EPL Team of the Year, what do you think?

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After the official EPL Team of the Year was announced on Sunday evening, much debate ensued about the selections.

Title winners Manchester United led the way with four players selected, however, there were some notable absentees as the likes of Michu, Christian Benteke and David Luiz all had stellar campaigns.

But let’s take a few moments to discuss the players who made it, and of course, lets us know who you thought should have been named in the team of the year in the comments section below.

Goalkeeper – David De Gea (Manchester United)

After a shaky first season in the EPL, the young Spanish stopper has come flying back into contention as one of the world’s top young ‘keepers. His slight frame is still an issue in the hustle and bustle of the English game, however a string of fine saves and unconventional stops using his feet has seen De Gea’s stock rise this season. Fergie put so much trust in the youngster and after a terrific campaign, the former Atletico Madrid star is firmly the No. 1 at United.

Right Back – Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Solid, steady and ever dependable, the Argentine right back has had another stellar season with City. He has added a few goals and some asissts to his play, with lung-bursting runs from defense being his trademark. He has marshaled City’s backline — the best in the EPL after conceding just 31 goals all season — expertly and often cleans up others mistakes with consummate ease.

Center Back – Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

The veteran defender won this award because of two things. Number one, he is back to his imperious best. Number two, he’s stayed healthy. For many, many years now lingering back issues have threatened to derail Ferdinand’s illustrious career at United. But this season he has been fit and raring to lead the charge for the title. With plans for a testimonial coming up and a new contract in negotiations, Rio should stay put for at least another two to three seasons on this form.

Center Back – Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

The big Belgian defender came with a great pedigree, having captained Dutch side Ajax at a young age. His reputation has risen tenfold after a sensational first season in the EPL. He has chipped in with goals as well as showing off his versatility with composed displays at center back and left back. The conveyer belt of top talent from Belgium just keeps on coming.

 Left Back – Leighton Baines (Everton)

Lauded by many as England’s left back for years to come, the Everton full back has had a great campaign. Many just expect solid performances from him week after week, but Baines has also created more scoring chances than any other EPL player this season. Quite remarkable.

Right Midfield – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Bit of a surprise pick, but another Belgian star who has impressed in his first EPL season. Hazard hasn’t been without his controversies — banned for an altercation with a ball boy in the league cup semifinal with Swansea City –but on the pitch his fast feet and direct style of play has seen Chelsea’s attacking impetus improve as the season has worn on.

Centre Midfield – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

The diminutive Spaniard has quietly been the hero at Stamford Bridge this season, 14 goals and 18 assists has seen Mata become the heartbeat of every Chelsea attack. His chances with Spain’s national team are on the up and his trickery alongside the likes of Oscar and Hazard has seen Chelsea become one of the leading attacking outfits in the EPL.

Center Midfield – Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

Quietly going about his business, many believe this season United have won the title because of Carrick’s consistency. His vast array of passing and workmanlike displays have seen the Red Devils grind out 1-0 and 2-1 wins at their mercy, as Carrick’s covering in front of the back four has allowed United’s flair players to express their talent. Well deserved inclusion.

Left Midfield – Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

The man of the moment, Bale’s inclusion was a foregone conclusion. He has played across the midfield and forward line, wrecking havoc wherever he popped up. Scoring 22 goals and setting up numerous chances for teammates with his pacey, incisive runs, Bale has become the complete player for Spurs. They will do well to hold on to his talents.

Forward – Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

He had to be in here. But not many will like it. 23 EPL goals and a wonderful player, Suarez is let down by his crazy antics on the pitch. After receiving a 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez’ time in the EPL may be coming to a close. If it is, he has ended it (playing wise) on a high with a superb season that has rescued Liverpool from mid-table obscurity.

Forward – Robin van Persie (Manchester United) 

A very, very close second in the Player of the Year race, RVP has scored 24 goals to lead United to the EPL title. He was brought by Ferguson to score crucial goals at crucial times, and that is what the Dutchman has done in abundance. He can go on to spearhead the Manchester United attack for the rest of his career, with an EPL title under his arm and an “I told you so” smirk on his face for Arsenal fans.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”