Wolfsburg’s Schafer on club’s big American influence, USMNT’s Berhalter


Long before Marcel Schafer was a German national team player and Bundesliga champion at Wolfsburg, he was a 22-year-old entering his third year as a regular at left back at 1860 Munich.

During that 2006-07 2.Bundesliga season, Schafer looked to his right and saw a new signing leading his back line in the form of veteran American center back Gregg Berhalter.

[ MORE: Pulisic scores to finish Chelsea win ]

The now USMNT head coach had just turned 33 when he made his 2.Bundesliga debut for 1860 Munich, months after captaining Energie Cottbus to Bundesliga promotion.

“He was already a leader,” Schafer said during a roundtable with American media on Monday. “It is not always easy for a very young player because a leader telling you very honestly the truth, some positive, some negative. You learn from experienced guys. When I made my step to Wolfsburg he was the first one to call me and congratulate me. We were always in touch, even in my time in the U.S.”

Schafer accepted a move to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2017 largely to the front-office experience that the then-NASL club was willing to offer him.

By that time Berhalter had earned the reputation for making a fine meal out of low-budget spending as the head coach of the Columbus Crew.

“He’s a very very good coach,” Schafer said. “Maybe in a certain time, he’ll wind up in the Bundesliga but first he has a very important job to do with the United States men’s national team.”

[ MORE: McKennie scores first Juve goal ]

The American parallels between Schafer’s playing career and time as sporting director at Wolfsburg — one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the Bundesliga — don’t stop with the Berhalter relationship.

Schafer may not be playing any more, but his left center back is still a United States men’s national team player and its best in John Brooks.

The 27-year-old arrived at Wolfsburg from Hertha Berlin in 2017, mere months after Schafer moved to Tampa.

Brooks is in the form of his career this season, and Schafer is seeing the fruits of the defender’s prime. Brooks is among the top center backs in long passes — below Mats Hummels but above Dayot Upamecano — his terrific vision being met by increased aggression befitting of his 6-foot-4 frame.

[ MORE USMNT: Reyna scores in Dortmund draw ]

ProSoccerTalk asked Schafer about Brooks’ lofty position in the passing stats and the Wolfsburg sporting director pointed to higher goals for the center back, pointing out that the Bundesliga outfit is encouraging Brooks to improve the same thing that Berhalter wants to see out of him in the USMNT set-up.

“His passing skills are on a high level, even compared to Upamecano and Hummels,” Schafer said. “Passing skills, no doubt he has one of the best things, especially left-footed because you have just a few numbers. Sometimes I wish him to be more strong and dominant defender as he was in the last couple of weeks.

“Even Gregg, we have the same opinion. Right now what he needs to do is to say, this is the final step. With his size, he needs to score 4-6 goals every year. If he jumps nobody can stop him. He needs to be our German wall.”

Berhalter said last month that Brooks “is as steady as they come in terms of his personality … When the level steps up, that’s where he can step up as well. He’s shown that he can adapt to the game.”

Schafer, who dismissed talk that Brooks could transfer with just over 18 months left on his deal, is “very proud” of how the USMNT tower has come with Wolfsburg.

While Brooks has played every single minute of Wolfsburg’s 10-match unbeaten run to start the Bundesliga season, he earned status as starter was not automatic.

“We had a long and very honest conversation,” Schafer said. “He learned from the things we told him and the last couple of weeks are his best performances since he’s been in Wolfsburg. He’s dominated. He is a huge factor in our having one of the best defenses in the Bundesliga. I’m very proud of him and everyone knew he was not really in the plan with the coach but he was patient and he got his chance and performed at a really high level.”

Schafer later added, “With more consistency, he can be one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga.”

In addition to Brooks and USMNT youngster Ulysses Llanez — more on him later — Wolfsburg has a number of Americans at different stages of development.

USL transplant Bryang Kayo (18) is on Wolfsburg II and Schafer says Kayo has made “a great impact” and is working on his decision-making in the final third. Also with Wolfsburg II is former DC United center back Michael Edwards (20). LA Galaxy product Kobe Hernandez-Foster (18) is a left back with Wolfsburg’s U-19s and Isaiah Thomas is with the U-17s.

Schafer credits his time in Tampa with giving him added confidence in the American market, noting that blue-collar synergy with owners Volkswagen and NISA club Chattanooga FC.

“I learned more about the mentality from the U.S. players,” Schafer said. “I was really impressed. They were always ready to learn. They asked me a lot of things. That’s why we signed a few more American players in our club. I can confirm that American players have a very good mentality and mentality is very very important in my country. We are a worker town. We are Volskwagen. So if we sign players we have to check that the mentality is the right thing for Wolfsburg.”

That brings us back to Llanez, who Schafer admits was in between a rock and a hard place due to his age and experience.

Llanez, 19, headed to Wolfsburg’s academy from LA Galaxy II in 2019 after scoring twice with an assist in 12 USL outings by the age of 17.

He tore up the U-19 Bundesliga Nord with 11 goals and six assists in 16 games last season and Wolfsburg felt Llanez needed a step between Wolfsburg II and the Bundesliga.

Panama v USMNT
WIENER NEUSTADT, AUSTRIA – NOVEMBER 16: Ulysses Llanez with USMNT versus Panama (IPhoto by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“Uly was our top top top young talent last season,” Schafer said. “He had a very impressive U-19 season. Our second team is in the fourth league in Germany. Fourth league to first league with (Champions League ambition), that’s a huge step. We have to be honest. We had a long discussion with player and agent and we found a step to Holland where a lot of young players get chances is better than staying at Wolfsburg and sometimes being a sub in the first league.”

Schafer looped Llanez into heady territory when asked why American players like Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna have made waves in Germany.

“Everybody is looking for top speed,” Schafer said. “Both of the players are really quick, really mobile, can handle 1-against-1 and that’s what I learned from the U.S. In Germany there is a huge discussion to have everyone able to play every position. What we miss now is players who are creative, who handle 1-against-1, who are a little bit crazy on the pitch. Pulisic, Reyna, Llanez, they are major 1-against-1 players and that’s what we can learn from the U.S.”

Schafer pointed to Atlanta United as a shining example of how Major League can be a stopgap between top South American talent and the upper leagues of Europe, citing Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron as a player who took his game to the next level in MLS.

But he was also wary of the cost of playing the game at a youth level in the United States. Schafer was very surprised that he paid soccer tuition for his kids while here, comparing the $2000 per kid to the 60 euros his family plays to join a club in Europe.

“I said we will spend the money but it’s not the right system,” Schafer said. “Some parents are not in the situation to pay $2000 a year for kids to play soccer. You need to find the right way to create a fair system. … You have to think of a system, a bonus system, where the club that develops player or get them to the national team. … Money should be not the factor in whether (young players) get developed or not.”

Wolfsburg has a challenging few days ahead, with a home top-half clash against Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday before a visit to Bayern Munich five days later.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Reports: Tottenham Hotspur to hire Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou as next manager


Multiple reports say that Ange Postecoglou will be leaving Celtic to become the next manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

Celtic had reportedly granted permission for Spurs to speak with their trophy-collecting boss, and things apparently progressed quickly as the 57-year-old looks set to oversee the club’s big rebuild.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

Spurs suffered through an inconsistent 2022-23 season with Antonio Conte at the helm, followed by Cristian Stellini and Ryan Mason in interim stints.

Tottenham will not have European football this season and is at risk of losing legendary center forward Harry Kane. The club has eight players including Kane going into the final year of their contracts, including Ivan Perisic, Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Hugo Lloris.

Spurs finished eighth last season, 15 points off the top four despite spending much of the season inside of it. The club’s finished fourth just once in the past four seasons despite qualifying for the Champions League the previous four seasons.

Ironically, Celtic is being linked with pursuit of Brendan Rodgers and Jesse Marsch if Postecoglou departs this week.

Who is Ange Postecoglou?

Postecoglou, 57, was born in Greece and moved to Australia at a young age, starring for South Melbourne as a player and earning for caps for the Socceroos.

He is coming off a domestic treble with Celtic and won five of six trophies available to him in his two seasons with the Bhoys.

At Celtic, Postecoglou played with a 4-3-3 for much of the first half of his tenure but played a lot of this campaign in a 4-2-3-1.

Postecoglou won trophies as a manager with South Melbourne, Brisbane Roar, and Yokohama F. Marinos, claiming the Asian Cup during his stint as Australia national team coach.

He said he expects tricky early times wherever he goes.

“Wherever I’ve been, the initial part is always rocky, because my ideas are… well they’re not extreme to me but I can see how they can be seen as extreme from the outside. It takes a while. Usually it can take me six months, it can take me a year to really bed them in, depending on how many opportunities I have to change the playing squad and the staff and all those kinds of things.”

Five players to watch in the Premier League’s summer transfer window


There’s going to be turnover in the Premier League this offseason, and it seems likely the big boys will again be looking to the top young talents in other leagues to get in when the getting is good.

There will be big price tags attached to some players this summer, but in the case of the players below we may be talking about players just a window away from having unattainably high price tags for most clubs.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Arsenal | Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United ] 

Most of these names have danced through ProSoccerTalk‘s transfer rumor mill at least once during the past season or two, and in one case have been on the radar for a half-decade or so.

Here’s a look at five players who may well find their way to the Premier League in the very near future, and could move somewhere this summer.

Xavi Simons, PSV Eindhoven

At times the teen hype around Xavi Simons coming out of Barcelona’s academy was akin to the recruitment of Martin Odegaard out of Norway so many years ago. But Simons couldn’t break through at Barca and his move to Paris Saint-Germain didn’t take off as expected. So Simons, who just turned 20 in April, landed at PSV Eindhoven. All he did was lead the Eredivisie in goals. PSG has a buyback clause but Simons would have to want to go there… and there are plenty of rumored suitors for the playmaker. Simons chipped in eight assists and was Fotmob’s highest-rated Eredivisie player.

Possible fits: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool

Jurrien Timber, Ajax

Still 21 for a couple more weeks, Timber got Mancunian tongues wagging when he attended the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Manchester City. The star center back played under United boss Erik ten Hag at Ajax and now has 15 caps for the Netherlands senior team. He has a ridiculous passing and ball progression profile for his position, and has showed enough attacking acumen to get any team excited about him.

Possible fits: Manchester United, Manchester City

Randal Kolo Muani, Eintracht Frankfurt

The 24-year-old has acknowledged dreams of playing in the Premier League following a blockbuster first season at Eintracht, where he scored 23 goals with 17 assists amongst all competitions. Moving to a new country did not slow him at all after his time at Nantes, and he was linked with a number of PL sides even before he admitted his interest in the league.

Possible fits: Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United

Sepe Elye Wahi, Montpellier

The 20-year-old nearly scored as many goals as his age in his third season with Montpellier’s first team, and has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, and Chelsea amongst others. Wahi is still very raw when it comes to passing the ball but part of his statistical deficiencies could have to do with his club’s relative struggles. A eager presser, his best traits are finishing and that’s the stat that drives the bus for him.

Possible fits: Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal

Gabriel Veiga, Celta Vigo

Here’s another playmaker linked with Arsenal, but you can see why he could fit in Mikel Arteta’s system. His 11 goals were 13th in La Liga this season and his four assists means he had a goal contribution on 15 of Celta’s 43 league goals. An eager dribbler, he delivered 80 shot creating actions this season and ranked in the 99th percentile for midfielders when it came to non-penalty goals.

Possible fits: Newcastle, Arsenal, Man CIty

How many times has a team won the treble? Man City goes for history


There’s been a lot of treble talk these days, talk that’s found a new level of buzz since Manchester City moved within one win of joining the club.

It’s an elite club, by the way, of teams that have won their domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Nine times in history has a team won the treble, and only once has it been done by a Premier League club.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

That’s why Man City’s defeat of Manchester United earlier this month in the FA Cup Final rings so true for the Citizens; The blue side of Manchester would join the red side as treble supporters, as United won the treble in 1998-99.

Man City goes for the third jewel of its treble crown on Saturday versus Inter Milan in Istanbul when it kicks off the UEFA Champions League Final.

For more treble trivia, head below the jump.

How many times has the treble been won?

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.


Manchester City vs Inter Milan: How to watch Champions League Final, odds, predictions


Manchester City is on the chase for a historic treble and standing in the way is Inter Milan, one of Europe’s precious few clubs to claim such an honor.

[ LIVE: Manchester City vs Inter Milan ]

The Premier League winners three times running have an FA Cup under their belt after beating Manchester United on June 3 and the final jewel in their treble crown awaits with a win in Istanbul on June 10.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Pep Guardiola could lead a second club to a treble after he did it with Barcelona in 2008-09, and they would give heated rivals United domestic company on the treble stage right down the road.

Guardiola says it’s now okay to talk about the treble. We agree, and we’ve laid out why the achievement is so special after the jump.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester City vs Inter Milan.

How to watch Manchester City vs Inter Milan live, stream link and start time

Dates: 3pm ET June 10, 2023
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+

What Premier League clubs have won the treble?

Manchester United won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in 1998-99.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils are the lone Premier League club to win it.

That’s it. For now.

How many times has the treble been won?

Nine times in history has a team won its domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.


Champions League Final odds (Betting odds provided by our partner, BetMGM )

BetMGM is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on BetMGM for the first time after clicking our links. 

Man City (-250) vs Inter Milan (+625) | Draw over 120 mins (+380)

Over 2.5 goals (-160). Under 2.5 goals (+110)

Champions League Final predictions

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City 2-1 Inter Milan
Andy Edwards: Man City 3-1 Inter Milan
Nick Mendola: Man City 2-0 Inter Milan

Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options


Inter Milan team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joaquin Correa. OUT: Dalbert.