Samuel Eto’o calls José Mourinho a ‘fool’, but soccer’s age fraud problem still a concern

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While fighting for time in Chelsea’s squad, Samuel Eto’o had reason to keep his mouth shut. Now that he’s away from the Blues and preparing for the World Cup, the Cameroonian international can finally hit back at José Mourinho, who earlier this year implied the man he’s coach with Chelsea and Inter Milan was older than he’s listed.

“Today, I am 33 years old,” Eto’o told AfricanFootball.com. “And it is not because a fool called me an old man that you must believe it.”

Mourinho’s comment came in an off-the-record conversation that was eventually distributed by French broadcaster Canal+. Explaining why he felt his club wouldn’t win the Premier League, the Blues’ boss pointed to the lack of talent at striker, casting doubt on Eto’o’s claimed age.

“Will we win the title?” Mourinho queried in a conversation broadcast on Canal +. “No, we don’t have any scorer. Samuel Eto’o? He is 32-years-old, maybe 35, I don’t know.”

Eto’o would go on to finish the 2013-14 season with 12 goals in 32 all-competition appearances. Fernando Torres added 11, while Demba Ba finished with eight.

Age cheating isn’t something to be taken lightly, but neither are Mourinho’s words. Whereas the outspoken boss is known for using his time in front of the microphones to serve his whims, the quotes Canal+ released were off-the-record. Perhaps he was making a joke, maybe exaggerating his woe, but this wasn’t just Mourinho being tossing out a good quote. This wasn’t supposed to be a quote at all.

Eto’o responded as you’d expect, with an annoyed dismissal, but these are the kind of doubts that hover over African players. It’s unfair, it’s lazy, but unfortunately, it’s also not an entirely baseless concern. Just as Major League Baseball began taking new steps after a series of prominent age-fraud incidents, soccer needs to adopt measures to combat this type of cheating.

FIFA has started making progress my using MRI scans of players’ wrists to discern if a player might be too old for age-restricted tournaments. On the club-level, though, it’s unclear where the incentives lie. A player can make more if he’s understood to be younger. Agents have a greater chance to place the player. Competition between teams is such that being willing to take a chance on a player that might be older could land you a talent while another club wavers.

As the rumors around Radamel Falcao attest, this isn’t purely an African concern. The issue is less about geography than urgency. FIFA is taking steps, but in the club world, there’s no huge push to implement similar measures. At the levels of Falcao and other players who command eight-digit transfer fees, teams will usually take every step possible. Lower down the totem pole, players are more likely to land a deal without the same precautions.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET