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Landon Donovan reveals his role at Swansea City

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Landon Donovan has spoken for the first time about his role as part of the American ownership group headed by Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien who took over at Swansea City this summer.

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A legend of U.S. Soccer, Donovan, 34, is certainly not resting up after his retirement from the game in December 2014. Far from it.

As well as his stints as a soccer commentator with Fox, plus his constant involvement with many Major League Soccer initiatives and having a new born son, Talon, Donovan is a busy man.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk as part of Captain Morgan’s Under 35 POTUS petition, the former Bayer Leverkusen, San Jose Earthquakes, Bayern Munich, LA Galaxy and Everton forward is excited about the opportunity to be part of the Swansea organization and is eager to help in whatever way he can.

[ MORE: Donovan on Olympics, player development ]

So, what exactly will the USMNT superstar be doing for the Swans?

“I’ve always had an interest in being an owner of a sports team and a football team in particular,” Donovan explained. “The new owners met with me a few months back and said this is likely going to happen and admitted that they didn’t know a lot about football and said ‘we know that you know the game and you’re passionate about it, you played at Everton, spent time in world football and sort of understand it a little better, would you be willing to help us, advise us and consult with us on certain things?’ I said yeah, that would be great and that’s something I am certainly open to.

“I made it clear from the very beginning that this isn’t going to be a situation where I am going to be in there telling them what players to sign. They’ve got a chairman there in Huw Jenkins who has been arguably as valuable to a team as anybody in the Premier League. He has brought them from the lower leagues in England all the way to the Premier League and has done an incredible job.

“For me, I want to be someone who can help behind the scenes but this is not a situation where I think I know it all and I am going into it thinking that I am going to have some huge impact. I just want to be able to help. It has already been enjoyable with the transfer window open now. They’ve had some questions on certain players and a lot of these guys I’ve played with or against or I know people who are very close to them and have played with them. So I can give some good insight on certain things that hopefully helps out.”

So, LD has already been helping the Swans rebuild their squad under manager Francesco Guidolin as major outgoings Andre Ayew and potentially Ashley Williams have been offset with the signings of Fernando Llorente, Mike Van der Hoorn and striker Borja Baston is on his way for a club record fee.

Donovan isn’t quite Billy Beane yet, but he’s on his way.

The Californian revealed that he plans to be in South Wales soon, earmarking Swansea’s home game against Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on Sept. 11  as a potential visit, and he also gave some insight into why PL clubs are so attractive to American investors.

After all six PL clubs — Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Swansea — are now owned fully, or partly, by Americans.

“One: they (Americans) see it as a great business opportunity because I think teams in the Premier League for a long time haven’t been run perfectly. So I think they see it that way,” Donovan said. “Also I think in this case I cautioned them and said if you get into this as a business opportunity, you are risking a lot because for the fans of these teams this isn’t about business. This is their life. So I think a lot of American owners have gone in very naively in the past and said ‘well, we will do this, this and this’ and they would run it how they’d run a sports team in America. You can’t do that.

“We don’t own the team. The Swansea City fans own the team. That’s the reality and I believe that and they believe that and that’s the way it should be. Are we going to try to do everything we can to make everything better? Yes. Absolutely. But at the end, they own the team and we have to go in knowing that.”

With Manchster United spending over $120 million on Paul Pogba this week, plus a total of nearly $1 billion spent on transfers so far this summer by PL clubs, what does Donovan make of the incredible sums of money being spent?

“It is unbelievable,” Donovan chuckled. “I saw John Stones went for 50 million pounds but the reality is that the market can bear it and now with the new TV deal coming in, teams can afford it. It is going to be the norm and teams need to get used to it.”

Speaking about another league which has been dishing out huge transfer fees over the past 12 months, Donovan was asked about the Chinese Super League (CSL) and it’s push to attract star players in their prime.

Compared to a league like Major League Soccer which rarely pays transfer fees for players, is the CSL’s model something MLS will eventually have to get on board with?

“I’d be surprised at that level if the Chinese Super League is still around in 10 years. There’s just no way that’s sustainable. I think Major League Soccer has smart people who know you can’t do that if you want to be a sustainable league.”

On MLS, Donovan does believe there’s a big issue currently in North America’s top flight: a lack of minutes for promising youngsters.

“We do have an issue know where we do have some very talented young players but their problem is they aren’t getting a chance to play,” Donovan said. “If you’re an MLS coach, you have to win on the weekends. That’s your job. If you have a player on your team who is 19 years old and has the potential to be a nine out of 10 type of player but you have another guy who is already a 7.5 out of 10 and he’s 30 years old, you’re going to play the 7.5 out of 10 guy every time because the coach wants consistency and to win and keep your job. The problem is those young kids with potential aren’t playing.”

Part Two of our chat with Landon Donovan is available here as he speaks about the USWNT at the Olympics, his own Olympic experiences and tackles the bigger issue of developing young players in the USA.

Mourinho denies bust-up with Rose

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Jose Mourinho has denied he has had a training ground bust-up with left back Danny Rose.

Reports had circulated that Rose and Mourinho were involved in a heated argument in training on Monday after the England left back was unhappy to be left out of the squad for the 0-0 draw at Watford on Saturday.

Mourinho had said that Rose was out injured with a back problem but the left back has since denied he wasn’t fit to play against the Hornets.

Speaking to the media ahead of Spurs’ home game against Norwich on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Mourinho wasn’t having any of it.

“I don’t know what you mean by tension in the air, I don’t have a problem with him,” Mourinho said. “On the Thursday before Watford late evening I got a call from my medical staff saying that Danny was calling them with a problem in his back and he wouldn’t train the next day. Friday it was a bit of a surprise to see him training, but even so I decided to play with (Japhet) Tanganga and have Ryan (Sessegnon) on the bench. That is the situation.”

Mourinho added that Rose’s display against Liverpool was “not phenomenal” and reading between the lines, he was dropped.

If there wasn’t an incident or at least some anger between Rose and Mourinho, why would reports of this nature surface?

With youngster Japhet Tanganga starting at left back for Tottenham, and doing a very good job as Mourinho praised him afterwards, it is understandable that Rose would have his nose put out of joint a little.

The England international has less than 18 months left on his current contract at Spurs and has already spoken publicly about his plans to run down that deal as chairman Daniel Levy hasn’t offered him a new deal.

It will be intriguing to see how this plays out as Tanganga now seems to be Spurs’ first choice left back and Rose will have to be happy with playing a bit-part role between now and the end of the season.

His experience and quality is undoubted but with Spurs’ defensive unit all over the place this season, Mourinho is well within his rights to mix things up with formations and personnel as he tries to make Tottenham tough to beat.

Solskjaer: United have made “strides forward”

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Ole Gunnaer Solskjaer believes his Manchester United side have taken “strides forward” following their 2-0 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday.

United were outplayed for the vats majority of the game and were lucky to be only 1-0 down heading into the 90th minute but the grit and determination they showed impressed Solskjaer who lauded his young team.

Without the injured star duo of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba for the daunting trip to the Premier League leaders, United’s manager was in a positive mood ahead of their clash against Burnley on Wednesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“We lost to Liverpool. A team that you all say are fantastic and we’ve been in the game until the last kick of the ball. For me, that’s strides forward,” Solskjaer said. “Of course we’re disappointed about losing the game. We don’t want to be behind them in the league. But there are signs there that we’re on the right track, definitely.”

Is Solskjaer’s positivity misplaced?

Some would argue that United were lucky that Liverpool’s finishing was lackluster and that is true but the Red Devils hung in there and should have equalized in the second half but Anthony Martial blazed over.

They were missing at least four or five players in key areas for the trip to United as Rashford, Pogba and Scott McTominay were out injured and they badly need another attacking midfielder (ahem, Bruno Fernandes) to help with their play in the final third.

Solskjaer is right, there were positives for United. Fred played extremely well in midfield and both Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka stood tall defensively out wide. But the main takeaway from their trip to Liverpool was that United were delighted to not lose by three or four goals. The gulf in class between the two teams was clear for all to see and although United are trying to sort out their disjointed and confused squad by signing young, talented players, they are so far off Liverpool it is scary.

USMNT youngster Vassilev praised by Villa boss

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18-year-old USMNT youngster Indiana Vassilev has been praised by Aston Villa boss Dean Smith after making his Premier League debut at the weekend.

Vasillev came on for the final 25 minutes at Brighton and Hove Albion with Villa 1-0 down and helped them rescue a point as his run opened up the chance for Jack Grealish to score a late equalizer.

The lively attacking midfielder/forward has excelled in Villa’s reserve side after his arrival in England in the summer of 2018 following impressive displays for the U.S. youth national teams.

With Villa struggling with injuries up top after main striker Wesley went down with a season-ending injury early this month, Smith is clearly ready to put his faith in Vassilev.

“He is definitely ready to start,” Smith said. “The kid’s a bright spark, and we’ve seen that when he’s come on so far. He gave them (Brighton) problems on Saturday when he came on. It was a super ball from Douglas but, unless Indi makes that run down the side, he doesn’t drag Webster across, and Jack get in for the goal. He knows what he’s doing up there, he’s got a lot of pace, and he can run all day as well.”

Villa’s boss didn’t stop there though, as he also revealed that the young striker born in Savannah, Georgia has the backing of the senior players around him to go on and become a regular contributor in the Premier League.

“I’ve never been afraid to go and put young kids in if I feel they’re ready. I congratulated him after the game and said, ‘You’re a Premier League player now.’ He’s surprised me in a good way,” Smith added. “Sometimes when you give an opportunity to a young player they can sink or swim. He is certainly a swimmer. He has looked really good so far. You can always tell how the reaction is through the other players, in their relationships with them. You can see them all behind him. He goes in and puts a shift in for them. If you do that and have quality to add to it you will do alright in the dressing room. He’s got a goalscoring ability, he knows where the back of the net is, he knows what runs to make. Tactically he’s intelligent. Physically he’s impressive as well.”

Vassilev comes from a long line of soccer players and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all played in Bulgaria and he was born and raised in the USA after his parents emigrated from the eastern European country in the early 1990s.

It looks like the USMNT have another top talent breaking through in Europe which is great news for Gregg Berhalter and potentially even better news for Villa as they badly need a forward to deliver goals in their fight against relegation from the Premier League.

Expect to see more cameos, and maybe even starts, from Vassilev in the final months of the Premier League season.

Chicharito on LA Galaxy arrival: ‘Right place, right time’

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Javier ‘Chicharito‘ Hernandez has made a living out of being in the right place at the right time.

The LA Galaxy’s newest Designated Player believes he is now in the “right place at the right time” in his career as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer confirmed his move to Major League Soccer.

Hernandez, 31, joins the Galaxy from Sevilla in La Liga and the former Chivas Guadalajara, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United striker is ready to take MLS by storm.

“Like when people describe me playing. You know, that he’s always in the right place at the right time,” Hernandez said in his first interview as a Galaxy player, with the LA Times.

After a few years battling for minutes at West Ham in the Premier League and Sevilla in Spain after a successful spell at Leverkusen, Hernandez is heading closer to home as the Mexico star is ready to play week in, week out for the most-successful franchise in MLS history.

“I’m going to be playing. That’s what I want in my life,” Hernandez said. “People are going to say it was because I couldn’t make it [in Europe], but sometimes in football there are things that are not in your hands. The last two years, the managers decided on giving confidence to other players rather than me. And now, the LA Galaxy, the manager of the club and the league, are telling me, ‘Look, Javier, we want to give you all the trust, all the confidence to help us,’ and that’s why I’m taking this opportunity.”

He will link up with Mexico teammate Jonathan dos Santos in the Galaxy’s team as they try and wrestle back the City of Angels from MLS new boys and reigning Supporters’ Shield champions LAFC.

Hernandez was always destined to play in MLS before he retired and now that day has arrived. Following in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be easy but if anyone can score goals, it is Hernandez.

Get ready for his jersey to be the fastest-selling in history as Mexico’s favorite son is ready to become an even bigger star in MLS in the final years of his career.