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The trio have been included on a 40 strong list of candidates who have been nominated for the award, with past winners including Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero

Bayer Leverkusen youngster Hakan Calhanoglu, Liverpool star Raheem Sterling and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi are among the names on a 40-man shortlist for the 2014 Golden Boy award.

The award recognises footballers under the age of 21 who are bursting with talent, with many on the list having enjoyed breakthrough years that have seen them make decisive contributions for their clubs.

Calhanoglu’s excellent performances for Hamburg saw him earn a summer move to Leverkusen in the summer, while Sterling has made a great contribution to his side’s excellent year and has also been heavily involved for England.

Berardi has been in fine form since kicking of 2014 with a magnificent showing in their 4-3 win over AC Milan the highlight. The forward has started the current campaign well, too, having scored two and set up two in four league games.

Paris Saint-Germain youngster Adrien Rabiot, Juventus’ Kingsley Coman, Sevilla’s Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu and PSV’s Jetro Willems are all included in the strong list of candidates for the accolade.

The award, established by Tuttosport in 2003 and voted for by journalists at major newspapers across Europe, is handed to the player under the age of 21 who is deemed to have been the most outstanding performer over the calendar year.

Previous recipients include Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero, Cesc Fabregas and Mario Balotelli. Last year’s winner was Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.

THE LIST IN FULL: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Franco Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Bruma (Galatasaray), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Kingsley Coman (Juventus), Gerard Deulofeu (Sevilla), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Gianluca Gaudino (Bayern Munich), Mathias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Derlis Gonzalez (Basel), Julian Green (Hamburg), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Keita Balde Diao (Lazio), Mateo Kovacic (Inter), Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Marseille), Maximilian Meyer (Schalke), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Aleksandr Mitrovic (Anderlecht), Munir El Haddai (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Nikola Ninkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Lucas Ocampos (Monaco), Divock Origi (Lille), Denis Praet (Anderlecht), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Sandro Ramirez (Barcelona), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), John Stones (Everton), Oliver Torres (Porto), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Jetro Willems (PSV), Luka Zahovic (Maribor), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

The Argentine insists the under-fire Liverpool striker was loved by everyone at the Etihad Stadium and reveals no one else knew about the ‘Why Always Me?’ t-shirt stunt

Sergio Aguero admits he still misses having former team-mate and under-fire Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli at Manchester City.

Balotelli spent two of his three years at City alongside Aguero, with the pair famously combining for the last-minute goal against QPR that sealed the club’s first Premier League title win in dramatic fashion in May 2012.

Since then the fortunes of the two men have gone in contrasting directions. Balotelli departed City and then AC Milan in acrimonious circumstances and has been criticised for failing to fire for Liverpool since his €20 million move to Anfield in August.

Aguero, meanwhile, added a second Premier League winners’ medal to his collection in 2013-14 and is currently level with Chelsea striker Diego Costa at the top of the scoring charts this season, having netted four against Tottenham on Sunday.

Yet despite all this, the Argentina international insists his former team-mate was loved by everyone at City and his absence remains felt at the club.

“I still miss Mario Balotelli being at City,” Aguero reveals in his new autobiography, ‘Born to rise: My story’, serialised by the Daily Mirror. “Even though he used to drive us all nuts.

“We all knew Mario was a little crazy. The thing was, Mario was crazy when he wanted to be. He’d do daft things whenever he felt like it because he thought he could.

“We’d go out on the training pitch and he’d kick the balls away in different directions just to be silly, or he’d throw cheese over people when he was sat in the dining room.

“I couldn’t help but wind him up, calling him silly names and toying with him. But he knew it was because I loved Mario – everyone loved him.”

Aguero also revealed that the rest of the City squad were kept in the dark about Balotelli’s now infamous ‘Why always me?’ t-shirt celebration during City’s 6-1 mauling of Manchester United at Old Trafford in October 2011.

“Nobody knew he had that t-shirt on when we played United at Old Trafford – he must have hidden it beneath a vest,” the Argentine insisted. “If we’d known we’d have told him to take it off.

“But later when I looked at the ‘Why Always Me?’ message on the front, I told him that if he was calmer and didn’t do so many things, it probably wouldn’t always be him.”

The Reds have endured a shaky start to the 2014-15 Premier League season but the Brazil international is keen to kick-start his side’s season by improving his own performances

Philippe Coutinho is determined to step up his performances in a bid to kick-start Liverpool’s lacklustre season.

Despite currently sitting fifth in the Premier League standings, Brendan Rodgers’ side have made a shaky start to 2014-15, with the fluid football of last term having gone missing.

A host of new players arrived at Anfield in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona in the close-season, including misfiring forward Mario Balotelli, but playmaker Coutinho has put the onus on himself to create more goal-scoring opportunities.

“We haven’t had a good start to the current season. We all acknowledge the team are not currently in our best form,” he told the club’s official website.

“Each striker has their own style and training sessions help me understand how they prefer the ball to reach them. In my position, it’s important that I create clear opportunities for them.

“I have to adapt my style to all strikers – as does any player who is in charge of playing in the No.10 role. We have to create open chances regardless of who the strikers are.”

After making a flying start to his Liverpool career upon his arrival from Inter in January 2013, Coutinho struggled to have the same impact last term.

But the diminutive midfielder has improved this season, notching a crucial goal in last weekend’s scrappy victory over QPR before providing a bright spark during the midweek Champions League defeat to Real Madrid.

However, the 22-year-old, who has retained his place in Brazil’s squad for their November internationals, admits that his performances are irrelevant if the Reds are not winning.

“Football is a team game and everyone has their own responsibilities. My role encompasses creating goal-scoring opportunities and scoring goals myself,” he continued.

“It’s difficult to say anything on a personal level when you lose the game, no individual performance really matters when the team doesn’t win.

“The most important thing for me is that the team deliver and win games. We want to be performing well again soon and we must keep working hard to achieve that.”

The Reds nearly claimed the title last season despite shipping 50 goals, and are now struggling with a far less potent attack, while the Tigers continue to impress

Brendan Rodgers wants Liverpool to improve their poor defensive record, starting with Saturday’s Premier League meeting with Hull City.

Liverpool’s defensive frailties were arguably the reason they failed to win the title last season, as they conceded 50 goals in their 38 games while finishing runners-up to Manchester City.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge papered over the cracks with 52 top-flight goals between them, more than half of Liverpool’s total, and enabled the Merseyside club to outscore most opponents.

However, with Suarez now plying his trade for Barcelona and Sturridge having not played since August due to injury, Liverpool’s deficiencies at the back are costing them.

Rodgers’ side have conceded 12 goals in eight games – with their sole clean sheet coming in a 3-0 win at Tottenham – and suffered a 3-0 Champions League defeat at home to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

And the Northern Irishman has urged all his players to take responsibility for making the team more resilient, telling reporters: “It needs to be better as a team, not just the defence and goalkeeper.

“We pride ourselves on clean sheets but we need to be more competitive and aggressive in those moments as a team.

“In the goals we’ve conceded, a large number have been soft so our job is to improve that record and that’s something we’ll continue to work on.”

Hull come into the game at Anfield on the back of a 2-2 draw at Arsenal last Saturday, and Rodgers has been impressed with the work done by opposite number Steve Bruce during the transfer window.

“He’s done an excellent job and he’s got some reinforcements in that have given them real depth to the squad,” he added.

“He’s building a squad and trying to bring in players with experience. They’ve got some players that can win the game for them so it will be a tough game for us but that’s what we would expect.”

One of those new arrivals is Uruguay international Abel Hernandez, who has three goals in five Premier League appearances and is eagerly awaiting the trip to Anfield.

“It is another exciting game to look forward to,” the striker said. “We are preparing this week and are working as hard as possible to be 100 per cent ready to play against a famous club with great players.

“I am really loving life with Hull City and am looking forward to us all taking the next step together.”

Hernandez may have to shoulder the majority of Hull’s goalscoring burden for the foreseeable future with regular strike partner Nikica Jelavic out for up to six weeks with a knee problem.

Michael Dawson is out for a similar period with an ankle injury, and keeper Eldin Jakupovic is set for only his second league start after Allan McGregor’s back-up Steve Harper tore a bicep tendon against Arsenal.

For the hosts, Sturridge remains sidelined with a calf complaint, while Mamadou Sakho tweeted on Wednesday to confirm that he would need 10 more days of treatment for a thigh injury.

The Croatian believes the Reds lost heart after Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener at Anfield and says it would be a huge boost if the Blancos can defeat Barcelona at the weekend

Luka Modric has hinted that Liverpool did not face the full force of Real Madrid’s might in Wednesday’s Champions League win because they had one eye on Saturday’s Clasico.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring before Karim Benzema bagged a double to ease the Blancos into a three-goal lead by the break.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men appeared to drop down a gear in the second half, rather than go for the jugular, and Modric admitted that the European champions started thinking about this weekend’s crunch clash with Liga leaders Barcelona.

“In the last month, or month and a half, we have looked in great shape,” the Croatian midfielder told reporters at Anfield. “And we showed our top form in this iconic stadium.

“The first goal is broke them. They lost enthusiasm. Then in the second half we were saving a little bit of energy for Saturday.”

Modric, who is spending his third season at the Santiago Bernabeu, believes beating Barca on Saturday would be a massive morale boost for Madrid.

“The atmosphere in the team is great and it’s one of the reasons why we’re playing so well,” the former Tottenham star explained.

“I am ready for the Clasico, whatever the outcome is. Hopefully, we will win because it would mean a lot for our confidence.”

Real Madrid are in the midst of an impressive eight-game win streak – but Barca have also been in top form, not conceding a single goal in La Liga and scoring 22 in the process.

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