Champions League exit begins two months in limbo for Milan

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“The UEFA Champions League was an important objective for us,” Milan head coach Clarence Seedorf conceded after today’s loss. Leaving the competition after losing by four goals (aggregate), the Rossoneri’s performance made “loss” into a euphemism. It’s more accurate to call it a rout.

Champions League was also Milan’s last chance to redeem the 2013-14 season. Coppa Italia is gone. Resting 11th place in Serie A, Milan can neither compete for Europe nor reasonably worry about relegation. Of course they need to improve, and that’s what the next two months will be about, but with a squad so flawed that major moves will be needed this offseason, any squad building could be undone this summer. Pride is a significant part of sports, but 10 days before spring arrives, that’s all Milan’s playing for.

Had Milan pulled an upset today, it’d have one more round of Champions League. Maybe it catches lightning in a bottle, get a good draw, and get into the final four. Who knows? It wasn’t so long ago that Schalke was facing Manchester United for a spot in the finals. Regardless, as long as Milan was alive in Champions League, the squad had something to play for.

“[Now] now we have to give ourselves other targets …,” Seedorf confessed after today’s loss in Madrid. “There are 11 games left and we need precise aims because we cannot throw away the good things we have done.”

It’s tempting to ask ‘what good things’, but for the first 40, 45 minutes to today’s match, Milan looked like a team capable of competing against Atlético. Perhaps they were slightly feckless, as they have been throughout their time under Seedorf, but they also seemed on the verge. There is something about this Milan team that feels like that next gear is within reach. At this point, however, the transmission’s probably shot.

To the extent that anything can be gained if Milan manages to wake up, the team will be able to identify which players should (and should not) return next season. But more and more, the team seems to be going through what their San Siro cohabitants experienced last year.

Then, Inter fell to ninth, was forced to embrace their temporary irrelevance, and dropped a bomb on the operation last summer. Walter Mazzarri was brought in from Napoli, and while the Nerazzurri have yet to regain their title-contending relevance, they’ve made strides. Currently in fifth, Inter could yet find their way back into Europe.

That’s the path Milan is now on. This summer, they’ll surely regroup under Seedorf. They’ll try to find homes for some of their expensive talents while hoping Mario Balotelli, Keisuke Honda, and Kaká can meld. The midfield needs a better connector and the defense has to improve, but Seedorf has two months to decide what exactly he wants.

Until then, Milan is going to be irrelevant, if only in the competitive sense. Having been eliminated from Europe, the Rossoneri start the process that would have begun sooner had they been drawn in  tougher Champions League group. Now they get to look beyond this season and ask ‘How do we prevent this form happening next year?’

Official Klopp merchandise you need to see

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Liverpool have gone all out with the Jurgen Klopp themed merchandise and you have to applaud the Anfield outfit for the speed at which it was available.

On the same day that Klopp was unveiled in the Centenary Stand at Anfield — check out my behind-the-scenes observations from a special day on Merseyside — the club shop was already offering mugs, t-shirts and mouse mats with Klopp’s cartoon image on them.

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The best was perhaps this shirt in the first picture below, as the slogan simply reads “The Normal One” as that was how Klopp announced himself in his first press conference as Liverpool boss when asked for a comparison to Jose Mourinho’s infamous “Special One” tag on his opening day as a Premier League manager.

Optimism levels around Klopp’s arrival at Anfield are going through the roof, and the 48-year-old former Borussia Dortmund coach certainly said all the right things during his unveiling.

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Take a peek at the merchandise below to see what’s on offer as the German coach tries to bring in a new era of success at Anfield. And hey, if it he doesn’t bring success on the pitch, surely income from merchandise sales will get a boost…

Beckham on plans for MLS in Miami, stadium talks continue

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David Beckham is hoping for his Major League Soccer franchise to be run just like the club he supports: Manchester United.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Beckham, 40, is still working on finalizing a stadium for his MLS team to play in, more on that below, but he has been speaking about his dream of becoming an owner and has earmarked the 2018 MLS season as when his franchise will arrive on the scene.

Beckham spoke to the Daily Star in the UK about his vision for the MLS club, and says the team he came up through the ranks with and played for professional for 12-years is the benchmark.

“We want the club to be run professionally — everything needs to be run like a club like Manchester United,” Beckham said. “You have to look at it like that. Luckily, I’ve had a little bit of experience in that and I definitely will be a demanding owner. I want the team to be successful and the club to be successful, so I think I have to be demanding.”

The former United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder also spoke about the lengthy delays with the stadium deal and how “dealing with the political side of things in Miami has been a lot more difficult” than he expected.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

In fact, a source has told ProSoccerTalk that the proposed stadium site for Beckham’s franchise, directly next to Major League Baseball franchise Miami Marlins’ home, Marlins Park, in Little Havana, is still some way from being signed off on as many restrictions will be placed on Beckham and his ownership group before the first shovel hits the ground. Beckham himself said in his latest update that in six weeks time he hopes to name the stadium site.

However the source confirmed that any stadium announcement deal could be someway off as Beckham’s ownership group – which includes PR tycoon, agent and close friend Simon Fuller, plus Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure – still haven’t hammered out many of the specifics of a stadium deal with the City of Miami, while negotiations with the Marlins are also expected to take months before any stadium deal can be confirmed. The source added that the Marlins are positive about turning derelict land opposite their current Marlins Park home into an MLS stadium, but there are several conditions which have to be met in order for the stadium to be given the green light by the MLB franchise. These conditions include no MLS games conflicting with Marlins games, sponsorship deals not conflicting with those the Marlins have on the outside of their stadium and various other facets including transportation links and infrastructure.

Beckham's plans for an MLS stadium in downtown Miami had to be shelved.
Beckham’s initial plans for an MLS stadium in downtown Miami had to be shelved.

The source goes on to note that several high-ranking City officials and business operators in and around Miami Dade County still feel unease towards Beckham and the razzmatazz surrounding his initial stadium plan to house his MLS team on a prime waterfront location in Downtown Miami (see photo, above) next to the Miami Heat’s American Airlines arena. Beckham has since accepted that his opening stadium plan was “cheeky” but many business leaders had their noses put out of joint and many are making it increasingly difficult for a stadium deal to get over the line for the former LA Galaxy star.

In terms of the specifics surrounding a potential new home for what will now, given the delays, surely become MLS’ 24th franchise in either 2018 or 2019, the location picked is just over two miles from Downtown Miami with good links via public transport and roads. It is in a neighborhood which has a tough past but is on the up as rap star Pitbull has just built a huge academy (Sports Leaders and Management Charter Middle/High School) offering opportunities for education to underprivileged children in the Little Havana community. Along with Marlins Park, the addition of an MLS franchise would undoubtedly bring plenty of jobs into the area and help boost the economy further.

Beckham’s dream of owning a team in Miami is edging closer to realization but it seems like it’s still some way off having a stadium to call home.