Drogba headshot

Didier Drogba’s coming to Seattle this summer? Quick thoughts on a thin rumor

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Tuesday’s Major League Soccer rumor mills erupted, spewing enough fire to burn down the rest of the factory that churns out all the rumor mills. From the resulting flotsam, a Seattle Times beat man was able to collect the particulates of a story, though with the team refused to treat it as anything other than rumor.

That didn’t stop Sounders fans from indulging their fantasies. Didier Drogba may be coming to Seattle, which means people are getting excited on the Internet.

And who can blame them. Given the certainty behind some of the talk (see the tweets linked in the Times’ story), this looks like either a very strong rumor or an incredibly huge whiff. If you’re inclined toward one camp or the other, just remember last year. Remember the rumors that had Kaká, Frank Lampard, and Diego Forlán arriving on these shores. Major League Soccer’s definitely in the midst of a good run, having landed players like Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley, but as one of the most recognizable soccer players in the world, Drogba is more Kaká than Defoe.

There’s also the nature of the tweets Joshua Mayers (as good as they come on MLS beats) links in his post. One person is in media with beIN Sports, but he’s also speaking like a regular fan. It can often be confusing, but when media isn’t posting “breaking,” “can confirm,” or “this is not a joke” with their tweet, they should be allowed to speculate like normal people. Ultimately, it’s only Twitter, and although people do break stories on that platform, most of the time they’re just engaging the conversation.

The other tweet is less ambiguous, but it’s not exactly Woodward talking to Deep Throat. It is essentially saying ‘I know a guy who knows a guy who says Drogba’s going to Seattle.’ Another guy who knows a guy:

But you know what? Sometimes a guy who knows a guy is right. So for the sake of this post (Not Gonna Lie®), I’m going to fully embrace it. I’m going to suspend disbelief, accept this as a legitimate rumor, and consider what a world with a viable Drogba-to-MLS rumor would look like.

Let’s go Full Internet on this one (insert: whimpering puppy riding an orca into Isengaard dot gif). And when you go Full Internet, you make a list:

1. We’re beyond scoffing at this stuff, especially as it concerns Seattle

We live in a post-Dempsey utopia. What 1980s were to Quaaludes and stock fraud the 2010s will be to MLS spending with The Price Is Right’s oversized checks. Any day now, Don Garber will drag himself out of country club on his face before playing giant slalom with his Lamborghini. Keep it together, Commish.

This era of relative largesse means a whole new level of player is within MLS’s reach. It’s not just glamour sites like New York that can acquire an Henry. In MLS’s Quaaludes-driven binge, spenders like Seattle, Toronto, and Portland will be able to lure the Drogba-esque talents of the world. And when New York and Miami come in? David Justice will not pay for his own soda!

This is MLS’s new world order. You remember Breaking Madden? Well, this is MLS’s latest attempt to Break Football Manager. (And just like MLS, it’s a lot more modest.)

source: AP2. Can you imagine how people will react if Seattle DOES get him?

Prediction: Not well. Seattle already is still dealing with the backlash of their quick rise to prominence, with every retread national media story about Soccer Mecca met with eye rolls from the rest of MLS’s collective fan base. We get it, they scream every time an editor assigns 1500 to the annual ‘This Is Why Seattle Rules’ piece. After five years, a lot of fans are tired it. (But please, still read my annual Seattle piece.)

Here’s the problem, for those growing tired of Seattle: It’s not going away. In fact, if you’re annoyed by the Sounders getting so much love, it’s probably going to get worse. General manager/owner Adrian Hanauer is ambitious. The team is going to go after people. And when they snare somebody like Dempsey or Drogba, the national outlets are going to cover them. It’s not just that it’s a story. It’s a story people seem to want to hear. Again and again and again …

Just imagine how much time they’ll get if they ever made an MLS Cup. Or win it? I’m telling you, come to grips with it now. The Seattle Sounder story is not going anywhere soon. So let’s all lotus position and ohhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

3. Obafemi Martins would probably be gone

Obafemi Martins was one of the highest paid players in Major League Soccer last year, and he didn’t play like it.

That’s okay. It took Tim Cahill a little while to come around, too, but Tim Cahill didn’t spend his first offseason dropping hints he wanted to move back to Europe. With a résumé detailing a vagabond’s past, Martins has yet to quell doubts in Seattle.

If Drogba’s coming in, Martins will almost certainly be gone. Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso occupy the team’s other two Designated Player spots, and one of those contacts is unmovable. If Drogba is coming in, expect Seattle would almost have to allow Martins to kind another home.

Then again, Matíás Laba’s still a Red.

source: Getty Images4. Didier Drogba will probably wear down

Drogba wasn’t exactly a pillar of health during his last days with Chelsea. Since then, at stops in China and Turkey, his workload has decreased, but during last year’s African Cup of Nations, we saw what happened when the Ivorian was faced with a series of important games. His time had to be closely monitored, and he didn’t have an effective tournament (scoring once as Les Elephants were eliminated in the quarterfinals).

Drogba turns 36 in March, and while he still has the quality to succeed when playing, he doesn’t have the ability to avoid being worn down. Playing on CenturyLink’s turf would only compound that, as will the demanding nature of MLS’s fall schedule.

Perhaps Sigi Schmid and his staff would manage Drogba as effectively as Roberto Di Matteo did in Chelsea’s 2012 run to the Champions League title. Then again, Drogba was two years younger.

5. And if there’s one team that should avoid  another mid-season shakeup, it’s Seattle

Slotting in a striker mid-year isn’t as traumatic as bringing in a new midfield focal point, but if you’re Seattle, why would you even entertaining the idea of repeating 2013? Granted, a talent like Drogba’s can justify a lot of risk, but less than one year after the Dempsey shakeup was seen as a major factor in Seattle’s 2013 fade, they might bring in another big personality? Somebody who provides a defining presence on the field and off?

Special talents require special consideration. But still.

6. Didier Drogba is going to HATE Major League Soccer officials.

Potentially disgraceful, even:

(Warning: NSFW, language at the end.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toTx8wet820]

LIVE – Europa League group stage finale: Saints, Man United in crucial deciders

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League Group K match between Southampton FC and FC Internazionale Milano at St Mary's Stadium on November 3, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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This is it, don’t get scared now.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Premier League duo Southampton and Manchester United both go into their final group game of the UEFA Europa League needing to avoid defeat if their going to make the knockout rounds.

For United, their task is simple. Jose Mourinho’s men need just a point from their trip to Ukraine to play Zorya Luhansk to advance to the Round of 32, while a win could see them finish top depending on the result of the Feyenoord vs. Fenerbache game.

As for Southampton, it’s a little bit more complicated.

A win for Claude Puel‘s side at home against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at a sold out St Mary’s would see them safely through to the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the first time in club history. A 0-0 draw would also do the trick but a score draw (1-1, 2-2, 3-3 etc) would send the reigning Israeli champions through instead as they’d have the advantage in head-to-head away goals after the duo drew 0-0 in Israel back in October. Making the knockout rounds of this competition would be a huge deal for Southampton and would keep their cup momentum going after they reached the semifinals of the EFL Cup last week.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]   

Elsewhere there is plenty on the line across the 12 groups, with the standings page in the link above very handy to work out the permutations as the top two teams from each group (first place team is seeded, the second unseeded) advance to the Round of 32 and will be joined by the eight teams who finished third in their respective groups in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Below is the full schedule for Thursday’s game which kick off in three separate time slots, while you can follow live commentary and stats on the games by clicking on the link above.


Full Europa League schedule, Thursday Dec. 8

11 a.m. ET
Konyarspor vs. Gent
Qarabag vs. Fiorentina
Osmanlispor vs. Zurich
Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs. Steaua Bucuresti
PAOK vs. Liberece

1 p.m. ET
Vikrotia Plzen vs. Austria Wien
Apoel Nicosia vs. Olympiacos
Sassuolo vs. Genk
Anderlecht vs. Saint-Etienne
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Rapid Wien vs. Athletic Bilbao
Young Boys vs. Astana
AZ Alkmaar vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Feyenoord vs. Fenerbahce
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dundalk
Mainz vs. Gabala
Astra Giurgiu vs. Roma

3:05 p.m. ET
Panathinaikos vs. Celta Vigo
Standard Liege vs. Ajax
Inter Milan vs. Sparta Prague
Southampton vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva
RB Salzburg vs. Schalke
Nice vs. Krasnodar

Bob Bradley will remain in charge, says Swansea chairman

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With reports circulating in the British press that American coach Bob Bradley could be fired after just seven games in charge of Swansea City, their chairman has publicly backed the former U.S. national team head coach.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

Bradley, 58, has just one win in his opening seven games in charge of the Swans who currently sit bottom of the Premier League table on nine points, three points off safety.

That poor form, coupled with many other issues at the club, has reportedly prompted new American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien (they took over as majority owners in July) to conduct an extensive review of every department at the club.

However, chairman Huw Jenkins has moved to quell rumors about Bradley becoming the second Swansea manager to be fired through the opening 14 games of the season.

“I don’t know where that story came from, but it’s natural in football that everyone wants and needs results. But the last thing we need at this moment of time is a continual change in manager. We need stability first and foremost,” Jenkins told talkSPORT. “Take a team like Fulham, they changed managers three times in the season they tried to stave off relegation and we’re in a similar position now.”

“Perhaps in the summer I could have made a better decision – from pre-season onwards I don’t think things were right, it was too flat at the club. That had a knock-on effect and obviously it’s taken us a while to work through it. But we’re with Bob now to try and turn that corner – that’s what we’re working towards. We look at the January window as a chance to reinforce things. There are players not hitting the form levels they have done in the past and we have to find out why that is and get that right as well.”

So, it seems that sense is prevailing after all.

Jenkins took the blame for Swansea’s poor start to the season in media interviews on Wednesday and now the long-time chairman is backing his manager.

The south Wales businessman was part of a consortium which saved Swansea in 2004 and then led them on an incredible journey up from the fourth-tier to the Premier League, plus winning the League Cup and getting to the group stages of the Europa League. He and other directors have come in for some serious stick from Swansea’s fans for selling their stake to the new American owners and Jenkins is believed to have made just over $10 million from selling 8.2 percent of his 13.2 percent stake in the club.

On the pitch, it’s difficult to blame Bradley for the current situation Swansea finds itself in.

After some woeful moves in the transfer window last summer (Jenkins has admitted they weren’t great with Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew allowed to leave for big profits but their replacements just haven’t been good enough) the American coach needs at least one transfer window to bring in better players and the Swans are only three points off safety with a pivotal stretch of six games to come in the Premier League.

Home games against Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth, plus trips to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace will see the Swans go up against direct relegation rivals between now and Jan. 3.

The next four weeks will be huge not only for Swansea’s future but also for Bradley and ahead of their crunch home game against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) the American coach is eager to cut out defensive mistakes as the Swans have now conceded 19 goals in his seven games in charge.

“When you are a manager it (the pressure) goes with the territory,” Bradley said. “It is work as usual, knowing from the beginning when I got here that it would be a big challenge, and it is. When you see a scoreline like that it is easy to jump on us. We are not going to survive if we keep on conceding goals like this.”

Man United’s Europa League clash in doubt over frozen pitch

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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Manchester United and Jose Mourinho may not play their UEFA Europa League game against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

[ MORE: Ozil, Sanchez leaving Arsenal? ]

Amid freezing conditions in the Ukrainian city of Odessa (Zorya cannot play their games at home due to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine) the pitch underwent an inspection on Thursday and with covers and heaters on the playing surface overnight, there is hope the game should go ahead.

However, Jose Mourinho has already talked about the state of the pitch as not being ideal, while the likes of Daley Blind and Paul Pogba looked far from impressed when they went out for a training session on Wednesday in freezing conditions.

Remember, United only needs a point from the game against Zorya to qualify for the Europa League Round of 32 and Mourinho has selected a strong 19-man squad for the trip. 

A statement from Zorya said the following on Thursday morning, as they remain hopeful of the game going ahead.

“Everything depends on the weather. The pitch is not brilliant at the moment. We are expecting temperatures of two or three degrees and everything should be okay.”

Below was the scene in Odessa yesterday for United’s training session, via Simon Peach of the Press Association.


Yep, the pitch doesn’t look great.

Barcelona invites Chapecoense to play friendly

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 22: Supporters of Chapecoense cheer their team during the match between Chapecoense and Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda on October 22, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has extended an invitation to host a friendly match against the Brazilian soccer club involved in last week’s plane crash.

Chapecoense was on its way to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, one of South America’s most prestigious club tournaments, when its flight went down in Colombia, killing all but six of the 77 players, officials and journalists on board.

The match would be played in August. The friendly, called the Joan Gamper trophy, is used as Barcelona’s traditional curtain raiser for the new season.

Barcelona says it sent a formal invitation to Chapecoense on Thursday.

Barcelona says it wants to “pay homage to the 71 people who died in the accident as well as their families.”