Wednesday's soccer news starts with a UEFA decision that was never going to help the smaller clubs trying to compete in Europe. The Champions League no longer cap ties players for the entire season. Instead, the January window allows teams in the knockout round to restock their already successful squads. It's not exactly a surprise that this could come at the expense of overachieving teams from the group stage. Enter Red Bull Salzburg, a club that impressed just enough to find itself gutted as it attempts to navigate the Europa League.
Jesse Marsch's team finished third in its group, but was noticeably competitive against defending champions Liverpool. That led to laudatory comments from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, with the club also noticing the players on Marsch's squad. Red Bull Salzburg may be a part of the Red Bull sports group, but Europe's elite clubs are still capable and willing to make offers for players an Austrian club isn't likely to refuse. That's why forward Takumi Minamino became a Liverpool player the day the January window opened, completing a deal agreed to a few weeks earlier. Fellow forward Erling Haland left for Borussia Dortmund two days later. Both scored in Red Bull Salzburg's comeback at Anfield on October 2.
"From those games I learned this team has such a high level of technique and intensity," Minamino said after joining Liverpool. "Their football is of such a high level and I did feel that they were the champions of the Champions League. Feeling that, it makes me feel even happier that I can play in this team. I’m really happy to be part of that team. My target is to win the Premier League and the Champions League, and to make good contributions to the team."
Easy enough with the Premier League, considering Liverpool's lead and the unlikeliness that Leicester City, Manchester City, or anybody else can catch them. The Champions League is an open question, but Minamino is in position to accomplish both of those goals in five months.
Haland is also still alive in the Champions League, now a member of a Dortmund club that finished 2nd in Group F and faces PSG in the round of 16 next month. "Right from the very start, I knew I wanted to move here," Haland said in the press release announcing the deal. "I can't wait to get started and play in front of over 80,000 fans in the incredible Dortmund atmosphere. I'm so excited."
Other than what we can assume were two substantial incoming transfer fees, what's left for Marsch's Red Bull Salzburg? Potentially the remainder of the season with the other goalscorer in that remarkable 4-3 loss to Liverpool back in October. Red Bull officials are reportedly not interested in selling Hwang Hee-chan even though Leicester City and Wolverhampton are showing interest. Salzburg management has the rest of the month to change their mind, but in the best situation it leaves Marsch with a third of the offensive weapons he had a month ago.
Which raises the question of what would happen if Minamino, Haland, and the rest of the squad were cap-tied to Red Bull Salzburg for the entirety of the Champions League and Europa League seasons? Europe's other tournament is also an issue, with defender Marin Pongracic leaving Salzburg for Wolfsburg earlier today with both teams in the knockout round of the Europa League.
UEFA can't feign surprise that the group stage of the Champions League is now a shopping opportunity for the bigger clubs. This happened because of UEFA's decision to not cap-tie players, a basic sporting requirement for any season-long tournament even one masquerading as a league. Red Bull Salzburg is enough of an example to make the point, whether or not UEFA pays any attention.
The Athletic's Raphael Honigstein interviews USMNT and Schalke player Weston McKennie. The Independent's Miguel Delaney argues that Manchester United should make the move for Mauricio Pochettino as manager now. Football 365's Dan Bridges asks about the situation with Barcelona under its new coach. The NY Times' Rory Smith questions Barcelona's expectations. FourFourTwo's Seb Stafford-Bloor with an argument against the January transfer window.
Jürgen Klinsmann as Hertha Berlin head coach:— DW Sports (@dw_sports) January 15, 2020
Narrow defeat to Dortmund ✅
4-game unbeaten streak✅
Proof of valid coaching licence❌
Klinsmann reportedly left the paperwork in California😮 pic.twitter.com/LrkN0XWrwx
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