Chelsea and Wayne Rooney: Is this what England missed about José Mourinho?

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If this wasn’t England — if one of the country’s favorite managers wasn’t returning home — would a coach be able to publicly tap up a player the way José Mourinho has Wayne Rooney? Be it the Chelsea boss calling Rooney turning “likes” into a double entendre or hinting a diminished club role for the Manchester United star would be bad for England (an overt plea to the press’s nationalism), it’s unlikely Mourinho would be allowed to use the press like this in Italy or Spain. His comments would be published and dissected, all of his potential motives laid bare as the press debated his professionalism. No wonder Mourinho has such an affinity for England.

It’s probably a good thing that the returning Chelsea boss is getting a pass. We tend to take everything a coach or player takes far too seriously. So what if Mourinho says Rooney’s a good player? As David Moyes pointed out shortly after, managers are usually supposed to refrain from speaking about other teams’ talent, but when you’re talking about a player of Rooney’s stature, it’s really not a big deal. Nobody’s learning anything new. And the idea England will be hurt if Rooney’s not first choice at Manchester United? Honestly, who cares, especially in the context of the Premier League? Even if he’s not part of Moyes’ selection for big games, Rooney’s not going to lack for playing time.

In that sense, it’d be nice if the press gave everybody the same leash they’re giving Mourinho. We’d certainly get a lot more entertainment out of Arsène Wenger, Paolo Di Canio, Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce if they were given license to fire off at any time on any thing. That aren’t exemplifies the strange sycophancy the press has developed toward Mourinho. He’s a brilliant quote, great coach, and particularly when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004, he was a breath of platitude-slicing fresh air. Now, though, his novelty has expired, and while he’s still providing us with more information than any other manager, there’s no reason to continue paying rhetorical tribute at the Special One’s alter.

This is, however, the Mourinho what we’ve missed the last six years. We’ve missed him tapping up players, taking shots at his peers, conjuring obscure metaphors to give new life to the same responses, giving beat reporters something new to hand into the editors hours later. We’ve missed the unabashed confidence, the honest assessments in the tunnel post-match, an a willingness to step into the spotlight, win or lose.

And exchange for all that, to get all that back in the Premier League, the press are willing to let Mourinho play games with Manchester United and Wayne Rooney. They’re willing to clear the stage for a reboot of Special1TV. It may not be how other managers go about their business, but it’s far more entertaining.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million, and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.

Geiger, Marrufo, Villarreal picked as Gold Cup referees

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) Mark Geiger, who three years ago became the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup, is among 17 referees picked for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Americans Jair Marrufo and Armando Villarreal also were announced Thursday for the 12-nation tournament, which runs from July 7-26 in various U.S. cities.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Geiger, who is from New Jersey, was a referee for France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria in the round of 16.

Three each were picked from Mexico (Roberto Garcia, Fernando Guerrero and Cesar Ramos) and Honduras (Melvin Matamoros, Oscar Moncada and Hector Rodriguez).

Two will come from Costa Rica: Henry Bejarano and Ricardo Montero.

Others picked for the tournament are Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Drew Fischer (Canada), Walter Lopez (Guatemala), Yadel Martinez (Cuba), John Pitti (Panama) and Kimbell Ward (St. Kitts and Nevis).