Fabricio Coloccini

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The Best: FIFA rolls out new rival to Ballon d’Or

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Who’s The Best?

Each year, it seems we’ll find out. We knew FIFA had broken from France Football again, and would not be contributing to the Ballon d’Or this year.

Instead, world soccer’s governing body is launching its own series of awards, which it will call “The Best”.

[ REPORT: Chelsea to loan Fabregas ]

The awards will feature player, coach, media, and fan voting, making it much different from the Ballon d’Or. Fan and media voting will count for 50 percent of the vote. Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo will win. This could really open up the award.

From FIFA.com:

“This event will be about football and its most passionate participants – players, coaches and fans,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “It is a new event with new approaches to celebrating the game we all love.”

Yes, fans, if we all mobilize soccer can choose and promote our own beloved figure a la John Scott. I suggest Fabricio Coloccini, Jermaine Jones, or Gabor Kiraly.

Kidding aside, nominees will be released Tuesday through Friday of this week. There will be 10 candidates for women’s coach of the year released Tuesday, with 10 men’s candidates arriving Wednesday.

Thursday sees 10 women’s player of the year candidates, while the men get 23 on Friday. Wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of picking 23 women, would we (eyes rolling fairly hard)?

If only Sepp Blatter was still around FIFA to champion women’s soccer!

Report: Fabregas will leave Chelsea on loan in January

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Intrepid midfielder Cesc Fabregas has spent two terrific stints in London, but may be leaving in January.

Fabregas, 29, spent 2003-11 with Arsenal and has been with Chelsea since 2014, but a lack of playing time under Antonio Conte will have him leaving the Blues in January according to Matt Hughes of The Times.

The midfielder won the Premier League for Chelsea and was one of its most influential players during the 2014-15 season, but has played just 87 minutes in the PL this season. He’s featured in a pair of EFL Cup games, posting two goals and an assist.

[ MORE: Zouma nearing return ]

Should he be available, a wide swath of teams will be interested in his services. He’s a hero in Spain, having won the World Cup and a pair of EURO titles.

But he has not won a Champions League title, famously finishing second with Arsenal in 2006, and he could chase that title on loan since he has not been Cup tied this year. Napoli, Bayern, Atletico, PSG, Dortmund… players like Fabregas aren’t often available and not Cup tied in January.

Fabregas has been tipped as a potential Serie A star with Juventus, Roma, or AC Milan amongst others, and it’s easy to see his silky skill set transitioning into Italy. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid as recently as this summer.

Or could Conte want to wreak havoc on his Premier League opposition by loaning Fabregas inside England. We saw Jack Wilshere loaned from Arsenal to Bournemouth; What if Fabregas wants to stay in London for half a year, and Palace wants to make a splash?

There’s also a goofy part of us that wants to see him sign for any team with a ‘D’ after spending time with Arsenal, Barcelona, and Chelsea. FC Dallas or DC United are okay with us. He’d fit in fine.

It’s getting late. Forgive us.

Report: Steven Taylor to join Timbers, give PDX another nasty CB

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Nat Borchers’ achilles injury was a huge blow for Portland, but the Timbers are about to make up for it (perhaps and then some).

Longtime Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor is set to join ex-Premier League center back Liam Ridgwell in the Portland back line, according to Sky Sources.

[ MORE: Immobile finds new team ]

Taylor, 30, has made 265 appearances for Newcastle but did not have a place under new coach Rafa Benitez.

Any concerns about how he’ll fare in Major League Soccer have nothing to do with skill or intelligence, rather his injury history; Taylor has dealt with achilles, knee and head injuries in several of his 13 seasons with the Magpies.

It’s a huge pickup for Portland, though the Timbers need a lot of help to repeat the form that got them to the 2015 MLS Cup; Portland is 7th in the West and winless on the road.

Shy of injuries, Taylor’s skill set will instantly translate to MLS. Look for him to pitch in offensively as well, and be an instant leader. Most notably, Taylor turned down interest from around the PL when Newcastle was relegated in 2009, opting to stay alongside Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez in instantly returning NUFC to the top flight.

Benitez stay is huge, but Newcastle cannot be content with players

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As posted yesterday, Rafa Benitez met with the media after Newcastle United confirmed that the trophy-winning manager has decided to stay with the club despite relegation, and said this is his ship now.

This is huge news for the Magpies.

The 56-year-old Spaniard couldn’t rescue the sinking ship he inherited from Steve McClaren, and is tasked with lifting Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

For years, Newcastle’s managers have been subject to the approval of chief scouts, managing directors and owner Mike Ashley. What Benitez has now is assurances that no player is being sold without his permission, and none being bought without his approval. Which means no midseason sales of Yohan Cabaye because the iron is hot, or unrequested purchases like Xisco.

Of course that could mean we’re headed for a huge August or January bust-up when Ashley or Lee Charnley pulls the rug out from some big acquisition that could firm up Newcastle’s standing in the top flight, but we’ll stay on the sunny side for now and assume Benitez’s people made that part of his contact air tight.

It means Newcastle could line up, basically, the same as last season. There are plusses and minuses to that, of course, as the club was relegated thanks to woeful form and players who were perhaps rightfully accused of only showing up for primetime matches.

Consider:

— Newcastle took as many points from Manchester United (2) as Aston Villa.

— The Magpies went 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, grabbed four points from Liverpool, beat West Ham and drew both Manchester City and Chelsea.

— They also lost to relegation rivals Norwich, drew Sunderland twice and were swept by Watford.

So while Benitez holds sway to keep Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Daryl Janmaat despite the big money they could command on the open market, he has to be 100 percent sure they won’t mail it in.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Kevin Nolan of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Andy Carroll (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on December 11, 2010 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Carroll and Nolan (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There’s no certainty there, and one of the main things that helped Newcastle bounce right back up to the PL in 2009-10 was a crew that got its footing in the Championship by Week 13 and never looked back: the Magpies lost just once in the league from Oct. 24 onward thanks in large part to heart-and-soul players who stuck around after the drop (Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Andy Carroll and others).

Among those who fit the bill for understanding the task at hand are Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback, Chancel Mbemba and Coloccini. Others, like Sissoko and Siem De Jong, risk poisoning the well. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be kept around, but Benitez will need to know transfer rumor and agent hijinks aren’t in the offing.

Make no mistake about it, Benitez in control is better than anything the Magpies have had in ages and Newcastle is far more likely to replicate the instant promotions of West Ham and itself than the divisional drops of Leeds United and Portsmouth.

What now? Newcastle United after relegation

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There’s nothing good about this.

Newcastle United has no silver lining in its relegation cloud after sinking into the second tier for a second time.

There will be no awakening, no excuses that they were unlucky. There isn’t going to be a series of veterans lining up to stay and instantly guide the team back to the top flight, as proud players Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll did in 2009-10.

[ MORE: Newcastle, Norwich relegated | NUFC director reacts ]

There was a bit of an exodus then, too: Obafemi Martins bailed out alongside Michael Owen, Sebastien Bassong and David Edgar. And surely Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum won’t risk international futures for France and Holland while playing in the championship. Daryl Janmaat, Ayoze Perez and Tim Krul will likely follow suit.

Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend showed great heart during the relegation battle, but will they be content to help the Magpies in the Championship. Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic would be stars in the second tier, but will they be okay staying one year after arriving from a Champions League outfit?

The good news is that all of those players have some too much value on the transfer market, and Newcastle is a rich club.

[ MORE: Allardyce hails “difficult to beat” Sunderland ]

Much maligned owner Mike Ashley is almost certainly not selling the club at a loss. In the past he’s said that he’s “wedded” to the club for better or relegation. Well here’s the latter, and Ashley has had seven managers oversee 20 or more matches since buying the team in 2007. Their win percentages?

Sam Allardyce — 33 percent
Kevin Keegan — 29 percent
Joe Kinnear — 22 percent
Chris Hughton — 59 percent*
Alan Pardew — 38 percent
John Carver — 15 percent
Steve McClaren — 23 percent

*majority of games in Championship

Not too good. By comparison, some of the worst percentages amongst active PL bosses belong to Sam Allardyce (30 percent), Tony Pulis (33 percent) and Mark Hughes (38 percent). Only Pardew even comes close to flirting with those marks… and those are, again, among the worst.

Then, there’s the current manager: Rafa Benitez. He almost certainly is interested in executing his out-clause, and most of their pre-Benitez hires have been at-best yes men or long shots: Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McClaren, Joe Kinnear (!!)… these were not inspired hires. Lucking out with Chris Hughton over promotion in 2009-10 was another story altogether.

[ MORE: Norwich’s Neil calls relegation “severe disappointment” ]

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Youngsters Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney were on loan this year, the Magpies played most of the season with a second or third string keeper after Tim Krul and then Rob Elliot were hurt, and really did have a poor run of injuries.

The Magpies have a good chance for instant promotion, though probably not the 102-point run they pulled in 2009-10. A lot of it hinges on having the right manager, whether Benitez surprisingly decides to stay or a new face is brought to Tyneside, and fans will have trouble trusting Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley with making the right choice.