A meager title defense, an early Champions League crash and Saturday’s FA Cup waste was too much for City’s Abu Dhabi owners.
Mancini had lately been hurt that club officials more or less refused to knock down the stories of his imminent dismissal – which began circulating in force the morning of Saturday’s FA Cup final. If there was already so much “smoke,” so to speak, the “fire” was definitely going to arrive once Wigan somehow pulled off the Wembley smash and grab on Saturday, leaving City officials with no titles for the year, and with little apparent doubt that Mancini was no longer the right man for the job.
Sure enough, the ax swung late Monday.
The statement from club management was quite to the point, emphasizing that the Italian manager “had failed to achieve any of the club’s targets, with the exception of qualification for next season’s Champions League.”
Well, there was that English Premier League title a year back, City’s only crown in England’s top tier for the last 44 years. Oh, and that FA Cup in 2011. But, details, details.
City’s championship defense in 2012-13 did sometimes look like weak sauce of the meek, pretty much kaput by February. Meanwhile, crosstown rival United attacked the task of reclaiming EPL glory with the fierce determination of wounded animals. Then again, Mancini’s men will finish second or perhaps third in the world’s most ballyhooed league; it’s not like they were stuffed back in coach class with Southampton and Sunderland and the like.
Mancini certainly brought some of this on himself. Given the wealth of talent and a year for settling into the Champions League groove (the 2011-12 campaign), finishing dead last in the group stage of the world’s most prestigious club tournament was surely quite an embarrassment for Sheikh Mansour, whose oil money seemed in almost limitless supply.
Or it did to some of us. Not so much to Mancini, who damaged his standing with ownership by publicly and repeatedly suggesting that he was somehow fighting with the shorter stick – a truly absurd and perhaps even entitled suggestion. There are 17 or 18 EPL clubs that would do anything to have City’s collection of talent, top to bottom on the roster.
Nor did Mancini assist his cause with his media interactions, which ranged from cumbersome (often due to his English language limitations) to downright bizarre.
In the end, City fans, players around the Etihad and members of the chattering class may judge this as “unfair,” and the cold calculation of his dismissal may not bathe the oil-moneyed owners in most flattering light. But backlash will be minimal, if there is any at all, because Mancini hardly comes across as a sympathetic character.
The speculation has centered on Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini as Mancini’s replacement at the City of Manchester Stadium.
Check back for more on this at ProSoccerTalk.
Pique: For first time in career, Barca star feels “inferior to Madrid”
And for the first time in his life, he thinks Barca is a step behind its El Clasico enemies. From The Telegraph:
“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” Piqué said. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”
Barcelona looked very poor in the second leg of the Super Cup, though the club did hammer the woodwork on multiple occasions. Real is the best team in the world, which makes being its rival a real hassle.
In fact, both clubs have been 1-2 in the world for some time, which has to make it extra perplexing when you’re No. 2 to only the club you despise more than any other.
“Naturally, nobody is happy about not playing international this year,” center back Benedikt Howedes told ProSoccerTalk. “During the week we currently have more time to focus on the next opponent. We will battle the European positions with many teams this season. I think, the race is up in the air. The Bundesliga is very balanced.”
Schalke’s tumulutous 2016-17 season started poorly and never really found its footing. The club lost its first five league matches under Markus Weinzierl, who was fired in June, and saw marquee transfers Naldo, Breel Embolo, and Coke miss a lot of time through injuries.
In the case of Nastasic, who won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2013-14, his 24 years carry a lot of experience. He’s thrived at Fiorentina, become a staple of the Serbian national team, and rebounding from his injury-hit time at City and is a leader at Schalke.
And those young guys can learn from Nastasic, who’s seen it all at 24.
“When I just arrived in Italy I was only 18 and it was the first year out of my country,” Nastasic told PST. “I didn’t expect at the beginning that I would play that much. Then I changed to England, and it was totally different. Italy is more tactical. Football in England is physical with a lot of tempo and running. I was young also without so much experience but when I was fit I think I played good.”
Schalke will need its young attack to find more goals. Its defense was Top Five in goals conceded last season, but its 45 goals was mid-table.
“Everyone knows that last season was not as good as we had expected,” Howedes said. “With our new coach, we want to improve our game and make our fans happy again. We are training hard and I am sure, that we will be more constant and improve our performances this season.”
“From the team I expect a much better season than last year,” Nastasic adds. “We are not playing international games so maybe that’s an advantage for us. We can concentrate on the Bundesliga.”
Both Nastasic and Howedes heaped praise on McKennie, as well as American teammate Haji Wright, who will spend the season on loan to Sandhausen, and the game overseas in general.
“Haji Wright started spectacular,” Howedes said. “For young players the most important thing is to play. On loan in Sandhausen the chance is greater than here. I rejoice for him he get this opportunity. The step in the 2.Bundesliga can be a good beginning of his career.
“The American soccer is really developing the last years. It is no coincidence that a lot of great players like Kaka and Gerrard joined Major League Soccer. And who knows, I also can imagine to play there some day in the future.”
Different champs (but probably not different champs): Bayern Munich will neither have Xabi Alonso nor Philipp Lahm this season, but that doesn’t mean they are runaway favorites to claim its 27th title and sixth-straight since Borussia Dortmund’s two-year reign ended with the 2011-12 crown. Carlo Ancelotti has reloaded with James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, and will be favored to hold off BVB for the crown.
Here’s to the new Bosz: USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic is already making an impact in the mind of his new coach, Peter Bosz, and the manager will be pleased to note that reports say Pulisic has no interest in looking into his future until after the 2018 World Cup.
Sleepers? Eintracht Frankfurt dropped into 11th last season, and may benefit from not finishing in a European place. The club has added Mexican national teamer Carlos Saucedo, Dutch star Jetro Willems, and well-traveled Jonathan De Guzman for its new season.
Americans Abroad: John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Julian Green (Stuttgart)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen *expected to be sold)
Caleb Stanko (Freiburg)
Old faces, new places: Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich)
Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund, from ‘Gladbach)
Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, from Ingolstadt)
Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen, from BVB)
Marcel Heller (Augsburg, from Darmstadt)
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Hamburg, from Bayer)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg, from Hertha)
Paul Verhaegh (Wolfsburg, from Augsburg)
Holger Badstuber (Stuttgart, from Bayern)
New faces, new places: James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)
Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC) Reece Oxford (Gladbach, on loan from West Ham)
Jonathan de Guzman (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt) Viktor Fischer (Mainz)
Opening weekend Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Hamburg vs. Augsburg — Saturday
Hertha Berlin vs. Stuttgart — Saturday
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Mainz vs. Hannover 96 — Saturday
Schalke vs. RB Leipzig — Saturday
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Koln — Sunday
FC Barcelona wants to express its profound sorrow and utter disgust at the terrorist attack that has hit the heart of our city, la Rambla de Barcelona. The Club wishes to send our support and thoughts to the victims, their families and friends as well as the people of Barcelona and its visitors.
As a mark of respect, the flags will fly at half-mast at the Club’s facilities and the players from both teams will wear black armbands in all the Club’s matches this weekend.
On Sunday, before the 2017/18 La Liga opener against Betis, the Camp Nou will hold a minutes silence in recognition and memory of the victims.
MILAN (AP) Juventus’ six-year Serie A domination could end this year.
AC Milan has reinforced its squad, Inter Milan has had some much-needed stability after four managerial changes last season, while Napoli looks set to mount an even stronger challenge this time around.
Lazio could also be surprise contenders after Simone Inzaghi’s side withstood a late comeback to beat Juventus 3-2 and win the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday.
However, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned the rest of Serie A that it will be a very different performance from his team in Saturday’s season opener at home to Cagliari.
“We cannot and must not play like that in the league,” he said. “This defeat brings us back to earth. Some of the players aren’t fully fit yet, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy … but starting on Saturday you’ll see a different Juve.”
Allegri also took encouragement from the last time Juventus played Lazio in the Super Cup, in 2015.
“We beat Lazio in Beijing for the Super Cup two years ago and then had a bad start to the Serie A season, so hopefully we’ll do it the other way round this time,” he said.
Juventus has dominated Italian soccer for nearly a decade, winning three successive league and cup doubles and it will be tricky for anyone to prevent the Bianconeri from extending their league record to seven straight Serie A titles.
Milan was the last team other than Juventus to win the title and, despite having last finished in the top three in 2013, it looks the likeliest to depose the Turin-based club.
The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash and splashed out more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason.
As well as signing Italy’s top defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, Milan also brought in forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).
Fourth place in Serie A now guarantees qualification to the Champions League and that will be the minimum requirement for Vincenzo Montella’s team. But, if the new team gels quickly, there is the feeling that Milan could make a strong challenge for the title.
Bonucci was playing down his new side’s chances.
“Juve remains favorite and Napoli has a great chance of fighting for the title,” Bonucci said in interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. “As we are now we’re still a step below both, but we shouldn’t put limits on ourselves. After those two, I see Milan, Inter and Roma as equal.”
Napoli has finished in the top three in four of the past five seasons but even a record number of points last campaign still left it third, five points behind Juventus.
However, talk of the `scudetto’ is no longer a taboo for Napoli, which hasn’t won the title since 1990.
But, while it didn’t make any big signings in the transfer window, its biggest success of the offseason has been in keeping its band of talented players together.
It sold Ezequiel Lavezzi in 2012 and Edinson Cavani the following year – both to Paris Saint-Germain – while Gonzalo Higuain moved to Juventus in 2016.
This year Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have signed new contracts, while Marek Hamsik is just three goals away from breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.
Mertens was reportedly pursued by a number of clubs – both in Italy and abroad – but the Belgium international, who scored more than 30 goals for Napoli last campaign, opted to extend his stay with the southern side.
“I stayed here because the team plays very beautiful football and doing that we can get a lot of joy,” said Mertens, who scored again as Napoli beat Nice 2-0 in the first leg of its Champions League playoff on Wednesday.
Napoli played arguably the best soccer in Italy last season and its attacking flair saw it score 94 goals, but it faltered against teams in the lower half of the table and coach Maurizio Sarri is hoping to have corrected that by the time it kicks of its Serie campaign at Hellas Verona on Saturday.