Pochettino planning 'great things' at Paris Saint-Germain amid reported Tottenham interest

By Sports Desk May 27, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino is focused on achieving "great things" at Paris Saint-Germain amid rumours that Tottenham are looking to reappoint their former manager.

The 49-year-old took over as PSG boss in January – 14 months on from being sacked by Spurs – on a contract that has another year to run with the option of an extra 12 months.

He won the Trophee des Champion in just his third ​game in charge and followed that up with success in the Coupe de France with a 2-0 win over Monaco in the final this month.

However, last season's beaten finalists PSG exited the Champions League at the semi-final stage to Manchester City and finished second to shock title winners Lille in Ligue 1.

Widespread reports on Thursday claimed Pochettino's relationship with sporting director Leonardo is already strained, and he is tempted to resign just four months into his reign.

That has prompted Spurs to make contact with the Argentinian, it is claimed, while Real Madrid – who confirmed Zinedine Zidane's exit on Thursday – have also been linked.

Tottenham are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Pochettino's successor, Jose Mourinho, last month.

But Pochettino, who spent five years at Tottenham before his departure in November 2019, appears to be planning for a long-term future at the Parc des Princes.

In an interview released on the French club's official website on Thursday, Pochettino said: "I'm happy with the way the players adapted to the changes. 

"I think that with this way of working, and with the desire to be able to develop other kinds of ideas on the pitch, it will be possible to do great things in the future.

"I think that in football you are never satisfied. Because perfection doesn't exist. But we are always looking for that satisfaction that we can't find.

"I always believe that football challenges you every day and that from season to season you have to be better and better. 

"But in a club like Paris Saint-Germain, you are forced to think that perfection or satisfaction can come and that winning is the only option. 

"And for a club like ours, it's about winning, winning and winning. And then winning again. It's a feeling I always thought I'd like to have. 

"It requires a amount of energy and always be sure that your priority is to be professional and that the difficulties and obstacles can always be overcome. I think that's the challenge, to impose that here."

PSG missed out on the Ligue 1 title for just the second time in nine seasons – the other instance being in 2016-17 when Monaco came out on top.

The Parisians finished the campaign with 82 points, which is their lowest tally over a complete season since 2011-12 when accumulating 79 points and finishing second.

It is just a second time a team has reached that total or better without being crowned champions after PSG themselves in 2016-17 (87 points).

And while PSG fell short of reaching a second successive Champions League final, they did knock out holders Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route to the semi-finals.

Pochettino, who succeeded Thomas Tuchel in the French capital, said: "Of course I'm proud of the team's effort, because only we know what state the team was in and what we were capable of.

"I'm proud of all the people involved, not just the players, but all the staff at the club, everybody, because I think the effort was incredible. 

"Winning the Trophee des Champions, winning the Coupe de France, reaching the semi-final of the Champions League, without being in your best form.

"We also fought until the last game with the possibility of winning the championship, and given the conditions in which we arrived in January, we should be proud of everything."

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  • Dyche replaces Lampard at struggling Everton Dyche replaces Lampard at struggling Everton

    Sean Dyche is the manager Everton have turned to as they aim to stave off relegation from the Premier League.

    Everton sacked Frank Lampard last Monday following a 2-0 defeat at West Ham – the Toffees' eighth defeat in the space of nine games.

    The last time Everton won a competitive match was on October 22 last year, and they find themselves in 19th place, level on points with Southampton, who are bottom only due to goal difference.

    Dyche was reportedly the Merseyside club's second choice, with owner Farhad Moshiri wanting to appoint former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa, who held talks with the club's hierarchy in London on Thursday.

    However, Bielsa is said to have been hesitant to join Everton in mid-season, and reports have claimed the Argentine instead suggested he would take over the club's under-21s side, with a view to managing the first team following the end of the campaign.

    With survival Everton's priority, Dyche has been handed the job on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

    Speaking to the club's media, Dyche said: "It's an honour to become Everton manager. My staff and I are ready and eager to help get this great club back on track.

    "I know about Everton's passionate fanbase and how precious this club is to them. We're ready to work and ready to give them what they want.

    "That starts with sweat on the shirt, effort and getting back to some of the basic principles of what Everton Football Club has stood for for a long time... There is quality in this squad. But we have to make them shine. That's the job of me and my staff."

    Dyche was sacked by Burnley in April last year, after 10 years in charge of the Clarets.

    His last win at Burnley came against Lampard's Everton, and although his temporary replacement Michael Jackson had a good start, taking 10 points from a possible 12, he was unable to keep the Clarets in the division.

    Everton stayed up thanks to a 3-2 comeback win over Crystal Palace but have won just three top-flight games this campaign, having struggled for goals following Richarlison's move to Tottenham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin's injury issues.

    Dyche is reuniting with two of his Burnley regulars in the form of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil, while he should have funds to spend in the final days of the January transfer window following the sale of Anthony Gordon to Newcastle United in a deal reportedly worth up to £45million.

    The former Watford manager gained promotion with Burnley in 2014, and though they went straight back down, he took them back up to the top tier in 2016.

    He established Burnley as steady competitors for the best part of six years, even qualifying for Europe in the 2017-18 campaign, and now will be tasked with maintaining Everton's long top-flight status.

    Dyche took charge of 258 Premier League games at Burnley, winning 72 (27.9 per cent) and averaging 1.1 points per game.

    His first game at the helm of Everton will come at home against league leaders Arsenal on February 4, with a Merseyside derby at Anfield following nine days later.

  • Howe claims the best is yet to come from Newcastle new boy Gordon as Shelvey set for Forest Howe claims the best is yet to come from Newcastle new boy Gordon as Shelvey set for Forest

    Eddie Howe believes Anthony Gordon will be a hit with the Newcastle United supporters and confirmed Jonjo Shelvey is in the process of leaving the club.

    Gordon joined Newcastle from struggling Everton over the weekend.

    Newcastle have reportedly paid an initial £40million for the 21-year-old, with an additional £5m due in add-ons.

    Gordon handed in a transfer request at Everton last week, having missed three training sessions, though Howe has no concerns over the winger's attitude.

    "He'll give us a lot," Howe said in a press conference ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton.

    "He's a young player with huge potential to have a big impact on our season.

    "Very quick, dynamic. He's versatile and can play on both sides. The best is yet to come from him. I've got no doubts about his character. He is fiercely determined and ambitious.

    "I believe he will fit our style of play. He is an incredible athlete and has the ability to run box-to-box at very high speed.

    "I think he has the athletic durability that we want in our wide players. He has the passion that the fans will feed off but Anthony will have to earn that support."

    Gordon's fiery side was on show when Everton lost at St James' Park in October, clashing with Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar and Nick Pope.

    "It's interesting looking back at the footage, I like that he didn't stand down that day. He was aggressive," Howe added.

    "The supporters and his team-mates will grow to love that about him."

    While Gordon has bolstered Newcastle's attacking options, Howe is set to lose midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who is on the verge of following Chris Wood to Nottingham Forest.

    "Jonjo has had injuries this season and certainly I would not want to lose him," Howe said of the former Liverpool midfielder.

    "I have to understand again, similar to Chris Wood, the player's wishes with his contract coming to an end.

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    "But you have to take every situation independently and try to judge everything, judge what is best for him and the club.

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  • Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker? Fifteen years on from Portsmouth stunner, was Ronaldo ever a great free-kick taker?

    Cristiano Ronaldo has scored many famous goals.

    Undoubtedly, though, one of his most celebrated strikes came 15 years ago, on January 30, 2008.

    On a winter evening at Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth rocked up in fine form on the road, having won seven of their 12 away games in the Premier League.

    Yet Ronaldo, in the midst of a 31-goal season in the top tier, was the difference. 

    Having put Manchester United ahead in the 10th minute, Ronaldo stepped up, just under 30 yards out from goal, three minutes later.

    His free-kick, taken in what would become his trademark style, went up, over the wall and swerved remarkably into the right-hand corner. David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper, had no chance.

    That goal is often thought of as the typical Ronaldo free-kick. Power, panache and pinpoint accuracy.

    But is Ronaldo actually as good as a free-kick taker as that goal might suggest? Using Opta data, Stats Perform has taken a look.

    Quantity, not quality?

    Since that goal against Portsmouth up until the day his second spell at United ended (November 23, 2022), Ronaldo had more shots from direct free-kicks than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

    Of the 645 shots Ronaldo had, 41 resulted in a goal. That is from 700 club games, across stints at United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

    On the face of it, that goal tally does not stand out as particularly impressive, at least given the fact that Ronaldo netted 619 times in total.

    Yet he is behind only Lionel Messi (who else?) when it comes to goals from direct free-kicks, with the Barcelona great scoring on 51 occasions from such situations.

    That gives Messi an 8.1 per cent conversion rate from free-kicks in that timeframe, in contrast to Ronaldo's 6.3 per cent.

     

    Naturally, given their status in the game, Ronaldo and Messi will almost always pull rank when it comes to set-pieces, especially at a free-kick in a dangerous position.

    Miralem Pjanic, who ranks third for direct free-kick goals and was a club-mate of both players at Barca and Juve respectively, boasts better conversion rate than either (nine per cent).

    Neymar's 13 goals from 147 attempts gives him an 8.8 per cent success rate, while James Ward-Prowse's 12 per cent (15 from 125, though this figure of course does not account for his strike against Everton earlier in January) is close to double what Ronaldo managed.

    Indeed, when ranked against players from Europe's big five leagues that scored 10 or more direct free-kicks between January 31, 2008 and November 23, 2022, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dani Parejo had lower conversion rates than Ronaldo.

    Club by club

    So, having established that Ronaldo's free-kick finishing was somewhat erratic following that stunner against Portsmouth, let's check on how he stacked up at each club.

    Across his career in Europe's top five leagues, Ronaldo netted 48 free-kicks in all competitions, from 782 shots (6.1 per cent).

     

    Thirteen of those goals came at United, with five each in his final two seasons of his first spell at the club.

    Indeed, Ronaldo's peak when it came to free-kicks was definitely between the 2007-08 season and the 2013-14 campaign, when he scored 35 times from that type of dead-ball situation.

    His best single season tally was six, in the 2009-10 season – his first at Madrid.

    From 2014-15 onwards he did not manage more than three free-kick goals during a season, while he scored only twice from 86 such attempts while at Juve, and managed no goals from four free-kicks in his second stint at United.

    One of the greats?

    As well as his effort against Portsmouth, Ronaldo has many other memorable free-kicks in the bank.

    His stunning, 40-yard strike against Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League semi-final; a mesmerising hit from even further out in a Madrid derby in 2012; and who can forget that spellbinding, hat-trick sealing effort that secured a last-gasp draw for Portugal against Spain in a 3-3 thriller at the 2018 World Cup.

    Ronaldo might have gone off the boil from dead balls since the halcyon days either side of his move from Manchester to Madrid, yet there's no doubting that when he hits them true, there's not much any goalkeeper can do.

    While he may not go down as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history statistically, he has definitely been a scorer of some great free-kicks down the years.

    And who knows, maybe there'll be more to come in Saudi Arabia.

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