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Official: Jozy Altidore signs for EPL side Sunderland in $13 million deal

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US national team forward Jozy Altidore is back in the English Premier League.

The 23-year-old striker signed with Sunderland on a four-year deal on Tuesday afternoon, as the Black Cats reportedly paid $13 million to add the prolific striker from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.

If the reported fee is true Altidore has broken his own record for the most money ever spent on a US international, with the old record the $10 million Villarreal paid for him back in 2008.

A move back to the EPL has seemed on the cards for quite some time now, as Altidore smashed home 38 goals in 67 appearances for AZ since 2011. His red-hot form for the US in recent World Cup qualifiers will have helped his case as Altidore has now amassed 17 goals in 60 games for the national team, including four in his last four games.

(MORE: Looking at the city, and how Altidore’s move is all about soccer)

So the big question everyone is asking is can Altidore prosper this time around in England’s top-flight?

He is much better equipped to do so, certainly, but it won’t be any easier than his loan spell with Hull City back in 2009. At that time Altidore was just 19 and was shipped out on loan by Spanish side Villarreal after failing to impress with the Yellow Submarine. It was a tough learning curve for a teenager from Livingston, New Jersey after less than a year away from his home in the US.

Needless to say this opportunity at Sunderland is much different than the one presented to him at Hull. Paolo Di Canio has admired Altidore’s qualities and will strive to get the best out of his endless potential.

(MORE: Where Jozy Altidore’s transfer will rank among major moves for US internationals)

Altidore’s coach at AZ, Gertjan Verbeek, is a hard man to please and Altidore believes he needs a coach that will push him to his maximum… he will certainly get that from Di Canio.

The Italian boss has promised a huge shake up at Sunderland, after he took over towards the end of the 2012-13 season and guided them away from relegation. But Di Canio has acted quickly to rejuvenate the squad, as Altidore is his sixth, and most expensive, addition during the summer transfer window. The New York Red Bulls product will join up with Di Canio and his new team mates at their training camp in Italy later today.

AZ couldn’t stand in Altidore’s way, the opportunity to play in the EPL and be a leading figure for an up and coming side was too big to turn down. Altidore will likely partner Scottish international Steven Fletcher up top, as he aims to hit the ground running back in the EPL after a busy summer with the US national team.

So when NBC’s English Premier League coverage begins in August, US national team fans will now have one more player to look out for in the red and white stripes of Sunderland.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.