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Doucoure wants to leave Watford

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Well, Watford fans, enjoy Abdoulaye Doucoure while you can…

The towering French midfielder signed a new long-term contract at Vicarage Road last summer amid plenty of rumors he was going to leave the club as Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool were all linked with a big-money move for the 26-year-old.

His impressive displays in central midfield have continued this season and Doucoure’s superb box-to-box displays are a big reason why Watford currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League under Javi Gracia. The former Rennes man has scored three goals and added five assists in 21 Premier League starts this season, with all of his goals coming in his last eight appearances.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Plus after Watford’s win against Crystal Palace over the weekend, Doucoure didn’t beat about the bush when asked about his future.

“I think I am going to leave Watford. The club know my ambitions and want to help me get to the next level,” Doucoure said. “I’m flattered by the interest of PSG but for the moment there’s nothing concrete. I will focus on my performance for my club. I’ve not had contact with PSG and they’ve not contacted Watford. My goal is to play well for Watford and then maybe join a Champions League team.

“This winter we’ll study all possibilities on offer. The most important thing for me is to continue to progress and with my performances. Staying in England is a possibility and the Italian league is becoming more interesting. There are clubs who have returned to show interest in me again. The first criteria for me is that the club plays in the Champions League.”

Doucuore’s comments are a big blow for Watford, especially a time of the season where they look to kick on and push hard for Europa League qualification. But Gracia’s Hornets can cope without him.

If they do receive a monster offer of over $65 million, which is the lowest offer they should accept for Doucoure, they could reinvest that by addressing a few other areas where they need to strengthen. Most notably at center back and at center forward.

If Doucoure leaves they still have Etienne Capoue, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes and Domingos Quina as central midfield options, while up top and at center back they look light. Troy Deeney can’t keep rolling back the years, while Andre Gray is on a serious lean spell and Stefano Okaka has left during the January transfer window. In defense Craig Cathcart and Adrian Marriapa are experienced and honest pros, but you have to think serious upgrades would be available if the Doucoure cash was used to sign a striker and a center back.

All in all, this news isn’t too bad for the Hornets as Doucoure can leave with minimum fuss in the summer and in the knowledge that he won’t leave too large of a hole in their starting lineup.

He’s a great player, of course, but Watford can easily cope without him. And unless they have a heck of a finish to the season and finish in the top four and make the UEFA Champions League, Doucoure is off.

FOLLOW LIVE: Southampton v. Derby County

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Southampton and Derby County chase the final spot in the fourth round proper of the 2018-19 FA Cup with a replay at St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: FA Cup scoreboard ]

The clubs drew 2-2 at Pride Park on Jan. 5, with a Nathan Redmond 2-0 lead going to waste for the Premier League visitors.

The victor gets a trip to the Crown Ground to face League One’s Accrington Stanley on Jan. 26.

Full fourth round fixture list

Jan. 25
Arsenal v. Manchester United

Jan. 26
Accrington Stanley v. Derby County or Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion
Bristol City v. Bolton
Doncaster Rovers v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Burnley
Middlesbrough v. Newport County
Newcastle United v. Watford
Portsmouth v. Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City v. Gillingham
Shrewsbury Town v. Wolves
Millwall v. Everton
AFC Wimbledon v. West Ham United

Jan. 27
Crystal Palace v. Spurs
Chelsea v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 28
Barnet v. Brentford

Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied “all the rivals”; How widespread is spying?

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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

55-goal Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

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Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Men In Blazers Podcast: De Gea heroics; Liverpool, Man City wins

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Rog and Davo applaud David De Gea‘s goalkeeping heroics in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham. Plus, wins for Liverpool and City in the title race.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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