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.

Cristiano Ronaldo could face tax-fraud charges in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are considering whether Cristiano Ronaldo should face charges over allegations by the country’s tax agency that he defrauded the authorities of 15 million euros ($16.7 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Thursday they have until the end of June to decide whether to charge the Real Madrid star, based on evidence from an investigation by tax officials.

The alleged irregularities were mostly related to money that Ronaldo had in the Virgin Islands.

Tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

Prosecutors said that if they decided to charge him, and if the Portugal captain was subsequently found guilty by a court, he would face a prison sentence of at least 15 months. However, it would be unlikely he would go to jail as a first-time offender.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud last year.

Terry: “I couldn’t care less” about 26th-minute farewell criticism

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John Terry is a man who… well, let’s just say, does things his way.

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For instance, remember the time Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League, by beating Bayern Munich, in penalties? Remember Chelsea’s post-game celebrations, which saw Terry, who was suspended for the final at the Allianz Arena, joyously jumping around with his teammates wearing his full kit, shin guards and all?

Was it over the top and a bit silly? Sure it was, but was anyone hurt or genuinely upset by it? Of course not. On Sunday, as Terry said goodbye to the only club he’s ever known (apart from a six-game loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000), he toed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s outlandish. Just like in 2012, Terry caused a minor uproar, and just like in 2012 he “couldn’t care less” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I couldn’t care less, I promise you. All I care about is celebrating with my Chelsea fans. Me and them have a wonderful rapport and have done for 22 years. Nothing that people write or say can ever get in the way of that.

“If that’s the way I want to go out, that’s the way I go out because I’ve been here 22 years, I’ve won so many trophies — so if I wanted to play one minute and come off, I would have done.

“I wanted to play 26 minutes because the shirt number means a lot to me and the supporters so as long as they are happy – and I was over the moon with the reception – I promise you I could not care less.”

“It was an unbelievable send-off from the supporters to help me to celebrate 22 years at the club.

“I’m very grateful to them, and it was something I will never forget. It was so emotional after the game, I was in bits.”

There’s something to be said about the success that Chelsea have had as a club, and the way its recency leads them to feel they are perceived by the outside world. Other clubs, “bigger,” most historic clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, for example — have been winning trophies pretty regularly for decades, while 70 percent of the major trophies (14 of 20) won in the club’s history have come since Roman Abramovich bought the club 14 years ago, in 2003. Chelsea is a 112-year-old football club.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Chelsea’s players and fans are so clearly away of their bought-and-paid-for status, thus everything is celebrated on the grandest scale, almost as if to legitimize their accomplishments (which stand up just fine on their own two feet) and standing within the hierarchy of English football. “Contrived” (and admittedly so) is the word that comes to mind and best describes Terry’s send-off.

No one in this space is saying there’s anything wrong with that, but everyone connected to Chelsea must realize and accept that it looks silly to supporters of the aforementioned long-time giants, and they’re going to be pointed at and laughed at every time they do it.

FA Cup: Three key battles between Arsenal, Chelsea

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The FA Cup final usually brings out terrific entertainment for the fans, and this Saturday’s finale should be no different.

When Arsenal and Chelsea take the field at Wembley Stadium, it will be the last chance this season for some of the Premier League’s stars such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Chelsea and Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil for Arsenal to bring glory to their club.

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The match features two teams heading in different directions. Chelsea, the Premier League champions are in the ascendency after a one-year hiatus out of European competition, while Arsenal finished outside the top-four places in the Premier League for the first time in 20 years under manager Arsene Wenger.

In addition, there’s plenty of other storylines to watch on the field, from whether it’s Costa, Sanchez and Ozil’s potential last matches with their respective teams to how Arsenal will deal without two of its three regular centerbacks they’ve used this season.

Here’s a look at three key battles on the field ahead of the FA Cup final:


Arsenal’s centerbacks vs. Diego Costa

Diego Costa may be a thorn in Chelsea’s side off the field when it comes to the constant speculation of a move away from Stamford Bridge, but on the field this season he’s been brilliant. Costa scored 20 goals in the Premier League and another goal in FA Cup action, and he contributes off the ball as well, drawing the defense in towards him while opening up space for teammates including Hazard and Willian.

Heading into Saturday, it’s unclear who on Arsenal will be tasked with marking Costa. Laurent Koscielny was issued a straight red card in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Everton and will miss the FA Cup final due to suspension while fellow centerback Gabriel left the field on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury. In addition, Shkodran Mustafi is still recovering from a concussion and is a doubt for Saturday.

That leaves Wenger with just Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding as healthy centerbacks, which could force Wenger to revert back to his usual four-man backline from the more recent three-man backline that’s been used.

Regardless of who Arsenal put out there, expect Costa to be at his best, attempting to physically dominate his opponent and get under their skin.


Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante vs. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal are at their best when they play through the middle of the field before finding runners out wide, setting up crossing attempts into the middle or perhaps another chance to play through the lines in the center of the field.

Standing in Arsenal’s playmaking duo of Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s way are Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante. Kante, as Riyad Mahrez saw last year, does so much of the dirty work defensively that he allows his teammates including Matic and Hazard to bomb forward and either create or finish goal-scoring opportunities.

Kante will have his hands full dealing with Ozil and Sanchez in midfield, and Matic may need to sit a bit deeper to cut off the passing lanes, potentially taking him out of Chelsea’s counter attack.


Eden Hazard vs. Hector Bellerin

For all the speed that Hazard possesses on the ball, there’s at least one player on Arsenal who can keep stride pace-for-pace.

With Hazard likely lining up on the left wing, Arsenal’s right wing back Hector Bellerin will likely face Hazard up one-on-one at both ends of the field, setting up a fun encounter. With Bellerin’s speed and ability to track back, he may be open to a few 40-yard springs into space down the right wing, knowing that Hazard probably won’t be in hot pursuit.

But if Bellerin doesn’t end up with the ball and there’s an Arsenal turnover, Hazard on his own or against a centerback on the left wing could be a nightmare for Arsenal to deal with.

Man United, Man City come together to support terror victims

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The Manchester derby is known as one of the world’s fiercest rivalries, but in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack this week, both sides are joining together to support the city of Manchester and victims of the attack.

Manchester United and Manchester City announced Thursday they pledged together nearly $1.3 million into the We Love Manchester community fund. The fund was set up to assist the families of the 22 people who died and 64 people who were injured in the attack.

“The barbarism of Monday evening’s attack has shocked everyone,” Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement. “Our clubs are right at the heart of our local communities in Manchester and it is right that we present a unified response to this tragedy. The money will help of course but the work of the two clubs and their respective foundation and community scheme can build on the fantastic spirit that Mancunians have shown in the immediate aftermath.”

Folks who want to donate to the fund can visit http://www.redcross.org.uk/manchester or http://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/ManchesterEmergencyFund.

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