Russia considers buying national team players, entering team into domestic league ahead of 2018 World Cup

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Imagine, in preparation for the next World Cup, U.S. Soccer buying Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and the rest of the national team’s contracts and entering a team in Major League Soccer.  The national team players would train together and, against other MLS competition, play together, with the camp to end all camps aiming to set a new standard at Russia 2018.

It’s hard to imagine Jurgen Klinsmann doing anything like that, but in Russia, the idea’s being floated. Coming off a disappointing 2014 World Cup, the Russian federation is considering an idea that would see national team talent bought by the federation in the summer of 2017. The ensuing team would then be entered into the 2017-18 Russian Premier League.

Russian Football Union general secretary Anatoliy Vorobyev, from Russian agency Itar-Tass (via The Guardian, linked above):

“It is clear that we can only compete on the highest world level through teamwork,” he said. “In this situation, it is necessary to look for possible competitive advantage. One of them, perhaps, the most important thing would be to create a core team – ‘Russia 2018’ …

“The team would be formed from “leased” players who play regularly for Russia and represent the leading clubs. There would be two transfer windows.

“The club could take back a player sent to ‘Russia 2018’ for the winter off-season. It would also be possible to arrange for the club to get its player back for the spring campaign of the Champions League.”

CSKA and Zenit would probably be hit hardest by this move, but given the amount of pressure Russia will be under in 2018, it will be difficult to resist any preparation deemed necessary. If the Russian Football Union (or, somebody above them) wants ‘Russia 2018’ to happen, clubs may not be the biggest obstacle.

Of course, other nations have taken similar approaches, the United States among them. Prior to USA 1994, a number of U.S. players were under contract to the federation, a practice that continued in the years before Major League Soccer.

The main difference between the U.S. in 1993 and present day Russia? Russia has a league, a very good one. But the national team is also coming off a World Cup that embarrassed officials.

You know what they say about desperate times? Apparently, they lead to national teams playing in domestic leagues. Possibly.

Sarri hopes to convince Hazard, Courtois in face-to-face meeting

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The coming days and weeks will be immensely tense times for players, coaches, directors and fans of Chelsea alike — but, for no one more so than new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri, who faces the very real prospect of losing arguably his two best players before managing his first game at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

Forward Eden Hazard has made it pretty clear he’d prefer a move to his yet-unnamed “preferred destination,” and goalkeeper Thibut Courtois has said he’d like to continue playing with Hazard, either in west London or elsewhere. Sarri hopes he’ll have a chance to persuade the Belgian duo to stay another year, or longer, but he doesn’t plan on doing so until they return from their offseason breaks, at which point he can meet with them face to face — quotes from the Guardian:

“Clearly the players you are referring to are very high-level players and I would like to keep them. But a telephone call without looking them in the eye will not give me any certainty.

“I would like to meet these players face to face and talk to them and understand what the best thing is for everyone to do. Before that I would also like a player to come on the pitch for four or five days with me to have a clear idea of what the plan is.”

Given that the Premier League’s transfer window will close before the upcoming season’s opening weekend (Aug. 9), the period of time during which Hazard and Courtois will be available to meet with Sarri, and the amount of time to reinvest and replenish the squad should they leave, will be an extremely narrow window. After finishing third-place at the 2018 World Cup, they could very easily be away until the final 48 or 72 hours of the window.

USWNT names veteran team for Tournament of Nations

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) The top-ranked U.S. will bring a veteran group to the four-team Tournament of Nations, which begins next week with a match against Japan at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

[ MORE: Man City, USMNT’s Mix Diskerud loaned to South Korea ]

U.S. coach Jill Ellis announced her training roster of 25 players Wednesday, all but three of whom played for the national team this year. The newcomers are goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, forward Kealia Ohai and defender Jaelene Hinkle, while defenders Casey Short and Emily Sonnett are back from injury.

The roster will be pared to 22 before the U.S. faces Japan on July 26. Brazil plays Australia the same day in the opener of round-robin tournament.

The Tournament of Nations is an important tuneup for the U.S. ahead of World Cup qualifying, which begins with group matches Oct. 4 in Cary, North Carolina.

FULL ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Jaelene Hinkle (NC Courage), Merritt Mathias (NC Courage), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)

Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage)

Forwards: Crystal Dunn (NC Courage), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign), Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals)

Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs?

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Transfer season has been turned up a notch with the conclusion of the World Cup, and a number of big names are in the news on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]


Paul Pogba‘s performance for France at the World Cup was key for Les Bleus in their run to the title, and now the Manchester United midfielder could be on the move.

Tuttosport is reporting that Pogba wants to complete a switch back to Juventus, which would see him joining Cristiano Ronaldo and the seven-time reigning Serie A champions.

Pogba previously played with Juve from 2012 to 2016, after beginning his professional career with the Red Devils.


With Aston Villa’s ongoing financial struggles, several high-quality players could be sold this summer, and the sale of the team’s most-coveted talent may be on the horizon.

Sky Sports is reporting that Tottenham Hotspur have engaged talks with Villa over a move for midfielder Jack Grealish.

The young creator could command anywhere between $40 and $50 million if a deal is struck with the PL giants, who look to sign their first player of the summer.


Napoli appears confident it can add to its attack this summer, as new manager Carlo Ancelotti looks to one of his former players.

Ancelotti has reportedly reached out to Paris Saint-Germain star Angel di Maria over a potential switch to Serie A, after having coached the Argentina international at Real Madrid four years ago.

With Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Julian Draxler already entrenched in PSG’s squad, Di Maria could be looking for a more stable environment in 2018/19 where he can receive more consistent playing time.

Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out for season with knee injury

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Liverpool will miss one of its squad regulars in 2018/19, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.

The 24-year-old England international suffered the blow in April’s UEFA Champions League semifinal against AS Roma, and has been sidelined ever since.

The injury forced Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss a call up to England for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well.

“It feels like now is an appropriate time to tell people that for Ox this coming season will be about focusing on recovery and rehab,” manager Jurgen Klopp said of the injury. “We have known this from pretty much the day after he got the injury and after the successful surgery we were sure of it. I hope everyone treats this information responsibly.

“There has been no change, no setback – it’s exactly on the schedule we expected and planned for. The new information is that we’re now giving more detail publicly.

“It is typical of Ox that he didn’t want the news to overshadow the end of the season and, to be quite honest, we thought we could wait and tell people at an appropriate time. His surgery – which he had on the day of our second leg in Rome – has been completely successful and his recovery has started superbly well. But the truth of the matter is that we are preparing this season knowing he will not be with us on the pitch for competitive matches for the majority of it. If we do see him back this season it will be a bonus.”

The former Arsenal midfielder joined the Reds last season after a falling out in playing time with the Gunners.

In 42 matches with Liverpool, Oxlade-Chamberlain recorded five goals in all competitions.