West Brom makes Belgian Pocognoli club’s fourth signing of the summer

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Barely missing out on Belgium’s World Cup team hasn’t cost Sébastien Pocognoli a chance to move to the Premier League. On Saturday, West Bromwich Albion announced the 26-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the West Midlands club, with the left back moving for an undisclosed fee from Hannover in the German Bundesliga.

Pocognoli had been named to Beligum’s provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup before missing out on the trip to Brazil. Now, after two years in Germany, the fullback joins new manager Alan Irvine’s squad, becoming the team’s fourth signing of the summer.

From West Brom’s website:

Head coach Alan Irvine said: “Sébastien is an experienced left-back who has played at a high level for many years.
“After being named in Belgium’s provisional World Cup squad, he just missed out on Brazil, mainly because he hadn’t played enough games towards the end of the season.
“But he’s joined us with a real hunger to prove himself at Albion and get back into the international set-up.
“We’ve done our due diligence on Sébastien in terms of people who have worked with him, including Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas.
“You make your own mind up about a player’s ability from watching him play but you put these calls in to find out about their personality. The feedback on Sébastien was very positive.”

West Brom have already added Joleon Lescott and Chris Baird in defense as well as Craig Gardner in midfield, but with Liam Ridgewell’s departure creating a hole at left back, Pocognoli could be in line to claim a starting spot. Amongst the other defenders currently in West Brom’s senior squad, it’s unclear who else would be in line for full-time duty after a season in which Ridgewell made 33 starts.

Over the course of two years at Hannover, Pocognoli made 30 appearances, 27 of which were starts. Before moving to Germany, the 5’11” defender spent three years with Standard Leige, returning to Belgium after spending three seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar.

In the Bundesliga, Pocognoli was a decent back who failed to stand out, perhaps a good description if you’re looking for a steady option. Replacing a serviceable if unspectacular player, Pocognoli may prove a decent choice, depending on how he adjusts to the Premier League. With his fee undisclosed, it’s impossible to say whether this is a good or bad deal for West Brom.

Regardless, defense is an area that must be addressed if the Baggies are to avoid another relegation battle. Among clubs that survived last season, only Newcastle and Sunderland conceded more goals.

Lescott should be a major upgrade, while Baird’s return to the first division carries more doubts. And while Pocognoli did earn regular time for a mid-table club in Germany, that’s no guarantee he’ll be able to replace Ridgewell at The Hawthorns.

Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.