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Opposing worlds of the new Liverpool, Manchester United kits

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source:  Two silly seasons arrive each June: the European transfer window opens, and teams start rolling out their new kits – the obligatory updates that tempt fans to drop eighty bucks on a new token of their fandom. And just as there are fans that hit the search engines each day ready to consume any transfer rumor that’s published, there are apparel-philes who, even if they’re not buying most of these shirts, love to see the little innovations each manufacturer blends into their clients’ schemes.

But those innovations are double-edged swords, particularly if you’ve signed on to a new manufacturer that’s trying to make their mark on the landscape. When the sides of that sword are exemplified by rivals like Liverpool and Manchester United, the contrast becomes even more pronounced.

Over the last two days, the two English Premier League rivals have revealed new kits, Liverpool’s apparel manufacturer Warrior responsible for their 2013-14 away kits (as well as their other kits) while Nike and Manchester United have unveiled their upcoming seasons’ home shirts.

The Reds’ version has been much-maligned, mostly for the pattern across the kits’ midsection:

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Last summer, Liverpool’s contract with adidas ended, the German manufacturer electing not to pursue a renewal of the deal. The decision worked out great for Liverpool, who went on to sign a $38 million/year deal with Warrior Sports, a New Balance subsidiary. At the time, the contract was the most lucrative deal in Premier League history, worth $2 million more per season than Manchester United’s deal.

But with the move, Liverpool embraced a manufacturer that was relatively new to these heights of the soccer apparel game. With that came new ideas, some of which have been warmly received. The 2013-14 away kits, however, have been unveiled to negative feedback.

In fairness, Liverpool and Warrior don’t see the pattern as particularly revolutionary; rather, they see the twist as a “retro.” From the team’s website:

The new strip produced by Warrior represents modern retro and is inspired by the patterns and graphics featured on the club’s kits from the 1980s and 1990s.

Fair enough, but let’s contrast that with their rival’s kits, unveiled today by Manchester United and Nike:

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So the fog is a big much, but people are focusing on other things. With a black collar that’s designed to evoke the era of Eric Cantona, Nike’s incorporated a small, revered piece of recent history into United’s 2013-14 home kits. From the club’s site:

The kit features the return of the black collar, a popular and evocative symbol ever since Eric Cantona wore it upturned in the 1990s. This season’s tailored, button-down collar boasts three buttons at the front and one at the back, a modern twist that’s also intrinsically Mancunian.

source:  Though the kit’s been generally well-received, all’s not  nostalgia and regality. Once those collars are popped, you get an out-facing vertical stripped design with faint horizontal accents – one which is better hidden under the basic black. It’s a twist the ruins the idea of United playing tribute to Cantona, with the potential of eleven of popped-collared Red Devils running around with their plaid accents creating a sense of foreboding.

What kind of nightmare will we see at next year’s North West Derby at Old Trafford? You’ll have Liverpool’s flame-embossed catastrophes contrasted with United’s Ralph Lauren rejects.

Don’t take these words too seriously, though. They’re just kits, and for every person who uses “catastrophes” and “rejects” to describe the new looks, there are bound to be some who see the changes as creative and innovative. Ultimately, people will vote with their wallets.

But the changes still tell a tale of the state of the apparel wars, both in terms of products and clients. Warrior paid huge money to become Liverpool’s manufacturer  but when the Reds signed on, they implicitly accepted a compant that may not have had as much reverence for traditional soccer fashion, a design preference that could go either way.

With Nike, Manchester United has a player with an incentive to revere traditional approaches. So when they deviate from what’s expected, the changes are likely to be subtle, potentially hidden by a collar that should never be popped.

Report: West Ham offer $22 million for AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 20:  Carlos Bacca of AC Milan celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 20, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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West Ham’s search for an elite striker continues, with their newest target AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca.

According to Sky Sports, the Hammers have bid $22 million for the striker, who led Milan with 18 goals in Serie A play last season.

However, after paying $34 million to sign the striker last summer, it is believed Milan would be unwilling to sell their top scorer for less than $30 million.

MORE: All 2015-16 PL season reviews ]

At 29-years-old, Bacca has been one of Europe’s most consistent forwards over the past few seasons. After bagging 49 goals in 108 appearances for Sevilla, he earned a move to Milan last July, finishing third in Serie A scoring in his first year with the club.

West Ham’s chairman David Gold has been open about his desire to sign a world-class striker, with Lyon confirming that they rejected a $45 million bid from the Hammers for Alexandre Lacazette.

VIDEO: Neymar takes batting practice before New York Mets game

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Brazilian soccer player  Neymar Jr stands in the New York Mets dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field on May 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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We all know Neymar’s skills with a soccer ball, but what about with a baseball bat?

Spoiler alert: He’s better with his feet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Copa coverage ]

The Barcelona and Brazil superstar was in New York on Tuesday night and hit up the batting cages at Citi Field before the Mets game against the Chicago White Sox.

Taking swings lefty, Neymar made some contact but didn’t necessarily have the smoothest stroke…

He then hit the field and got back to his roots, showing off some footskills while juggling a baseball.

I’m not too sure if Neymar is a baseball fan, but this may make him the Mets’ newest, most famous supporter (sorry Jerry Seinfeld).

Neymar is in the United States as he has some time off after the long Barcelona season. He is not playing in the Copa America with Brazil, but will instead play in the Olympics in August.

Messi’s tax fraud case begins with player avoiding court

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 17:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on  during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on April 17, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Lionel Messi’s tax trial began Tuesday with the player deciding not to appear in court for early proceedings.

Messi is facing a prison sentence of nearly two years on charges he failed to properly pay taxes for part of his earnings from Barcelona from 2007-09.

[ FOLLOW: All of PSTS’s Copa coverage ]

The Argentina playmaker is not obligated to appear in the Barcelona court until Thursday, when he is scheduled to testify before a judge. Sentencing is not expected until next week.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million).

Because of the trial, Messi is missing Argentina’s preparation for the Copa America Centenario, which begins Saturday in the United States. He is expected to fly straight to the U.S. to join his teammates after the trial ends. Argentina debuts in the tournament on Monday against defending champion Chile.

Even if found guilty, it is highly unlikely that Messi or his father will face any jail time. They have denied wrongdoing.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

“Everything is good. Everybody is calm,” said Messi’s lawyer, Enrique Bacigalupo, as he arrived at the Barcelona court on Tuesday.

The trial is centered on alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the player knew enough to also be named in the case. Officials said that although Messi was mostly unfamiliar with tax issues, there was sufficient evidence to believe he could have known and consented to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.

In addition to each facing a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days, Messi and his father could also be fined in the amount defrauded and ordered to pay all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.

Messi is just the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.

[ MORE: Marcelo giving away UCL winners’ medal…on Facebook ]

Mascherano, Messi’s teammate with Argentina and Barcelona, earlier this year was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for not paying nearly 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in taxes for 2011 and 2012. Brazil striker Neymar recently had to testify before a judge because of alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona. He and the club were accused of withholding the real amount of the transfer fee, in part to avoid paying the full amount of taxes.

Messi was also being investigated by Spanish tax authorities after his name was among those released in the probe of international offshore accounts, known as the Panama Papers, although he was not charged for those allegations.

VIDEO: Bayern’s David Alaba scores brutal own goal for Austria

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David Alaba is going to want this one back…

While playing in a friendly for Austria, the Bayern Munich left-back scored a cringe-worthy own-goal that his teammates will surely never let him forget.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With Austria leading Malta 2-0, goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan played out of the back to Alaba. As pressure come from Malta’s strikers, Alaba turned and played a blind pass back to his keeper.

The only problem is, his keeper wasn’t there.

Ozcan did the right thing and moved outside of his goal to give Alaba support, only the defender never picked up his head to realize. Austria would hold on to win the match 2-1.

[ MORE: Klinsmann treating USMNT’s Copa opener vs. Colombia like a final ]

After winning their EURO qualification group with nine wins from ten matches, Austria has high hopes of making a run in the tournament. They will play in Group F with Portugal, Iceland, and Hungary.