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Should Antonio Conte be angry with Chelsea’s transfer dealings?

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After Romelu Lukaku’s move to Chelsea now appears to be off and the Everton star heading to Manchester United, there’s no surprise reports are circulating that Antonio Conte is an unhappy man.

Does he have the right to be?

[ MORE: Pogba, Lukaku train in LA ]

With Chelsea only signing Willy Caballero on a free transfer so far this summer, it’s been a slow start to the transfer window for the reigning Premier League champs and Conte has every right to be frustrated. There is still time to turn things around, but there’s no denying the start to his and Chelsea’s summer hasn’t been good.

Diego Costa‘s situation has undeniably made the task for Conte, and Technical Director Michael Emenalo, much harder as rivals now know that Costa is no longer wanted in west London (partly Conte’s fault with his texting) and the 28-year-old is closing in a move back to Atletico Madrid. Yet, even with a princely sum incoming for Costa, the Blues will have to pay over the odds for a new striker.

Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti from Torino are said to be Conte’s top two striking targets after seemingly losing out on Lukaku, but other deals have not been done.

Tiemoue Bakayako will likely arrive from AS Monaco with Nemanja Matic heading to Manchester United but that deal has dragged on, while talks still continue over signing Antonio Rudiger from AS Roma and Alex Sandro from Juventus.

So, it’s not all doom and gloom for Conte but it’s not ideal with a defining season coming up for the Italian coach as he looks to replicate the incredible success of his debut season in England.

The way he managed to string together a battered and bruised Chelsea side last season and add the unfancied duo of David Luiz and Marcos Alonso to the mix expertly surely should have meant Chelsea’s board would deliver three to four top class players for him to have at his disposal on day one of preseason.

Chelsea return to training at Cobham next Monday and it seems likely that Conte won’t have his top target in Lukaku, while deals for Morata, Belotti, Sandro and Rudiger appear some way from completion with Virgil Van Dijk‘s name disappearing from the reckoning altogether.

With Chelsea’s expectant fans wanting not only a PL title repeat but also craving success in Europe, Conte will want answers from the hierarchy as to why they have yet to strengthen considerably this summer as the added difficulty of juggling a UEFA Champions League campaign will no doubt impact his squad.

When you look back at Chelsea’s past they’ve done business late in the window with Luiz and Alonso arriving on Deadline Day in a real surprise last summer, but before that the arrival of Costa, Matic and Cesc Fabregas ahead of the 2014-15 campaign led to a title-winning season under Jose Mourinho.

There is no simple formula to building a squad and sometimes the dominoes have to fall at the right time in order for a new player to arrive. They haven’t fallen in Chelsea’s favor so far this summer.

Conte’s argument will be that his success last season should have led to Chelsea spending big and taking decisive action early in the transfer window. Up until now they’ve been stumbling around and have now lost out on Lukaku.

With Inter Milan and others said to be offering Conte a huge deal to join them, Chelsea’s boss has yet to sign a new deal at Stamford Bridge and this transfer inactivity may have him questioning exactly how much he will be backed when it comes to recruitment as Emenalo is a trusted ally of owner Roman Abramovich and some blame him for the lackluster deals following Chelsea’s title win in 2014-15 which then led to Mourinho’s firing.

The former has a policy of bringing in youngsters and selling or loaning them on for a big profit to delight the hierarchy, plus he has sold on the likes of Oscar, Ramires and Lukaku for big fees in the past to fund future signings.

If Chelsea really want to join Europe’s elite once again they’ll need to spend like it instead of wheeling and dealing to keep similar squad numbers and still make a profit on transfer deals. With many squad players departing over the summer — John Terry, Asmir Begovic and Nathan Ake to name a few — Conte has a challenge to not only add quality but also strength in depth to challenge on four fronts this season.

Conte and his staff will be disappointed to have not landed Lukaku as Costa’s departure looms and the reigning PL champs will have to start acting quickly in the transfer window if they want to continue their success.

The next five weeks of preseason will be crucial in Conte, and Chelsea’s, short-term future.

Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards

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The yearly debate as to whom the best player in the world is won’t be settled in the minds of fans across the globe, but on Monday, FIFA gave its two cents.

Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo took home Best Male Player honors at the FIFA Best awards, beating out Lionel Messi and Neymar for the title.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy award, beats out Pulisic, others ]

Meanwhile, all three superstars were named in the FIFA Best XI for the year, alongside the likes of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Andres Iniesta.

Here’s a look at some of the other winners from Monday’s FIFA awards.

Best Male Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

FIFA World XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar.

FIFA Men’s Coach of 2017: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Puskas Award for Best Goal: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Best Female Player: Lieke Martens (Netherlands)

PST names Best XI for 2017 MLS season

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The 2017 MLS regular season saw some of the finest performances from players across the league.

New arrivals in Atlanta, such as Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, garnered a great amount of attention, while Chicago Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic went on to capture the Golden Boot in his first season in MLS.

Stars like Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa continued to leave a lasting impression on the league, but with only 11 spots available for selection, some of game’s best had to be left off.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Budding U.S. Men’s National Team figures have emerged throughout the MLS scene, including from each of last season’s MLS Cup final squads.

Below is the PST built its Best XI for the 2017 MLS season.

MLS Best XI via Lineupbuilder

Players that just missed the cut

GK: Luis Robles, Bill Hamid

Defense: Roman Torres, Ike Opara, Andrew Farrell, Joevin Jones

Midfielders: Lee Nguyen, Sacha Kljestan, Alex Ring, Romain Alessandrini

Forwards: Miguel Almiron, Sebastian Giovinco, Justin Meram


Which players would you have included in your Best XI? Who was the best player in the league? Tell us below.

Justin Meram discusses Crew’s hot form, facing Atlanta and more

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The Eastern Conference has established itself within the ranks of Major League Soccer given the quality of the sides at the top.

While Atlanta United — in its first MLS season — and Toronto FC dominate headlines, alongside New York City FC, lost in the shuffle is Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Impact fire Mauro Biello after team loses nine of last 10 matches ]

The Crew finished fifth in a congested East after settling for a 2-2 draw on Decision Day against NYCFC, however, Greg Berhalter’s squad has been among the best in MLS for the second half of the season.

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with Crew midfielder Justin Meram ahead of his side’s first-round matchup against Atlanta in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I wouldn’t say there’s less pressure on us,” Meram told PST. ” We might be written off in terms of the attention that they have had this season. Some networks have come out by saying that they [Atlanta] are the favorites, but nothing changes with this group.

“We let all that outside noise stay outside and we don’t let it affect us. Whether they have us winning a game, or whatever the case may be, we have a game plan and a style of play that we look to execute no matter where we go.”

Decision Day around MLS has created havoc — and a great narrative — but Sunday’s result against NYCFC proved to be the difference between potentially hosting a playoff game, or possibly having a bye, versus now having to travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Obviously that’s what makes Decision Day so much more exciting,” Meram said. “We didn’t control our own destiny, but the way things went with Atlanta and Chicago we could have jumped from fifth to second. It’s just one of those things that didn’t go our way.

“We didn’t play our best in the first half, but we also faced a really good team and I was pleased with how we bounced back. I think that showed our quality and our ability to claw back into games on the road, which is crucial during the playoffs.”

The Crew have been one of the league’s top home sides in 2017, winning 12 matches at MAPFRE Stadium — which ranks second in MLS behind only Toronto FC.

However, Meram and his side now face a stiff test against an Atlanta team that has lost just one of its eight matches since moving over from Bobby Dodd Stadium in mid-September.

“I need to be at my very best on Thursday,” Meram said. “We all need to be on top of our game because we need a collective effort in order to beat Atlanta.”

Scheduling has a funny way of factoring into the outcomes of matches at times, but given the fact that the Crew and Atlanta haven’t met since July 1 all bets are off in terms of which side is the  favorite to advance.

Atlanta won both matches earlier in the season as the two clubs met in home-and-home fixtures over a span of three weeks, but Meram remains confident that his side’s current form will help them prevail.

“Their attack is lethal,” Meram said when asked about facing an Atlanta side that scored 70 regular season goals. “One small little mistake allows them to pounce on chances. They punish you.

“We have to be clinical with our build up play and shape throughout the match. When we get our half-chances we need to bury them. When we played Atlanta the first time, we had a couple of breakaways that we didn’t put away and it hurt us.

“We have the quality, but playing at their home, with their fans, we need to focus on finishing our chances in order to advance.”

The topic of relocation has come as a shock not just in Columbus, but throughout MLS since last week’s announcement that owner Anthony Precourt would explore his options for the club moving forward.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meram has insisted though that he and his Crew teammates remain focused on winning MLS Cup — which would be the club’s second in franchise history.

“Obviously we haven’t let it affect us,” Meram told PST. “We played a really good game on Sunday. We’re just staying with the same mindset that we’ve had the second half of the season, which doesn’t reflect the owner’s announcement.

“There’s not much I can say. I have a job to do. He [Precourt] has a job to do. The fans have their job to do. Right now, it’s about focusing on the playoffs and seeing what happens. There’s nothing definitive about staying or going, so I can’t speculate at this point.

“At the end of the day, I want a championship, and I believe that’s the feeling for all of our guys right now. That’s how it has to be from the player’s perspective because the second we shift our mindset we’re going to get punished by other sides.”

Montreal fires Biello after Impact loses nine of last 10

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Mauro Biello is out.

The Montreal Impact have parted ways with its entire coaching staff following a terrible end to a disappointing 2017 season which failed to see them build on an Eastern Conference Finals run.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

Montreal lost nine of its last 10 despite beating Toronto FC in Toronto, finishing with 39 points. That’s 11 points out of a playoff spot, which looked all but certain before their miserable finish to the campaign.

This despite an MVP caliber season from recently-extended Ignacio Piatti, who scored 17 goals with five assists. That the Impact failed was a bit baffling, especially following the midseason addition of Blerim Dzemaili, who chipped in seven goals and 10 assists in 22 matches.

There are some interesting pieces for the next boss, should 24-year-old Anthony Jackson-Hamel and 18-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla stick around.

The 45-year-old Biello finishes his first managerial gig following a playing career with the Impact (pre-MLS), Rochester Rhinos, and several indoor sides including the Impact, Toronto Thunderhawks, and Buffalo Blizzard.

Follow @NicholasMendola