Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino given touchline ban by FA

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been given a two-match touchline ban and fined £10,000 by the Football Association for angrily confronting referee Mike Dean after his side’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley.

Pochettino admitted he “crossed the line” with the official and later made a public apology to Dean.

The 46-year-old accepted an FA charge of improper conduct.

“It is not the way to behave,” he said following the incident.

Dean was later moved from his fourth official duties for Spurs’ game at Chelsea the following week.

Pochettino will serve his ban in the Premier League games against former club Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on 9 March and at Liverpool on 31 March.

The Argentine did not reveal what was he said to Dean at Turf Moor, or the reason for his strong reaction, although he had complained about a corner awarded in the build-up to Burnley’s opening goal.

Pochettino had said he was not anticipating a ban.

“A ban, why? I don’t believe that it’s going to happen. I don’t think that’s going to be fair,” he said.

“For what? It was a conversation, no? Maybe it was close but it was a conversation.

“I don’t believe it’s fair. But I’m going to accept if they ban me and I can’t be in the dugout against Southampton.”

It is fair to say Tottenham are pretty unhappy at the severity of this punishment.

Given Pochettino apologised at the time and has an unblemished record in six years as a Premier League manager, first at Southampton, and now Spurs, the feeling was a fine and a warning would be the likely outcome.

Yet, speaking after Tuesday’s Champions League victory in Dortmund, Pochettino hinted there was bad news on the way. So it has proved, meaning Tottenham’s manager will be absent from the dugout for both his return to Southampton and the key Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.

The irony of Jurgen Klopp being on the opposition bench on 31 March has not been lost on Tottenham.

They have noted that Klopp has twice been fined this season – £8,000 in December for running onto the pitch after Divock Origi’s injury-time winner against Everton and £45,000 for comments about referee Kevin Friend following the 1-1 draw at West Ham last month.

Tottenham simply do not feel the punishment handed out to Pochettino is in line with these.



Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne needs trophies to win Ballon d’Or – Guardiola

Kevin de Bruyne needs to win “lots of titles, especially the Champions League” to win the Ballon d’Or, says his Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

However, when asked if the midfielder was playing at a level that made him a contender to be named the world’s best, Guardiola said: “I have no doubt.”

“To be a contender, you have to win [the Champions League], and be there in the latter stages,” added Guardiola.

“But how he played against Leicester it is hard to find better in Europe.”

De Bruyne made three assists in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Leicester to take his total in the league this season to 14, four more than the next best player.

Guardiola continued: “It is not just one game, it is all season and every three days that he is playing that way.”

Most Premier League assists this season
14: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) 8: David Silva (Manchester City)
10: Leroy Sane (Manchester City) 7: Dele Alli (Tottenham)
9: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) 7: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)
8: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) 7: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

De Bruyne, 26, said: “I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after is an extra.

“I am very pleased with the way everything is going for me. The way the team is playing makes it easier for me and for them. At the end, if you get an individual honour it is beautiful.”

Speaking on Match of the Day on Saturday, BBC pundit Danny Murphy said De Bruyne was “probably the best passer of the ball I have seen in the Premier League”.

De Bruyne was 14th in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2017, when Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo won the award for a fifth time.

Ronaldo and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, also a five-time winner, have been the only players to take the honour since Kaka won it in 2007.

In eight of the past 11 seasons, the winner has been part of the Champions League-winning side.

City, who are chasing an unprecedented quadruple (they play in the League Cup final against Arsenal on 25 February and visit Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup on 19 February), resume their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with the first leg of their last-16 tie against FC Basel in Switzerland.

They were knocked out by Monaco at this stage last season in Guardiola’s first season in charge, after reaching the semi-finals under Manuel Pellegrini in 2016.

What is the Ballon d’Or?

The Ballon d’Or has been awarded 62 times and is voted for by 173 journalists from around the world.

It has been awarded by France Football every year since 1956, but for six years it became the Fifa Ballon d’Or in association with world football’s governing body and was awarded to the world’s best player.

However, Fifa ended its association with the award in September 2016.


Antonio Conte: I am ‘a bit of a disaster’ in convincing Chelsea to sign players

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits that he is "a bit of a disaster" when it comes to convincing the club’s board to sign new players.

The Premier League champions failed to make any big signings in the January transfer window.

And the 48-year-old Italian says he needs to be more persuasive.

"I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good at persuading their clubs to spend money to buy top players," he said.

"I think I’m a bit of a disaster to convince the club to buy players. I think in this aspect I can improve a lot.

"I have to learn a lot from the other coaches, the other managers, in that aspect."

Conte said in January that he was "happy" at Chelsea, playing down reports that his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich had become strained.

Abramovich was reportedly angry that the Italian had said he did not choose the club’s signings this season.

Chelsea are facing a fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League after winning one of their past five Premier League matches.

They go into Monday’s game against West Brom in fifth place, two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 22 adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Striker Alexis Sanchez and defender Virgin van Dijk were both linked with the club recently before going to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

But Conte said he can still get the best out of his squad.

"My task is to try and improve every single player, in every aspect – in terms of their mentality also. For this, I’m very good," he said.


Aaron Lennon: Everton winger not suffering long-standing mental health issue

Everton winger Aaron Lennon is not suffering from a long-standing mental health issue and is expected to make a full recovery in the short term, BBC Sport understands.

The 30-year-old was detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare.

He was taken to hospital “for assessment” after police were called to Salford on Sunday.

It is understood his condition is a recent occurrence.

Lennon is now “receiving care and treatment for a stress-related illness”, his club has said.

The England international, who joined Everton from Tottenham in 2015, has not played for the first team since February.

Greater Manchester Police said: “Police were called at around 4.35pm to reports of a concern for the welfare of a man on Eccles Old Road.

“Officers attended and a 30-year-old man was detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act and was taken to hospital for assessment.”

News of Lennon’s admission has led to an outpouring of support on social media from those involved in the game, as well as fans of his current and former clubs.

Everton tweeted on Wednesday: “Thank you for all the kind messages for Aaron. We are supporting him through this and his family has appealed for privacy at this time.”

Lennon’s representative, Base Soccer Agency, tweeted: “Everyone at Base Soccer sends their support to @AaronLennon12 – get well soon and stay strong.”

Sport shows support for Lennon

Ex-Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore, who has been affected by depression: Thoughts and love with Aaron Lennon and his family right now. I know that place, and I know he’ll be fine with good support from us all.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno, who has battled depression: Thoughts are with Aaron Lennon today, stay strong & as positive as possible, there is light at the end of tunnel. You will get through this boss.

Lennon’s former club Tottenham Hotspur: Get well soon @AaronLennon12, we’re all thinking of you.

The Professional Footballers’ Association: Get well soon Aaron, we are all thinking of you and here to offer our full support.

Former Queens Park Rangers and Burnley defender Clarke Carlisle, who played with Lennon at Leeds United: Love and blessings to my old teammate @AaronLennon12. Nail this now and there’s plenty more left in the tank my friend.

Ex-Manchester City and England midfielder Trevor Sinclair: Thoughts with Aaron Lennon right now.

Former Aston Villa forward Darren Byfield: Hope Aaron Lennon will be OK and gets the help he needs.

Former Watford and Sheffield United striker Danny Webber: Get well soon Aaron Lennon.

England cricketer Kate Cross, an ambassador for Opening Up Cricket which promotes mental wellbeing: Fingers crossed Aaron Lennon is OK. Another reminder that mental health affects us all. Be kind.


Man Utd: Jose Mourinho ‘does not know’ about Old Trafford job

Jose Mourinho says he does not know about becoming the next Manchester United manager, but is hoping to be back in football this summer.

Earlier this month, BBC Sport reported that United had held talks with representatives of the Portuguese.

Mourinho, 53, was sacked by Chelsea in December, seven months after winning the Premier League title.

Asked if he will replace Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, Mourinho said: “That’s the one million dollar question.”

Speaking at a school in Singapore, he added: “Nobody knows and I am the first one not to know. I read so many different things.”

Mourinho has been linked with a return to Serie A side Inter Milan and Spanish giants Real Madrid.

But he said: “Starting next season with a new club and project is probably the best for me.”

The future of Dutchman Van Gaal, 64, has been an almost constant source of speculation in recent weeks.

His contract ends at the end of next season but the former Netherlands boss has been involved in a number of testy exchanges with reporters whenever his position is discussed.

United lie fifth in the Premier League, six points off fourth-placed Manchester City, and went out of the Champions League at the group stages.

They are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and face Danish side FC Midtjylland in last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday, trailing 2-1 from the first leg.


‘I don’t give a f*** for the physical condition,’ says Pep Guardiola after late collapse

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola swore in his post-match media briefing after watching his side throw away a two-goal lead against Juventus in the Champions League.

The Bavarian giants stormed ahead through goals from Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben but appeared tired in the second half and allowed Paulo Dybala and substitute Stefano Sturaro to level the arrears in Turin.

Bayern still have an away-goal advantage ahead of the round-of-16 second-leg in Munich, but Guardiola was clearly frustrated despite staunchly defending his players during his post-match media commitments. 

“The result is what it is,” said Guardiola, who has agreed to replace Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City in the summer. “I know that in Italy you are about physical condition. I don’t give a f*** for the physical condition. It’s the mental question that I care about.

“I didn’t expect to come here and expect Juve not to shoot on target, or that we would play 90 fantastic minutes. They have players like [Mario] Mandzukic, [Paul] Pogba and [Leonardo] Bonucci, one of my all-time favourite players. And we showed character.”

The Spaniard, who still awaits his first European triumph with Bayern, also suggested he may one day manage in Italy if one of the country’s leading clubs show an interest.

“Will it be enough to go through? I don’t know. I would like to sit here after a win but the result is what it is. I am very happy with how I did. It is probably the evening that I am the most pleased as coach in my career. Maybe one day I will work in Italy. If they want me.”


Antonio Conte to Chelsea: Roman Abramovich closes in on Italy coach

Antonio Conte is closing in on becoming Jose Mourinho’s permanent successor at Chelsea, with the Italy coach confident that he has seen off rivals Diego Simeone and Massimiliano Allegri to take charge at Stamford Bridge.

Although reports in Italy on Monday which suggested that the 46-year-old had agreed a deal in principle to become Chelsea manager are understood to be premature, the former Juventus coach is now the favoured candidate in the eyes of owner Roman Abramovich.

The Independent revealed last December that Conte had become the leading candidate to replace Mourinho in the event of the Portuguese being sacked by the club as a result of this season’s disastrous first half of the campaign. And although Guus Hiddink returned to Stamford Bridge as interim manager in the wake of Mourinho’s dismissal two months ago, the Dutchman is not a contender to take the job permanently, despite his success in reviving the team’s fortunes since his appointment.

Conte’s success with Juventus, who he guided to three successive Serie A titles before becoming Italy coach following the 2014 World Cup, has convinced Abramovich that the Italian is capable of restoring Chelsea to the top four next season and overseeing a title challenge.

With his contract with Italy due to expire at the end of Euro 2016, Conte has made no secret of his desire to work in the Premier League and he has already started to learn English in order to enhance his prospects of achieving success in this country.

Abramovich had been prepared to mount a charm offensive to lure Pep Guardiola from Bayern Munich following Mourinho’s departure, but with the former Barcelona coach now committed to a three-year contract at Manchester City from this summer, the Russian has turned to Conte ahead of Simeone, Allegri and former Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Atletico Madrid coach Simeone had been the long-term frontrunner, but the Argentine is likely to remain in Spain for another year at least, while Sampaoli’s lack of top-level experience in Europe has counted against his prospects.

And although Allegri has become a sought-after coach with him having extended the success started by Conte at Juventus, the Italian champions are confident that the former Milan coach will commit to a new deal  in Turin.

Giuseppe Marotta, the Juventus sporting director, said: “The conditions for Allegri’s contract renewal are all there. The cycle has just started with him and I believe we can continue with him. On top of that, finding a club better than Juventus isn’t easy. I think that he can still get great pleasure from this team, thus there is no Allegri problem.”


Michael O’Neill: NI manager set for new four-year contract

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has agreed terms for a lucrative new four-year contract after his side reached the Euro 2016 finals.

The Irish FA deal is said to be worth £500,000 a year, the Belfast Telegraphnewspaper reported on Tuesday.

That would make 46-year-old O’Neill the highest-paid manager in Northern Ireland’s history.

In June, Northern Ireland will play in the final stages of a major tournament for the first time since 1986.

Last October, O’Neill told BBC Sport his preference was for a four-year deal, rather than the IFA’s usual two-year policy.

A well-placed source told BBC Sport Northern Ireland that O’Neill’s contract extension is “now effectively a done deal”.

The contract extension, which will begin after Euro 2016, will include a release clause which would allow see the IFA being entitled to compensation if O’Neill was to be lured into club management.


Man Utd: David De Gea is surprised at being left out

David De Gea is surprised at being left out of Manchester United’s team for the first two games of the season. Contrary to Louis van Gaal’s comments, sources close to De Gea say he never expressed a desire not to play.

De Gea has been training with United’s reserve team and will not be considered for selection by manager Van Gaal until the transfer window closes.

De Gea, 24, is wanted by Real Madrid. United are demanding a world record fee and defender Sergio Ramos in exchange.


Ian Holloway sacked as Millwall manager after 14 months

Championship strugglers Millwall have sacked manager Ian Holloway.

The 51-year-old, who was appointed in January 2014, had his contract terminated with the Lions second from bottom after five defeats in six games.

Ex-Millwall striker Neil Harris will take charge for the rest of the season.

“This was a hard decision to take because we very much hoped that Ollie would prove to be the man to take us forward and on to the next level,” said chairman John Berylson.

“I would like to thank him for his efforts, and in particular for keeping us in the Championship last May.

“This season, though, has proved to be an extremely challenging one and we now find ourselves facing another uphill battle to avoid relegation.”

Former Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool and Crystal Palace boss Holloway took over last season following the departure of Steve Lomas.

He guided them from 21st to 19th in the table, avoiding relegation by four points.

The club made an encouraging start to this season, winning three and drawing one of their first five Championship matches, but have won just three times since October and are eight points from safety.

Harris scored 138 goals across two spells at The Den and had been coaching Millwall’s Under-21 side, having returned to the south London club under Lomas in June 2013.

The 37-year-old had a brief spell in caretaker charge of the Lions after Lomas was sacked in December 2013, drawing one and losing two games.

“I am confident that Millwall fans will give him every support over the next couple of months as we strive to turn our current run of form around,” Berylson added.