Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Southgate forewarns England players over off-field discipline

Leave a comment

Gareth Southgate began his tenure as England’s permanent coach with a message to his players: Act like elite sportsmen or forget about competing with the world’s best.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The last time England’s players were on international duty for games against Scotland and Spain, Wayne Rooney was pictured looking bleary-eyed at a wedding reception at the team hotel while other players reportedly went on a night out that involved a 200-mile round trip.

No rules were broken as the players were officially off that night, but there has been criticism of their off-field discipline and questions asked about whether they are leading the lifestyle of elite athletes.

Discipline was high on the agenda for Southgate in his first news conference since being given the job on a full-time basis, and the new coach said it would be wrong of him to “read any riot acts” and “lay down the law.”

There was a gentle reminder, however, that England’s players need to act responsibly and change their off-field culture if the team is to challenge for major titles. England’s one and only trophy remains the 1966 World Cup and the team has performed poorly in recent tournaments.

[ MORE: Previewing all 10 PL games — Week 14 ]

“If we think we are good enough to play the best teams in the world and give ourselves a slight handicap on the way, good luck with that,” said Southgate, showing there’s a no-nonsense side to one of the supposed “nice guys” of English soccer.

“The key is,” he added, “we want to develop an elite team. We want to be a world-class team. Every aspect of our training and prep has to work towards that.”

There is set to be a review of what players do in their down-time while on international duty.

“Fundamental to that,” Southgate said, “is how are we going to be physically at our very best to perform at the highest level because in international and top European football in this day and age, the physical preparation is key. So there is an opportunity to discuss it with the players and see what they want to do.”

Southgate said Rooney will remain as England’s captain even though the Manchester United forward started only two of the four games during Southgate’s spell as interim coach.

[ MORE: Bob Bradley — Swansea entering “critical period” in season ]

“It’s obviously not a case that Wayne expects to play every game,” Southgate said. “It’s important for me that we develop more leaders in that group.

“Wayne has played an important part for England up to this point. I’m sure he will do in the future, but we have to develop others.”

One day into his job as England’s full-time soccer coach, Southgate will fully appreciate there is far more to the role than training and picking 11 players to go out on the field for matches.

Aside from the players’ off-the-field culture, Southgate was quizzed about the sex abuse scandal engulfing the English game, including whether his employer – the Football Association – has a grip on the issue and whether he would encourage players to come forward with their own personal experiences.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup — Martial, and “the new Kante” ]

Soccer took a back seat, which is something Southgate may have to get used to. It also demonstrated the demanding and wide-ranging nature of the role.

“I’m in a position where the comments I make, the opinions I have are going to be reported a lot more widely and there’s a great responsibility that comes with that,” Southgate said. “That’s something I’m comfortable with. It’s important in this role to show leadership.

“There’s a need to be a good coach, a good teacher … but leadership is fundamental in what we do here.”

Pique with the scoop? Neymar “staying” at Barcelona

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

While the entire world waits for official word — any word, really — on the possible world record-shattering transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, Gerard Pique just became the world’s most appreciated breaker of transfer news.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Pique, Neymar’s teammate for four seasons at Barca, tweeted (and posted to Instagram) a photo of himself and Neymar, captioned, “Se queda,” or, “He stays.”

[ MOURINHO: United not signing Bale | De Gea not going anywhere ]

Whether he stays or goes this summer, Neymar is about to get paid, and deservedly so. An unquestionable top-five (or -three?) player in the world, he doesn’t turn 26 for another seven months. There has to be someone awaiting the passing of the torch from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, both four years Neymar’s senior, some day soon(-ish), so it should come as no surprise that Barca appear to have moved heaven and earth to retain their Brazilian superstar.

Mourinho “guarantees” De Gea won’t go to Real Madrid

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has always said what he wants, when he wants, how he wants — especially when he’s working an ulterior motive.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Example no. 6,394: the Manchester United manager’s comments regarding the future of goalkeeper David De Gea, who has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid, which just so happens to be one of Mourinho’s former employers. Long story short, “It ain’t happening” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I can guarantee that he’s not going this season, that I can, and my feeling is it will be very difficult for him to go. Because he’s a very honest boy, very straight.”

“He was contacted for a long time [by Real]. The club was close, then we open because I always have this feeling of when a player has a desire to go I don’t like to stop players to go because in the end you don’t get what you expect from them if they want to move and they don’t.

“I don’t think the feeling from him [towards Real] is very good. I see him very happy and focused and working better than ever so for me 100% he stays with us.”

[ MORE: Man City make a dream come true… for $35 million ]

De Gea has two years remaining on his current contract (with an option for one more), which he signed shortly after United and Madrid’s deadline-day debacle of 2015.

Roma’s Moreno happy as Mexican ambassador to Serie A

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hector Moreno knows his move to AS Roma is a big deal for him, his club, and his country.

That may seem like a bit too much aggrandization, but Moreno joins the biggest club of his accomplished European career. That club nearly ended the scudetto reign of Juventus last season, coming as close as anyone in recent history.

And he’s the first Mexican to play for Roma, a club a bit higher in the pecking order than the homes for previous El Tri members in Serie A (Carlos Salcedo went on loan to Fiorentina last season, while Miguel Layun spent time at Atalanta and Rafa Marquez played three seasons at Verona).

[ MORE: Strootman loving life at Roma ]

“I know what people expect from me, and the people in Italy will look back at Mexico as a place to find good players if I do well,” Moreno told ProSoccerTalk ahead of the club’s second Stateside match of the International Champions Cup, Tuesday versus Tottenham Hotspur at Red Bull Arena.

“Football in Mexico is lived with so much passion. It’s so important.”

What they’ve seen from the 29-year-old center back gives them every reason to be proud. Moreno has won the Eredivisie with two clubs (AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven) and was Espanyol’s Player of the Year during his first of three campaigns in La Liga.

Moreno’s offensive acumen shone through his second stint in Holland, and the center back who also plays some left back scored seven goals last season.

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

When Roma came calling, he had little hesitation.

“It’s something I have wanted my entire career, for an opportunity like this,” Moreno said. “It’s an amazing challenge to keep going forward in my career.”

Moreno captained El Tri in a 1-1 draw against the United States in World Cup qualifying on June 12, and the Roma signing was announced on June 13. Five days later, he was pushing Mexico over the line with a stoppage time goal against Portugal at the Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Pallotta’s Roman vision ]

Again, this was about a statement for both him and his country, especially with Mexico in pole position to finish first in CONCACAF World Cup qualification and the desire to make it past the Round of 16 for the first time in seven tournaments.

“It was a great moment and the feeling was amazing because we fought so hard and we didn’t expect to lose,” Moreno said. “It looks easy to say but with Ronaldo, Ledesma, Pepe, at the end we got a result that we deserved.

“And this will probably help the team to know where we stand because in CONCACAF qualification for World Cup we are almost there and in all due respect it’s a different quality of play than CONCACAF. You can see where you stand and what you have to improve to be on the level. It is the dream forever that we can go to the fifth game, and we can do that in Russia. We’re going to work hard and I hope we can make it.”

[ MORE: Conte names Gary Cahill new Chelsea captain ]

It may surprise some to hear that Moreno also hopes El Tri’s heated rivals in the U.S. qualify for Russia as well.

“I hope so,” Moreno quickly replies. “It would make a good tournament. They always make it through and they have such a good team. It’s always (the hope) that Mexico and U.S. can meet in the World Cup, because they have such good talent as well.”

Roma faces Spurs in New Jersey on Tuesday before a July 30 battle with Juventus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

What’s another $35 million? Man City sign Danilo from Real Madrid

Photo credit: @ManCity
Leave a comment

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Danilo will be fulfilling his ambition to play under Pep Guardiola after signing for Manchester City from Real Madrid on Sunday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The versatile Brazilian defender, who can play on either flank as well as at center back, signed a five-year contract to increase City’s threadbare options at full back.

“There has been strong interest from other clubs, but it has always been my ambition to play for Pep Guardiola,” Danilo said. “As soon as I heard of his interest, I knew immediately I wanted to be a City player.”

City has a shortage of wide defenders after releasing Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna last month and then allowing Aleksandar Kolarov to move to Italian side Roma on Saturday. Kyle Walker, who joined from Tottenham, was the only other full back available to City manager Pep Guardiola before the signing of Danilo.

[ MORE: Mourinho quells speculation of Gareth Bale to Man United ]

“Football is very dynamic and it requires quality players in every position, so I think a player who can play in different positions at a good level has an advantage, and becomes very important for the team as well,” said Danilo, who is awaiting his British work permit. “I prefer just to play. I don’t have a favorite position. I am used to playing as right-back but any time I’m on the pitch in the starting 11, I’m always happy.

“He (Guardiola) told me I’m ready and that I can play in several positions, right back, left back, midfield. I just hope to help him out as he expects.”

Danilo is leaving Madrid two years after joining from Porto, having won back-to-back Champions League titles and the Spanish title once. Financial details of the transfer to City were not disclosed.