Premier League’s top 10 midfielders

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The Premier League has some of the most diverse, talented midfield players in world soccer, but who makes up the top 10?

10. MOUSSA DEMBELE (Tottenham)

The classy Belgium international has fitted into life at White Hart Lane brilliantly, and was awesome at Fulham before that. He is an all-round midfielder, combining creativity, power and pace to great effect. Still only 25, he will get better and better.

9. YOHAN CABAYE (Newcastle)

The Frenchman is a terrific player, and Newcastle will do well to keep hold of him in the summer. Short and stocky in build, he plays with a ferocious style off the ball but with an elegance on it. He is now a fixture in France’s side more often than not, and has been a great signing by Alan Pardew.

8. MICHAEL CARRICK (Man Utd)

Many say he’s overrated, many say he’s underrated. Carrick’s effectiveness is one of soccer’s big talking points at the moment, but the bottom line is that he’s a terrific player. He has played with a calmness and authority all season for Manchester United and has been their most consistent player. He is neat and tidy on the ball, reads the game well and does a lot of unnoticed defensive work.

7. JACK WILSHERE (Arsenal)

In a few years time Wilshere will be much higher on the list; he really is an exceptional talent. His return from long-term injury has been a huge boost for Arsenal, and at such a young age he is already displaying leadership skills beyond his years. Future England and Arsenal captain, perhaps? He passes brilliantly, runs with the ball, tackles hard and always does his best for the team. The 21-year-old will be England’s best player of his generation.

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6. SANTI CAZORLA (Arsenal)

What a brilliant debut season the tiny Spaniard has had at The Emirates. Typically Spanish in style, he is deadly at shooting with both feet, has wonderful technical ability and has scored crucial goals throughout the campaign. Real Madrid and Barcelona must be wondering why they didn’t sign him while he was still in Spain.

5. MAROUANE FELLAINI (Everton)

The Everton star is unplayable on his day. Tall, aggressive, strong, great in the air and with the ball at his feet, the 25-year-old Belgian international has been a revelation in his time at Goodison Park. He can play defensive or offensive midfield- even as a second striker sometimes- and is one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League.

4. DAVID SILVA (Man City)

This time last year Silva could’ve been top of this list, but he has just dropped in quality ever so slightly of late. That said, he is still a superb soccer player, capable of opening up defences with his amazing passing talent. He has a left foot as good as any in the league and, when he is at his best, he is one of Manchester City’s key men.

3. STEVEN GERRARD (Liverpool)

Some thought Gerrard’s injury problems last year would destroy him as a player, but he has come back and been colossal for Liverpool this season. He has altered his game slightly to a more defensive role, but his influence is still as great as it has always been for club and country. One of the Premier League’s greatest ever players, he has played every single minute in the league this season.

source: Getty Images

2.YAYA TOURE (Man City)

At times the 29-year-old walks around the pitch like he’s not interested, looking lazy and slow, then he bursts into life. When he’s in full flow he is literally unstoppable, running at great pace but also incredible strength. He is a giant of a man in midfield, and at his best there is arguably no more influential player in the Premier League. Like  many of City’s players this season he has struggled to find top gear, but he’s still an outstanding soccer player.

1. JUAN MATA (Chelsea)

The Chelsea superstar has been quite wonderful this season, constantly saving his side when others around him aren’t performing. He has scored goals, assisted many others and is just always brilliant in every game he plays. He is a creative genius with a wand of a left foot, but he also does the dirty work and helps out defensively when he has to. He’s basically David Silva but with a bit more strength and desire to his game. His talent deserves to be shown off at Barcelona, and the Premier League is lucky to have him gracing it.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.