Pochettino pays for Levy’s mistakes after 5.5 brilliant seasons at Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino is done as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, thus ending one of the most successful and exciting periods in the club’s 137-year history.

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Pochettino achieved more — even despite failing to win a trophy in his five and a half seasons at the club — than any manager since the legendary Bill Nicholson in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, and he did so with resources which paled in comparison to those of numerous clubs that his side routinely outperformed.

To credit Pochettino for what he achieved — taking Tottenham from perennial Europa League dwellers to nailed-on Champions League qualifiers well ahead of schedule — isn’t to absolve the Argentine of his own faults or shortcomings.

He couldn’t have been an easy man to work with, or for, given the demanding nature of his human personality, his managerial style and his tough-as-nails tactics. For the past five seasons, he had absolute buy-in from every last individual in the squad, and achieved previously impossible things at a club like Spurs — four straight seasons finishing in the PL’s top-four and the famous run to last season’s Champions League final.

He was relieved of his duties on Tuesday, but the beginning of the end was undoubtedly this summer’s transfer window. When the likes of Christian Eriksen, Toby Aldeweireld and Danny Rose were desperate to leave the club — something Pochettino himself was desperate to oblige as he knew now was the time for a teardown and rebuild — the Spurs hierarchy, namely chairman Daniel Levy, put his foot down and railroaded the 2019-20 season long before it kicked off. It was at that point that Pochettino’s fate was decided, and he immediately understood both the short and long-term ramifications for himself and for the club.

[ MORE: Social media reacts to Pochettino’s shock firing ]

Pochettino was many things as Spurs manager, but adaptable or willing to compromise was not one of them. Surly by nature, he was far more so anytime he spoke publicly. He openly questioned the loyalty and dedication of his players and frequently hinted, as he had done throughout his years of working with Levy, that the club’s two most important figures had different visions of where, and how, to take the club forward.

Committing to Pochettino’s way must feel like joining and henceforth belonging to a cult.

Once the players’ blind willingness to follow the him into a raging inferno had gone, Pochettino was done. No longer were the players willing to endure long, grueling training sessions — sometime double and triple in nature — as it no longer directly benefited them and their respective careers. If Spurs wasn’t the club to double their current contracts and financially secure them for life, nor a club willing to sell them to one of a handful of clubs that would, why should they continue to run themselves into the ground for a disloyal club when they knew they would leave as a free agent in less than 12 months? In short, the current season began an untenable situation for Pochettino, and it only grew worse from there.

[ MORE: FA panel details “very challenging case” to rescind Son red card ]

The fact that Levy, a man best known for pinching his pennies in any negotiation, has willingly chosen to pay Pochettino more than $16 million to no longer work for the club indicates a complete breakdown in communication and that particular working relationship.

In some ways, it’s fitting that Pochettino is free from the financial limitations of Spurs and Levy is left to clean up his own mess.

Unless he already has his next Pochettino lined up and is prepared to back the successor in a way he has never before backed a manager, Levy comes out of this wholly sad ordeal looking like an uncooperative, iron-fisted ruler for having fired the only genius he himself ever hired.

Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year

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Who else could it be? Christian Pulisic has been named the USMNT player of the year for 2019.

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The Chelsea star, 21, excelled for club and country over the past 12 months and after taking a few months to settle into life in England, he’s now taking the Premier League by storm on a weekly basis.

Pulisic has now won this award for a second time after first winning it in 2017 and he becomes the youngest player in U.S. men’s national team history to win the award twice.

His achievements over the last 12 months are numerous, as he dragged a struggling USMNT to the 2019 Gold Cup final and also became the youngest player to reach double figures in goals for the USMNT.

MLS veteran Sacha Kljestan signs with hometown LA Galaxy

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan has signed with the LA Galaxy as a free agent.

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The 34-year-old U.S. national team contributor officially returned to his native Southern California on Wednesday.

Kljestan has scored 49 goals over 10 MLS seasons in a career that began as the fifth overall pick by defunct Chivas USA, the Galaxy’s former stadium partners. After a successful five-year stint with Belgium’s Anderlecht, he spent the past five seasons with New York Red Bulls and Orlando City.

The Huntington Beach native also has made 51 appearances for the U.S. team, playing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Kljestan will provide veteran leadership for a Galaxy roster in transition after the departures of its top two goal-scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Uriel Antuna.

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

Liverpool in talks to activate Minamino’s release clause

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On the face of it, this move makes perfect sense for everyone concerned. Especially Liverpool, who get a bargain.

Multiple reports state that the Premier League leaders are in advanced talks to sign Japanese winger Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg.

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Minamino, 24, has a release clause of just $9.5 million and it has been reported that he will move to Liverpool in January with talks going well over a five-year contract.

RB Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund confirmed talks are ongoing about the transfer, with Bayern Munich and Marseille also said to be interested in signing the tricky winger.

“I can confirm that there are talks with Liverpool at the moment. It is an honor [for us] to see the caliber of clubs who are interested in our players.”

Minamino’s goals, pace and trickery pushed Salzburg to within one game of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and he impressed against Liverpool in both games in the UCL group stage as he scored at Anfield and gave their defense plenty of problems in the return game. His skillset would perfectly suit the way Liverpool play with his direct running, pace and nose for goal seemingly perfect for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

With Klopp and his RB Salzburg counterpart Jesse Marsch hugging on the sidelines after Liverpool’s win in Austria on Tuesday, plus Klopp’s kind words on the job the American coach is doing at Salzburg, it’s safe to say there’s a strong connection between the two teams and their styles of play are very similar.

That’s an even better reason for Minamino to head to Liverpool as the Japanese star would slot in seamlessly and he would become the third former RB Salzburg player at the Reds alongside Naby Keita and Sadio Mane.

From the style of play of both player and the club, to the small transfer fee, this works out very well for everyone involved. Even Salzburg will be happy to become known as a feeder club to Liverpool and Europe’s other big boys as that will help them with their future recruitment.

Raul Jimenez’s future at Wolves uncertain

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Raul Jimenez has been talking about playing for one of Spain’s big boys.

That sound you can hear is Wolves fans everywhere sobbing.

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The Mexican striker was quoted by Spanish outlet Marca saying that he would one day like to return to Spain and play for one of the La Liga giants.

“I would never rule out returning to Spain. I have good memories, and I would like to go back at some point,” Jimenez said. “I want to try out LaLiga once more, as I didn’t get to play much the previous time. Returning is not off the agenda. I have played at the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu.”

Jimenez, 28, previously played for Atletico Madrid before moving to Benfica who loaned him to Wolves in the summer of 2018, and he has since made the switch to the West Midlands permanent for $40 million.

However, his manager Nuno Espirito Santo has moved to calm down fears the El Tri star will move at the end of this season.

“What he is doing is amazing – every day of his life is dedicated to Wolves so we are delighted with it,” Santo said. “Being ambitious and dreaming is something all of us have. But our present is very good with Raul here.”

The powerful Mexican striker has been superb over the past two seasons and has proved to be a phenomenal target man in the Premier League. He’s scored 32 goals in 71 appearances in all competitions for Wolves, leading them to an FA Cup semifinal appearance and seventh-place PL finish last season and his goals this campaign (15 in 27 appearances in total) have catapulted them into the top six and the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. Aside from his goals Jimenez’s hold-up play has been vital to Wolves’ success.

It is worth pointing out that Jimenez revealed he is very happy at Wolves but the fact he is so ambitious and fancies moving on to either Real Madrid and Barcelona is a good thing for the club. This means Jimenez is striving to improve and do all he can to take his game to the next level.

Yes, Wolves will be desperate to keep hold of the Mexican star who is a fans favorite at Molineux. But if he continues to score goals and one of Spain’s big boys, or a title-chasing team in the PL, were to come calling, can they stand in his way?