Brendan Rodgers: A brief history of Liverpool’s new manager

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source: Getty ImagesHe’s only 39 years old. Kenny Dalglish was 59 when he returned. Roy Hodgson was hired at 62. Rafa Benítez was 44, and Gerard Houllier was 50. While the difference between Benítez’ and Rodgers’ ages isn’t that big, the former Swansea City manager’s lack of experience makes this a big shift for Liverpool. They’re going new. They’re going young.

They’re also going away from a man with huge playing experience to one with virtually none. Kenny Dalglish is thought by many to be the best player in Liverpool history thanks to his striking exploits from 1977-1990 (scoring 169 times). For Rodgers, a genetic knee problem ended his career just as he was leaving Northern Ireland.

At 18, he had moved to Reading, but Rodgers never played a senior game. By the time he was 20, the defender was done battling his condition in reserve games. He hung up his boots and started his second career.

In time, Rodgers became the head youth development at Reading, a job that would see him spend a large chunk of his 20s driving the English countryside trying to mine talent. While it wasn’t playing, it did lead to his big break: Being lured to Chelsea to join José Mourinho.

“I like everything in him,” Mourinho told the BBC last year, explaining why he sought out Rodgers to head Chelsea’s academy. “He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself. He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate.”

His first manager’s job came only four seasons ago. He took over Jay DeMerit’s Watford after a slow start to the 2008-09 season had the Hertfordshire club near the bottom of England’s second division. After some initial stumbles, Rodgers had the Hornets mid-table by season’s end.

The turnaround earned him an ill-fated move back to Reading. Steve Coppell had just guided the Royals to fourth but left following his sixth season with the club, having failed to return Reading to the Premier League.

Rodgers’ tenure would be much shorter. He lasted half a season, winning only six of 23 matches before agreeing to leave the Madejski Stadium, leaving the then-36-year-old in a bit of a managerial wilderness.

It wouldn’t last. The next year, Rodgers was back in the game, moving to Wales to take over at the Liberty Stadium. It was a perfect match: A club committed to playing “progressive” soccer (as Rodgers calls it) hiring a man relishing the responsibility of implementing it.

In his first year on the job, Rodgers returned Swansea to the first division for the first time since 1983. Former Chelsea academy recruit Scott Sinclair, who Rodgers had brought to Swansea, scored three goals at Wembley Stadium to lead Swans through the Championship playoff. And in their Premier League debut, Swansea finished 11th, all the while while cementing their reputation for playing “progressive,” attractive soccer.

Now, four years after making his managerial debut (and just over two years after leaving Reading), Rodgers has one of the most prized managerial positions in English soccer. It’s a rise not unlike that of Mourinho’s, who was steering Chelsea to its first Premier League title just four years after debuting at Benfica.

Rodgers’ managerial career

Team Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Watford Nov. 2008 – June 2009 13-12-7 40.6%
Reading June 2009 – Dec. 2009 6-11-6 26.1%
Swansea City July 2010-May 2012 43-33-30 44.8

Previous Liverpool managers (July 1998-May 2012)

Manager Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Gérard Houllier July 1998 – May 2004 165-79-81 50.8%
Rafael Benítez June 2004 – June 2010 194-79-77 55.4%
Roy Hodgson July 2010 – Jan. 2011 13-9-9 41.9%
Kenny Dalglish Jan. 2011 – May 2012 35-21-17 47.9%

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.