Mexican referee Marco “Chiquimarco” Rodriguez retires

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After officiating the 7-1 German onslaught of the host nation at the 2014 World Cup, referee Marco Rodriguez has finally called it quits.

The Mexican federation officially announced the retirement of the man known as “Chiquidracula” due to his resemblance to an actor that played Count Dracula, but asked instead to be called “Chiquimarco.”

“I dreamed of [working] three World Cups, and I’m satisfied,” Rodriguez, 40, said in a press conference from Mexico. “I am satisfied by the achievements in my 25-year career. Brazil was the place where I showed all that I acquired over my career.”

Including the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, Rodriguez officiated a total of seven World Cup matches over three different tournaments, with the Brazil vs. Germany semifinal match his first outside of the group stage.

Rodriguez has been a referee in the Mexican Liga MX since 1997 and a FIFA referee since 2000. He quickly picked up a reputation as a strict referee not afraid to pull cards out of his pocket.

Australia’s Tim Cahill learned this the hard way, earning a controversial straight red card in the 2010 World Cup in an eventual 4-0 loss. Rodriguez also handed Chile’s Marco Estrada a second yellow in the same tournament, falling for a clear dive by Fernando Torres.

Other incidents Rodriguez was known for included the famous “double yellow” in the 2012 Mexican Apertura finals between Tigres and Santos, where he produced two yellow cards at once, holding each hand.  Overall, he sent off three players from that match and issued seven yellows, and was suspended for five matches following the incident.

Despite this incident, Liga MX refereeing official Marco Trejo at the time still called him “one of our top referees.”

The 40-year-old also refereed the group stage match between Uruguay and Italy in this year’s World Cup that saw Luis Suarez eventually banned for biting Giorgio Chiellini. Rodriguez missed the incident and did not punish Suarez during play.  In that match he also correctly sent off Italy’s Claudio Marchisio with a straight red for a dangerous tackle.

Rodriguez was most recently at the center of controversy in the United States (not entirely of his own doing) when he was assigned to referee a World Cup qualifier last September between Costa Rica and the United States. The match was just four days before the US took on Mexico in Columbus, and Jurgen Klinsmann spoke publicly about having to deal with a strict referee so close to an important match with eight of his players facing a yellow card suspension.

Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore were all shown yellows during the eventual 3-1 loss to Costa Rica and were forced to miss the next match, but the US beat Mexico 2-0 anyways to secure a berth in the 2014 World Cup.

Outside of refereeing, Rodriguez is a Protestant priest.

Lukaku working to shed extra muscle he put on for World Cup

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Romelu Lukaku has found it difficult to replicate his international form at club level since returning to Manchester United from the 2018 World Cup, but Belgium’s superstar no. 9 is confident he’s worked out the main reason why: he came back carrying too much muscle.

[ MORE: Chelsea hand Man City a first loss | Liverpool win to go top of PL ]

After scoring four goals in six appearances in Russia, Lukaku has netted just six times in 15 appearances in the Premier League and has received considerable criticism with the Red Devils slumping to their current sixth-place standing in the league table.

In preparation for the World Cup, the 25-year-old says he packed on a few extra pounds of muscle to better stand up to the international game’s highly physical nature. Once he returned to Manchester, though, he quickly realized that all that extra weight would be hugely detrimental in the fast-paced, end-to-end PL. It’s taken some time and effort, but it sounds like Lukaku is just about where he would like to be again — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the Premier League, I cannot play with the same amount of muscle as international football. That was something that when I came back I knew straight away — ‘Nah, I cannot play in this style like this.’ I had to lose muscle basically. So you just stay out of the gym, drink a lot of water, and a lot of vegetables and fish, and it helps.”

“After the World Cup, I think I really was a bit tired. But, you know, I had the same thing in 2014 after the World Cup when I came back to Everton, I was really in a slump after the World Cup. So now I think I am in a decent level again and ready to go again. I knew this. Me and the [United] medical staff, we did like a lot of tests to see what was the problem. I had a hamstring injury, which is something that never happens to me.”

“We are doing more prevention in the gym and I am trying to do speed bursts in training and that’s the most essential”

Things are certainly looking up for Lukaku as he’s scored twice in Man United’s last three PL games — the first time he’s managed to do so since tallying in back-to-back fixtures at the start of September.

Burnley’s Mee defends tackle that broke Joe Gomez’s leg

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Joe Gomez is expected to miss the next six weeks after suffering a broken leg during Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Burnley on Wednesday, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the tackle which resulted in the injury, according to Clarets defender Ben Mee.

[ MORE: Chelsea hand Man City a first loss | Liverpool win to go top of PL ]

Mee, who tackled the ball away from the Liverpool defender halfway through the first half, took the opportunity this weekend to defend his tackle, calling it “unfortunate” and saying that strong challenges are “part of the game” — quotes from the BBC:

“I don’t think anything was wrong with my tackle personally. You can’t take tackles out of the game.”

“I’ve seen Liverpool make tackles and get the crowd up and things like that. For me, you can play fair, but you can also play hard as well.

“We’re at the bottom of the table and we need to get out of it, so we’re obviously going to work our socks off to win games. It was just unfortunate and I send my best wishes to him.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seemed to side with Mee’s version of events following the game earlier this week, calling it “the cleanest” tackle made by a Burnley player all game — a clear reference to what he felt was a highly physical outing by the Clarets. Burnley boss Sean Dyche called it a “fantastic tackle.”

Serie A: AC Milan frustrated by results, missing out on Zlatan

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan’s problems in front of goal show no signs of abating and it has been forced to admit defeat in its attempts to bring back Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Milan was held at home to a 0-0 draw by Torino in Serie A on Sunday. The Rossoneri have scored just three goals in their past four league matches, and only three of the other sides in the top 10 in Serie A have scored fewer than Milan’s tally of 24 in 15 rounds.

Milan had been trying to bring back the 37-year-old Ibrahimovic on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. The former Sweden international scored more than 50 goals for Milan in his two seasons at the club, 2010-12.

“He gave his word to Galaxy that he would stay if they satisfied his conditions and they did so,” sporting director Leonardo said. “It would have been a really lovely story because it would have given a significant weight to the team.

“We can’t deny that both parties thought of it but it will not be possible.”

Patrick Cutrone should have snatched the win for Milan with four minutes remaining on Sunday but he fired wide of the right post when one-on-one with Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

The 20-year-old Cutrone put his head in his hands in dismay, while other Milan players were also visibly shocked at the miss.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off a stunning save in the fifth minute to keep out Iago Falque’s header from close range.

“I’ve had a really difficult year but I’m much more calm now,” said Donnraumma, who has faced criticism recently following several poor performances.

Milan remained fourth, three points behind Inter Milan, which lost at league leader Juventus on Friday. Milan is a point ahead of Lazio, which drew 2-2 at home to Sampdoria on Saturday.

Torino also remained in the fight for the final Champions League place, and is four points behind Milan.

The 2 Robbies: Chelsea top Man City; Liverpool go top

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss what was perhaps a title-defining weekend which saw Chelsea hand Manchester City their first defeat of the season with a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge (4:30) and Liverpool beat up on Bournemouth with a 4-0 win at Vitality Stadium to go top of the Premier League table (22:15). Plus, thoughts on wins for Tottenham Hotspur (31:50), Manchester United (39:25) and Arsenal (47:55) before the midweek Champions League fixtures.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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