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Wayne Rooney’s return gives Everton’s revival a leader

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Wayne Rooney sat next to Ronald Koeman smiling from ear to ear as he held the Everton jersey once again.

These two are the forefront of Everton’s revival.

[ MORE: Rooney United’s best ever? ]

Being unveiled to the media on Monday at Goodison Park, the all-time leading goalscorer for Manchester United and England had returned to the club where he made his name and the team he still supports.

Rooney, 31, repeatedly stated that Everton’s aim must be to win a trophy for the first time since 1995 and his burning desire is to help his boyhood club in their exciting new era.

Both Rooney and Koeman acknowledged that there’s extra pressure on Everton given their summer of spending, and both know they have to deliver. Now.

“With Ronald’s ideas and the players we are bringing in, it’s on us,” Rooney said. “It’s alright sitting here saying ‘we want to win trophies’ but it’s on us as a football club to make sure we do that. That’s why we have to work hard and make sure we are in the best position to do that… That’s why you play football, to win trophies. That’s of course the target and the aim. That’s what we want to do. We don’t want to limp around in the season, we want to be successful. I know we have the right man to lead us to do that.”

Koeman may well have the right man in Rooney to lead his young, talented squad and Rooney admitted that the decision to go back was “a no-brainer” while his manager spoke of Rooney’s desperation to return.

After spending 13 years away winning every trophy possible at Manchester United, Rooney has now returned hungry to prove the doubters wrong and it’s clear that Koeman has big plans for the Evertonian.

When asked where Rooney would play — now a key question for most of his managers as father time catches up with him — Koeman gave an intriguing answer.

“Everybody knows the qualities of Wayne. It is try to get more productivity, we spoke about last season. He is a striker,” Koeman said. “Offensively he can be a No.10 behind the striker. A free role from the left. The No.9. The No.7. That’s the position he will play.”

In short: he will be used wherever and whenever he’s needed. Rooney seems just fine with that after spending a season mostly on the bench at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho.

“I needed to play more games and I didn’t play that often last season. I know I’m at my best when I’m playing games consistently,” Rooney said. “I spoke with Jose [Mourinho] and it was the right time for me to leave and go and play somewhere else and I firmly believed Everton was the right option for me to do that.”

Koeman now has a figurehead to build his team around.

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Last season was his first in charge at Goodison and although his young team excited with a seventh-place finish, flirting with a top four finish for a little while, losing the goals of Romelu Lukaku (his move to Manchester United is close to completion) will hurt the Toffees.

Koeman wants to see “several players scoring 10-15 goals rather than one scoring 25” and with Sandro, Davy Klaassen and Rooney coming in to compliment Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Yannick Bolasie and others, all of a sudden Everton is loaded with different attacking options.

Given his experience of delivering on the big stage, Rooney could be the key cog.

“The experience of Wayne is really important to win something and to bring to the rest of the players,” Koeman said. “We have some good older players in the team, there is a lot of experience, but we have some really good young talented football players. It’s an example for them to learn from him and learn from other players in the team. Altogether it was really important for me to try to bring Wayne back to the club.”

Koeman suggested more new arrivals would follow as Everton are linked with deals for Olivier Giroud, Gylfi Sigurdsson and others, but it is Rooney who will help knit everything together.

A true blue at heart, the Liverpudlian striker revealed he is ready for the next step of his career and brushed off talk of him returning to the England squad, simply saying that if his performances are good enough for Everton then Gareth Southgate can’t possibly ignore him.

“I was at the stage of my career when I had to take the next step,” Rooney said. “I thought about it and obviously after speaking to Ronald, the discussions we had, I knew it was where I needed to play and needed to be. I’m excited. I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”

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Whether or not Rooney will be handed the captains armband remains to be seen, but winning trophies for Everton is at the forefront of his mind and if he can regain his best form then this addition will look like a masterclass from Koeman.

What if he could lead Everton to their first piece of silverware in over two decades?

“It would be incredible,” Rooney replied. “I was at the final in 1995 and to win a trophy as an Everton player, it would be a special moment.”

Everton’s fans, Rooney and Koeman are hoping they are the start of a special era for the Toffees.

With big money spent on new players, a new stadium on the way and youngsters rising to the first team, having a local lad and die-hard fan leading the charge is almost the fairytale scenario.

Their Dutch manager knows fairytale’s don’t come true without spending big and putting the right type of players together.

“We want to continue what we did last season,” Koeman explained. “Everybody knows everyone is trying to get the best players and all the big six in the Premier League, they will try and spend money as well. But I think that it is a good signal to everybody that we are on board and we will try to give them that competition that we didn’t last season. We did well last season but now we need to make the next step. To make the next step we need to get that type of player in and with the type of qualities to improve.”

Rooney, Koeman and Everton will take the next step together.

Real Madrid come from behind to win in Club World Cup semis

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Real Madrid made things on Wednesday a bit more complicated than they would have preferred, but the two-time defending European champions are through to the final of the Club World Cup for the second straight year.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

Zinedine Zidane’s men came from behind to beat United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira (winners of the U.A.E. Pro League, the tournament’s host country), courtesy of second-half goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, 2-1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Al Jazira held a 1-0 halftime lead, thanks to Romarinho’s opening goal in the 41st minute. The advantage lasted just a dozen minutes, though, as Ronaldo used Madrid’s first genuine chance of the game to bring Los Blancos back onto level terms in the 53rd minute. Luka Modric slipped the Portuguese superstar through, and the recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner finished with ease to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: West Ham targeting Wilshere in January transfer window ]

The winner didn’t come for quite some time after that, as Madrid were made to wait — and work — for their place in Saturday’s final, where they’ll face Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio. Bale had only just come off the bench seconds earlier, when Lucas Vazquez cut the ball back for Bale to hit it hard and low past the goalkeeper.

The Welshman nearly made it 3-1 with four minutes to go in regular time, but his scissor from the edge of the box was saved to deny Madrid a stunning insurance goal very late on.

Madrid are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Club World Cup titles after beating Kashima Antlers, 4-2 after extra-time, in the 2016 final.

Watch Live: Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs in action

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Seven Premier League games are coming your way from 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City head to Swansea looking to extend their winning streak to a record-breaking 15-straight in a season, while Manchester United host Bournemouth and Tottenham welcome Brighton to Wembley. There’s a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal, while Liverpool host West Brom, in-form Leicester head to Southampton and struggling Newcastle clash with Everton.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the seven games on Wednesday is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


Wednesday’s Premier League schedule

2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Copa Sudamericana finals, leg 2: Flamengo vs. Independiente

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Germany’s players have big-money incentive to win World Cup

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.

The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.

Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.

Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.