Ronald Koeman

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‘Emotional’ Quique Setien humble in first Barcelona presser

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Quique Setien was unveiled as new Barcelona manager on Tuesday, and should you believe his first words as boss, the “emotional” 61-year-old was preparing himself to wake up from this dream.

“Yesterday, I was walking around my hometown past the cows, and now I’m here at Barcelona managing the best players in the world,” Setien said when asked about his new job.

“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I am a person who is emotional about things, and I am very excited and happy to be here.”

It’s real. Barcelona plucked the Santander-born former Spanish international from Real Betis after the clunky dismissal of Ernesto Valverde. The club sits top of the La Liga table and is in good Champions League standing, but still wanted more from Valverde. After publicly courting Xavi, Ronald Koeman, and Mauricio Pochettino, Barcelona eventually settled on Setien.

“I want to thank Ernesto Valverde for leaving me with a side that is top of the league,” Setien said. “My objective is to win everything! Everything you can win, this club has no other path to follow.”

If anyone knows where Barcelona can improve, it’s Setien, who is the last manager to beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou, with victory coming back in November of 2018.

“Every time a new manager comes in, there is a stimulus for everyone inside the dressing room,” Setien said of his arrival. “You notice it immediately. This stimulus that we saw in the session today, we need to maintain that and I have never met a coach who is the same. Many people say ‘this coach is exactly the same’, but the reality is we are all very different. I am very clear as to what Barca needs. I’ve seen this from outside, we’ve watched them and analyzed them. There are a lot of things we are very clear about and we will try to transmit that. These are just words, though, and we want things that are long-lasting.”

Setien no doubt has his work cut out for him. Barcelona looked flawed in the final few months of Valverde’s tenure, and whether that’s the former boss’s fault or not is up for debate, the issues with the squad are clear as day. While Lionel Messi remains as electric as ever at 32 years old, the longtime backbone of Barcelona is fading, with Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique both clearly in decline. Frenkie de Jong is holding down the midfield in his first season with the club, but Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal have struggled with form at times this year.

Barcelona is atop the La Liga table, but Real Madrid is level on points. The there is still the full Champions League knockout stage and the entire Copa de Rey to navigate. The 3-2 Supercopa loss to Atletico Madrid was a harsh final straw for Valverde, but the club has moved on to pastures anew, and now Setien leaves his hometown cows behind to take one of the biggest jobs in the world.

Netherlands announce March friendly against United States

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The Dutch national team announced on Friday morning an upcoming friendly against the United States, set to take place in Eindhoven on March 26 with kickoff scheduled for 2:45 p.m. ET.

It will be the first time in four years that the two teams have met, with the U.S. winning 4-3 back in 2015 in a game that saw the United States come from two goals down to beat a Robin Van Persie-led Netherlands squad. The friendly was a wild back-and-forth affair that saw Danny Williams and Bobby Wood score two goals in the final three minutes to secure a comeback victory, with the Dutch hitting the post twice in the final 10 minutes as well. The U.S. had not beaten the Netherlands in four previous meetings before that come-from-behind win.

The upcoming match is of particular interest to Sergino Dest, the 19-year-old Dutch-born full-back who recently decided to commit his future to the United States over the Netherlands. Dest had represented the United States at the youth level but was heavily pursued by Dutch national team head coach Ronald Koeman.

The United States did not immediately confirm the announcement. U.S. Soccer has not yet posted official information for any 2020 matches on its official website. It remains to be seen if the United States will look to schedule a second European team on the road for that same international break, or if they will play one at home before hitting the road for the Netherlands match.

Ranking the top 10 Ballon d’Or contenders

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The Ballon d’Or will be awarded in Paris, France on Monday, as the top player on the planet in the last 12 months will be honored by France Football.

But who deserves the coveted title?

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the favorites once again, as one or the other won this award for 10 years on the trot with five each, but Luka Modric broke up their monopoly after being crowned the best player on the planet in 2018.

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk is among the favorites given his transformative arrival at Anfield to take Jurgen Klopp‘s side to European glory last season and so close to a first Premier League title, while the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling are all leading contenders too.

But all eyes will be on Messi (the bookmakers favorite), Ronaldo and Van Dijk as the Argentine star was named FIFA’s Best Player of the Year, VVD won UEFA’s top player and both times Ronaldo came up short.

Below is a look at our ranking of the top 10 candidates (from the 30-man shortlist) as the winner will be announced later on Monday.

Feel free to add your thoughts and let us know who you think deserves to win the award in the comments section below.


10. Eden Hazard: A very decent season with Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri and led Belgium to top spot in the world rankings. His start at Real Madrid hasn’t been that impressive, but we know the quality he has and injuries have started to build up.

9. Roberto Lewandowski: A simply amazing start to the 2019-20 season for club and country has pushed Lewandowski higher up the list. He’s led Poland to EURO 2020 and made sure Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga last season despite all of their struggles. The best central striker on the planet? Quite possibly.

8. Bernardo Silva: What an incredible 12 months the Portuguese playmaker has had. Silva has taken his game to a totally new level and he was key in Man City winning the PL title last season, and Portugal winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League trophy.

7. Alisson: Alongside Virgil van Dijk the Brazilian goalkeeper has transformed Liverpool’s defensive unit. He doesn’t have a weakness and is so good with the ball at his feet. Alisson came up big throughout their UCL run and his injury at the start of this season proved how much they need him.

6. Kylian Mbappe: It is amazing to think he is only 21 years old. Mbappe carried PSG to the French title last season while Neymar was out injured and he is France’s leading light as they aim for EURO 2020 glory this summer. He continues to get better each and every month.

5. Sadio Mane: So often the player in Liverpool’s side who was under appreciated, that is no longer the case for Mane. This season he leads the team in goals with 12 as Salah battles through injury. Mane is clutch and always delivers when Liverpool need him most.

4. Raheem Sterling: Talking about delivering, Raheem Sterling’s incredible consistency has seen him move close to breaking into the top three in the world conversation. He has finally found composure in front of goal and the Man City and England star has scored 15 goals for City this season and eight goals in nine games in 2019 for the Three Lions. 12 months from now it feels like Sterling will be pushing hard for the Ballon d’Or.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo: Another country, another team, another title. Cristiano Ronaldo is a machine and led Juventus to the Serie A title last season as well as Portugal to the Nations League trophy. He is a serial winner but there has been a few signs of his production slowing down. Still, he is in the top three.

2. Lionel Messi: He may well win the award a secure a record sixth Ballon d’Or and recent displays will probably seal it if he does. Barcelona won La Liga and he has been at his wizard-like best for most of the last 12 months, but there have been blips like they UCL semifinal defeat at Liverpool and his meltdown for Argentina against Chile. Messi is undoubtedly the GOAT, but don’t be surprised if he’s pipped at the post to this award.

1. Virgil van Dijk: Okay, here me out here. Virgil van Dijk is a towering giant and on his own he has not only transformed Liverpool defensively but also their mentality into a winning team too. He has also done that for the Netherlands as they’ve been totally transformed under Ronald Koeman and it’s hard to remember a defensive player having such a big impact for club and country over a 12-month period. VVD is a born leader and he deserves to win this award. Messi may win it, but Van Dijk deserves it.

Report: Everton consider replacing Marco Silva

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Everton boss Marco Silva appears to be almost out of time at Goodison Park.

After their 2-0 defeat at home against bottom club Norwich on Saturday the Toffees sit in 15th place in the Premier League table, four points above the relegation zone as boos rang out from the home fans during the game and at the final whistle.

Our partners in the UK, Sky Sports, believe that David Moyes and Eddie Howe are being lined up to replace Silva, possibly before they travel to Leicester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

The former is a former Everton boss, of course, and the latter is an Everton fan as Howe has spoken to the Toffees in the past about a managerial vacancy but remained at Bournemouth.

Here are a few more details from Sky Sports:

“Everton are considering replacing Marco Silva before Sunday’s clash at Leicester, with David Moyes a strong contender and Eddie Howe also of interest, Sky Sports News has been told. It could lead to a sensational return for former boss Moyes to Goodison Park, possibly on an initial short-term deal until the end of the season, to steady what is currently a sinking ship. But Bournemouth boss Howe, who has been on Everton’s shortlist in the past, is still favored by some members of the Everton board.”

It would appear that Moyes could come in on a short-term deal to push Everton up the table, bring some stability and allow the talented players they have to play within a clear framework.

That’s not something Everton have right now under Silva, as the Portuguese coach has struggled to develop a clear playing style and identity in the 18 months he’s been in charge.

Would Howe leave Bournemouth for Everton? His Cherries side have one win in their last seven games and could slip into a relegation scrap in the second half of the season, so now may be the right time for him to make that step away from the club he has managed for the past seven years.

Howe is no doubt the favorite as a long-term option, but there is a sense that Everton’s fans would be more than happy with Moyes coming back in to steady the ship, just as Sam Allardyce did after Roberto Martinez’s firing. But that respite didn’t last long as Big Sam was then fired as Ronald Koeman arrived.

Everton have the investment they need from majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri but they’ve made some poor managerial appointments in recent seasons and although Marcel Brands has arrived as their Director of Football, plenty of mistakes continue to be made in the transfer market too.

Is that because Moshiri and others among the Everton board, such as long-time chairman Bill Kenwright, want too much say in what the manager is doing and who they are buying? Perhaps.

Moyes would know what he’s getting in to while Howe will be wary of all the managers who have come and gone in the past few years.

Silva is on his last legs at Everton but who on earth would want this job right now?

“Give it to Moysey ’til end of the season?”

Van Dijk leaves Netherlands squad for ‘personal reasons’

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Liverpool star Virgil Van Dijk has left the Netherlands squad for “personal reasons” and he won’t play against Estonia.

The Dutch have already qualified automatically for the EURO 2020 finals and a win in their Group C finale would give them a chance of being a top seed for the tournament.

In a statement on the Dutch FA (KNVB) website, they confirmed VVD won’t play for Ronald Koeman‘s Oranje on Tuesday in Amsterdam.

“The captain of the Dutch national team has to let go of the game due to personal circumstances and has since left the Orange training camp,” said the KNVB.

Van Dijk, 28, has led the Dutch redemption story under Koeman, as he was installed as skipper by his former manager at Southampton and has since gone on to be named among the top three players on the planet and was named Man of the Match in Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League final success against Tottenham in June.

The defensive lynchpin of the Premier League leaders had led the Dutch national team to their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup and has restored some pride to the program after they failed to qualify for each of the last two major tournaments.

Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) and Jurgen Klopp‘s defensive leader will now be well rested.

Whatever is going on with VVD’s absence it does allow him to have a few extra days off ahead of a gruelling set of games in November and December as Liverpool compete in the PL, Champions League, Club World Cup and League Cup.