Rumour Has It: Barcelona contact Pochettino over coaching job

By Sports Desk January 13, 2020

Barcelona appear ready to turn to their next coaching target as the LaLiga giants eye Mauricio Pochettino.

Ernesto Valverde is under enormous pressure after the Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid, but Xavi has reportedly turned down the job – for now.

Amid contrasting reports over Barca's next decision, they may be lining up a move for Pochettino.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONTACT POCHETTINO OVER COACHING JOB

Barcelona contacted former Tottenham manager Pochettino to be their next boss, according to RAC1.

It comes as widespread reports in Spain say Al Sadd boss and former Barcelona star Xavi turned down the position.

Meanwhile, Catalunya Radio reported Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman also rejected the opportunity.

After a meeting on Sunday, Barca decided to stick with Valverde for now, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reports Manchester United had agreed to terms with Bruno Fernandes, the Mirror says the Premier League club are set to bid £65million (€76.1m) for the Sporting CP midfielder this week.

- Tottenham are set to sign Benfica's Gedson Fernandes as further details about a possible move emerge. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reports Spurs will sign the Portugal international on loan with an option to buy for between £42.7m (€50m) and £51.2m (€60m) in 2021.

- Jerome Boateng continues to be linked with a Bayern Munich exit. Milan are ready to challenge Arsenal for the defender, according to Sky Germany.

- Coming out of contract at season's end, it appears Layvin Kurzawa's future is away from Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe reports the left-back – who has made just five Ligue 1 starts this campaign – recently rejected Inter but the Serie A club remain hopeful of signing the 27-year-old this month.

- Juventus are looking to the future. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are keeping an eye on teenage Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and AZ forward Calvin Stengs.

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    TOP STORY – JOTA LIVERPOOL BOUND

    Premier League champions Liverpool are set to complete the signing of Wolves star Diogo Jota, according to Goal.

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    Now, Jurgen Klopp's men are poised to bring former Atletico Madrid forward Jota to Anfield amid widespread speculation.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - RMC claims Porto full-back Alex Telles has agreed terms with Manchester United over a five-year deal. However, Paris Saint-Germain are also considering a move for the 27-year-old Brazilian following Juan Bernat's knee injury.

    - Liverpool have enquired about Schalke star Ozan Kabak, reports Chris Williams. Bundesliga strugglers Schalke are reluctant to sell the 20-year-old centre-back.

    Atletico Madrid are finalising a deal for Bayern Munich utility Javier Martinez, says Marca. Martinez played for Athletic Bilbao before joining Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern in 2012.

    - The Daily Mail claims Manchester City are eyeing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde as an alternative to Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, though they have struggled to find an agreement with Napoli as PSG reportedly circle.

    Milan have overtaken Barcelona in the race to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sky Italia. Tipped to reunite with former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman at Barca, Depay could now join Milan in a swap deal involving Lucas Paqueta.

    - The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca are looking to sell Nelson Semedo to fund new arrivals, with Ajax sensation and Bayern target Sergino Dest, City defender Eric Garcia and Depay wanted.

    - Goal confirmed Juventus are working to bring Everton forward Moise Kean back to Turin in addition to signing Roma's Edin Dzeko. Juve are interested in a loan deal, though Everton are asking for a permanent transfer or loan with an obligation to buy.

  • Serie A: Are Inter ready to end Juventus' dominance? Serie A: Are Inter ready to end Juventus' dominance?

    Juventus' faltering end to their Serie A campaign saw Inter finish just one point behind the Bianconeri in 2019-20.

    Antonio Conte's side had looked like genuine title challengers in the first half of the season, yet a poor run pre-lockdown saw them all but fall out of contention before a late charge – combined with Juve's inconsistencies – made things tight after the title was already wrapped up.

    Yet heading into Conte's second season, there should be genuine optimism at San Siro.

    Inter may have failed to win the Europa League – going down to serial champions Sevilla in the final – but with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, along with some promising new additions, they look all set for a strong title tilt this time around.

    Juve, under the tutelage of Andrea Pirlo in the wake of Maurizio Sarri's sacking, still have the Cristiano Ronaldo factor, though there is a feeling the club's dominance of Serie A may finally be waning. 

    Using Opta data, we take a look at what Inter need to improve on if they are to seriously challenge in 2020-21.

    CONTE'S SECOND-SEASON SYNDROME

    Despite Inter's second-placed finish in Serie A, there was some doubt that Conte would in fact remain their head coach heading into this season.

    Indeed, in early August – prior to the final stages of the Europa League taking place in Germany – Conte told DAZN: "There's no recognition of the work I've done, and I've found very little protection from the club. None whatsoever. There will be things to discuss with the president, but he's in China right now..."

    However, Conte has stayed, and will look to build on a promising first campaign.

    Inter's haul of 82 points last season was their best tally in Serie A since 2009-10. It also meant Inter were the eighth side since 1994-95 to not win the Scudetto after managing 82 points or more.

    Yet with the last two club teams Conte has coached, there has been a decline in his second campaign.

    In Conte's first season at Juve in 2011-12, his side won the Serie A title without losing a game – Ilario Castagner and Fabio Capello were the only coaches to have previously managed this in Italy's top flight.

    Juve lost five times in Serie A in 2012-13 but still won the title, and there was a similar story at Chelsea. The Blues won the Premier League with 93 points in 2016-17, losing only five games, but in Conte's second term, Chelsea finished fifth, losing on 10 occasions.

    If Inter truly are to go one step further than last season, then Conte will need to avoid any noticeable dip.

    THE STAR STRIKERS

    Ronaldo's 31 Serie A goals ultimately proved the difference for Juve last season, with the 35-year-old turning in more match-winning moments.

    Valuable support also came from Juve's other main forward, Paulo Dybala, who netted 11 goals and provided six assists.

    Conte, on the other hand, often complained over a lack of clinical finishing from his side at times last term, though Lukaku and Martinez more than did their fair share.

    They scored a combined 37 goals – Lukaku netting 23 and Martinez 14 – providing two and three assists respectively.

    It was still five fewer goals than Ronaldo and Dybala accumulated, though, while Juve's strike partners also boasted better link-up statistics.

    In total, Dybala found Ronaldo 121 times across the campaign, crafting 31 chances for his team-mate – compare that with Martinez creating just 11 for Lukaku.

    Ronaldo did not fully return the favour, with only nine chances created for Dybala by the former Real Madrid star, while Lukaku provided 14 chances for Martinez.

    MORE CLEAN SHEETS REQUIRED

    Inter ended the 2019-20 season with the best defence in Serie A, conceding only 36 goals, but that does not tell the whole story.

    Conte's side managed just 14 clean sheets across the campaign – since 2004-05, only Juve, in 2019-20, have won Serie A with fewer than 15 shut outs.

    In Milan Skriniar, Conte has a commanding centre-half who is not yet near his prime, while Diego Godin - if he stays - is a reliable older head and Stefan de Vrij has impressed, but as a unit they were sometimes liable to defensive lapses which, in matches where Inter's strike force failed to make the most of their opportunities, ultimately cost the Nerazzurri.

    Under the guidance of Conte from 2011 to 2014, Juve kept 21, 19 and 22 clean sheets respectively in those three seasons.

    SAN SIRO TROUBLES?

    Inter were outstanding away from home in Serie A last season, collecting more points on the road than any other side (43), winning 13 matches, drawing four times and losing just twice.

    They were only the second club with 13 or more away wins in a single campaign to not win the title, after Napoli, who did so in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

    However, it was a different story at home, where the Nerazzurri picked up just 39 points – 11 less than Juve's total of 50.

    Inter must improve their efficiency at San Siro if they are to end Juve's dominance of Italian football, as no Scudetto-winning side has ever claimed the title with fewer than 13 wins at home since 20 teams have been in the top flight.

  • Man Utd boss Solskjaer explains transfer struggles as Red Devils eye signings Man Utd boss Solskjaer explains transfer struggles as Red Devils eye signings

    Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded the transfer window has not gone according to plan, but the Premier League giants are still hopeful of adding to their squad.

    Despite the signing of Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, there is growing frustration among United supporters as they struggle to sign new players before the transfer window closes next month.

    United continue to be linked with Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho but both clubs remain apart on the €120million (£108m) asking price amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    While United try to bolster their team after finishing third to qualify for the Champions League last season, Premier League holders Liverpool, rivals Chelsea and neighbours Manchester City have been active in the market.

    United had been linked to Real Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon but he is set for Jose Mourinho's Tottenham, while Thiago Alcantara joined Liverpool from Bayern Munich following talks among his agent and the Red Devils.

    Explaining United's transfer efforts ahead of Saturday's opener at home to Crystal Palace, Solskjaer told reporters: "We're looking at a small pool of players who can add to the quality of our team and let's see what we can do. The club's working hard and I understand that they're working hard.

    "When we sit down and we discuss, sometimes it doesn't happen as planned. Life isn't a straight line here, sometimes things happen and I've always said it - I'm very happy to work with these players.

    "There's still a few weeks left of the transfer window, it might happen that we get someone in. I've worked with the club and they know what I feel the team and the squad needs and let's see if we can add to what we have."

    Solskjaer added: "I want players in the building that we want to work with and who wants to be a part of it and who wants to be here.

    "You need the quality on the pitch, you also need the personal qualities but you must also really want to be here and you need to show that you want to be here - that's really important for us as a group that we move forward.

    It's not as big a pool as for other clubs because being part of Manchester United and being good enough for Manchester United is one thing, but then you've got another club who probably they want to keep that type of player who has that quality.

    "Of course, you see other clubs and what they do, they put a challenge up for us and our response has to be results, that's the response. We can be best at the things that don't cost anything - the culture here, the training, the coaching, getting fitter."

    "You can't ignore the impact of coronavirus," Solskjaer continued. "I think that's really changed the market and it happened more or less in that period when maybe negotiations would happen. Of course, the financial uncertainty of that has added on the difficulty of predicting where we're at.

    "You want always to have as long as possible with players. I think last season though shows that good players can adapt and grow into a group very quickly. Harry (Maguire) came in very late in the transfer window and he had a great impact on the performances in the team."

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