Rodgers: ‘It would’ve been interesting’ had Suárez made Mirallas’s controversial challenge

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Is Everton’s Kevin Mirallas getting a star’s benefit of the doubt? For all the quality that the Belgian international brings to Goodison, that’s unlikely, but Brendan Rodgers hit on an interesting point after Saturday’s derby. Implicitly asking whether reputation has any role in a referee’s decision, Rodger’s questioned whether yesterday’s red-worthy challenge from the Everton winger would have been received with less leniency had Luis Suárez committed the foul.

It wasn’t just a random name. Mirallas’s boot high from behind caught the Uruguayan star  behind the right knee. As Rodgers put it, “You don’t want to see people getting sent off but if they should be than that’s what should happen.” The only grey area about Mirallas’s challenge was in the eyes of veteran official Phil Dowd, who remarkably kept red in his pocket.

“I thought Mirallas should have been sent off,” Rodgers said, asked about the challenge. “It would’ve been interesting if Luis made the challenge. I have seen Kevin for a few years and he looks a real honest player but if you look at it in every way, real time and slow motion, it is a bad challenge.”

Whether Suárez would have been sent off is academic, but Rodgers’ missive does ask us to consider whether reputation has any role in these judgments. Perhaps, more generally, is there a bias when assessing severity, one which would have seen Suárez dismissed?

“He caught him on the back of his knee and that can end your career,” Rodgers explained. “It was awful jumping in like that and it took Luis 10 or 15 minutes to try to run it off …”

Does Sunderland red card machine Lee Cattermole get away with that challenge? Or Newcastle’s Cheick Tioté? Would they have gotten the same benefit of the doubt that befell Mirallas, a player who has only committed 11 fouls (and drawn three cards) all year?

Dowd’s decision may not be the best place to start this debate. It was so egregiously wrong that it’s hard to use the call as an example of where a line should be drawn. Mirallas’s infraction was so bad, even a player of Javier Zanetti’s reputation should have been dismissed.

But abstract it, think about it, and Rodgers’ more general point might be worth some discussion. Do certain players get the benefit of the doubt on potential red card offenses? And if so, what types of players are those? Superstars? Players reputed for clean play? Or a combination of both?

After seeing the leniency shown Wayne Rooney on Sunday, Cardiff City might content stars get special treatment. Rodgers, on the other hand, wonders whether his star would have received sure a compassionate ruling.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.

Nashville MLS expansion club snares ex-Liverpool CEO Ayre

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Former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre is moving from Merseyside to the Music City.

The Tennesseean’s Joe Rexrode says Ayre is set to take the reins of Nashville SC as the first CEO in club history when it makes its debut in the 2020 MLS season.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Liverpool hired ex-EA Sports executive Peter Moore to replace Ayre in 2017 after the latter, 54, spent six years with the club as managing director and then CEO.

From the Tennessean:

“The MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory,” Ayre said. “Both as a soccer fan and an executive in the industry, it’s something I’ve had my eye on because it’s important. … You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”

The timing of Ayre’s addition hearkens back to that of former Tottenham executive Darren Eales at Atlanta United. If it has the same success, Nashville will be proud.

Report: Lampard interviews twice with Championship club

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Steven Gerrard‘s longtime England midfield mate Frank Lampard could soon be joining him in a management.

While Gerrard is tasked with rebuilding Rangers’ Scottish title push, Lampard’s reported new gig would entail leading Ipswich Town back to the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Sky Sports says Lampard has already interviewed twice with Ipswich Town ownership in a bid to earn his first senior management gig.

Lampard, 39, played for Chelsea, Man City, New York City FC, West Ham United, and Swansea in a sparkling 20-year playing career.

Town finished 12th in the Championship, 15 points back of a playoff spot and 19 clear of relegation.

No World Cup for Chelsea’s Spanish trio

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Spain has left Chelsea trio Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, and Pedro off its World Cup squad.

Also omitted were Napoli’s Jose Callejoin and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.

[ MORE: MLS Things — The Archive ]

Manager Julen Lopetegui did include Blues defender Cesar Azpilicueta and ex-Chelsea man Diego Costa, as well as Manchester United’s David De Gea, Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal, and Man City’s David Silva.

Spain is expected to contend for the tournament crown in Russia, led by a stellar midfield which includes Silva, Andres Iniesta, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara.

Spain is in a group with Portugal, Iran, and Morocco.

Spain’s World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pepe Reina

Defenders: Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Azpilicueta, Nacho, Alvaro Odriozola, Jordi Alba, Monreal, Dani Carvajal

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Asensio, Iniesta, Isco, Saul Niguel, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Silva.

Forwards: Diego Costa, Rodrigo, Iago Aspas, Lucas Vazquez.