About those MLS retention funds: They have already been put to significant use

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KANSAS CITY – The MLS “retention fund” mechanism that wandered slowly into public awareness last month has already been put to significant use. It looks like MLS got this one right; just look at how many terrific players have already been tied up to longer deals using the fund established just this year.

So far, 14 MLS men are retention fund kids, including Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler (pictured) and Graham Zusi, FC Dallas center back George John, young New England livewire attacker Diego Fagundez and New York Red Bull midfielder Dax McCarty. (The full list is below.)

The mechanism was designed to allow clubs to re-sign key players to new deals without pricing them into Designated Player territory. It was an effort to avoid damaging attrition, losing players we might classify as “above-average,” or a few we would call “great” or perhaps “potentially great,” to European clubs that might not look glamorous but could offer substantially greater compensation.

Todd Durbin, the league’s VP of Player Relations and Competition, talked to a small group of journalists at Wednesday’s All-Star game on several topics, including the retention fund creation. He said it was a reaction to fears (somewhat unfounded in his mind) that MLS was losing a group of important players to leagues no better than MLS, such as the Scandinavian leagues.

“We decided we needed to come up with a program, or a way of managing that,” Durbin said.

Clubs in salary-capped sports consistently face a push and pull that pits long-term vs. short-term interests. When it comes to high-quality fan favorites, they can always renegotiate contracts in efforts to keep the player around for the long-term. That’s good, right?

Of course – unless it dents the short-term ability to sign additional talent, which can help the here and now of results. The retention fund established a tool that allowed clubs to marry those interests.

Clubs also sought greater personnel stability, talent that added quality on the field and helped keep familiar faces around for the fans.

Zusi and Besler were textbook cases, Durbin said, under contract but in jeopardy of gazing overseas. They were both MLS All-Stars but not, perhaps, quite into DP territory. (Some of that is about positions they play, especially in Besler’s case; center backs are typically not DPs.)

By using some of the retention funds (reported previously but not confirmed to be around $225,000 per club), Sporting Kansas City tied up the two U.S. internationals without hamstring themselves in terms of signing other players, potentially even DPs.

Apparently, this thing is working. From MLS, here is the list of players who have already been re-signed using the new Core Player mechanism, where a portion of the player’s salary does not count against the salary budget:

  • Tony Beltran (RSL)
  • Matt Besler (SKC)
  • Sam Cronin (SJ)
  • Diego Fagundez (NE)
  • Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (SEA)
  • George John (DAL)
  • Juninho (LA)
  • Gershon Koffie (VAN)
  • Dax McCarty (NY)
  • Drew Moor (COL)
  • Chris Pontius (DC)
  • Chris Schuler (RSL),
  • Marvell Wynne (COL)
  • Graham Zusi (SKC)

Victor Lindelof signs new five-year contract at Manchester United

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Manchester United has signed Victor Lindelof to a new five-year contract that runs through the summer of 2024, with the option for a further year, Manchester United confirmed on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Swedish international has been a rock at the back for the Red Devils since joining in the summer of 2017. He started just 17 matches in his first season with the club as Jose Mourinho integrated the then- but earning a consistent starting spot the following campaign and making 30 starts in 2018. Lindelof has started and played the full 90 minutes in each of Manchester United’s first five matches this season with two clean sheets, partnering well with new arrival Harry Maguire.

[ MORE: Premier League underrated XI ]

As reported by David McDonnell of The Mirror back in August, Lindelof’s deal is worth around $187,000 per week, about double what he was making previously. His old deal was set to expire in two seasons, leaving this extension in line with common timing for a player in his prime to sign a new contract.

“Since the day I arrived at United it has felt like home,” Lindelof said in the official announcement. “I have grown significantly both as a player and as a person in the last two years and for that I am grateful to everyone at the club for their help and support. I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivaled support.”

Lindelof arrived at Old Trafford from Benfica for $39 million, one of three big money center-backs that Manchester United has purchased in the last four years alongside Eric Bailly and Maguire. With Chris Smalling departing for Roma, Bailly going down injured, and the lack of consistent form from Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, Lindelof has emerged as one of United’s most consistent defensive presences.

The defender’s extension comes just two days after the signing of goalkeeper David de Gea to a long-term contract of his own.

Premier League most underrated XI

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On Twitter, we asked Premier League fans to submit their choice for most underrated player in the English top flight right now. There were a host of fascinating answers, with plenty of different teams represented.

Tottenham and Liverpool players appeared a lot, not surprising given they reached the Champions League final but have just a handful of true superstars on the roster, with Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino preferring to put together a squad that plays as a greater whole than the sum of its parts.

So, with that in mind, we thought we should take it one step further and put together a full-blown starting XI of underrated Premier League players.

While putting these together, obviously being just five matches, prior seasons are of course taken into account, but this season’s early performances are also heavily weighed. Behold, our most underrated players all together in one squad. How well would these lineups perform in the league?

Our Premier League Underrated XI’s

Kyle Bonn: [ ]

Kasper Schmeichel

Ricardo PereiraJoel MatipWilly BolyLucas Digne

Declan Rice — Ruben Neves —

— Emiliano Buendia — James MaddisonHeung-Min Son

Roberto Firmino —

Nicholas Mendola: [ ]

Bernd Leno

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — Willy Boly — Tyrone Mings — Ricardo Pereira —

Harry WinksFabinho

— Heung-Min Son — James Maddison — Felipe Anderson

Callum Wilson

Daniel Karell: [ ]

Angus Gunn

Matt DohertyMaya YoshidaYerry MinaPatrick Van Aanholt

Todd CantwellManuel LanziniJack GrealishRyan Fraser

— Callum Wilson — Raul Jimenez —

The highlights

Heung-Min Son was probably the most often mentioned name in our Twitter question, and so he earns a spot on two of the lineups. A number of Liverpool players also cropped up, and Bonn responded with the inclusion of do-it-all striker Roberto Firmino and defender Joel Matip, who often finds himself in Virgil Van Dijk‘s shadow but has risen from injury substitute to regular starter.

Also appearing twice are Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, Wolves center-back Willy Boly, Leicester City midfielder James Maddison, and Foxes full-back Ricardo Peirera. Otherwise, the writers all went in their own directions!

Jack Grealish is mentioned on Karrell’s list, and he has already proven a divisive topic amongst our writers. Mendola included Reds midfielder Fabinho while also singing the praises of West Ham attacker Felipe Anderson who is doing his best to make up for the departure of Marko Arnautovic. The Hammers also appear on Karrell’s lineup with Manuel Lanzini, who owns two assists on the young season. Many folks may still be learning Emiliano Buendia’s name, but the young Argentine has been the brains behind Teemu Pukki‘s breakout season at the head of the Norwich attack.

Manchester United full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is mentioned, although is he really underrated after moving for $60 million this summer? Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves could lay claim to the label as the best player outside the Premier League top six clubs, although Declan Rice might claim he’s not even the best midfielder. Who is a bang-on starter for your most underrated Premier League squad?

Liverpool CEO stays with fan at hospital

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Liverpool CEO Peter Moore visited and stayed with a Reds fan at the hospital after the fan collapsed during the club’s Champions League visit to Napoli due to loss of blood.

According to a post on social media passed on from a Liverpool forum, Liverpool fan Steven Allen was taken to Ospedale Cardarelli hospital in Naples after collapsing at halftime due to blood loss sustained after he was “ambushed” during pre-match celebrations at a bar by Napoli fans. Merseyside police did confirm that two UK men age 26 and 46 sustained injuries in a pre-match assault, but did not confirm Allen was one of them.

Moore posted on Twitter that he was with the fan at the hospital and would be staying with him until he was satisfied with the level of care he was receiving. The Liverpool executive initially expressed concern at the medical staff’s “distinct lack of urgency” but later posted an update to say the situation had been handled and that Allen “had been seen and will be monitored throughout the night.”

While not confirmed, it appears that Moore may have been initially alerted to the situation by his Twitter account being tagged in the shared post and decided to help a fan struggling in a foreign country.

An unidentified Liverpool fan who claimed to witness the bar attack told the Liverpool Echo, “We were just trying to have a quiet drink before going to the apartment and had just paid our bar bill. Next minute we could see about 10 scooters flying down. They slowed right down and their faces were covered with scarves and helmets. Next second they are jumping off swinging belts towards us. Must have all happened in 90 seconds but some lad got hit by a belt.”

Liverpool lost the match 2-0 on a pair of second-half goals by the home side.

Lascelles admits Newcastle in for “long, tough season”

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Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles admits the players are prepared for a difficult campaign after dropping into the relegation zone early in the season.

After a third defeat in their first five Premier League matches, falling 3-1 to leaders Liverpool, the English defender labeled the upcoming match against Brighton & Hove Albion “our biggest game yet” and admitted this season could provide some trying times. “We have had a tough run at the start of the season, tough for any team. So it is going to be a long tough season. Ie have a good 11, a good squad and a lot of bodies. When we start finding the net we will get going.”

Newcastle will be buoyed by the knowledge that of those three losses, two came against Liverpool and Arsenal while the third came against a red-hot Norwich City side. The Magpies also topped Champions League finalists Spurs 1-0 and managed a draw against a struggling Watford side before falling to Liverpool last time out.

“We were in a decent position, a win against Spurs and draw against Watford,” Lascelles said after the Liverpool loss. “Now we need to push and get three points against Brighton. These games are six pointers at home to Brighton, we have to fancy ourselves. They will be big competition for us and Saturday is the right time to do that.”

Lascelles admitted that while the defensive form is a struggle at the moment having conceded eight goals through the first five matches with just one clean sheet – the win over Spurs – everyone is hoping to chip in up front as well, an attacking mentality that flows through the team. “We’re not happy conceding three against Norwich and Liverpool,” Lascelles said. “We are getting chances and creating a lot. When a couple of people start scoring the goals will be flowing and we have had a couple injured as well. It is important we all chip in with goals. I’d like to get a few. Fab [Schar] is a goal scoring centre half. He puts important points on the board. If we and midfielders can help out we will get to 40 points sooner than later.”