Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his "transition period" seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.)

Roberto Martínez hints at $45 million transfer purse, plan to upgrade training ground

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One of the major concerns surrounding Everton’s success has been the Toffees’ dependence on loaned talent; specifically, striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Gareth Barry. Yet if Roberto Martínez has even part of the transfer budget he hints at in reporting by The Guardian, finances may not be an issue in retaining those players. If Chelsea is unwilling to sell Lukaku to Everton, a potential $45 million budget means the Toffees will still be able to address their problems.

Speaking about his plans for this summer, Martínez revealed most of the money from the sales of Victor Anichebe, Marouane Fellaini, and Nikica Jelavic is still unspent, with the Everton boss avoiding the January transfer window with the goal of addressing his needs this summer. Those needs include improving the team’s Finch Farm training complex, where Martínez would like to add overnight facilities and a new field.

As relayed by The Guardian, Martínez already has precise plans for his transfer budget and the television money his team’s set to receive, with the first-year boss waiting for the result of his team’s Champions League pursuit before setting his heart on specific targets:

“We’ve got money to spend this summer,” the Everton manager said. “Remember we sold £40m worth of players and we only spent £13m [initially]. That money is there to be spent. The new TV money won’t make a massive difference on the playing side because we’ve got a lot of things we want to do on the training ground. We want to build accommodation here, have bedrooms on site, put a new pitch in and give the training ground a big lift. I’m going to use the money for that.”

While the amount he has to spend will grab most’s attention, his views on the need for an improved training ground were the most fascinating part of his comments. Alluding to the now famous 10,000-hour rule, Martínez outlines the importance of keeping players onsite, explaining that getting players enough training time is “impossible” if they can’t sleep at the facility:

“The 10,000 hours rule [the supposed time required to become expert in any field] is impossible but if you can get a player doing double of what they do the benefits are incredible. Even before games you have to go to a hotel. You don’t create that environment of feeling at home. It is now a must to have bedrooms. Every first-team player should have a bedroom.”

It all makes perfect sense, but you just don’t hear managers at similar clubs speaking like this. Martínez has a clear and (as The Guardian described) meticulous vision of what he wants to do three months from now. He knows how much he wants to invest in the squad, how much should be devoted to the future, and (apparently) how a potential qualification for Champions League will affect both. He knows exact who he wants to bring in, how to prioritize their captures, and how much money he can spend on them. And, by collecting that money over the last nine months (and not blowing any of it in January), he’s illustrating how his current views are the product of careful planning that probably started the day he accepted the job.

That he’s had success on the field help him focus on the future, but you can’t separate that from the overall package. That Martínez is challenging for Champions League is probably a function of the same mindset that’s prioritizing the training ground. It’s all part of a vision of the game that sees style, results, development, and sustainability as related – a complete philosophy that’s led to his name to be connected with a potential opening at Barcelona.

That’s most likely tabloid nonsense. In reality, the doubts that Martínez accumulated through multiple relegation scraps at Wigan have completely dissipated. The FA Cup he won with the Latics looks like the first accomplishment in a long, prolific career instead of some consolidation prize Wigan earned on its way to the second division. Particularly after Owen Coyle struggled (and was eventually let go) in Martínez’s wake, the manager’s value became more obvious. There are reasons why Dave Whelan was remiss to see him go.

Everton fans will hope they don’t have to say goodbye so soon. Though the Blues may not finish much better than they did in their last season under David Moyes, the club has taken huge steps forward. Both in their style on the field and their plans foff, Everton is making meaningful strides forward, closing the gap many thought would be impossible to diminish while the club occupies Goodison Park.

Europa League qualifying roundup: West Ham falls in Slovenia

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 08:  The UEFA Europa League trophy is displayed during the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League Play-off round draw at the UEFA headquarters, The House of European Football on August 8, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In what is often described as more of a distraction than anything for English teams, the Europa League third qualification round is under way, and a Premier League club is in danger of crashing out of the competition prior to the group stage for the third straight season.

West Ham fell 2-1 at NK Domzale, the third-placed finishers in the Slovenian league last season. Mark Noble grabbed an 18th-minute penalty, the only takeaway from an otherwise depressing road result. On the other side, 24-year-old Matic Crnic scored twice to put Domzale through.

Last season, the Hammers also dropped out of the competition in the third qualification round, to Romanian club Astra Giurgiu, although they had wins in the first and second rounds after entering the competition via fair play. In addition, Southampton also crashed out of last year’s Europa League in the playoff round to Danish side FC Mitdjylland. Hull City dropped out of the tournament two seasons ago in the playoff round.

West Ham has the opportunity to turn things around at home in a week as they host Domzale at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, August 4 in what will be West Ham’s first competitive in their new home.

Other notable scores from Europa League qualification include:

  • Lille 1-1 Gabala FC
  • Panathinaikos 1-0 AIK
  • Genk 1-0 Cork
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-3 Maccabi Tel Aviv
  • Videoton 0-1 Midtjylland
  • Hertha BSC 1-0 Bronby
  • AZ Alkmaar 1-0 Giannina

Napoli chief calls Gonzalo Higuain a “traitor,” striker hits back

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain shows the Juventus' jersey as he arrives in the team headquarters in Turin, Italy, Wednesday July 27, 2016. Italian champion Juventus said Tuesday it has signed  Higuain from Serie A rival Napoli for 90 million euros ($99 million). (Alessandro Di Marco/Ansa via Ap)
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Gonzalo Higuain’s summer move to Juventus has not come without bad blood.

When the 28-year-old striker moved from Naples to Turin thanks to Juventus activating his release clause, it left Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis with a sour taste in his mouth. “There are those who say that talk of betrayal is an exaggeration, but I think the opposite,” De Laurentiis told Corierre dello Sport. “Because, in this decision, there is the full sense of betrayal, which also includes ingratitude.”

“We never seriously thought he would leave. Nor that he would have erased in a flash the memories of his three years in Naples.”

That didn’t sit well with Higuain, who fired back that it was de Laurentiis who drove him out of his former club.

“It was my decision to leave, but it was [De Laurentiis] who pushed me into making it,” Higuain told the media at his Juventus unveiling. “I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates, but not De Laurentiis. I no longer had a relationship with him; I couldn’t stand another minute with him.”

Higuain was more celebratory about his time at Stadio San Paulo. “These have been three amazing years,” Higuain said, “and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons. I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.”

Napoli visits Turin in Serie A play on October 30, while Juventus will not travel to Naples for the return fixture until early April of 2017.

Pep Guardiola says he benched Samir Nasri because he’s “a little bit overweight”

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 24:  Samir Nasri of Manchester City attends the pre-game training ahead of the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Olympic Sports Center Stadium on July 24, 2016 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Samir Nasri‘s soccer career has taken a nosedive since his seven-goal, nine-assist season in 2012/13, both internationally and domestically.

The 29-year-old winger has retired from the French national team after to being frozen out by Didier Deschamps, and has seen a decline in playing time for Manchester City two seasons in a row. Now with a new manager and a fresh start at the Etihad, things aren’t exactly off with flying colors out of the gates.

Nasri hasn’t featured thus far in Manchester City’s preseason, and manager Pep Guardiola said it’s because of his fitness. “Samir arrived a little bit overweight,” Guardiola said following the team’s win over Borrusia Dortmund in International Champions Cup play from China. “He’s much better now, but still there is a little bit of weight. Last season he was injured and we want to avoid that.”

City took down Dortmund on penalties following a 1-1 draw. The squad fell 1-0 to Bayern Munich last week in the team’s first pre-season match. Nasri did not appear in either, and defender Gael Clichy – without naming names – said that Guardiola has forced those with fitness issues to train on their own.

“We have a few players who are not training with the team yet,” Clichy, a former teammate of Nasri’s at Arsenal, said on Wednesday. “If your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team. You have to know that if your weight is 60 kilos and you are on 70 kilos, then you cannot play football.”

Guardiola backed up his policy on Wednesday following Clichy’s comments. “The weight is so important. When you are not fit, danger is coming. You’re not fast enough or quick enough in the head. That’s why you need to be fit.”

Leicester City inks Ben Chilwell to new contract, warding off Liverpool interest

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Liverpool wanted to get younger at the back, but they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Despite reportedly heavy interest from Anfield, 19-year-old defender Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal with Leicester City, tying him down through the summer of 2021.

The Leicester City defense desperately needs Chilwell’s youth as it ages yet another year following their run to the Premier League title. Robert Huth is 31 years old, Wes Morgan – also on a new deal this summer – is 32, and backup Marcin Wasilewski is 36. On the left edge, where Chilwell is most proficient, first-choice left-back Christian Fuchs is 30, while Jeffrey Schlupp provides the only other true bit of youth at 23. On the right, Danny Simpson is 29 and Richie De Laet is 27.

The youngster was reportedly a high-priority target for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, lodging a number of bids with the news that Brad Smith would move to Bournemouth. According to reports in England, the Reds made one last effort to bid for Chilwell prior to his extension, but it did not bear fruit.

“Ever since I arrived in Leicester, Ben has been a young player that has shown a lot of promise,” Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri told the club’s official website. “He has all the attributes you would want in a defender and shows a lot of maturity for a player of just 19. He has come back for pre-season in very good condition and is already showing that he is ready to push for a place in the team.”

Chilwell, a Leicester City academy product, has yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has featured for the England youth teams at multiple levels.