Mexican referee Marco “Chiquimarco” Rodriguez retires

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After officiating the 7-1 German onslaught of the host nation at the 2014 World Cup, referee Marco Rodriguez has finally called it quits.

The Mexican federation officially announced the retirement of the man known as “Chiquidracula” due to his resemblance to an actor that played Count Dracula, but asked instead to be called “Chiquimarco.”

“I dreamed of [working] three World Cups, and I’m satisfied,” Rodriguez, 40, said in a press conference from Mexico. “I am satisfied by the achievements in my 25-year career. Brazil was the place where I showed all that I acquired over my career.”

Including the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, Rodriguez officiated a total of seven World Cup matches over three different tournaments, with the Brazil vs. Germany semifinal match his first outside of the group stage.

Rodriguez has been a referee in the Mexican Liga MX since 1997 and a FIFA referee since 2000. He quickly picked up a reputation as a strict referee not afraid to pull cards out of his pocket.

Australia’s Tim Cahill learned this the hard way, earning a controversial straight red card in the 2010 World Cup in an eventual 4-0 loss. Rodriguez also handed Chile’s Marco Estrada a second yellow in the same tournament, falling for a clear dive by Fernando Torres.

Other incidents Rodriguez was known for included the famous “double yellow” in the 2012 Mexican Apertura finals between Tigres and Santos, where he produced two yellow cards at once, holding each hand.  Overall, he sent off three players from that match and issued seven yellows, and was suspended for five matches following the incident.

Despite this incident, Liga MX refereeing official Marco Trejo at the time still called him “one of our top referees.”

The 40-year-old also refereed the group stage match between Uruguay and Italy in this year’s World Cup that saw Luis Suarez eventually banned for biting Giorgio Chiellini. Rodriguez missed the incident and did not punish Suarez during play.  In that match he also correctly sent off Italy’s Claudio Marchisio with a straight red for a dangerous tackle.

Rodriguez was most recently at the center of controversy in the United States (not entirely of his own doing) when he was assigned to referee a World Cup qualifier last September between Costa Rica and the United States. The match was just four days before the US took on Mexico in Columbus, and Jurgen Klinsmann spoke publicly about having to deal with a strict referee so close to an important match with eight of his players facing a yellow card suspension.

Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore were all shown yellows during the eventual 3-1 loss to Costa Rica and were forced to miss the next match, but the US beat Mexico 2-0 anyways to secure a berth in the 2014 World Cup.

Outside of refereeing, Rodriguez is a Protestant priest.

“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.