Eddie Howe has stepped down as Bournemouth manager by mutual consent.

A 3-1 win over Everton in Howe's final game in charge on July 26 was not enough to save the club from relegation, ending a five-season stay in the Premier League.

Howe, 42, has led Bournemouth in more than 450 games across two spells in charge that span all four of England's professional divisions.

"Having spent a total of 25 years with the club as both a player and a manager, this decision – made together with the club – is one of the hardest I've ever had to make," Howe, who made in excess of 300 appearances for the Cherries as a player, told fans in an open letter.

"However, although the affection and love I have for this football club will always remain, we collectively feel that now is the right time for the club to go in a new direction.

"Bournemouth will always be in my heart but I firmly believe that now is the right time foe the club to have a change.

"I have always ensured that every decision I have ever made as manager has been in the best interests of the club and its supporters, and this is no different."

Howe initially took charge of Bournemouth on a caretaker basis in December 2008, with the club bottom of the Football League having started the season on -17 points.

He masterminded an unlikely survival bid and earned promotion the following season – an achievement that sparked widespread interest in his services.

In January 2011, he made the move to Burnley but left Turf Moor to return to the south coast 21 months later.

An incredible run of two promotions in three seasons followed, with Howe's commitment to expansive, attacking football remaining largely unchecked throughout their impressive Premier League stay.

 

Manchester City are wasting little time in their close-season rebuild after a bid for Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake was reportedly accepted on Thursday.

A deal worth an initial £40million is said to have been agreed with the relegated Cherries as City reinforce options in a defence that drew criticism during Liverpool's march to the 2019-20 Premier League title.

But just what will City be adding to their central defensive options if a deal for Ake goes through?

With some help from Opta, we took a look at the data comparing the Dutch centre-back to Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia, going back to when Ake joined Bournemouth on a permanent deal ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.


CASE FOR THE DEFENCE?

Scoring goals was, unsurprisingly, not a problem for City this season as they racked up a mightily impressive 102 in the Premier League.

Indeed, the 35 they conceded was the second-best record in the division – Ederson claimed the Golden Glove thanks to 16 clean sheets - but represented a dip against the respective 27 and 23 they shipped in the previous two campaigns.

So, will Ake help Pep Guardiola's side improve at the back? There are certainly positive signs.

For instance, Ake has won more tackles (88) and duels (469) than any of Laporte (33 and 226), Stones (32 and 208), Otamendi (71 and 325) or Garcia (1 and 25) in our timeframe.

But, as the more astute among you will recognise, this does not nearly paint a full picture, not least because Ake has comfortably the most appearances with 105, compared to Otamendi (76), Laporte (59), Stones (58) and Garcia (13).

A more useful indicator could be a tackle success rate of 58.67, which ranks third behind Stones (68.09) and Otamendi (64.55). When it comes to duel success percentage, Ake's 58.12 is higher only than Garcia's (42.37).

Indeed, when looking at the data for averages per 90 minutes Ake still performs reasonably well. Only Otamendi (1.08) performs better in terms of tackles won (0.85 for Ake), while the Argentine is the only man to come out on top on average in more duels (4.95 to 4.55).

For aerial balls won, Ake's 2.48 on average per game fairs pretty well compared to Stones (2.92) and Otamendi (2.77) and is better than Laporte's (2.3) and Garcia's (1.25) – albeit the latter has played in far fewer games.

One area on the face of it where Ake excels is blocks and interceptions, where his 88 and 115 are higher than Otamendi's 22 and 99 – the next best of the five for those metrics.

But again there are caveats. When assessing the data on average per 90 minutes, both Otamendi (1.51) and Laporte (1.27) average more than Ake (1.12).

With blocks it appears simply a case of workload. Ake has faced 14.31 shots per 90 minutes. By contrast, Garcia (7.63), Stones (7.03), Otamendi (6.41) and Laporte (6.16) face significantly fewer.


KEEP THE BALL, PASS THE BALL

If you're a defender playing under Guardiola, you need to be as comfortable on the ball as you are off it.

Initial analysis on this department suggests Ake has work to do, although the amount of time City spend in possession certainly should help.

Ake's 3,853 successful passes is lower than Otamendi (5,393) and Laporte (4,580) despite having played the most games, while he ranks second behind the former in terms of successful passes in his own half (2,803) and only ahead of Garcia for successful passes in the opposition half (1,050) – where City defenders spend a lot of their time camped.

His passing accuracy of 85.7 is comfortably the worst, with Stones (94.69) leading the way.

Again, what is important to note here is that it should be expected City's defenders perform better with this measurement, given the amount of time they spend on the ball.

Indeed, City's possession average of 68.89 per cent far outweighs the 45.67 Bournemouth enjoy.

It stands to reason that Ake's numbers could easily improve in this regard when part of a team that, more often than not, will beat their opponents in the possession stats.


FOUL PLAY!

Okay, admittedly this section is a little mischievous…

You see, under Guardiola, City have earned a reputation (rightly or wrongly, we'll let you be the judge) for being somewhat adept at tactical fouls.

Over our time period, Ake has committed 64 fouls, more than Otamendi (57), Laporte (40), Stones (17) and Garcia (9).

When looking at the same factor over 90 minutes per game, Ake's 0.62 is lower than Garcia (1.03), Otamendi (0.87) and Laporte (0.72).

So, maybe there is a little bit of work to be done with that one…

The Premier League's longest season yet concluded on Sunday with Liverpool champions for the first time.

The Reds were comfortable in ending a 30-year wait for a top-flight title, but there was drama until the closing minutes of the final day.

Manchester United and Chelsea can celebrate Champions League qualification as the division's strugglers reflect on their contrasting fortunes.

Meanwhile, with the help of Opta data, we look at some of the quirkiest numbers from the 2019-20 campaign.


5 - David Luiz conceded five penalties in the Premier League this season, the most a player has ever given away in a single season in the competition.

167 - Jack Grealish was fouled 167 times in the 2019-20 Premier League, the most fouls won by a player in a single campaign on record (since 1998-99).

24 - Scott McTominay now has the fastest Premier League yellow card on record. He was booked just 24 seconds into Manchester United's December home win against Newcastle United.

2000 - It was a season of milestones for McTominay, who scored Manchester United's 2000th Premier League goal against Norwich City in October. They became the first club to the landmark.

27 - The Norwich class of 2019-20 became the only side not to record a single point from a losing position in Premier League history. They lost all 27 matches in which they fell behind.

4 - Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard's fourth-placed finish is the highest finish for an English manager in their debut Premier League season since Frank Clark's Nottingham Forest came third in 1994-95.

2 - Lampard's season ended well, but September's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool made him just the second Chelsea boss - after Bobby Campbell in 1988 - to lose his first four home matches in all competitions.

33 - At the age of 33, Jamie Vardy became the oldest player to win the Premier League Golden Boot, scoring 23 goals in 2019-20.

5 - Virgil van Dijk became just the fifth outfield player to play every minute for a Premier League title-winning side, following Gary Pallister (1992-93), John Terry (2014-15), Wes Morgan (2015-16) and Cesar Azpilicueta (2016-17).

2013 - Anthony Martial's June hat-trick against Sheffield United was Manchester United's first in the Premier League since Robin van Persie scored three against Aston Villa in April 2013.

7 - Martial and Marcus Rashford assisted one another a combined seven times in this season's Premier League, the most of any pairing in a single edition of the competition for Manchester United.

49 - All 49 clubs to have played in the Premier League have conceded at least one hat-trick after Raheem Sterling's three-goal haul against Brighton and Hove Albion in July.

14 - Manchester United won 14 penalties in the 2019-20 season, the most a team has ever won in a single Premier League campaign.

29 - Harry Kane is the only player to face more than one club in the Premier League and score against them all, with Sheffield United the 29th he netted against.

15 - Kevin De Bruyne ended the season with a joint-record 20 assists - tied with Thierry Henry - but he became the first player to set up 15 goals in three separate Premier League campaigns.

93 - Tottenham went a record 93 games without a goalless draw before they were held 0-0 by Watford in January.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Aston Villa were the big winners on the final day of the Premier League season.

Chelsea and United will join Liverpool and Manchester City in the Champions League next season, thanks to their respective 2-0 wins over Wolves and Leicester City.

Leicester must be content with a place in the Europa League, alongside Tottenham, while seventh-placed Wolves will wait to see whether Arsenal beat Chelsea in next weekend's FA Cup final to discover their European fate.

Wolves could yet earn a Champions League spot by winning the Europa League next month.

Jack Grealish's late goal helped Villa to a survival-sealing 1-1 draw at West Ham. Bournemouth won 3-1 at Everton and Watford lost 3-2 at Arsenal. Both the Cherries and Hornets will be playing Championship football next season.

Here, we look at how Sunday's events unfolded in England's top flight.

16:01 – Five changes for champions Liverpool and they go behind inside 25 seconds as Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle catches the reshuffled Reds napping.

16:04 – Watford make a nightmare start to their title bid as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gives Arsenal an early lead from the penalty spot. The Gabon international was fouled by Craig Dawson.

16:12 – Wonderful touch and finish from Harry Kane to put Tottenham in front at Crystal Palace and fire their top-six ambitions.

16:13 – Another big penalty in the relegation scrap as Joshua King puts Bournemouth ahead at Goodison Park.

16:20 – OOOFFF! Nick Pope started the final day with Golden Glove ambitions, level on 15 clean sheets with Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson, but there is nothing the Burnley goalkeeper can do about a 25-yard screamer from Brighton and Hove Albion's Yves Bissouma.

16:24 – More Watford woe as Arsenal cut through their defence far too easily and Kieran Tierney applies a side-foot finish for his first Premier League goal.

16:33 – Training ground stuff from Aubameyang, who sets himself up for his own overhead kick from Tierney's corner – moving to within a goal of Jamie Vardy in the Golden Boot race. Stick a fork in Watford, they're done.

16:43 - Cancel that, there's hope for Watford! David Luiz brings his innate feel for light entertainment to the party by fouling Danny Welbeck in the box. Troy Deeney takes a Troy Deeney penalty and it goes in.

16:45 – Moise Kean tapped in from close range to level for Everton, but Dominic Solanke's stoppage-time header restores Bournemouth's lead at the break. They need a favour from West Ham, where the goalless scoreline will do Aston Villa just fine for the moment.

16:45 – Glorious behaviour from Kevin De Bruyne, who takes a touch outside the Norwich City penalty area and clips a sensational finish over Tim Krul into the top corner. Manchester City were already leading through Gabriel Jesus' 11th-minute goal.

16:48 – Chelsea are heading back to the Champions League! Frank Lampard's men strike not once, but twice in first-half stoppage time against Wolves. Three minutes after Mason Mount's sumptuous free-kick, Olivier Giroud perseveres to crown a sharp counter-attack.

17:10 – Chris Wood levelled for Burnley before half-time but Aaron Connolly restores Brighton's advantage at Turf Moor.

17:11 – Jeffrey Schlupp sends a finish soaring into the roof of the net for Palace. Opponents Spurs remain in sixth as it stands, but they are only ahead of Wolves on goal difference.

17:18 – Big moment at the King Power Stadium as Vardy flicks a header on to the top of the crossbar. Chelsea's strong showing against Wolves means it looks like Leicester must win and Manchester United must not lose as they duke it out for top-four honours.

17:18 – After Virgil van Dijk's equaliser, Divock Origi scores Liverpool's second set-piece goal of the day at Newcastle to move them towards 99 points – the second highest total in Premier League history.

17:27 – Penalty to Manchester United! Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan converge on Anthony Martial after Hamza Chowdhury gets caught in possession. VAR upholds Martin Atkinson's decision.

17:27 – Another buzz of defiance from the Hornets as Danny Welbeck scores against his old club from close range.

17:29 – Bruno Fernandes scores! Cool as you like from Manchester United's season-changing signing, who sends Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way from the spot. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men are on their way back to the Champions League.

17:29 – Danny Ings might be the Southampton striker who entered the final day with Golden Boot ambitions but Che Adams' second of the game puts Ralph Hasenhuttl's men 2-1 up from a goal down against Sheffield United.

17:37 – That's 100 Premier League goals for a third successive season for Manchester City. Raheem Sterling now has 20 of those and De Bruyne has set up 20 of them, matching Thierry Henry's single-season assist record.

17:41 – Ings converts from the spot as Southampton go 3-1 up. Like Aubameyang, he's poised to finish on 22 goals – one behind Vardy.

17:43 – David Silva is embraced by his Manchester City team-mates as he is substituted on his final Premier League appearance. Riyad Mahrez has just made it 4-0.

17:44 – Huge, gigantic, massive goal for Aston Villa! And it had to be Grealish. Lukasz Fabianski should have done better but Villa will not care at all.

17:45 – BUT WAIT! West Ham are level after Andriy Yarmolenko's shot is deflected in off… that's right, Grealish. How are your nerves?

17:48 – Two of the season's outstanding players sign off in style. De Bruyne wraps up a 5-0 City win – a result that means the Golden Glove for Ederson - with his second of the afternoon, while Sadio Mane completes a 3-1 comeback win for Liverpool at Newcastle.

17:56 – Deep, deep into stoppage time at Leicester, Jesse Lingard rubber-stamps third place for Manchester United. What on earth was Schmeichel doing?

17:59 – Full-time at Emirates Stadium and Arsenal have edged it, so Watford are down. Welbeck and Deeney had chances to equalise for Watford, but the result means Villa's players are now celebrating across London. Junior Stanislas completed a fine Bournemouth showing at Everton but the Cherries are also doomed.

Manchester United and Chelsea claimed the final two Champions League qualification spots on the Premier League's final day, while Watford and Bournemouth were relegated to the Championship. 

Frank Lampard's side beat Wolves 2-0 while United grabbed the other Champions League berth thanks to a 2-0 victory over Leicester City, who missed out on a top-four finish despite spending most of the campaign in the table's upper reaches.

A 1-1 draw at West Ham saw Aston Villa retain their top-flight status, with Bournemouth's 3-1 victory over Everton not enough to prevent them and Watford - beaten 3-2 by Arsenal - joining Norwich City in being demoted.

 

FOXES MISS OUT ON CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURN

Brendan Rodgers' men were 14 points clear of United as recently as January but Bruno Fernandes' 71st-minute penalty and substitute Jesse Lingard's stoppage-time strike meant Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side finished above Leicester after 38 games.

A draw would have been enough for Leicester to finish fourth had Chelsea been beaten by Wolves, but first-half goals from Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud ruled out that possibility early on.

Jamie Vardy, who won the golden boot with 23 goals, headed against the crossbar in the second period before Fernandes converted United's record 14th penalty of the campaign and Lingard added another to ensure a return to Europe's premier club competition, with Leicester's misery compounded by Jonny Evans' late dismissal.

 

VILLA SURVIVE DESPITE LATE DRAMA

Villa captain Jack Grealish's 84th-minute strike looked to have been enough to preserve their Premier League status - and, though Andriy Yarmolenko's deflected effort brought West Ham back level moments later - Dean Smith's team held on to avoid going straight back down at the first attempt.

Instead it was Bournemouth - a Premier League club since 2015 - who went down despite their win at Goodison Park.

Watford, who were promoted five years ago too, were also relegated having fallen 3-0 down to Arsenal inside 33 minutes, with goals from Troy Deeney and Danny Welbeck not enough to save them.

 

SPURS SEAL EUROPA LEAGUE SPOT

A 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace ensured Tottenham sealed a top-six finish and the final qualification place for next season's Europa League, as Wolves dropped down to seventh on goal difference.

As well as scoring twice, Kevin De Bruyne also equalled Thierry Henry's Premier League assist record with his 20th of the season as Manchester City thrashed Norwich 5-0 to reach 102 goals for the season.

Champions Liverpool came from behind to beat Newcastle United 3-1, Brighton and Hove Albion won 2-1 at Burnley and Southampton defeated Sheffield United 3-1.

What does the future hold for Quique Setien at Camp Nou?

Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde in January, however, the ex-Real Betis head coach saw Barcelona dethroned as LaLiga champions by bitter rivals Real Madrid.

After leading Leeds United back to the Premier League, Marcelo Bielsa is reportedly wanted by countryman Lionel Messi.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI URGES BARCA TO SIGN BIELSA

Lionel Messi has called for Barcelona to replace Quique Setien with Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa, according to The Sun.

Bielsa guided Leeds to the Premier League for the first time since 2004, ending the club's 16-year exile from England's top flight.

Now, superstar captain Messi – who is reportedly unhappy with Setien at Camp Nou – wants the dethroned LaLiga giants to bring the former Argentina and Athletic Bilbao head coach to Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City star James Maddison has agreed a contract extension at King Power Stadium, according to The Sun. Maddison has reportedly committed himself to Leicester until 2025 following previous links to Manchester United.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Inter are eyeing Barcelona's Junior Firpo if they are unable to sign Emerson Palmieri from Chelsea.

Tottenham are leading the chase to sign forward Callum Wilson if Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, says The Sun.

- Calciomercato reports Milan and Napoli are considering moves for Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai. The 19-year-old has been linked to the likes of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Roma are considering a contract renewal for star Nicolo Zaniolo, according to Calciomercato. Zaniolo – who arrived from Inter in 2018 – has found his future in doubt amid talk of a falling out with head coach Paulo Fonseca and others. An Inter return has been touted, while Juventus are also reportedly interested.

- United are seriously targeting Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes. Le10 Sport claims the Red Devils are making a last-minute attempt to sign Gabriel, who has been linked to Napoli among others.

- Kicker reports PSG are targeting Hertha Berlin attacker Matheus Cunha. Inter are also believed to be eyeing the Brazilian.

- Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman is on a shortlist of players United are eyeing on loan should they miss out on Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, says Sky Sports News. Bayern, however, have no intention of parting with Coman. Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been credited with interest in Sancho.

Manchester City are set to make a splash in the transfer market and defence is the area in the spotlight.

City struggled defensively in the absence of injured star Aymeric Laporte following Vincent Kompany's exit, while there are doubts over John Stones' future in Manchester.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake are reportedly high on Pep Guardiola's wish list as he attempts to strengthen his squad after watching Liverpool coast to the Premier League title.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOTIFY NAPOLI OF KOULIBALY INTENT

Manchester City have informed Napoli they are ready to make an offer for star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Sky Sport Italia.

Pep Guardiola has set his sights on Koulibaly, who has also been linked to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

City are willing to bid €65million (£58m) but Napoli are still holding out for €100m (£90m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Manchester and Sky Sports says City are in talks with Bournemouth over the signing of another defender – Nathan Ake. The Guardian claims City are poised to beat neighbours United and Chelsea to the Netherlands international.

- Sky Germany reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz has agreed terms with Chelsea as he moves closer to arriving at Stamford Bridge. Havertz has been linked to Madrid, United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona but he appears set to join Chelsea. Win Sports TV journalist Pipe Sierra, meanwhile, claims Chelsea and Leverkusen have agreed an €85m (£77m) fee plus €15m (£13.5m) in bonuses.

Juventus are eyeing former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a possible replacement for head coach Maurizio Sarri, according to La Stampa.

- The Daily Mail says Southampton are set to sign Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu. The 21-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from United and Atletico Madrid.

Theo Hernandez has no plans to leave Milan amid interest from Ligue 1 champions PSG, reports Calciomercato. Hernandez is enjoying a fine season with a resurgent Rossoneri team under Stefano Pioli.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims there is a €60m agreement between Napoli and Lille for Victor Osimhen but the Serie A outfit still has to resolve matters with the forward's new agent.

Danny Ings' first-half strike set Southampton on the way to a 2-0 win over Bournemouth that placed his former club on the brink of relegation.

Ings arrowed in a fine finish to crown a sweeping Saints move in the 41st minute to claim his 21st Premier League goal of the season.

He could have closed to within one of Jamie Vardy in the Golden Boot race but for a tame 59th-minute penalty, saved by Aaron Ramsdale down to his left after Harry Wilson handled following a corner.

Bournemouth thought they had made the most of that let-off with a stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Sam Surridge, only for VAR to show Callum Wilson to be offside and interfering with play, before Southampton replacement Che Adams dished out a little more damage that the Cherries can ill afford.

Eddie Howe's men are three points from safety with only a final-day trip to Everton to come. Survival on goal difference is now the best they can hope for and the end of a five-season stay in the Premier League will be confirmed if Watford – reportedly on the brink of sacking manager Nigel Pearson – are able to take a point from either of their remaining matches versus Manchester City and Arsenal.

John Stones and Gabriel Jesus applauded the subtle tactical tweak made by Pep Guardiola against Bournemouth shortly before the wonderful goal by the Brazilian, who labelled his boss a "genius".

City claimed an unconvincing 2-1 win over the Cherries at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, with David Silva scoring a free-kick before Jesus netted with a lovely solo effort.

Bournemouth piled pressure on in the final stages and did pull one back through David Brooks, but Jesus' goal proved decisive.

The Brazil international's goal came shortly after Guardiola made a slight change, moving Jesus further towards the left, and shifting Phil Foden the other way.

It led to Jesus finding space in the inside-left channel, which Silva spotted, and the striker evaded two defenders before slotting home.

This tweak was not lost on Jesus, nor Stones.

"It is no coincidence, we switch and I score," Jesus said. "He [Pep] is a genius. He changes it in a second and we score.

"We can play better. I am happy to help my team and I am happy to get this victory. I try to play football, enjoy the game, be happy in the game on the pitch. That is what we have to do, go on the pitch, give everything there.

"I try to always go for goal, score, make passes, defend with my friends."

Stones added: "He [Pep] knows the quality of the players so well and those little adjustments count.

"I think how Gabby took his goal is incredible; the feet in the box, it is a defender's nightmare really. When you get in the box nowadays with VAR and things like this, everything is watched and you have got to be so careful.

"I think Gabby, and the other strikers that get chances in the box, it is a pleasure to watch and I am sure he will be pleased with that.

"As I said, the manager knows his players so well and those little tweaks, every player knows what they can bring to the team.

"I didn't realise until the end what impact the players can have in different positions and that is credit to them; credit to Phil, credit to Gabby, I am just really pleased to get another three points."

Pep Guardiola repeated his praise for Gabriel Jesus but acknowledged his return to form in front of goal represented a boost to Manchester City.

Jesus has had a key role to play for City since the season's restart, with Sergio Aguero ruled out for the rest of the domestic campaign.

However, the Brazil striker had not scored since the February Champions League win at Real Madrid until netting in a rout of Newcastle United last week.

Jesus added to that strike in a 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, then scored the decisive goal as City edged past struggling Bournemouth on Wednesday.

A third goal in three games for his front man gave Guardiola some cheer, even if he insisted Jesus' earlier contributions had also been appreciated.

"Even when it was the first four or five games and he didn't score, I said many times about the amount of things he is able to do for us," Guardiola told a news conference.

"But we are very satisfied for him, for the team. In the past three games, he's scored three goals and he's playing really well.

"He can play in different positions. It's really good."

Jesus has started City's past six games in all competitions, but his involvement against Bournemouth – when others were rested – might hint at a substitute role for this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

And Guardiola confirmed his plans for the Wembley clash were in place regardless of performances in midweek.

"No, I rotated all of the team for this period," the manager explained. "Now we have time to recover, the players who played. Some players who played are going to play."

David Silva produced a decisive display in Manchester City's 2-1 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, leaving Pep Guardiola in awe of the departing playmaker.

Silva, 34, joined City in 2010 and has gone on to enjoy a wonderful career in Manchester, winning 11 major trophies and establishing himself as a club icon.

The veteran midfielder looks set to depart at the end of the season, with a return to Spain likely as he winds down his glittering career.

But on Wednesday he provided another reminder that his days at the top are by no means over, as he scored with a wonderful free-kick, before then setting up Gabriel Jesus.

It was an unconvincing win, but Guardiola was thrilled with Silva.

"He is in an incredible performance, he is one of the guys who came back from lockdown in an incredible position," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"He's in an incredible condition right now, incredible condition, and the way he is playing is really good.

"His mentality with and without the ball, scoring goals – it's his second in a row with the free-kick. He's really, really well."

When Silva initially joined from Valencia, there were certainly some doubts over whether the technical midfielder could adapt to the Premier League.

But he resoundingly disproved his doubters, and Guardiola hopes he gets to see out the final years of his career in a place of his choosing.

"All the people think about it with this situation, to come here and play in this league it will not be easy, but it shows the mentality of David, he has [it], so the reality was like this," Guardiola continued.

"He decided to go, so hopefully he can find the place where he wants to play his last years."

David Silva and Gabriel Jesus did the damage as Manchester City earned an unconvincing 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, nudging their visitors closer to the brink.

Eddie Howe's Cherries went into the contest on the back of a shock 4-1 win over Champions League hopefuls Leicester City, but they had no such joy in Manchester, with Silva providing another reminder of his class as his Premier League career winds to its conclusion.

The Spanish midfielder opened the scoring with a wonderful free-kick and then found Jesus for City's excellent second, but in the intervening period Bournemouth were twice unfortunate not to net themselves.

Joshua King then strayed agonisingly offside while scoring a second-half goal the visitors had chalked off, before David Brooks did net legally two minutes from time.

But it was too little, too late, as City clung on at the end as Bournemouth remained three points adrift of safety.

Although Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling dropped to the bench, City began with great intent and took just six minutes to open the scoring – Silva bending a free-kick around the wall and in from 25 yards.

Bournemouth responded excellently, however.

Junior Stanislas went close with a free-kick of his own just past the half-hour mark, as Ederson tipped it on to the post and then got lucky as the ball struck his head and went out for a corner.

Dominic Solanke then saw a close-range effort crucially deflected just over by Nicolas Otamendi, and City capitalised in the 39th minute, Jesus finding the bottom-right corner after a wonderful slaloming run.

Bournemouth were unfortunate again with an hour played – King turned Stanislas' shot in from close range, but a VAR review showed the Norwegian was marginally offside.

City had another escape soon after, with Dan Gosling's effort blocked by Ilkay Gundogan after Ederson had fumbled a cross.

Ederson's clean sheet was wiped out in the 88th minute, with Callum Wilson squaring to Brooks for an easy finish on the break, but City managed to hold on in the face of intense late pressure.


What does it mean? A hint of hope remains for Bournemouth

Even after their remarkable win over Leicester, this was never going to be a realistic chance for three points, given the obvious gulf between the two sides.

In any other scenario, this loss would have essentially doomed Bournemouth, but they can take solace in the fact that at least one of Watford and West Ham – the two teams directly above them on 34 points – will drop points on Friday as they face each other at London Stadium.

Silva stands out

It was hardly a vintage performance from City, but Silva was his usual classy self, opening the scoring in style, before releasing Jesus for his goal with a well-weighted pass.

Big shoes to Phil

Phil Foden is expected to be Silva's so-called heir at City, and while there is no doubt he is a fine talent, he was a little quiet in this game. He did eventually come to life towards the end, setting up half-time substitute Sterling for a chance before then going close himself, but on the whole he was somewhat disappointing.

What's next?

City turn their attentions to the FA Cup now, as they prepare to face Arsenal at Wembley in Saturday's semi-final clash, before going to Watford in the league three days later. Bournemouth's faltering fight against relegation resumes with the visit of Southampton on Sunday.

For all that he expressed delight over the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) quashing his club's two-year ban from UEFA competitions, Pep Guardiola looked ready to fight long, hard and persistently to clear Manchester City's name.

Guardiola addressed reporters on Tuesday, ostensibly to preview Wednesday's Premier League match Bournemouth.

The relegation-threatened Cherries, team news or any of the other usual staples were not on the agenda.

A little over 24 hours earlier, CAS found in City's favour, stating UEFA's allegations of Financial Fair Play breaches were either "not established" or "time-barred" under the governing body's own regulations.

Speaking shortly before Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp said the verdict had amounted to "a bad day for football", while Jose Mourinho branded it "a disgraceful decision".

"All I say, for all their opinions, is I tell Jose and Jurgen it was a good day for football. A really good day," said Guardiola, addressing the other halves of his two most enduring touchline rivalries.

"It was clear what happened. And that's nice.

"I have my long history, I have a lot of respect – not just for the manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool but for all the managers I face.

"But I don't expect they are going to defend my club. But I wanted to defend my club, in the good and especially in the bad moments."

By that stage, there could be no doubts over how Guardiola wished to use his latest appointment with the media. It was a relentless and impassioned defence against perceived slights suffered by the Abu Dhabi-owned club.

According to UEFA's most recent Club Licensing Benchmarking Report, City's 2018 net spend of €282million was the highest on record for any club, while their total squad cost of €971m ranked as the most expensive in history.

The 2018-19 domestic treble winners have been a transformed force in English football since their 2008 takeover, winning six of the past eight major English honours on offer, but Guardiola contended heavy spending has always been a factor for the most successful teams in the sport.

"A lot of clubs invest. When [Manchester] United and Arsenal won the leagues in the period before, they invested more money than the other ones," he said.

"When Chelsea started to win Premier Leagues, they invested more money than the other ones.

"I'm a good manager, but I don't win titles if I don't have good players and good players are expensive.

"All the clubs spend a lot of money – Barcelona spend a lot of money, Real Madrid spend a lot of money, the English teams spend a lot of money.

"We built a club in terms of the last decade. To compete with the elite of the Premier League and the Champions League, we needed to invest."

Guardiola also cited the experience of Manchester United being able to put together more substantial financial packages to secure Alexis Sanchez and Harry Maguire at City's expense as evidence his club's means are not limitless.

"We have a lot of money but we wanted Alexis Sanchez. We could not afford him. We wanted Harry Maguire but we could not afford him. We could not pay like United paid," he added.

"We have money but the other clubs have money too. Did we spend more in the last decade than in the past? Yes.

"But 25, 30 years ago, Arsene Wenger – the guy who defends perfectly Financial Fair Play, so, Arsene, you know Manchester City were correct in what we have done – spent a lot of money to be there.

"United with Sir Alex Ferguson spent a lot of money to be there. All the clubs, if you want to be on top. If you don't, it's more difficult."

Aside from arguing for his own achievements in Manchester to be given a fair hearing – "what we won here, guys, was on the pitch" – Guardiola also seemed to be motivated by a genuine affection for the club he joined from Bayern Munich in 2016.

"I love this club. I love it because I know the people here have been working for a long time," he added.

"We have our history. I don't know if it is better or worse – it doesn't matter. It's our history, I love it.

"Manchester City don't have to apologise because the three independent judges decided we have done everything properly.

"It is clear. More than clear is impossible."

Pep Guardiola believes now is not the time to discuss a new contract at Manchester City – although he insists he would have remained at the club had they been demoted to League Two.

That was a fairly outlandish consequence the City manager alluded to, in the event of UEFA's two-season ban for Financial Fair Play breaches being upheld.

But Monday's verdict by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to quash that punishment prompted talk of Guardiola being offered fresh terms to run beyond June 2021.

City still have an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal and a Champions League showdown with Real Madrid on the horizon, while 2020-21 will represent the first time Guardiola has taken charge of a fifth season with one club.

As such, speaking ahead of Wednesday's Premier League match against Bournemouth, he would rather focus upon matters on the pitch – free of the burden of looming UEFA sanctions.

"Nothing has changed my opinion, maybe I will be able to stay here longer," Guardiola said when asked whether he would commit to a contract extension.

"As a club, as an organisation, the people cannot understand how difficult a time it was for all the club, being under suspicion for something we have not done.

"Hopefully people can stop talking about this – or they can go to court and prove it like we have done.

"Now is not the time [to talk about contracts] we have one incredible month ahead of us.

"I have one more year, for a manager it is a long, long time.

"The decisions we thought to do before the sentence were quite similar. I was happy before and now. We have time to talk about this.

"Now is the normal situation like every season, if the situation was uncertain I don't know what would have happened.

"My personal situation was clear. I said a month ago I would stay and it didn't matter if we were in the Champions League, or like a lot of people here in England suggested, League Two.

"I would have stayed here. About the future, we have an incredible four or five weeks ahead of us with the games against Arsenal and Madrid."

Star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne did not express a similar enthusiasm for English football's fourth tier and suggested a two-year European ban would have forced him to consider his City career.

The 29-year-old's agent, Patrick De Koster, said he welcomed the CAS verdict, although talk of a new deal at the Etihad Stadium for De Bruyne – who is contracted until 2023 in any case – might be premature at this stage

"After the CAS verdict, we Facetimed for a moment and Kevin was very happy, very satisfied," De Koster told HBVL.

“If you are banned from the Champions League at that age, you should think again.

"We'll see. He now has a three-year contract in Manchester, is settled with his family and is feeling good. They have also always been very good with him. Moreover, the number of clubs that can pay him [his salary] is not that big.

"He sees participation in the Champions League next season mainly as a bonus. But that decision doesn't mean more to him. It is not the case that we will now sign a new contract in Manchester tomorrow."

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are owed an apology after Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho criticised the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision to lift the club's two-season ban from UEFA competitions.

City were hit with the punishment in February, following an investigation sparked by the Football Leaks revelations of November 2018, with European football's governing body finding the then Premier League champions to have breached Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

On Monday, CAS announced City did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions and stated the allegations brought by UEFA were either "not established" or "time-barred" under the organisation's own regulations.

City were fined €10million – down from €30m – for failing to co-operate with UEFA's investigation, a verdict that amounted to a resounding victory in light of what the club stood to lose, and it has not been warmly received by some of Guardiola's Premier League counterparts.

Liverpool boss Klopp described it as being not "a good day for football", while Spurs head coach Mourinho labelled decision to be a disgrace.

Guardiola expressed confidence in the stance of City's board throughout and remained similarly bullish when he addressed a news conference to preview Wednesday's match against relegation-threatened Bournemouth.

"I'm incredibly happy for the decision," he said. "It shows everything that people said about the club was not true. We will defend on the pitch what we won on the pitch.

"Jose and all the managers should know that we were damaged. We should be apologised to because if we did something wrong, we would accept the decision from UEFA because we did something wrong,

"We don't expect Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea or Wolves to defend us, but we have the right to defend ourselves when we believe what we have done is correct and three independent judges said this."

Continuing, Guardiola presented a counterpoint to Klopp's take.

"Today is a good day, yesterday was a good day for football because we play by the same rules as all the clubs in Europe.

"If we had broken Financial Fair Play, we would have been banned, but we had to defend ourselves because we were right.

"We were damaged. People said we were cheating and lying, and the presumption of innocence was not there. When we were proved right, we were incredibly happy because we can defend what we have done on the pitch."

City completed an unprecedented domestic treble last season under a cloud of suspicion created by FIFA, UEFA and Premier League investigations into their internal operations – the latter of which is yet to conclude.

Guardiola would like his team's on-field achievements to be judged on their own merits but does not expect the CAS verdict to serve as a remedy in this regard, claiming "whispering" Premier League rivals continue to sully the perception of his club.

"It would be nice, but I don't think so," he said. "What happened in recent years, how many times people came to our club, whispering about us.

"I would love it to finish and say to these people, if you want to say something, say it face to face.

"Go to the pitch and play on the pitch and after, if they beat us, don't doubt we will shake their hands and congratulate them. But they lost off the pitch. They have to go on the pitch and try to beat us, like the sportsmen that we are.

"Guys accept it, we want to be here and we tried on the pitch. If you do not agree, knock on the door and speak to our chairman and our CEO and talk.

"Don't go behind whispering, seven, eight, nine clubs doing this. Go and do it on the pitch. Let's go."

A fired-up Guardiola also had a response for LaLiga chief Javier Tebas, who questioned whether the widely respected CAS was an appropriate body to rule on such matters.

"He's another one, Senor Tebas must be so jealous of English football," he added, before applying some heavy sarcasm.

"He's an incredible legal expert from what I see. Maybe next time I'll ask them which court and judges we have to go to.

"He has to be worried and concerned about LaLiga and focus on there, but normally when the sentence is good for him it is perfect - it happens many times in Spain - but when it is against, the problem is for the other ones.

"We will be in the Champions League next season, Senor Tebas, because what we did, we did it properly."

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