Victor Bernardez, Landon Donovan

Life with (and without) Landon means planning for Donovan’s return

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Brune Arena and the LA Galaxy are in a tough spot with all this Landon Donovan business. Their mercurial icon has been quiet since helping Los Angeles to a second straight title, making good on his promise to drift away and recharge.

Take those Everton rumors and blow your nose with them. In all likelihood, Donovan’s enjoying some quiet time in Southern California, enjoying family and far too many sessions of FIFA13. If he does find his way back to Carson, it may be with a bad case of carpal tunnel.

On one hand, the break’s a prerogative Donovan’s earned with his contributions to club, country and league. The man who’s logged thousands of miles wants a couple of months to recharge? Who wants to tell him no?

On the other, he did sign a contract. He’s entering the last year of a deal set to pay him $2.4 million in 2013.

No surprise, Arena seems to be taking everything in stride. That’s why he’s Bruce Arena. Rather than bemoan the uncertainty fostered by his star’s, the four-time MLS Cup winner is moving forward.

And he’s moving forward with the assumption the players he has under contract will be with him come training camp. From MLSSoccer.com:

“I’ve never said he wasn’t [coming back],” Arena told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s on our team. On the contrary, I would think he’s coming back unless I hear otherwise. I’m going to plan on Landon being back until I hear otherwise.”

What else is Arena going to do? He knows Landon as well as anybody (so his instincts may be guiding this decision), but it’s not as if Arena can take the Galaxy in a different direction.

They’re not going to go get another Designated Player. They’re not going to fill his spot on the roster. This is Landon Donovan we’re talking about. And we’re only a month removed from the end of the season.

If Donovan needs more than the few weeks before training camp to decide his future, he’s going to get it. LA will suffer, but given Donovan’s sporadic fitness problems and callups to the national team, Arena knows how to prepare a team without him. If the Galaxy have to make it through spring without an indecisive Landon, they’ll survive.

But just as Arena’s instincts are telling him to prepare for Donovan’s return, a sixth sense may dictate when Los Angeles starts seeking a resolution. If, at some point, Arena gets the feeling Donovan’s inching away from the game, he’ll likely seek closure, not wasting any time refactoring the team around whomever replaces their cornerstone.

Until then, Donovan’s going to get whatever time he needs. And Arena’s going to prepare for his return.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.