In this week's Insider Notebook, Liverpool's row with VAR shows no sign of ending, Wayne Rooney is unlikely to get the Derby manager job just yet and Barcelona are fighting to keep one of their rising stars.
Jump to: Barca's battle to keep rising star | United to reject Dalot move | Rooney not the boss for now | Concussion substitutes are coming | Atletico fuming after Suarez COVID blow | Premier League clubs' fears over squads | England's World Cup hopes fade
Liverpool demand answers over VAR
A month has passed since Liverpool's controversial 2-2 draw at Everton and the Premier League champions maintain they have not received sufficient answers to questions put to the authorities following a string of contentious decisions at Goodison Park on Oct. 17, sources told ESPN.
David Coote was the VAR at the centre of key calls that prompted Liverpool to take action, with the club "concerned and confused," according to sources. And Coote was originally down to oversee their clash with Leicester this weekend before he was taken off the match in a move former Manchester United captain Gary Neville dubbed "strange."
The 2-2 draw saw Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford escape punishment for a challenge on Virgil van Dijk that left the centre-half with a cruciate knee ligament injury that could force the Netherlands international to miss the remainder of the season. The game also ended with captain Jordan Henderson having a stoppage-time goal disallowed after Sadio Mane was judged to be in an offside position by VAR.
Liverpool contacted the Premier League and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) for an explanation on why Pickford's challenge was not placed under more scrutiny by VAR official Coote. The club also sought clarification over which part of Mane's body was judged to be offside, with the forward appearing to be onside in the buildup to Henderson's disallowed winner.
But their demands for an explanation have failed to result in a satisfactory explanation of any of the incidents. Sources said that Liverpool have not been granted access to the in-room recording of the VAR decision-making process at Stockley Park and the Premier League champions have also yet to be given a copy of the PGMOL's full report of the handling of the game.
Some Liverpool fans online reacted angrily to news that Coote would be the VAR for their match against Leicester on Sunday before a U-turn that led to him being taken off the match. A source said the change was not due to fan pressure but rather "operational reasons" and added that the move is not a punishment, because Coote still has a match to oversee at the weekend: He is the referee in Manchester United's match with West Brom on Saturday. -- Mark Ogden
Barca battling to keep rising star Moriba
Barcelona are desperate to avoid losing talented youngster Ilaix Moriba, multiple sources told ESPN, and his renewal will be a top priority for the club's next president, along with a new deal for Lionel Messi.
Midfielder Ilaix, 17, has a contract until 2022 and Barca want to extend it at all costs, believing he could be the next big talent to break into the first team, following the path of Ansu Fati.
The Catalan club's unstable situation -- without a president and with a managing committee in charge until elections are held on Jan. 24 -- could work against them, with various clubs known to be interested in the academy player.
Ilaix, who has been promoted ahead of his age group to play for Barca B, agreed to a previous renewal in April last year after strained negotiations, signing for three years with a €100 million release clause. Those discussions hit the headlines when a copy of Moriba's hefty new salary offer was accidentally sent to local rivals Espanyol. The player's agents are now waiting for a call from Barcelona to begin a new round of talks, but the club will have no choice but to make a substantial offer to the player to convince him that Camp Nou is the best place for him to continue his development.
Barca are working on refreshing the first-team squad, and a new president will have to look to their famed La Masia academy due to a lack of financial resources for big signings. As well as Fati and Moriba, there are a number of other prospects who are expected to make the grade. Left-back Alex Balde and forwards Fati, U.S. international Konrad de la Fuente and Ilias are seen as key parts of the club's plans, together with two other recently signed youngsters, Pedri and Sergino Dest. -- Moises Llorens
Messi tired of 'always being the problem' at Barcelona
Lionel Messi responds to suggestions that he leads a "reign of terror" at Barcelona.
Man United won't let Dalot leave
Dalot is spending the season on loan at Milan and the 21-year-old has impressed since arriving in Italy. However, with no option or obligation to buy inserted into the agreement, Milan will have to reopen negotiations if they want to keep the full-back beyond the end of the season.
Dalot, who cost £19m when he moved to Old Trafford from Porto in 2018, is highly-regarded by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who made the decision to allow the Portugal Under-21 international to leave on loan and play regular football to continue his development.
United remain hopeful Dalot can become a first-team regular at Old Trafford and have told Milan they are not looking to sell. He has a contract until 2023 with the option of another year. -- Rob Dawson
Hutchison: Fernandes better than Pogba by a mile
ESPN FC's Don Hutchison says Bruno Fernandes is better for Manchester United than Paul Pogba.
Rooney must wait for Derby job
Derby County's battle to avoid relegation from the EFL Championship is likely to scupper Wayne Rooney's prospects of taking his first steps into management at the club, sources told ESPN.
The former Everton, Manchester United and D.C. United forward, who has yet to secure all of his coaching qualifications, signed an 18-month contract as player-coach when he arrived at Derby last January, with the move designed to prepare the 35-year-old for a managerial role at a later date.
Rooney is part of a four-man interim coaching team, alongside Shay Given, Liam Rosenior and Justin Walker, appointed by Derby to take charge of the first-team following the sacking of manager Phillip Cocu, the former PSV Eindhoven coach, on Nov. 14.
"I am ambitious. I want to go into management. I have been quite open about that. There is an opportunity to show the different ideas you have. I want to be a manager one day," Rooney said.
Derby are bottom of the 24-team Championship, with just one win from 11 games so far this season, and on the verge of being taken over by United Arab Emirates businessman Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed al Nahyan.
And although sources told ESPN that Rooney is one of several candidates being considered for the manager's job by the incoming owners, his lack of experience and the necessary coaching qualifications point towards the former England captain instead being asked to work under a proven manager capable of steering Derby away from the relegation zone. -- Mark Ogden
Did Man United legend Wayne Rooney fail to live up to his potential?
Gab Marcotti names three players who he feels underachieved during their respective football careers.
Football set to introduce concussion subs
The game's lawmakers will approve trials for permanent concussion substitutes when its advisory panel meets on Monday, sources told ESPN.
World players' union FIFPRO had called for 10-minute concussion assessment periods in matches, but the International Football Association Board (IFAB) believes supporting player welfare is of paramount importance. Competitions will hold trials as soon as possible, starting in 2021.
Sources say the IFAB is also expected to extend the temporary measure to allow five substitutes in top-level competitions. It is likely to run for an additional six months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, though there are no plans to make it permanent.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had lobbied the IFAB ahead of the meeting, asking for the handball law to be rolled back to its former version. Sources said handball will be discussed, but only as part of a review of recent changes rather than being specifically on the agenda as a meeting item. Recommendations could still go forward to the IFAB's annual business meeting next month, when final decisions are made for the 2021-22 laws.
Sources said the offside law will be a discussed but there will be no concrete proposals, as virtual meetings with 35-40 delegates have proved difficult to manage. Any major change to the offside law requires extensive in-game trials and would be a long-term project. -- Dale Johnson
Darke calls keeping 5 subs on a full-time basis 'farcical'
Ian Darke argues against continuing five substitutions as the Championship gets set to implement the policy.
Atletico fume with Uruguay after Suarez, Torreira's COVID-19 positives
Atletico Madrid are annoyed after Luis Suarez and Lucas Torreira tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of their La Liga clash with Barcelona on Saturday, amid claims Uruguay failed to observe social distancing measures during the international break.
The outbreak has now seen 11 Uruguay players and staff test positive this week. All of them are asymptomatic.
Footage has emerged of a number of players, without masks, enjoying a Uruguayan BBQ or "asado" at the national team's training complex.
"We happily let our players go away with their national teams, but they should have the same precautions as in Spain," Atletico president Enrique Cerezo told Cadena SER. "From the images we've seen, there weren't any controls."
Torreira tested positive on Wednesday on his return to Madrid, while Suarez is hoping to fly back to the Spanish capital from Montevideo to continue his quarantine period.
"In Spain there are exhaustive controls we have to follow," Cerezo said. "Before games, after games, before training, after training ... Knowing the situation we're all in, they need more controls and security. It isn't the same going from Madrid to Barcelona, or Paris, or Germany to going on a 13- or 14-hour journey to Brazil or Uruguay."
Atletico will be without Suarez, who has scored five league goals since joining from Barca in September, for Saturday's game against his former club, while they also play Lokomotiv Moscow and Valencia next week. -- Alex Kirkland
Lowe: Suarez missing Atleti's game vs. Barca a pity
Sid Lowe is saddened by the news that Luis Suarez will miss Atletico Madrid's game vs. Barcelona because of COVID-19.
COVID-19 strain on squads after international duty
Some Premier League clubs will have to field depleted teams this weekend after an increased number of positive coronavirus tests returned during the international break, sources told ESPN.
The Premier League confirmed 16 positive tests among players and staff in the latest round of testing -- the highest number of positives in testing before this week was 10. Clubs have been largely satisfied with the COVID-19 protocols that have been put in place for players who are under their supervision, but there remain concerns about the increased risk to squad members who traveled to link up with their national teams during the international break.
Players will have to return a negative test before being allowed to feature in this weekend's fixtures, and clubs are concerned that after two weeks of international duty that has seen different "bubbles" mixing and countries using their own protocols, it could see players forced to quarantine at a crucial stage of the season.
Mohamed Salah is set to miss Liverpool's next three games -- including the clash with Leicester on Sunday -- after testing positive while on duty with Egypt. Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny has also been affected.
Manchester United defender Alex Telles was reported to have returned a positive test while training with Brazil but has since tested negative and should be able to play against West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday. -- Rob Dawson
Should Jack Grealish be an automatic starter for England?
The FC panel debate if Jack Grealish deserves a permanent spot in England's starting XI.
England World Cup hosting hopes in balance
England's emergence as the potential sole host of next summer's rescheduled Euro 2020 could prove to be the English Football Association's only hope of staging a major tournament this decade, with sources telling ESPN the joint Portugal-Spain 2030 World Cup bid is the front-runner to be the European candidate for the competition.
Despite efforts by the English FA to improve the country's image within UEFA and FIFA following two failed World Cup bids for the 2006 and 2018 tournaments, accusations of arrogance and superiority continue to harm England's reputation, particularly among Eastern European nations.
Having not staged the World Cup since 1966, no major football nation has waited longer to host the competition for a second time -- Mexico, Germany and France have all had two World Cups since England last hosted it -- and England is determined to stage the centenary competition in 2030. The English FA has the backing of the UK government to launch a bid, with the prospect of Scotland, Wales and Ireland also being involved.
But with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin keen to have just one European bidder for 2030 in order to avoid the risk of splitting the vote, sources told ESPN that member nations of UEFA are increasingly indicating support for the Iberian bid of Portugal and Spain.
England is a contender to stage Euro 2020 next summer if the pandemic forces UEFA to abandon their 12-nation tournament in favour of the competition being played in a COVID-secure bubble. France, Germany and Russia are also regarded as potential hosts. -- Mark Ogden