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Trevor Francis: The story of Britain’s first £1m football transfer

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Former Nottingham Forest footballer Trevor Francis has died aged 69, leaving behind a legacy of being Britain’s first £1million player.

Francis died on Tuesday in his home in Marbella in Spain from a suspected heart attack, and players past and present have since paid tribute to his legacy.

The striker won 52 caps for England, played in the 1982 World Cup, had spells in Italy and also managed clubs at the highest level.

However, he is best known for something that did not happen on the pitch.

Francis told the Guardian in 2019: “I won European Cups with Nottingham Forest, I played 52 times over nine years for England, but whenever I go to a sporting occasion I’m always introduced as the first £1m footballer, as if that’s the only thing I achieved in my career. But do I feel proud of being the first £1m player? Absolutely.”

Francis had already achieved legendary status with Birmingham City throughout the 1970s by scoring 133 goals for the club in 328 appearances.

But the West Midlands side was never likely to push for titles and Francis knew he needed to step up if he was going to win trophies.

He said during the period: “I want to be part of a successful team and unless I see signs that we are going somewhere I won’t stay.”

Nottingham Forest and Coventry entered a bidding war for his services. Coventry matched the offer but Francis went with Forest who were, at the time, in a better position to challenge Liverpool for the league title.

Legendary Nottingham manager Brian Clough turned up for his press conference wearing a full tracksuit and carrying his squash racket – claiming he was late for a game. The gaffer also said that Francis’s price tag was actually £999,999 – and not the full million – to stop the figure going to the striker’s head.

It turned out Clough was bluffing about the £999,999 and that £1.15million had actually been paid. “Brian was very clever with the media,” Francis said. “He used to make headlines, and wasn’t bothered whether they were true or not.”

However, it was still a huge surpassing of the previous record – which, a month earlier, had seen David Mills swap Middlesbrough for West Brom for £516,000.

Little did we know but the floodgates had opened on the market and the transfer record was broken twice more in 1979 before the first £1.5million transfer was made in 1981. The current transfer record is the £106million Chelsea paid for Enzo Fernandez in January.

Francis’s first match was for the team’s C string side as they played out “in front of 20 people” against Notts County’s reserves in a game purposed for training.

But it didn’t stop Francis from feeling nervous.

“The following week I played for the first team and it suddenly dawned on me, at Portman Road, when the supporters sang ‘What a waste of money’ throughout the game,” he said in 2009.

“I found myself trying to justify the £1million.

“You have to be yourself and play your own game. There was a pressure lifted when I got my first goal against Bolton.”

The goals did come, however, and at important times too – with Francis throwing himself at the ball to score a header against Malmo that won Forest the 1979 European Cup.

To this day a giant picture of Francis stooping to head the ball against Malmo remains on display inside Nottingham Forest’s stadium.

Forest lost another legend on Monday with Chris Bart Williams passing away aged 49.

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Xavi faces sack at Barcelona

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Barcelona are poised to sack coach Xavi Hernandez just weeks after he made a U-turn and decided to stay at the club, Spanish

Barcelona are poised to sack coach Xavi Hernandez just weeks after he made a U-turn and decided to stay at the club, Spanish media has reported.

Catalan radio station RAC-1 said president Joan Laporta had decided to sack Xavi, with daily newspaper Sport confirming the news, while AS said Barcelona were already deciding who would replace the coach.

In January, Xavi said he would leave at the end of the season but, after a run of strong form, in April he and president Joan Laporta agreed the coach would stay for the next campaign, with his contract expiring in June 2025.

However, Laporta did not travel with the team for their 2-0 in at Almeria in La Liga on Thursday, with Spanish media reporting he was angry with Xavi’s pre-match comments.

The coach had highlighted Barcelona’s financial difficulties in comparison to the strength of new Spanish champions Real Madrid and other European giants.

“Barcelona fans have to understand, we’re not in the same situation (as those clubs),” said Xavi on Wednesday.

The coach stood by his words on Thursday when he was asked about Laporta not attending the Almeria match.

“They haven’t told me anything personally… We travelled with the sporting vice-president, more directors, all normally,” Xavi told reporters late Thursday. “I said what I think is real, that we will fight for all the trophies, with a lot of hope, with ambition, but that the situation is not easy.

“We are working very well, the club most of all, to change this situation.”

Barcelona won La Liga last season but were not able to defend the title. They went out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals to Paris Saint-Germain and will end the season trophy less.

Real Madrid thrashed Barca in the Spanish Super Cup final while Athletic Bilbao eliminated them in the Copa del Rey.

In April, Xavi, 44, said he was “full of hope” and that fans, players and “above all the confidence of the president and (sporting director) Deco” was what convinced him to stay.

Laporta said at the time that he was glad Xavi would remain at the helm and that it was good for the stability of the club.

“It’s great news that Xavi is staying,” the president told a news conference.

“The team we have, that is (still) consolidating, with very young players, needs that stability.

“Xavi is a reference for young players and we can see that – today I’m especially pleased, and the board have unanimously supported this decision.”

Laporta appointed Xavi, one of Barcelona’s greatest ever midfielders, to replace Ronald Koeman in November 2021.

As a player, Xavi made 767 appearances for Barcelona, winning four Champions Leagues and eight La Liga titles, as well as the World Cup with Spain.

During his time as Barcelona coach, he lifted the Spanish Super Cup last season, along with the league title.

 

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Kane to miss Bayern’s game at Hoffenheim

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Harry Kane will miss Bayern Munich's final game of the season with a back injury - less than a week before Gareth Southgate announces his

Harry Kane will miss Bayern Munich’s final game of the season with a back injury – less than a week before Gareth Southgate announces his England squad for Euro 2024.

Bayern end their campaign at Hoffenheim on Saturday – live on Sky Sports – but Kane has not travelled with the squad.

“Harry Kane is receiving treatment from his personal doctor,” said Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel. “He can’t travel with us.”

Kane has not played since being replaced late in Bayern’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final second leg earlier this month.

Bayern were leading 1-0 in the Bernabeu – and 3-2 on aggregate – when Kane was replaced but conceded two late goals to exit the competition.

Tuchel explained after that defeat that striker Kane had suffered a back injury and on Friday he said: “It was already questionable in Madrid. It’s gotten worse.”

Bayern have endured a difficult campaign, failing to win the Bundesliga for the first time in 12 seasons and exiting the DFB Pokal to third-tier Saarbrucken.

owever, Kane has enjoyed a prolific campaign on an individual level, scoring 44 goals in 45 games across all competitions after joining Bayern from Tottenham in August.

 

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Van Persie lands first managerial role with Heerenveen

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Former Arsenal and Manchester United forward Robin van Persie has been appointed as manager of Eredivisie side Heerenveen, the

Former Arsenal and Manchester United forward Robin van Persie has been appointed as manager of Eredivisie side Heerenveen, the Dutch club has announced.

The 40-year-old, who retired from playing in 2019, has signed a two-year contract in his first role as manager of a senior team.

He has previously spent time working at Feyenoord, the club he began and ended his playing career with, where he took charge of the under-18s side.

Van Persie is the all-time top scorer for the Netherlands national team and was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2012, one year before he won the Premier League title with Manchester United.

Heerenveen, who are 10th in the Eredivisie, face Sparta Rotterdam in their final match of the season tomorrow.

 

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