Antonio Conte may face a fight on his hands to keep Harry Kane from Manchester City — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: How Xavi is making his mark at Barcelona already.
Man City revive interest in Kane
City remain in the market for a striker having missed out on Kane in the summer. The England captain made it clear he wanted a fresh challenge away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, only to pledge his immediate future to Spurs towards the end of the window.
He has struggled so far this season, scoring just once in the Premier League, and some Tottenham supporters have shown frustration towards at the 28-year-old, particularly during a lacklustre performance during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United.
There was hope it may lead chairman Daniel Levy to soften his stance ahead of the January window but that was before he replaced Nuno Espirito Santo with Conte. Sources said Kane is impressed with the appointment of the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss, who has a track record of winning silverware in England and Italy — something the striker said in the summer he craves.
City would be willing to test Spurs’ resolve to keep Kane if they were given encouragement that a deal was possible. Kane has a contract at Tottenham until 2024 and Levy has consistently valued the forward at more than £150 million — a fee that City are unwilling to meet.
Sources told ESPN that prior to taking charge, Conte was given assurances he could expect to include Kane in his plans moving forward. But one source suggests a huge offer could yet force Levy into a rethink given how hard the club has been hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic but Spurs have privately been resolute in their determination to keep Kane at least until the end of the season. His relationship with Conte in the weeks and months ahead will be another key factor in the situation.
Manchester City are also interested in Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland with heavy interest from a number of Europe’s top sides, including United and Real Madrid, expected next summer. — Rob Dawson and James Olley
Xavi lays down the law at Barcelona
New Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has imposed a series of rules he hopes will help the club rediscover their form on the pitch, sources have told ESPN.
Sources explained that Xavi has reintroduced the fines system which has not been used since Ernesto Valverde replaced Luis Enrique in 2017. Players will pay financial penalties if they breach any of the guidelines in place, with repeat offenders having to pay more.
The rules include players needing to arrive at least 90 minutes early for training to allow time to properly prepare for the sessions and, if necessary, for individual talks with the coaching staff. The Barca squad will once again be asked to eat at the training ground, too, another habit that has been lost in recent seasons. Xavi has also installed a midnight curfew in the 48 hours leading up to a match and will review the players’ commitments off the pitch, which will include preventing them from partaking in any activity deemed an injury risk, such as surfing or riding an electric scooter.
As a result, defender Gerard Pique has already had to pull out of an appearance on a late night talk show in Spain next week. Pique had been due to discuss the Davis Cup, which he organises, on El Hormiguero. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
City to block Sterling exit in January
Manchester City will resist any approach from Barcelona to sign Raheem Sterling in January, sources told ESPN. The Spanish giants have been linked with a move for Sterling, who has said he would be open to a move abroad if he cannot find regular football at the Etihad Stadium.
However, sources told ESPN that City will not consider any offer for the 26-year-old — either permanent or on loan — during the January window because he remains a key part of Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Sterling has paused contract talks with City until he is sure he will play a prominent part for the club in the future. His existing deal expires in 2023. The England winger has been in and out of Guardiola’s team this season and is reluctant to sign a new long-term contract if it means spending a lot of time on the bench.
If fresh terms cannot be agreed by next summer, City would be left with a decision to make about whether to sanction a departure for Sterling or risk letting him enter the final year of his contract.
City’s derby destruction over United thanks to Pep rocket
Manchester City’s dominant derby display against Manchester United was inspired by a dressing down from manager Pep Guardiola following the Champions League victory over Club Brugge three days earlier, sources have told ESPN.
City were imperious at Old Trafford, winning 2-0 and restricting United to just four touches in their penalty area and only one shot on target. But the performance only came after Guardiola had vented his frustration during and after their victory over Brugge.
The players were rebuked by Guardiola at half-time in the Brugge game with the score at 1-1 and even after three goals in the second half had earned the hosts a comfortable 4-1 win, the City boss was still not happy with sources telling ESPN he told the squad after the final whistle he had “had enough” before walking out of a stunned dressing room.
Guardiola’s mood did not improve during his postmatch media requirements and gave a series of spiky interviews to broadcasters and written journalists.
However, it got the desired response with sources telling ESPN that Guardiola and his coaching staff were delighted with the intensity of training in the build-up to the trip to Old Trafford and the controlled performance against United which moved City back up to second in the Premier League table, three points behind leaders Chelsea. — Rob Dawson
Howe Newcastle’s move for a boss ended in chaos
Newcastle’s lengthy managerial search was a confused process that left several candidates baffled at the club’s lack of clarity over their future plans, sources told ESPN.
Former Bournemouth and Burnley boss Eddie Howe was eventually appointed on Tuesday, handed a two-and-a-half-year contract which ended an almost three-week long process that saw a raft of individuals interviewed and the job formally offered to Unai Emery.
Sources close to more than one candidate involved claimed there were competing voices within the Newcastle hierarchy over how to transform the club from battling relegation to Premier League title challengers following the Saudi-led £305m takeover. That led to a delay in identifying a clear first choice with directors Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi leading the process with a third director, Jamie Reuben, who is also one of several other prominent voices in discussions
Sources have also told ESPN that at a relatively late stage in the process, senior figures at Saudi Arabia‘s Public Investment Fund sought advice from financiers Citibank over who to target for a variety of executive positions including first-team manager and director of football.
Emery’s decision to stay at Villarreal was partly based on the mixed messages over how to take the club forward. Howe’s job will therefore include helping to deliver a clear vision in the boardroom as well as the pitch. — James Olley
Manager won’t apologise for touchline clash with own player
A manager in Spanish football’s third tier refused to apologise after being sent off for a touchline altercation with one of his own players.
Manuel Mosquera, coach of Extremadura UD, was shown a red card during last Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to DUX Internacional de Madrid. The 53-year-old reacted angrily to what he deemed a lack of enthusiasm from substitute Musa Drammeh as he waited to come on in the 90th minute.
The referee’s report said Mosquera “squared up to one of his players on the bench, saying ‘go and find another team’ while grabbing him by the shirt and shaking him, having to be pulled away by coaching staff.” Mosquera rejected the opportunity to apologise for his actions in a postmatch news conference, saying “I don’t regret it.”
“I didn’t like his attitude,” he said. “I didn’t insult him, but I was aggressive with him… He’s a 19-year-old kid, but you can’t go out onto the pitch like that. The referee said he heard an insult, but that wasn’t me. Why would I insult my own player?”
“He looked like he didn’t want to play,” Mosquera went on. “He had his tracksuit on, and then he took it off at the speed of a tortoise… There are times when things have to be said. I can’t be any other way. If you look like you don’t want to play, I’ll call you out on it. In a more aggressive way than usual, maybe… but I did what I had to do.”
Extremadura, who are in the relegation zone in group one of the Primera RFEF, did not respond to a request from ESPN for comment.
The club have experienced significant off-the-field issues in recent months, with players’ wages going unpaid, and they were one of ten lower-league sides raided by Spanish police and tax inspectors on Wednesday over allegations of social security fraud. — Alex Kirkland
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