James McClean deemed surplus goods at Sunderland; Wigan’s bid accepted

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Paulo Di Canio has called time on the James McClean project at Sunderland after accepting an undisclosed bid from Championship side Wigan.

The deal confirms McClean’s fate as surplus goods under Di Canio’s regime, which has brought in nine fresh faces into the fold, including Italian winger Emanuel Giaccherini from Juventus.

McClean joined Sunderland in August 2011 from Northern Ireland side Derry City as a player that then-manager Steve Bruce claimed was “one for the future.” Bruce figured the winger would begin in the youth development side and eventually make his way up.

But McClean had other plans and by December, he had looked a real find. With Bruce out and Martin O’Neill in, the Republic of Ireland international was brought on as a substitute in O’Neill’s first game with the club. Down 1-0 to Blackburn, McClean’s ferocious hunger and athleticism spurred the Black Cats to turn the match on its head, winning 2-1.

McClean went on to prove himself a menace on the left side of the pitch, notching five goals and two assists in just one half of a season, earning him Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year Award for 2011–12. For the $541,000 (£350k) it cost to bring McClean to the Premier League, he was arguably one of the bargain signings of the season.

But the fall was as quick as the rise, as McClean’s 2012-13 campaign was one to forget. Defenders quickly learned that his first touch was one of a brick when closed down quickly. What served as grit and determination in 2011-12 quickly turned to frustration for McClean. The boy had an edge, no doubt, but he also had a temper that reared its head at all the wrong times.

While Di Canio’s overhaul of the Black Cats makes it little surprise that McClean has gotten axed, it is a little curious given their similarities that the fiery Italian did not look to take McClean under his wing. But, sometimes similarities clash rather than gel and at the end of the day, it’s all a business. i

McClean still has talent though and could make quite an impact in the Championship. His pending arrival could also indicate that the Latics are not yet done dealing in this summer’s transfer market, and that Callum McManaman or Shaun Maloney could be on their way out of the DW Stadium.

Once personal terms are agreed to and a medical is passed, McClean will join a family of James’ in Owen Coyle’s midfield, alongside fellow namesakes McCarthy and McArthur.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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