Tim Sherwood falls prey to Louis van Gaal and Spurs’ unrealistic expectations

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Louis van Gaal spiced up a decidedly underwhelming Euro 2016 qualifying draw on Sunday by saying he would consider joining Tottenham after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

“I will definitely not be in charge (of the Netherlands) for the Euro 2016 qualification campaign,” the legendary Dutch manager noted to Reuters following the draw. “I don’t know where I will go next. Normally I go with my pension and go to live in Portugal, but maybe there will come a new challenge.

“I have said before that a challenge should be a club in the Premier League. That’s a challenge. Maybe Tottenham are coming but, first, we have to go to Brazil.”

The comments are the latest hint van Gaal has dropped concerning his interest in taking over at Spurs. Following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas on December 16th, van Gaal emerged as a front-runner for the North London post after meeting with chairman Daniel Levy and admitting “I’ve always said I want to work in the Premier League” but would “never comment on offers.”

A week later interim manager Tim Sherwood was then awarded for his results by being named head coach on an 18 month contract. Under Sherwood the mood of the squad palpably changed for the better, and the results were promising – winning five of their first six league matches.

But the 5-1 home thrashing by Manchester City on January 29th set off alarm bells and the attention once again turned to van Gaal, who breathed life into rumors of his move to White Hart Lane by pondering, “Am I still in contact with Spurs? There will come a moment that I can talk about that.”That moment – and it was merely that, a moment – came Sunday when he outrightly named Tottenham as his possible destination following the World Cup. Following City’s demolition of Spurs, Sherwood did well to get the club back on track, drawing 1-1 away at Hull City before beating fellow European competitors Everton 1-0 and hammering Newcastle 4-0. But in the past week things began to unravel after Spurs lost 0-1 to Dnipro in the Europa League on Thursday before suffering the same fate yesterday at lowly Norwich City.

Van Gaal’s unscrupulous decision to name Spurs as a potential next stop in his career (again) not only comes at odds with the unwritten code of honor among professional managers but reeks of narcissism. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager should be focused on his job at hand – managing Holland in the World Cup. Certainly the KNVB can not be pleased by van Gaal’s eagerness to look beyond Brazil. His willingness to speak beyond issues of the national team – even if it’s so much as a mere mention of Tottenham as his next destination – is a slight to both Oranje and Spurs.

Perhaps van Gaal’s comments would be less objectionable if Sherwood was an interim coach. But he’s not. He’s a head coach with an 18 month deal who and has taken the club from 7th to 5th in the table during his tenure. For van Gaal to undermine Sherwood’s status at the club by issuing these comments is a disgrace. Imagine for a moment that van Gaal named Arsenal as his next potential career stop – can you imagine how Arsene Wenger, who’s contract ends at the end of this season, or the Arsenal community altogether, would react? It would be mayhem.

Sherwood has achieved success at Tottenham by inserting a confident, relaxed, free-wheeling attitude to the club that has helped the players shed the heavy mental strain that was the legacy of Villas-Boas. He’s also unearthed two considerable talents that were going unused underneath AVB – Emmanuel Adebayor and 19-year-old French international Nabil Bentaleb, both of whom have been fantastic in their play.

Yet putting blame on van Gaal tells only half the story. Because while the Dutch manager undoubtedly smells blood that’s only the case because Levy has been chumming Sherwood’s waters with the unrealistic expectations that come that final whistle on May 11th, Spurs will have secured a Champions League spot.

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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