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Naivasha Bursts Into Life As World Rally Champions Come Calling

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Naivasha burst into life Monday with a galaxy of the world’s best motor rally drivers and teams painting the town red as they prepared the world’s fastest rally cars for action.

Also arriving Monday was International Automobile Federation (FIA) President Jean Todt, who is also here to preside over a meeting of the African motorsports continental body.

The delegation also included FIA technical delegates Jerome Toquet (Technical), Daniel Fasano (Technical), Vera Dussausaye (Media), Andrew Wheatley (Sporting) and Nicolas Klinger (Deputy Safety Delegate).

They were received by, among others FIA Vice-President for Africa Surinder Thatthi of Kenya and WRC safari Rally Head of Security, Commissioner of Police Julius Kabiru.

This week’s World Rally Championship Safari Rally will see the much-trumpeted world rally cars compete on African soil for the first time in 19 years.

Naivasha’s Buffalo Mall was extraordinarily busy with superstars, including most celebrated world champions Ott Tanak, Sebastien Ogier, and Thierry Neuville, among others showing up for pre-competition medical checks.

The drivers kicked off their preparations with the official reconnaissance of the route of the stages.

Today will be the second day of checking the route.

Drivers have to use standard cars to check the route of the entire event.

World Rally Championship leading driver Ogier is among the top drivers who are in Kenya for the beginning of the four-day rally that kicks off on Thursday with the official flagging off from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

Ogier is a French rally driver, competing for Toyota World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship. He is teamed with Julien Ingrassia as his co-driver.

The Frenchman has won the World Rally Drivers’ Championship seven times starting in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020.

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Arsenal retain a strong interest in Fiorentina striker but deal difficult to complete this month

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Arteta has said the Gunners are working hard on new arrivals and that they “are open” to making a big signing if it is financially viable.

Vlahovic came to prominence last season when he scored 21 goals in 40 appearances for Fiorentina and has continued his impressive form with 18 goals in 22 games this campaign.

Vlahovic has just 18 months remaining on his Fiorentina contract, although he has not ruled out signing a new deal with the Serie A side.

The Gunners’ pursuit of Vlahovic could be aided by their good relationship with Fiorentina. Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreria is currently on loan at the Italian club, and including him as part of a deal for the Serbia international has not been ruled out.

Fiorentina also has an option to make Torreira’s loan move permanent.

Vlahovic joined Fiorentina from Partizan Belgrade in 2018. As well as making an impression in Italy, the striker also has seven goals in 14 games for Serbia.

Vlahovic came to prominence last season when he scored 21 goals in 40 appearances for Fiorentina, and has continued his impressive form with 18 goals in 22 games this campaign.

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Ralf Rangnick urges unhappy players to be professional

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A number of fringe players are known to be unhappy at Old Trafford.

Striker Anthony Martial has asked to leave and negotiations are continuing with Sevilla.

In addition, Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek, Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, and Juan Mata are all frustrated at their lack of game time.

Mata, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani have contracts that run out at the end of the season.

That has contributed to a sense of unease at United, with levels of negative publicity increasing after the dismal Premier League home defeat by Wolves on 3 January.

Rangnick – brought in after the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November – says he tries to speak to players individually every two or three weeks.

However, doing so after every game is impossible and the German is calling on his squad to be professional in their reactions.

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Philippe Coutinho signs for Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona

The other side of Linturi

“We have a big squad,” he said. “If you have that many players and only 10 outfield players can play, and three being substitutes, then you have quite a number of players who don’t play or are not even in the squad.

Those players are unhappy about the situation. It’s obvious. It’s clear.

“We also have players with contracts expiring in the summer and maybe also one or two who want to leave even though they are under contract.

“It’s about the players dealing with that situation in a professional way. As far as I can tell so far the players have been doing that. If I realize this is not the case, I will address the players directly.”

In addition to unhappy players, Rangnick still has to convince some he is the right man to lead them.

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Philippe Coutinho signs for Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona

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The deal, which is subject to a medical and a work permit being granted, includes an option to buy the 29-year-old Brazil international.

Coutinho joined Barcelona in a £142m move from Liverpool in January 2018.

However, he has not had the expected impact and Barca is keen to move him on to lighten their wage bill.

Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle, and Tottenham were also linked with a move for Coutinho.

The playmaker, who has scored 26 goals in 106 appearances for the Catalans, has 18 months to run on his Nou Camp contract, which expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Barcelona were desperate to move on Coutinho after agreeing to a deal to sign Ferran Torres from Manchester City for £55m.

Coutinho also wanted a fresh start elsewhere and his links with Villa manager Steven Gerrard, who played alongside him at Liverpool and has remained a huge admirer even through his struggles at Barcelona, have seen off a host of Premier League clubs investigating the possibility of securing a deal.

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