It would be peak Newcastle United of recent seasons to lose their coach to a squabble over the sort of players the manager wants to sign.
Rafa Benitez‘s contract expires at the end of this month, and he makes decent money at St. James’ Park, but his $6 million pales in comparison the money being offered by a Chinese Super League club.
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Benitez wants to stay at Newcastle, but his concerns aren’t about his wages as much as being allowed to build a contender under stingy owner Mike Ashley. With the team possibly getting a takeover, Benitez is not guaranteed the chance to improve his roster. Not to mention Newcastle operates under club-wide restrictions.
Sky Sports says, “the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia boss wants to be given the green light to sign players over the age of 26, which has been against club policy in previous years.”
Sky Sports reports that Benitez is mulling a $15 million offer from Dalian Yifang, the CSL team currently sitting in 11th place under former South Korea national team manager Kang-hee Choi.
Dalian Yifang currently employs transfer rumor mainstay Yannick Carrasco, as well as Marek Hamsik and young Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Boateng.
If Newcastle allows Benitez to leave and the takeover is not completed, it would be the most embarrassing thing for the club since Joe Kinnear couldn’t pronounce half of his players’ names. That’s saying something.
Given Philippe Coutinho‘s history of heroics at Liverpool and Barcelona’s alleged need to unload him to free up some cash, a natural connection was made between the player and his former club well before Barca sanctioned his loan to Bayern Munich.
Why didn’t Liverpool go for Coutinho? Jurgen Klopp says they couldn’t afford him.
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It’s an odd one in a summer the Reds spent very little in the transfer market. From Sport.com:
“It sounds weird, but we could not afford it,” Klopp said. “We have already spent the money that we got for him. He’s a super player and a super boy.
“We were reluctant to hand it over at the time, but Barcelona forced us with money, so to speak. He is a player who can change games for the positive. It’s not that nice for Dortmund, but it’s a great transfer for Bayern and the Bundesliga.”
Couldn’t afford it? We’re gonna have to see the math on that one, but we certainly don’t know the ins and outs of the business aside from the earnings from UCL and PL play. Presumably he means couldn’t afford the buy, not the loan.
It just doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense, but for all of his brilliance on the pitch his explanations for the club’s summer transfer window haven’t followed suit with his in-game genius.
It’s fair to wonder whether the Reds simply didn’t want to spend this summer for any number of reasons, and that’s their right, but Klopp’s answers have gone from “There are crazy fees now, I don’t even want to spend like that” to “Hey, I was wrong. We’re gonna have to spend a lot” to “We can’t afford it.”
Again, an odd one.
ZURICH — FIFA says the southern Iraqi city of Basra can host the national team’s return to playing World Cup qualifying games at home.
Security concerns since the 1980s have forced Iraq to host most qualifiers in neutral countries. Iraq played “home” games in Iran, Jordan and Malaysia in a failed attempt to reach the 2018 tournament.
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FIFA says “following a security assessment by a FIFA delegation” Basra can stage games in qualifying for the 2022 edition.
Iraq hosts Hong Kong on Oct. 10, likely at the 65,000-capacity Basra Sports City stadium.
Top-ranked Iran visits on Nov. 14.
Iraq’s group in the current phase of qualifying also includes Bahrain and Cambodia.
Amid widespread pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong against China’s rule, FIFA says it is “closely monitoring the situation” ahead of the national team’s Sept. 10 qualifier against Iran.
The first legs of the UEFA Champions League playoff round kick off on Tuesday, as Ajax, Club Brugge and Slavia Prague all head on road trips as they hope to clear the final hurdle and reach the group stage.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
It is rather outrageous that Ajax, the reigning Dutch champions who reached the semifinal of the UCL last season, have to qualify for this tournament, but here they are. Dusan Tadic (fresh from signing a new seven-year contract) is once again leading the charge for this young Dutch side who have lost Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt over the summer, and edged past PAOK 5-4 on aggregate in the last round. Ajax head to APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus in the first leg and hope to have a healthy advantage to take back with them to Amsterdam for the second leg next week.
Club Brugge head to LASK Linz from Austria as USMNT goalkeeper Evan Horvath now faces real competition for his starting spot as Belgian national team and former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet arrived over the summer. LASK shocked FC Basel in the third qualifying round
As for the other game on Tuesday, CFR Cluj host Slavia Prague in Romania in a clash between two teams who have been making waves in Europe over the past few years. Cluj knocked Celtic out in the last round and it will be quite the occasion in Transylvania, as Slavia’s star man is Romanian international Nicolae Stanciu.
Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. Three more UCL playoff games take place on Wednesday.
Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.
APOEL Nicosia v. Ajax
CFR Cluj v. Slavia Prague
LASK v. Club Brugge
Matchweek 2 is in the books and there is plenty of movement in our latest Premier League player Power Rankings.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Players from Man City, Liverpool, Leicester and Man United dominate our list, while there are a few surprise names from some of the teams who have surprised us all in the opening weeks of the new season.
Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!
Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.
1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
2. Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) – New entry
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 3
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Down 2
6. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Down 4
7. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 6
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) Down 3
9. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 1
10. James Maddison (Leicester City) – New entry
11. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Up 7
12. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
14. Ashley Barnes (Burnley) – Down 7
15. Chris Basham (Sheffield United) – New entry
16. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City) – New entry
17. Jordan Pickford (Everton) – Up 2
18. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Up 2
19. Alexander Lacazette (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Leandro Trossard (Brighton) – New entry