Why Pochettino should leave Spurs, go to Man United

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This seems like the debate we are going to be having often between now and the summer: should Mauricio Pochettino stay or go?

Sorry to be the Grinch on Christmas Eve, Spurs fans, but all the signs are pointing towards Pochettino leaving Tottenham this summer.

Pochettino only signed a new contract with Spurs in the summer to commit himself to the north London club as they’re finally set to move into their new stadium in the next few months. But that doesn’t mean their period of austerity is over, but it certainly signals a new era Spurs want Pochettino to lead them into. It will not be as simple as that.

Yet with both Manchester United and Real Madrid said to favor him as their next permanent manager, the bidding war for Pochettino has likely already begun behind closed doors and Daniel Levy will not be having a peaceful festive period.

Does Pochettino stay at Spurs and finish his project with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and the fine squad he has assembled and continue to grind every ounce of effort and talent out of them?

Or does he head to one of the biggest clubs on the planet in Man United where he will get the chance to truly redesign the way they play and what goes on behind-the-scenes to suit him best?

This may be one of the toughest decisions any manager has ever had to make, as the potential Spurs have is clear. If Poch goes, it is likely Kane, Alli and Co. follow him out of the door and the entire project will need to start again. His stock has never been higher and Pochettino may never be able to better what he’s doing at Spurs right now. They have hit their ceiling.

Pochettino has worked wonders over the past four years with them, turning young talent into world-class players and after their 6-2 shellacking of Everton, he has Spurs six points off the top of the PL table, in the UEFA Champions League last 16 and League Cup semifinals. All of that while not signing a single player over the summer and having to deal with the issues surrounding the stadium move and hanging out at Wembley a little longer.

The only reason Poch wouldn’t head to United is if he won either the PL or Champions League trophy at Spurs. How could he leave then? His players put on a show at Everton and are perhaps fighting not only for their own futures but also for that of their club. They want to show their boss they can reach another level and they know Pochettino is that important to Tottenham’s trajectory in the coming years.

But if he heads to United, he will be given large amounts of cash to spend on new players, something he has never had at Southampton or Tottenham in the Premier League, and he will be able to take his talents to the ‘next level’ per se, in terms of resources.

He has always been ambitious and his drive to be the best with a clear philosophy of using young players and playing a high-pressing game has inspired plenty of other PL clubs to follow suit in hiring managers with similar traits. Pochettino said very little for months when he left Southampton to join Tottenham, and he will be the same as he is asked about heading to United in the coming months.

But is the grass always greener? That is what Pochettino has to decide.

He was correct in deciding to leave Southampton for Tottenham in 2014, but the gulf in the size and resources of those clubs was clear. Can that be said for the gap between Tottenham and United? Spurs are a club on the up in so many ways, while United are stagnant after the failed tenures of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. But a sizeable jolt in the right direction would wake them up in a big way and it is likely the entire United hierarchy understands they’ve messed up big time in recent years.

That plays perfectly into Pochettino’s hands and he will get the power he demands, while his former head of recruitment at Southampton and Spurs, Paul Mitchell, is rumored to be heading to United in the overhaul of their football operations.

Of course, United could stick with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer permanently if he works wonders between now and the end of his caretaker role in May. But we have to be honest, the whole reason United hired a caretaker manager in the first place is because Pochettino wasn’t going to be able to, and didn’t want to, leave Spurs midseason.

Right now, for him and his staff, this decision will probably be the toughest Pochettino has ever had to make.

But this all comes down to one thing: ambition. And Pochettino has plenty of it.

Pochettino should continue the trajectory of his career and move to United to become a hero at Old Trafford. As harsh as that sounds, that is the next step in his career and it seems like it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity he cannot turn down.

Merry Christmas, Spurs fans…

Griezmann could be the key for Barcelona against Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) If Lionel Messi listens to Real Betis and sits out another match, Barcelona will likely have to rely on Antoine Griezmann to finally get some points on the board.

Betis, which visits the Camp Nou on Sunday, responded to a tweet by Barcelona that Messi was back to practicing with the team for the first time since being injured in the preseason by saying: “Don’t rush, Leo. No need for you to force it!”

Barcelona couldn’t make up for Messi’s absence last weekend when its attack was held scoreless in a 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao.

That was the first time the two-time defending champions had lost a Spanish league opener in a decade. And after both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid won, the pressure is on.

Barcelona acquired Griezmann after triggering the 120 million euro ($133 million) buyout clause in his contract with rival Atletico. The France forward was supposed to be the fourth piece to an already world class attack featuring Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. But Griezmann may be left with all the scoring responsibility in his competitive home debut.

Messi strained his right calf in the team’s first practice of the season on Aug. 5 and hasn’t played since. Although it is possible he will be back to face Betis, Suarez won’t be after he injured a right leg muscle in the first half at Bilbao. Dembele has also been ruled out for several weeks with a left thigh injury.

Philippe Coutinho, who could have helped out as an attacking player, is no longer with the team after being loaned out to Bayern Munich this week. Malcom, a Brazilian forward who played sparingly for Barcelona last season, was sold to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Griezmann had a lackluster match at Bilbao. His only good scoring chance at San Mames Stadium came in the final minutes with a header.

The Frenchman, however, is used to carrying a team on his back.

Griezmann was a consistent scorer for Atletico, tallying more than 20 goals a season for five consecutive years despite the team often not having another attacking threat to draw away some of the attention of opposing defenses.

The problem at Bilbao, he said, was simply “the ball didn’t go in.”

The other player who could make the most of the opportunity created by the injuries is 21-year-old Carles Perez, a member of Barcelona’s reserve team. He impressed in the preseason, even scoring two goals in a 2-0 win over Japanese club Vissel Kobe, where former Barcelona great Andres Iniesta now plays.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde included Perez in Wednesday’s team practice.

Betis was the only team to beat Barcelona at its home stadium last season, outgunning the hosts 4-3.

Since then it has changed coaches, replacing the attack-minded Quique Setien with the more conservative Joan “Rubi” Ferrer, who led Espanyol to a Europa League berth. Barcelona also poached one of its top players, left back Junior Firpo.

Betis lost its Spanish league opener, falling 2-1 to Valladolid at home.

The last time Betis played Barcelona was in Seville in March. Messi scored three goals and received a standing ovation from the Betis fans.

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

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.