Among the many ways to describe Chuck Blazer, influential may be the most boring. It may also most accurate.
A larger-than-life figure whose whose life atop the New York City skyline has become part legend, hyperbole, and fact, the FIFA executive committee member has come to symbolize so much of what the world’s governing body means to the soccer fans. His lifestyle is lavish, there’s speculation that’s fueled through nefarious means, yet he was crucial in a CONCACAF cleanup that ousted corrupt former president Jack Warner. While there may be an irony to that blown whistle, it’s one that may have pushed FIFA as well as North/Central American soccer in a slightly better direction.
After 16 years on FIFA’s executive committee, Blazer has announced he will not seek re-election. Set to leave his office in May, Blazer said via statement that “It is time for new faces with new energy to take over the responsibility of FIFA’s leadership.” The 67-year-old will leave having served five terms.
Between now and then you will surely read more informed retrospectives than I can provide. To me, Blazer is a man with a tremendous beard who exemplifies the strange and unknown world of FIFA’s closed door culture. Rabid speculation depicts those corridors as lined with money-filled paper bags that a fortunate few can pluck at their whim. Blazer is one of the few to detail that world, one we still know so little about.
Regardless, Blazer’s probably right. It is time for new people to take over these leadership positions. No matter what you think of the general paranoia that surrounds these governing bodies’ actions, the days of unscrutinized governance appear to be ending. Like FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Blazer is moving on. For all involved, it’s the right time.
The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.
Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.
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Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)
The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.
It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.
Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.
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The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.
Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.
Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).
“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”
Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.
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The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.
More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.
Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.
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That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.
Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.
A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:
“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”
She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.