Liverpool set to hand Ashley Cole escape route from Chelsea, but MLS links persist

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One of the world’s best-ever left backs is fed up of sitting on the bench at Chelsea, you can’t blame him.

Ashley Cole, 33, has 107 caps for England, has won the UEFA Champions League, three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and pretty much every other trophy on offer. But this season his experience has counted for nothing at Chelsea, as incoming boss Jose Mourinho has decided Cesar Azpilicueta is his first-choice left back.

With his current contract running out at the end of this season, Cole is set to leave Stamford Bridge after eight years in West London. And according to reports from the UK on Friday, Liverpool are set to offer Cole a deal.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers worked at Chelsea as a coach several years ago, and knows Cole well from his time at the Cobham training complex. And if you connect the dots, then Liverpool could certainly do with some more experience at the back. Youngster Jon Flanagan has performed extremely well at left back for most of this season, with Jose Enrique out injured. Cole still has plenty to offer, as whenever Chelsea have called upon him this season, he’s looked the same solid and dependable player that he always has. Plus Liverpool have a habit of picking up experienced players who have once shone at top PL teams, but have fallen out of favor, see: Kolo Toure.

With rumors of the Reds snapping him up rife, most reports suggests Cole is ‘snubbing a move to Major League Soccer’ in favor of staying in the Premier League. But is MLS still an option for Cole? It seems as though the ‘Cole to New York Red Bulls’ rumblings won’t disappear. I’ve heard of RBNY reps traveling to Chelsea to speak with Cole several months ago.

But with the Englishman certain to take up a Designated Player spot, New York would be silly to waste that slot on Cole. That’s no slight on him because, as we said, he’s one of the best left backs in recent history. However, left backs don’t win you MLS Cups, that’s just the way it is. You need to use your DP spot on attacking options, that’s my opinion.

So, now that Liverpool seem to be stepping up their pursuit of Cole on a free transfer, will the rumors of him joining MLS go away? Probably not. But they should.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

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.

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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.