Man City vs. Liverpool, Man Utd vs. Liverpool pick of ICC 2018 games
LOS ANGELES -- Jose Mourinho admitted he is "worried" about Manchester United's start of the season because so many of his players had long World Cups.
The United manager has brought a threadbare squad to the United States for their preseason tour with a number of players on holiday following the tournament in Russia.
Seven first-team players including Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku reached at least the semifinals and are set to miss the start of the season after the club granted them three-week breaks.
After the five-game tour of the U.S. and a friendly against Bayern Munich in Germany, United kick-off the new campaign against Leicester City at Old Trafford on Aug. 9.
"I'm worried because I'm not training and then I go to the Premier League without lots of players, but it is what it is and we have to try and make the best out of it with the players we have here," he told a news conference at UCLA.
"I'm not worried about playing Liverpool here or Real Madrid or Milan, I'm not worried if we lose badly.
"The preseason is very bad, the positive thing of the preseason is only for the young boys that have fantastic opportunity to train with us."
David De Gea, Nemanja Matic and new signing Fred are set to join the squad next week, but Mourinho is still without Alexis Sanchez, who is training alone at Carrington after being blocked from entering the U.S. because of visa issues.
Mourinho said United are working to fix the problem but the coach admitted he "doesn't know" when or if the Chilean will arrive.
"It's really bad," he said. "Really sad. It is not good for him, for me, for the team but there is no one to blame.
"The club is making the effort, I have to respect the U.S. authorities in their process of visas but hopefully he joins us later because could be important to work with [Anthony] Martial and [Juan] Mata, which is the players we have in attack for start of the season. No Lukaku, [Jesse] Lingard, no [Marcus] Rashford, so it will be very bad."
Mourinho has added Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant to his squad this summer but time is running out if he wants to make more new signings with the Premier League transfer window due to close before the start of the season.
The Portuguese coach said he had "no idea" if any more new faces will arrive but hinted the club are working on more deals.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I'm not going to say somebody is coming or nobody is coming," he said. "We did Lee Grant because we have a fantastic young goalkeeper who needs to play football.
"Joel is a Manchester United goalkeeper but two years without football he has to play. And to protect that position we got Lee, experience in Championship, Stoke City in the Premier League, so he is ready to fulfill that position. Joel is here with us, is good for him to play but then he will go on loan.
"Fred we did quite a long time ago, we started the process, we lost Michael Carrick and I think Fred is the kind of player we need to complement the qualities of our midfield players.
"Dalot is injured, a small injury, a small surgery, we didn't want to lose him because of that and he's recovering really well and we think he can start training back in England, not ready for start of the season."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri insisted there will be no repeat of the insensitive comments that marred his time at Napoli as he was unveiled as Chelsea's new head coach.
In 2016, Sarri was accused by then-Inter coach Roberto Mancini of using a gay slur in 2016 during a heated Coppa Italia semifinal, and in March responded in a news conference to a question by a female journalist about Napoli's title chances by saying: "You're a woman, you're beautiful, and I won't tell you to [expletive] off for those two reasons."
The Telegraph reported last week that Sarri assured Chelsea before his appointment that he did not hold sexist or homophobic views, and at his unveiling on Wednesday the coach was keen to address the incidents in front of club director Marina Granovskaia and chairman Bruce Buck.
"People make mistakes," he said through a translator. "One of these mistakes was made when I was angry. Another was not even a mistake -- it was a journalist with whom I shared jokes for three years. It was misconstrued.
"These were mistakes, that is for sure. I think those who know me well cannot define me in this way. Homophobic, sexist, racist. Absolutely not. I am an extremely open person, I do not have these kind of problems. I hope I will show this when I am working here and living here.
"These mistakes were made yes, but when someone makes a mistake they must apologise and accept some allegations can be made by the press. A professional and ethical attitude is very important, more than apologies. I hope you will have the chance to get to know you better and forget about this very quickly."
Sarri was confirmed as Chelsea's new coach on a three-year contract last week after Antonio Conte was unceremoniously sacked, his position eventually made untenable by escalating public and private tensions with the board as well as high-profile clashes with senior players in his squad.
Conte's fate despite winning the Premier League and FA Cup in two years at Stamford Bridge reinforced the notion that all managers have a relatively short shelf life at Chelsea, but Sarri insisted he is not concerned by his new club's past record of sackings.
"If I was someone who always worried, probably I would do another job," he added. "Our job means risks, but also a lot of satisfaction. What happened in Chelsea in the past doesn't concern me because I don't know these situations. I'm not afraid and I don't want to be.
"It's true I've not won anything but I've been in Serie A for five years and I think apart from Juventus, no one has won anything. In three years at Napoli we had record points every year."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
Maurizio Sarri insisted that he is not interested in directing Chelsea's transfer policy but indicated that he would like to see both Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois remain at Stamford Bridge this summer.
Antonio Conte was sacked to pave the way for Sarri's appointment last week after months of tensions with the Chelsea board over recruitment, as well as clashes with senior players such as Diego Costa, David Luiz and Willian.
Sarri gained a reputation in Italy for not focusing the transfer market, and in front of watching board members Marina Granovskaia and Bruce Buck, he reiterated that, as head coach, he views his responsibility as to work with his players on the training pitch.
"I feel much more a pitch manager, a field manager than a general manager," he said via a translator. "I think I'm one of the few managers who is bored by the transfer market. I don't want to talk about it and I'm not that interested in it. Our task as managers is growing the players we have."
While Sarri is unlikely to make the kind of waves that Conte did with his pointed comments about Chelsea's shortcomings in the transfer market, he did reveal that he has discussed potential summer targets with the club, focusing on midfield.
Chelsea completed a £50 million deal to sign Italy international playmaker Jorginho at the weekend and are reportedly close to adding Aleksandr Golovin from CSKA Moscow.
"I spoke with the football club and said ideally I think that a pinch of quality is lacking in our central midfield for a certain kind of play, otherwise they are at a very high level," he said. "At the end of the transfers it will be up to me to understand what kind of football is suitable to the final squad.
"I cannot claim to come here and change 20 players. I must adapt to Chelsea and the players, and we will see at the end whether we must change something in my game because of the characteristics of the squad."
Chelsea have big decisions to make in the coming weeks about Hazard and Courtois, who both publicly courted interest from Real Madrid after Belgium's victory over England in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea are focused on keeping Hazard despite his comments and Madrid's interest, and Sarri admitted that he would rather not lose any of the squad's key players before the Aug. 9 transfer deadline.
"Clearly, we would like to keep the strongest players," he said. "This is what any manager wants and any clubs wants. Then we will have to see how the transfer market will go over the next few days."
"I think he [Hazard] is one of the top two or three European players. I hope I will manage to improve him -- this is very difficult given the level he has reached."
Asked if he could improve Hazard in the spectacular way he managed with Dries Mertens at Napoli, Sarri said that it is not the same situation.
"With Mertens it was different -- Dries had also been an external striker and everyone thinks by necessity that he became a very high level player," he said. "Dries has improved with me but he started at a lower level. I hope Hazard will improve with me but it will be difficult."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
After months of speculation, Liverpool finally made their move and have agreed a world record fee of around £67 million with AS Roma for goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
It seems a large amount for a player who is almost 26 years old yet has only 81 league appearances to his name. Indeed, a little over a year ago he wasn't even in the Roma side, he was sat on the bench backing up former Arsenal man Wojciech Szczesny.
Those are certainly red flags, but it could just be that he's a late developer or he wasn't given an opportunity. Liverpool have a glaring need at the position and Jurgen Klopp seemingly has eyes only for the Brazil international -- who kept Ederson on the bench for his country at the World Cup -- which should ease supporters' concerns over the fee. There are a lot of cheaper goalkeepers out there and for Klopp to refuse to contemplate signing any of them is quite the vote of confidence in Alisson.
Since getting his chance to shine the Brazilian has made rapid progress for club and country. He enjoyed an impressive first full season as Roma's No. 1 and is well established in his national side, but he is still relatively inexperienced in goalkeeping terms. English football will also present vastly different challenges to what Alisson is used to in Italy.
Klopp is clearly convinced though and he first tried to sign the Roma man midway through last season. A January transfer never materialised but it seems like Liverpool's patience may finally be about to pay off.
There are some similarities here with the Virgil van Dijk transfer. As with Alisson, Klopp was prepared to wait to get his man rather than compromise and move for a secondary target. Splashing £75m, Klopp made Van Dijk the world's most expensive defender and he's prepared to make Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper. Klopp is not a manager who throws money around lightly, so when he spends big it tells you he is completely sure about the player.
Where this deal would differ to Van Dijk is in the risk factor. The Dutchman was proven quality and would have commanded a place in virtually any side in Europe. While the fee was high it became apparent fairly quickly that it was not going to weigh Van Dijk down and, as the weeks went by, it was mentioned less and less.
Alisson is not the "sure thing" Van Dijk was -- not least because he has no experience of English football -- but if he is as good as Klopp believes him to be it would put the Reds in a very strong position to challenge for honours this season.
Seeing Klopp addressing the biggest area of concern will be a boost for the players and will re-energise the supporters. There is much for supporters to feel excited about as the goalkeeping situation was casting a huge dark cloud over everything.
The thought of starting the season with Loris Karius in goal was causing sleepless nights for many a fan and even if Alisson does not arrive Karius cannot under any circumstances be considered for selection this season. It would not be fair to him, his teammates or the supporters.
If, as has been widely suggested, Klopp was prepared to keep faith with Karius in the event that Alisson proved to be out of reach, he must surely have realised now that simply isn't possible. The position of Karius is untenable and has become a circus.
Perhaps Klopp thought that his young compatriot could ride out the storm, but if that was his thinking then recent events will have shown him that isn't how this will play out.
Karius had a lot of sympathy from fans after what happened in Kiev but much of that sympathy disappeared when he posted a self-indulgent, professionally shot video of himself training in California. There was already a bullseye on his back and this total lack of self-awareness only served to make things worse.
He removed that video but the horse had already bolted. Within a couple of days a clip of him letting a shot go through him in a warm up before a preseason game went viral and had well over a million views. Under normal circumstances it wouldn't have even been noticed as the camera was focused on the pitchside presenters and Karius was merely in the background. And besides, it's a warm up. In preseason. Against Chester.
There is nothing normal about the situation Karius is in though. In the next preseason game he made a dreadful mistake that allowed Tranmere Rovers to score, prompting one Tranmere player to shout a mouthful of expletives at the keeper.
We later discovered that the player in question, Ben Tolitt, is a Liverpool fan who was so angry at the ineptitude of Karius that he couldn't even celebrate a goal for the team he played for. It's an absolute circus and a massive distraction to everybody, but that would all end with the arrival of Alisson.
Concerns over whether Alisson is worth the money are valid but the key elements here are that Klopp clearly has no doubts about him and that the club, just as they did with Van Dijk, are backing their manager's judgement with hard cash.
If this deal goes through, Liverpool are to be applauded for thinking big and showing once more that after years of being pushed around by their rivals they are now prepared to compete at the very top end of the market again.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.
Liverpool have agreed a fee of almost £67 million for AS Roma and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Here, we assess the world's previous six most expensive goalkeepers.
1. Ederson Moraes, Benfica to Manchester City in 2017, £34.7m
The Brazilian became the most expensive goalkeeper in the world when he moved to the Premier League last summer -- though Gianluigi Buffon's transfer was more in euros at the time, it is less in pounds. Ederson's kicking gave City a new dimension and led them to the Premier League title, while he also claimed a Guiness World Record too.
2. Gianluigi Buffon, Parma to Juventus in 2001, £32.6m
The Italian was considered an expensive upgrade on the great Edwin van der Sar when, aged 23, he left Parma. But, 16 years later, he remains an authoritative, consistent presence.
In an era when there has been significant competition from Iker Casillas, Petr Cech and others, Buffon will likely be remembered as the greatest goalkeeper of his time. Now at PSG, he could add a Champions League medal to the numerous domestic honours and World Cup has has so far won -- having remained loyal to Juve when they were relegated in 2006 amid the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.
3. Jordan Pickford, Sunderland to Everton in 2017, £25m
Pickford has been tipped for the top since making his debut at Sunderland as a youth. Now 24, he made the step up to the first team in 2016 and was sold for a club-record fee 12 months later when Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League. Everton did not impress in the Premier League but Pickford did and earned himself a No. 1 spot for England his summer where he shone.
4. Bernd Leno, Bayer Leverkusen to Arsenal in 2018, £19.3m
Leno has flown under the radar with his sold career at Leverkusen. He made more than 230 appearances for the Bundesliga side but only won six caps for Germany before his move but was not included in their World Cup squad. Incredibly, his deal cost more than Neuer's back in 2011.
5. Manuel Neuer, Schalke to Bayern Munich in 2011, £19m
If Buffon was the greatest goalkeeper of his generation, Germany's 31-year-old Neuer is arguably the greatest of this. At a time when admiration for so-called "sweeper-keepers" has significantly grown, he is also considered the finest example of a composed goalkeeper capable of playing the ball.
Neuer's form has been so exceptional he has won six straight Bundesliga titles and also won the Champions League a year before helping Germany to victory at the 2014 World Cup.
6. David De Gea, Atletico Madrid to Manchester United in 2011, £18.9m
The then 20-year-old was considered Europe's most promising goalkeeper when he joined United to succeed the retired Van der Sar. After struggling in his first 18 months at United, where so many competent goalkeepers have under-performed, he began to demonstrate why.
They have since won the Premier League title, FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League, while De Gea has replaced Iker Casillas with Spain. Reports persist, however, that this summer he could leave United to join Real Madrid.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.
With the transfer window open across Europe, clubs are now able to finalise the signings of players they have monitored and negotiated with for months.
The transfer window is shorter this summer but that does not mean it will be any less busy.
See who has left which club, where they are headed and the terms of the moves with our transfer tracker below:
In: Bernd Leno (from Bayer Leverkusen), Stephan Lichtsteiner (from Juventus), Sokratis (from Borussia Dortmund), Lucas Torreira (from Sampdoria), Matteo Guendouzi (from Lorient)
Out: Jack Wilshere (to West Ham), Santi Cazorla (out of contract), Per Mertesacker (retired), Takuma Asano (loan to Hannover)
In: Jorginho (from Napoli)
Out: Kenedy (loan to Newcastle), Trevoh Chalobah (loan to Ipswich Town), Jake Clark-Salter (loan to Vitesse), Dujon Sterling (loan to Coventry), Lewis Baker (loan to Leeds), Nathan Baxter (loan to Yeovil), Jordan Houghton (to Milton Keynes Dons), Reece James (loan to Wigan), Mason Mount (loan to Derby), Todd Kane (loan to Hull), Jamal Blackman (loan to Leeds)
In: Naby Keita (from RB Leipzig), Xherdan Shaqiri (from Stoke), Fabinho (from Monaco)
Out: Emre Can (to Juventus), Jon Flanagan (to Rangers), Jordan Williams (to Rochdale), Yan Dhanda (to Swansea), Ovie Ejaria (loan to Rangers), Harry Wilson (loan to Derby)
In: Riyad Mahrez (from Leicester)
Out: Angus Gunn (to Southampton), Yaya Toure (out of contract), Angelino (to PSV Eindhoven), Isaac Buckley-Ricketts (to Peterborough), Javairo Dilrosun (to Hertha Berlin), Olarenwaju Kayode (to Shakhtar), Pablo Maffeo (to Stuttgart), Jacob Davenport (to Blackburn), Ashley Smith-Brown (to Plymouth), Erik Palmer-Brown (loan to NAC Breda)
In: Fred (from Shakhtar Donetsk), Diogo Dalot (from Porto), Lee Grant (from Stoke)
Out: Daley Blind (to Ajax), Michael Carrick (retired), Joe Riley (to Bradford City), Sam Johnstone (to West Brom), Joe Riley (to Bradford), Dean Henderson (to Sheffield United, loan)
Out: Keanan Bennetts (to Borussia Monchengladbach)
In: Rodri (from Villarreal), Nehuen Perez (from Argentinos Juniors), Antonio Adan (from Real Betis)
Out: Fernando Torres (to Sagan Tosu), Bernard Mensah (to Kayserispor), Gabi (to Al Sadd), Diogo Jota (to Wolves)
In: Arthur (from Gremio), Clement Lenglet (from Sevilla)
Out: Andres Iniesta (to Vissel Kobe), Paulinho (to Guangzhou Evergrande), Gerard Deulofeu (to Watford), Rodrigo Tarín (to Leganes)
In: Vinicius Jr. (from Flamengo), Andriy Lunin (from Zorya Luhansk), Alvaro Odriozola (from Real Sociedad)
Out: Cristiano Ronaldo (to Juventus), Omar Mascarell (to Schalke), Philipp Lienhart (to Freiburg), Achraf Hakimi (loan to Borussia Dortmund)
In: Leon Goretzka (from Schalke), Alex Timossi Andersson (from Helsingborg), Marius Wolf (from Eintracht Frankfurt), Abdou Diallo (from Mainz)
Out: Douglas Costa (loan to Juventus made permanent), Tom Starke (retired), Niklas Dorsch (to Heidenheim), Timothy Tillman (loan to Nurnberg), Fabian Benko (to LASK), Leo Weinkauf (to Hannover), Manuel Wintzheimer (to Hamburg)
In: Thomas Delaney (from Werder Bremen), Marius Wolf (from Eintracht Frankfurt), Marwin Hitz (from Augsburg), Abdou Diallo (from Mainz), Eric Oelschlagel (from Werder Bremen), Achraf Hakimi (loan from Real Madrid)
Out: Roman Weidenfeller (retired), Andriy Yarmolenko (to West Ham), Sokratis (to Arsenal), Erik Durm (to Huddersfield Town), Dominik Reimann (to Holstein Kiel), Felix Passlack (loan to Norwich), David Kopacz (to Stuttgart), Gonzalo Castro (to Stuttgart)
In: Pepe Reina (from Napoli), Alen Halilovic (from Hamburg)
In: Radja Nainggolan (from Roma), Stefan de Vrij (from Lazio), Kwadwo Asamoah (from Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (from Racing Avellaneda), Matteo Politano (loan from Sassuolo)
Out: Davide Santon (to Roma), Eder (to Jiangsu Suning), Nicolo Zaniolo (to Roma), Geoffrey Kondogbia (to Sevilla), Jens Odgaard (to Sassuolo), Davide Bettella (to Sassuolo), Federico Valietti (to Genoa), Marco Carraro (to Atalanta), Yuto Nagatomo (to Galatasaray), Samuele Longo (loan to Huesca), Rey Manaj (loan to Albacete)
In: Cristiano Ronaldo (from Real Madrid), Emre Can (from Liverpool), Douglas Costa (loan from Bayern Munich made permanent), Mattia Perin (from Genoa), Andrea Favilli (from Ascoli), Joao Cancelo (from Valencia)
Out: Gianluigi Buffon (to PSG), Stephan Lichtsteiner (to Arsenal), Kwadwo Asamoah (to Inter Milan), Alberto Cerri (loan to Cagliari)
In: Javier Pastore (from PSG), Justin Kluivert (from Ajax), Ivan Marcano (from Porto), Ante Coric (from Dinamo Zagreb), Bryan Cristante (from Atalanta), Antonio Mirante (from Bologna), Davide Santon (from Inter Milan), Nicolo Zaniolo (from Inter Milan)
Out: Radja Nainggolan (to Inter Milan), Umar Sadiq (loan to Rangers)
In: Gianluigi Buffon (from Juventus), Kylian Mbappe (loan from Monaco made permanent)
Out: Javier Pastore (to Roma), Thiago Motta (retired), Odsonne Edouard (to Celtic), Jonathan Ikone (to Lille), Yuri Berchiche (to Athletic Bilbao), Hatem Ben Arfa (out of contract)
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.
Robert Pires says Thierry Henry is ready for a successful coaching career and has urged Premier League clubs to take a chance on his former Arsenal teammate.
Henry said this week he is leaving his job as a Sky Sports pundit to focus on a career in management -- having spent the last two years as an assistant coach for Belgium's national team -- and Pires hopes he stays in England for his next job.
"He loves the Premier League, for the spirit, the competition, the big big clubs," Pires said at a launch event for Arsenal's legends game against Real Madrid in September. "I don't know if a chairman will give Thierry the opportunity but he will be a good manager.
"During the World Cup he was assistant to Roberto Martinez and did very well. If you ask all the Belgian players all of them, especially [Romelu] Lukaku, they say they learned from Thierry every day."
Pires said he was not surprised by Henry's decision, and that he has been waiting for him to take this step.
"I'm very happy he left Sky. I sent him a message yesterday saying 'finally, you left'. Not because he's not a good pundit but I know Thierry. He's ready," Pires said. "Now he can focus on the new job, on being a manager. I hope he will find the right club."
Henry follows the likes of Steven Gerrard out of punditry and into management, with the former Liverpool captain now in charge of Scottish club Rangers.
Pires said football needs to give former players a chance to former players to prove themselves as coaches.
"Steven Gerrard and Thierry [coming into management] is good news for football," he added. "We need some new faces on the bench. I don't know if they'll make a success but these guys they have their badges, it's very important they're given an opportunity."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
The World Cup offered some great insight into players who have not shown fans their best for their clubs. But what could the Premier League learn for next season?
1. Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku can play if they're allowed
Jose Mourinho is a stubborn man. This is not exactly a startling revelation, and of course a manager who has been as successful as him must be stubborn to a point. But that has become frustrating when it comes to a couple of Manchester United players, specifically Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. Both men have enjoyed their moments at the club, but there's a clear sense that neither have played to their potential.
However, one wonders if Mourinho has learned any lessons from watching his two most high profile attackers during the World Cup. Lukaku, while only scoring in the group stage, was terrific until the semifinal, despite Roberto Martinez's tactical tinkering, and looked more at home in a Belgium shirt than he has for United.
Similarly Pogba excelled for winners France and it was particularly interesting that he was so good in the sort of disciplined role that Mourinho has wanted him to play. The obvious point is that anyone can play well with N'Golo Kante alongside them, but Pogba was terrific in the final too, when Kante had a stomach problem and was a virtual passenger.
Mourinho should look at why these two players, £165 million worth of talent, have performed better for their countries than they have for their clubs. Might it be something to do with him?
2. Spend more time on set pieces
There were 273 goals scored from set pieces last season in the Premier League, from a total of 1,018 -- that works out at around 27 percent. At the World Cup, the ratio was 73 out of 169 -- 42 percent.
One has to take into account the small sample size, and the fact that VAR increased the number of penalties awarded, but Premier League managers are always looking for a small edge. Perhaps having noticed the difference made by corners and free kicks in Russia, more emphasis will be placed on preparation from dead ball situations?
It might be particularly important for teams outside the elite: Leicester, for example, cannot compete with Manchester City or Liverpool in terms of technique and passing but they might be able to gain an edge through a well-drilled set piece routine. On talent alone, England were not the fourth-best team in Russia, but thanks to their excellence in set pieces situations they got to the semifinals.
3. Ante Rebic should be at the top of some shopping lists
Quite rightly, Luka Modric got the lion's share of praise and indeed the Golden Ball for his performances in Russia. But not far behind him on the list of reasons for Croatia's unlikely progression to the final was the performance of their wingers.
Ivan Perisic has been well known for some time and, strictly in terms of a transfer target, at 29 he might be a little old to spend the €55m that Inter Milan were asking last summer when Manchester United were chasing him. However, Ante Rebic could be another option.
A bull of a wideman, Rebic is 24 and has just signed a permanent deal at Eintracht Frankfurt having spent a couple of seasons on loan there. However, that doesn't mean a big offer wouldn't tempt the German club into selling now. The World Cup is a notoriously bad place to scout for players, but Rebic's relentless style would appear to be perfect for the Premier League, and he would probably fit with any of the Premier League's big hitters.
4. Positional flexibility isn't a dirty phrase
In the past, if one were to say a manager was deploying a player "out of position," it was an obvious criticism. But has this World Cup shown that being a little more imaginative when it comes to position doesn't have to be a risk?
Most of the England team essentially played slightly out of position: Kyle Walker isn't usually a centre-back; Jesse Lingard doesn't usually play in a midfield three; Kieran Trippier is an occasional wing-back. Elsewhere, Benjamin Pavard has played much of his career as a centre-back but impressed on the right with France; Diego Laxalt is usually a midfielder for Genoa but did well at left-back for Uruguay; even winger Nacer Chadli did OK as a wing-back a couple of times for Belgium.
Of course, managers should beware of too much experimentation and of being too clever for their own good, but this World Cup has shown that positions should not be set in stone.
5. It might be time to ditch the obsession with possession
Last season, the top six sides in the Premier League possession table also happened to be the top six sides in the actual table -- Manchester City had 66.4 percent of the ball over the season -- but at the World Cup, those figures were reversed: none of the top six in the ball-retention stats reached the semifinals, two went out at the group stage and another two in the first knockout round.
France had the ball 49.6 percent of the time, so it's worth considering that if the world champions had the ball for marginally less time than they didn't, whether possession is not quite as desirable as many in the Premier League think?
There are obvious caveats: again, the sample size must be considered; the dynamics of club and international football are different; the bigger Premier League teams often can't help but have more of the ball because of how smaller sides play against them. But while we've known for some time that keeping the ball does not necessarily equal success, this World Cup has provided more stark evidence.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says he "never thought" about the Germany job and fully supports the decision for Joachim Low to remain in the post despite their disappointing performance at the World Cup.
Germany crashed out of the tournament in the group stages, leading to rumours Klopp could be approached if Low lost his job.
Asked if he thought the Germany job was attractive, Klopp told Bild: "Honestly, I have never thought about it. I am happy at Liverpool -- everything else we shall see."
On Low staying put, he added: "I was relaxed as I expected it. I think it is absolutely the right decision."
The German FA confirmed earlier this month that head coach Low would continue in his role and start preparing for the European Championship in 2020.
Klopp also strongly defended Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil, who have faced intense criticism and calls to retire from international football after they had photographs taken with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.
"That's complete nonsense," Klopp said. "Intelligent people in this country demand tolerance and others should best keep their mouth shut and don't question these lads."
Klopp feels the pair were "were not especially well advised in this situation," believing that "older, more experienced people should have helped them."
He continued: "We shouldn't forget that the pair do have Turkish roots, even though they grew up in Germany. But it's always this way, whoever shouts the loudest makes the most noise. But that is and never was my thing."
Information from Bayern Munich correspondent Mark Lovell was used in this report.
Santi Cazorla played his first game in 636 days since suffering an Achilles' tendon injury for Villarreal in a preseason friendly.
The former Arsenal midfielder came on as a second-half substitute during a 1-1 home draw with Hercules and received a warm reception from the crowd.
The 33-year-old was all smiles as he stepped onto the Mini Estadi pitch in the 67th minute in what was his first game since October 2016.
"I'm very happy and delighted to return to do what I like, there is still a lot of work left to do but this is the first step," Cazorla said on his Instagram page. "Eternally grateful to the people for the affection, it's been worth it to arrive to this point just for that. THANK YOU."
Cazorla, who scored 29 goals and made 180 appearances in his six seasons at Arsenal, left the club in May after his contract expired and joined Villarreal, where he had two previous spells.
Arsene Wenger described Cazorla's injury as "the worst I have known," and the ex-Spain international needed a skin graft and 10 operations.
Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo said to Cadena Ser radio: "Cazorla is a top player just as he was a few years back. He has tremendous enthusiasm and I'm very happy to see him experience this after so much hard work. He has arrived to give a lot of joy to Villarreal and it seems like he is 20 years old in terms of enthusiasm and work."
Villarreal coach Javi Calleja has not ruled out including Cazorla in his team for the 2018-19 campaign.
"If everything goes according to plan and there are good vibes, Santi will be a luxury reinforcement for us," Calleja said in a news conference this month.
After reaching the World Cup semifinals, England's unexpectedly golden generation return to their Premier League clubs with vastly enhanced reputations. Yet while most will have regular places in the starting XI, Marcus Rashford goes back to Old Trafford with an uncertain future.
Though the 20-year-old was outstanding in one of Manchester United's most significant wins of last season -- a 2-1 home win over Liverpool -- he did not manage to escape his role as an impact substitute and started 17 Premier League games, with 18 on the bench. And that followed him to Russia as he played just 211 minutes, coming off the bench five times and starting once.
Given his considerable ability, he may feel entitled to more. The question is where he goes from here?
Rashford is in the same situation for his club as for his country. He is behind Harry Kane for the role as sole striker for the national team, and behind Romelu Lukaku in the same position at United. While he is in competition with Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial for a spot on his favoured left-flank -- the area from which he has delivered his most devastating performances in a United shirt -- he does not really fit Gareth Southgate's 3-5-2 as England get their width from wing-backs rather than wingers.
It seems a difficult predicament, but it is easy to forget that Rashford is still only 20. It makes sense for him to stay put and survey his options for a season at least.
New signings may also make his job easier. Jose Mourinho is reportedly pursuing Alex Sandro from Juventus, and the Brazilian's extra attacking thrust would allow Rashford to operate closer to goal in an inside-left position that sees him at his best.
A tactical shift could also be to Rashford's benefit. Mourinho is not particularly keen on playing with two strikers, but there is another factor which might make him change his mind.
Paul Pogba's remarkable World Cup, where he showed himself totally comfortable in a two-man midfield, might encourage Mourinho to use a bolder approach in certain games, perhaps fielding two conventional wingers and Rashford alongside Lukaku up front.
The two have skillsets that could complement each other very well: Both can roam wide and deliver fine passes into the final third, and both can act as the focal point of the attack in the role as a traditional target man. A 4-4-2 is now a stronger option, given the emergence of Pogba as a consistently reliable defensive presence and the acquisition of Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk, and would have the additional benefit of revisiting a style that United have long been associated with.
So there are some good options for Rashford, if not in the short term. Yet there is only so long he can (or should) wait -- not because of his growing reputation, but because of his need to develop. For the sake of his overall game, he can't afford another season like the last one. It is almost unthinkable that a player who came up through the youth system could consider leaving Manchester, but it may eventually be necessary for him in order to fulfil his potential.
It is likely that Mourinho will want to hold onto such a prize asset as Rashford for as long as he can, and he clearly has great faith in him, having entrusted him so often with the team's set-pieces. What will be intriguing to see this season -- as Liverpool and others strengthen their squads in ominous fashion -- is what kind of plan Mourinho has to bring the best out of him.
Rashford is already too good a player to spend the next few years on the bench. The hope must be that he is soon given an appropriate platform to showcase his talent at United.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.
Daniel Sturridge says he sees himself staying at Liverpool for the upcoming campaign as he eyes regular game-time.
Sturridge is back at Anfield after his spell on loan at West Bromwich Albion during the second half of the 2017-18 season, where he was limited to just six appearances due to injury.
The striker has featured in all three of Liverpool's preseason friendlies so far this summer, with Jurgen Klopp recently admitting that the 28-year-old can still have a future at the club.
"I see myself staying at Liverpool, hopefully being part of the team week in, week out," Sturridge told the Daily Mirror. "Preseason is going well, so for me it's keeping my head down and building on that. I'm excited about the season ahead and it feels great to be back.
"Preseason has started well for me and the team. I am feeling great and can't wait to get the season underway. We have the tour to come where we face some great teams like Man United, Man City and [Borussia] Dortmund."
Sturridge was loaned out to West Brom last season, having made just five starts for Liverpool in all competitions, as he found himself behind Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in the attacking pecking order.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
This article first appeared on ESPN on April 17 and has been updated.
The International Champions Cup returns in July, with games between the leading clubs in the world played across three continents in July and August.
Here, we pick out six of the biggest games coming up this summer.
July 25: Manchester City vs. Liverpool, MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)
Manchester City will arrive in the United States as Premier League champions, but they will face Liverpool having lost all three of their meetings with Jurgen Klopp's team in 2018. If anyone knows how to defeat City and Pep Guardiola, it is Liverpool's coach, and this clash in New Jersey promises to be a taster for next season's title race in England.
Liverpool's £62 million signing Naby Keita is set to feature following his much-anticipated arrival from RB Leipzig, alongside Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri. City should also showcase their big summer signing, Riyad Mahrez, as they look to build a squad capable of winning the Champions League next season.
July 26: Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid, National Stadium (Kallang, Singapore)
With the two clubs meeting in the Europa League semifinals, this clash in Singapore will offer the Gunners a quick chance for revenge as they prepare for the new campaign. The big question mark hanging over Arsenal as they head into the summer, however, is how they adapt to new manager Unai Emery following 22 years under the guidance of Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal's failure to challenge for Champions League qualification via the Premier League has left him work to do and there are a host of new faces already at the club, with Bernd Leno, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Matteo Guendouzi all set to play a part. Mesut Ozil is even on the plane after a poor World Cup with Germany.
Could this meeting with Atletico be the start of a new era or simply more of the same for the Gunners?
July 28: Manchester United vs. Liverpool, Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
The biggest game in English football is set for The Big House -- the giant home stadium of the University of Michigan football team -- with Manchester United and Liverpool aiming to draw an even bigger crowd than the 109,318 attendance for United's friendly against Real Madrid in the stadium in August 2014. The two clubs, which have won 38 English titles between them (United 20, Liverpool 18), met outside England for the first time in 2014, when they contested the final of the ICC in Miami, with Louis van Gaal's United winning on that occasion.
For United, the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and Ashley Young won't be playing, while it remains to be seen if Alexis Sanchez will obtain a visa to travel to the U.S.
With the two teams expected to emerge as the closest challengers to Manchester City in the Premier League next season, this encounter could give clues as to which will be the best bet to dethrone Guardiola's men.
July 31: Roma vs. Barcelona, AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
This game might have been on the undercard this summer prior to the incredible encounter in the Stadio Olimpico that saw Roma overturn a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barcelona to eliminate the La Liga giants in the Champions League quarterfinal stage. After that unforgettable night in Rome, this meeting between the two sides in Texas has become one of the must-see games of the summer, with Barca offered an early chance to hit back.
For Roma, the fixture will be an opportunity to gauge their prospects of winning Serie A for the first time since 2001 next season, while Barcelona simply need to get the Champions League defeat out of their system as quickly as possible.
July 31: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United, Hard Rock Stadium (Miami, Florida)
This is a game that has become an annual "Who will Gareth Bale be playing for?" competition. So far, the Wales winger has remained at Real Madrid, but speculation continues to link the former Tottenham man with a big-money move to Old Trafford, especially after Cristiano Ronaldo's exit. Jose Mourinho is a confirmed admirer of the 28-year-old, who is expected to be involved throughout this summer's ICC due to Wales' failure to qualify for the World Cup.
With or without Bale, Mourinho is expected to make wholesale changes to his squad, though has only brought in Fred and Diogo Dalot thus far.
Real are also in the hunt for reinforcements with €100million of Ronaldo money to spend, but United will fight hard to ensure that goalkeeper David De Gea remains out of the Spanish club's reach. The goalkeeper may very well be lining up in one of the goals after Spain's early exit from the World Cup.
Aug. 4: Real Madrid vs. Juventus, FedEx Field (Landover, Maryland)
Even after they sealed a blockbuster €100m move for Ronaldo this summer, Juve's anger might still be simmering by the time this game comes around. Passions are certain to be stirred by memories of the controversial Champions League quarterfinal exit against Real in the Santiago Bernabeu, which saw Gianluigi Buffon sent off by referee Michael Oliver deep inside stoppage time.
Buffon has departed, with the 40-year-old goalkeeper joining PSG. But Juventus will be determined to strike a blow against Real and this is a game that has an extra sense of edge to it. Even with Ronaldo unlikely to make the trip to Maryland to face his old side.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_