Rafa Marquez could be included in critical Mexican World Cup qualifiers ahead. No … seriously!

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Let’s run through a quick checklist of what we know for sure about Rafa Marquez, the former Red Bulls defender-midfielder who was seemingly well past his international playing days:

He has proven at times to be a selfish figure. It would not be a stretch to say he was at times a divisive figure, even for El Tri.

At 34 years old, he just doesn’t seem up for the running required of league matches, much less what’s needed at international level. At club level, he’s smart enough to be efficient with his movement, although lack of tracking from midfield was sometimes a huge issue as he closed his contentious days at Red Bull Arena.

He has reached the milepost 100th cap for Mexico, having done so back in March of 2011, so there’s nothing ceremonially to gain from adding the man for yet another match with El Tri.

So why would he be included in the team for two of the most important World Cup qualifiers Mexico has played in decades? (Seriously, no exaggeration there whatsoever. Mexico needs points from the remaining pair of qualifiers or it will probably miss its first World Cup since 1990.)

There is a chance, at least, that this is going to happen, that he will find his way onto Mexico’s next roster.

(MORE: The tantalizing situation involving the United States, Mexico and Panama)

Marquez has not been called for the massive matches ahead – not just yet, at least – but rather for next week’s training camp. So the news behind the news here is that the camp is just for Mexican-based players; It will be harder for all the camp participants to make the World Cup qualifier list once European-based men are folded in.

Still …

Marquez has played well recently for Leon, but this still looks like a stretch, a move of desperation from new manager Victor Manuel Vucetich, who will hold the special training camp next week as extra prep ahead of El Tri’s high-pressure matches next month.

Mexico hosts Panama on Oct. 11 at Estadio Azteca, where the team has yet to win in five previous World Cup qualifiers during the final round of CONCACAF action. The Vucetich’s team travels to Costa Rica for an Oct. 15 match.

Mexico is tied for fourth with Panama (but behind in goal difference) in the six-team CONCACAF final round.

Bottom line here: You really have to wonder if the massive issues for El Tri just get better or worse?

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.