘should’ win the title in regards to their squad. I think there’s a lot more that goes into it, and elements of luck as well.

“But yeah, I don’t think Man City are any weaker due to players that have left and players that have come in, and the club (and) the manager have continuously transitioned from squads and players leaving.

“I’m sure there was kind of unease when David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, and Vincent Kompany were leaving, and there could be a lack of understanding what direction the club’s going to go, (but) they transitioned into (having) John Stones, Reuben Dias, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne.

“And the club will continue to do that, and that’s kind of the way I see this happening now. Yes, (Ilkay) Gundogan was a huge, huge player, a huge personality in the dressing room, but you sign someone like (Mateo) Kovacic who’s won four Champions Leagues and you have to recognize his status in the game and the quality he brings.”

Lescott is keeping a close eye on one particular City talent he believes will have a season to remember.

“I’m thinking Phil Foden, I’m hoping Phil Foden,” he said. “Ever since he broke into the team, he’s had success, he’s been consistent, he’s had an impact. I’m hoping now with the level of experience he has, the understanding of his brilliance, how important he can be in any position, I’m hoping he has a standout season because I believe there’s going to be more game time for him in a position that he’s probably more comfortable in, in regards to being in central on the pitch.”

Lescott was part of the first City team to win the Premier League title in 2012 under Roberto Mancini, and has seen the stature and international profile of the club grow since then.

“The club has grown obviously, success on the pitch helps that,” he said. “But not only that, since the owners took control they grew the club outside of Manchester, with the likes of New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, and become a powerhouse in football and a dynasty that a lot of other teams won’t be able to emulate, and (I have) respect for that.

“There’s a lot more work that has gone into the success of the club than just on the pitch, and I spoke before of how well and how much Sheikh Mansour (bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, City’s owner) and the chairman (Khaldoon Al-Mubarak) have developed Manchester, not just with a new training ground, but the surrounding areas, they’ve improved due to their appreciation to what Manchester City means to Manchester.”

Lescott is also keeping an eye on developments in this part of the world, with elite players such as Neymar and Andres Iniesta making the region their new footballing home.

“I definitely see more players coming to this part of the world,” he said. “The way they were recruiting players, you have to take it seriously. World stars, some of the best names in the game.

“Some current top players and top performers are coming here. So yeah, you definitely have to recognize the attraction that the Saudi (Pro) League is gaining and you have to respect that.

“Do I see it as a threat to the Premier League? Not necessarily due to the level of competition that the Premier League has.

“I still believe that is the most attractive league, and I think if you just go back to when Wolves, probably people’s favorites to go down, beat Man City (2-1 on Sept. 30), a team that was six in a row unbeaten, with six wins in a row.

“So I think that is a huge factor, a huge draw for the Premier League is that it’s so competitive. But in regards to out here and the kind of traction and the attention that this part of the world is gaining in the football industry then yeah, it’s exciting because I’m a fan of the best players playing, and if the best players are playing over here then you have to watch that (development).”

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