West Brom makes Belgian Pocognoli club’s fourth signing of the summer

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Barely missing out on Belgium’s World Cup team hasn’t cost Sébastien Pocognoli a chance to move to the Premier League. On Saturday, West Bromwich Albion announced the 26-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the West Midlands club, with the left back moving for an undisclosed fee from Hannover in the German Bundesliga.

Pocognoli had been named to Beligum’s provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup before missing out on the trip to Brazil. Now, after two years in Germany, the fullback joins new manager Alan Irvine’s squad, becoming the team’s fourth signing of the summer.

From West Brom’s website:

Head coach Alan Irvine said: “Sébastien is an experienced left-back who has played at a high level for many years.
“After being named in Belgium’s provisional World Cup squad, he just missed out on Brazil, mainly because he hadn’t played enough games towards the end of the season.
“But he’s joined us with a real hunger to prove himself at Albion and get back into the international set-up.
“We’ve done our due diligence on Sébastien in terms of people who have worked with him, including Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas.
“You make your own mind up about a player’s ability from watching him play but you put these calls in to find out about their personality. The feedback on Sébastien was very positive.”

West Brom have already added Joleon Lescott and Chris Baird in defense as well as Craig Gardner in midfield, but with Liam Ridgewell’s departure creating a hole at left back, Pocognoli could be in line to claim a starting spot. Amongst the other defenders currently in West Brom’s senior squad, it’s unclear who else would be in line for full-time duty after a season in which Ridgewell made 33 starts.

Over the course of two years at Hannover, Pocognoli made 30 appearances, 27 of which were starts. Before moving to Germany, the 5’11” defender spent three years with Standard Leige, returning to Belgium after spending three seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar.

In the Bundesliga, Pocognoli was a decent back who failed to stand out, perhaps a good description if you’re looking for a steady option. Replacing a serviceable if unspectacular player, Pocognoli may prove a decent choice, depending on how he adjusts to the Premier League. With his fee undisclosed, it’s impossible to say whether this is a good or bad deal for West Brom.

Regardless, defense is an area that must be addressed if the Baggies are to avoid another relegation battle. Among clubs that survived last season, only Newcastle and Sunderland conceded more goals.

Lescott should be a major upgrade, while Baird’s return to the first division carries more doubts. And while Pocognoli did earn regular time for a mid-table club in Germany, that’s no guarantee he’ll be able to replace Ridgewell at The Hawthorns.

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.