Nadine Angerer, FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2013

Nadine Angerer wins 2013 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, beating out Abby Wambach, Marta

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Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was named the 2013 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year on Monday just hours after announcing she had signed with Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. She beat out the United States’ Abby Wambach – the 2012 winner – and Brazil’s Marta, who won the award five straight times from 2006-2010.

Among the 147 national team coaches, 146 captains and 88 media members, Angerer grabbed 612 points, while Wambach claimed 539 points and Marta earned 439 points. All the votes can be found here.

Angerer’s shining moments came at Euro 2013, most notably the final, where she saved two penalty kicks to preserve Germany’s 1-0 victory over Norway, clinching the title for Germany. Her performance at Euro 2013 was incredible. Saving two penalty kicks in a major tournament final? Legendary stuff.

But they were moments of brilliance in a full year – a full year in which the likes of Goeßling, Schelin and Wambach, among many others, stood out through most of the calendar.
I considered voting for Angerer at times, but with no disrespect to her, one point reverberated in my head: Is the No. 1 player in the world right now a 35-year-old goalkeeper? Surely not. Not with all the talent in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

I wrote in October, before being granted the U.S. media vote, that league play needed to be considered more when voting for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. Thus, I factored league play heavily in my vote:

1) Lena Goeßling (Germany/VfL Wolfsburg) – Named to the all-tournament team for Euro 2013, Goeßling was a lynchpin in Germany’s midfield but also excelled at the club level. She helped lead VfL Wolfsburg to a historic treble, completing it emphatically with a 1-0 win over Lyon team in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, preventing the French side from claiming an unprecedented third straight title. Goeßling earned player of the match. She tallied four goals in league play last season and one in UEFA Champions League, but Goeßling’s best assets come in her playmaking ability and control of the midfield, like she did with Nadine Keßler in the final against Lyon.

2) Lotta Schelin (Sweden/Lyon) – Plain and simple, Schelin just scores. She does it for Sweden and she does it for Lyon. And while the argument that there are a lot of cupcake games in Feminine Division 1 is valid, Schelin scored in big games that counted last season. She had 24 goals in the 2012-13 season, scoring in big games against the rest of the top of the table: PSG, Juvisy and Montpellier. Schelin tallied in both legs of the Champions League quarterfinal against LdB Malmö and four goals in the two-leg semifinal against Juvisy. She was top scorer at Euro 2013 with five goals. The only thing that she can’t seem to do is ever make the final three for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, which is shocking.

3) Abby Wambach (USA/Western New York Flash) – Obviously Wambach broke the international goal scoring record and enters 2014 with 163 goals, a remarkable number. She did that in style, scoring four goals against South Korea to jump to 160, but that speaks more to a total body of work over her career. The reality is that the U.S. didn’t play a game that wasn’t a friendly (yes, even the Algarve Cup) in 2013. But Wambach was still a force with the red, white and blue and, even more impressively, with the Western New York Flash. At age 33, many have been expecting a dip in form from Wambach. But she registered 11 goals and eight assists in the inaugural NWSL season and looked as good as ever, carrying her side into the final, where the Flash lost to Portland.

“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.