There is but one question to ask now that the sometimes-ridiculous, ever-eventful Rafa Marquez era is history around Red Bull Arena: What took so freakin’ long?
The Red Bulls announced the release of their controversial defender Thursday morning.
The team’s record with Marquez on the field, 19-9-16, does speak well of his talents. We should expect as much from a man making $4.6 million this year; his salary was Major League Soccer’s second-highest in 2012 after Red Bulls teammate Thierry Henry.
But anyone who watched Marquez play, anyone who witnessed his self-centered shenanigans, anyone who winced at his disrespectful comments about teammates, could not help but wonder if the former Mexican international’s presence was not undermining the team’s larger pursuits?
It seems like a reasonable supposition that they were. (And you wonder what stories might tumble out of the Red Bulls locker room now that Marquez is gone?)
Recent reports have circulated this year that Marquez, 33, is close to signing a two-year deal with Leon in Mexico. With Thursday’s release, he is free to do so.
From Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh:
This decision has been made in the best interests of both parties concerned. Rafa has accomplished a great deal during his career and is a top quality player. We want to thank him for his service to the Red Bulls and wish him the best of luck in the next stage of his career.”
Henry, by the way, consistently defended Marquez. The French attacker insisted the team needed Marquez’s passing and sophisticated distribution out of the back for the best chances of claiming an MLS title. Which may have been true; we’ll never know. Because in an action that fairly typified Marquez’s messy time with the organization, the former Barcelona man got himself thrown out the team’s close, second-leg playoff contest against D.C. United.
- Foxes unbeaten in five vs. Stoke
- Drew 2-2 at the Potteries on Nov. 4
- Leicester leads all-time 34W-34D-31L
Leicester City can rejoin the Top Seven with a win and help on Friday when it hosts relegation-threatened Stoke City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Foxes sit eighth in the Premier League table, a point back of Burnley (The Clarets host Southampton on Saturday)
Stoke, meanwhile, is two points back of safety. The half-full glass says the Potters have only lost once since Paul Lambert took over as boss, but the half-empty one sees draws against Watford and Brighton to go a loss at Bournemouth.
What they’re saying
Leicester boss Claude Puel on Stoke’s fortunes: “Shaqiri can make the difference and at the moment they play well with a good fighting spirit. I think they play good football on the floor. When they recover the ball they try to get in behind and make good pressing on the opponent. Shaqiri has more freedom and plays between the lines and they are a good team at this moment.”
Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Paul Lambert’s style: “He has a German mentality with his teams… I’m really glad he came here. With German teams they always sit together – there are no phones on the table. It’s brought us more together – when you eat together you have to speak more to other team-mates who you don’t normally speak to. It’s a good thing.”
Phone ban or no, it will take improved communication to deal with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Adrien Silva. Leicester gets another win, 3-0.
The English Football Association has charged Pep Guardiola for wearing a political message.
Guardiola has been wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence, and that’s in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.
[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. West Ham ]
The Manchester City boss was born in Santpedor in central Catalonia, and played for Catalan club Barcelona in addition to representing both the Spain and Catalonia national teams.
Guardiola has until Monday to respond to the charge.
He’s spoken of jailed Catalans and Spain’s unwillingness to allow a Catalan independence vote as a concern for democracy.
- West Ham one loss in last 8 PL matches
- Reds won 4-1 in London on Nov. 4
- Liverpool leads all-time 70W-37D-28L
Liverpool can move second in the Premier League if it handles its business against West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Reds enter the day two points and two goals of differential behind Manchester United, and are a point ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. The Red Devils and Blues meet on Sunday.
WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE
A Mohamed Salah double led the Reds past the Irons in a London Stadium meeting earlier this season, but West Ham is a much different team under David Moyes.
Part of that is a firing Marko Arnautovic, who has seven goals and three assists in his last nine matches for West Ham.
The Irons announced the sale of Jose Fonte to Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang on Friday.
What they’re saying
Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s Spanish training camp: “As always with a training camp, you want the boys to be together the whole day. We are a lot together but not when we have time off so we had that time as well. The weather was brilliant and everything was easier – if you have to do hard work, which we did there, it is easier if the weather plays in your cards and that was a change of circumstance after a long winter. ”
West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the Irons renewed season: “We had our targets, but they changed. At the beginning of the season, we were aiming to qualify for European competition, but now we are fighting against relegation, but that is sport, that is football and part of life, so we need to accept it and try to be better and get out and see what’s going to happen next year. If we have all these players recovered, probably next year we are going to be fighting for a European position, you never know.”
The Reds are hard to predict, but the lay-off between their Porto triumph in the Champions League and Saturday’s match should benefit Liverpool. 2-1 to the hosts.
Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.
Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.
[ MORE: Europa League draw ]
Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.
“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”
The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.
The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.
Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).