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Italian FA holds presidential election; no one elected

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ROME (AP) Already in serious crisis following the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, the Italian football federation is facing emergency measures after four failed votes to elect a new president.

The election assembly fell apart on Monday when amateur leagues president Cosimo Sibilia ordered his supporters to leave their ballots empty in the final round.

“After having sought to reach an agreement in every manner possible, we can’t proceed further,” Sibilia told the nearly 300-person assembly near the end of the 10-hour election.

In the third round, Sibilia led with 39 percent of the votes, slightly ahead of Serie C president Gabriele Gravina with 38 percent. Players’ Association president Damiano Tommasi, a reform candidate and former Roma player, was eliminated with 21 percent.

A majority was needed to win.

While there was no hope for a winner, a fourth vote was held that resulted in Gravina leading with 39 percent and Sibilia with 2 percent.

The Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees all sports in Italy, will likely impose an emergency leader for the federation.

“This is a loss for our system. … But it’s fair that someone from outside gives us a hand,” Tommasi said. “Maybe it’s not a coincidence that we didn’t qualify for the World Cup.”

After Tommasi was eliminated, the Players’ Association’s refusal to throw its weight behind Sibilia or Gravina ended any hope of a successful election.

“We needed change and we believed that neither of the two candidates seriously represented reform,” Tommasi said. “One of the reasons we didn’t qualify for the World Cup is due to our administrative struggles.”

The federation was previously put under emergency leadership in 2006, when ex-senator Guido Rossi took charge following the “Calciopoli” refereeing scandal.

“An emergency administration would be a loss for everyone,” Torino president Urbano Cairo said. “It means refusing to find a solution for re-launching the sport. Having someone from outside take charge is something negative and I don’t like it.”

Sibilia, a supporter of previous president Carlo Tavecchio, also led the first two rounds of voting, when 75 percent and 66 percent of the votes were needed to win, respectively.

“It’s not something to laugh at,” former FIGC president Giancarlo Abete said of the failed votes. “It’s something to cry over.”

The election was called after Tavecchio resigned in November after Italy’s playoff loss to Sweden meant the four-time champion missed out on the sport’s showcase event for the first time in six decades.

“The fans needed someone to blame but we’ve done a lot of positive things in the FIGC and that should not be forgotten,” Tavecchio said in his outgoing address, which was met by a standing ovation.

In the meantime, Italy’s national team remains without a coach.

Gian Piero Ventura, the previous coach, was fired two days after the playoff loss.

Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, and Roberto Mancini are among the leading candidates to replace Ventura.

Italy’s next match is on March 27, a friendly against England in London.

Transfer rumors: Willian, Alderweireld to Manchester United

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The transfer rumor mill is picking up steam this Monday, including some persistent whispers regarding two Premier League players with possible futures at Old Trafford.

Both of these make a lot of sense.

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A day after Nemanja Matic stressed the need for experienced players at United, two good fits hit the rumor mill (again).

Matic’s old Chelsea pal Willian has interest from United if he seeks a way out of London — which seems likely — where he’s said to be ready to go if Antonio Conte remains as manager.

Then there’s Toby Alderweireld, whose been very strong at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur but reportedly fallen out with current Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

During a rut, the Tottenham manager claimed that Alderweireld was held out of Spurs’ lineup due to the form of the players in front of him.

Also from Sky, we’ll leave this quote from PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi on the idea of possibly selling Kylian Mbappe.

Al-Khelaifi told Canal+: “You want me to give you a number? More than €1bn! Yes, I said one billion! And even if you gave me a billion, I wouldn’t sell him.”

Pogba: Mourinho “made me progress in leadership”

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Paul Pogba says “we are never sure of anything but contractually, it’s sure” that he’ll remain at Manchester United.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement from United’s most expensive transfer purchase, as many have linked him with a move away from Old Trafford.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

He also said he’s not worried about his relationship with United boss Jose Mourinho, and pointed out that his problems and growth in Manchester are a natural part of a player’s progression. From Sky Sports:

“There were times where I wasn’t playing, I was on the bench. There was a lot of talk, people thought it wasn’t working out,” Pogba added.

“But a coach and a player don’t have to be best friends, we don’t have to go to restaurants together. I had a few little problems too… football is sometimes all about the mental side. He put me on the bench and I gave my response on the pitch. I always give everything I’ve got.

“He made me progress in leadership. I had the armband with Mourinho, it was the first time in a club, it’s important for me, it makes me grow to be also a leader in the France team.”

In a candid talk, the 25-year-old Pogba was asked about Paris Saint-Germain and told French television that he’d be open to representing the club in the future despite the fact that his parents are Marseille supporters.

Moore takes hold of West Brom’s promotion bid

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Darren Moore‘s spell as West Brom caretaker manager couldn’t quite pull off a miraculous run to Premier League safety, but the promise it contained has helped him to the first chance at earning promotion back to the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion announced Moore as its new manager on Monday, with the boss promising his Baggies would play attractive football while also being a side “that’s willing to fight and scrap for every ball.”

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Moore is also happy to carry a flame for minority coaches — called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) — in England.

“If it does inspire others, I would be extremely proud,” he said. “I don’t just speak on behalf of BAME coaches but the young, aspiring British coaches across the board.”

Moore, 44, only lost one of his six PL matches as WBA boss, winning three times and inspiring many to wonder what would’ve happened had the Baggies’ pulled the plug on Alan Pardew — and Tony Pulis before him — earlier.

A center back in his playing career, Moore spent 18 seasons between a number of clubs including West Brom, Derby County, and Doncaster Rovers. He won promotion as a player twice with West Brom, and again with Derby.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.