Qatar-Player Dies

Tributes pour in for Ecuadorian striker Christian Benitez following his tragic death

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With the soccer world still reeling following the shocking death of Christian Benitez, people across the globe have been honoring the Ecuadorian international.

Benitez died at the age of 27 on Monday, as his heart stopped just hours after his debut for Qatar’s El Jaish. According to the Associated Press, Benitez’s funeral will be held in his native Ecuador on Thursday.

Also known as ‘Chucho’, Benitez had been playing in El Jaish’s 2-0 win against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup. It was his first game for his new team following a $16 million move from Mexican giants Club América.

It is thought Benitez was suffering from intense stomach and chest pains before his heart stopped following the game for new team El Jaish. Former teammates, clubs and friends have been speaking out following the forwards death and many plan to honor Chucho at games around the world this weekend.

Chucho’s talent was undoubted and last season with América was his most successful, as he hit 30 goals in 43 games and led the Mexico City based club to the 2013 Clausura title.

President of the Ecuadorian Football Federation, Luis Chiriboga Acosta, had this to say yesterday.

This morning we woke feeling profound pain, a pain that all Ecuadorians share, after losing an extraordinary human being, a son, friend, husband and player.

Benitez was the son of Ermen Benitez, one of Ecuador’s all-time leading goalscorers and the entire country has been shocked by the death of their superstar player. Benitez was capped 58 times by his country and scored 24 goals.

(MORE: Tragedy strikes as Ecuador star Christian Benitez, 27, dies)

Birmingham City, who Benitez played for during the 2009-10 season, will hold a minute’s silence before Saturday’s game against Watford, while Birmingham’s players will wear black armbands in respect.

The English side said this in a statement:  “Everybody associated with the club was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chucho, the Ecuador international was an immensely popular character at St. Andrew’s. A large number of supporters have contacted the club expressing a desire to celebrate Chucho’s time at Blues with a minute’s applause in the 11th minute to mark the striker’s squad number.”

While soccer players around the world took to Twitter to honor Benitez’ memory.

Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand

Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed after suffering a heart attack whilst playing for Bolton vs. Spurs in 2012 and had to retire from soccer

While Antonio Valencia, teammates with Benitez for Ecuador, has asked Manchester United to let him leave preseason to attend Benitez funeral in South America.

A humbling response from the global soccer community for a talented man who was taken from us far too soon.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.