Heung-Min Son

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Tottenham sign teenage sensation Clarke

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After 18 months, they’ve finally done it.

Tottenham have finally signed a new player for the first time in 517 days.

Jack Clarke, 18, has arrived from Leeds United for a fee of $11 million and the promising English winger has immediately been loaned back to Leeds for the 2019-20 campaign.

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Mauricio Pochettino is revered around the globe for improving young players, and after a superb first full season in Leeds’ first season, Clarke will now develop further under Marcelo Bielsa (who happens to be Poch’s idol and close friend) before heading to Spurs.

“I’m delighted to join Tottenham and in the short term I’ll be giving my all to hopefully help Leeds win promotion,” Clarke said. “Obviously (Mauricio) is one of the best coaches in the world, a top, top manager. Hopefully he can help me push on and progress myself. I just want to carry on from where I left off at Leeds, kick on even more and then hopefully (following his loan) make an impact big enough to be in and around the team.”

Clarke will add pace and trickery out wide for Spurs when he eventually arrives and this is another long-term project for Pochettino. With only Erik Lamela and Heung-Min Son options out wide, plus Christian Eriksen expected to move on, Spurs could do with some extra depth in these positions. Clarke will provide that and he has the key attribute, pace, to thrive in that role. He has also been schooled in the art of pressing by Bielsa, which is exactly how Spurs play.

Similar to plucking Dele Alli from the lower leagues, then allowing him to further develop during a loan spell at his former club MK Dons, Spurs will hope Clarke kicks on from being named Leeds’ Young Player of the Year in 2018-19.

With the carrot of playing in the PL dangling in front of him, Clarke has the potential to become the best player outside of the top-flight in England.

Spurs have once again made a rather shrewd acquisition and their status as the best club to be at for young talents has been further reinforced.

Virgil van Dijk should be serious contender for Ballon d’Or

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The game was boring, they’ll say. The game was dull. The game was putrid. The game was sloppy.

Boring is just the way Virgil Van Dijk likes it.

The Dutch defender was named Man of the Match as he led the back line for Liverpool in a 2-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League final to secure the club’s sixth European crown. The game was punctuated by bad passing, poor build-up play, and a general lack of attacking quality, but van Dijk was at the thick of all that, locking down the Tottenham attack and leaving Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, and Harry Kane firmly in his pocket.

Van Dijk donned the Champions League winner’s medal having led the Liverpool defense in one of the most spectacular individual defensive seasons you’ll see. Liverpool conceded just 27 goals across the 38 Premier League matches – not only the best in the English top flight, but the best domestic defensive record in Europe’s top five leagues. The Reds conceded just five goals in the Champions League knockout stages against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Porto, and Tottenham Hotspur, with three of those coming in the first-leg defeat at the Camp Nou.

Through it all, van Dijk was a model of consistency and durability, accumulating an enormous 4,465 minutes across all competitions. He missed just three matches all year, sitting out the first leg against Bayern Munich due to yellow card accumulation and resting for the pair of domestic Cup losses to Wolves and Chelsea. Otherwise, van Dijk played every single minute of every single match throughout the entire season, racking up 26 clean sheets in his 50 appearances on the pitch – over half the games he played Liverpool did not concede.

Nevertheless, those are team achievements. That’s where the most unbelievable stat comes into play, proof of van Dijk’s dominance on the season. The 27-year-old did has not been dribbled past in a staggering 64 straight matches, completing 52 straight tackles this season without fail, a perfect personal defensive record.

In fact, as Opta confirms, van Dijk has not been dribbled past since a 5-0 win over Porto in February of 2018, his first Champions League appearance for the club.

All these glittering facts and figures culminate together to make one glaringly blatant argument that might not seem so blatant after all: Virgil van Dijk should be a serious contender for the Ballon d’Or come December, with a real chance to be the first defender to win the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 and only the fourth defender to win the award in its history.

Obviously there’s plenty of time to go. Van Dijk will likely be in the lineup for the Netherlands as they take on England in just five days in the Nations League semifinals, and should he lock it down in Portugal, a solid performance on a short turnaround would be yet another feather in his cap this season. If Liverpool starts next Premier League as expected title contenders, van Dijk could even be the frontrunner for the prestigious award headed into the fall.

Still, a modest van Dijk just minutes off winning the Champions League doesn’t think he is the best player in the world. “I think [Barcelona striker Lionel] Messi is the best player in the world,” van Dijk said in his post-match press conference. “I think he deserves [the Ballon d’Or] as long as he plays. The Ballon d’Or isn’t something I think about. But if it happens by any chance then obviously I will take it. I don’t think there is any case. I think he is still the best player in the world. Whether he’s in the final or not.”

Luka Modric won last year’s Ballon d’Or essentially on the back of a fabulous World Cup performance, despite the fact Real Madrid suffered through a dismal October of La Liga play, dropping to ninth in the table and falling out of the La Liga title race. Van Dijk may not have that much room for error in the calendar year, given his status as a defender always puts him behind the curve of the flashier goalscorers and even midfield maestros like Modric. Still, the Dutchman merits serious consideration and potentially even the trophy should he continue to plod along on this stellar pace.

Twitter reacts to dull Champions League final

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A controversial penalty given just 21 seconds into the match had the potential to spark the Champions League final in Madrid towards a potential shootout between two Premier League teams with attacking firepower.

Instead, the game devolved into a sloppy mess, with neither side able to grab the match by the scruff of the neck. At halftime, the game featured the second-lowest pass completion rate of any Champions League match this entire season, with Liverpool completing the fewest passes of any half this season for the club.

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At the full-time whistle, as Liverpool stood atop the mountain with a 2-0 victory on goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi, the combined expected goals stood at just a measly 1.6 for the full match. Tottenham managed eight shots on target, but seven of those came in the final 15 minutes as desperation crept in. Liverpool, meanwhile, finished with just three shots on target, including the two goals, one of which came from the penalty spot.

The first-minute penalty seemed to give the match a nervy feel, with both teams reeling from the shocking and controversial start. It felt almost disappointing, with the Reds handed a goal harsh on the opponents and giving Spurs an uphill task against one of the best-drilled defenses in the world. Attacking talents Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son were dismal up front, and as a result Harry Kane suffered up front.

Twitter reacted throughout the match at the excessively boring passages of play, showcasing how staccato the massive game was flowing.

Others came to give credit to the defensive players who were making sure the attacking talent was locked down, and to celebrate with the winners as Liverpool won its sixth European crown, twice as many as any other English club.

Liverpool and Tottenham player ratings for Champions League final

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The play on the field was ugly at times, but Liverpool emerged victorious from a highly anticipated, all-Premier League Champions League final with a 2-0 victory.

With the completion of the full 90 minutes comes the beginning of postgame analysis, and with that we bring you our instant reaction. First up is the player ratings, as we run through every player who stepped on the pitch for both sides. Who do you think played well and who didn’t?

Liverpool

Alisson – 8
A Man of the Match candidate for the Reds, Alisson made a whopping eight saves throughout the match, standing strong through the final 15 minutes as Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura both made solid efforts on net. Easily the difference from last year’s final defeat to this year, with ghosts of Loris Karius‘s mistakes officially vanquished.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
His distribution was woeful – finishing a dismal 8-28 passing – but he was a beast at the back, leading the match with 10 ball recoveries and tackling well on the left.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8
Probably the best player on the pitch, van Dijk put his stamp on the game with a blistering recovery to stop a late chance for Son down the left edge of the penalty area. His five headed clearances led anyone on either side in the match. Spurs attack had nothing to offer the game, and van Dijk was a big reason why.

Joel Matip – 8
Doesn’t get the plaudits that van Dijk does, but deserves them for his performance today. Collected a whopping 14 clearances – eight more than anyone else on the field – and assisted Origi’s goal. Was a monster along the back line.

Andrew Robertson – 7.5
Along with Alexander-Arnold, Robertson picked up a game-high 10 ball recoveries, and his distribution was far better at alleviating pressure than his right-back counterpart. Kept Spurs centrally located for the center-backs to do their thing.

Fabinho – 6
The Brazilian barely had a touch of the ball all match, and his distribution was quite mistake-prone, but he was able to funnel the Spurs attackers down the middle and pinch them into tight areas. Overall, did enough to win the game.

Jordan Henderson – 7
The captain deserved to lift the trophy, moving back to tackle strongly – 3-for-4 in the game, including a 3-for-3 mark in the defensive half – and helped carry the ball forward. Ran his tail off.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 5
Hardly influential on the match, Wijnaldum had a 100% passing rate – a rarity in the game – but it came on just 12 attempts. Needed more from the Dutchman for Liverpool to really put its stamp on the match.

Mohamed Salah – 5
Kept his cool on the early goal, but otherwise was completely invisible. He hardly touched the ball outside the Tottenham box, and when he did it often flowed backwards. Was not a factor in the game after his powerful 2nd minute spot-kick.

Sadio Mane – 6
Looked Liverpool’s most dangerous attacker, which isn’t saying much. He was dangerous when he had the ball, but never truly threatened on net. Earned the Liverpool penalty with a smart chip that looked halfway intentional, and came close to creating some innovative chances, but nothing else came to fruition for Mane after the handball 21 seconds in.

Roberto Firmino – 3
Usually a smart player who uses his pace and spacial awareness to trouble back lines, Firmino was utterly invisible. Whether that’s down to a lack of fitness or simply a poor performance, it’s hard to truly say, but he was useless and came off for eventual goalscorer Divock Origi.

Substitutes:

James Milner – 5
Didn’t have much to do but defend, which he did well with three clearances in his half-hour of play.

Divock Origi – 5.5
His goal was spectacular, a perfectly placed effort through the legs of a defender, past the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and tucked into the far corner. Otherwise, he had a heavy touch and struggled to influence the game, but he came up big when it mattered most.

Joe Gomez – n/a

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris – 5.5
The Frenchman made one key stop, tipping Andy Robertson‘s long-range effort over the bar acrobatically, but that was the only save he would make. Guessed right on Salah’s penalty, but couldn’t get to the strong effort. Organized his back line well.

Danny Rose – 8
Tottenham’s best player in the match. Defended well to keep Mo Salah a non-factor and was powerful going forward. Completed four take-ons down the left and was 35-of-40 passing, quite a number for a match that featured such sloppiness. Created three chances as well in truly a two-way performance.

Jan Vertonghen – 7.5
A gutsy performance from Vertonghen who was injured midway through the match but stayed on through the final whistle. Distributed forward well and defended strongly, blocking two shots as well.

Toby Alderweireld – 6
Struggled with his long balls, but collected six clearances and kept Firmino and Salah locked down. Was nutmegged on Origi’s goal, never a good look for a defender.

Kieran Trippier – 6.5
He struggled down the stretch with a hamstring problem, gutting it out to the final whistle but clearly hampered. Created two chances in the final few minutes, and overall defended quite well, but wasn’t truly able to make the match his own like Rose.

Moussa Sissoko – 4
Penalized for the handball early on, an unlucky and harsh moment with his hand raised looking to organize his teammates behind him. Still, the switched-off moment defined the rest of the game. Passing was decent, but wasn’t truly able to take control of the midfield, and his marauding runs forward were nowhere to be found. Came off with 16 minutes to go struggling with injury.

Harry Winks – 6
Unlucky to be sacrificed for Lucas Moura after 66 minutes, as he put in a good shift coming in after missing nearly two months with an injury. Didn’t look completely fit, but was a controlling factor in the middle of the pitch where the game seemed to otherwise devolve.

Dele Alli – 5
Was all over the field, able to flow freely, but did not have the final product as Spurs struggled mightily in the final third. Seemed to fade as the match went on, and wasn’t ever truly on the same page with his teammates.

Christian Eriksen – 4
If this was his Real Madrid audition, he failed miserably. Spurs’ most important player had nothing to offer the match, and while he was able to contribute a bit in desperation time, it was too little too late. His characteristic creativity was missing entirely, and teammates like Harry Kane suffered greatly as a result.

Heung-Min Son – 5
Gave it his usual 110% effort, but just didn’t have close to his best on the biggest match of the season. Was just 1/5 on one-on-one take-ons, where Son is usually one of the best in the game. He had three of Spurs’ eight shots on target, but none of them truly troubled Alisson until the end of the game when the Liverpool goalkeeper came up big. A forgettable performance from the Spurs attack as a whole.

Harry Kane – 4
Invisible the entire match, many blamed it on a lack of fitness after missing the last two months, but the poor play from Eriksen and Son contributed just as much – if not more – to his inability to find the ball. Kane had just 11 touches in the first half, less than anyone else on the pitch, and nothing changed after the break. Kane finished with just one shot on the match, and Spurs failed to find the back of the net.

Substitutes:

Lucas Moura – 5
Did his best to be the hero again, but his two chances on net were thwarted. Wasn’t able to get on the ball and be a creative influence with Eriksen and Son struggling.

Eric Dier 5
Played the final 16 minutes in place of the injured Sissoko and helped secure the middle of the pitch as Spurs pushed forward in desperation.

Fernando Llorente – n/a
Eight minutes of time wasn’t enough to find any heroics.

Transfer rumor roundup: Sanchez to Juventus; Brandt to Spurs

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

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Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…


We know that Alexis Sanchez is very unlikely to be at Manchester United next season, but where is he off to?

The Independent say that Juventus have held meetings with United and intermediaries about signing Sanchez, 30, this summer.

It comes after Inter Milan were linked with a loan move for Sanchez, but the Chilean forward is currently on $627,000 per week at United and he would either have to take a huge wage cut to head to Serie A or United would have to subsidize his wages in a loan move to either Juve or Inter. It has been suggested that United would have to pay a huge chunk of Sanchez’s wages (around $15 million) just to send him out on loan next season.

Although his wages are still a huge stumbling block, the reports states some progress has been made in the recent meetings. It is certainly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s wish to offload Sanchez as his 18-month nightmare at United saw him score just one Premier League in his first full season at Old Trafford. With multiple injuries piling up, Sanchez never got into his groove and United have preferred Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in the attacking roles.

A move to either Inter or Juve would be a good fit for Sanchez, as he would return to Italy where he previously played for Udinese before joining Barcelona then Arsenal. On his day he is one of the most explosive, unpredictable wingers out there, but he hasn’t settled since joining United in January 2018 and is a shadow of the player who led Arsenal’s attack.


Tottenham want to sign Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt, according to the Daily Mail.

The German international, 23, has a release clause in his contract of $27.5 million and Spurs are keen to add some more attacking options over the summer with the situation regarding Christian Eriksen‘s future unclear.

Eriksen, 27, has one year left on his current deal and both Real Madrid and Barcelona are said to be interested in signing the Danish playmaker.

Brandt can play anywhere in the attacking midfield roles and given the fact it worked out pretty well for Spurs the last time they signed an attacking player from Leverkusen (Heung-Min Son in 2015), they may well go back to the Bundesliga club to unearth another gem.

The German attacker has scored 41 goals in 214 games for Leverkusen since he made his debut in 2014, and has played a prominent role for the German national team in recent years.

With Lucas Moura, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Son and Erik Lamela around, a move for Brandt would suggest that Eriksen and others attackers may move on this summer.