Before the season started, I harbored some hope that Uruguay international Diego Lugano would win a spot in the middle of Paris Saint-Germain’s defense. It’s not that I love the guy. The reason is more egotistic. As somebody who lives under the misconception I know something about professional soccer, I like to see decisions and events that confirm my predictions. And I thought (and still think) Diego Lugano’s a very good defender.
However, with former Chelsea defender Alex augmented by the purchase of Thiago Silva, it was pretty clear PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t going to start Lugano. Add in the presence of 22-year-old Mamadou Sahko and Lugano’s yet to appear in Ligue 1 this season.
But the 32-year-old’s playing time looks set to increase with his loan move to Málaga, a switch that was announced this morning. Manuel Pellegrini’s team, currently setting fifth in La Liga, already have Martin Demichelis and Weligton in central defense, but with Champions League commitments resuming mid-February, the Andalusians could use some depth. Matched up against Porto in Champions League’s Round of 16, Málaga stand a good chance of seeing their schedule congested into spring.
Bad news for Gooch
The move isn’t exactly great news for U.S. international Oguchi Onyewu, already somewhat buried on Málaga’s depth chart. The 30-year-old, who is hoping to work his way back into Jurgen Klinsmann’s selection, has only made three appearances between league and Europe, sitting behind Jesús Gámez in Pellegrini’s pecking order. With Lugano in tow, it’s unclear where Onyewu will get playing time between now and June.
Perhaps Lugano’s move will trigger a domino effect. If Onyewu wants to work his way back into the national team during this cycle, he needs to move in the next couple of weeks. He can’t let himself stagnate at Málaga.
It’s no exaggeration to say five months without playing — at his age, with his recent history in the national team — could end his international career. Or at least permanently derail it.
Jose Mourinho got the
dreaded much-needed vote of confidence from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last weekend, seemingly giving the Portuguese manager a temporary stay of execution despite the Blues’ worst start to a season in 37 years.
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Speaking this week, Mourinho has revealed that while he’s thankful to have been kept on at the club for which he regularly professes his love, he still thinks it was no-brainer for Abramovich. In other words, Mourinho’s not backing down from his incredible, seven-minute rant to one question following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.
Mourinho, on what he’s doing to turn Chelsea around — quotes from the Guardian:
“It shows the confidence of Abramovich in the manager who has won three Premier League titles with this club. I thank him and I keep working.
“What’s going on? I do not know. The results with Chelsea at the moment have been really bad. I cannot hide that reality, and I don’t want to. And I struggle to find an explanation. But I assure you: I’m working like never before and we will come out of this. And there is also the Champions League that we will not neglect, for certain.”
What did you expect from Mourinho? Well, you know, I should probably be fired, but thanks to Mr. Abramovich for not realizing this and keeping me employed? It’s simultaneously interesting and the least surprising thing ever, though, that Mourinho claims to not know what’s wrong with Chelsea at the moment. Of course he has a theory (or five), and of course he’s “working like never before” to correct it.
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The most fascinating thing about Chelsea’s sluggish start to the season is to see, hear and read Mourinho speaking from a position of powerlessness. Always the clever one, the one dictating where the discussion goes, the one in charge of every press interaction, Saturday’s rant felt like watching a desperate Mourinho grasping for anything by which to pull himself back up.
There are claims out of Spain that Manchester City has a verbal agreement to bring Pep Guardiola to town when his Bayern Munich contract expires in June.
Don’t expect comment from Guardiola, who bristles when discussing his future. In the past he’s hinted he might not be the right man for the Bavarian side, but has lamented any questions about clubs other than Bayern.
Now Mundo Deportivo writer Francesc Aguilar says there’s a secret agreement between Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain to reunite at the Etihad Stadium this summer.
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Both Barcelona buffs and former Spanish internationals, Begiristain was Barca’s director of football when Guardiola took over for Frank Rjikaard in 2008.
Manuel Pellegrini signed a contract extension this summer and has led the club to a Premier League title, though the club has struggled in European competition. For what it’s worth, the Manchester Evening News got rumor reaction from Sergio Aguero:
On the latest Guardiola rumour, Kun said: “It has been talked about a lot. I don’t know him, but he’s a great manager and it’s wonderful to have the best managers train you.”
But he also added: “I’m very good with Manuel Pellegrini, we talk a lot. I’m happy in the team and with him, but the club will be the one who chooses who comes in.”
In other words, “I’m really good, and they pay me well enough that I’m prepared to play for any big name that arrives.”
It’s a story to keep up with, even as it intrudes on the seasons of two big, rich European clubs.