It’s getting on for 150 days since Chelsea last fired their manager, so naturally, thoughts at Stamford Bridge are turning to the search for the club’s next boss.
Roberto Di Matteo’s ouster came on November 21 last year – you see, winning the club’s first-ever Champions League title doesn’t buy you much time under owner Roman Abramovich, who firmly believes that impatience is a virtue.
The impressively-unpopular Rafael Benitez was installed as interim manager until the end of this season. Chelsea could yet finish in the Premier League’s top four and win the Europa League and FA Cup, but the writing’s been on the wall for Benitez for some time: writing that says “goodbye” in big, bright letters. You could argue that since supporters were mounting campaigns against Benitez even before his first game, he never stood a chance. But that would be to assign a level of fan influence on key decisions that simply doesn’t exist at a club run as the personal plaything of a capricious Russian oligarch.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck told Al Jazeera today that he is “completely open-minded” about the identity of Benitez’s successor. “We’re all thinking about it and have some ideas and certainly Mr Abramovich is thinking about it. At the moment we’re concentrating on the end of the season,” the American added.
The London club have had eight permanent managers since Abramovich bought the club in 2003 – “permanent” having a very loose definition at Stamford Bridge, of course. Talking about wielding the ax, Buck used a euphemism which only served to make the process seem even more coldly ruthless.
“I know we have fired what most people would say are a lot of managers – terminated the relationship is a better way to describe it – but we’ve always thought long and hard when we’ve done it. It’s always difficult, it’s always sad when a relationship is terminated,” he said. “We don’t look back, we always look forward and see where we’re going and figure out how we get there. We certainly believe in stability in managers, but it has to be with the right manager.”
The right manager used to be Jose Mourinho, who led the club to a pair of Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. Could it be again? Since Pep Guardiola opted for Bayern Munich, speculation has linked the Real Madrid head coach with a return to west London. Mourinho said after yesterday’s Champions League quarter-final win over Galatasaray that he will discuss his future with Real president Florentino Perez in the summer.
Christine Sinclair scored her first goal for Canada in 2000, and today, she scored the 159th goal of her international career.
With goal #159, Sinclair passes Mia Hamm as the second-highest scorer in international soccer history, men or women. Abby Wambach’s record of 184 goals is the all-time mark.
[ REPORT: Obafemi Martins to China ]
Playing for Canada in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, Sinclair gave her country a 3-0 lead over Trinidad & Tobago to reach 159 goals. They would go on to win the match 6-0.
Sinclair, 32, will look to continue her scoring ways and lead Canada to Rio 2016, as the Canadians search for another medal after taking home bronze in 2012.
The Chinese Super League continues to buy top talent, as Obafemi Martins looks set to join Shanghai Shenhua.
According to a report from the BBC, the Seattle Sounders’ striker will leave Major League Soccer for a “multi-million dollar deal” in China.
Should this deal go through, Martins would join a list of top talents who have moved to the Chinese Super League this winter, including Chelsea’s Ramires.
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Martins has scored 43 goals in 84 appearances for Seattle since joining the club in 2013, named to the MLS Best XI in 2014 and the All-Star team in 2015.
If the 31-year-old was to leave, it would open up a potential starting spot for the USMNT’s Jordan Morris, who signed a record-breaking homegrown player contract with the Sounders last month.
[ MORE: Player ratings from Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Leicester City ]
Before moving to America, Martins played throughout Europe, spending most of his career with Inter Milan and Newcastle. He has earned 41 caps for the Nigerian national team.
At Shanghai Shenhua, Martins would line-up alongside former Premier League players Tim Cahill and Demba Ba, as wells as Fredy Guarin, who joined Shenhua in January from Inter Milan.
Barcelona is really, really good.
With their last loss coming all the way back on October 3, Barca remained unbeaten and put on a Sunday show in La Liga action, thrashing Celta Vigo, 6-1.
[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]
The highlight of the match came in the 81st minute when Barcelona was awarded a penalty. Lionel Messi stepped up to the spot, and did this:
The classic Cruyff penalty kick, it looks so good when it works, but is very risky and could end in disaster. Just ask Robert Pires…
The goal gave Luis Suarez a hat-trick and showed the ridiculous amount of confidence this Barcelona side has right now, as no one in the world has an answer for the Messi-Neymar-Suarez trio.
Manchester City fell 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in a massive battle in the Premier League title race.
[ RECAP: Man City 2-1 Spurs ]
While Christian Eriksen‘s late winner was the game’s deciding goal, it was Harry Kane‘s opener from the penalty spot that has caused some controversy.
Tottenham’s Danny Rose whipped in a cross that was blocked away by a jumping Raheem Sterling in the 54th minute. Sterling had his back to the ball, but the cross took a deflection off his elbow and referee Mark Clattenburg signaled for a penalty.
Speaking after the match, City boss Manuel Pellegrini was extremely angered by the decision, saying City were the better side until the penalty changed the flow of the match. Pellegrini also thought back to Tottenham’s win over Man City in September when the same official was in charge when Spurs scored two goals that looked to be offside.
It was a penalty that referee Mark Clattenburg wanted to sign for and he gave the sign. It was absolutely the wrong decision, it hit the back of Raheem Sterling then his elbow. Sterling was not even seeing the ball. It was the same referee in the first game where there were two clear goals in offside and we lost 4-1.
It was the key moment that decided the game; before that they did not shoot towards our goal and did not have any chances. We took the risks, the spirit of the team was good but it was not enough.
The rules regarding a hand-ball have been the topic of much conversation this season, as there seems to be a gray area where officials are forced to make judgement calls, with this decision very harsh.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Tottenham’s win over Man City ]
Now six points behind leaders Leicester, Manchester City will take a break from Premier League action and play a string of important cup ties. First up is a fifth-round FA Cup match against Chelsea before a long trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, followed by the League Cup final against Liverpool.