It's not hard to see why Everton want Silva

Decision time for Watford’s Marco Silva. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
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It's not hard to see why Everton want Silva

MANCHESTER: In the first week of 2017 a young manager staked his reputation on a job friends had told him he was crazy to take. He was moving to the English Premier League mid-season, to take charge of a club rooted to the bottom of the division, with no transfer budget, and a justifiably discontented support. His name was little known by the country's football commentariat, amongst some of whom its foreign syllables were particularly ill-received.
“It’s totally astonishing that they have plumped for someone like this,” ex-Liverpool manager Phil Thompson announced on Sky TV. “It’s baffling. When there are a lot of people out there who know about the Premier League, about what’s required to dig in. He’s not got a clue.”
Marco Silva, it turned out, had more than a clue; he had a competence beyond those who supposedly knew better about England's top tier. Silva won his first match at Hull, an FA Cup tie, won six in the League, got the best of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and Jose Mourinho's Manchester United. And almost kept his new employers in the division.
So ended the questioning of his abilities as a coach. So bedraggled were Hull when the Portuguese was hired by the club that credit for their radically improved performances went to one man. By backing himself to prosper in adverse circumstance, Silva had demonstrated his mettle to every Premier League owner. He knew a superior job offer would follow.
By the end of May he'd signed a two-year contract with Watford, a well-organized club benefiting from one of the game's most effective recruitment strategies that had finished 17th the previous season. Though the Pozzo family regard their clubs' coaches as dispensable functionaries, passing on their initial choice of summer appointment — Bayer Leverkusen's Roger Schmidt — when the German refused to compromise on his attacking tactics, here was a clear step up the Premier League ladder for Silva.
At Watford he began with a come-from-behind draw versus fancied Liverpool, bested Arsenal at home and was unfortunate not to take at least one point at Chelsea. By the time Everton decided to dismiss Ronald Koeman, the 40-year-old had established himself as the brightest managerial light outside the division's 'Big Six'.
Four weeks on from Koeman's sacking, Everton are currently engaged in a third attempt to secure Silva's services from the Pozzo family. So far the Merseyside club has offered Watford compensation payments worth up to £10 million ($13.2 million). As finances are free and easy under Farhad Moshiri's titular ownership, that deal could yet be sweetened beyond the €15 million ($17.6 million) Roman Abramovich paid to buy out Andre Villas-Boas' FC Porto contract in 2011.
Watford want it to be known that no sum will convince them to release Silva to a rival now. "We will not countenance an approach for our manager, either from Everton or indeed any other club, be it in the Premier League or abroad," the club briefed on Sunday. The pragmatic Pozzos, however, realize that Silva wants to leave and are said to be unimpressed by the coach's repeated refusal to publicly put the issue to bed.
Once again, those close to Silva have been advising him against changing clubs mid-season, and, in this case, taking on a third position inside a year. One school of thought is that it would make more sense to wait until the summer when a still more attractive opportunity may open up: There is instability around the lead roles at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United at present.
Silva's agent, Carlos Goncalves, has suggested that Everton retain David Unsworth as an interim manager until the end of season, at which point a one-year break clause could be activated in his client's current contract. (Goncalves also represented Villas-Boas when his switch to Chelsea set a new high watermark in club-to-club compensation for a coach.)
Neither Silva nor the main decision makers at Everton, however, want to wait. As when Hull came calling, the former sees an opportunity to climb the food chain of what he considers “the biggest league”. The former Estoril, Sporting and Olympiacos coach has already taken on one basket case club mid-campaign and prospered so why can he not do so again?
Moshiri's camp want a manager who can guarantee the club's Premier League status, before fronting an ambitious plan to stock Everton's squad with world-class talent. Goodison Park does not have an elite centre-forward at present, yet the owners have no shortage of ambition to secure one — leading their wish list is Edinson Cavani, nose out of joint at Paris Saint-Germain.
If Everton believe they have the cash to trawl such rarefied waters, they still lack the cachet to land many sharks. With Silva they think it's possible to arrive there. And the man himself? Well, he rarely hesitates when invited to pursue the miraculous.


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.