Mourinho: Tottenham can win the Premier League

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Jose Mourinho has been unveiled as Tottenham Hotspur’s new boss and he wasted no time making his mark in his first press conference as Spurs’ head coach.

[ MORE: Press conference in full ]

He was brash, confident and had plenty of one-liners to throw out to the media as he resembled that friend you have who is entertaining when you see them once a year, usually around the holidays.

But we will all be seeing a lot more of Jose in the coming weeks and months…

Mourinho, 56, addressed a pack press conference room at Spurs’ training ground on Thursday and was happy throughout as he smiled and joked about returning to the Premier League.

During the lengthy press conference, where he discussed many topics including praise for Mauricio Pochettino, lavishing praise on the current Spurs squad and saying he is humble and has learned a lot in the past 11 months since he was fired by Manchester United, Mourinho was asked if Tottenham can win the title.

“We cannot win the Premier League this year. I am not saying we will do, but we can win it next year,” Mourinho said. “If we win titles it will not be because of me. It will because of the club’s work. It will be because of the vision and plan of the whole club. The stadium is part of the vision, the training ground is part of the vision, keeping the best players is part of the vision. To refuse to let the best players go is part of the vision too. Maybe to have a manager with my experience is also part of the vision. If we win the title, doesn’t matter when, if we win a title during my period it will not be because of myself. It is just the natural consequence of the vision and the plan.”

That is a huge statement for a team which hasn’t won the league title since 1961 and are currently so far behind title chasing Liverpool and Man City, let alone Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Man United.

But with Spurs’ phenomenal new stadium, training ground and a plethora of world-class players at his disposal, maybe Mourinho is right to be confident that the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League runners up can be in the PL title hunt next season, as he admitted he doesn’t need to change that much from the team Mauricio Pochettino built.

“I don’t want to make big changes, I want to respect the base and the work that they did for five-and-a-half years, not two days,” Mourinho said. “We hope that is an update, it is not a change. The base is what they did before. This is not about me and not for me to come and say ‘everything was wrong with Mauricio’, not at all. It is to try and understand why results in the Premier League were not good and to try and reach a good level again. The players are very good and I’m not here to make dramatic changes.”

Mourinho seems hungry, rejuvenated and ready to sink his teeth into the job at Spurs, and he is no doubt in his favorite role as the underdog in comparison to Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in the title race.

But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and any potential title bid, as they sit 14th in the Premier League table, without an away win in the league since January and 11 points off the top four.

After praising the squad of players he has at his disposal and insisting he doesn’t need to spend in January, Mourinho is unsure whether the likes of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose will stick around as they continue to run down their contracts.

“I’ve had no time to look at individual cases,” Mourinho said. “The first thing for me is for the players to feel good and if they are going to leave in January or June or sign a new contract I think all of that based on feeling good and to feel good is to be ready and available on Saturday. Jan cannot do that because of injury. But they have to be ready for the team. Then it is about the club, it is about them, it is about me, it is about Mr Levy but fundamentally it is about the players being happy.  You have to choose what makes you happy but at this moment we have to look at the short term and we have to try and get two good results in the next two matches.”

Those next two matches come at West Ham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and then a crucial UEFA Champions League group game against Olympiakos at home next Tuesday.

If Mourinho gets off to a flier, Tottenham will have momentum and when the Special One has that and he’s happy, the rest of the PL will be wary.

Brighton’s Potter joins Howe in taking voluntary pay cut

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Brighton and Hove Albion boss Graham Potter has joined club chief executive Paul Barber and technical director Dan Ashworth in taking a voluntary pay cut for the next three months.

The trio said the decision was made to support chairman Tony Bloom’s “significant efforts to protect all jobs at our club and charity.”

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Clubs all over the world have been furloughing workers if not laying them off altogether as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on club finances.

On Thursday, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. The clubs were also together in a prior initiative to reward medical workers.

Here’s Potter, via  BrightonandHoveAlbion.com:

“I spoke with Tony Bloom a couple of weeks ago, and I just felt like a normal thing to offer him because he has been good to me. I know the pressure he is under as a chairman and the challenges he faces. It is a small thing we can do but I think it was an important offer.

“Tony being Tony said, ‘Thank you very much but, at the moment we are working through things.’ As things have moved forward, I think we have come to the right decision to do what we have done.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola donated $1 million to fight coronavirus in Catalonia. Whether donations or pay cuts, surely more will come.

Brazil, Argentina league soccer players seek full pay amid coronavirus

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SAO PAULO (AP) As soccer players around Europe accept pay cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic, some of their less-well-compensated South American counterparts are fighting for every penny.

In Brazil and Argentina, players aren’t budging during the league shutdown despite forced cuts to staffing and wages in other leagues around the continent.

Negotiations in Brazil between an association of clubs and the players’ union have failed to reach a deal on pay and early vacations. Team captains and executives are now trying to reach individual decisions, but those could end up in court.

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Brazil’s top clubs, fearing a loss of sponsors and rising debts, wanted to cut player salaries by 25% until the pandemic ends. But some players – including those who have been paid late in the past – have asked for the Brazilian soccer confederation to step in. So far it hasn’t, but the union did give some ground on the issue of vacations.

Former players, executives and coaches said they were inspired by the example set by Lionel Messi, who took a 70% cut in pay to help Barcelona keep its staffers during the pandemic. But the voices in Brazil sound more like that of Atlético Mineiro defender Guilherme Arana.

“I don’t think there is a reason (to cut). We are stopping because we need to,” the 22-year-old Arana told Fox Sports. “It is the world that is stopping.”

Atlético, however, said Sunday it will cut salaries by 25%, except for staff members on lower wages.

In Argentina, which has about 4,000 male and female professional soccer players, clubs have not cut salaries and the country’s national federation has not made any recommendations on the issue.

Players’ union leader Sérgio Marchi was, unsurprisingly, against any cuts. He insisted in a radio interview that “it is fundamental” to respect the salaries of soccer players because it would allow the league to resume “without any sort of conflict after this contingency is over.”

“Some (officials) are seeking excuses or mitigating factors for their bad management or to their flawed behavior at the time they are setting up a budget,” he said.

[ MORE: Serie A could return in late May ]

Players in Colombia asked for full pay, but clubs acted swiftly to start saving money.

Jaguares suspended the contracts of 13 members of its squad, Millionarios reduced wages without much debate and Santa Fé pitched fans against players on Twitter by asking them if salaries should be cut. The query ended with 62% of fans voting yes.

Colombian league organizers are also asking the government to broaden some economic policies to help clubs, including those that have suspended players’ contracts so they wouldn’t go bankrupt.

“We don’t want taxpayer money to deal with the financial difficulties during this mandatory stop,” Jorge Enrique Vélez, the head of the league, said in an interview with Radio Caracol. “We are asking for policies that the government has already set for tourism and aviation industries. We also had to stop 100%, and we have no revenues during this time.”

In Uruguay, some players are now claiming unemployment benefits after several clubs, including Montevideo powerhouse Peñarol, suspended their contracts. The country’s soccer association has also cut pay for staff, including 73-year-old national team coach Oscar Tabárez.

The biggest exception is in Peru, where Alianza Lima players openly suggested they should be paid less so the club can afford to keep all its workers. Goalkeeper Leao Butrón said the decision was “easy to make.”

“Yes, the offer actually came from us. We wanted to give the club a break,” Butrón said in a radio interview. “They told us that it is not necessary for now. But we don’t know when this will end. We are still willing. Beyond being an economic problem, it is a liquidity issue. A financial issue. We can give a hand if extreme measures are needed.”

Associated Press writers Debora Rey in Buenos Aires and Eric Nuñez in New York contributed to this report.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month

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Blanket testing for players and a 14-day quarantine for foreign players are on the menu as Serie A reportedly looks to resume in May.

Football Italia cites a report from Italian news outlet Adnkronos that discusses a May 2 return to training with matches resuming late in the month.

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Vincenzo Spadafora is Italy’s minister for sport, and is hopeful that the worst of the coronavirus is behind the country.

According to the report, any player returning to Italy from abroad would be quarantined for two weeks before returning to training.

After an initial round of testing for all players, more would follow:

More tests would be made weekly to maintain that level of certainty all the way to the end of the season. Clubs are believed to be stocking up on COVID-19 tests, in accordance with medical structures in their cities, ensuring everyone has enough to go around.

The plan may be met with resistance, as combustible Brescia owner Massimo Cellino says his club will not play and has accepted that it earned relegation.

European bodies implore member associations to wait to abandon seasons

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UEFA is speaking up regarding its hope to finish club seasons once the environment is safer.

Sky Sports reports that UEFA has sent a letter to its 55 members associations imploring them not to cancel their competitions early and that they exhaust all options “until the last possibility exists.”

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The letter is signed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli and European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson.

The report comes as the Belgian Super League reportedly prepares to award its league title to Club Brugge on April 15. The league would be the first to see its season abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From Sky Sports:

“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come – with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities – and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.”

Many leagues, such as the Premier League, continue to suspend their seasons indefinitely as they wait for improvements with the coronavirus pandemic.

Although UEFA have relaxed their previous stance that domestic seasons should be finished by June 30, it is looking more likely that the 2019-20 season would need until August or September.