Earlier this week, Randy Lerner, the American owner of Premier League side Aston Villa, announced his intention to sell the club. Lerner took over in 2006, with his ownership at first looked on as positive for the claret-and-blue. Under manager Martin O’Neill, the club even challenged for England’s final spot in the Champions League.
But when O’Neill left the club just days before the start of the 2010-2011 season, it soon became clear that the club was in a bit of a mess. The manager had signed players on high wages to long-term contracts, and most of those players, it transpired, were not of Premier League quality.
Lerner cracked down. With Paul Lambert in charge, the club has focused on inexpensive players, bringing in talent from the lower divisions in England as well as young players from northern Europe. But the strategy hasn’t worked. Since O’Neill left, the Villa have been in a relegation battle, failing to finish above 15th for the last three seasons.
It’s time to sell. Villa fans understand, and appreciate, this fact. But they would also appreciate a quick sale. The Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust, an organization created to advance the views of the clubs’ fans at both the national and club level, have directed a statement to Lerner.
The AVST make clear that they appreciate the respect the Villa owner showed to the club’s heritage in his time in charge. But they also have a clear wish: “We would ask that the sale is completed as quickly as possible in order that the new owner can put his team in place, and make the required changes to ensure that Aston Villa become a competitive force on the field again.”
Any soccer fan knows that the offseason is essential in determining the team’s upcoming season. From the amount of money available for transfers to the manager that will lead the club to the amount of time that new teammates will be able to spend training with the side before the season starts, it all hinges on a well-planned off-season. No wonder Villa fans are asking for the future of their club to be resolved quickly.
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
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.
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.”
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.