Leaders in Sport

Liverpool’s Ian Ayre says club’s transfer policy has improved after “leap of faith”

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Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, claims that Fenway Sports Group (FSG) took a “leap of faith” in its first year of ownership but that since then the club’s transfer policy has improved for the better.

Ayre explained that when FSG took over in October 2010 they spent a year educating the owners of the Boston Red Sox on the English game. “[We] talked about the knowledge of soccer and that takes time so we probably spent a year with the owners taking a leap of faith to a certain degree of other people telling them what they should be doing,” Ayre said. “Within that year we then get to a situation where the dust has settled and people start to see what is and isn’t working.”

One acquisition that wasn’t working was bringing Andy Carroll into the club from Newcastle for $53.5m (£35m). The Geordie arrived alongside a much more saavy purchase, obtaining Luis Suarez from Ajax for $34.8m (£22.7m). While the cost of Carroll has proven to be a thorn in Liverpool’s side, the striker was obtained through the $76.4 (£50m) transfer fee handed over by Chelsea to acquire Fernando Torres.

Ayre hinted that this loose spending was the result of acting without performing the proper due diligence, which was surprising given FSG’s ‘Moneyball’ roots. “I think the fundamental shift particularly around player acquisitions and disposals was that we took the view that it needs to be more of a science. . . . Your biggest expenditure line can’t be the whim of any individual.”

The following summer FSG adjusted by not doling out such high fees on one particular player, but instead opted to spend $91.7m (£60m) on acquiring Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Sebastian Coates.

There are few who will celebrate these purchases. While Downing and Henderson continue to show promise, neither has delivered on his $30.6m (£20m) price tag. Each have given more than Adam, who flopped so quickly it earned him a transfer to Stoke City. Enrique was fantastic in his first season but has since sputtered out leading to rumors of his potential transfer this summer. And Coates, like Downing and Henderson, is another player the Reds are hoping will speed up in his development.

Ayre insists that Liverpool’s transfer decisions are made by a blend of traditional and modern methods. “It’s a combination of old-school scouting and watching players – and that’s Brendan, his assistants, our scouts – with statistical analysis of players across Europe and the rest of the world. . . . By bringing those two processes together you get a much more educated view of who you should and shouldn’t be buying and, perhaps as fundamentally, how much you should be paying and the structure to those contracts.”

The last two transfer windows have seen the Reds acting with greater prudence but achieving mixed results. Last summer Brendan Rodgers brought in Joe Allen for $23m (£15m), Fabio Borini for $16.8m (£11m) and Oussama Assaidi $3.5m (£2.3m), neither of whom have delighted the Kop. This past January, however, the Reds seem to have gotten it right purchasing Daniel Sturridge for $18.3 (£12m) and Philipe Coutinho $13 (£8.5m), easily two of the club’s better buys.

Despite the transfer market struggles, Ayre insists that Liverpool now have the methodology right and the club is “getting better all the time.” For Liverpool fans yearning for the Top 4 finishes of 2005-09, they hope Ayre speaks the truth.

Spain’s Lopetegui open to recalling all-time scorer David Villa

David Villa, New York City FC
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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For all the glossing of Major League Soccer as a retirement league for European stars, David Villa’s performance in MLS may’ve rebirthed his international career.

Villa, 34, has 97 caps and 59 goals for Spain but has not played for La Furia Roja since scoring against Australia in his only appearance of World Cup 2014.

[ MLS: Conference semis schedule set ]

He retired after the tournament, but that doesn’t mean new coach Julen Lopetegui won’t be trying to call him back into the fold.

From The Daily Mail:

“The truth is that I saw him very well and playing with a lot of intensity,” Lopetegui told Onda Cero.

“Villa continues to play at a very good level and in the future we will see if he can return. We don’t close the door to any player and we always have consideration for players that can help the national team.”

He’s Spain’s all-time leading scorer by a 15-goal margin, and Villa’s prolific rate .6 goals per national team game is second only to Alfredo di Stefano amongst the nation’s Top Ten scorers.

Would he be interested? We like to think so, and Villa has been dominant for NYCFC in a potential MVP season. NYCFC faces Toronto FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 10

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Week 10 of the Premier League is here as we are a quarter of the way into the season. It’s still ridiculously tight across the league.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEOS: Preview all 10 games ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Man United 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]


West Brom 1-2 Man City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Everton 2-2 West Ham – (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Stoke City 2-1 Swansea City – (Monday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 3-2 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]


Middlesbrough 1-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 12 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]


Man City’s Guardiola says he needs “time to learn, to improve”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Manchester City manger Pep Guardiola reacts on the side line during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and Manchester City FC at Celtic Park on September 28, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola hasn’t been humbled by Manchester City’s tough run, mostly because he’s kept his expectations grounded.

The celebrated manager, 45, has overseen three losses and three draws since his red-hot start to life in the Premier League.

[ MLS: Conference semis schedule set ]

Those matches have come against strong competition, not a lower table team in the bunch. Losses to Barcelona, Manchester United, and Spurs join draws against Southampton, Everton, and Celtic.

Not a lot of shame in that. And Guardiola knows it’s a process, albeit one his players may not understand right now.

“For the players, they don’t deserve this,” says the City boss. “We are in this period like it is but it will make us stronger in the future, I am sure about that.

“There are many things that have changed. I need time to learn, to improve. I’m still in that process.”

Up next: West Brom and newly-extended manager Tony Pulis, followed by a return leg with Barcelona.

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule – Week 10

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Week 10 of the 2016-17 Premier League season as the games continue to come thick and fast. And remember, the clocks go back in England on Sunday morning so there are a few tweaks to kick off times.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

It all kicks off with Sunderland hosting Arsenal (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) at the Stadium of Light as David Moyes‘ side look to grab their first win of the season. Meanwhile Arsenal is seven games unbeaten and Arsene Wenger‘s sit joint-top after six wins in the last season.

Then Manchester United host Bunrley (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Jose Mourinho aiming to get back to winning ways after a heavy defeat at Chelsea last time out. Burnley is yet to pick up any points on the road in the PL this season. At the same time Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City clash at White Hart Lane  (10 a.m. ET live CNBC and online via NBC Sports.com) as two title contenders from last season collide. Should be an epic encounter.

[ VIDEOS: Preview all 10 games

Rounding things off on Saturday, Crystal Palace welcome Liverpool to Selhurst Park (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with Christian Benteke aiming to show his former club exactly what they’re missing.

On Sunday Everton host West Ham United at Goodison Park (9:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Ronald Koeman‘s Everton looking to bounce back from three games without a win in the PL against a West Ham side who is now four unbeaten and buoyed by two-straight PL wins. Later on Sunday there’s an intriguing clash at St Mary’s as in-form Southampton and Chelsea collide (12 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com). Will Conte or Puel prevail?

Next Monday Stoke City host Swansea City at the bet 365 Stadium (4 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Swans boss Bob Bradley still waiting for his first win as a Premier League manager. Stoke has won two on the spin and are four games unbeaten, so it will be a tough ask for Swansea.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.



7:30 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham vs. Leicester City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Middlesbrough vs. Bournemouth  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Hull City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Manchester City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool – NBC [STREAM]


9:30 a.m. ET: Everton vs. West Ham United – NBCSN [STREAM]
12 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Chelsea – NBC [STREAM]


4 p.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Swansea City – NBCSN [STREAM]