PRO SOCCER TALK | NBC SPORTSPST Select Team
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

Leave a comment

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.”

Ilkay Gundogan: ‘OK’ to award Liverpool Premier League title if season cancelled

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan believes that Liverpool have every right to be awarded the Premier League title if the the season were to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool, who haven’t lifted a top-flight title for 30 years, currently hold a 25-point lead over second-best City, and are two wins away from officially sealing the title.

“For me, that would be okay, yes,” Gundogan told German broadcaster ZDF, after being asked if Liverpool should be named champions if the season were to end early.

Despite believing that awarding Jurgen Klopp and company the title is the fair thing to do, the Germany international is concerned that the cancellation of the league will not only backfire on the top threshold teams but those on the bottom end of the table as well.

“You have to be fair as a sportsperson,” the 29-year-old said. “There are different opinions. For clubs who have had a very good season, it obviously wouldn’t be nice if it was cancelled now.”

“On the other hand, for clubs who aren’t doing as well and are maybe in the relegation places, an abandonment would obviously suit them.”

Gundogan added he’d be open to taking a wage-cut should City and other English clubs follow Juventus and Borussia Dortmund’s lead in asking players to trim their earnings in order to play non-playing staff.

Of course I think it’s okay, that goes without saying, [but] there’s been no discussion in England yet,” Gundogan said. “Perhaps that’s because the English clubs are a bit financially stronger than the clubs in Germany at the moment.

“I don’t know who has the final say in that decision. On the other hand, if a player says, ‘no, I don’t want that, I worked hard for it, I get my salary,’ then it can go in the opposite direction.

“For me personally, it would be okay but, to be honest, you have to be tolerant and if there are players who are against that, then that’s also an acceptable situation.

Harry Kane fails to rule out future Tottenham exit

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Harry Kane won’t rule out a future Tottenham exit, admitting that it largely depends on lifting silverware with his boyhood club.

Asked by Jamie Redknapp on an Instagram live session whether he would end his playing career at Spurs, the 26-year-old striker responded that it all depends on the “progress of the team” and added that he’s not the type of person to be somewhere just for the sake of being there.

In other words, he wants to win titles with Spurs, soon. If not, his days in north London may be numbered.

It’s one of those things, I couldn’t say yes, I couldn’t say no,” Kane told Redknapp on Sunday. “I love Spurs, I’ll always love Spurs. But it’s one of those things – I’ve always said if I don’t feel we’re progressing as a team or going in the right direction, then I’m not someone to just stay there for the sake of it.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” he added. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

Kane, along with his teammates at the time, got the short end of the stick under Mauricio Pochettino, losing a Champions League final and a League Cup final. The striker is aware that Spurs, top to bottom, have – and have had – the firepower to lift silverware but need the final push, which they may unlock under proven winner Jose Mourinho.

“We’ve been saying that for a couple of years now,” says Kane, “we have got a fantastic team but for one reason or another we haven’t been able to get the trophies that, when you look from the outside, we’ve got the team to get.”

“It’s a hard thing to take as a player. I want to win at everything I do so when we’re coming close and you don’t quite get there it’s hard to take and starts to build up. But from my point of view, and the team’s point of view, all you can do is do everything you can, give your best to win every game, to win trophies. For one reason or another, we haven’t quite got there yet.

“Next year, the gaffer now, it’ll be his first chance to really have a pre-season with the team and embed his values into the team and we’ll see what happens. Of course, I want to win, I want to win team trophies, I want to be doing it sooner rather than later. So we will have to see how it goes.”

Kane, who is third on Spurs’ all-time scoring list, is fond of Mourinho, a manager he grew up watching and respects. The strike admits they chat on a regular basis about soccer and a plethora of other subjects, but is aware that if Spurs want to reap all the benefits from having him onboard, the players will need to leave it all on the field.

“He came in and what you see is what you get,” Kane said. “He’s an honest guy – he’ll tell you if you’re doing things well or if you’re not. If he likes you he’ll tell you and if he doesn’t like you he’ll tell you.

“From my point of view, I have built a good relationship with him. We talk every few days or so, talk about all different things, talk about the team, when we were playing, what we can do, how we can improve.

“For me, it’s great to work under a manager like Jose. Obviously growing up, watching football, he was a big part of that. It’s another opportunity for me to work with one of the best managers in the world.

“I’m excited to see how that relationship unfolds and see what we can do on the pitch. So far he’s been great and I know he’s excited to put his stamp on the team when he gets his opportunity.

“When a manager like him comes in and you know he’s won everywhere, I’m sure he has no intentions to not do that at Spurs. From a player’s point of view we know we have a top, top manager, so it’s up to us to go out there and perform.”

What we love about West Ham United

West Ham United
IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Tottenham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This afternoon, we forge ahead with the Irons, the Hammers, the West Ham United Football Club.


The Bubbles: Let’s be honest here, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” is one of the coolest song/gesture combinations in world football. The bubbles floating across the field as the Irons seek three points is *chef’s kiss.*

The Academy of Football: Current captain Mark Noble is the latest in a long line of celebrated footballers to come out of West Ham’s Academy. And there are some giants in there, including the subject of our next topic Sir Bobby Moore. West Ham has produced Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Paul Ince, Trevor Brooking, and Frank Lampard Senior and Junior.

West Ham United
Frank Lampard and Joe Cole (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

 

 

 

Sir Bobby Moore: Can you believe we’ve got a member of the Carolina Lightnin’ on this list? Obscure American soccer jokes aside, Mr. West Ham didn’t just captain the club but also the national team that won England’s only World Cup (West Ham legends Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were also on the team). Moore is one of the greatest defenders of all-time, having played more than 500 times for West Ham in addition to his status as a centurion for the Three Lions. A Ballon d’Or runner-up in 1970, “Sir Bobby” was an absolute monster of the game. Plus, he was in “Escape to Victory.”

West Ham United
The Bobby Moore statue outside Wembley Stadium (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Mark Noble: There’s something remarkable about everyman Mark Noble, and not because the 32-year-old finishes penalties like a surgeon and looks like the definitive everyman. Doesn’t he give hope to every average-built person on earth? Poor Mark is five appearances from 500 for his career, and will likely meet that milestone by the end of this season, presuming it comes! His 60 goals are seven shy of Carlton Cole’s modern West Ham standard of 67, while his 59 assists lap the field.

Noble (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Juventus players, staff set to sacrifice up to $100M in wages

Juventus
Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Juventus players and coaches have agreed to forego pay for March, April, May, and June to the tune of approximately $100 million.

The Old Lady has been hit internally by coronavirus, with players Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi, and Daniele Rugani testing positive for COVID-19.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Italian football federation chief Gabriele Gravina has become a worldwide name during the COVID-19 crisis, and praised the move by Juve’s players and staff (via Football-Italia).

“The agreement reached by Juventus is an example for the whole system. I thank Giorgio Chiellini, his teammates and Maurizio Sarri because, in wake of the collaboration that the FIGC hopes to have in days, they placed general interests at the heart of their conversations with the club.

“Unity and solidarity in the world of football represent the first great response to the emergency we’re experiencing, and that risks becoming even more serious if we don’t resume playing soon. Only through the contribution of all the protagonists, each of them playing their part, will we make football stronger.”

More coronavirus news in soccer:

Powered by WordPress.com VIP