Sources: United still hoping to extend Mata stay
Brighton & Hove Albion have named Graham Potter as their new manager from second-tier Championship side Swansea on Monday.
Potter replaced Chris Hughton, who was sacked after Brighton finished 17th in the English Premier League, two points above the drop zone. Brighton won only two matches out of 18 after Jan. 1.
Swansea initially rejected Brighton's approach to talk to Potter, but the club relented when they were persuaded by the English coach that he wanted the challenge of the Premier League. Potter guided Swansea to 10th in the Championship, and had two more seasons left on his contract.
"I was sold by the long-term vision and passion shown by [Brighton owners] Tony Bloom, Paul Barber and Dan Ashworth. The ideas and plans they have for the future of this football club excited me; I am thrilled and honored to be a part of it," Potter said.
You win five of six domestic trophies. You gain 198 of a possible 228 points. You triumph both when you have a 15-point lead in December and when you have a Liverpool team breathing down your neck until the very last game.
Yeah, you get to legitimately ask: are Man City the greatest team in the Premier League era? The answer is yes. As for their lack of Champions League success, it's not an asterisk against their domestic record. It's simply another target in the cross hairs, armed with the realisation that in a knockout competition, anything can happen, including going out on the away goals rule.
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Two of the four English sides that became European champions in the Premier League era, Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea in 2012, finished fifth and sixth respectively that season. Manchester United, winners of the "Big Treble" in 1999 did win the league, except they did it with 79 points. The 2008 version also won the league and finished with 87; this City team reached that total with four matches to spare.
But there are results and then, aesthetics. And this City team marries the two like few others in recent history. You know the points total; how about the fact that over the past two years, City have lost the xG (expected goals) battle on just five occasions, and in two of them, it was by less than 0.05 xG?
Sure, this team has been built at vast expense, but what strikes you most is the type of spending, the progress made after joining and the fact that, to some degree, everyone is replaceable. How many of the current team were bought as ready-made superstars?
You can make a case for Sergio Aguero, although that was back in 2011. Kevin de Bruyne? Sure. And that's probably it. In fact, the degree to which they blossomed at the club is, frankly, remarkable.
David Silva came from Valencia as a 24-year-old, a guy seen as a "nice" player but a provincial one. Raheem Sterling arrived as a promising youngster, with conventional wisdom depicting him as a guy who was all flash and no substance. Fernandinho was playing in the Ukraine until he was 28 (and didn't win his first cap until he was 27).
Aymeric Laporte was a hugely hyped youngster who was passed over by bigger clubs until he was 23 and still has yet to win his first cap for France. Kyle Walker was 27, and while he was briefly the most expensive defender in history, he came from Tottenham where he only became a regular at 21. Ederson had one top-flight season under his belt at Benfica (and one national team cap).
Bernardo Silva? Another "nice player," not someone hailed as the second coming. Ilkay Gundogan? A superb talent who once had scouts salivating, but who didn't look the same after his injury. Leroy Sane? Super tools, but he was 20 when he arrived and had one season as a regular at Schalke. And what of Oleksandr Zinchenko? He lands at City as a teenage attacking midfielder from a Ukrainian team nobody has heard of (Ufa, since you ask) and two years later he's the starting left-back during the stretch run to the title.
It's not just that most of these guys have improved since joining City. Rather, it's that apart from Aguero, De Bruyne and, possibly, Riyad Mahrez, none of them have much of a backstory before arriving at the Eithad. This is the first global success the vast majority of them have known. They don't feel like a Panini sticker team or a gaggle of hired guns; they feel like guys who have been on a journey and are giddy with excitement to be where they are.
And no, since you can't talk about Guardiola without mentioning his previous stops on the road, this is a very different situation. Bayern had won the Champions League prior to his arrival, he found himself coaching World Cup winners after a year. Barcelona had won the Champions League a few years earlier, and, there too, he was in charge of World Cup winners (as well as a guy named Lionel Messi). Most of his Man City squad had won nothing prior to joining the club, and even the current team features just four guys -- Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho -- who were around for the Premier League title in 2013-14.
There's a team ethos there that's hugely evident. Everybody is on message all the time, whether they get on the pitch or not. And sure, it's easy to be good little soldiers when things are going well, but the fact is there have been bumps on the road too. Like in his first campaign, when they spent much of the season in fourth place. Or, indeed, when they got bounced out of the Champions League. That was the time for dressing room whispers, recrimination and even questioning his personnel choices. Instead we got nothing. That's down to a manager with the charisma and personality to keep players on board, as well as a group players who put the collective first.
That brings us to the issue of who is "indispensable." Conventional wisdom was that Fernandinho could not be replaced. Well, he gets injured, Gundogan comes into a deeper role and City don't look back. De Bruyne was the club's most valuable player a year ago: we know how things went this season. John Stones was supposed to be the bedrock of the defence and when his performances dipped, in came somebody else, whether Nicolas Otamendi or Vincent Kompany. And let's not even get started on the rotating cast of left-backs ...
On the pitch and the training ground, City are beauty and functionality rolled into one, as well as the greatest team of the Premier League era. That they've been built differently from other top teams makes it all the more remarkable.
Chelsea have triggered their option to extend Olivier Giroud's contract by another year, sources have told ESPN FC.
Giroud had been set to become a free agent, but Chelsea have decided to keep him as they weigh up whether to take their appeal against a two-transfer window ban imposed by FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Chelsea's move to retain the France international follows their decision to break their policy of only offering one-year extensions to players over the age of 30 when David Luiz signed a new two-year contract earlier this month.
Giroud has made a positive impact since joining from Arsenal for £18 million in January 2018 and is the joint-top scorer in this season's Europa League, netting 10 goals in 13 appearances to help Chelsea reach the final.
But he has been unable to break into Maurizio Sarri's team in the Premier League, starting just seven of Chelsea's 38 league games.
Speaking last month, Giroud said he would only agree to stay at Chelsea for another season if the club could assure him of a bigger role.
"Obviously I'm happy to be here," he said. "The thing is I just want to enjoy. It's not because I'm 32 and I've won the World Cup, because I don't want to retire. I want to be first choice.
"With what I've achieved here, there is no reason they won't give me one more year. But I need to be happy also."
Manchester United have not given up hope of extending Juan Mata's stay at Old Trafford, sources have told ESPN FC.
Spain midfielder Mata is out of contract on June 30 and has a number of offers from clubs in England, Italy and Spain.
He also has an offer on the table from United, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not conceded defeat in his attempts to convince the 31-year-old to stay although agreement has yet to be reached.
United have lost Ander Herrera on a free transfer after they were unable to agree a new contract, with the midfielder set to sign for Paris Saint-Germain when his deal expires at the end of the month.
Club captain Antonio Valencia will also leave after United decided against triggering a one-year option in his contract.
If Mata, who is currently on holiday, decides to stay, he is likely to find increased competition for a place in the team next season.
Sources have told ESPN FC that United are nearing an agreement for Swansea winger Daniel James, who has also been courted by Everton and Newcastle and is likely to cost around £15 million.
Solskjaer has ordered his squad to return to Carrington for the start of preseason training on July 1 -- seven days before they are due to fly to Australia for the start of their preseason tour.
The manager has told the club he wants the bulk of summer transfer business completed before United fly to Perth on July 7 as he begins preparations for the new season.
United have scheduled five friendlies in Australia, Singapore, China and Cardiff.
They are also set to announce plans for a sixth game against Kristiansund in Olso at the end of July after Manchester City's FA Cup victory over Watford on Saturday confirmed their place in the group phase of the Europa League.
Had Watford won, Solskjaer's side would have faced a Europa League qualifier on July 25.