Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool: So this is what it has come to

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BBC is reporting Liverpool’s search for a manager is over. Now there’s only one big club in England without a permanent coach.

That’s because Swansea City’s Brendan Rodgers is set to take the helm at Anfield. He’ll get a three year deal. Swans will get $6-$7 million in compensation and the task of finding a new coach.

Seems Roberto Martínez would be a good fit, but would the booing stop at the Liberty Stadium should their prodigal son return? We’ll likely never know.

There was a number of reasons Martínez was a bad choice for Liverpool, all of which apply to Rodgers. Where Liverpool’s biggest concern is getting back into UEFA Champions League, Rodgers has no experience. He’s proven he can win at lower levels. He’s proven he can keep a team up. Neither of those skills are pertinent to success at Anfield.

More on Rodgers: A brief history of Liverpool’s new boss

But this line of thought begs a question: What if a manager at a lower-table club had no experience competing for Europe yet was truly – in an absolute, cosmic, indefatigable way – capable of success at Liverpool. How would we know?

We wouldn’t. That’s the unfair, double-edged sword that’s dividing this conversation. Rodgers hasn’t shown the skills to run Liverpool, the main reason being he hasn’t had the chance. Thus, any hire like this is going to be a leap of faith. The bosses with Fenway Sports Group must feel they have a view into Rodgers’ cosmic truth, because they’re set to push on.

There was a time when Liverpool didn’t have to make hires like this. They were capable of luring La Liga-winner bosses from Spain. They were capable of bringing in managers who took small West London clubs to within 90 minutes of a European title. Now, they’re hiring from below, even after an eighth place finish.

I still think Liverpool’s capable of hunting bigger game. Even the biggest cynic of Anfield’s lore would concede Liverpool’s managerial post is one of the 10-20 most prestigious in the world (excuse the large range). Is Brendan Rodgers one of the 10-20 best managers in the world? If he is, we have no proof.

Ideally, the Rodgers and Martínez’s of the world would have a spell at an Aston Villa-esque club – a place where you can build a team that could compete on the fringes of Europe and give people reason to think “if he can do it there …”

In fairness, that’s the same logic that led Roy Hodgson to Anfield, and we all know how that turned out.

There were other options, though they’re mostly names I’m pulling out of a hat. Luciano Spalletti’s done as much as he can in Russia. Manuel Pellegrini’s now linked with Roma; he seems willing to move from Malaga. Then there’s former boss Luis Enrique, or other Roma-linkee André Villas-Boas (who Liverpool interviewed). Dick Advocaat’s done will with Russia, Slaven Bilic’s in his last tournament with Croatia. Rudi Garcia’s seen his Lille team gutted, and who knows. If Liverpool was as persistent with Ajax’s Frank de Boar as they were with Rodgers, he may have come available.

All of these men have a pedigree that’s more consistent with the Anfield job than Rodgers’. But who knows. Maybe Rodgers’s interview gave FSG a glimpse into his cosmic awesomeness. Maybe there’s something specific to where FSG’s taking Liverpool that may preclude bringing in a man whose ideas are too firmly entrenched.

Or maybe, as we saw with de Boar and (originally) Rodgers, Liverpool just isn’t that glamourous a destination anymore? Unfortunately, that seems to be the message.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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