Premier League Clubs Missed their Chance to Keep Christmas Eve Special

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. (Getty Images)
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. (Getty Images)
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Premier League Clubs Missed their Chance to Keep Christmas Eve Special

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. (Getty Images)
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. (Getty Images)

The almost total lack of regard in which broadcasters hold football fans is no secret, so it should have come as no surprise to learn Sky Sports is proposing to reschedule Arsenal’s home match against Liverpool for Christmas Eve in what the Football Supporters’ Federation has described as “a new low point in putting the interests of football broadcasters over those of match-going fans”. And yet somehow it did come as a surprise. Even by the notoriously cut-throat standards of TV networks scrambling for subscriptions, this seems unnecessarily grasping.

With an already hectic festive grind looming, footballers would almost certainly rather not play on Christmas Eve. Fans, some with other commitments and others faced with the return journey to and from London from Liverpool on what is a chaotic day for transport, would almost certainly rather not travel on Christmas Eve.

Matchday staff earning not much more than minimum wage for their shifts would almost certainly rather not work on Christmas Eve. On a day that vast swaths of the British population set aside for last-minute trolley dashes, family reunions, festive roistering and all the domestic disquiet that entails, we could almost certainly do without the added distraction of Premier League football on television. Couldn’t we?

Apparently not, despite the fact almost everyone involved apart from the broadcasting company that paid £11m for British TV rights for the match appears to agree it is a ridiculous idea. Even before a final decision has been made, both football clubs involved have complained, as have their supporters.

But while Sky Sports has not yet publicly acknowledged any of these gripes, early indications suggest it is likely to respond to this almost unanimous groundswell of disapproval by – yes, you’ve guessed it – scheduling a second Premier League match for the same day and transforming Christmas Eve into a Super Sleigh Bell Sunday featuring two games instead of the more traditional and generally accepted none.

A spokeswoman for Sky said she was not in a position to comment given the fixtures for December have not been selected but that an announcement will be made in the next fortnight. “Twice in recent years [2011 and 2016] Christmas Eve has fallen on a Saturday,” says the FSF. “In both those years the Premier League has not scheduled any fixtures for that day, presumably in recognition of the significance of the date. For broadcasters now to move fixtures to Christmas Eve, and on a Sunday at that, flies in the face of that policy.”

On Monday, it emerged the second match being mooted for rescheduling to Christmas Eve is West Ham v Newcastle, which would almost certainly occupy the 1.30pm TV slot and mean a round trip of 560 miles for traveling Geordies, who, unlike Father Christmas, do not have the luxury of airborne sleighs drawn by reindeer to speed them home.

Expect more entirely justified disquiet from a set of supporters whose location means they are already treated particularly contemptuously by TV schedulers.

The clubs, despite their predictable carping, can have no complaints as they are lying in a cash-strewn bed of their own making. When Sky and BT Sport paid a combined £5.136bn for the UK TV rights of the Premier League in the famously lucrative carve-up of February 2015, it was the former network that paid the lion’s share of the money, £4.176bn, to win the vast majority of the TV slots available. Two of those are on Sunday afternoons, with kick-offs at 1.30pm and 4pm, windows dictated at the time by clubs mindful of potential viewing audiences and hoping to rinse the maximum revenue possible out of the bidders.

Much to their delight the money duly arrived but in the ensuing contract negotiations the clubs either did not bother, did not want to, or perhaps just never thought to insist on clauses precluding Sky or BT Sport from rescheduling matches that would quite clearly inconvenience fans traveling long distances at great expense.

Evidently they also failed to reckon on Christmas Eve 2017 falling on a Sunday and the potential problems that might cause. Sky has two slots to play with on Christmas Eve Sunday. One can be moved to the previous Friday night, but this would still leave one Sunday slot vacant.

Should Sky decide to keep match-going fans and the FSF happy by not broadcasting Arsenal v Liverpool or any other match on Christmas Eve, it would to all intents and purposes be throwing away the £11m it paid for the right to do so. Even at a time of goodwill to all men, this course of action is one it would be understandably reluctant to take.

This could easily have been avoided. As equal shareholders in the Premier League, along with the 18 other clubs who comprised English football’s top flight at the time the deal with Sky and BT was struck, there was nothing to stop Arsenal, Liverpool or the other shareholders preempting such a scenario and colluding to ensure it never came to pass. They did not and, as usual, it is their fans who will suffer the most.

“Spirit Of Shankly have been made aware that Liverpool’s away fixture against Arsenal, scheduled for 23 December, is being considered for a move to Christmas Eve,” said a Liverpool’s supporters’ group, which pointed out the impact such a switch would have. “SOS are contacting relevant personnel to put forward our case that it is completely unacceptable to expect fans to travel for a match at this time. The suggestion of such a change again shows zero regard for supporters – much like the corresponding fixture where Euston station was closed over bank holiday weekend.”

The FSF has declared it will continue to work in conjunction with supporters’ groups to engage with the Premier League and broadcasters “to register our discontent and to seek full involvement and consultation with supporters in determining future scheduling”.

Good luck to them but history suggests their hopes of being paid anything other than lip service would constitute a Christmas miracle.

The Guardian Sport



Nadal is in French Open Field, Will Face Zverev in 1st Round

Spain's Rafael Nadal takes part in a practice session ahead of The French Open tennis tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier at The Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 22, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal takes part in a practice session ahead of The French Open tennis tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier at The Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 22, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
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Nadal is in French Open Field, Will Face Zverev in 1st Round

Spain's Rafael Nadal takes part in a practice session ahead of The French Open tennis tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier at The Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 22, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal takes part in a practice session ahead of The French Open tennis tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier at The Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 22, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

Rafael Nadal is in the French Open field, after all, and Thursday's draw set up the 14-time champion for a challenging first-round matchup against No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev.

“That’s going to be hard, but he is a warrior," tournament director Amélie Mauresmo said. "Anything is possible with Rafa.”

This is expected to be Nadal's last appearance at Roland Garros, and he had been coy about whether he would compete this time after two seasons of off-and-on action because of injuries, including a surgically repaired hip that forced him to miss his favorite tournament a year ago, The Associated Press reported.

After a loss at the Italian Open this month, Nadal said he needed to think about whether to play in Paris. But the Spaniard, who turns 38 on June 3, has been practicing on the red clay at Roland Garros this week and his name was officially in the bracket.

The French Open begins on Sunday.

The Nadal-Zverev winner could be on a path toward a potential semifinal meeting against No. 1 seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, whose opening opponent is French wild-card entry Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The potential men's quarterfinals are Djokovic against No. 7 Casper Ruud — who lost to Nadal in the 2022 final and 24-time major champion Djokovic in the 2023 final — and Zverev or Nadal against No. 5 Daniil Medvedev in the top half of the bracket, and No. 2 Jannik Sinner against No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz, and No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz versus No. 6 Andrey Rublev in the bottom half.

In the women's draw, one intriguing semifinal could be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who seeks a third consecutive French Open title, against No. 3 Coco Gauff, the reigning US Open champion who lost to Swiatek in the Paris final two years ago.

“I’m starting to really feel at home here,” Swiatek said at the draw ceremony.
She will start off against someone who was in the qualifying rounds, and then could face four-time major champion and former No. 1 Naomi Osaka.

The possible women's quarterfinals are Swiatek vs. No. 5 Marketa Vondrousova, and Gauff vs. No. 8 Ons Jabeur on the top half, and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 6 Maria Sakkari, and No. 4 Elena Rybakina vs. No. 7 Zheng Qinwen on the bottom half.

Despite all of the success Nadal has enjoyed at the event — his career record there is 112-3 — the French tennis federation decided not to go against its usual rules that follow the ATP and WTA rankings to determine seedings.

So the 22-time major champion's inactivity-affected ranking of No. 276 left him unseeded — which meant Nadal could be selected in the computerized, random draw to face any opponent to start. His matchup against Zverev, the 2020 US Open runner-up and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist, is a rematch of their 2022 French Open semifinal that ended when Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle.

Zverev, a 27-year-old from Germany, enters Roland Garros as a serious contender for what would be his first major title, coming off a trophy at the Italian Open on clay.

He's drawn attention lately for a serious matter away from tennis: A court proceeding is scheduled to begin next week in Germany related to accusations of physical abuse made by an ex-girlfriend of his. Zverev does not need to attend and has said he won't.

Another high-profile first-round matchup pits a pair of three-time Grand Slam champions against each other: Andy Murray, who just turned 37, versus Stan Wawrinka, who is 39. First-rounders to keep an eye on also include Australian Open runner-up Zheng against popular French veteran Alizé Cornet, who has said she will retire after the French Open, and two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova against No. 15 seed Elina Svitolina, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist.

One expected withdrawal was announced Thursday: fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula, an American who has reached six major quarterfinals.


Soccer-West Ham Appoint Former Spain Manager Lopetegui as Head Coach

Former Spain national coach Julen Lopetegui. (AFP)
Former Spain national coach Julen Lopetegui. (AFP)
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Soccer-West Ham Appoint Former Spain Manager Lopetegui as Head Coach

Former Spain national coach Julen Lopetegui. (AFP)
Former Spain national coach Julen Lopetegui. (AFP)

West Ham United have appointed former Spain and Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui as their new head coach, the Premier League club said on Thursday.

Lopetegui, who previously coached Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League and will take charge of West Ham on July 1, replaces David Moyes, who left the London club this month.

West Ham finished ninth in the standings with 52 points and missed out on qualification for European football next season.

"My ambition as a coach is always to be better and better, to achieve more and bigger aims and to encourage and improve the players, the team, and to compete because football is about this – to compete," Lopetegui, 57, said in a statement, Reuters reported.

"I am where I want to be. I am here because I want to be here and for us it was a fantastic day when we closed our agreement here because our commitment is 100 per cent to be here."

Lopetegui, who was at Barcelona and Real Madrid as a player but featured mostly for Logrones and Rayo Vallecano, began coaching in Spain's youth set-up before spells at Vallecano in the Spanish second tier and Portuguese club Porto.

His most successful stint in club management came at Sevilla, where he spent three years in charge, leading the LaLiga outfit to the Europa League title in 2020.


Djokovic Beats Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 to Reach Geneva Open Quarterfinals on his 37th Birthday

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand return against France's Alexandre Muller during the US Open tennis tournament men's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 28, 2023. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand return against France's Alexandre Muller during the US Open tennis tournament men's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 28, 2023. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)
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Djokovic Beats Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 to Reach Geneva Open Quarterfinals on his 37th Birthday

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand return against France's Alexandre Muller during the US Open tennis tournament men's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 28, 2023. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand return against France's Alexandre Muller during the US Open tennis tournament men's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 28, 2023. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

Novak Djokovic celebrated his 37th birthday by beating unseeded Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals at the Geneva Open.

It was the 1,100th victory for the World No. 1 at ATP tournaments.

Djokovic rallied from 3-0 down in the final set by winning six straight games. He converted his second match point when Hanfmann's forehand hit the net, The AP reported.

The 32-year-old German broke Djokovic in the second game of the set when Djokovic struggled with his first serve.

The second-round match had earlier been suspended by rain with Djokovic trying to serve out the first set 5-3, deuce.

The record 24-time Grand Slam champion wasted a set point and had to save four break points before the match was interrupted by rainfall.

He had to save another break point after play resumed before serving out the set with an ace.

Hanfmann had eliminated Andy Murray in the first round 7-5, 6-2.

Djokovic received a wild card at the clay-court warmup event for the French Open.

Seeking his first title of the season, Djokovic will next face either Denis Shapovalov or Tallon Griekspoor.

The Geneva Open final is scheduled for Saturday, one day before main draw play starts at Roland Garros, where Djokovic is the defending champion.


American Star Pegula Pulls Out of French Open

Jessica Pegula will miss the French Open but 'will definitely be back for a full grass season'. Rich Storry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Jessica Pegula will miss the French Open but 'will definitely be back for a full grass season'. Rich Storry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
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American Star Pegula Pulls Out of French Open

Jessica Pegula will miss the French Open but 'will definitely be back for a full grass season'. Rich Storry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Jessica Pegula will miss the French Open but 'will definitely be back for a full grass season'. Rich Storry / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

World number five Jessica Pegula announced her withdrawal from the French Open on Thursday, saying she had not yet sufficiently recovered from an injury.
"Unfortunately pulling out of @rolandgarros this year," the American posted on Instagram.
"I'm just about back to practicing normal (haven't had any issues for weeks) but played it super safe with recovery & return to play.
"If I had another 5-7 days I would have been there 100%."
Pegula, 30, has not played an official match since the Billie Jean King Cup in mid-April, said AFP.
She then withdrew from the Madrid Open after "hurting herself", without giving any further details on the nature of her injury.
She also missed the Rome Open, the last big clay-court tournament prior to Roland Garros.
Pegula, however, is confident she will soon return to competition.
"I will definitely be back for a full grass season and the rest of the summer and grinding out the rest of the year," she posted.
Last year, Pegula, 30, was eliminated in the third round of the French Open by Belgium's Elise Mertens.
Her best result at Roland Garros is a quarter-final appearance in 2022 when she lost to eventual winner Iga Swiatek.
The draw for the French Open, which begins at the weekend, takes place later on Thursday.


Departing Mbappé Chases a Last Trophy with PSG in French Cup Final against Resurgent Lyon

FILED - 07 May 2024, France, Paris: PSG's Kylian Mbappe reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa
FILED - 07 May 2024, France, Paris: PSG's Kylian Mbappe reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa
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Departing Mbappé Chases a Last Trophy with PSG in French Cup Final against Resurgent Lyon

FILED - 07 May 2024, France, Paris: PSG's Kylian Mbappe reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa
FILED - 07 May 2024, France, Paris: PSG's Kylian Mbappe reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi final between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa

This time, it's really the end.
After missing Paris Saint-Germain’s last two league games, Kylian Mbappé should start in the French Cup final against Lyon on Saturday for his final match in a PSG shirt, The Associated Press.
The forward, who is widely expected to join Real Madrid, was given some free time by coach Luis Enrique last weekend and was spotted enjoying himself at the Cannes film festival while PSG wrapped up a 12th victorious league campaign in less glamorous settings.
Mbappé told PSG in February he will leave at the end of the season — Saturday night — and confirmed it this month. Over the last three months, Enrique has tried to make PSG less reliant on his star striker, arguing that he needed to start thinking about the future knowing that Mbappé would not be around next season.
Although Enrique has yet to decide on his starting XI for Saturday's final at Lille's Stade Pierre-Mauroy, snubbing Mbappé, or even leaving him on the bench, would equate to a slap in his face.
Mbappé is the club’s all-time top scorer with 256 and has won six Ligue 1 titles and three French Cups with PSG. Although he didn't lead the club to a Champions League trophy in his seven seasons in Paris, he largely contributed to helping PSG reach a respected status on the continent.
Leaving him on the sidelines on the night he could cap his PSG journey with yet another title seems highly unlikely, although Enrique has warned his players he will select only those who deserve it.
“We’ll see who’s ready, who’s not ready (to play), who wants to, who doesn’t want to,” Enrique said.
Like Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé did not play against Nice and Metz in the closing league rounds but should be back to face a resurgent Lyon side led by former Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette.
LYON MASTER OF COMEBACKS
Lyon has been in impressive form in recent months and Enrique can't afford to take the five-time Cup champion lightly.
Since Pierre Sage was appointed coach last November when Lyon was at the bottom of the league, the team has been transformed into a winning machine. After sealing European soccer next season, Lyon can cap a remarkable second half of the season with its first silverware since 2012.
One of Lyon's main assets has been its capacity to come from behind under Sage's guidance. According to French league statistics, Lyon has secured 27 points from a losing position, with only Liverpool and Girona doing better in the top five leagues. Lyon substitutes have contributed 18 goals since Sage's appointment.


Saudi Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi Wins Gold at 2024 Para Athletics Championships in Japan

Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
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Saudi Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi Wins Gold at 2024 Para Athletics Championships in Japan

Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA

Saudi Paralympic champion Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi clinched the gold medal at the Kobe 2024 World Para Athletics Championships, held in the Japanese city of Kobe until May 27, SPA reported.

The Kobe 2024 games, serving as qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Summer Paralympic Games, brought together over 1,000 male and female athletes representing 145 countries.
Al-Qurashi claimed the gold medal in the T53 wheelchair 100m race, crossing the finish line with an impressive time of 14.86 seconds. He was followed by Brazilian athlete Fernandes da Silva, who secured the silver medal with a time of 15.05 seconds, while Tunisian athlete Mohamed Nidhal Khelifi took home the bronze, completing the race in 15.23 seconds.


Driven Barshim Still Spearheading Qatar’s Challenge at Fourth Games 

Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
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Driven Barshim Still Spearheading Qatar’s Challenge at Fourth Games 

Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)

Mutaz Barshim was at the center of one of most memorable moments of the Tokyo Olympics and the high jumper will again carry a large part of Qatar's hopes of medal success on his slender shoulders in his fourth Summer Games in Paris.

The 32-year-old's shared gold medal was not the only one secured by the Gulf State in Tokyo and Egypt-born weightlifter Fares Ibrahim will also be back to defend the middle-heavyweight title he won three years ago.

Sherif Younes and Ahmed Tejan, the beach volleyball duo who won bronze in Japan, are well on their way to qualification for Paris but it is the athletics competition, and Barshim in particular, that most Qatari eyes will be focused on.

Three-times a world champion and an Olympic silver medalist in London and Rio, Barshim said recently that he does not display his impressive collection of trophies for fear that complacency might blunt his competitive spirit.

"If you come to my house, you will not see any medals. There are no medals, no trophies, nothing," he told Eurosport.

"I hide everything because I don't want to feel that satisfaction that I've done so much. One day, hopefully, when I retire, I take everything back, I'll look at it and enjoy it. But for now, I want to do the most.

"I want to be mentioned as one of the high jump greats. I want my name to be mentioned whenever high jump is mentioned. I want to make it hard and difficult for the person who's coming behind me to break my records."

The biggest prize in Barshim's collection is the gold he won alongside Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi in Tokyo after both cleared 2.37 meters and sensationally agreed with officials that there would be two champions.

"That will never happen again," Barshim said. "It was a moment, and it was, I think, a historical moment, but it's not going to happen again. Now we must go and push the limit."

Barshim has shown no signs of resting on his laurels even a decade on from his jump of 2.43m that remains the second highest leap in history.

He had the second highest mark in the world last year (2.36) and has finished second in both the high jump competitions in the Diamond League this season.

"People are always asking me, 'How are you still going?', given the fact that I won everything," he said.

"For me, I look at the sport like there's not one single goal that I'm looking for. I want to be a world champion, and then it's done. No, I've achieved that. It's good. What can I do more? I want to win it twice, three times. I want to do more."

Qatar sent 15 athletes, including two women, to Tokyo and, with eight athletes already qualified, will be hoping for a similarly sized delegation in Paris.

The other athletes already qualified are shooters Saeed Abu Shareb and Rashid Saleh Al-Athba and track athletes Abu Bakr Haider, Ismail Daoud, Bassem Hemeida and Abdulrahman Samba.


Manager Pochettino’s Departure from Chelsea Shocks Ex-Players 

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
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Manager Pochettino’s Departure from Chelsea Shocks Ex-Players 

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)

Chelsea's decision to part ways with manager Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday surprised many former players who believe it could torpedo the club's endeavor to return to the top of the Premier League.

Pochettino joined Chelsea ahead of the 2023-24 campaign after the club finished 12th in the previous season.

The early months of the Argentine's tenure were far from convincing as the expensively assembled squad took time to gel, but a run of five straight wins in their last five league games lifted them to sixth place and secured European football.

Former Chelsea player Craig Burley did not hold back on his assessment of Chelsea's decision, saying it displayed a lack of vision.

"It's all a bit of a mess, honestly," Burley told ESPN.

"He wasn't without fault this year, but they did finish strong. They (Chelsea) just don't have a vision, they're stumbling from one manager to the next... There's not really many managers out there right now."

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet said Pochettino's exit was difficult to understand, telling Sky Sports: "Everyone close to Chelsea was expecting a great summer and something important for next year.

"But we don't know the inside. I was shocked, I couldn't believe it. It was kind of impossible."

Ex-Chelsea and France defender Frank Leboeuf said Pochettino's departure had plunged the club's future into uncertainty.

"It's a pity, because they've been exceptional for the past few games, but now we don't know what we're going to face next season," Leboeuf told ESPN.

"We don't know where we'll go with all these young players. I have doubts that it'll be better than it was this season."

Chelsea's Cole Palmer, named the Premier League's young player of the season after a superb campaign, thanked Pochettino in a post on Instagram. "Thank you for everything you have done for me and making my dreams come true. All the best," Palmer said.

According to reports in British media, Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, Sporting Lisbon's Ruben Amorim and ex-Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi are among the leading candidates for the vacant managerial role at Chelsea.


Djokovic Eager to Regain Form Ahead of French Open Defense 

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Djokovic Eager to Regain Form Ahead of French Open Defense 

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)

World number one Novak Djokovic is hoping to get a few matches under his belt at this week's Geneva Open ahead of his title defense at Roland Garros, after recovering from a freak injury he suffered this month.

Djokovic has struggled this season and has yet to win a tournament in 2024.

The 24-times Grand Slam champion's preparations for the French Open have been far from ideal, beginning with a loss to Casper Ruud in the Monte Carlo semi-finals.

He then opted to skip the Madrid Open before losing in the third round of the Italian Open, two days after he was hit on the head by a fan's water bottle while signing autographs.

The Serbian, who said he felt out of sorts during his 6-2 6-3 loss to Alejandro Tabilo, told reporters on Tuesday: "The head is good. All is well. I've trained for over a week and I'm feeling fine.

"I've dedicated quite a bit of time with my new fitness coach to build the endurance, to build physical strength and capabilities that I need in order to play a best-of-five Grand Slam on the physically most demanding surface, which is clay.

"So, hopefully, I'm going to get more than one match here in Geneva, that's the goal and then let's see what happens in Paris."

In his first match in Geneva on Wednesday, Djokovic will face German Yannick Hanfmann, who beat three-times Grand Slam champion Andy Murray earlier in the tournament.

"The reason why I chose to come and play is because I feel like, at this moment, there is no better practice for me than match play," Djokovic said.

"I feel like I need more matches, even if it's one match, two matches, three, four hopefully. It's good for me, because that's the way for me to try to find that kind of form that I need for Roland Garros."


Germany and Real Madrid Great Toni Kroos to Retire After Euro 2024 

Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
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Germany and Real Madrid Great Toni Kroos to Retire After Euro 2024 

Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)

Toni Kroos will retire from football after trying to give Real Madrid yet another Champions League trophy and lead Germany to the European Championship title at home.

The 34-year-old German midfielder said Tuesday it was a tough decision, but that the timing felt “somehow perfect."

“I always wanted to leave at the peak of my abilities and I know, and from a lot of examples you see, that it isn’t easy, that you can miss that point in time very quickly,” Kroos said on a podcast he hosts with his brother.

“I never wanted to have the feeling at the end that the club, the fans, the people around me would have to tell me, ‘That’s enough,’ or that I’d spend another two or three years sitting on the bench.”

Madrid thanked Kroos and hailed his achievements with the team.

“Real Madrid would like to express its gratitude and affection to Toni Kroos, a player who will go down in Real Madrid history as one of our club and international football’s greatest legends,” the club said.

Kroos was a World Cup champion with Germany in 2014 in Brazil, and had a successful career with Bayern Munich as well, helping it win one Champions League and three German league titles.

Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on June 1 in London. His European trophies with Madrid came in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022. He won the Champions League with Bayern in 2013.

Kroos has been with Madrid since 2014, helping it win 22 titles, including four European Cups and four Spanish leagues. He made 463 appearances with the club, which called the midfielder “a key player in one of the most successful periods of Real Madrid’s 122-year history.”

“Toni Kroos is one of the great players in Real Madrid history and this club will always be his home,” club president Florentino Pérez said.

Madrid said Kroos will remain forever in the hearts of every fan “thanks to his mastery of the game and the fact he has given his all for our jersey, a steadfast example of the values of Real Madrid.”

Kroos' contract with Madrid was expiring at the end of this season and the club and the player had reportedly been negotiating an extension.

Kroos said in February he agreed to play for Germany at Euro 2024 after a request from coach Julian Nagelsmann. He has not played for the national team in almost three years, since Germany’s loss to England in the second round of the last European Championship.

Kroos was named last week in Germany's preliminary squad for the tournament.

He had said a few months ago that he didn't know what would happen next season.

“I thought it over for a really long time and in the last few days I’ve reached the conclusion that this season, this wonderful season, the 10th season with Real, is also my last season with Real,” Kroos said Tuesday.

“And anyone who has paid attention when listening to me over the last few months or years will have heard the sentence at one time or other that the only option for me was to end my career at Real Madrid. And if you can put one and one together, you know that my last season with Real means it's over this summer. No more Real, no more football.”