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Chicharito on LA Galaxy arrival: ‘Right place, right time’

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Javier ‘Chicharito‘ Hernandez has made a living out of being in the right place at the right time.

The LA Galaxy’s newest Designated Player believes he is now in the “right place at the right time” in his career as Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer confirmed his move to Major League Soccer.

Hernandez, 31, joins the Galaxy from Sevilla in La Liga and the former Chivas Guadalajara, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham United striker is ready to take MLS by storm.

“Like when people describe me playing. You know, that he’s always in the right place at the right time,” Hernandez said in his first interview as a Galaxy player, with the LA Times.

After a few years battling for minutes at West Ham in the Premier League and Sevilla in Spain after a successful spell at Leverkusen, Hernandez is heading closer to home as the Mexico star is ready to play week in, week out for the most-successful franchise in MLS history.

“I’m going to be playing. That’s what I want in my life,” Hernandez said. “People are going to say it was because I couldn’t make it [in Europe], but sometimes in football there are things that are not in your hands. The last two years, the managers decided on giving confidence to other players rather than me. And now, the LA Galaxy, the manager of the club and the league, are telling me, ‘Look, Javier, we want to give you all the trust, all the confidence to help us,’ and that’s why I’m taking this opportunity.”

He will link up with Mexico teammate Jonathan dos Santos in the Galaxy’s team as they try and wrestle back the City of Angels from MLS new boys and reigning Supporters’ Shield champions LAFC.

Hernandez was always destined to play in MLS before he retired and now that day has arrived. Following in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be easy but if anyone can score goals, it is Hernandez.

Get ready for his jersey to be the fastest-selling in history as Mexico’s favorite son is ready to become an even bigger star in MLS in the final years of his career.

Real Madrid adds Brazilian teen phenom Reinier Jesus

Real Madrid adds Reinier Jesus
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Barcelona and Real Madrid may be neck-and-neck in the short-term, but the Madrid side keeps landing stars for the bigger picture.

The latest add is Reinier Jesus, a $33 million price affixed to the teenage phenom from Brazilian side Flamengo. As Joel Soria wrote earlier this month, the victorious fee is around half of Reinier’s reported release clause.

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Marca brands the kid a physically-gifted player in the Kaka mold, which is lofty praise given the latter won a Ballon d’Or.

Reinier, an attacking midfielder, joins wingers Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior in forming a young Brazilian heart of the squad’s future.

Renieir, no relation to Man City forward Gabriel Jesus, turned 18 on Sunday. He is coming off six goals and two assists in 17 senior appearances for Flamengo and is expected to be one of the stars of Brazil’s Olympic qualifying fight, which is currently underway in Colombia.

That team, should they qualify, would be terrifying at full strength. Brazil could utilize Douglas Luiz, Rodrygo, Thiago Maia, Wendel, and Renan Lodi.

 

Setien rekindles Barcelona’s passing style in first game

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Coach Quique Setién only needed one match to leave his mark on Barcelona.

Barcelona set season highs for ball possession and passes in a 1-0 win over Granada on Sunday, Setién’s first match since replacing Ernesto Valverde six days earlier.

The defending champion’s level of 82% ball possession came close to reaching the all-time Spanish league record of 84% established by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2011, according to the club. The team’s 1,005 attempted passes smashed its previous season high of 788 passes against Real Betis.

One thing, however, remained the same after the coaching switch: Barcelona turned to Lionel Messi to find the winning goal. The club’s all-time leading scorer scored in the 76th minute after Granada had lost a defender for picking up a second yellow card for fouling Messi.

“You feel much better having Messi because he has been deciding these types of matches for more than a decade,” Setién said.

Setién, a former Atlético Madrid player and coach of several Spanish clubs, is a declared admirer of Barcelona’s passing style established by late Johan Cruyff.

The 61-year-old Spaniard divided fans at his previous two jobs with Las Palmas and Real Betis. He started well at both with supporters enjoying his insistence on imitating Barcelona’s style. But many fans then grew tired of seeing his teams dominate the ball while scoring few goals and proving brittle on defense.

Now with Messi and his talented teammates under his command, Setién’s has passed the first test at Camp Nou. His new side only conceded one shot on goal that, fortunately for Setién, hit the post minutes before Messi decided the game.

Setién did not touch Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation or make any big changes in his first starting 11 compared to Valverde. Ansu Fati, the teenager who was discovered by Valverde, started for the injured Luis Suárez. Arturo Vidal, a key player for Valverde, took the place of the suspended Frenkie de Jong. Despite his reputation of not being a great passer, Vidal set up Messi’s goal with back-heel pass.

Setién insisted on the importance of his players pressing quickly to recover the ball after losing it. They responded and worked several incredibly long possessions, especially in the first half, that ended in attractive chances in the box.

“The fact that we made so many passes? The only thing I need is to have control,” he said. “We we had talked about being brave and going forward to recover the ball in their territory and that helped us to created danger after recovering the ball.”

Setién’s second-half substitution of Riqui Puig for Ivan Rakitic definitely bore his seal.

The 20-year-old Puig had earned his debut in 2018 from Valverde, but at the start of this season Valverde sent him back to the reserve team. Setién’s first move was to call Puig back up to train with the first squad.

Puig proved key to the victory when he stole the ball near Granada’s area. That led to the attack finished by Messi.

“(Puig) was very good,” Setién said. “He showed patience and he read the match well.”

TWO-TEAM RACE?

While Barcelona and Real Madrid won, most of their potential challengers lost ground just past the midpoint of the season.

Fourth-place Sevilla fell 2-1 at Madrid; sixth-place Real Sociedad lost 3-0 at Real Betis; Valencia fell into seventh place after being shocked 4-1 at lowly Mallorca this round.

Atlético Madrid, which finished the past two seasons as runners-up to champion Barcelona, had one of its poorest performances of the campaign in a 2-0 loss at Eibar. The defeat came following a loss in the Spanish Super Cup final in a penalty shootout to Madrid. Before the pair of losses, it had won three in a row in the league and had beaten Barcelona in the Super Cup semifinals- Valverde’s last match.

The defeat at Eibar left it eight points adrift in third place behind Barcelona and Madrid. Barcelona leads Madrid on goal difference.

ESPANYOL’S HOPE

Last-place Espanyol’s chances of staying in the topflight have been revived by a new coach and a new striker.

Espanyol has taken four points from the two league matches manager with Abelardo Fernández in charge. It drew with Barcelona 2-2 two weeks ago and won 2-1 at Villarreal on Sunday for its first win since Oct. 27.

Shopping for a scorer in the winter transfer market, Espanyol reportedly paid Benfica a club-record 20 million euros ($22 million) for Raúl de Tomás, who had joined Benfica during the summer.

De Tomás has made an immediate impact, scoring in his debut against a third-tier team in the Copa del Rey before taking the winner at Villarreal.

“We have been working on boosting our morale for the past two weeks, on recovering our self-confidence,” Abelardo said. “My players hadn’t forgotten how to play, as they showed (Sunday). You have to live the present instead of thinking about what can happen in two or three weeks. You have to play each match like a final.”

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Xavi confirms he rejected Barcelona job

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Barcelona legend Xavi has confirmed he rejected the chance to return as their manager as it was “not the right time” for him.

Xavi, 39, is currently coaching Qatari side Al Sadd and Barcelona’s sporting director Eric Abidal and chief executive Oscar Garu spoke with him last week about replacing former manager Ernesto Valverde.

Experienced coach Quique Setien replaced Valverde and Xavi has told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo that this opportunity came too early in his coaching career as the midfielder, who played 767 times for Barca and won 25 trophies in his glittering 17-year career with the Catalan club, has only been a coach for six months in Qatar.

“Yes, it’s true that I have had a proposal from Barcelona, they were here to talk with me, but I didn’t accept because I didn’t feel that this was a good time for me,” said Xavi. “I’m very grateful to Barca, Abidal and Grau for this proposal. Of course, it’s my dream to coach Barca, but it’s not the right time. I have to be honest with you and everybody.”

Setien certainly gets Xavi’s blessing as Barca’s new coach, as the former Las Palmas and Real Betis manager is known for his attractive, attacking play and follows the coaching principles of Johan Cruyff.

“Of course Quique Setien (the new coach) is ready to coach Barcelona. I love him as a coach. My heart is for Barcelona and now it is for Quique Setien. I wish him all the best, this is the truth, this is what happened,” Xavi added.

World Cup winner Xavi will no doubt manage Barcelona one day (his current contract with Al Saad runs for another 18 months) and if the likes of Steven Gerrard turns up at Liverpool in the coming years, and Frank Lampard and Zinedine Zidane continue at Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, it will be like 2005 all over again…

There’s no doubting the incredible experience all of these former legendary players have but some would suggest that being hired by the clubs where they made their names as players is an easy out for the hierarchy who know that the fans will get behind the manager and it will be a less risky appointment.

Atletico Madrid eyeing Lacazette, reportedly could swap Lemar

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Atletico Madrid is looking to buttress its bid to win La Liga with an Arsenal forward, according to multiple reports

Alexandre Lacazette is the man in question, and he had been linked with Atleti when he signed with the Gunners in 2017.

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Lacazette, 28, has a contract at Arsenal through the 2021/22 season and has scored 42 goals with 20 assists in 107 appearances. Thirty-two of those goals have come in the Premier League to go with 17 assists.

Italian reporter Tancredi Palmeri says Atleti has made contact with Arsenal, while Marca says the Gunners will be tempted by a longtime rumored target of their own. The same report says that Lacazette is the club’s “Plan B” for Edinson Cavani.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer deals ]

That’s Thomas Lemar, who landed in Madrid after a celebrated career at Monaco. Now 24, the World Cup-winning left wing has yet to record a goal or an assist in 21 matches this season.

Does it make sense? That depends on Mikel Arteta‘s plans for the strike force, which is loaded with playmakers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe, and a bevy of promising youngsters.