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Reports: Simeone, Southgate on Manchester United’s list

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It seems Manchester United’s pursuit of a new manager has not lost any steam, even as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts his undefeated Manchester United record on the line Sunday.

The Red Devils have been linked with two more names this weekend, one a long-time whisper and the other a bit of a surprise.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

The Daily Mirror reports that Diego Simeone has been “sounded out” by United’s brass, with 18 months left on his Atletico Madrid contract and La Liga’s mainstays actively seeking to extend his 7-year reign in Spain.

And United is also considering England boss Gareth Southgate as an option, according to Sky Sports, touting the manager’s acumen in developing young players and strong reputation in the soccer community.

The two options could hardly be more different, or less likely. Simeone is a no-brainer for literally any open job on Earth, while Southgate’s flower has just bloomed and is merely a prospect having held one Premier League job at the club level.

Simeone is a master tactician capable of leading an aggressive attack, but more likely to err on the side prudent of than free-flowing at all costs, especially in big matches.

A fireball on the sidelines, Simeone also has a resume reputation few managers can touch. He won La Liga during the Ronaldo-Messi era in 2013-14, twice claimed the Europa League, has won the Copa del Rey, and was a two-time Champions League runner-up all while dealing with sales of Theo Hernandez, Arda Turan, Mario Mandzukic, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, and David De Gea (who has since returned).

As for Southgate, his reputation has grown in a big way since leading England to the 2018 World Cup semifinal and the inaugural UEFA Nations League knockout rounds. He has unrivaled job security in terms of the Three Lions job, having led England’s U-21 to the Toulon Tournament title and helped developed many of their stars.

But his club experience as a manager is less impressive, winning 29 percent of his games at Middlesbrough over three seasons. He led Boro to 12th, 13th, and 19th place Premier League finishes, and left the relegated club in its first season during the Championship.

Southgate would still, of course, be an attractive option.

Aitor Karanka leaves Nottingham Forest after one year

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After just one year at the club, Nottingham Forest has released manager Aitor Karanka despite the club challenging near the top of the Championship table. According to a statement by the club, Karanka “asked to be released from his contract” and was granted his wish.

Forest currently sits seventh in the Championship standings, just four points back of the playoff positions and 12 points behind leaders Leeds United. They are also coming off a 4-2 win over Leeds that saw the team fight back from a one-goal deficit.

However, before that result the club had gone five matches without a win, allowing the teams in playoff positions to build a slight cushion.

According to many reports around the club, Karanka was clashing with ownership and the front office, and according to Sky Sports, Karanka became fed up with “outside influence disrupting his day-to-day team management.” Sky also states that the 45-year-old Spaniard “felt the lack of stability, control and constant speculation was affecting the club’s progress and players’ mentality.” That latter part could be in reference to heavy speculation surrounding his job status throughout December.

Karanka came to Nottingham Forest from Middlesbrough where he managed through a season of promotion to the Premier League followed by a relegation campaign that led to his departure in March of 2016 with the club in the bottom three, a position they would not recover from. He joined Forest in January of 2018 with the club in 14th position, and they would finish in 17th last year.

Karanka is known for bringing defensive tactical strength to his squad, but as a result, they often lack in attacking threat. The club has conceded 29 goals in 26 Championship matches this season, the sixth-best defensive record in the league, but they have 12 draws so far, the most in the league, and have won back-to-back Championship matches just once all year.

His departure means Nottingham Forest will begin to search for its 11th permanent manager since 2011, a notoriously high rate of turnover that is beginning to upset club supporters.

Conflicting reports on Ramsey signing with Juventus

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Aaron Ramsey been the focal point of countless rumors this winter, as his Arsenal contract is set to run out in July and the club has failed to come to an agreement with the Welsh international about an extension, meaning he will almost surely leave this summer on a free transfer.

For weeks Juventus has been considered the frontrunner for Ramsey’s signature after his Arsenal contract expires, with rumors even suggesting he could leave in the January transfer window as Arsenal looks to secure some kind of monetary return for his departure.

[ MORE: Thursday rumors | Hudson-Odoi to Bayern? | Navas to Arsenal? ]

Thursday morning, reports in Italy have claimed the transfer is complete and Ramsey has signed a Bosman with Juventus, allowing him to leave Arsenal in the summer for Turin. Italian publication Sportmediaset was the first to the news, claiming Ramsey has signed a five-year contract worth around $7.5 million base salary plus appearance bonuses. The report even suggests that Ramsey’s departure in January remains in play.

However, after news from Italy came out that Ramsey’s contract is signed, Sky Sports Italy has returned to claim that while Juventus is still an overwhelming favorite for the 28-year-old’s signature, the contract is not done and dusted yet. “Reports that he [Ramsey] has signed a pre-contract agreement are premature,” Sky Sports wrote on Twitter and then soon after in their Transfer Center. Sky reports that Ramsey has not yet completed the required medical, leaving open the possibility of other end results.

Juventus essentially confirmed its interest in Ramsey on Wednesday, or at least, as much as you’ll get publicly from big clubs working on high profile transfers. “Ramsey is a very good player who has been playing at a high level for many years and who plays for an important club. For now, that’s it,” Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici told Sky Sports Italy“He is a player whose contract is going to end and we always pay great attention to the situations offered by the transfer market because it is our duty, so we also pay attention to Ramsey.”

Asked about Ramsey’s situation in his press conference Thursday morning, Arsenal manager Unai Emery said, “I don’t know. I want his focus every day with us on training and thinking for the next match, which is against Blackpool. I am looking at him and he’s very concentrated with us now. On Tuesday [against Fulham], he scored when he played 15 minutes, and he gave a good performance. I want that from him, and also he needs to [look] at his future.”

PST Roundtable: 2018 in Review

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ProSoccerTalk continues its Best of 2018 by taking our staff on a trip down (around) memory lane with the final Roundtable of the calendar year (unless Pele unretires between now and Midnight ET).

[ MORE: Best of 2018 ]


1) You can only save one Premier League memory from 2018. What do you choose?

Joe Prince-Wright: I am going with Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Man City at Anfield in January 2018. What a game between two teams going at it and playing very different ways to the highest possible level. It was a precursor for some epic Champions League battles between Liverpool and Man City.

Nicholas Mendola: At the risk of cloying this space, Arsene Wenger‘s “send off series” was special, especially when Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho came together to salute the long time Arsenal boss at Old Trafford. The final matches in charge of the Gunners was an emotional and refreshing storyline for both Arsenal and those who like to see an under-fire legend get his just desserts.

Kyle Bonn: Has to be Manchester City’s dominance and Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut. I absolutely loved watching that team, especially given how much of a mess it was when Pep first got there. He turned around so many players, namely John Stones and Raheem Sterling, and that’s always something special.

Dan Karell: It was from last January but it’s got to be Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City. Man City wrapped up the title early and recorded a record amount of goals and points, but this was arguably the game of the season. Terrific action for all 90 minutes.

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

2) Remember the World Cup? That was just this summer! What was your favorite part of the tournament? How about the USMNT’s efforts in it?

Joe Prince-Wright: I obviously enjoyed England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals and I honestly believe they would have matched up very well against France and would have had a great chance of winning it all. The way Gareth Southgate’s young side made an entire nation believe again and changed the mood around the Three Lions completely was truly remarkable to see. Also, LOL about the USMNT. What a debacle that should never be repeated. Simple.

Nicholas Mendola: Not the Lionel Messi sub plot, as even his fine performances couldn’t overcome the hype about whether it was enough for his legacy. Also, not Serbia getting the short end of the officiating stick on multiple occasions.

There were some great matches! The final was special, as was France 4-3 Argentina in the Round of 16. But Belgium and Japan turning a 0-0 halftime into a 2-0 Japanese lead en route to a 3-2 Belgium win, with Nacer Chadli scoring in stoppage? Holy smoke what a game.

Kyle Bonn: I think my favorite part of the tournament was appreciating the parity that came along with it. Germany bombed out in the group stages, Argentina looked pedestrian, and Spain looked fallible, all while Croatia built a juggernaut, Peru looked competitive, and Sweden won a group. This was the world’s World Cup and that was fascinating.

Also, the USMNT didn’t lose a single game all tournament, so I’ll give them an A-

Dan Karell: Ugh, stop! I think England’s run to the semifinals was a lot of fun, along with Croatia’s constant wins in penalty kick shootouts and them overcoming the odds again and again. Ultimately, France was too talented to be stopped, and Didier Deschamps did a masterful job keeping them tight defensively and letting his side’s speed and counter-attacking ability steal the show.

(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

3) Which player do you hold in higher esteem than you did entering 2018? Who’s much lower?

Joe Prince-Wright: David Silva. I always knew he was good. But I didn’t quite appreciate how good. He is essential to Pep Guardiola’s style and will probably go down as one of City’s best-ever players, if not the best.

Lower… I am going with Daniel Sturridge. Perhaps a little harsh, but I thought he would be able to work his way into this Liverpool attack as the first back-up. He hasn’t achieved that at all.

Nicholas Mendola: I knew Christian Pulisic was good before Jan. 1, 2018, but how much of a factor he’s become in every match is beyond compare on an American level. There’s Clint Dempsey in 2011-12 at Fulham for the gold standard of Americans Abroad, and the question of whether he matches it, improves on it, or does it again and again.

As for lower, and I know this is heavy territory, but pretty much the way everyone associated with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus dealt with the rape accusations against him. Allegations are allegations until proven true, but showing a modicum of class to the victim (and all victims) would’ve been nice.

Kyle Bonn: If this is possible…Mohamed Salah. I always love seeing players go from one-hit wonder to actually good player, and while only the ultimate of cynics believe the Liverpool star would ultimately fade as just a flash in the pan, I enjoyed seeing it proven on the field.

Less, I have to go with Alvaro Morata. I thought he would be a slam dunk at Chelsea, and his disastrous tenure has led to rumors of a quick exit. I am quite disappointed in his performances there and his inability to find the scoresheet despite a wealth of talent around him. It’s a shame, because he showed so much promise at Real Madrid, and I hope he finds success either with a second chance at Chelsea or someone else who gives him an opportunity after Stamford Bridge.

Dan Karell: Anthony Martial. His second half of 2018 has been tremendous compared to his previous 18 months in Manchester, which all led to him missing out on the World Cup. A player who’s stock has dropped for me is his teammate, Alexis Sanchez. After joining Man United in January. Sanchez has been invisible this season and it’s unclear if Man United will ever recoup its investment in Sanchez.

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

4) Who is the soccer world’s person of 2018?

Joe Prince-Wright: Luka Modric. What he managed to achieve with both Real Madrid and Croatia, plus win multiple top awards as the best player on the planet, was exceptional. The Croatian midfielder was a total team player and made his teammates better due to his hard work, vision and delivering in clutch moments. His role to lead Croatia to the World Cup final was reminiscent of Diego Maradona and Pele leading their respective nations to glory in the past. Modric was Croatia’s talisman as they just came up short by losing to France in the final.

Nicholas Mendola: Kylian Mbappe. At the age of 20, with club turmoil caused by Neymar and Edinson Cavani and the pressure of an entire country, Mbappe led France to a World Cup title and Paris Saint-Germain to plenty of wins. But even better than that is the example he sets at such a young age, donating his World Cup winnings to charity and admitting that footballers are paid an “indecent” wage.

Kyle Bonn: Great – and tough – question. So many good options. Jurgen Klopp has to be my choice though, as he’s finally seeing his Liverpool project come to fruition. The Reds made the 2018 Champions League final and have shaken their inability to perform against bottom sides in Premier League play. It’s always fun to see a years-long project not only committed to, but completed. The Reds are a scary team to play for anyone in the world, and that’s down to the revolutionary tactics and recruitment of Jurgen Klopp.

Dan Karell: If it’s a manager, it’s got to be a tie between Didier Deschamps and Pep Guardiola for everything they succeeded. Perhaps it’s even Zinedine Zidane, who took the bold move to resign as Real Madrid manager after a third-successive Champions League title.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

5) What topic are you extremely happy to leave in 2018: the USMNT coaching search, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, or a third option?

Joe Prince-Wright: USMNT coaching search definitely. Quite why that took so long was outrageous. Berhalter could have been appointed months sooner than he was to start building the identity of the team. That would have been a smarter move. Southampton’s 2018 was also woeful, so I am happy to leave that there as the squad they have should be pushing for a top 10 finish, not battling against relegation for a second-straight season. I actually think that history will be kind to Jose Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United, but it just became so boring and predictable towards the end and we have already seen the gloom has lifted at Old Trafford. It worked out well for everyone, even Mourinho.

Nicholas Mendola: The USMNT coaching search. At some point we were speculating on David Moyes taking the job because he was on the train to a friendly. Cool. Real cool.

Kyle Bonn: I was happy to see the USMNT coaching search finally come to an end, but disappointed in the result. I was glad to see Jose Mourinho leave Manchester United for the health of the club, but not for those of us covering the team (what a ride!). Honestly, I’m happiest to see the World Cup cycle leave, because the USMNT gets to start from scratch looking forward to 2022. While many have predictions and reservations about the US National Team at this juncture, it will be for the team to prove on the field, and Gregg Berhalter has a chance to lead an emotional redemption for the group.

Dan Karell: Jose Mourinho for sure. The constant moaning to the media, throwing players under the bus, and holding his players back got really old, really fast. Yes, the opposition in the last couple of games isn’t as good, but you can see that the Man United players have the shackles removed and are starting to look as if they enjoy their profession again.

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

6) Free skate: Any other thoughts about 2018?

Joe Prince-Wright: Watching Man City’s record breaking season up close was amazing. They made history and have set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the Premier League.

It was a reflective year for many Premier League teams who took steps towards long-term progression. Liverpool finally bought world-class defensive players, Man United sacked their manager, Arsene Wenger left Arsenal and Chelsea moved on with an exciting tactical project. Man City have leveled off a little but are still incredible to watch, while Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham are still defying the odds and will actually move into their new stadium soon. The top six have been fascinating to watch in 2018, and given four of them are in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, it seems like English soccer has had a real resurgence on the European stage too.

Nicholas Mendola: I don’t want to be a downer and I know Leicester City happened just a few years ago, but it seems like it’s the end of non-giants making charges toward the Top Four. It’s not Liverpool’s fault for joining Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Man City in spending ungodly amounts of dough. It’s not just about the money, because those arguments are also annoying and look at Everton and West Ham, but it is frustrating.

Kyle Bonn: 2018 was a great year of soccer, but the failures of the USMNT certainly bring it down from our perspective. There needs to be growth there moving forward, or it will be tough to build on the growing fanbase in this country.

Dan Karell: Regarding the U.S. men’s national team, it was an empty year that should have had a World Cup appearance to go with it. We saw a lot of new players make their debuts and other youngsters receive more minutes, but the team felt like the Israelites wandering for 40 years searching for the Land of Israel, with no direction. Hopefully now, with Gregg Berhalter (Moses?) in charge, the USMNT can find the promised land.

Another note: Atlanta United’s incredible success can’t go unnoted. To create a title-winning team in two years is incredible difficult, and the organization has raised the bar for MLS even higher. 2018 was a huge step for the league. Let’s see what 2019 brings.
(AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Serie A: Ronaldo scores twice as VAR helps Juventus

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ROME (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as runaway leader Juventus escaped with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday with help from the VAR.

Ronaldo’s second goal, a penalty, was awarded by the VAR for a questionable handball. Then Sampdoria had a stoppage-time goal chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee.

Sampdoria thought it had become the first visiting Serie A club to score more than one goal at the Allianz Stadium in more than a year when Riccardo Saponara’s shot went in off the underside of the crossbar, but replays showed the play was offside.

“I like (the VAR) a lot because it reduces the number of mistakes,” Ronaldo said. “It’s not easy for the match officials to analyze everything that goes on. We just have to let them get on with their jobs.”

Ronaldo had put Juventus ahead two minutes in with a bouncing shot and Fabio Quagliarella equalized with a penalty before the break to become the first player to score in nine consecutive Serie A matches since David Trezeguet accomplished the feat with Juventus in 2005.

Ronaldo’s decisive penalty came in the 65th after the VAR decided that Alex Ferrari had used his arm, even though it appeared as if the defender kept his arm next to his body and didn’t move it toward the ball.

The double gave Ronaldo 14 goals in 19 matches this season to move one ahead of Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek atop the league scoring chart.

Aiming for a record-extending eighth straight league title, Juventus set a record of 53 points at the season’s halfway mark with 17 wins, two draws and no defeats. The Bianconeri remained nine points ahead of second-placed Napoli, which beat Bologna 3-2, and 14 points ahead of third-placed Inter Milan, which won 1-0 at Empoli.

“The first half of the season has gone really well,” Ronaldo said. “We’ve won nearly all our games and we’re a solid side but there’s still a long way to go. We must stay focused and keep working away if we want to achieve great things.”

Napoli fans and players showed their support for defender Kalidou Koulibaly during the win over Bologna after the Senegal international was subjected to racist chants this week.

With Koulibaly suspended, Napoli fullback Faouzi Ghoulam warmed up wearing the Senegal international’s No. 26 shirt.

Fans held up photos of Koulibaly and anti-racism banners with the hashtag label (hash)SiamotuttiKalidou, which translates as “We’re all Kalidou.”

Koulibaly had monkey noises directed at him throughout a match against Inter Milan on Wednesday at the San Siro Stadium.

Against Bologna, Dries Mertens scored the winner two minutes from time with a shot from beyond the area after the hosts had twice given up the lead.

Arkadiusz Milik scored twice for Napoli but Federico Santander replied to his first and Danilo equalized after his second.

The victory meant Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti got the better of Bologna counterpart Filippo Inzaghi, his former striker at AC Milan.