Pochettino amid Tottenham’s slump: ‘My players are heroes’

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LIVERPOOL — Mauricio Pochettino was very, very happy with his Tottenham players despite their 2-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Watching on from the stands at Anfield as he served the final match of his two-game ban, Pochettino shrugged off a fourth defeat in their last five Premier League games which has seen Spurs collapse from title contenders to just one point from being outside the top four.

Speaking after the game, Pochettino was keen to stress that Spurs are punching above their weight and pointed to the resources Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has compared to him.

“It was bad luck. Always bad luck. Many situations that happen in an action. Football is about being right in many actions. That is football,” Pochettino said. “You accept that sometimes things happen, like an offensive player misses an opportunity, like a midfielder misses a pass, a centre-back sometimes does not defend well and sometimes the keeper you know, that is football and you have to accept that. You know I was so disappointed after Southampton because we showed in the wrong way our arrogance. Today that is the arrogance I want to see in the team, like in the second half with our superiority. We were laughing a little bit because more than £100m in two midfielders, Keita and Fabinho on the bench, and you go and play and you are better and dominate.”

In a season where they’ve played away from home unexpectedly, failed to sign a single new player and had some key injuries to deal with, Spurs have hung in there admirably. Against Liverpool they dominated the second half and had plenty of chances to secure the win they deserved.

Pochettino is keen to keep confidence levels high ahead of a huge few weeks in the PL and the UEFA Champions League last eight against Manchester City. If Spurs put up a good fight against City and finish in the top four, this season will have been a huge success.

With their debut in the new stadium to finally come on Wednesday against Crystal Palace, an exciting new era will begin at Spurs.

But Pochettino knows they are still overachieving, and will be happy whatever happens.

“It’s a little bit of a shame that we’re not there fighting as well. We were but in the last few weeks we have started to find our reality, our place,” Pochettino said. “Disappointed but knowing and being realistic. We must be happy. We have a mini-league now. Seven games and it’s in our hands to be in the top four and the Champions League next season. Still we are in the quarter-finals and we are going to fight against Manchester City to try to be in the semifinals.”

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.