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West Ham slam Payet; Hammers fans return jerseys

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It’s safe to say that Dimitri Payet will not be welcome back at West Ham United anytime soon.

Probably never.

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Payet, 29, completed his $31.2 million move from West Ham to Marseille on Sunday, ending the saga which saw the French international playmaker refuse to play for the Hammers at the start of January as he wanted to force through a move away from the London Stadium.

He finally got his wish as the Hammers reluctantly sold their star man, with reports from Sky Sports also stating that West Ham made Payet pay back his wages for January before he moved on.

In a statement released by the club on Monday, co-owner David Sullivan slammed Payet’s actions and revealed he and fellow owner David Gold wanted to let Payet rot in the reserve squad to make an example of him.

“The Club would like to place on record its sincere disappointment that Dimitri Payet did not show the same commitment and respect to West Ham United that the Club and fans showed him, particularly when it rewarded him with a lucrative new five-and-half-year deal only last year.

“I would like to make it clear that we have no financial need to sell our best players and that the decision to allow Payet to leave was in accordance with the wishes of the manager and the interests of squad unity. To be frank, my Board and I would have preferred for him to have stayed in order to make an example of him, as no player is bigger than the club.”

What did Payet have to say about all of this?

Well, he was unveiled in Marseille on Monday and stated he felt he had done absolutely nothing wrong over the past few weeks…

“I lived an exceptional year at West Ham, I have a great memory of the fans of the club. Going back to Marseille is a personal choice,” Payet said. “I no longer felt well at West Ham, I needed to return to my roots. Marseille is a very pleasant city to live in.”

In a separate yet connected note, fans of West Ham can now return any jersey with Payet’s name on the back and pay $30 to get a brand new shirt with the name and number of another player on the back. West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady confirmed the offer on Monday.

It has been widely reported that Payet has taken a pay cut to join Marseille, with the playmaker earning $125,000 a week back at his old club compared to the new $156,000 per week deal (which was for five-and-a-half years) he signed at West Ham just over six months ago.

Payet sent out the message below on Monday as he headed back “home” to Marseille as the French international rejoins the Ligue 1 giants 18 months after leaving and he has reportedly doubled his wages from what they previously where when he joined Marseille from West Ham in the summer of 2015.

His legacy and image has been ruined after refusing to play for the Hammers and Payet will not be welcome in east London for many years. There is a way to go about getting a transfer and by refusing to play Payet has tarnished his reputation not only among West Ham fans but the wider soccer community.

If he is truly moving back to Marseille for family reasons then that is understandable. Still, he went about securing this transfer in completely the wrong way.

Red-hot Rebić scores again as AC Milan tops Torino

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MILAN (AP) Ante Rebić kept up his scoring form to lead AC Milan to a 1-0 win over struggling Torino in Serie A on Monday.

The Croatia international beat his marker to redirect a cross from the center of the area midway through the first half at the San Siro.

The score raised Rebić’s tally to six goals and an assist in eight matches since he earned his starting spot – a move that coincided with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to the Rossoneri.

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Bouncing back from a derby loss, Milan moved up to eighth and just beyond the Europa League places. The seven-time European champion is hoping to return to continental competition after voluntary withdrawing from this season’s Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches.

Torino, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight, with new coach Moreno Longo still unable to turn things around in his second match in charge.

Ibrahimović narrowly missed a curling shot shortly after the break.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Simeone: Liverpool intensity “makes me admire it as a rival”

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The UEFA Champions League returns at long last on Tuesday, and two of the greatest managers in the game will match wits for the first time.

No we’re not talking about Lucien Favre and Thomas Tuchel, the meeting of the minds in Tuesday’s other kickoff between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in Germany.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone in Spain, and the fiery German thinks it will be “absolutely interesting.”

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People say I emotional on the sideline,” Klopp said. “I am only on level 4, Diego is level 12. Really I am the kindergarten cop against him. He is so impressive after all these years, after so many years at the club – eight years. That is really long and having still this emotional level, still, wow. So impressive. I say, his teams are always organized world class.”

The admiration is mutual.

Simeone expects a huge challenge from a Liverpool team he regards on a historic plane.

“We are facing a magnificent team, really well-trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team,” he said, via The Independent. “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired. This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.”

The bettors say Liverpool is the heavy favorite in the first leg despite the match’s location at the Wanda Metropolitano. With football geniuses like Klopp and Simeone, however, either could have a plan to throw the other for a loop.

CONCACAF Champions League preview: Five MLS sides eye history

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Once the Premier League and La Liga had taken their final bows of the day on Saturday, there felt was a particular absence, one soon-to-be filled by domestic soccer.

Yes, MLS is coming soon, and the CONCACAF Champions League is even closer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Five MLS sides begin their Round of 16 ties over the next three evenings, some with easier paths than others to elusive CCL glory.

The competition may not have burned itself onto the mainstream, lagging behind continental competitions in Europe and South America, but those who’ve embraced it (hint: this guy) love the thing.

For all the progress Major League Soccer has made in its quarter-century, it’s yet to find much success in dealing with Liga MX powers in the fight to qualify for the Club World Cup.

MLS sides have not won the competition since it was rebranded the CCL. Only three MLS sides have made the CCL final this decade, with Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal Impact (2015), and Toronto FC (2017) all coming up short at the last step.

The CCL provides everything you love and hate about World Cup qualifying, and those dicey pitches with sometimes worse lighting mean the favorites aren’t guaranteed much.

The top half of the bracket sees three MLS teams — Montreal, Seattle, and NYCFC — and just one Liga MX side, while the bottom half gives us a Liga MX v. MLS match-up straight away.

That’s Leon v. LAFC, and it begins Tuesday night in Mexico. That tie carries the added intrigue of MLS superstar Carlos Vela bringing his act back to his home country for the first time… ever.

Bracket

Saprissa (Costa Rica) v. Montreal — 8 p.m. ET Weds.
Olimpia (Honduras) v. Seattle — 10 p.m. ET Thurs.

San Carlos (Costa Rica) v. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Thurs.
Alianza (El Salvador) v. UANL Tigres — 8 p.m. ET Weds.

Leon v. LAFC — 10 p.m. ET Tues.
Portmore United (Jamaica) v. Cruz Azul — 8 p.m. ET Tues.

Comunicaciones (Guatemala) v. Club America — 10 p.m. ET Weds.
Montagua (Honduras) v. Atlanta United — 10 p.m. ET Tues.

The 2 Robbies podcast: VAR carnage at Stamford Bridge

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect a crazy game at Stamford Bridge that saw Chelsea on the wrong side of several VAR decisions (00:45).

The gents also recap the big moments from the weekend; Liverpool beat Norwich (18:30), Son’s late winner against Aston Villa (24:45) and Arteta‘s attackers thrash Newcastle United (30:15).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]