Michael Bradley: Contributions to recent reports ‘shameful,’ ’embarrassing,’ and cross the line

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“I think it is shameful,” was Michael Bradley’s reaction. The U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder was asked for this thoughts on Monday’s Sporting News feature that detailed criticisms of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Eleven current players as well as another 11 sources close to the team were given anonymity in exchange for their participation. For Bradley, their contributions amounted to a betrayal.

“[Y]ou cross a line when you take those thoughts and you take your disappointments outside of the team and outside of the inner circle,” Bradley told the assembled media in Colorado. “So for me, it doesn’t help anybody, it doesn’t help anything that we are trying to do this week.”

Bradley becomes the third veteran of the national team to offer his thoughts in the wake to the Sporting News’ piece. Carlos Bocanegra posted his thoughts on Facebook Monday night, a defense a Jurgen Klinsmann’s communication with his players. On Tuesday, Tim Howard spoke out against the notion that the U.S.’s is a locker room divided.

“On every team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy,” Bradley explained, “on every team in the world there are going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things that they wish were different, things they wish would be done another way, but that is normal.”

The problems start when those critiques go beyond the team’s inner circles. Or, as Bradley put it, when players don’t have “the balls” to speak in front of the group.

“When you play on a team you have a chance everyday to give everything you have and part of that means having the balls to say things to guys to their face, having the balls to say things in front of the team.

“In those ways it is really disappointing that in a week as important as this, with so much on the line, that you would have something like that happen.”

Bradley called for the U.S. to turn their attentions to the field, saying the team “let ourselves down a little bit” given the revelations in Sporting News’ work.

“It is our job to represent ourselves and represent our country in a way that makes everybody proud.”

With three veterans speaking out and another being named captain, the week’s controversy seems to be unifying the team – in word and action if not in actual camaraderie. The actual bonds between players can only be seen from inside the dressing room, though one thing we can infer from Bradley’s comments is that these issues had not been brought up within the group at large. If there is major dissension in the ranks, it’s not bubbling up for team-wide discussion.

Then again, that seems to be Bradley’s main issue. Reports say there are problems, their existence may go beyond a select few, yet the team leaders aren’t seeing anybody step forward to bring them to the group.

And that leaves the obvious, lingering question: Which players contributed to Sporting News’ report? Are these fringe players unhappy with Klinsmann’s decisions (and their roles in the team)? Are the most damning critiques — the ones creating the most waves — from players? Or are they from the sources most distant from the current core?

Because as of now, three of the team’s most important players have spoken out to clarify the situation. Though it’s possible they contributed in some form, they seem unlikely to be the ones giving the anonymous accounts. So, who did?

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.


Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

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The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.

Paul Pogba: “Transfers are not in my head”

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Paul Pogba has been discussing his future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman delivered a stunning assist in United’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, with the midfielder now named Man of the Match in each of his last two games after plenty of speculation about his future at United in recent months.

Jose Mourinho left Pogba out of his starting lineup on multiple occasions, while Pep Guardiola claims he was offered to buy Pogba in January and speculation about him joining Paris Saint-Germain, going back to Juventus or heading to Real Madrid continue.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Football Club, Pogba had the following to say about his own future.

“Right now, I am at Manchester United and I am honestly only thinking about the present. Transfers are not in my head. We are in the [FA] Cup final and the World Cup is around the corner,” Pogba said.

Pogba also addressed the rumors regarding his relationship with Mourinho with reports stating that the duo do not get along and United’s manager is fed up with the Frenchman’s attitude off the pitch.

“I don’t have a problem with him, and I don’t think he has a problem with me,” Pogba said. “He’s the coach and he has to make choices. I am a player and I accept them. I have to answer on the pitch.”

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.