José Mourinho discusses how close he came to taking the England job

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The opportunity came after he left Stamford Bridge, when the terms of José Mourinho’s 2007 departure meant a return to the club game would have to happen outside of English soccer. The one exception: If The FC extended an offer to coach the Three Lions, the man who became a quick legend at Chelsea would have the chance to stay in England.

In an interview published today by The Guardian, the two-time Champions League winner discussed how close he was to taking that job in December 2007. With many of his former Chelsea players regulars with England, Mourinho said he as “this close” to his first international coaching position.

Ultimately, “The Special One” listened to his wife, who advised him against taking the job.

From today’s post:

“Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, everybody, was saying, ‘Come, come, come,’ … My players said, ‘The guys from Manchester United and Liverpool call us and say to us: Tell your boss to come.’ I had lots of positive things to push me” …

But one person stood in the way; one person insisted that the job was wrong for him …

“My wife told me not to take it and she was right … It was the right decision. We are talking about seven years ago … and I cannot wait two years for a big competition. I cannot be spending two years playing against Kazakhstan and San Marino.

The lack of games in general was also a killer. Mourinho tried to talk himself into it, imagining travelling, watching players train and play, and doing individual work with each. Ultimately, he saw international coaching as a old man’s game:

“It was not the job for me seven years ago, it’s not the job for me now and I don’t think it will be the job for me in seven years’ time. Maybe in 15 years from now but not seven.”

As The Guardian’s David Hynter muses, it’s interesting to consider how things would of have been different for England had Mourinho been in charge. Perhaps the controversies surrounding John Terry would have been handled differently. Maybe an equally robust but occasionally more aggressive tactical approach would have distinguished Mourinho’s teams from Fabio Capello’s. Would the Three Lions have slipped to second in their group at South Africa 2010 if Mourinho was in charge?

It’s a nice thought exercise, but might as well imagine Alex Ferguson being hired by The FA. Or Arrigo Sacchi. Or Béla Guttman, Jurgen Klinsmann, or Phil Jackson, for that matter. It’s all hypothetical.

Mourinho may say he was close to taking the job, but to turn around and describe that world as an old man’s game hints there was an insurmountable obstacle separating him from the job. I’m sure he likes entertaining the idea, but “close” seems to play to the fantasy above the reality.

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

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A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

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Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

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Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

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The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.

Report: Blatter to attend Portugal vs. Morocco as guest of Putin

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is still in the middle of an eight-year ban from the organization he once ran.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on some of the World Cup action, live in Russia.

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BBC journalist Richard Conway reported early Tuesday that Blatter is set to watch Portugal vs. Morocco in Moscow as a guest of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 82-year-old would normally not be able to sit in the presidential box due to his FIFA ban, though he likely could attend matches with a regular ticket like the vast majority of soccer fans.

Just four years ago, Blatter was president during the 2014 World Cup, one that was marred by corruption scandals in addition to the corruption scandals surrounding the World Cup bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

His reign of power at FIFA finally came to an end on June 2, 2015, when he resigned following an embarrassing month for FIFA in which many of its members were arrested in a joint-raid between the Swiss authorities and the FBI.

Blatter was eventually handed an eight-year ban from FIFA’s ethics committee for an “unauthorized payment” of $2 million from Blatter to Michel Platini, the former France star and FIFA vice president who was also handed an eight-year suspension.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)