UEFA names shortlist for Player of the Year, who’s in your top 10?

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UEFA have announced which players are in the running for the creatively named “UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.”

And there are some serious surprises. For starters, there are no Spanish internationals included in the list of ten stars who can scoop the highly coveted accolade.

That includes the 2012 winner Andres Iniesta.

Four players hail from the Bundesliga, while just two players were shortlisted from the EPL.

So, in no particular order, here are the candidates as we see who the favorite is to win the award, which will be announced in Monaco on August 29 during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

Here are the top dogs.

Gareth Bale (Wales) – Tottenham

After scoring 26 goals last season, and rescuing Tottenham on multiple occasions, Bale has to be in the running to win this award. The Welshman is still only 23 and it seems as though moves to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are on hold as he aims to reach the Champions League with Spurs. The rest of Europe already know how good he is though.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) – Paris St-Germain

Helping PSG to their first French title since 1994, Zlatan was phenomenal up front. The Swedish striker is never short of controversy, but 35 goals in 46 games is an incredible record. The 31-year-old is a menace and should get more accolades like this.

Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – Borussia Dortmund

Despite the recent news of him leaving Dortmund for rivals Bayern Munich in 2014, Lewandowski’s achievements last season can’t be overlooked. Four goals against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals and 36 goals in 48 games overall was the giant Polish strikers record goal haul.

Lionel Messi (Argentina) – Barcelona

Probably the favorite. We all know why. The four-time reigning World Player of the Year was once again in sensational form. Despite Barcelona missing out on the Champions League, Messi dazzled with 60 goals in 50 games. If he didn’t get injured at the end of the season, it could’ve been more.

Thomas Mueller (Germany) – Bayern Munich

European champion and a clinical finisher, Mueller can really play anywhere in attack. With yet another solid season for club and country under his belt, the young German has seen his stock rise further. Probably an outsider for this though.

Franck Ribery (France) – Bayern Munich

Yet another European champion, the French international had a remarkable season with Bayern. He was back to his best after injury hit spells had curtailed his career in the Bundesliga, again an outsider, but next year he will be even better.

Arjen Robben (Netherlands) – Bayern Munich

Scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final…. it doesn’t get much better than that. The Dutch wing-wizard has excelled in his new role at Bayern, and he made up for the pain of defeat in previous World Cup and Champions League finals by sealing Munich’s triumph at Wembley.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – Real Madrid

Messi has broken all kinds of records in the past few years but Ronaldo isn’t far behind. the Portuguese attacker has delivered time and time again at Real Madrid, 55 goals in 55 games is sensational. Between him, Bale and Messi for this trophy.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) – Bayern Munich

The heart and soul of Bayern’s Champions League triumph, Schweinsteiger really deserves being on this shortlist. People are often left in awe of his work rate, but he has an eye for a pass and can create wonderful chances for his teammates.

Robin van Persie (Netherlands) – Manchester United

He brought the EPL crown back to Old Trafford with his goals last season. 26 in total saw RVP become a fans favorite at United, can the 29-year-old Dutchman add a piece of personal silverware to his collection?

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

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

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“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.