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Andrés Iniesta accuses Jose Mourinho of damaging Spanish football

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It’s rare to hear soundbites from Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta but when they come, they’re typically cautious, soft-spoken comments that rarely spark controversy.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday when El Pais newspaper quoted Iniesta as saying that Jose Mourinho did more harm than good to Spanish football during his three-year tenure at Real Madrid.

“You just have to look at the facts,” Iniesta told El Pais. “Yes he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good. But I don’t like talking about that person at all. So if you don’t mind, we’ll leave it at that.”

Mourinho and Madrid agreed to mutually part ways back on May 20th after a tumultuous 2012-13 campaign where the Portuguese manager failed to claim Los Blancos a major trophy. Mourinho has since put pen to paper on a deal to return to Chelsea, where ‘The Special One’ feels “loved” after famously managing the side to two Premier League titles from 2004-07.

Mourinho’s three year stint at Madrid was filled with a series of ugly incidents, which included eye-gouging Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova on the touchline of a Madrid-Barcelona match in 2011, benching club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and most recently claiming that Cristiano Ronaldo can’t be coached because he “thinks he knows it all.”

That being said, is Iniesta’s criticism of Mourinho valid? Or are these just sour grapes remaining after three years of El Clásico fixtures?

It’s tough to say without hearing more from Iniesta. But at the very least, accusing Mourinho of “damaging” Spanish football seems a bit rich. If anything, many would claim that Mourinho’s presence and antics only added to the drama surrounding the El Clásico, solidifying its reputation as the most watched rivalry in world football.

The argument that Mourinho’s antics – while at times, childish and crude – soiled the purity of El Clásico feels a bit over-stated. After all, it’s not like that match has not had its fair share of notable events, including, team buses being pelted with bricks, a long rap sheet of racist incidents and dangerous projectiles being thrown onto the pitch (including a pigs head that was thrown at the feet of Luis Figo in 2002).

Iniesta’s argument feels even less valid when one considers the financial state of La Liga. If anything has “damaged Spanish football” it’s the financial mismanagement (not to mention the outright corruption) that the league suffers. This year alone, eight out of 20 La Liga clubs are either in administration or have had to drastically restructure their debt.

Much of that blame is due to a system that allows clubs to sell their television rights individually, which disproportionately favors Madrid and Barcelona, leaving smaller clubs in shackles.

Of course, Iniesta’s comments could simply be referring to the mental strain that Mourinho inflicted on Casillas by benching him at Madrid. We’ll see much of a toll the benching has taken on Casillas later this month when La Furia Roja heads to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).

VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Round 25

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In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.

Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.

[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]

Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 ARCHIVE ]

Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)

Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Premier League Player of the Week — Round 25

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Score one for the Midlands.

In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.

[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]

It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.

Premier League Players of the Week

Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth

Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City

Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton

Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United

Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton

Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United

Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford

Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland

Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton

Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.