PSG refute reports they could sell Neymar or Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain have furiously slammed reports the Ligue 1 champions could be forced to sell Neymar or Kylian Mbappe to avoid Financial Fair Play sanctions.

French newspaper L’Equipe published an article on Friday, claiming PSG were considering cashing in on one of their prized assets to comply with UEFA rules.

PSG – who spent a world-record €222million on Neymar in 2017 before completing the permanent €180m signing of Mbappe – swiftly and strongly refuted those claims as they questioned L’Equipe’s motives.

“In an article published this Friday evening on its website, L’Equipe [French newspaper] dares to say ‘PSG is ready to lose Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr to avoid [FFP] sanctions’,” PSG’s statement read.

“Beyond denying this misinformation, ridiculous and only aimed to create once again a tough relationship between our club and this media, PSG is wondering, once more, about the main goal of L’Equipe and its underlying thought about its editing work concerning PSG.

“There are so many examples of this kind of news aiming to bring a bad atmosphere around the club. Last one in date, last Wednesday, matchday against Strasbourg, with a frontpage which pretended there was a ‘Cavani issue’. In passing, regarding the incredible amount of frontpages involving PSG in this daily newspaper, proof of the club’s fame, PSG is asking itself about the schizophrenic behaviour of L’Equipe and its hierarchy.

“Four days before an important game at Belgrade in the Champions League, PSG is inviting its community – fans, partners, former players… – to unite even more around the Red & Blue shirt, around its players, its values and its ambitions that the club will always hold with pride.

“The huge support from our fans on the social networks and inside the stadium give strength to Neymar, Cavani, Mbappe and to all the players. Against the misinformation led by L’Equipe, and its insistence to put us in trouble, PSG, the most famous and successful French club, says once again it only wishes to speak to the good and legitimate media.”

PSG, who are facing a decisive Champions League trip to Red Star Belgrade, are 14 points clear atop Ligue 1 following back-to-back draws.

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‘Tottenham has given me value’ – Pochettino dismisses Manchester United rumours

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has declared himself “happy” with his situation at the club as rumours link him to Manchester United.

The Spurs boss’ continued success with the London club has seen him appear in the frame for high-profile jobs, including Real Madrid and with the Red Devils in recent weeks.

But Pochettino has again looked to squash any notion that he is looking for a way out, telling reporters Friday that he feels respected by the club and is “happy” with his situation.

“Tottenham has given me value,” he said. “I feel happy here in Tottenham because I feel the recognition for our job. We feel that.

“When (club chairman) Daniel Levy extended my contract for five years, it is because he believed in that moment and period, we are the best people to manage this boat and this club. It is recognition for us.

“I don’t need to listen about what goes around. The most important thing is how you are made to feel in your home.”

Ahead of Saturday’s match against Leicester, Tottenham currently are third in the Premier League with 33 points, but remain six points behind Liverpool in second and eight points below table-topping Manchester City.

Meanwhile, Spurs also are just two points ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal in fourth and fifth respectively.

As a result, Pochettino sees the top four as worthy goal, even if a title chase is not in the cards this season.

“We try to improve but the way that we improve is not in the way of maybe another team,” he added.

“That is why our project is to be consistent in many years and try to improve every season, and we will see whether it is enough or not.

“At the moment it is clear that Manchester City is above everyone. It is City again and Liverpool.

“I think the most important thing is to keep going and fighting to be in a good position. Like many clubs say, to be in the top four is a massive success. And for us to be in the top four is more than success.

“I think the first step is to try and be consistently in the top four.”

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Inter caused Juventus problems, concedes Allegri

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri acknowledged Inter caused the Serie A leaders problems despite the Nerazzurri going down 1-0 in Friday’s Derby d’Italia.

A second-half header from Mario Mandzukic earned a narrow victory at Allianz Stadium, ensuring Juve levelled the record for the most points collected, 43, after 15 games of a season in Europe’s top-five leagues.

Inter started well and had the better chances in the first half, with Roberto Gagliardini hitting the post with a shot that had Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

But Mandzukic came up trumps with a header from Joao Cancelo’s left-wing cross to put Juve in an even more dominant position at the top of the Serie A table, despite Allegri accepting his side had to battle.

“Inter caused us problems in the first half, opening up with Joao Mario and Gagliardini, so we struggled to close them down,” Allegri said to Sky Sport Italia. “It’s also true the biggest chances of the first half came from us giving the ball away.

“I moved Mandzukic to the left, Paulo Dybala played much better and we had a very different performance in terms of intensity and pressure. We allowed Inter practically nothing in the second half and we had several more chances.

“Matteo Politano was putting pressure on, so I switched the full-backs to make the most of our characteristics and cover where needed, pushing on the other. Cancelo struggled a little with Politano in the first half, mainly the transitions.

“We’re working on Cancelo’s defensive approach and it must be recognised he has improved a great deal.

“I asked with the crosses to avoid Milan Skriniar and Joao Miranda, to work on the full-backs who were less physical than we were in those roles. It was a good cross to find Mandzukic.”

Allegri’s opposite number Luciano Spalletti was left frustrated by his side’s inability to use the ball properly, although he defended a quiet individual performance from captain and star striker Mauro Icardi.

“If someone takes the lead, of course it makes the difference, but we made too many banal and cheap errors,” Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia.

“There was one moment where we burst away and got behind their defence, but we failed to get the ball to the forwards. That can make the difference, as we struggle to be consistent for 90 minutes.

“There is always someone who is too slow, who talks too much, who is careless and not on the same page as the others.

“Unfortunately, Juve are smart and we are naive. They have a way of wasting five minutes after a foul.

“Icardi did what he had to do, he ran hard and to be honest did far better tonight than in other occasions to track back and get the ball, combining with the midfield.”

Victory moved Juventus 11 points clear of nearest rivals Napoli, who host Frosinone on Saturday, in the Serie A table.

But Allegri does not feel Juve, hunting an eighth consecutive Scudetto, are already assured of yet another title defence.

“We knew the championship would not end today,” Allegri added. “But we still absolutely had to avoid defeat.”

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That is not going to happen – Guardiola rejects Man City Hazard move

Pep Guardiola says a Manchester City move for Eden Hazard will not happen after the Chelsea star claimed he could improve the Premier League leaders.

Hazard has been among the top players in the Premier League this season and is yet to agree an extension to a Chelsea contract that expires in 2020.

The Belgium forward faces City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday with the Blues 10 points behind last season’s runaway title winners but suggested he would boost Guardiola’s options.

“It’s true they don’t have an Eden Hazard,” he said to Play Sports. “That is the difference.”

Despite an injury to striker Sergio Aguero, City’s attacking ranks are well-stocked and Guardiola rejected a suggestion Hazard could be a transfer target for the champions.

“That is not going to happen. No,” he told reporters.

Asked how dangerous Hazard could be to City’s defence, Guardiola added: “A lot. I’m agreeing with you. He said I’m so good that I’m agreeing with him.

“Switch on the TV, look at him, immediately you realise his qualities. You [the media] know his qualities better than me. He’s an exceptional player. One, by far, one of the best players in the world.”

At Stamford Bridge City will also face Jorginho, a player they reportedly tried to sign before the Italy midfielder opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Stamford Bridge.

Jorginho would have offered an alternative option to Fernandinho in City’s midfield but Guardiola is more than happy with the contribution of the 33-year-old Brazilian.

“For me it’s uncomfortable to speak about a player of another club. We know the history, we spoke about that before the Community Shield,” Guardiola said of Jorginho. “He decided to go there, I’m not going to say it’s a bad decision. He knows the manager, he knows the club.

“Chelsea’s an exceptional club, he decided that, all the best. He didn’t come to compete with Dinho, to be part of our team. What he has done, Fernandinho, not just this season all the years we have been together, is incredible. It’s really incredible.

“People speak with many players and I understand that but most of the good things we have in that moment is thanks to that guy. I’m very pleased for him and I’m pretty sure from his commitment, his personality, his many, many, things, he’s going to continue in that way.

“Few, few, few players can do what he does. Few, few players all around the world. He can do absolutely everything. He’s incredible. Really, he’s an incredible player.”

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Savarese poised to cap smooth transition to MLS with another title

Standing in the middle of the field at Atlanta Silverbacks Park five years ago, Giovanni Savarese couldn’t contain the smile he wore from ear to ear. One by one, New York Cosmos players, fans and the owner all made their way to congratulate Savarese for winning the storied club’s first championship in more than three decades. 

It mattered little that the triumph came in a small venue that could barely be called a stadium, where a small crowd of around 7,000 gathered to watch an Atlanta team in red and black lose a final to a Savarese-coached team clad in green.

Savarese is back in Atlanta once again, chasing another trophy, only the circumstances are much different this time around. There will be more than 70,000 fans packed inside the multi-billion dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Saturday’s MLS Cup final, where Savarese’s Portland Timbers will try to stop heavily favored Atlanta United in a final that will be broadcast around the world, and seen by far more viewers than the last final Savarese contested in Atlanta.

That Savarese is set to coach in his fifth final in six seasons is a testament to his growing reputation as a manager, but it is his first season with the Timbers that has helped open more eyes to the quality coach Savarese has become. He took over a solid Portland team previously led by long-time coach Caleb Porter and succeeded in putting his own stamp on the squad in his very first season in charge.

“Every situation has its own challenges,” Savarese told Goal. “Whether you start fresh, or go to a situation where the club wasn’t doing well, or take over a team that was doing well, each scenario brings its own difficulties.

“Just because the team was successful doesn’t mean it was on a path I felt was the right path,” Savarese said. “There was a lot of work to be done. Players need to trust a coach, and need to know how a coach is, and how a coach works. Trust isn’t built overnight.”

Savarese’s early days with the Timbers weren’t easy. A five-game road trip to start the season presented a difficult starting point, and when the Timbers went winless in that stretch, the questions about whether Savarese had been the right choice immediately began to fly.

GFX Giovanni Savarese Photo PS 1

“When you become a coach I think a very important part is to be balanced emotionally and believe in what you do and the work you do,” Savarese said. “You need an organization that really believes in you and gives you the trust to continue to go forward.”

“I had concerns those first two games, but by the third game I felt like we were turning things around,” Savarese said of that early winless skid. “By the third or fourth game I felt like the win would come at any minute.”

The wins did eventually come, to the tune of a jaw-dropping 16-match unbeaten streak that quickly established the Timbers as a team to watch in the wide-open Western Conference. Savarese’s willingness to make tough lineup decisions, as well as deploy a variety of tactical approaches, helped him put his stamp on the team in a seamless way, without trying to completely change the team he inherited.

“He knew he was coming in with a group that was successful, so he didn’t come in talking about trying to revolutionize the Timbers, but he did come in and help us establish an identity that could help us win,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson told Goal.

“It took a coach with the self confidence, someone very secure, to come in and not try to change things overnight. He took his time establishing putting his own stamp on the team and you can see it now.”

Savarese PS

Savarese’s path to becoming a title-winning coach began during a long playing career that saw him travel the world playing in leagues from his native Venezuela to the United States, England and Italy. His interest in coaching, and eventually becoming a coach, began well before he retired as a player. After his playing days were over, Savarese continued to work in soccer, developing his coaching resume, and also gaining experiences that exposed him to the game at the highest level.

“I spent time working with Charlie Stilitano, spending time around big European clubs in America on tour,” Savarese said. “When teams would come to the United States, being with Barcelona, with Porto and Fiorentina, being able to be with them the whole tour, seeing how their coaches work, how their organizations work, being in Barcelona for a week, with Milan and Inter and seeing how they work. It all taught me so much. It helped me learn so much, and I’ve never stopped learning.”

Savarese’s journey wasn’t without its disappointments and setbacks. Perhaps the biggest one came a dozen years ago, when he was working as the well-respected director of the New York Red Bulls youth academy. When head coach Bruce Arena and technical director Jeff Agoos took over the Red Bulls in 2006 they decided there needed to be changes made throughout the organization. 

Savarese was eventually forced out of his role as academy director, and while his departure was painted publicly as a mutual decision, sources tell Goal Savarese was forced out. It was a crushing blow for Savarese, who was a fan favorite with the team as a player almost a decade earlier.

“The split at the time wasn’t a comfortable moment due to the fact that I was very passionate about what I was doing, and I was doing it for a club that I played for,” Savarese said. “I gave everything I had, and wanted to continue to give everything, so to split from the organization was difficult because of the passion I had for the job, and the club.”

It took Savarese some time to get over that disappointment, but he eventually re-established roots with the club known formerly as the MetroStars. He insists he never held a grudge over how things ended with the Red Bulls, even though it left him outside the professional game for several years before he joined the Cosmos. 

“I wouldn’t say that that sparked something in me that I wanted to prove anything because I’m not that way,” Savarese said. “I’m just a competitor, I compete. I don’t need any extra motivation to compete. I believe in what I do because I do it with passion. I know my strengths and weaknesses. It’s not about proving people wrong.”

Savarese stayed busy after leaving the Red Bulls, working in television while continuing to coach on the youth level. He eventually took over the Cosmos youth ranks before being hired as head coach and leading the club’s renaissance. His run of NASL titles sparked interest from several MLS teams, but a steep buyout clause in his contract scared teams away, as did the uncertainty over whether his NASL success could translate to MLS.

Nobody is asking those questions now after Savarese’s successful first season, which he feels has benefited more from the tough moments than the long unbeaten run earlier in the season. In fact, he points to Portland’s four-match losing streak in August as a needed period of adversity, one that helped him figure things out that eventually helped the Timbers in their run to the 2018 MLS Cup final.

“I think losing sometimes teaches more than winning, because sometimes when you win you let some things go because you’re getting results,” Savarese said. “When the results aren’t the ones you want you become critical.

“In that time, I learned more about my team. I learned how the team dealt with adversity. We needed to learn that we win together and lose together.”

GFX Giovanni Savarese Photo PS 3

It has been mostly winning in the months since that losing slide, capped by Portland’s improbable run through the Western Conference playoffs, which saw them eliminate three higher seeds on the way to Saturday’s final. Now Savarese will lead his Timbers against Atlanta United in front of a sold-out Mercedes-Benz Stadium in an atmosphere sure to be unlike any seen before in MLS, and one that will be a far cry from what Savarese could have imagined when he was coaching in Atlanta five years ago in his first NASL final.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that in Atlanta, definitely not five years ago,” Savarese told Goal. “To see things change here the way they have, big credit to Atlanta United for creating something so amazing. We’re going to enjoy it because we’re going to be able to play in front of a beautiful crowd. The team knows how special this opportunity will be.”

And so does Savarese, who will need only to think back to that first championship he won in this same city five years ago to remind him how far he has come.

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