Does the name Zat Knight excite you, Union fans? Because the Bolton veteran has been linked with PPL Park

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Zat Knight has spent most of his career in England’s first division, though over the last year-and-a-half, the 33-year-old central defender has been in the second tier with the Bolton Wanderers. During 11 years in the Premier League with Fulham, Aston Villa, and the Trotters, the two-time England international (back in 2005) was a decent if slightly exploitable defender, a level of performance that’s persisted through his 19 appearances in this years’ Championship. He’s a thoroughly decent if aging player, somebody who’d probably be out-of-place in the Premier League at this point in his career.

Given where a still young Philadelphia core is in its success cycle, does that profile excite you, Union fans? For some, it might. An English pedigree still goes a long way, especially when you consider what 277 games of Premier League experience could do to bring alone Amobi Okugo.

The younger player growing into his position gets some veteran guidance. The older player in the sunset of his career adds depth to a team in need of a few more defenders. Superficially, it seems like a cozy fit, part of the reason we can’t total discard the latest rumors.

But this all assumes Knight can actually fill that bill. Set to turn 34 in May, Knight is at the precarious age where the end could be closer than it appears. Alessandro Nesta, Arne Friedrich, Mikael Silvestre, Matteo Ferrari were all European defenders who jumped to MLS in their 30s. All of them have had injury problems. None of them had a major impact. (Steven Caldwell is one recent recruit who has managed to stay on the field.)

A player whose size has been an asset throughout his career, Knight profiles as somebody who could have trouble. A 6’6″, he will be one of the biggest players in the league, but Major League Soccer players will have no problem with his physicality. Instead, in a league where fit, hard-working, physical forwards are the rule, Knight will be faced with some of the same challenges he dealt with in the Championship. Only instead of dealing with those challenges in the context of a club and culture he knows, he’ll be with a new team and in a totally different country.

If Philadelphia can get a Knight-like player on the cheap — say, low $100,000 range — the risk is low. But for a team with a young core that should see itself as still building a contender, Knight is a strange fit. Rather than investing in a player that will be around when the team’s closer to the top of the conference, the Union will be cutting checks to a player entering the last years of his career.

And again, Knight isn’t an Alessandro Nesta. He’s never been a world-beater. At times, he was fine (even good) in the Premier League, and since moving with his team to the Championship, he’s been mostly fine for Bolton. But that’s it. Though something could change once he arrives in Philly, Knight’s last nine years in England say he’s won’t be a major difference-maker for the Union.

According to the league’s official website (linked, above), Knight’s arrival at PPL Park may be more possibility than probability. The team’s still talking to other options, according to head coach John Hackworth. The team may need another center back, but Zat Knight isn’t necessarily him.

That’s good news for Union fans. Knight could come in cheap, but a worthwhile risk, and render all these caveats meaningless. He could also be a 33-year-old  who, near the end of his career, will have trouble making a significant impact in Major League Soccer.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.