Jose Mourinho: Chelsea manager under growing pressure  as champions suffer a poor   start to the season. Photograph: Jed Leicester/PA

Senior squad figures concerned at manager’s public criticism of players’ shortcomings

Brendan Rodgers’ analytical approach to the game can sometimes get in the way of what he actually wants to build at Liverpool. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images

Rodgers at times looks unsure of what sort of Liverpool team he wants to build

Japan players celebrate after beating South Africa in the World Cup Pool B game at Brighton Community Centre on Saturday. Photograph: by Steve Haag/Gallo Images.

Michael Leitch’s courageous decision to go for winning try turns world on its head

 Louis van Gaal and his assistant Ryan Giggs observe proceedings from the Manchester United bench. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

New elite coaching doing very little for the global appeal of Premier League brand

Robbie Keane under pressure from three Georgian players during the Euro 2016 Group D qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s decision to bring on Shane Long for second half changed game in Ireland’s favour

Robbie Keane’s five goals in two matches against Gibraltar have enabled him win back top scorer slot in  history of European qualification matches from Cristiano Ronaldo. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Skipper plays better surrounded by bad players, so he revels in MLS while Pirlo flops

Uefa insist they have “strengthened” the FFP regulations but such a claim is hard to square with the fact Manchester City’s net spend this transfer window is €165 million (€227 million). Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The costlier football becomes the greater the chance people will just turn off

Pedro had attracted interest from Manchester United before signing for Chelsea from Barcelona. He scored on his Premier League debut for the London side against West Brom. Photograph: EPA.

World football's most valuable brand are failing to act like it in the transfer market

Chelsea manager José Mourinho told press conference after Sunday’s 3-0 defeat the result was “fake”, the goals “out of context”, and taking off John Terry at half-time “just a decision”. Photograh: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manager ensured nobody forgot captain was chiefly responsible for early defensive scare

Why criticise José Mourinho for failing to bring through young players when doing so is essentially incompatible with his job – which is to win titles. Photograph: PA

'It’s not surprising that Mourinho is more famous for winning titles than for developing young players'

 Chelsea manager José Mourinho  and Arsenal’s manager Arsène Wenger (patrol the sideline during the  FA Community Shield at Wembley stadium. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Chelsea’s only moves in the transfer market this summer have essentially been swaps

Former German striker Oliver Bierhoff shows the name of Wales during the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Photograph: Getty Images

Ken Early says the World Cup draw is too good to be true but Ireland need leaders to progress

John Delaney  speaks at the FAI agm. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Emphasis runs counter to the uniform philosophy espoused by performance director Ruud Dokter

Conor McGregor   punches Chad Mendes during their interim featherweight title bout at UFC 189. Photograph: John Locher/AP

With his win against Chad Mendes, McGregor can no longer be dismissed as just a ‘rabbit-killer’

 Conor McGregor lands the knockout blow in his fight with Chad Mendes at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Featherweight initially appeared to struggle but sensationally recovered

Conor McGregor, who fights for the interim UFC featherweight title against Chad Mendes in Las Vegas, throws a high kick during his open workout session in the MGM Grand. Photograph: Getty Images

Shrinking majority not won over by fighter still asking questions about sport’s credibility

An offside Jonathan Walters scores Ireland’s first-half goal at the Aviva. Photograph: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

Scotland stalemate leaves no room for anger just a stagnant sense of resignation

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill gives his orders during squad training at Gannon Park, Malahide, ahead of the Group D Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland at the Aviva stadium in Dublin. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters.

Combative Scots will not be pushed around, so guile will be needed to propel campaign

 Barcelona players celebrate with the Champions League trophy after their victory over Juventus in Berlin. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

Juventus avoided humiliation but they couldn’t capitalise when Catalans wobbled

The Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where Barcelona will seek their fifth European Cup and Juventus their third. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

Messi, Xavi and Iniesta aiming for fourth European Cup in 10 years

Orchestrating everything is Messi, an all-round genius who could run past four players or pick out a runner on the far side with a no-look pass. There’s no way to tell.

Ronaldo was voted player of the year in 2014 but Argentine has responded

John Delaney has put on a hell of a show over the last 10 days. When do you ever see hubris followed by nemesis in such short order?

FAI chief executive seemed unaware his deal with Fifa would shock the footballing world

FIFA president Sepp Blatter delivers the surprise news of his departure to press conference at the Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Photograph: EPA/Ennio Leanza

Fifa chief strong on vague rhetoric, but always more angry about critical press reports

Former Fifa vice president Jack Warner was suspended by world soccer’s governing body for corruption in 2011. Photograph: Getty.

Jack Warner comes out fighting by saying investigations stem from failed World Cup bid

Sepp Blatter celebrates as he is re-elected as Fifa president after the only other candidate, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, withdrew from the second vote during the 65th Fifa Congress in Zurich. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images.

FAI chief John Delaney and Uefa may one day work out the secret of the Fifa president's success

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers looks on grimly during the thrashing at Stoke. Photograph:  Tony Marshall/Getty Images

If he’s winning, he’s singing but if he’s losing, Rodgers lapses into defeatism

Liverpool fans hold up flags, banners and scarves to honour Liverpool’s English midfielder Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty Images

Football supporters will remember his career in a series of shimmering images

 After the 2013 treble Pep Guardiola’s challenge was no longer to take Bayern to the next level, but to maintain the standards set by his suddenly illustrious predecessor. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters.

Barcelona defeat puts pressure on manager set up to struggle by Henyckes’s treble

Leicester manger Nigel Pearson and Newcastle manager John Carver chat  on the touchline of the King Power Stadium. Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Newcastle have always been in business of selling dreams but nobody told Mike Ashley

Chelsea’s John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic show how much the point gained in draw with Arsenal means to them. Photo: Adrian Dennis/Gety Images

Ken Early says there’s little point in Arsenal or anyone else complaining about their style

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish looks to evade Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel and Emre Can during an impressive display in the FA Cup sem-final. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Winger’s performance should put him in the frame for Ireland’s game against Scotland

Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring the second goal for Manchester United. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

Van Gaal was thankful of the home support and the impact of his now key man Fellaini

Raheem Sterling: are Brendan Rodgers and Daniel Sturridge the sort of role models that are going to lead him to the top of the game? Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

It is nonsense to say the player owes Liverpool and that he would develop best there

Poland’s Slawomir Peszko scores his side’s goal to put the home team under pressure. Photograph: Reuters/PaulChilds

Big decisions pay off for O’Neill as team rallies to keep qualification chances alive

Ireland fans at the Euro 2012 game against Croatia in Poznan. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Trapattoni returned to Italy convinced the Irish public was more passionate about rugby – but he was wrong

Since Brendan Rodgers  took over at Liverpool, he has won only five of 26 matches against the big four of Chelsea, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs. Photograph:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool again faltered when playing one of the league’s big clubs

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal: football now merely a part of the bigger equation that is commercial success at Old Trafford. Photo:  Michael Regan/Getty Images

They look certain to overtake Real Madrid as football’s biggest-earning club by 2017

 Martin Keown of Arsenal goads Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Man Utd after Van Nistelrooy missed his penalty at Old Trafford in 2003. Photo:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Wenger’s outfit unlikely to be the ones to expose the cracks in United’s facade

Manuel Pellegrini has lost the last two matches with a basic 4-4-2 system which suggests that under pressure, his selections are defined less by detailed consideration of the likely patterns of the game, than by a gambler’s faith in the ability of his forwards to outscore the opposition. Photograph: Getty Images

With half an hour to go, a team of millionaire champions looked ready to settle for a draw

Louis van Gaal: a developmental technocrat whose proudest boast has always been that he knows how to get the best out of young players. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters

Club went out to sign biggest names but the Dutchman is not a chequebook manager

Greg Dyke’s recent FA commission concluded that one reason why England doesn’t develop as many good players as Germany is a relative shortage of facilities. Photograph: Getty Images

Back in 1988 footballers weren’t even sure there games should be shown on television

Gareth Bale has fallen from grace as Real Madrid go through a sticky patch since the start of the year. Photograph: Reuters.

A 4-0 thrashing at city rivals Atletico prompts fans to whistle world’s most expensive player

Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger watches from the touchline during his side’s victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Photograph: AFP

In strange way, Wenger’s reaction to win gave credence to West Ham manager’s opinion

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal is expected to win his fourth Ballon D’Or. Photograph: Getty Images.

Comment on Lionel Messi being best starts the age of Cristiano Ronado

Steven Gerrard will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, with manager Brendan Rodgers unable to guarantee him a place in the side. Photograph:  Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Liverpool midfielder too pessimistic to ever feel happy sitting on bench for mediocre side

Ken Early on how a line from Alex Ferguson got the world wondering just how good the Liverpool and England midfielder really is (...)

Gèrard Depardieu’s Jules Rimet is scrupulously politically correct for a man who was born in 1873

Something very wrong with world football’s organising body’s celuloid depiction of itself

Soldiers of the 5th London Rifle Brigade with German Saxon regimental troops at Ploegsteert Wood during the Christmas Truce of the first World War in  December 1914. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Football may well have potential as a ‘universal language’ – certainly Uefa like to think so

 Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers during the 3-0 Barclays Premier League defeat to   Manchester United   at Old Trafford.  Photogreaph:  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool’s manager has no time to feel sorry for himself – not when his team needs leadership

Los Angeles Galaxy’s  Robbie Keane issues instructions to a teammate as Jermaine Jones of the New England Revolution looks on during the MLS Cup. Photograph: Getty Images

Discarded by Liverpool and then Spurs, Keane was left with no good options in English football

Luis Suarez: “Baby Football in Uruguay is physical and it’s aggressive.” Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero offer accounts of how young talent develops

Robbie Keane (centre)  of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates after scoring a first half goal against Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the Western Conference semi-finals at StubHub Center on November 9th, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Ken Early meets the MVP of MLS ahead of the LA Galaxy’s final clash with New England Revolution

Steven Gerrard applauds the Liverpool fans as he warms up at Anfield during Saturday’s match with Stoke City. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

As Brendan Rodgers struggles for clarity , Gerrard is the least of his problems

 John Delaney: “I now understand that while I was travelling and uncontactable there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened which led to misunderstanding.”

Did John Delaney lie in an effort to cover up a story he feared would cause him embarrassment?

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (centre) at the Emirates Stadium. “ Van Gaal’s new style looked more like Italian football – let the others play, then kill them on the counter.” Photo: Mike Egerton/PA

New book shows how the former Dutch boss’s ideas on the game have evolved

Rangers manager Ally McCoist:  target of abuse from unhappy supporters. Photograph: Getty Images.

Angry men, quiet children, apologetic players: everyone’s in a bad mood at Rangers

Richard Keogh heads the ball clear during last night’s European Championship qualifying match at Celtic Park in Glasgow. Photograph: AFP/Ian MacNicol

On night of crash bang wallop, wee bit of craft adds up to a whole world of difference

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar with Russian deputy prime minster Igor Shuvalov and Fifa president Joseph Blatter (centre) in December 2010 after the announcement of the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Photograph: EPA.

Findings of summary asks more questions of governing body’s integrity

Alex Ferguson, former manager of Aberdeen FC and Manchester United. Photograph: Eric Luke/Irish Times

What has happened to Scotland, once perennial World Cup participants?

Morlock, West Germany’s inside right, scores against Hungary in the World Cup Final at Berne, Switzerland in 1954. Germany went on to become world champions with a 3-2 victory. Photo: Getty Images

Football is never truly important, but the Miracle of Bern in 1954 is probably as close as it gets

When Liverpool’s new signings arrived, they appeared to increase the options available to Rodgers, but in fact, between them, they don’t offer as many options as Suárez did by himself. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool’s brilliance last year owed more to Luis Suárez than to coach’s philosophy

Luis Suarez was the sun at the centre of Liverpool’s solar system but he starts out at Barca as a peripheral satellite.  Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Neymar has bedded in nicely, but erstwhile Liverpool striker needs to be given his head

Willingness to suffer used to be essential for a footballer. Now young players know better

O’Shea gave us our sweetest moment since that other late equaliser in 2002

German national team coach Joachim Löw (right) with (from left) general manager  Oliver Bierhoff, goalkeeper coach Andreas Koepke and coach assistant Thomas Schneider. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters.

Researchers are pioneering new statistical methods of analysing soccer

Dortmund’s charismatic manager Juergen Klopp with his players in front of the Südtribune prior to their Champions League clash with Arsenal.

From the largest terrace in Europe, Dortmund’s fans exemplify a club with the best of football traditions

Cesc Fabregas in action during the match between Chelsea and  Arsenal at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Mourinho’s teams don’t always give the impression of joy, but their focus never falters

Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard celebrates after scoring against bitter derby rivals Everton. But critics have wondered whether he has the mobility to cope with a league that is speeding up as he is slowing down. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

The Liverpool captain’s goal against Everton will quieten pundits, at least for now

Bulletproof self-confidence:  Frank Lampard responds to fans after yesterday’s   match between Manchester City and Chelsea. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Steven Gerrard may have had more natural talent, but Lampard has ended up with more goals and more medals

 Jack Wilshere of Arsenal given ‘brutal reminder of how far he still has to go, as Arsenal were flattened by a supposedly understrength but actually superb Borussia Dortmund.’ Photograph:  Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

Wenger’s first-choice team undone by understrength but superb German side

Danny Welbeck  during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

At Arsenal, he’ll have a manager who’ll trust him to get on with it his own way, and that could be exactly what he needs. The tran(...)

Republic of Ireland’s Jonathan Walters out-jumps David Kvirkvelia of Georgia European Championship Qualifier, Boris Paichadze National Arena, Tbilisi, Georgia. Photograph: Inpho

If Ireland do qualify for Euro 2016 it will unlikely be by more than the two points that were not lost

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill: “You have to remember what the object is, which is to try and break in and score some goals.” Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

‘Every minute of these matches will be very, very important for us,” says Republic of Ireland boss

West Ham United’s Mark Noble. He is a decent Premier League midfielder who played 20 times for England U21s but never made the senior squad

The news that Mark Noble is seriously considering declaring for Ireland has caused a stir

Everyone agrees Mario Balotelli would be a hell of a player if only he would take the game more seriously. But to do that, he would have to be a different person. Photograph:  Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Anyone hoping the enigmatic forward is about to “grow up” – that is, to start playing with the commitment of a Luis Suarez or a S(...)

Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs speaks to Louis van Gaal  during Saturday’s defeat to Swansea. Photograp: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Van Gaal won’t accept failure to add quality players to squad

Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a key figure in Germany’s triumph,  with  the World Cup trophy after last Sunday’s victory in Rio. Photograph: Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s triumph is the fruit of smart evolution – and sweet vindication for manager Joachim Löw

Lionel Messi of Argentina  during the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil Final against Germany at the Maracana   in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph:  Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Argentine looked a shadow of himself despite picking up yet another award

Thomas Müller scored scored five goals for Germany at the 2014 World Cup prior to the final against Argentina. Photograph: EPA.

The romantic notion of journalists working alone falls short in reality

Argentina players celebrate after their Maxi Rodriguez scored the decisive goal during a penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup semi-finals at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo.

Germany favourites but still time for Lionel Messi to have moment for Argentina

Fernandinho of Brazil after a goal scored by Toni Kroos of Germany during the hosts’ heavy semi-final defeat at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Photograph: Robert Ghement / EPA

Fans hardly recognise a team spawned at home but adrift on international stage

Javier Mascherano celebrates after Belgium defeatedg Belgium 1-0 in the World Cup quarter-final. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Despite Lionel Messi wearing the armband midfielder displays his own brand of leadership

 Germany’s Toni Kroos  celebrates with Miroslav Klose  and Sami Khedira at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

This was not just a match but the most incredible result in World Cup history

 Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Germany saves a shot from France’s Karim Benzema of France during their World Cup quarter-final  at Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph:   Marcus Brandt/EPA

The Bayern Munich man has all the elements that make up a top goalkeeper

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari gestures on the sideline during the  World Cup  semi-final defeat to Germany at  the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Photograph: Felipe Trueba/EPA

Brazil coach takes full responsibility for humiliating 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany

Brazil’s Fernandinho commits one of several fouls on Colombia’s James Rodriguez during the World Cup quarter-final in Fortaleza. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters.

A game plan based on beating up Colombia was never going to end well

USA’s DeAndre Yedlin gives chase as Belgium’s Eden Hazard closes in on goal during their last-16 game. His coach, Marc Wilmots, will be looking for some inspiration from the Chelsea midfielder.

Marouane Fellaini will be dangerous in the air on set-pieces but he may struggle on the ground against Lionel Messi

Good job . . . Germany’s Miroslav Klose is congratulated by coach Joachim Löw after their victory over France at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Victory over France was tense, error-strewn and largely uninspiring

Joachim Löw has lasted this long because his team has spent eight years roaming in the gloaming between success and failure.

Has the Germany coach brought his much-admired team as far as they can go?

 Angel Di Maria celebrates  with team-mate Lionel Messi after scoring Argentina’s winning goal in extra-time during the World Cup Round of 16  game against Switzerland at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. Photograph: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Argentina needs a few more stars to come out to play in Brazil

Lionel Messi: made it clear a five-man defence is not a formation of which he approves. Photograph: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Argentina’s taciturn midfield maestro confirms preferred team shape of 4-3-3

Riot police face protesters in Recife. “The cheerfulness of the police again belied their thuggish reputation.” Photograph: Reuters.

‘I thought about the joy the thief must have felt as he unpacked my electronics-laden bag’

Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz (left) celebrates his goal with team-mates  at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife. Photograph: Yves Herman / Reuters

Five flawless penalties after a 1-1 draw in Recife books meeting with the Netherlands

A woman takes a photo next to an advertisement featuring Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, mocking the biting incident against opponent Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup match against Italy, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Getty Images

Even the Uruguayan president backs the biting striker’s cause

Germany’s Thomas Müller  celebrates after scoring against the United States   during the World Cup Group G match at  Arena  Pernambuco  in Recife. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Ken Early from Recife, where Jürgen Klinsmann’s side joined his homeland in last 16

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann insists his boys could only ever play to win as he prepares for tonight’s game against Germany in Recife.

The loser in Recife tonight could be eliminated. A draw, however, takes both sides through

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini  complains to the referee and claims he was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez.

Fifa charge Uruguay striker and he has until tonight to provide evidence to support his case

Luis Suarez of Uruguay  during the  Group D match against Italy  at Estadio das Dunas on June 24th, 2014 in Natal. Photograph:  Clive Rose/Getty Images

Striker at the centre of another biting controversy as Italy knocked out in Natal after Godin winner

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez during yesterday’s press conference where he criticised the English media.

Front page of Sun newspaper on day of England-Uruguay game seems to have upset striker

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (centre)   during the FIFA World Cup 2014 Group A between Brazil and Croatia at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. Photograph: EPA

Rich Brazilians don’t want Brazil to win . . . they fear it could propel Rousseff to a second term

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