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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Roundup: Second-tier teams scramble for share of EPL riches

Football Roundup: Second-tier teams scramble for share of EPL riches

August 01, 2017 21:51 IST

Second-tier teams scramble for share of Premier League riches

Bradford

IMAGE: Bradford players celebrate. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.

The annual scramble for promotion to the Premier League begins on Friday after a summer of frenetic hiring and firing by the 24 teams in England's second-tier Championship.

Each is intent on securing the golden ticket of entry into the world's most lucrative league with almost 100 million pounds ($132.10 million) on offer to even the team that finishes bottom.

Sunderland banked that check last season when they lost their top-flight status after 10 years. The Black Cats are one of seven Championship teams under new management, with Simon Grayson handed the dubious task of seeking instant success in a job with an average lifespan of less than a year.

Former Russia national manager Leonid Slutsky is the most high-profile new manager at another relegated club, Hull City, while Portugal's Nuno Espírito Santo has swapped Porto for one of England's most famous old names, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Both have shown the importance of football networking, with Slutsky using his friendship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to negotiate the loan of two of the Blues' most promising young players, Ola Aina and Michael Hector, while Santo has brought in Ruben Neves for a club-record 15.8 million pounds and loan signing Willy Boly from his former club.

Wolves were the only one of the division's 24 teams to make a profit in 2015-16, the last season when accounts are available. But their summer dealings suggest their Chinese owners Fosun International are prepared to plunge into the red to secure promotion after five years out of the top flight.

Relegated Middlesbrough have spent even more aggressively, with new manager Garry Monk lavishing 30 million pounds on three new strikers - Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher - plus 10 million more on sundry others.

Boro are favourites to make a quick return to the Premier League, along with former European Cup holders Aston Villa under new captain John Terry.

"Forget Lukaku going to Manchester United, Villa signing John Terry on a free is the deal of the summer," said their former striker Dean Saunders, now a TV pundit.

Villa are banking on experience with Terry, a five-time Premier League winner with Chelsea who will partner the much travelled Chris Samba in defence.

"It's an exciting new chapter for me," Terry told reporters on Tuesday. "In front of 45,000 here every week is what I want to be doing and competing at the very top. Our ambition is to get up."

Two other signings, Ahmed Elmohamady and Glenn Whelan, have both won promotion to the top flight, as has manager Steve Bruce - a record four times.

Other big-name teams with impeccable top-flight credentials include double European Cup holders Nottingham Forest, traditional powerhouse Leeds United, who changed both manager and owner over the summer, and two-time top-tier champions Derby County.

Matic at United will help unlock Pogba's talents: McClair

The signing of workhorse Nemanja Matic should allow Manchester United to make better use of gifted France midfielder Paul Pogba in the coming years, the club's former forward Brian McClair said.

United manager Jose Mourinho acquired the tall Serbian enforcer from Premier League rivals and champions Chelsea for a reported fee ranging from 40 million to 50 million pounds ($53 million-$66 million) on a three-year contract on Monday.

"United need someone who sits there behind Pogba, who played his best football when (current United captain) Michael Carrick also played last season," McClair said.

"Michael is coming to the end of a wonderful career, so United need someone who can do something similar but who will be more mobile in the coming years."

With Pogba a regular starter for United, Matic looks set to compete for a midfield slot with the 36-year old Carrick, Spaniard Ander Herrera and Belgian enforcer Marouane Fellaini.

Matic is United's third signing this summer, following Romelu Lukaku from Everton and Victor Lindelof from Benfica.

Sevilla homecoming for Navas after Man City spell

Jesus Navas has rejoined Sevilla after leaving Manchester City at the end of his contract, the Andalusian club said on Tuesday.

The Spanish right winger made his professional debut with Sevilla in 2003 and played 393 games for his hometown club before signing for Manchester City in 2013 for 14.9 million pounds ($19.7 million).

Navas, 31, featured 183 times for the English side, scoring eight goals to help them win a Premier League title and two League Cups.

"Characterised by his great consistency and enviable physical fitness, Jesus Navas returns home with the firm intention of becoming the player with the most appearances in official games for Sevilla," Sevilla said in a statement.

The record is held by Juan Arza Inigo, who played 419 matches for the club and is Sevilla's second top scorer of all time with 204 goals.

Fiorentina midfielder Vecino undergoes medical at Inter Milan

Fiorentina midfielder Matias Vecino is undergoing a medical at Inter Milan, the Serie A club said on its website on Tuesday.

The Uruguay international, capped 13 times, is set to join Inter Milan for a fee of 24 million euros ($28 million) under a four-year contract, Italian media report.

The 25-year-old, who joined the Florentine club 3-1/2 years ago from Uruguayan club Nacional, made 31 league appearances last season, scoring three goals.

Vecino is Inter's fifth signing in the summer transfer window and the second from Serie A rivals Fiorentina after fellow midfielder Borja Valero.

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