Chelsea job chance for Pochettino to prove he is one of soccer’s elite coaches

Mauricio Pochettino’s time in the wilderness looks set to come to an end. He is widely expected to take over at Chelsea. (File/AP)
Short Url
Updated 16 May 2023
Follow

Chelsea job chance for Pochettino to prove he is one of soccer’s elite coaches

  • The former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain manager is widely expected to take over at Chelsea
  • Pochettino lifted Southampton from the lower end of the Premier League then turned Tottenham into a title contender and Champions League finalist

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino’s time in the wilderness looks set to end. And a career that has felt in danger of stagnating could get the jump start it needs.

After a year out from soccer, the former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain manager is widely expected to take over at Chelsea. There, he would get the chance to realize a burning ambition to conquer the English Premier League and, with that, confirm his status as one of the sport’s elite coaches.

At times over the past 12 months, it felt like Pochettino possibly missed out on his chance to secure one of the top jobs in Europe.

It was only last summer he left PSG, having won the French league and answered one of the lingering questions hanging over his career; his ability to win major trophies.

But at the end of last season, Manchester United opted for Erik ten Hag when embarking on a reboot at Old Trafford. A few months later, Chelsea turned to Graham Potter after the departure of Thomas Tuchel, signalling a shift toward a new generation of coaches.

Even Pochettino’s former club, Tottenham, has repeatedly looked elsewhere for answers since his exit in 2019, despite his enduring iconic status among its fans.

Having been consistently linked with United and Real Madrid over the past five years, the 51-year-old from Argentina appeared to be running out of options to take his career to the next level.

It’s not that there was a lack of interest; it’s said that much of the Premier League has considered him at various points. It’s just that there are relatively few teams that could give him the platform to challenge for soccer’s biggest prizes and keep his resume on an upward curve.

Pep Guardiola’s career, for example, has taken him from Barcelona to Bayern Munich to Manchester City, with each of those teams having the heritage and/or financial resources to enable him to dominate in Spain, Germany and England respectively.

Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have chalked off one giant after another — both of them returning to former clubs on occasion to underline the relatively shallow pool of truly elite teams to choose from.

Pochettino lifted Southampton from the lower end of the Premier League then turned Tottenham into a title contender and Champions League finalist by the time his chance came at PSG.

There, he won the league and cup, but could not end the French giant’s pursuit of the Champions League, joining an ever-growing list of coaches to fall short in that respect.

United looked like the ideal next step, him having been long-admired by the Manchester club, but the job went to Ten Hag.

Ancelotti, meanwhile, had just led Madrid to a 14th European Cup and the Spanish title, meaning another job that has long-appeared to have his name on it was also out of reach.

With Potter at Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola signing new contracts at Liverpool and City respectively, it was difficult to see where Pochettino’s next move would be.

And, so, with no move to make, he waited.

He traveled to Tokyo with his family, and spent time at his homes in Barcelona and London. Throughout his break, he never lost sight of his value or his place in the game.

He has managed some of the best players in the world in Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Harry Kane.

He is idolized by Tottenham fans for turning it into one of the top teams in Europe — even if he did end up trophyless by the end. And, as well as the trophies at PSG, he was one of only two coaches in its history to go beyond the quarterfinals of the Champions League, reaching the semis in 2021.

These are not small feats, but Pochettino has lofty ambitions that need a club of stature to fulfil.

While Chelsea will be without European soccer next season, it is accustomed to winning the biggest prizes, having lifted the Champions League as recently as 2021.

Pochettino would inherit a squad that has had around $630 million worth of new signings over the past two transfer windows. And he would be working for owners, in Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, who have made it clear they will provide the resources to bring success to Stamford Bridge.

As for handling the American owners, Pochettino knows what it is like to work for demanding bosses in Daniel Levy at Tottenham and PSG’s backers, Qatar Sports Investments.

It would be a risk. So far, Boehly and Clearlake have dispensed with a Champions League-winning manager in Tuchel and another who was only seven months into the job.

Chelsea, however, would provide Pochettino with opportunity to go head-to-head against elite coaches such as Guardiola and Klopp and prove it is where he belongs.


Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

Updated 12 sec ago
Follow

Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

BERLIN: UEFA will increase security during the rest of Euro 2024 after several pitch invaders attempted to take selfies with Portugal’s star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 39-year-old forward posed for a photo with a young boy during the 3-0 win over Turkiye in Group F on Saturday in Dortmund, but grew exasperated as at least five more fans attempted to do the same.
“Safety and security in the stadium, on the pitch and at team facilities are the ultimate priority for UEFA,” the European football governing body told AFP on Sunday.
“To this end, additional safety measures will be deployed in the stadiums to further meet the requirements of the tournament, and to prevent such incidents.”
One security guard crashed into Paris Saint-Germain striker Goncalo Ramos while trying to stop a pitch invader reaching Ronaldo.
Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said it was lucky that the supporters who ran on to the pitch were only trying to take photographs.
“It is a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good,” said Martinez.
“It is a very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong... probably we should give a message to the fans that it is not the right way.”
UEFA said any spectators entering the field of play will be thrown out of the stadium, be banned for further matches and face “the filing of a formal criminal complaint for trespass.”
Portugal qualified for the last 16 with their comfortable win over Turkiye as Group F winners.


Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants

Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

Albania team says UEFA banned player Mirlind Daku for two Euro 2024 games after nationalist chants

  • Daku joined in chanting slogans against Serbia and North Macedonia
  • 26-year-old forward began playing for Albania last year having used his right under FIFA rules to change his eligibility from Kosovo

TIRANA: The Albanian soccer federation said UEFA banned its player Mirlind Daku on Sunday for two games after leading fans in nationalist chants at the European Championship.
Daku took a megaphone after Albania’s 2-2 draw with Croatia on Wednesday in Hamburg and joined in chanting slogans against Serbia and North Macedonia.
The Albanian federation also said UEFA imposed fines totaling 47,250 euros ($50,500) for incidents at the game, where its fans joined Croatian fans and chanted an anti-Serb slogan.
The Serbian soccer federation said it would leave the tournament if UEFA did not punish the incidents.
Albania play a decisive group-stage game on Monday against Spain. If Albania advance, Daku also would sit out the round of 16 game.
Daku later apologized for his actions in a social media posting, as UEFA appointed an in-house investigator to study his “alleged inappropriate behavior.”
The 26-year-old forward began playing for Albania last year having used his right under FIFA rules to change his eligibility from Kosovo, the ethnic-Albanian former province of Serbia that declared independence 16 years ago.
UEFA also announced charges against its Albanian and Croatian member federations for “potential racist and/or discriminatory conduct” by fans on Wednesday, who were reportedly chanting “Kill the Serbs” in Serbian.
The Albanian soccer Federation, or FSHF, called on the fans to be “accountable and avoid incidents and riots.”
“The FSHF invites fans and football lovers to support to the end the Albanian national team in this magical and historic path in Euro 2024 by showing citizenry and accountability through correct behavior and by respecting the rules and the opponents,” said a statement.
Albania have impressed at Euro 2024 in an opening 2-1 loss against Italy and then the 2-2 draw with Croatia. The team likely need to beat Spain to advance.


Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

  • Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game
  • Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas

SANTA CLARA, California: Goals from substitutes Jhonder Cadiz and Eduard Bello gave Venezuela a 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador in their Copa America Group B match on Saturday.

In the group’s other game, Mexico made a winning start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in Houston but lost their captain Edson Alvarez to injury.

Ecuador were forced to play with 10 men from the 22nd minute of the game at Levi Stadium when striker Enner Valencia was sent off for dangerous play.

The 34-year-old forward struck the chest of Venezuela defender Jose Martinez with his boot while challenging for a high, bouncing ball in the box and was initially awarded a yellow card but after a VAR review he was shown a straight red.

Ecuador, which had been in control of the game before the dismissal, responded well and went ahead in the 40th minute when Venezuela failed to clear a free-kick into the box and Jeremy Sarmiento pounced on the loose ball to drill home.

Venezuela head coach Fernando Batista made two changes at the break, bringing on Cadiz and Bello and both were to make a decisive impact.

“Vinotinto” striker Salomon Rondon laid the ball off to Cadiz, whose low side-footed shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection as it flashed past Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez.

Then, in the 74th minute, Alexander Gonzalez whipped in a cross from the right, met with a diving header from Rondon which was parried by Dominguez but Bello reacted to fire home the loose ball.

“To be able to score a goal, which helped in the victory, and to have contributed to the first goal, is a joy. These three points are very important for what’s to come,” said a delighted Bello.

Ecuador’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said the red card for Valencia had forced him to change the team’s approach.

“We had to change the plan, wait a bit behind the opposition. It’s clear that when you play with 10 men you are at the mercy of the opposition for many minutes, even if you don’t want to play that way,” he said.

“Obviously it’s not the dream start, but there are two more games left and we have the team to compete. The most important thing is that the team recovers its spirit for what is to come.”

Mexico labored for long stretches against Jamaica before a superbly struck 69th minute goal from Gerardo Arteaga earned them the three points.

Jaime Lozano’s team suffered a major blow when their skipper, West Ham midfielder Alvarez had to go off in the 29th minute after going down without contact.

’El Tri’ struggled to create opportunities in the opening half with their best effort, a curling shot just wide from Luis Romo, just before the break.

Jamaica thought they had the lead in the 50th minute but Michail Antonio’s diving header was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

That letoff woke up the Mexicans who pushed forward with greater purpose. Luis Chavez forced a good save out of Jamaica keeper Jahmali Waite and Julian Quinones fired over the bar after cutting in from the left.

Waite was alert again to keep out a Santiago Gimenez near post blast as the pressure built and finally Mexico got the breakthrough when the ball fell to Arteaga on the edge of the box and he blasted a perfectly struck half-volley into the far corner.

Jamaica had one last opportunity to salvage a point but Dexter Lembikisa’s low shot was turned round the post by Mexico keeper Julio Gonzalez.

Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game.

“A goal, whether for or against, changes your mood a lot. And seeing that it had been disallowed, that also lifted us a little bit more to keep insisting and looking for the goal ourselves,” the left-back told TUDN.

Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas.

“We know there’s not going to be an easy opponent. Thank God we won against Jamaica and now we want to go for another win,” said Arteaga.


De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

De Bruyne seals Belgium’s 2-0 win over Romania to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

  • All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday

COLOGNE, Germany: Kevin De Bruyne scored and Belgium got its European Championship campaign up and running after beating Romania 2-0 on Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Belgians shook off the shock of losing to Slovakia in their opening game by responding with a dominant performance in front of the Belgium royal family at Cologne Stadium.
Youri Tielemans gave them a flying start with a goal from the edge of the area in the second minute.
De Bruyne effectively killed the game off in the 80th after converting direct from Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels’ long kick.
All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday.
While Belgium won, there was more frustration for Romelu Lukaku, who had a third goal ruled out by VAR at these Euros.
Still, he was at the center of his team’s great start when laying the ball off for Tielemans to score with a low drive from the edge of the box.
It was just what Belgium needed after the Slovakia stunner, which raised the prospect of another early exit from a major tournament after being eliminated at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
The format of the Euros, in which the four best third-place teams advance, leaves more room for error. But with memories of Qatar still fresh, another defeat would have broken the confidence of a team criticized for failing to live up to expectations in the past.
Tielemans’ goal seemed to lift the pressure, and Belgium ruled the rest of the half with 67 percent of possession.
Lukaku thought he scored after the break, but VAR said he strayed offside before firing past Romania keeper Florin Nita.
The longer the game went on without Belgium scoring a second, the more the tension rose.
Dennis Man could have evened the score when running through on goal, but was denied by Casteels.
The keeper then turned provider with a long punt upfield, which De Bruyne raced on to and fired home.
Under former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Portugal advanced to the knockout phase after a 3-0 win against Turkiye in Group F. Georgia picked up its first ever point at a major tournament after a drawing the Czech Republic 1-1 and still has hopes of advancing.


UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

  • The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of $29,900
  • The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros

ZAGREB: UEFA have fined the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for the incidents that occurred in the stands during Croatia’s 2-2 draw with Albania at Euro 2024, the national federation said on Saturday.
The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of 28,000 euros ($29,900) due to the “lighting of flares and throwing of objects by some Croatian fans during the match played on June 19 in Hamburg.”
“The Croatian Football Federation thanks the Croatian fans for their excellent support and once again calls on them to refrain from lighting and throwing flares,” the statement said.
The HNS was also fined after Croatia’s first match in Group B, which they lost 3-0 to Spain.
The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros for fans throwing plastic cups onto the pitch and lighting flares.
Croatia are in danger of a group-stage exit from Euro 2024 after defeat to Spain and Wednesday’s thrilling 2-2 draw in which Albania’s Klaus Gjasula scored at both ends, including a dramatic injury-time equalizer.
Croatia, World Cup semifinalists in 2022, will now likely need to win their final Group B match against holders Italy on Monday to have any hope of reaching the knockout phase of a fifth straight major tournament.