For Chelsea to be successful in the league again, Mourinho must not look to the bright lights

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With Jose Mourinho on his way back to Stamford Bridge for a second go at the Premier League, one of his early goals will be to prove to fans he’s in it to win it even before the season begins.

Only, that would be a terrible idea.

With Mourinho’s golden boy and preferred target Radamel Falcao off the market, the Blues have been looking for another marquee name to show fans they mean business.  However, the marquee name isn’t always the best idea for a squad.

Rumors say Chelsea have now trained their sights on Brazilian striker Hulk, playing for Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia.  He’s since confirmed that interest, and if the rumors are to be believed, a £35 million ($54.6 million) offer is on the horizon.  That’s a lot of money.

However, if you look at the numbers, it’s hard to believe he’s really worth the fortune Mourinho’s preparing to shell out.  Across all competitions this season for Zenit, Hulk scored 11 goals and assisted 9 more in 30 matches, scoring once every 225 minutes. In addition, while playing in European competitions, arguably against much harder competition than the Russian league, he got only 3 goals in 9 appearances, one every 266 minutes.

Meanwhile, Demba Ba, already on the squad at Stamford Bridge, banged across 19 goals in 44 matches, with a far better average of a goal every 169 minutes.

Juan Mata has done equally as well as Ba, scoring 19 goals and assisting 35 scores in 66 matches across all competitions for Chelsea.

Speculation, however, is that Mourinho would prefer to bring Hulk in and then flip either Ba, Mata, or Fernando Torres somewhere else.  Is that really a good idea?

Fernando Torres has to go, I think many agree there.  They’d take a loss, but his fee and wages spent are already a sunk cost.  Chelsea should get what they can for him, and his removal from so much limelight and scrutiny could only help the player as well.

Selling Ba or Mata though would be a huge mistake.  Both are in the primes of their careers and fit wonderfully into the Chelsea squad.

This situation at Stamford Bridge reminds me of a saga many baseball fans will remember.  The New York Yankees splashed for Rafael Soriano in the free agent market for $35 million over 3 years, making him the highest paid setup man ever.  The move created a huge rift between GM Brian Cashman and the men who orchestrated the deal, Randy Levine and Hal Steinbrenner.

Cashman was against the deal because he was against the money and having to give up a draft pick in compensation for a setup man.  Meanwhile, the other two believed a big-name move was necessary to appease fan pressure.

While the Soriano deal ended up being great for the Yankees, it only ended up that way because Mariano Rivera blew out his ACL and Soriano excelled in his place as the closer. I don’t think Mourinho expects Eden Hazard or Juan Mata’s knees to explode any time soon.

A deal for Hulk would be entirely to appease fans, and prove they’re willing to spend money.  Since Falcao and Neymar have already been swallowed up, the top-level striker market is drying up quickly.  Mourinho is looking to make a big-name move, and a swoop of the Brazilian would satisfy that requirement.

Chelsea’s new boss could instead look towards the French Ligue 1, where a 23-year-old Moroccan is lighting up the newspapers.  Younes Belhanda, while more of an attacking midfielder than a pure striker, would put a charge into Mourinho’s lineup and cost half the price of Hulk.  The youngster scored 10 goals in 30 appearances this season and 12 in 28 last year.

Jose would also do well to heavily consider instead rescuing Edin Dzeko from Manchester City, if he still wants to splash the cash.  Dzeko has always played second fiddle to Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, but has excelled at the role, and his numbers have indicated he could take on a much bigger burden.  The Bosnian giant scored 14 goals in 32 Premier League appearances for City last season, although just half of those were starts.  He averaged a goal every 130 minutes, and is a true poacher in front of the net, scoring both efficiently and with style.

At most, Dzeko would cost the same as Hulk, although I imagine he’d go for less than the whopping £35 million, and he’s proven himself in the Premier League despite being just a year older than the Brazilian.

If Mourinho wishes to avoid a sour second spell at Stamford Bridge, than I would advise him to not look for the sexy transfer with a big name and big price, and instead look to those who would help the team on the pitch. Then he can let the results do the talking.

Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

[ MORE: Ronaldinho marrying 2 women ]

Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.

Ronaldinho reportedly marrying two women at same time

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Ronaldinho always had a knack for making the difficult look simple.

He’d better hope that skill extends to a pretty unique marital arrangement.

The retired 2002 World Cup champion is going to marry two women at the same time, Priscilla Coelho and Beatriz Souza, in August.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Apparently he’s been living with the pair since December, having dated Coelho since 2013 and Souza beginning in 2016.

Ronaldinho, 38, co-existed in a three-pronged offense with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o, so maybe?

From Yahoo! Sports:

Bigamy and polygamy are illegal in Brazil, but Ronaldinho’s case is a little different. He’s not planning to marry one woman, and then the other; he’s planning to marry both at the same time. That’s considered a three-person civil union, and they do exist in Brazil. The first one, between two women and a man, was recognized in 2012. Another was recognized in 2015, between three women who intended to raise a child together.

After saving German club, Green hopes to revive USMNT career

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Julian Green has been the Halley’s Comet of the U.S. national team. He appeared out of nowhere for the 2014 World Cup, scored against Belgium and then pretty much disappeared.

After scoring the goal that saved a German club from relegation to the third division, he’s back with a young American group that has no World Cup to prepare for. And he’s still only 22.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

“It made me much stronger. I’m a different person now. I’m a better player now,” he said Thursday ahead of next week’s exhibition against Bolivia.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Green was 2 when he moved to Germany with his older brother Justin and his German-born mother.

A member of Bayern Munich’s youth system, he was not part of the U.S. pool that qualified for the 2014 World Cup. The winger played for Germany in three qualifiers for the 2014 European Under-19 Championship, then switched to the Americans at the behest of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

He was a surprise pick on the U.S. roster four years ago this week, seemingly to displace Landon Donovan. At 19 the third-youngest player in the World Cup, Green scored in the Americans’ extra-time loss in the round of 16, two minutes after entering. He left Brazil on the list of potential breakout players for the next four-year cycle.

That potential has not yet been fulfilled.

While he played in exhibitions later that year against the Czech Republic and Colombia, his career stalled for club and country. Green was bypassed for the 2015 and 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cups and the 2016 Copa America. His only U.S. appearances were in three friendlies in 2016.

[ MORE: Next USMNT-Mexico date set ]

After Bruce Arena replaced Klinsmann that fall, Green was never brought back. Until now.

“I’m curious just to hear his side of things and see where he’s at,” said interim coach Dave Sarachan, who took over after the U.S. was eliminated with last October’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

Green joined Bayern at age 14 and made his first-team debut on Nov. 27, 2013, late in a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said he expected to keep Green for 2014-15, then reversed course and loaned him to Hamburg. Green made it into just five Bundesliga games that season,

“The coach that wanted me, he gets fired after one week,” Green said. “That was a hard time.”

Green returned to Bayern for 2016-17, and his playing time under coach Carlo Ancelotti was limited to a pair of German Cup matches. He transferred to second-tier Stuttgart in January, had one goal in 10 league games, then was loaned to second-division Greuther Fuerth for 2017-18.

His played regularly, and his career started to revive. On May 13 he scored on a right-footed shot from about 23 yards in a 1-1 draw against Heidenheim, preventing Greuther Fuerth from getting demoted to Germany’s third tier.

“One of the best seasons for me personally,” he said.

He understands why he couldn’t get playing time at Bayern, one of the world’s top clubs.

“At each position there were like three top stars,” he said.

Green started to play a more central role this season, one that could have more of an impact on his team.

“Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, they always told me my best position is in the middle,” Green said. “The first games at Fuerth I started out wide, and then the last games I started in the middle. And for me personally, I think in the middle is a better position.”

Green’s contract with Stuttgart runs through 2018-19, and he’s not sure which club he’ll be with next season. He knows he can’t afford to disappear from the thoughts of coaches on both sides of the Atlantic.

“To his credit, he’s only 22 years old and he’s back here, and he did it by playing his way back in,” U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth said.

If Green becomes a first-division regular, he could become part of the American nucleus for the 2022 World Cup cycle, a roster led by Christian Pulisic that also could include midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and defender Matt Miazga. Among that quartet, Green is the oldest. He has three goals in eight U.S. appearances and is the only player on this week’s roster with World Cup experience.

“I’d like to see his personality sort of emerge,” Sarachan said. “He’s a quiet kid.”

Green had a hard time believing the U.S. failed to qualify for next month’s World Cup. Given the time difference, he didn’t stay up to watch the match in Trinidad. He figured he’d find out happy news in the morning.

“I took a look at my phone: I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was a joke.”

Notes: The U.S. will play Mexico in an exhibition on Sept. 11 at Nashville, Tennessee, the second of what likely will be two home matches during the international fixture period.