Loris Karius

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Simon Mignolet departs Liverpool for Club Brugge

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Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has left Liverpool on a permanent basis, completing a move to Belgian side Club Brugge, the club announced on Monday. He leaves for a reported fee of $7.8 million that could rise to $10 million with add-ons.

With the move, Mignolet ends a six-year tenure at Anfield that saw the Belgian international make just over 200 appearances for the Reds, including 155 in the Premier League, keeping 51 clean sheets. Mignolet spent last season backing up new arrival Alisson, appearing just twice, both times coming in domestic cup losses.

In fact, Mignolet had lost his place midway through the previous season with Loris Karius having taken over the starting spot between the sticks, a move that would have a disastrous ending in the Champions League final.

The 31-year-old came to Liverpool from Sunderland in 2013 for $12 million, where he had been for three years prior. He posted a classy goodbye to Liverpool and Reds fans on his social media account, calling it “an incredible honor to represent one of the biggest clubs in the world and to achieve things that few players ever manage to achieve.” He called the current crop of players he leaves behind “the best [squad] I’ve ever been a part of” and says of the Champions League victory earlier this summer, “I’ll never forget that night in Madrid, and I’m glad I got to share it with such a terrific group of lads.”

Mignolet moves back to his native country with the hopes of continuing his international career, where he’s earned 22 caps. The 31-year-old remains a part of the international setup, but has mostly served as a backup since late 2011 with Thibaut Courtois owning the brunt of the playing time over the past eight years.

Club Brugge finished second in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League last season, just two points behind rivals Genk. Mignolet represents a huge test for a goalkeeping crew at Club Brugge that includes the incumbent starter, 24-year-old U.S. international Ethan Horvath, as well as Coratian youth international Karlo Letica. Horvath started the final 18 league games for Club Brugge last season as well as the first two games of the current season.

Liverpool and Tottenham player ratings for Champions League final

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The play on the field was ugly at times, but Liverpool emerged victorious from a highly anticipated, all-Premier League Champions League final with a 2-0 victory.

With the completion of the full 90 minutes comes the beginning of postgame analysis, and with that we bring you our instant reaction. First up is the player ratings, as we run through every player who stepped on the pitch for both sides. Who do you think played well and who didn’t?

Liverpool

Alisson – 8
A Man of the Match candidate for the Reds, Alisson made a whopping eight saves throughout the match, standing strong through the final 15 minutes as Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura both made solid efforts on net. Easily the difference from last year’s final defeat to this year, with ghosts of Loris Karius‘s mistakes officially vanquished.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
His distribution was woeful – finishing a dismal 8-28 passing – but he was a beast at the back, leading the match with 10 ball recoveries and tackling well on the left.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8
Probably the best player on the pitch, van Dijk put his stamp on the game with a blistering recovery to stop a late chance for Son down the left edge of the penalty area. His five headed clearances led anyone on either side in the match. Spurs attack had nothing to offer the game, and van Dijk was a big reason why.

Joel Matip – 8
Doesn’t get the plaudits that van Dijk does, but deserves them for his performance today. Collected a whopping 14 clearances – eight more than anyone else on the field – and assisted Origi’s goal. Was a monster along the back line.

Andrew Robertson – 7.5
Along with Alexander-Arnold, Robertson picked up a game-high 10 ball recoveries, and his distribution was far better at alleviating pressure than his right-back counterpart. Kept Spurs centrally located for the center-backs to do their thing.

Fabinho – 6
The Brazilian barely had a touch of the ball all match, and his distribution was quite mistake-prone, but he was able to funnel the Spurs attackers down the middle and pinch them into tight areas. Overall, did enough to win the game.

Jordan Henderson – 7
The captain deserved to lift the trophy, moving back to tackle strongly – 3-for-4 in the game, including a 3-for-3 mark in the defensive half – and helped carry the ball forward. Ran his tail off.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 5
Hardly influential on the match, Wijnaldum had a 100% passing rate – a rarity in the game – but it came on just 12 attempts. Needed more from the Dutchman for Liverpool to really put its stamp on the match.

Mohamed Salah – 5
Kept his cool on the early goal, but otherwise was completely invisible. He hardly touched the ball outside the Tottenham box, and when he did it often flowed backwards. Was not a factor in the game after his powerful 2nd minute spot-kick.

Sadio Mane – 6
Looked Liverpool’s most dangerous attacker, which isn’t saying much. He was dangerous when he had the ball, but never truly threatened on net. Earned the Liverpool penalty with a smart chip that looked halfway intentional, and came close to creating some innovative chances, but nothing else came to fruition for Mane after the handball 21 seconds in.

Roberto Firmino – 3
Usually a smart player who uses his pace and spacial awareness to trouble back lines, Firmino was utterly invisible. Whether that’s down to a lack of fitness or simply a poor performance, it’s hard to truly say, but he was useless and came off for eventual goalscorer Divock Origi.

Substitutes:

James Milner – 5
Didn’t have much to do but defend, which he did well with three clearances in his half-hour of play.

Divock Origi – 5.5
His goal was spectacular, a perfectly placed effort through the legs of a defender, past the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and tucked into the far corner. Otherwise, he had a heavy touch and struggled to influence the game, but he came up big when it mattered most.

Joe Gomez – n/a

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris – 5.5
The Frenchman made one key stop, tipping Andy Robertson‘s long-range effort over the bar acrobatically, but that was the only save he would make. Guessed right on Salah’s penalty, but couldn’t get to the strong effort. Organized his back line well.

Danny Rose – 8
Tottenham’s best player in the match. Defended well to keep Mo Salah a non-factor and was powerful going forward. Completed four take-ons down the left and was 35-of-40 passing, quite a number for a match that featured such sloppiness. Created three chances as well in truly a two-way performance.

Jan Vertonghen – 7.5
A gutsy performance from Vertonghen who was injured midway through the match but stayed on through the final whistle. Distributed forward well and defended strongly, blocking two shots as well.

Toby Alderweireld – 6
Struggled with his long balls, but collected six clearances and kept Firmino and Salah locked down. Was nutmegged on Origi’s goal, never a good look for a defender.

Kieran Trippier – 6.5
He struggled down the stretch with a hamstring problem, gutting it out to the final whistle but clearly hampered. Created two chances in the final few minutes, and overall defended quite well, but wasn’t truly able to make the match his own like Rose.

Moussa Sissoko – 4
Penalized for the handball early on, an unlucky and harsh moment with his hand raised looking to organize his teammates behind him. Still, the switched-off moment defined the rest of the game. Passing was decent, but wasn’t truly able to take control of the midfield, and his marauding runs forward were nowhere to be found. Came off with 16 minutes to go struggling with injury.

Harry Winks – 6
Unlucky to be sacrificed for Lucas Moura after 66 minutes, as he put in a good shift coming in after missing nearly two months with an injury. Didn’t look completely fit, but was a controlling factor in the middle of the pitch where the game seemed to otherwise devolve.

Dele Alli – 5
Was all over the field, able to flow freely, but did not have the final product as Spurs struggled mightily in the final third. Seemed to fade as the match went on, and wasn’t ever truly on the same page with his teammates.

Christian Eriksen – 4
If this was his Real Madrid audition, he failed miserably. Spurs’ most important player had nothing to offer the match, and while he was able to contribute a bit in desperation time, it was too little too late. His characteristic creativity was missing entirely, and teammates like Harry Kane suffered greatly as a result.

Heung-Min Son – 5
Gave it his usual 110% effort, but just didn’t have close to his best on the biggest match of the season. Was just 1/5 on one-on-one take-ons, where Son is usually one of the best in the game. He had three of Spurs’ eight shots on target, but none of them truly troubled Alisson until the end of the game when the Liverpool goalkeeper came up big. A forgettable performance from the Spurs attack as a whole.

Harry Kane – 4
Invisible the entire match, many blamed it on a lack of fitness after missing the last two months, but the poor play from Eriksen and Son contributed just as much – if not more – to his inability to find the ball. Kane had just 11 touches in the first half, less than anyone else on the pitch, and nothing changed after the break. Kane finished with just one shot on the match, and Spurs failed to find the back of the net.

Substitutes:

Lucas Moura – 5
Did his best to be the hero again, but his two chances on net were thwarted. Wasn’t able to get on the ball and be a creative influence with Eriksen and Son struggling.

Eric Dier 5
Played the final 16 minutes in place of the injured Sissoko and helped secure the middle of the pitch as Spurs pushed forward in desperation.

Fernando Llorente – n/a
Eight minutes of time wasn’t enough to find any heroics.

Klopp: Liverpool will work for its luck in Champions League Final

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Jurgen Klopp is so confident that he’s decided to give his haters a new song should Liverpool fall to Spurs in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League Final.

“Since 2012, apart from 2017, I was with my team in a final,” Klopp said in Friday’s pre-match press briefing. “Sometimes by luck, but in the last seven years I am world record holder in winning semi-finals. I’m a normal human being.”

[ MORE: Champions League story lines ]

No, no you’re not. And we don’t want you to be, Jurgen. Also, if you lose, “World Record Holder In Winning Semi-Finals” is the new “Specialist in Failure.”

Klopp isn’t worried about his record in the finals, because he knows each one is different. For example, yes his Reds lost 3-1 to Real, but you might guess that if you were pre-warned that Mohamed Salah would be injured and Loris Karius concussed.

“There can be moments that are unlucky and lucky, but I cannot change that. I understand luck as if you work for it then you get it from time to time.”

The manager says Roberto Firmino is fit for the match, good news for the Reds who saw Firmino score in both 2-1 wins over Spurs this season.

Most memorable soccer moments of 2018

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The 2018 soccer calendar year featured an unforgettable World Cup, another memorable Champions League run, and countless international and club moments that won titles and dazzled fans. Here is the best of the best from 2018:

14. Andros Townsend leads Crystal Palace over Manchester City

The significance of Manchester City’s dominance will be discussed at length in just a bit, but it’s hard to contextualize the first half of the 2018/19 Premier League season without mentioning Crystal Palace topping Manchester City 3-2 thanks in large part to THAT goal by Andros Townsend. Unquestionably the goal of the season so far, the victory for Palace not only gave them breathing room in the relegation battle, but also set the stage for Liverpool to take a commanding lead into the holiday season. It was a unforgettably powerful strike, and one Crystal Palace fans will remember for a long time, as will neutrals (and Liverpool fans!) as well.

13. Tata Martino rides off into the sunset with Atlanta United

In just the club’s second year of existence, they secured a Major League Soccer title, allowing manager Gerardo Martino to depart a champion, an inevitability he had announced a few weeks prior to the big game. A 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in the final secured Atlanta United’s place in MLS lore, and Josef Martinez picked up the league’s goalscoring record to boot (pun intended). It was a season of not just shattered records but shattered norms for Atlanta United as they set the new gold standard for the league in such a short amount of time.

12. World Cup performance leads Luka Modric to Ballon d’Or

Croatia was one of the most enjoyable and entertaining stories of the 2018 World Cup, and at the heart of their stunning run to the final was Luka Modric. The Real Madrid midfielder set the stage for his eventual Ballon d’Or win by slicing and dicing his way through the World Cup knockout stage until the tank ran out against France in the big finale. Modric’s award win marked the first non-Messi/Ronaldo victory since Kaka way back in 2007.

11. Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid for Juventus

While it didn’t quite reach the levels of Neymar’s mega-deal with PSG, Cristiano Ronaldo captivated the world by ending a wildly successful nine-year stint at Real Madrid and moving to Turin. Juventus captured the 33-year-old Portuguese forward for a cool $133 million, but the deal is likely worth far more than that to the Italian giants who can now deploy one of the world’s most visible athletes. Ronaldo has made 23 appearances for Juventus to this date, scoring 13 goals and assisting seven others. He is set for his first true cup final with his new club as they take on AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana final on January 16, while the Italians drew Atletico Madrid – a familiar rival for Ronaldo – in the Champions League knockout stage.

10. Marcos Rojo goal saves Argentina at the death

The 2018 World Cup group stage was a wild ride, and one of the biggest moments of the entire event came in the 86th minute of the final round when an unlikely hero saved yet another international giant from group stage embarrassment. Germany had already been knocked out of the event in the early stages, and Argentina was fighting for its life. Marcos Rojo was on hand to volley home against Nigeria to ensure they would find the knockout round.

9. Roma comes back from 3 goals down vs. Barcelona in CL quarters

Trailing 4-1 after a first leg in Barcelona that featured two own-goals and a number of defensive mistakes by the Italians, Roma collected itself to produce one of the most stunning comebacks in Champions League history. Edin Dzeko scored just six minutes in to set the stage, Daniello de Rossi bagged a penalty after halftime, and Kostas Manolas produced the eventual winner off a corner eight minutes from the final whistle. A clean sheet sealed the improbable victory, and Dzeko’s 80th minute consolation in the first leg proved critical as well.

8. Arsene Wenger‘s wins 5-0 in final match at Arsenal

In April, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger announced he would be stepping down from his position, ending a legendary 20-year tenure with the Gunners that enshrined the Frenchman as one of the greatest ever Premier League managers. Still, the final few years were rocky and it seemed time for a change. The Gunners gave him the perfect send-off, winning 5-0 over Burnley at home thanks to a pair from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plus goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, and Alex Iwobi. It was the perfect encapsulation of Wenger’s tenure in charge, as a French international and an academy product both ended up on the scoresheet.

7. Denis Cheryshev takes World Cup by storm

Heading into the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the home team was one of the consensus underdogs of the event. Russia had proved unable to find the back of the net over the past two years, and they would be lucky to make the knockout stage despite drawing a favorable group. In stepped Real Madrid reject Denis Cheryshev who set the World Cup alight with four goals in the tournament, propelling Russia to the quarterfinals where they fell on penalties to eventual finalists Croatia. His first game was the most memorable, coming off the bench as an injury substitute to score a brace over Saudi Arabia. He then grabbed another in the following match to earn a victory over Egypt, and scored the opener in the 2-2 draw with Croatia that would end in spot-kicks.

Cheryshev has since come back down to earth, with just a single goal for Valencia this season in 15 appearances across all competitions, but his performances in front of the home fans in this summer’s event was unforgettable.

6. Manchester United sacks Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho’s tenure as Manchester United boss was a rocky one, and it all came to a head the final few months of 2018 before he was finally let go in mid-December. Mourinho was a popular figure among fans, but also found himself criticized constantly for style of play and player deployment. While he won the 2016/17 Europa League and the League Cup that year as well, his time in charge of the Red Devils was uncharacteristically devoid of major trophies, and likely contributed to his downfall at the club. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer placed in charge, the club won 5-1 in the first match following the change, marking the first time United had scored five goals in a match since Sir Alex Ferguson was manager, a cruel indictment of the Mourinho tenure.

5. Mohamed Salah breaks single-season PL goalscoring record

The 2017/18 Premier League season was ultimately about Manchester City’s domination from front to back, but it would be impossible to give a synopsis of the campaign without mentioning the goalscoring blitzkrieg dished out by Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian was next to unstoppable in his first full season as a Red, and he set the Premier League record for goals in a season on the final day as Liverpool stomped Brighton & Hove Albion 4-0. Salah scored 15 of his 38 Premier League goals in 2018, plus he grabbed five more in Champions League knockout play. Salah’s form has continued into 2018, and while he’s not on the record pace he was last season, it promises to be yet another fruitful one for the Liverpool winger.

4. Manchester City becomes first PL team to 100 points

Ultimately, the 2017/18 Premier League campaign was dominated from start to finish by Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, becoming the first Premier League team to record a triple-digit point tally. City took hold of the table’s top spot in late September and never relinquished, securing the league title a good two months before the end of the season. Still, there was more to achieve, and Gabriel Jesus‘s winning goal against Southampton on the final day brought City exactly to the 100-point tally. The Citizens have proved fallible this campaign, but last year saw nobody come remotely close.

3. Copa Libertadores final 2nd leg suspended

The events surrounding the 2nd leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores captivated the world, and it all started with a moment that changed South American club soccer, likely for the foreseeable future. Boca Juniors and River Plate – two fierce Argentinian rivals – were set to meet for the second leg at El Monumental after a 2-2 first-leg draw. As the Boca team bus made its way to the venue, River fans pelted it with rocks and other projectiles, eventually causing the postponement of the fixture. A long, almost ridiculous saga ensued that ultimately led to the scheduling of the game in Madrid. River Plate would win the event in a thrilling 3-1 second-leg, but the story that led up to the game will be remembered by many.

2. Kylian Mbappe leads France to World Cup victory

Emerging as not just one of the best young players in the world, but a premier talent despite his age, Kylian Mbappe was sparkling as France chugged its way through the 2018 World Cup. Despite many criticizing Didier Deschamps throughout the tournament for France’s sup-par eye test, the team continued to grind out victories and never wavered, and Mbappe led the way with four goals in the event, including France’s fourth and final goal in the final against Croatia. While it looked like the team never truly played its best, France was no doubt the most talented team in the tournament and that shone through. Nobody will forget Benjamin Pavard’s stunning goal against Argentina that won him the Goal of the Tournament, but Mbappe is the most memorable player on a team bursting with world class talent.

1. Real Madrid tops Liverpool in Champions League final

Salah’s injury. Karius’s mistakes. Bale’s bike. This game had everything, and it was a joy to watch (for neutrals, at least). With Sergio Ramos cementing himself as one of the villains of the game, Liverpool missed Salah after his exit before the half-hour mark. Karim Benzema was on hand to put Madrid ahead – thanks in part to one of two massive mistakes by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius – but Sadio Mane brought LIverpool right back level four minutes later. While many remember Karius’s blunders and the subsequent reports of having suffered a concussion minutes earlier, Gareth Bale‘s unbelievable winning goal makes this game truly memorable. He bagged a brace to put the game away late, and Real Madrid won its third Champions League title in three years, allowing manager Zinedine Zidane to ride off into the sunset.

Ramos cites death threats, ‘very sensitive issue’ after Wembley reception

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Sergio Ramos did not much enjoy his Saturday, even if Spain got three points from its UEFA Nations League win over England at Wembley Stadium.

Spain dodged a late equalizer when Danny Welbeck was judged to have fouled David De Gea before poking in the goalkeeper’s dropped ball, but Ramos was just as much a target of abuse as the referee.

[ MORE: Maguire extends with Leicester]

English fans, surely many from Liverpool, have not forgiven Ramos for his role in the UEFA Champions League Final, from his incidents with Mohamed Salah and Loris Karius to his on-field reactions to them.

He was booed plenty on Saturday. While he claims it doesn’t affect his game, it clearly affects him during the game. From ESPN.com:

“One tries to evade [the boos]. In the end you feel it, but I stay out of everything. It doesn’t affect my game. I would have liked another reception because people only remember the action of the final, and nobody remembers the death threats that my family and my children received.

“It is a very sensitive issue that people maybe take as a joke about and [that’s why they] whistle in a great stadium like this. My conscience is very clear.”

His conscience may be clear — he also may not have much of one — but the controversy-courting Ramos has been dealing with the consequences of his actions for some time, but the inexcusable death threats to the $1.2 billion lawsuit threatened by an Egyptian lawyer.