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Why the NFL shouldn't be an economic model for the Champions League

The Champions League could never follow an NFL model but some owners would love to see UEFA try.

The Champions League revamp announced this past August, with Europe's four top-ranked leagues guaranteed 16 of the 32 spots, caused many to complain about polarization, greed and the one-percenters sticking it not just to the little guys (that happened a long time ago), but to the game's middle classes as well.

UEFA were caught between a rock (Europe's big clubs wanted even more allowances from wild card entries to games on weekends) and a hard place (if they didn't get what they wanted, some...

Is this the beginning of the end for Cristiano Ronaldo?

At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.
At age 31, Cristiano Ronaldo is beginning to face serious questions about a decline.

In a different context, Cristiano Ronaldo's travails against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday could have been written off as 'one of those days'. The forward somehow unleashed 11 fruitless attempts, seven from inside the box, and could only be relieved to see Alvaro Morata pounce late to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win. Certainly, given how one thumping strike swooshed just wide and another flick went close, you could say Ronaldo was unlucky. Next time, he will surely score.

But that would have been far easier to do had his display not fit into a larger trend, one that may give Madrid some cause for concern. Ronaldo has started the season unusually slowly and has now walked off the Santiago Bernabeu grass four consecutive times without scoring. That has never happened before. So desperately did he want a goal Sunday that he twice ignored teammates in better positions only to squander the chances himself. That triggered accusations of selfishness and boos from his own supporters.

His record in La Liga this season is dreadful. He has 39 attempts and two goals; a conversion rate of 5.1 percent. The goals have come in a 5-2 win over Osasuna and a 6-1 hammering of Betis. His expected goals average (xG) against Athletic ticked in at 2.03, which is more than what all but three of the Spanish top division clubs have averaged per game collectively. On top of that, Madrid's last four home games have been against a weakened Athletic side, plus Eibar, Villarreal and Legia Warsaw.

"He is not taking his chances now, but he will soon, and with calmness," manager Zinedine Zidane assured on Sunday, according to Diario AS.

But will he? Or is the form part of a permanent decline?


Roger Schmidt's safe, for now, at Bayer Leverkusen but pressure is mounting

Lotte came back from a goal down twice and beat Leverkusen in penalties to advance to the third round of the German Cup.
Roger Schmidt has plenty of goodwill left at Bayer but his stubbornness is proving problematic.

The live transmission of Sportfreunde Lotte vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a DFB Cup second round tie pitting a third division side from a provincial town mostly known for its Autobahn interchange against one of the Bundesliga's least-supported top teams, would not have raked in millions of viewers in Germany on Tuesday night. But one man was certainly watching.

Bayer coach Roger Schmidt decided to follow the game on TV screen from the confines of the 04 team bus, having been banned from entering the...

Jeremy Mathieu joins Barcelona's list of injured centre-backs

Barcelona will be without Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique, but the FC crew expect them to win easily at Valencia.

Barcelona have been dealt more bad news in defence with the confirmation that Jeremy Mathieu suffered a calf injury in Tuesday's 1-0 Catalan Super Cup defeat to Espanyol.

The French centre-back, who lost out to Felipe Caicedo in the game's defining moment, was taken off at the start of the second half after complaining of a problem.

Barca released a statement after the game explaining that Mathieu will undergo tests on his calf at the training ground on Wednesday to determine the seriousness of...

Alex Ferguson regrets not guiding Man Utd to 2002 Champions League final

Craig Burley steams up at the wretched state Jose Mourinho and Manchester United currently find themselves in.
Jose Mourinho refused to comment on Martin Atkinson's decision regarding David Luiz's high challenge.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Ross Dyer give their picks for some of the upcoming EFL Cup matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken about his regret at missing out on taking Manchester United to the 2002 Champions League final in Glasgow.

The former United manager -- who was born in Govan, Glasgow -- admitted that the club should not have tempted fate by checking out hotels for the final beforehand.

Ferguson, who was speaking as Glasgow launched preparations for being a Euro 2020 host city, said: "The whole build-up [in 2002] was about taking Manchester United back to the final [at Hampden Park]...