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Southgate forewarns England players over off-field discipline

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Gareth Southgate began his tenure as England’s permanent coach with a message to his players: Act like elite sportsmen or forget about competing with the world’s best.

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The last time England’s players were on international duty for games against Scotland and Spain, Wayne Rooney was pictured looking bleary-eyed at a wedding reception at the team hotel while other players reportedly went on a night out that involved a 200-mile round trip.

No rules were broken as the players were officially off that night, but there has been criticism of their off-field discipline and questions asked about whether they are leading the lifestyle of elite athletes.

Discipline was high on the agenda for Southgate in his first news conference since being given the job on a full-time basis, and the new coach said it would be wrong of him to “read any riot acts” and “lay down the law.”

There was a gentle reminder, however, that England’s players need to act responsibly and change their off-field culture if the team is to challenge for major titles. England’s one and only trophy remains the 1966 World Cup and the team has performed poorly in recent tournaments.

[ MORE: Previewing all 10 PL games — Week 14 ]

“If we think we are good enough to play the best teams in the world and give ourselves a slight handicap on the way, good luck with that,” said Southgate, showing there’s a no-nonsense side to one of the supposed “nice guys” of English soccer.

“The key is,” he added, “we want to develop an elite team. We want to be a world-class team. Every aspect of our training and prep has to work towards that.”

There is set to be a review of what players do in their down-time while on international duty.

“Fundamental to that,” Southgate said, “is how are we going to be physically at our very best to perform at the highest level because in international and top European football in this day and age, the physical preparation is key. So there is an opportunity to discuss it with the players and see what they want to do.”

Southgate said Rooney will remain as England’s captain even though the Manchester United forward started only two of the four games during Southgate’s spell as interim coach.

[ MORE: Bob Bradley — Swansea entering “critical period” in season ]

“It’s obviously not a case that Wayne expects to play every game,” Southgate said. “It’s important for me that we develop more leaders in that group.

“Wayne has played an important part for England up to this point. I’m sure he will do in the future, but we have to develop others.”

One day into his job as England’s full-time soccer coach, Southgate will fully appreciate there is far more to the role than training and picking 11 players to go out on the field for matches.

Aside from the players’ off-the-field culture, Southgate was quizzed about the sex abuse scandal engulfing the English game, including whether his employer – the Football Association – has a grip on the issue and whether he would encourage players to come forward with their own personal experiences.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup — Martial, and “the new Kante” ]

Soccer took a back seat, which is something Southgate may have to get used to. It also demonstrated the demanding and wide-ranging nature of the role.

“I’m in a position where the comments I make, the opinions I have are going to be reported a lot more widely and there’s a great responsibility that comes with that,” Southgate said. “That’s something I’m comfortable with. It’s important in this role to show leadership.

“There’s a need to be a good coach, a good teacher … but leadership is fundamental in what we do here.”

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Chelsea still pursuing Roma duo, and more

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Chelsea is looking to make a big transfer splash as it searches for potential replacements for Michy Batshuayi and David Luiz.

According to multiple reports, Chelsea is attempting a double signing from AS Roma, forward Edin Dzeko and midfielder Emerson Palmieri. The Brazilian left-back is rated by Roma at $30.5 million but he could join Chelsea on loan. However the interest in Dzeko is much newer, and it’s unclear whether Roma would allow Dzeko to leave, especially in the middle of the season.

[READ: MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker]

With Roma preparing to face Inter Milan this weekend, talks between the two clubs have been put on hold until next week.

Dzeko’s agent confirmed that Conte is interested in the Bosnia and Herzegovina international but stated Dzeko’s desire is to remain at Roma.

After failing to beat out Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup for Manchester City, it would be interesting to see Dzeko give the Premier League another go, although he’d likely play second-fiddle again, this time to Alvaro Morata.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe and the Premier League:

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MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker

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For a few dozen players, hearing their name called up to the big stage will validate all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve made since they were children.

Starting at 11:00 a.m. when Los Angeles FC is on the clock at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the 2018 MLS SuperDraft will be underway. Many of the top college prospects will soon find out whether they’ll be headed to the Pacific Northwest, New England, the Southeast, Southern California or anywhere in between.

[MORE: 2018 MLS Mock Draft]

This year’s draft class is loaded with attacking talent, from Generation Adidas trio Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest), Mason Toye (Indiana) and Francis Atuahene (Michigan) to Twumasi’s college teammate Jon Bakero.

But potential No. 1 overall pick is a three-time national champion, Thomas Hilliard-Arce, who could become the anchor of a backline for a decade.

Follow along below as we update the picks live as we hear them:

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Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

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“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]