Norwich City says it had “no choice” but to fire Chris Hughton

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Norwich City chief executive David McNally claims the club had “no choice” but to fire manager Chris Hughton with five games left in the Premier League season.

Norwich terminated Hughton late Sunday night and hired U-18 manager Neil Adams in his place.

McNally said of the firing, “[w]e felt we were left with no choice. Recent results and performances have been disappointing.”

The Canaries dropped their third loss in four matches on Saturday, a 0-1 home decision to West Bromwich Albion. The loss, which dropped Norwich to 17th in the table, five points clear of 18th place Fulham, appeared to be the last straw for fans who launched yellow clappers onto the pitch and chanted for Hughton’s dismissal (“We want Hughton out!“) before the final whistle.

Whether the club had “no choice” but to fire Hughton, however, is debatable.

On one hand, the writing seemed to be on the wall. According to The Guardian‘s Richard Rae, the indication from the dressing room was that the players would not be against Hughton’s sacking. One veteran went so far as to say privately that the constant criticism dealt by Hughton had left the players hesitant to make mistakes in matches rather than hungry to create opportunities.

More blame can be heaped on Hughton when considering the $23 million he convinced the club to spend last summer on a strike force that included Ricky van Wolfsfinkel, Gary Hooper and Johan Elhmander. Together the trio has scored only seven of the club’s paltry 26 league goals.

On the other hand, there are a number of factors to suggest this was not the right time to fire Hughton. The former Newcastle and Birmingham boss came to Carrow Road in the summer of 2012 after Paul Lambert, beloved by the club, bounced for Aston Villa. Questioned by many upon his arrival in East Anglia, Hughton guided Norwich to an impressive 11th place finish last season.

Further clouding McNally’s remark is the current position of the club with five matches to play. Just five points above the drop, the Canaries have the biggest match of their season this weekend against Fulham. Win and they are nearly assured a place in next year’s Premier League. Lose and it could be curtains as their last four matches are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The decision to remove an established manager in favor of a U-18 coach raises even more question marks around McNally’s statement. Only time will tell if firing Hughton was the correct move. Until then, the club must follow the words of captain Russell Martin, who summed up his feelings on Monday by noting: “Unfortunately, it is the nature of the game we are in, the club have made the decision and we have to move on.”

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.