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The frustrations of Roberto Martinez

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Before the start of last season, Roberto Martinez refused to leave Wigan, claiming loyalty to the club and Dave Whelan. But after Wigan were relegated last May, Martinez decided his loyalties weren’t so strong as to keep him coaching in the Championship, and accepted David Moyes’ recently vacated post at Everton.

In theory, it should’ve been a great fit for the Spaniard. Martinez did well to keep Wigan in the Premier League for the four seasons he was at the helm. He was able to get the best out of difficult and overlooked players. Best of all, Martinez already knows how to deal with a club that doesn’t have much money to spend.

But — and this is just a hunch, based on his pained expressions visible on the sidelines during Everton’s goalless draw with West Brom on Saturday — Martinez already seems frustrated by his new club. The manager has managed to bring in a few players, including Arouna Kone, Antonin Alcaraz, and Joel Robles, all signed from Wigan. Everton also signed young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona.

Yet none of the new signings started against West Brom, and only Kone made an appearance. In fact, apart from Ross Barkley, who was on loan at Leeds last season, the lineup was exactly Moyes’ ideal setup from last season. While Martinez has inherited a strong crop of players, his style of management means that he leans toward a certain type, a set of players upon whom he can place his mark. These Toffees appear to have not yet succumbed to his stretching and his molding.

Or, again, this could be reading into things a bit too much. After all, Martinez has insisted that he doesn’t want to sell Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, despite Moyes’ desire to bring them to Manchester United. Of course, it’s not only the manager that influences sales, and it could just be that Everton are holding out for more money. But on the surface, Martinez’s words don’t sound as though the manager is ready to scrap the squad and start again with his own selections.

The match against the Baggies was undoubtedly both a headache and a headscratcher for Martinez, but it’s not necessarily a sign that the new man in charge is being set up to fail. The visitors spent the majority of the match determined to prevent Everton from getting the ball in the back of the net, and succeeded admirably at this task. Where the defense failed, Ben Foster was there to mop up the damage. When Foster went down injured, the post stood by to help Luke Daniels deny Fellaini.

Will Martinez spend the next week testing out different formations and player combinations before facing Cardiff next week? Of course. But he, and his club, won’t spend it desperately trying to seek out players who will magically insert themselves seamlessly into the Everton lineup. The manager may be frustrated, but he is not, and should not be, desperate.

 

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

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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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.