On Soccer: Trapped in the Premier League’s Golden Cage

Before Liverpool’s first preseason match in July, the team’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, called Mario Balotelli into his office. The conversation Klopp needed to have with Balotelli, his enigmatic Italian forward, was an awkward one, and he wanted to have it face to face.

Balotelli, Klopp explained, would not be involved in Liverpool’s forthcoming friendly games. Nor would he be invited on the subsequent tour of the United States. The atmosphere was cordial, but Klopp’s message was clear: Balotelli would need to find alternate employment. The curtain had closed on his troubled time at Anfield.

A couple of weeks later, José Mourinho had a similar conversation with Bastian Schweinsteiger. A year earlier, Mourinho’s predecessor as Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, had enticed Schweinsteiger, the former Germany captain, to leave Bayern Munich with a salary in the region of $245,000 a week. Van Gaal, who had coached Schweinsteiger in Munich, saw him not only as the cool, experienced head he required in midfield, but as the manager’s ambassador on the field and his acolyte in the dressing room.

Mourinho saw things differently. When the 32-year-old…

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