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Does Rooney’s England return undermine USMNT friendly?

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When it comes to the announcement that Wayne Rooney will make a one-off return to the England national team for the friendly at Wembley against the USA on Nov. 15, opinions are pretty much split right down the middle.

Many say this is a fitting end to Rooney’s international career, as he will be given a proper send-off as he wins his 120th and final cap and the all-time record goalscorer will be able to say a final farewell to the Three Lions fans at Wembley. The game will also be named the Wayne Rooney Foundation International, with the proceeds from the game given to the charities he supports. Who can argue against that?

On the other hand, many say this not only undermines the fixture against the USMNT but also current England boss Gareth Southgate.

Remember: Rooney, 33, retired from the English national team in August 2017 when he was left out of a few squads despite being told he still had a role to play as Southgate looked at younger options. With his career generally on a downward curve, Rooney then left the national team without a proper goodbye as the most-capped outfield player in Three Lions history was done. To hammer home the fact that the decisions made by Southgate and Rooney were the correct ones, England reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup with a young, hungry side impressing.

That achievement surpassed any tournament finish Rooney had during his England career as penalty kick and quarterfinal heartache came time and time again for the Manchester United legend. Yet you could never question his commitment to England’s cause and, in truth, at times it seemed as though he cared too much and had the weight of the world on his shoulders due to the huge expectations.

“I am truly humbled and hugely excited to play for England at Wembley again,” Rooney said. “I would like to thank Gareth Southgate and The FA for inviting me back and helping to support my foundation in the process. Playing for England was the greatest honor of my career, so winning my 120th – and final – cap will be a particularly special moment for me. It’s fitting that the match will be against the USA and I hope that both sets of fans enjoy the game.”

But what about this specific game against the U.S. men’s national team?

The young USMNT players will still be given a proper test against the no.5 ranked team on the planet, Rooney or no Rooney, with the D.C. United star expected to start the game but it is unclear how long he will actually play. After all, he’s not exactly about to pick up his pension and many of his American opponents will know that.

Rooney just ripped it up in MLS over the past few months (save your jokes about a retirement league for another time, please), scoring 12 times and assisting on six more to lead D.C. United from last place in the Eastern Conference to the playoffs in the 19 games he played. He still has a contract in MLS through the end of the 2021 season, but there is no suggestion that this comeback is anything other than a glitzy farewell.

Does Rooney’s 120th and final cap suggest that England aren’t taking this friendly against the USA that seriously? Absolutely. From a true sporting perspective this shouldn’t be happening and with U.S. Soccer billing this friendly as a huge deal, their counterparts aren’t exactly doing the same as they’ve now moved the goalposts slightly. It already has a testimonial feel rather than being a true test in a hostile environment for a young, developing USMNT side. But with some mocking Rooney’s return and suggesting Gary Lineker and others should get a run out too, that is so far from the truth. Rooney could impact this game and play a full 90 minutes if need be.

Rooney played for England for 13 years and it was due to his decision to retire that he didn’t get a proper farewell game. Southgate and England moved on from Rooney quickly and Harry Kane emerged as their leading striker, along with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.

There is a lot to be said about Rooney’s appearance blocking minutes for young England players coming through but, in truth, Kane will just be getting a much-needed rest ahead of England’s big UEFA Nations League decider against Croatia at Wembley on Nov. 18 and Southgate will not risk another forward being injured. And without Jamie Vardy, who recently retired, England don’t have a lot of options up top anyway.

England will likely play many of their squad players against the USMNT with Southgate’s focus firmly on the game against Croatia. That means that any debate about this is a little overblown as Rooney truly deserves a special farewell. If Rooney playing a few minutes at the start of the game is what Southgate and the FA want to do rather than him being honored and clapped on the pitch as he picks up a plaque before the game then walking off, so be it.

This is all very similar to the Landon Donovan situation in October 2014, as he played in a friendly against Ecuador after being ousted by Jurgen Klinsmann. Yet that game was organized exclusively to honor Donovan and we knew what it was going into the match. In Rooney’s case, it is quite clear he decided to walk before he was pushed out by Southgate, so again this slightly undermines the England manager who has done so much to restore pride in the national team over the past 12 months since he took charge.

We have to remember that friendly games are little more than glorified training matches these days and this farewell for Rooney will give England’s game against the U.S. something extra special.

But there’s no doubting this farewell does suggest that England are undermining the visit of the Stars and Stripes later this month.

Five Premier League teams listed among most valuable sports franchises

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The rich are getting richer. Literally.

Forbes has released its latest list of the top 50 most valuable sports teams on the planet, with eight soccer teams in the top 50 as 52 teams are worth at least $2 billion.

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Five Premier League teams make it, with Manchester United in sixth with a value of $3.81 billion, Man City in 25th at $2.69 billion, Chelsea 32nd at $2.58 billion, Arsenal in 42nd at $2.27 billion and Liverpool in 45th at $2.18 billion.

Real Madrid and Barcelona lead the charge of most valuable soccer teams, sitting in third and fourth respectively with values of just over $4 billion, while Bayern Munich are in 17th with a valuation of $3.02 billion.

In previous years Man United topped Forbes’ list and they were the only team in the world to be worth over $2 billion back in 2012.

Real Madrid were the last soccer team atop Forbes’ list but the Dallas Cowboys have now been in top spot since 2016 with the NFL dominating this list.

26 of the top 50 most valuable teams are from the NFL, with eight soccer clubs, nine MLB franchises and seven NBA teams making up the rest.

Below is the list of the value of the top 10 sports franchises on the planet.


1. Dallas Cowboys – $5 billion
2. New York Yankees – $4.6 billion
3. Real Madrid – $4.2 billion
4. Barcelona – $4.02 billion
5. New York Knicks – $4 billion
6. Manchester United – $3.81 billion
7. New England Patriots – $3.8 billion
8. Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7 billion
9. Golden State Warriors – $3.5 billion
10=. New York Giants – $3.3 billion
10=. Los Angeles Dodgers – $3.3 billion

Newcastle close to $50 million Joelinton signing

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Newcastle United’s fans are about to have a new hero.

Brazilian forward Joelinton is on Tyneside and is undergoing a medical ahead of a club-record $50 million transfer from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.

According to our partners Sky Sports, Joelinton, 22, is finalizing his move to St James’ Park and will become Steve Bruce‘s first signings as Magpies boss.

Much-maligned owner Mike Ashley has promised to reinvest the money Newcastle bring in via transfer fees back into the playing squad, and this move would not only prove that but also suggests he could stick around as a potential sale of the club continues to drag on.

Newcastle’s need for a new striker is clear for all to see as they’ve lost top goalscorer from last season, Salomon Rondon, who returned to parent club West Brom after his loan and has since joined former Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez at Dalian Yifang in China.

With Ayoze Perez sold to Leicester City for $40 million, Bruce badly needed attacking reinforcements and Joelinton’s impending arrival is a huge deal, as the previous club-record transfer was the $27 million they paid for Miguel Almiron in January.

Maybe this will lift some of the gloom which has hung over Newcastle this offseason…

Does Joelinton fit the bill? He scored 11 goals in 33 outings for Hoffenheim last season and is a Brazilian youth international. The last Brazilian striker to leave Hoffenheim for the Premier League has had a pretty good impact (sarcasm alert) as Roberto Firmino arrived for $40 million in the summer of 2015.

But Joelinton is a much different striker to Firmino. In many ways he is the perfect replacement for Rondon, as he is strong in the air, a powerful runner on the break and has a calmness in front of goal to finish off mazy runs or speedy counters.

That will be music to the ears of Newcastle’s fans, as the likes of Almiron and Matt Ritchie will whip in plenty of crosses for him to attack next season. His figures in Germany haven’t been prolific but Joelinton is still young and all of his attributes align with the direct style of play Newcastle had under Benitez and that’s how they will likely play under Bruce.

Take a look at the video above to see Joelinton in all his glory for Hoffenheim last season.

We’re not saying he’s going to be the next Alan Shearer, but he has the potential to be exactly what Newcastle need as they aim to cement their place in the Premier League.

Man United next? Deals for Fernandes, Pepe developing

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Manchester United could be looking a lot different by the time the summer transfer window closes on Aug. 8.

After already signing pacy youngsters Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a combined $83 million, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be enthused to hear about the latest developments regarding two of his other targets.

With Man United on their preseason tour of Australia and the Far East, Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has remained in England to sort out transfer deals and there have been updates on their pursuit of winger Nicolas Pepe and attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes, with both players consistently linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer.

Pepe, 24, lit up Ligue 1 last season as Lille finished second in the table and qualified for the UEFA Champions League. The Ivory Coast winger has just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and here’s  what Lille club president Gerard Lopez had to say about his future at the club.

“For Nico, it is almost done and he could have left last summer,” Lopez said. “It is true that there are big offers and big clubs in for him, so I think [he will leave].”

As for Fernandes, he has spoken to the media ahead of Sporting Lisbon’s trip to New York City to play a friendly against Liverpool on Wednesday and admitted he wants to move to the Premier League.

“I don’t care about the market, I’ve talked about this many times. The only thing I can do now is that I need to catch the plane so I don’t miss it,” Fernandes said. “‘Will this be the last match for Sporting?’ I don’t know, it’s the coach who decides. I told you I’d like to play in England, but that’s not what interests me. It may be when the club decides.”

Sporting’s president Frederico Varandas has said earlier this week that Fernandes will not leave for anything less than $65 million, even though Fernandes has a much smaller release clause in his contract.

There is a clause which Sporting have in his contract which says they can pay Fernandes $6 million direct if they reject any offer over his release clause. So, yeah, that deal is a little more complicated.

As for Pepe, it is believed Lille want around $75 million for the clinical winger and although both Bayern Munich and Liverpool have been linked with a move for him, Man United are now the new favorites to sign him.

Even though United should spend more money on their defensive unit, both of these players bring one main thing: Goals. And plenty of them.

Pepe scored 22 in France’s top-flight last season, while Fernandes, 24, scored 31 times for Sporting Lisbon in all competitions as the Portuguese midfielder had a breakout year.

With a $100 million move for Leicester’s Harry Maguire lined up, plus Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff still courted, Solskjaer is focusing on bringing in players 26 years old or younger.

That is the correct approach as United want to match the intensity of the way Liverpool and Man City play to push themselves back into the top four and return to being perennial title challengers.

As for the rest of their squad, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, for now, are still around, while David De Gea is set to sign a new contract with the Red Devils in the coming days. If Lukaku leaves, which looks likely, then Mason Greenwood seems ready to step in and give Solskjaer yet another attacking option.

Taking into account these possible moves and the signings United have already made, here’s what their matchday squad could look like this season.

Not bad, eh?

Possible Man United matchday squad, 2019-20

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Shaw —

—– Matic —– 

— Pepe — Pogba — Fernandes — Martial —

—– Rashford —- 

Bench
Romero (GK)
Bailly
Young
Longstaff
James
Lingard
Greenwood

Pulisic dazzles as Chelsea beat Barcelona

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Christian Pulisic‘s first start for Chelsea saw him put on a show as the Premier League side beat Barcelona 2-1 in Saitama, Japan on Tuesday.

The USMNT star made his first start of preseason for the Blues and his pace off the left flank tore Barca apart on numerous occasions.

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His early shot was parried by Marc Andre ter Stegen and Tammy Abraham should have finished off the rebound but blazed over the bar. Abraham did grab the winner though, as Jorginho intercepted the ball in a key area which led to Abraham showing quick feet to finish in the first half. Ross Barkley then came on in the second and scored a beauty for Chelsea’s second, and although Ivan Rakitic pulled one back in stoppage time, Frank Lampard grabbed his second preseason win as Chelsea’s new boss.

As for Pulisic, he played the first 60 minutes and again wore the No.24 shirt for the Blues. His squad number for this season is yet to be confirmed (USMNT fans everywhere are still waiting with bated breath to buy their Chelsea shirts) but the Pennsylvania native is unlikely to get Eden Hazard‘s No.10 jersey as Willian has confirmed to Brazilian media he will wear that next season.

The 20-year-old impressed Lampard by cutting short his summer break after playing for the U.S. at the Gold Cup. Pulisic is quite fresh after being in and out of the Borussia Dortmund team last season due to injuries and the emergence of Jadon Sancho, but the fact he wanted to hit the ground running with Chelsea as soon as possible certainly starts his Blues career off in the correct manner.

Putting in an impressive display against Barcelona in a preseason friendly will no doubt help his chances of being a key player for Lampard as he battles with Pedro, Willian and other to start in one of the wide positions early in the season.

A fairly strong Barcelona side (missing Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as they rest after the Copa America) did see Antoine Griezmann play his first game for Blaugrana as they will Vissel Kobe, Arsenal and Napoli in Japan, Spain and the USA as their mammoth preseason tour continues.

Chelsea will now return to England to play against Reading, then travel to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany before their opening game of the Premier League season against Manchester United on Aug. 11 (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Pulisic is certainly pushing to be in the Blues’ starting lineup at Old Trafford on the opening day.