PARIS, France– Kobe
Bryant’s death sent fans from the football world into mourning, while new
Barcelona boss Quique Setien is already under pressure following his side’s
dismal La Liga defeat at Valencia and Erling Braut Haaland continues to thrill.

AFP Sport looks at four things we learned from a busy
weekend of European football.

Kobe Bryant’s death rocks football

The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter
crash on Sunday sent shockwaves around the world and caused an outpouring of
grief among sportspeople, including some of football’s leading lights.

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku paid tribute to the
five-time NBA champion, who spent large chunks of his childhood in Italy,
calling Bryant his “biggest sports idol”.

“Your work ethic and mentality inspired me so much from
as soon I understood what it took to become a pro,” the Belgium forward
wrote on Instagram.

Brazilian superstar Neymar meanwhile honoured Bryant live on
TV after scoring both goals in a 2-0 win at Lille that put Paris Saint-Germain
10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

The world’s most expensive player slotted home the
52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up and went over to the television
cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauroy pitch to make the number 24 with
his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.

“It’s deeply saddening for the world of sport and for
all of us,” said Neymar to Canal+ after the game.

“Not just for basketball fans, but for everything he
did for sport.”

Setien under early pressure

Barcelona’s decision to sack Ernesto Valverde mid-season and
appoint Quique Setien is already being questioned after the La Liga champions
were beaten 2-0 by a rampant Valencia on Saturday.

Defeat cost Barca top spot as Real Madrid took advantage by
beating Real Valladolid 1-0 on Sunday, with the pressure now on Setien to
deliver a response.

His team were dominant but ponderous in possession and when
Valencia did manage to steal the ball, they looked far more dangerous.

It is the first time Madrid have finished a round of matches
top of the pile since October and it remains to be seen if Barcelona can
wrestle back the momentum that now appears to be with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Madrid’s scrappy win looked like the stuff of champions and
gives them a cushion ahead of next weekend’s city derby against stumbling
Atletico Madrid.

Gattuso healing ‘scarred’ Napoli

Gennaro Gattuso got his first home league win since taking
over struggling Napoli by shocking Serie A leaders Juventus, but the Italian
insisted the surprise victory would not erase their shocking 2-0 defeat to
Fiorentina the previous weekend.

“I haven’t forgotten the scar of the defeat to
Fiorentina, a game which was a blow to my job,” said Gattuso, who had lost
three of his first four Serie A games in charge since replacing Carlo

Napoli are showing signs of life after building on last
week’s Italian Cup quarter-final win over holders Lazio by spoiling former
coach Maurizio Sarri’s return to Naples.

“We’ve beaten two good teams now, but we are still in
trouble,” said the former AC Milan coach.

“We have to keep pushing because this team has damaged
itself too much with certain attitudes and behaviour.”

Last year’s runners-up Napoli are now 10th — 12 points off
the Champions League places — after winning just twice in the league since
late October.

‘Unstoppable’ Haaland more than hype

Two games in and Erling Braut Haaland is already making
waves in the Bundesliga after two outstanding performances off the bench for
Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland’s normally reserved coach Lucien Favre showered him
with praise after he scored twice in Friday’s 5-1 victory over Cologne,
following on from his incredible debut hat-trick the previous weekend.

“He’s unstoppable. He always wants to train, he always
wants to win. As a coach, it’s fantastic to have such players at your
disposal,” said Favre.

Haaland is the first ever player to score five times in his
first two Bundesliga matches, and his goal rate currently stands at one in
every 12 minutes.

“You dream of something like that as a child. It was
absolutely fantastic,” Haaland said.

“Now I just have to keep training and get in better
shape. Then it will be better on the pitch.”


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