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Landon Donovan reveals his role at Swansea City

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Landon Donovan has spoken for the first time about his role as part of the American ownership group headed by Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien who took over at Swansea City this summer.

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A legend of U.S. Soccer, Donovan, 34, is certainly not resting up after his retirement from the game in December 2014. Far from it.

As well as his stints as a soccer commentator with Fox, plus his constant involvement with many Major League Soccer initiatives and having a new born son, Talon, Donovan is a busy man.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk as part of Captain Morgan’s Under 35 POTUS petition, the former Bayer Leverkusen, San Jose Earthquakes, Bayern Munich, LA Galaxy and Everton forward is excited about the opportunity to be part of the Swansea organization and is eager to help in whatever way he can.

[ MORE: Donovan on Olympics, player development ]

So, what exactly will the USMNT superstar be doing for the Swans?

“I’ve always had an interest in being an owner of a sports team and a football team in particular,” Donovan explained. “The new owners met with me a few months back and said this is likely going to happen and admitted that they didn’t know a lot about football and said ‘we know that you know the game and you’re passionate about it, you played at Everton, spent time in world football and sort of understand it a little better, would you be willing to help us, advise us and consult with us on certain things?’ I said yeah, that would be great and that’s something I am certainly open to.

“I made it clear from the very beginning that this isn’t going to be a situation where I am going to be in there telling them what players to sign. They’ve got a chairman there in Huw Jenkins who has been arguably as valuable to a team as anybody in the Premier League. He has brought them from the lower leagues in England all the way to the Premier League and has done an incredible job.

“For me, I want to be someone who can help behind the scenes but this is not a situation where I think I know it all and I am going into it thinking that I am going to have some huge impact. I just want to be able to help. It has already been enjoyable with the transfer window open now. They’ve had some questions on certain players and a lot of these guys I’ve played with or against or I know people who are very close to them and have played with them. So I can give some good insight on certain things that hopefully helps out.”

So, LD has already been helping the Swans rebuild their squad under manager Francesco Guidolin as major outgoings Andre Ayew and potentially Ashley Williams have been offset with the signings of Fernando Llorente, Mike Van der Hoorn and striker Borja Baston is on his way for a club record fee.

Donovan isn’t quite Billy Beane yet, but he’s on his way.

The Californian revealed that he plans to be in South Wales soon, earmarking Swansea’s home game against Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on Sept. 11  as a potential visit, and he also gave some insight into why PL clubs are so attractive to American investors.

After all six PL clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Swansea — are now owned fully, or partly, by Americans.

“One: they (Americans) see it as a great business opportunity because I think teams in the Premier League for a long time haven’t been run perfectly. So I think they see it that way,” Donovan said. “Also I think in this case I cautioned them and said if you get into this as a business opportunity, you are risking a lot because for the fans of these teams this isn’t about business. This is their life. So I think a lot of American owners have gone in very naively in the past and said ‘well, we will do this, this and this’ and they would run it how they’d run a sports team in America. You can’t do that.

“We don’t own the team. The Swansea City fans own the team. That’s the reality and I believe that and they believe that and that’s the way it should be. Are we going to try to do everything we can to make everything better? Yes. Absolutely. But at the end, they own the team and we have to go in knowing that.”

With Manchster United spending over $120 million on Paul Pogba this week, plus a total of nearly $1 billion spent on transfers so far this summer by PL clubs, what does Donovan make of the incredible sums of money being spent?

“It is unbelievable,” Donovan chuckled. “I saw John Stones went for 50 million pounds but the reality is that the market can bear it and now with the new TV deal coming in, teams can afford it. It is going to be the norm and teams need to get used to it.”

Speaking about another league which has been dishing out huge transfer fees over the past 12 months, Donovan was asked about the Chinese Super League (CSL) and it’s push to attract star players in their prime.

Compared to a league like Major League Soccer which rarely pays transfer fees for players, is the CSL’s model something MLS will eventually have to get on board with?

“I’d be surprised at that level if the Chinese Super League is still around in 10 years. There’s just no way that’s sustainable. I think Major League Soccer has smart people who know you can’t do that if you want to be a sustainable league.”

On MLS, Donovan does believe there’s a big issue currently in North America’s top flight: a lack of minutes for promising youngsters.

“We do have an issue know where we do have some very talented young players but their problem is they aren’t getting a chance to play,” Donovan said. “If you’re an MLS coach, you have to win on the weekends. That’s your job. If you have a player on your team who is 19 years old and has the potential to be a nine out of 10 type of player but you have another guy who is already a 7.5 out of 10 and he’s 30 years old, you’re going to play the 7.5 out of 10 guy every time because the coach wants consistency and to win and keep your job. The problem is those young kids with potential aren’t playing.”

Part Two of our chat with Landon Donovan is available here as he speaks about the USWNT at the Olympics, his own Olympic experiences and tackles the bigger issue of developing young players in the USA.

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

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Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.