Laudrup

Swansea City sack manager Michael Laudrup, current player Garry Monk takes charge

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On Tuesday Swansea City announced they had sacked manager Michael Laudrup.

Laudrup, 49, has been in charge for less than two full seasons at the Liberty Stadium, as he led the Welsh club to a ninth placed finish during the 2012-13 season and won the club its first-ever piece of major silverware by lifting the Capital One Cup in his debut season.

But after a faltering second season in charge of the Swans, Laudrup leaves South Wales with his former team just two points off the relegation zone and out of form after just one win in their last 10 Premier league matches.

“It is a decision we have taken reluctantly,’’ Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins said on the clubs website. “But it’s a decision made in the best interests of Swansea City Football Club and our supporters. It is the first time in nearly 10 years that the club has parted with a manager in this way, but we had to remove the constant uncertainty surrounding the club and Michael’s long-term future with us.”

SWANSEA CITY vs. CARDIFF CITY, WATCH LIVE ON NBC, SATURDAY, 12:30pm ET

Rumors have persisted in recent days that Laudrup was on borrowed time at Swansea, with the Danish manager winning just 34.5 percent of his his 89 games in charge of the Swans since he took over in June 2012. However after delivering Europa League soccer, and Swansea are still in the knockout stages of the competition, his small squad struggled to cope with competing in European competitions during midweek as well as succeeding in the PL every single weekend.

Following the shock statement from the club, current player Garry Monk has been installed as the new head coach for ‘the foreseeable future’ alongside Laudrup’s assistant Alan Curtis, as the veteran Swansea City defender gets his first crack at management without any previous experience. Monk, 34, has played in all four divisions of the English leagues for the Swans after he moved to the Liberty Stadium back in 2004.

Monk is seen as a local hero by the fans, but he now has a mammoth task on his hands if he’s going to keep the Welsh side in the Premier League. First up for Monk is a massive clash, watch live on NBC this Saturday at 12:30pm ET, as Swansea host South Wales rivals Cardiff City in a relegation six-pointer at the Liberty Stadium.

Giving more details on the decision to sack Laudrup, Swansea felt it was the right time to freshen things up ahead of a monster relegation battle between now and May.

“I had a meeting with Michael today in a final attempt to support him and establish a way to improve the work of the backroom team to secure the results we need over the final 14 Premier League games,” Swansea Chairman Jenkins continued. “However, after thinking long and hard about the best way forward, I felt it was unlikely we would achieve a stable environment at the club to allow us to get back to basics and produce the performance levels that have served Swansea City so well over the last few years.”

Following the decision to axe Laudrup, a former Danish international who is still regarded as one of the most skillful players to ever play for European giants such as Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona, it does seem like a strange move to replace him with Monk who is still technically on the playing squad.

However Swansea’s approach has always been to promote from within the club, Monk is familiar with the setup after being with the team for 10 years, and will aim to use the resources already at the club to help steer the Swans to safety. Not many people saw this one coming, but no doubt Laudrup will be in another top job very soon in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe.

Right now, his old club face a huge battle to stay in England’s top-flight.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

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On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”