Mauricio Pochettino will stay on as manager of Southampton Football Club

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SOUTHAMPTON — In a packed press room at St. Mary’s Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino announced he will remain in charge of the Premier League club.

The Argentine boss, 41, was rumored to be heading out the door alongside Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese who left on Wednesday, after he’d previously stated he would leave if the mastermind behind Southampton’s recent success walked out.

However as the national press descended on Southampton to hear Pochettino’s decision, the exciting young manager made a massive U-turn as he decided to stay on at St. Mary’s.

“I am staying as Southampton Football Club manager,” Pochettino said. “I have a professional responsibility to everyone.”

Disaster has been averted at Southampton, for now, as the South Coast club can at least count on its manager being around for the foreseeable future. Pochettino took the opportunity to thank Cortese for getting him involved in the project at Saints and revealed his shock about the Chairman’s departure.

“First of all I want to show my complete gratitude to Nicola Cortese from me and my staff for bringing us to the club,” Pochettino said. “It has surprised me quite a bit, and like everybody I knew nothing about his departure. What’s quite clear is that I have a very good relationship with Nicola Cortese, he agrees with my decision to stay. He only asked me for one thing, that’s to win on Saturday.”

Cortese left on Wednesday, after transforming Saints’ fortunes from League One basement boys in 2009 to excelling in the top ten of the Premier League. Owner Katharina Liebherr has now stepped in as non-Executive Chairwoman in Cortese’s absence and Southampton have begun their search for a Chief Executive Officer to replace Cortese.

Pochettino spoke briefly with owner Liebherr after she took over the everyday running of the club, but Pochettino revealed he has no idea whether she intends to sell the club.

“No, we just spoke briefly,” Pochettino said. “She wanted to see me and say hi and show me her full support. She transmitted her full trust and support to me and my staff and people working at this club.”

But what about Pochettino’s U-turn after stating last May he would leave Southampton if Cortese walked? As now he has decided to stay without the man who appointed him.

“The situation right now is completely different,” Pochettino said. “We are in the middle of our project at Southampton Football Club. Nicola knows of my decision to stay. It shows I am fully committed.”

(MORE: Nicola Cortese resigns as Southampton Chairman, manager Mauricio Pochettino could follow)

Cortese — an Italian banker who aided German billionaire Markus Liebherr with the acquisition of the club back in 2009 for $20 million when they were on the brink of extinction and bottom of English soccer’s third-tier — has walked away from the project which has seen him turn Saints into a top 10 PL club after they were down and out. The club is now worth an estimated $180 million after a dramatic rise.

ProSoccerTalk can reveal that Liebherr’s daughter Katharina, who assumed control of the club when her father died in 2010, will not move to England and will remain in Switzerland. She is currently in the United Kingdom heading up the search for a successor to Cortese, after yesterday revealing she was desperate for the Swiss-Italian maestro to stay.

“With great regret we have accepted the resignation of Mr Cortese,” Liebherr said. “He has done a wonderful job at the club and we very much wanted him to stay. A search has now begun for a successor. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we will ensure that the manager, the team and all the staff at the club have all the help and support they need.”

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Cortese’s departure has created a huge level of instability at Southampton.

Branded a controversial and brutal figure by many, Cortese, 45,  has led Southampton’s charge up the English soccer pyramid following the sudden death of Markus Liebherr. Following that setback, Cortese has ruthlessly transformed Southampton into one of English soccer’s great success stories of recent times after back-to-back promotions from League One saw them return to the top-flight in 2012-13 and establish themselves as a forward-thinking club this term.

After sacking Nigel Adkins and Alan Pardew ruthlessly in the past, Cortese always did what was right for the club, and his appointment of Pochettino obviously follows that trend. Pochettino celebrates a year in charge at Southampton this Saturday, January 18, and after making his name as a promising young coach at Espanyol in La Liga he’s turned Saints into a promising outfit which relies on a much-admired high-pressing style with a plethora of teenagers already present in the starting XI.

With Pochettino staying on board, rumors of a quick-fire sale and Southampton being stripped of all its assets are unfounded, for now. The Saints are currently enjoying their best spell in decades, with the team pushing for only their second top ten finish in PL history after their best-ever start to a top-flight season to begin the 2013-14 campaign.

But the futures of several first-team stars is apparently up in the air, 18-year-old Luke Shaw is attracting the interest of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, while England internationals Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana could all leave in the January transfer window.

For now, the storm has passed at St. Mary’s.

But with rumors swirling about the club being sold and the search for a new inspirational leader to take the exceptional progress Cortese made to the next level, turbulent times could still be ahead for the Saints.

FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.

Europa League preview: Arsenal in Serbia, Everton desperate vs. Lyon

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The twelve groups of the UEFA Europa League bring forth soccer on Thursday, with a bevy of matches dotting the continent.

[ MORE: Full Europa schedule ]

Here are the top five matches to keep an eye on.

Everton vs. Lyon — 3:05 p.m. ET

If you would’ve told Ronald Koeman his Toffees would walk into this match with just one point but sit only another behind Lyon, he’d probably tell you to take a hike. But Lyon drew 1-1 at Apollon Limassol and 1-1 at home to Atalanta, opening the door for Everton to finish the day in Group E’s top two slots.

Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid loanee Mariano Diaz have seven goals each for Lyon, while ex-Premier Leaguers Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are also key components of the French outfit’s attack.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET

Arsenal in Europa has been pretty thrilling, with 3-1 and 4-2 wins under Arsene Wenger‘s belt ahead of the first of two with the 1991 European Cup winners. It’s a nice challenge for Canadian national team backstop Milan Borjan, who should be the man to try to thwart the Gunners in Serbia.

Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir — 3:05 p.m. ET

The favorites to win the group are dead last in the group as they welcome the perceived group underdogs from Turkey. The Super Lig runners-up have some familiar names on the roster with Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Inler, Aurelien Chedjou, and Emre Belozoglu.

AC Milan vs. AEK Athens — 3:05 p.m. ET

Milan has been burying goals in Europa play, with five at Austria Wien and three in a home win over Rijeka. Enter Athens, which has scooped up four points in group play and will look for a win to put them ahead of the group-leading Rossoneri.

Nice vs. Lazio — 1 p.m. ET

The only group with a pair of 2-0 teams. Mario Balotelli is plenty familiar with his Roman opposition from his time in Serie A.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde