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Rooney admits Liverpool ‘deserve’ Premier League title

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Wayne Rooney has admitted that Liverpool deserve to win the Premier League title, even if a small part of the former Everton and Man United legend was hoping the season would be canceled.

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With Liverpool 25 points clear atop the Premier League table with nine games to go they were on the verge of sealing their first league title in 30 years before the 2019-20 PL season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been suggestions the 2019-20 season should be ‘null and void’ but the official stance from the Premier League and the English FA is that the current campaign will be ‘extended indefinitely’ as the will is to finish the season.

Writing in his new column for The Times, Rooney revealed that the temptation is there to push for the season to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic but he’s put his club loyalties to one side to give Liverpool their dues.

“Liverpool will win the Premier League,” Rooney said. “Now, as you can imagine, I have Everton fans phoning me up saying: ‘The season has to be canceled!’ And, of course, as an Evertonian and someone who played for Manchester United for 13 years, there’s a bit in me that thinks that would be good. But no. Liverpool have been fantastic. They have put so much work in. They deserve this title. Can you imagine waiting 30 years and then having it taken away like this? The right decision has been made.

”It’s also right in terms of promotion and relegation and Champions League places. These issues are so big for the clubs involved that I imagine there would be a lot of legal fights if the season was just abandoned. The fair thing is to finish 2019-20 – even if we have to lose next season in the process. It wouldn’t surprise me if finishing the season takes until the end of 2020. Football, like every other industry, is in unknown territory and, just like every other industry, has to listen to the advice and take all necessary precautions. For me, that rules out finishing the season behind closed doors.”

Rooney’s sentiments are shared by pretty much everyone.

Even the most ardent Everton and Man United fans, among others, would admit that Liverpool are worthy champions and plans should be made to award them the title if the 2019-20 campaign can’t be resumed due to coronavirus.

Most people would agree with Rooney’s comments about the rest of the 2019-20 campaign too. If it takes until December to finish this season, that is how long it should take.

Special PST roundtable: Premier League suspended season

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It’s been a head-spinning period for the world, and the soccer world has been shuffled to the back of the pack as we concern ourselves with the vulnerable population in the face of the coronavirus.

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How will this season play out? Seemingly, Europe is going to do everything in its power to complete all fixtures. Whether it does or not, we’ve got ideas.

The pausing of the Premier League season, like many things, shows the gravity of the COVID-19 situation. Is there one story in the soccer world that stood out to you the most this past week?

Joe Prince-WrightSoccer is secondary in this horrendous time for the world. From a Premier League perspective I think the quick announcements one after the other that Mikel Arteta and then Callum Hudson-Odoi had tested positive were moments when this all became very real, very quickly for people in the UK, the Premier League and PL fans in general.

Nick Mendola: The steady stream of young footballers at the peak of their physical lives carrying this virus, whether Daniele Rugani or Ezequiel Garay, really put in perspective the danger of the asymptomatic carriers. Then to see a focal point of the season like Mikel Arteta affected, let alone the Spanish youth coach passing away, has reinforced my will to self-sacrifice and stay home.

Kyle Bonn: The financial impact of this public health crisis is catastrophic, and the soccer world isn’t immune to that effect. The knowledge that smaller soccer clubs could be severely impacted is devastating to read, and really brings to the forefront the effect this pandemic has on all facets of society.


Obviously the situation is dire for so many people, and soccer not so much. Still, we’ve got more than a few big items to resolve. Which club is hurt more by an extended break in terms of table Fortune? Which club could see the biggest boost by a prolonged reset?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’m sure teams who were getting into a good rhythm like Chelsea and Man United may be impacted but then again so many teams will use this time to get players back to full fitness and they could both benefit from that. If and when the PL season resumes, it seems like Spurs have the most to gain with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son both expected to play in the majority of their remaining games. If we get to that point.

Nick Mendola: Let’s start with the second question. The delay may move Jose Mourinho’s Spurs from injury-addled and hoping for a Europa League to a top four probability once Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, and back fit and firing. Not to mention Mourinho and clubs with good tactical managers having all this time to reassess best practices. Let’s not forget Pep Guardiola may get to roll out healthy Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte. This could sting Arsenal and Manchester United, who had been going really well and now may have a super-congested fixture list after some serious time off the pitch.

Kyle Bonn: Obviously Liverpool’s title chase is severely impacted, and given their long drought and hard work to rise under Jurgen Klopp, an argument could be made that the Reds are the most negatively affected club of the lot. However, their form seemed to be dipping of late, and while the pandemic didn’t come quickly enough to save their Champions League fortunes, their domestic form could see a reversal as they avoid limping to the finish line in league play. Similarly, Tottenham could benefit greatly from this break. Spurs’ play on the field had been abysmal and their attack was stifled by injuries to key players who could now return before the end of the season. Conversely, Chelsea had put a small difficult stretch behind them and had turned a new leaf, and while their significant injury list could be alleviated with the time off, the Blues will rue the break from the aspect that they had only recently topped Liverpool in Cup action plus the win over Tottenham in late February and the clobbering of Everton just before the stoppage.


Let’s delve into the theoretical: If the season was not allowed to conclude, how would you favor solving the relegation picture? With three teams on the same amount of points between 16th and 18th and zillions of dollars at stake, this one’s big.

Joe Prince-Wright: I think it would be incredibly unfair to relegate the three teams in the bottom three right now. All three have a real chance of getting out of the relegation zone. I’d be in favour of relegating nobody and then promoting West Brom and Leeds, if that’s the route they go down.

Kyle Bonn: I think, for this reason alone, the Premier League (and many others) will do everything in their power to finish the season. However, if that’s not possible, there are a few solutions. One is to just go off the table as-is, and while that’s difficult from a competitive balance perspective because the teams have played an unbalanced schedule, it would be more fair than other, less desirable options such as leaving the leagues the way they are for next season which is no fun. Here are a few more fun, but less likely options:

  1. A full-on promotion/relegation tournament – basically an expanded version of what Germany has…take, say, the bottom 6 teams in the PL and the top 6 teams in the Championship and let them duke it out.
  2. A 23-team Premier League next season with four relegation places – send up the two Championship teams in automatic qualifying positions, hold the Championship playoff as planned (if time), but don’t relegate anyone. Then slowly taper it back to 20 teams over the next 3 seasons by relegating one more team than promoting.

Nick Mendola: The most proper way to go would be to bring up Leeds and West Brom and keep a 22-team division with five sides to get relegated next season. The Championship’s playoff sides would feel aggrieved, but pulling the big money from the PL sides seems more egregious than denying someone a spot in the mix (especially since there really aren’t any clearly terrible sides stinking up the table this season).


How about the top four?

Joe Prince-Wright: This is a little different to the relegation situation but equally as tricky. I would suggest a playoff, if possible, between the teams who are within reach of fourth spot but that would include almost half the league. Maybe an agreement could be made to keep the top four as it is.

Kyle Bonn: I think, unfortunately, the best way to resolve this is to leave it the way it is. Teams in the current top four (five? Man City?) get the Champions League bids. There’s really no other fair way to do this

Nick Mendola: I’d like to see a playoff here, too, because fifth is likely involved due to Man City’s UCL ban. Allow the top three their places, and maybe Chelsea if you want to limit teams. Then fifth plays eighth, sixth versus seventh. Winners go for fifth, the other go to UEL. It only adds three matches. This, of course, assumes that the UCL and UEL qualifying rounds are also adjusted.


Lots of interesting ideas have been proffered to solve calendar issues (A mini-tournament or single leg ties to decide the Champions League; Starting the league calendar later until the winter World Cup in 2022). Are there any you think could prove to be better than the current system?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think the 2019-20 season should be finished, whatever that means. If it has to resume again in September and be played until October, that is fine by me. We can then start the 2020-21 campaign early and play through one or two international breaks to catch up. If the league doesn’t start again until September, players will have had a lengthy break off and will be ready to play.

Nick Mendola: I’ll be laughed out of the room, and that’s fine, but I’d love to see the season start and finish a bit later. Wayne Rooney‘s proposal was just to get to the winter World Cup of 2022, but a dramatic rearrangement of the FIFA international calendar would be nice. Maybe a couple 3-week international breaks instead of five 2-week hits.

Kyle Bonn: Simple answer: no. Current format is really fun.


Did you find yourself trying to feast on any soccer that was televised, hypercritical of anyone who kept playing, or both?

Joe Prince-Wright: I watched games on TV from Liga MX and listened to some lower-tier English leagues on the radio but I think the soccer world has come to the correct conclusion to at least ban all fans from stadiums. In different parts of the world the situation is different but it seems that now the universal plan is to stop playing all games until things improve. That is the correct call. I love soccer but I obviously love humanity, life and this world we live in a billion times more.

Nick Mendola: It was a fun idea to tune into the Istanbul derby, especially with American winger Tyler Boyd playing, but realizing most of the players would’ve rather been with their families, well, that took a lot of joy out of watching that or the Liga MX matches. Stay home, and let’s celebrate together when we can.

Kyle Bonn: I honestly found myself hyper-critical of teams still playing, especially seeing the reaction from players, going so far as to protest their forced employment.

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Tom Brady not at the Patriots? It will remind you of these soccer legends

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In light of Tom Brady heading to either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and LA Rams after ending his legendary 20-year with the New England Patriots, which soccer legends have ended their careers at similarly random teams?

This article was inspired by a similar piece NBC Sports’ lead baseball writer over at Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra, published on Tuesday and it is certainly fascinating to look back at some of the great players synonymous with one particular teams or nation who finished their days in very different surroundings.

Here’s a look at a few random endings to legendary careers and feel free to send your own in the comments section below.


Ian Wright

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Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who became their all-time leading goalscorer when at the club, moved on to Burnley, Celtic, Nottingham Forest and West Ham in the final years of his career and it just didn’t seem, right (pardon the pun). Wright playing in claret and blue was strange, even though he had played for Crystal Palace before moving to Arsenal, when you think of Wright you think of him scoring at the Clock End at Highbury and wildly celebrating as only he could. You don’t think of him scoring at Turf Moor for Burnley in the third-tier. Ever.


Pep Guardiola 

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Pep Guardiola is a legend as a player and manager at Barcelona (probably more so the latter) as the holding midfielder was a key cog in the Barca team which won their first-ever European Cup in 1992 at Wembley. After 13 years at Barcelona he then played for Brescia (twice) and Roma in Italy before beginning an extremely nomadic final few years. After stops at Al-Ahli in Qatar and finally Dorados Sinola followed a spell at Sampdoria, with Guardiola playing 10 times and scoring one goal for the Mexican club. The reason he played for Dorados and finished his career there was due to being at management school in Axocopan, Atlixco, Puebla. That’s right, a spell living, playing and learning in the city known to be home of the notorious Sinaloa cartel fronted by ‘El Chapo’ helped turn Guardiola into one of the best coaches the game has ever seen.


Gary Lineker

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Gary Lineker’s incredible goalscoring career saw him play for many clubs as he started at hometown team Leicester City then move on to Everton, Barcelona and Tottenham before ending his career at Nagoya Grampus Eight of the J-League. Because of course. Third in England’s all-time leading goalscorer list, Lineker spent the last two years of his career in Japan. The man who was the leading goalscorer at the 1986 World Cup has since become a very successful broadcaster with various outlets. Many people forget about him ending his playing days in Japan, though, and when you think of Lineker you think about him scoring goals for England and English clubs.


Xavi

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One of the greatest midfielders of all-time who made one of the best, if not the best, teams of all-time tick, Xavi Hernandez will always be a Barcelona legend after making 767 appearances for them in all competitions. After a stunning 24-year career at the Nou Camp which saw him come through the academy ranks to captain the side as he won eight league titles, three Spanish cups, four Champions League titles and two Club World Cups (to go alongside his two European Championships and a World Cup for Spain) Xavi left Barca to play for Al Sadd in Qatar. He is now Al Sadd’s manager but his decision to see out his playing days with three years in the Qatari Stars League was seen as extremely bizarre, at the time.


Wayne Rooney

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Wayne Rooney is currently playing for Derby County in England’s second-tier and that isn’t how we expected him to come to the end of his career. Rooney, 34, has been mildly successful in spells back at Everton and then at D.C. United after leaving Man United in the summer of 2017 but playing in the Championship for Derby is a strange ending for the all-time leading goalscorer of both England and Man United. His move to Derby sees him taking on coaching responsibilities with the youth teams too, so there’s a pathway into management, just like Xavi.

Former Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda scores in Botafogo debut

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Like other Brazilian teams, Botafogo players took the field on Sunday wearing white masks and expressed a message of solidarity through a banner amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And 28 minutes into Botafogo’s Rio de Janeiro state championship match against Bangu, storied Japan international midfielder Keisuke Honda converted from the penalty spot, recording his first goal with the Brazilian side. The 33-year-old old, who arrived signed with the Brazilian top-flight side in late January from Vitesse, drew the foul inside the box.

In the 58th minute, however, Bangu responded with a goal of their own. Botafogo, who played behind closed doors, were unable to find another goal, earning a 1-1 draw against the visitors.

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A-League to continue behind closed doors, condensed season

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Football Federation Australia chairman James Johnson confirmed that the A-League season and W-League final will be played behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of 11 A-League clubs are currently in a 14-day isolation, as six rounds of the 2019-20 regular season have yet to be played.

“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and society at large,” Johnson said in a press conference on Monday (Australia time).

Following a game in New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory, now back in Australian soil, are in self-isolation for the next 14 days. Neither team will be able to train during the mandatory quarantine period. The FFA confirmed that games involving both sides in Round 24 and 25 will be rescheduled for a later time.

“The decision to play the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season, and the Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final behind closed doors was made in consultation with the clubs and in accordance with the latest Federal Government advice,” Johnson added.

“The health and safety of all members of the football community, including players, coaches, referees, volunteers, administrators and fans continues to be of paramount importance. We will continue to work with the Government and seek advice as the situation changes.”

Despite only having six rounds left (30 games) in the season, the FFA decided against suspending the league all together. Instead, the six remaining regular season rounds will be packed into a three or four week period.

“We have got 30 matches left, six competition rounds to go, it is our intent to compress the rest of that season,” FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said. “We have spoken to the clubs. And we’re now speaking to the venues to see whether or not it’s possible for us to complete those six rounds in three to four weeks.

“We will also have all our games behind closed doors,” he added.

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