Top man at Euro 2012, Pirlo or Iniesta? Opinions differ

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Looking around the journalistic universe – we’re all packing up our memories, buying up the last of our metaphorical souvenirs and moving on from Euro 2012 – there seems to be a split vote on top player from the Poland and Ukraine proceedings.

Some have offered up Italy’s Andrea Pirlo (pictured), who truly lorded over matches with an effortless beauty few will ever match.

Others are offering up Andres Iniesta, many citing the Spaniard’s performance, feisty and commanding, in yesterday’s final as the deciding vote.

A few have even suggested it was Mario Balotelli; his two strikes in the Italians’ top tourney moment, the surprising win over Germany, certainly were breathtaking.

Me? I’ll take Pirlo, not because he’s a better player than Iniesta (he’s not, necessarily) but rather for the more substantial impact of his contributions.

Vicente del Bosque’s team, clearly the tournament’s top collection of talent and surely among the best national teams our planet has ever been privileged to witness, could have claimed this third consecutive major tournament title without their versatile attacker.

But I’d bet an delicious beef sandwich from my favorite, local Italian store that Italy would not have arrived in Sunday’s final without Pirlo’s contributions, especially that absolutely peerless, landmark evening of domination against England.

Still, it’s a tough call, because Iniesta really was something else at the moment that mattered most, on Sunday, the driving force on attack as he operated in such perceptively selected spaces.

Richard Farley, our resident expert on all things Euro 2012, had his say earlier today on the blog.

While you think up your top men, top performances, etc., here are a bunch of opinions from the football smarties at The Guardian.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.