Queens Park Rangers v Wigan Athletic - Premier League

Five worst EPL signings this season

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Okay, so this is one those end of season awards that, as a player, you do not want to receive.

With so much money spent last summer, plenty of Premier League sides splashed the cash with varying degrees of success.

Manchester United spent almost $40 million on Robin van Persie and that paid off, big time. But other clubs took similar gambles and well, Sir Alex Ferguson ended up looking like a genius, once again.

So with the 2012-13 season in the books, shall we take a look at which players underperformed, weren’t worth the hype and proved to be pretty bad buys for their sides? Oh, go on then. Here are five of… well, not the best.

Christopher Samba (Queens Park Rangers)

Arriving to aid Queens Park Rangers survival bid, Samba hampered it. The towering Congolese center back was brought in for $19 million from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala on wages in excess of $145,000 a week. Needless to say those figures look pretty stupid now. In the past Samba held Blackburn’s porous defense together but after moving to Russia for bucket loads of cash, he admittedly felt the differences in fitness levels when returning to the EPL. Two costly mistakes against Fulham and Twitter rants with fans further cemented his status as one of the worst buys of the season.

Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)

Perhaps a little harsh on the Belgian, but after his $23 million transfer from Fulham, Spurs fans would have expected a lot more from him. Dembele has been hampered by injuries but when he was in the team he flattered to deceive, just two goals in 40 games tells the story. Usually his passing is efficient and sharp but it was so sloppy and wasteful. He will need to step things up big time to get back into Spurs staring lineup in midfield.

Marko Marin (Chelsea)

Well, not really sure why Chelsea bought Marin. But then again, we can say that about plenty of their signings. Yes the 24-year-old German winger arrived for a pretty small fee for someone once described as “the German Messi” however just 10 appearances and one goal to show for his efforts this season, suggests his future lies elsewhere. The likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Victor Moses have jumped ahead of Marin. Can the tricky winger get back into the Chelsea side under a new manager?

Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)

Perhaps one of the reasons why Roberto Mancini ended up losing his job, as the front office staff were rumored as trying to bring more homegrown English players into the squad without the Italian managers permission. Their was pressure on Mancini to sign such players, and so City signed Rodwell from Everton for a fee that could rise to $23 million. He scored two goals on the final day of the season against Norwich, his first for the club, after being injured from October to January. However the England international did little to suggest he will threaten the City regulars for their starting spots.

Danny Graham (Sunderland)

Switched Swansea for Sunderland during the January transfer window for $8 million. And not a lot has happened since. Well, apart from being berated by pretty much every Sunderland supporter at the Stadium of Light. Yes, he hasn’t become a bad player overnight. However Graham’s confidence levels are at an all-time low. The striker is from Newcastle (which immediately didn’t win him many friends with the Sunderland fans) and decided a move back to the North-East would be a good idea. Not so much. 11 EPL appearances and zero goals later, Sunderland could be hoping to offload Graham this summer.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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