Rejuvenated Mourinho delivers on Tottenham debut

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LONDON — The circus which follows Jose Mourinho rolled into the London Stadium on Saturday.

The Special One is back.

Everyone has an opinion on Mourinho and on the way to the game all of chatter in the pubs and on tube in London was about what formation and players Mourinho would use. There were laughs about his first press conference, as this kind of analysis for an unveiling is reserved only for Jose.

His shock return to the Premier League, replacing Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, divided opinion among Spurs’ fanbase as they didn’t sing his name until after the game, once their 3-2 victory had been secured. There is still some trepidation around Mourinho’s arrival at Tottenham, and he knows it.

The game itself was a resounding success for the legendary Portuguese coach as he guided Spurs to their first Premier League away win since January.

The 3-2 scoreline flattered West Ham as Spurs were lively in attack with Harry Kane holding the ball up as Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli causing havoc behind him. Mourinho’s celebrations were wild on the sidelines as he sunk to his knees when they went 2-0 up but the knee slid didn’t work out. Still, he was feeling it.

Eric Dier and Harry Winks brought a pragmatic approach to the midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation and Spurs should have won by a more comfortable margin. At the final whistle he waited on the pitch to congratulated all of his players one at a time.

He then reserved special praise for Dele Alli as the Amazon documentary cameras circled around his press conference.

“I think it was the old Dele Alli, the one from a couple of years ago who impressed not just England but the world,” Mourinho said. “He did exactly what I wanted him to do, with two days of work. Important selection of information, tried to make clear to him the spaces where we wanted him to play offensively and defensively. Very important for the team. Intelligent football player to understand what we wanted and really, really important for the team. He can be pleased with his performance.”

But this was mostly about Mourinho.

Photographers flanked his position in the dugout before the game. West Ham fans posed for selfies with the now manager of their bitter rivals. Cameras followed his walk into the stadium as he greeted the ball kids in the tunnel area with a high five and a smile, and a fist bump for some.

“The thing for me that was the most weird where I was going to football stadiums and I felt to myself ‘what am I doing here?’ In a box or in the TV studio, what am I doing here?,” Mourinho said when asked about his 11 months without a managerial job. “I belong there, that is where I belong. Today the feeling was I was where I belong. It is my natural habitat. Was I extra emotional? No. Was I nervous before the game? No. I just love it. Especially when things go in your direction. Of course, it is the best thing in football to win matches.”

Tottenham’s fans still have a mixed feeling about Mourinho arriving and Pochettino in a wild 12-hour period on Tuesday to Wednesday. There is a sense that things will unravel spectacularly under Mourinho with Chairman Daniel Levy a tough operator. Will Mourinho blow his lid during the upcoming transfer windows? Over the summer during preseason? Lose it with players who are trying to run down their contracts?

All of that fun will have to wait for another day because if anybody watched Spurs pummel a poor West Ham on Saturday, you could see there was more structure and direction to their play.

This win will help Spurs’ fans take to Mourinho, and if they beat Olympiakos on Tuesday to reach the UEFA Champions League last 16, he will be rocking and rolling. At Spurs he is in a more familiar territory, managing a team which is seen as an underdog and simply wants to win a trophy.

Mourinho is the right man for that, as his incredible success proves.

He played the humble card when referencing the fact that in his first game in charge he had led Spurs to their first away win since January.

“I’m not worried about my Tottenham career. I am worried about Tottenham and the players,” Mourinho said. “It was very, very important. 11 months without music in the away dressing room, without a smile, without happiness, they did it. I’m very happy with them, I’m very happy for them.”

Mourinho and Tottenham aren’t in love with one another yet, but there are signs that the Special One is just happy to get another opportunity in the Premier League and is eager to make the most of it. The way he celebrated and the fire in his eyes late on as he helped his team get over the line proved it.

And, whether people like him or not, the soccer world is happy to have him back.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings have landed.

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Matchweek 16 followed a similar pattern to recent weeks as players from Liverpool, Leicester City, Spurs and Man United dominated our top 20 with so many games played over the last seven days.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1.  Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – Even
2. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Up 7
3. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – New entry
4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
5. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Up 6
6. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) – New entry
7. Jonny Evans (Leicester) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
9. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) – New entry
10. Danny Ings (Southampton) – New entry
11. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – New entry
12. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Down 2
13. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – Even
14. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Down 11
15. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Down 10
16. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 3
17. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) – Down 1
18. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
19. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – New entry

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.