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Van Dijk should lead Player of the Year conversation

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Right now Virgil Van Dijk is the leading contender for Premier League Player of the Season.

It is not even that close, as it stands…

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Now, we all know that a player from the team which wins the title is usually named the player of the season (except for last season when Salah pipped Kevin De Bruyne to the accolade) but there have been some wonderful individual campaigns from stars across the league in 2018-19.

With that in mind, below we take a quick look at the top 10 contenders with nine games of the season to go. Can anybody challenge VVD?


Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – The Dutch defender has been a colossus at the back for Liverpool, as they’ve conceded just 15 times so far this season. He leads the defense and his belief spreads throughout the team with his incredible passing ability. A true “Rolls Royce” of a defender. The front three for Liverpool are very important, but VVD is probably more important. A defender hasn’t won the POTY accolade since John Terry in 2005…


Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – After two breaks during the season for the Asian Games and the Asian Cup, Son has returned and played superbly for Tottenham. He stepped up big time when Harry Kane was out injured and the South Korean forward has been a menace all season. He has looked a little jaded in recent weeks, but this has been his best season in the PL by far.


Sergio Aguero (Man City) – He leads the PL with 18 goals and Aguero’s all-round game has improved drastically under Pep Guardiola. We all know he’s a predator in the box, but his work rate, link-up play and hunger is through the roof. If City win the title, Aguero will be one of the main reasons why.


Harry Kane (Tottenham) – To miss the games he has through injury and still have 16 PL goals this season is remarkable and Kane has been Tottenham’s talisman once again. He always delivers and even though Spurs are out of the title race, Kane has kept them in it for most of this season. In a world he is relentless.

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Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Last season will have been tough for Sterling to replicate, but in many ways he has got even better in 2018-19. With 12 goals and nine assists only Salah, Aguero and Hazard have been involved in more PL goals than Sterling this season. He continues to refine his game under Guardiola, and Sterling’s impact off-the-pitch is inspirational.


Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Yes, he’s blown hot and cold for most of this season but when he’s been good, he’s been very, very good. Hazard is the main reason Chelsea are still well in the top four hunt, and even though his future is unclear you can hardly accuse him of coasting through games. Playing as a false nine whenever asked he has still caused problems, but Hazard is much better on the wing. This could well be his final season in the PL.


Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – The Egyptian forward has struggled for consistency this season, but he still has 17 goals and seven assists to his name. So if this a below-par campaign for Salah, it’s still very decent… His form has dipped over the past few months but Salah’s importance to Liverpool is clear and the reigning POTY will no doubt kick on in the final months of the season.


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Arsenal’s main man up top has scored 16 goals and he could have scored quite a few more. His partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has been building, but the duo aren’t always selected alongside one another by Unai Emery. Aubameyang’s strike rate since he arrived in the PL is remarkable, as he’s now scored 26 goals in 40 outings. His slick finishes have kept Arsenal in the top four battle.


Ben Foster (Watford) – Watford are having a wonderful season and Foster is rolling back the years in goal. The 35-year-old has produced some memorable saves and displays to keep the Hornets’ European hopes alive. Not a player many would expect to see on this list, but one that truly deserves it.


Fernandinho (Man City) – So often the unsung hero for Man City, they do not operate in the same ruthless manner when the Brazilian midfielder is missing. Fernandinho’s absence has coincided with some of City’s worst displays of the season and his incredible range of passing compliments his tough-tackling and exceptional reading of the game. A key cog in Guardiola’s well-oiled machine.


Honorable mentions: Marcus Rashford (Man United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Aymeric Laporte (Man City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Alisson (Liverpool), Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Gerard Deulofeu (Watford), Matt Doherty (Wolves), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Richarlison (Everton), Bernardo Silva (Man City), Paul Pogba (Man United).

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

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One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

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Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”