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Transfer rumors: Willian, Alderweireld to Manchester United

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The transfer rumor mill is picking up steam this Monday, including some persistent whispers regarding two Premier League players with possible futures at Old Trafford.

Both of these make a lot of sense.

[ MORE: Nashville hires ex-Liverpool CEO ]

A day after Nemanja Matic stressed the need for experienced players at United, two good fits hit the rumor mill (again).

Matic’s old Chelsea pal Willian has interest from United if he seeks a way out of London — which seems likely — where he’s said to be ready to go if Antonio Conte remains as manager.

Then there’s Toby Alderweireld, whose been very strong at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur but reportedly fallen out with current Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

During a rut, the Tottenham manager claimed that Alderweireld was held out of Spurs’ lineup due to the form of the players in front of him.

Also from Sky, we’ll leave this quote from PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi on the idea of possibly selling Kylian Mbappe.

Al-Khelaifi told Canal+: “You want me to give you a number? More than €1bn! Yes, I said one billion! And even if you gave me a billion, I wouldn’t sell him.”

PST’s Top Ten Premier League defenders and goalkeepers

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ProSoccerTalk quizzed its staff on the best players of the 2017-18 Premier League season, broken up into eight categories.

Goalkeepers, left backs, center backs, right backs, center mids, attacking mids, wingers, and center forwards/strikers were slotted 1-10 (with wing backs lumped in with the fullbacks).

[ MORE: The Premier League season in statistics ]

In this first of two posts, we handle the goalkeepers and backs. First-place votes are in parenthesis.

Goalkeeper

10. Mat Ryan, Brighton and Hove Albion

9. Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City

8. Martin Dubravka, Newcastle United

7. Jack Butland, Stoke City

6. Jordan Pickford, Everton

5. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur

4. Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea

3. Nick Pope, Burnley

2. Ederson, Manchester City (1)

  1. David De Gea, Manchester United (3)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Left backs/left wing backs

10. Patrick Van Aanholt, Crystal Palace

9. Charlie Daniels, Bournemouth

8. Leighton Baines, Everton

7. Ryan Bertrand, Southampton

6. Nacho Monreal, Arsenal

5. Andy Robertson, Liverpool

4. Fabian Delph, Manchester City

3. Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur

2. Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (2)

  1. Ashley Young, Manchester United (2)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Right backs / right wing backs

10. Seamus Coleman, Everton

9. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United

8. Hector Bellerin, Arsenal

7. Matthew Lowton, Burnley

6. Cedric Soares, Southampton

5. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

4. Victor Moses, Chelsea

3. Kieran Trippier, Tottenham Hotspur

2. Antonio Valencia, Manchester United (1)

  1. Kyle Walker, Manchester City (3)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Center backs

10. Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle United

9. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

8. Lewis Dunk, Brighton and Hove Albion

7. Harry Maguire, Leicester City

6. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

5. Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City

4. Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

3. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

2. James Tarkowski, Burnley

  1. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur (4)

Pochettino insists Alderweireld not playing due to form of starting defenders

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Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that Toby Alderweireld‘s absence from the Tottenham squad of late is down to player selection, not any personal reasons and not contract related.

The towering Belgian defender has been a rock at the back for Spurs since signing from Atletico Madrid in 2015, but this season he has hardly featured. Most of that is down to a serious hamstring suffered in October, but he has fully recovered from the tear, and yet has not played since returning to fitness.

Many have speculated as to why Alderweireld has been left out of the squad, and those with more mischievous thoughts have postulated that his contract situation may have something to do with it. While injured, talks of a contract extension reportedly broke down, and with his current deal expiring in the summer of 2019, questions have been asked of Pochettino, which he has deflected.

“My decision is always about football,” Pochettino said. “It is not personal and not because of a contract problem. I don’t care about that. Always my decision is about what is best for the team and the best for the club.”

Instead, the Spurs manager insisted, it is because those who have played in his place are in good form. “I am so sorry because Toby was an important player for us in the last two seasons. Then he got the injury and players like Davinson [Sanchez] and [Jan] Vertonghen stepped up — and you have got to deserve to play.”

Pochettino then gave Alderweireld an ultimatum, saying he will play when he deserves to. “If we are happy with the players who are playing, you need to wait. That does not mean he is not going to play again. But now he needs to keep pushing and try to show me he can play better than the others.”

Unfortunately, while a coach can challenge a player publicly, if that’s Pochettino’s true feeling then it’s unlikely Alderweireld will make it back into the team unless a player in the lineup is either injured or dips in form. Tottenham has conceded 26 goals this season, third-fewest in the Premier League behind the two Manchester clubs sitting in first and second place in the table, so with the way things stand, it’s hard to argue with Pochettino’s reasoning even if deep down fans don’t believe him.

The 2 Robbies: Dele’s Double Takes Down Chelsea

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap Tottenham Hotspur’s impressive 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge (1:20) and go into detail on Dele Alli‘s recent resurgence, Toby Alderweireld‘s future and Antonio Conte‘s influence on Chelsea’s downfall this season. Plus, a chat on Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Stoke City (28:45) and a look ahead to the midweek Champions League and Europa League matches (37:45). Finally, thoughts on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s delightful debut for LA Galaxy in MLS (43:40).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Tottenham’s Alderweireld ruled out with injury

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Happy Birthday to Toby Alderweireld and his manager at Tottenham Mauricio Pochettino.

Now, onto the important stuff…

Alderweireld has been ruled out of Tottenham Hotspur’s huge UEFA Champions League clash against Juventus at Wembley next Wednesday.

The Belgian defender, 29, made his return in two FA Cup games in February but hasn’t featured in the Premier League since injuring his hamstring in Spurs’ UCL win against Real Madrid back on Nov. 1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Speculation regarding his future at Tottenham beyond this season has been rife as talks over a new contract stall and a release clause in his current deal could see him leave for $32 million in the summer of 2019. Alderweireld is being linked with a move to Manchester United, Real Madrid and others and this injury layoff has done little to quell the rumors.

Speaking in his press conference ahead of Spurs’ clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), Mauricio Pochettino confirmed Alderweireld will be missing for the key clash against Juventus with the scores locked at 2-2 after the first leg in Turin.

“It is true that we need to be careful with him,” Pochettino said. “I don’t believe he will be ready for Juventus.”

Who could slot in alongside Alderweireld’s compatriot Jan Vertonghen?

Spurs could revert to a back four and start Davinson Sanchez at center back alongside Vertonghen, or Eric Dier could slot back in to defense if Spurs decided to play three central defenders against Huddersfield.

With the top four chase well and truly on and Spurs the form team in the Premier League, there is no need to rush Alderweireld back. Yet you get a sense that more is going on here. Is Pochettino punishing Alderweireld for not signing a new deal? The Argentine coach has a reputation of being a manager who is ruthless when it comes to having players on his side. You’re either in his good books, or you’re out.

There’s a sense it could be a case of the latter for Alderweireld.