It’s hard to tell, as this isn’t like Nicolas Pepe choosing Arsenal despite the club’s Europa League standing.
This is two seasons without the UCL guaranteed — assuming the ban is not reduced — and there’s no close comparison in UEFA history when it comes to massive sides getting this heavy of a punishment while still staying top flight.
We’re in new territory here, fellow humans.
The closest comparison we have, perhaps, is when Juventus was sent to Serie B as a result of the calciopoli scandal. Juventus lost Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Emerson, Gianluca Zambrotta, Adrian Mutu, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But The Old Lady was able to sign French international Jean-Alain Boumsong as well as Italian national teamers Cristiano Zanetti, and Marco Marchionni.
Good players, but not the cream of the crop.
Man City can kiss the idea of bringing Lionel Messi aboard if the world’s greatest player decides not to exit Barcelona this summer, and neither Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, nor Timo Werner will look its way.
Given the balancing that will need to come via Financial Fair Play and missing out on Champions League revenue, we may see City sell two players for heavy riches (and put a lot of faith in Phil Foden).
You have to think City will retain enough Premier League talent to remain a challenger in both domestic cups and perhaps even the league.
Can City supplement that by using one or two monumental transfer fees (Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne) to do what Real Madrid has done and buy green mega prospects to develop over two seasons? Maybe players a bit more developed, like Boubacar Kamara and Boubakary Soumare, who will take the rich new deals and believe City will get it done by qualifying in year two of the ban?
And could winning the Champions League sate some of the club’s longtime stars, like Sergio Aguero, and convince them to stick around through the “rebuild?”
How many times have we seen players from teams without UCL hope linked with Champions League desire as a reason for wanting out of their current clubs? At Newcastle alone we’ve seen Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko, and Yohan Cabaye use that rationale, while WilfriedZaha at Palace and Abdoulaye Doucoure at Watford are prime current examples.
Now perhaps those players who want a look at a Premier League title and an upgrade and pay will turn their eyes to City anyway. Perhaps we’ll see a hyped-up old MLS approach, where very young megawatt prospects meet stars on the downside join City.
But it seems likely that City will drift from the top of the table and suffer for at least one season while their top dogs move away to greener pastures.
Either way, next season looks great for Liverpool.
Cyprien, 24, has seven goals and three assists for Nice this season. Ranked 10th in Ligue 1 for goals and shots, he’s also a terrific passer and quality on set pieces.
Why Nice would sell him in season is the question, and it seems likely Patrick Vieira would revolt if his top playmaker left with the club in competition for the Champions League places.
The Magpies are the least likely of a host of teams reportedly chasing Watford defender Christian Kabasele.
The 28-year-old Belgian center back is very much wanted by the Vicarage Road set, but will enter the final year of his contract next summer.
If Watford cannot lock him down, he’ll have no shortage of suitors. Le 10 Sport links Newcastle, Manchester United, Arsenal, and West Ham wil his services.
Kabasele has appeared 88 times for the Hornets since arriving from Genk, pitching in five goals. It’s odd to see him linked with Newcastle, as he’s more needed at the other reported members of the trio.
Aston Villa is not messing around when it comes to January transfer targets.
The Villans have already added Pepe Reina, and are reportedly seeking another pair of Serie A stars.
Yes, this will cause controversy. Yes, you won’t agree with these 20 selections.
There is no right answer here because certain players may not have been the best technical player to play for a certain team over the last decade but they may have been the most important to their success.
Anyway, here it goes.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez – Yes, it didn’t end well for him at Arsenal. But for four seasons he led them to the FA Cup, top four finishes and scored superb goals along the way. His hunger to win drove Arsene Wenger‘s teams on and along with Jack Wilshere (when he was fit) and Aaron Ramsey, he was one of the few world-class quality players the Gunners possessed.
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish – A local lad who arrived from the academy with his low socks and slick Peaky Blinders-esque haircut, Grealish is Villa through and through and Villa’s hopes of staying in the Premier League this season revolve around the English playmaker. He stayed with them when they went down and brought them back up as skipper and his mercurial talents mean the big clubs are circling.
Bournemouth: Steve Cook – It is amazing to think he is just 29 years old. Cook has been with Bournemouth throughout their promotion from League One to the Premier League and is now at the heart of their defense. Some great players have been key to Bournemouth’s success but Cook has held it all together.
Brighton and Hove Albion: Lewis Dunk – Another local lad who has com through the ranks to be a star, Dunk is a towering, powerful center back who was with Brighton when they were at the Withdean and has been influential in their promotion and consolidation in the Premier League. He’s also played for England. His decade has been a Slam… Dunk.
Burnley: Ben Mee – A mainstay in Burnley’s defense after joining from Man City in 2011, initially on loan, Mee has been essential to their promotion campaigns and keeping them in the Premier League. A no-nonsense defender, Burnley can totally trust Mee. The unsung hero in a club of unsung heroes.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard – My favorite player of the decade in the Premier League because he could change the game on his own. Hazard led Chelsea to two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League and when he was at his best he was unstoppable. Ask players around the PL who was the best player they came up against and the vast majority will say Hazard.
Crystal Palace: WilfriedZaha – The academy product was a star in the Championship, left for Manchester United, came back and ripped it up. Zaha is loved by Palace’s fans and is probably the best player outside of the top six in the Premier League. His pace and power is just too much to handle for most teams. And even though he wants to leave for a team challenging for trophies, Zaha will go down as a Palace legend.
Everton: Leighton Baines – Okay, so it was a flip of a coin between Baines and Seamus Coleman, but I’m going for Baines. His quality from set piece situations was incredible and he was just wonderfully reliable. Everton’s two full backs will be etched into Toffees history but Baines’ extra quality in the final third gives him the nod.
Leicester City: Jamie Vardy – Okay, with N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel and Riyad Mahrez around, this wasn’t that easy but Vardy should get the nod. He scored the goals to lead Leicester to an incredible Premier League title win as his pace and clinical finishing capped off his unreal rise from non-league to the Premier League, and his resurgence over the past 12 months has been amazing. Vardy isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but when he’s at his best, nobody can stop him.
Liverpool: Virgil Van Dijk – This could be a controversial pick given the fact that he’s only played for Liverpool for two years, but there’s no doubt that no other player has been as important to the team as VVD. Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah have been attacking stars for the Reds over the last decade but Van Dijk’s arrival helped lead Liverpool to the Champions League and improved their entire defense which had been their Achilles heel under Jurgen Klopp. Van Dijk is a Rolls Royce and probably the most complete defender the Premier League has ever seen.
Manchester City: Vincent Kompany – A proper Man City legend, Kompany was the captain for all four of Man City’s Premier League title wins over the last decade. Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva have all been key parts of City’s glittering decade but Kompany was the glue who held it all together. Injuries hit him hard in the second half of the decade but he was no doubt one of the greatest center backs in the history of the game. His goal to clinch the 2018-19 title was the perfect way to go out.
Manchester United: David De Gea – He routinely won United’s Player of the Season over the last decade and without him Red Devils fans shudder to think where they would be. He has had a few big errors over the last 12 months but DDG has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League over the last decade. Amid all of United’s struggles to get back to the top, De Gea has been their one true star.
Newcastle United: Yohan Cabaye – Had the quality on the ball to rip teams apart and led the Magpies to a fifth-place finish under Alan Pardew. Papiss Cisse, Chieck Tiote, Moussa Sissoko and Demba Ba all had exceptional stints at Newcastle, but Cabaye had the extra class required to sew it together. The way he left for PSG wasn’t ideal but when all is said and done the former Lille midfielder was a game-changer at St James’ Park.
Norwich City: Wes Hoolahan – A yo-yo decade for the Canaries who went all the way down to League One and worked their way back to the Premier League via back-to-back promotions. Republic of Ireland midfielder Hoolahan was their main attacking threat throughout the promotion years and he was capable of the sublime.
Sheffield United: Billy Sharp – A local lad who has spent three spells at his beloved Blades and most recently signed for them in 2015 in League One, he scored the goals to take them back to the Premier League. Sharp has spent his entire career scoring boatloads of goals in the lower leagues and his dream was to play for Sheffield United in the Premier League. He’s achieved that, even though he hasn’t played a big role in their incredible season back in the top-flight. Sharp, 33, will forever be a Sheffield United legend.
Southampton: Rickie Lambert – Another star forward who led his team from League One to the Premier League. Lambert signed for Saints from Bristol Rovers for $1.3 million in 2010, just after they had come out of administration, and then led them to back-to-back promotions as they returned to the PL. He then established himself as one of the top strikers in the league, got a call-up to the England team, play at the 2014 World Cup and eventually sealed his dream move to hometown club Liverpool. Known as “Sir Rickie” at St Mary’s, there will be a statue of him at the club one day as he led them back to the top-flight and did it was pure style befitting of the legendary No. 7 shirt he wore. He did Matt Le Tissier proud. Sadio Mane, Morgan Schneiderlin, Van Dijk, Adam Lallana, Jose Fonte and others were stars for Saints in the last decade but Lambert was the reason they were even in the PL in the first place.
Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane – Has any other player in the Premier League burst onto the scene more than Kane in 2010? The London lad has come through Spurs’ academy to become a global star and is a goalscoring machine. In 2013-14 he was struggling to break through after several loan spells and now Kane is one of the best center forwards in the world. Kane scores every type of goal imaginable for club and country and is the captain of England and Tottenham’s talisman. The only thing left for him to tick off is winning a trophy. Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen have all been mainstays but without Kane’s goals, Spurs would not have turned into genuine title contenders and regulars in the Champions League.
Watford: Troy Deeney – Mr. Watford, Deeney led them to promotion to the PL in 2015 and they’ve been there ever since. Deeney’s goals (126 in 380 games in all competitions) and bulldozing displays have kept Watford in the top-flight and they’ve reached FA Cup semifinals and finals as they continue to punch above their weight. Deeney is Watford’s captain and sets the tone for the entire club.
West Ham United: Dmitri Payet – Yes, West Ham fans will not like to admit this, but Payet was otherworldly at Upton Park and the London Stadium. The way he left for Marseille wasn’t great, at all, and the current owners have pretty much removed him from their history. But his amazing goals, free kicks and general outrageousness turned him into a club legend. Payet was box office as Slaven Bilic‘s side qualified for Europe.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Conor Coady – A mainstay in central defense for Wolves, Coady has led the charge since Fosun bought the club and Nuno Espirito Santo took over. A produce of Liverpool’s academy, he is a true professional who sets the standards day in, day out. Coady joined Wolves when they were struggling in the Championship and they are now in the Europa League knockout rounds and are challenging for the top four four after taking the PL by storm over the last two seasons. All of the recent impressive signings in attack and midfield have been important, so too has Matt Doherty who has been with Wolves since their days in the third tier, but Coady is the heart of Wolves and has been since 2015.
ProSoccerTalk spoke with Bob Watkins, NISA’s commissioner and the founder of United States Rugby, about plans for the nascent league. He’s also one of the owners of San Diego’s 1904 FC, the club with connections to Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, and Moussa Sow.
Other reports have also announced that 1904 FC — formerly an applicant for the USL — will be a founding member of NISA.
ProSoccerTalk: What attracted you to the position?
Bob Watkins: “Excitement of the concept. I’ve been involved with the NASL a number of years ago with the club in San Diego. As that began to collapse if you will, it became apparent to me that a lot of the things that seemed to be not going well could’ve been avoided if it had been an activity looking at it from a future point of view, looking at where soccer in the United States was going, and what could be done to support that. When Peter Wilt and John approached me to look at this activity, I thought it was a different way of doing things. Not necessarily that they were better than anything else, but I liked the concept. It was a little bit more democratic. It was about playing soccer rather than trying to build an empire or change the world.”
PST: When you say “democratic,” what do you mean?
BW: “The league is owned by the owners. All the teams who come into the league subscribe to the league. We don’t have any high financial barriers. It’s relatively modest if you’re looking at MLS or USL, and to me that makes a lot of sense so that groups who want to participate can do it, and there are no geographic boundaries or franchise areas.”
PST: How can your experience growing U.S. Rugby help with a new American soccer league?
BW: “When I looked at this from years ago, and began to think about how do I help develop a club in San Diego, I took the veneer of the sport of rugby on, and took the veneer of the sport of soccer off, and compared them both. Rugby is in its infancy in comparison to what soccer is, and there’s a lot of embedded activity in soccer that is just becoming part of the system in rugby. But if you flip the base to the top, and then build your system based on the enthusiasm, participation, and passion for it, that’s where you’re going to win hearts and minds. We’re here to promote the game, not to promote individual fiefdoms or organizations. What rugby has not had, which is in the process of doing, is building a youth development program.”
PST: You mentioned your time with NASL. Are you concerned with the U.S. Soccer Federation’s support of a new league?
BW: “I look at U.S. Soccer as I look at U.S. Rugby or any other national governing body. They’re there, they command the respect and ability to promote the national presence of the game. We have to build a system that supports that process. If change comes as a result of the way we’re doing things, so be it. We’re not there to change the rules of U.S. Soccer. We’re there to play the game at the base level and make it enjoyable and pleasant.”
PST: Being owner-owned should help, but how do you make sure you follow a good path in terms of expanding/growing the league?
BW: “What one has to look at, is there are certain standards that U.S. Soccer has for professional teams to participate, so we don’t want to drop down in terms of teams like NASL. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re not ahead of our skis in terms of our ability to manage the growth. One of the challenges that we’re going to have is that a number of teams will be coming into a professional level which is different than the amateur level. We need to support the clubs with as much on-boarding as possible. It’s like taking an amateur player and making them a professional … to compete in the marketplace. Each that comes into the league has to hit the same standards as everybody else has so we can help them promote them, and grow them.
PST: What’s next?
BW: “Timing wise we’re looking at the Fall of 2019 coinciding with the FIFA schedule. Until then we’re building a relationship with each of the clubs, with U.S. Soccer, and fan bases around the country.”
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, five managers (including Tony Pulis, who resigned two days before the campaign began) have been in charge at Selhurst Park (average tenure: 290 days). Somewhat surprisingly, Palace have managed to finish 10th, 15th, 14th and 11th during those four tumultuous seasons. Relegation seemed a distinct possibility in each of the three (particularly last season, when they started the season without a point — or a goal — in the first seven games), and yet, here we are in August 2018, previewing Crystal Palace, Premier League club.
Roy Hodgson arrived to replace Frank De Boer (just five games into his tenure) on Sept. 12, and while results didn’t take an immediate 180-degree turn, the Eagles lost just two of their following 12 games after finally getting on the board. Hodgson steadied the ship from October to January, hit a bit of a rough patch (in successive games against three of the PL’s top-five finishers) in February and March, and finished with five wins (and just one loss) in the final eight games of the season. Add it all up, and you’ve got 44 points (11 clear of the relegation zone).
Perhaps the only question that matters ahead of the 2018-19 season is whether or not Hodgson can carry that momentum over to the new season and guide Palace to a handful of points in August and September.
Palace will finish top-half because… they genuinely have one of the most talented starting units outside of the top-six (and one or two others). They managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha, who’s very much at home as a very unconventional striker, as well as Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic. Cheikhou Kouyate will make them much tougher in midfield, and Max Meyer could turn out to be an absolute steal as a midfield playmaker.
Palace will end up in a relegation battle because…. they’re Crystal Palace, and it’s kind of what they do. While they’ve finished fairly high the last three years, it’s been an absolute slog to get there. A similar start this season, followed by a failed bailout by [insert English relegation-battling specialist here], and it could all go wrong very quickly.
Best possible XI:
Ward — Tomkins — Sakho — Van Aanholt
Milivojevic — Kouyate — Meyer
Townsend — Benteke — Zaha
Transfers In: Cheikhou Kouyate ($12.5 million, West Ham United), Max Meyer (free, Schalke), Vicente Guaita (free, Getafe)
The squad was already quite talented, but a bit more depth was certainly needed, particularly in the attacking half. Getting out from under Cabaye’s crippling wages was a massive win itself, and Meyer could make a real impact over 24 or 36 months, but it doesn’t feel like quite enough for this season. Considering what was done this summer by the other clubs aiming to finish between 10th and 17th, one or two more signings (for decent money) before the deadline would be welcome.
Star player: Zaha was linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur, and a couple other PL clubs, all summer long, but fortunately for Palace, Tottenham don’t actually sign players during the transfer window, so the 25-year-old looks set to tear it up in south London for another season.
Coach’s Corner: Hodgson has been everywhere (nine different clubs and three national teams at multiple age levels) during his 36-year managerial career, so there’s nothing he hasn’t seen (Palace is his fifth job in the PL). Despite not scoring a single goal in the first seven games, Palace still managed to finish 9th in goals scored last season, so he’ll let them play.
PST Predicts: At this point, Palace feel like part of the PL furniture, destined to finish 12th or 13th season after season. It’s not a bad place to be, but they’re a few players away from dreaming of breaking into the top-eight.