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Ligue 1: Monaco’s title win the result of Jardim’s transformation

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PARIS (AP) Leonardo Jardim turned an inexperienced Monaco squad into one of Europe’s most entertaining teams, doing so while competing on four fronts.

The soft-spoken Portuguese coach with the unflinching stare was under pressure to keep his job. Now he’s one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe after wresting the French league trophy from Paris Saint-Germain and reaching the semifinals of the Champions League with a hedonistic brand of attacking football that produced 155 goals in all competitions.

“Winning the title with a team that is not the favorite is a great trophy,” Jardim said after securing the title late Wednesday. “Monaco as champion is worth four times PSG as champion. When PSG wins, it’s normal, but Monaco …”

PSG had won the previous four titles, clinching last season’s by 31 points.

Such is the huge popularity of this Monaco side that even opposing fans have applauded the team.

Monaco’s feel-good factor was reflected in the way Jardim escaped reproach when making the kind of decision only the most single-minded managers dare to make. It was up there with Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho for its unapologetic boldness.

At the end of April, with Monaco preparing to face mighty Juventus in the Champions League semifinals, Monaco travelled to play PSG in the French Cup semifinals. Victory would put Monaco within touching distance of a league and cup double, but Jardim calculated differently.

He wanted to rest his players before facing Toulouse and Juventus in quick succession, so fielded mainly reserves and lost 5-0.

Even though Jardim arguably devalued France’s national cup on its 100th anniversary, there was scant criticism because neutral fans wanted Monaco to do well in Europe. Even the league president understood.

The 42-year-old Jardim met his match only once this season; tactically outmaneuvered by Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

In the knockout rounds against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, there was no talk about it being 50-50 or other such soccer cliches. Instead, he specifically explained how Monaco was going to get through.

It is this firm confidence that defines an articulate man whose interests stretch far beyond football.

Last month, he met with French philosopher Edgar Morin, whose books have been translated into 28 languages. Jardim stumbled upon one when he was a physical education student in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira.

“My approach is very much influenced by Edgar Morin, who talks about seeing things through different perspectives that can interlock,” Jardim told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “I made the link between football and the complexity it entails.”

That’s not exactly your average coaching talk.

But Jardim has been different from the time he arrived from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2014, and caught the eye in his first match at home to Lorient.

He left out star striker Radamel Falcao, played midfielder Joao Moutinho out of position, and handed an unexpected start to young midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko – then hauled him off after 32 minutes.

The ruthless kind of behavior synonymous with his countryman Mourinho, perhaps. But Jardim’s decisions are rooted in an obsession with balance.

“A manager is permanently dealing with contradictions between the individual and the collective,” he said. “Sometimes, an approach that is too collective stops the quality of the individual from emerging.”

A year into his job, Jardim had to completely rebuild.

In the summer of 2015, because of former Financial Fair Play rules designed to control club finances, Monaco sold forward Anthony Martial to Manchester United. Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, center half Aymen Abdenour and left back Layvin Kurzawa were all sold. Falcao was loaned out again, this time to Chelsea. The previous summer, forward James Rodriguez went to Real Madrid.

Still, in difficult circumstances, Jardim redesigned Monaco from a cautious team into a flair side packed with young talent and built around the verve of attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva.

He gambled correctly on Falcao this season, too, giving him another chance after two miserable years in England.

His other masterstroke was promoting teen forward Kylian Mbappe from the reserves in October.

Falcao scored 30 goals and the 18-year-old Mbappe netted 26, with one game remaining at Rennes on Saturday.

Jardim was named coach of the year with six of his players in the team of the season.

The ultimate compliment.

VIDEO: Wild first half in Moscow sees Lukaku, Hazard on board

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Romelu Lukaku (2) and Eden Hazard scored for Belgium before Dylan Bronn answered for Tunisia, as dominant Belgium holds a 3-1 lead with three goals gracing the games first 18 minutes on Saturday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Lukaku led an early break that led to a Thomas Meunier shot collected by Tunisian keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Hazard won a penalty in the fifth minute, just inside the 18. He converted the chance low and to the right of Ben Mustapha.

Ben Mustapha was fortunate when Hazard’s 12th minute shot of a terrific Lukaku pass was substandard.

Lukaku then scored a beauty in the 16th minute, sent into the 18 by Dries Mertens, when he clinically slid a shot inside the far post.

Tunisia got a surprise answer a minute later when Bronn turned a free kick past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

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

Lukaku would chip the keeper after Meunier played his perfect run to feet.

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[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

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.