Netherlands v Romania - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Vlad Chiricheș: Eastern Europe’s next big export?

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Romania has a history of exporting capable defenders to top European leagues, such as Gabriel Tamaș, Dan Petrescu, Cristian Chivu. The latest name on that list could be current Steaua București man Vlad Chiricheș, who starred again for the Liga I champion in its 3-0 win over Vardar Skopje in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round on Tuesday.

On the offensive side, he had a couple shots of his own and some sublime passes, picking out teammates for clear chances on goal as he surged forward. (See video highlights of the match on DigiSport’s website.) Chiricheș didn’t have much to do on the defensive end in the dominant victory.

In November, just a couple months into his stint at Steaua, Chiricheș reportedly attracted interest from a number of Western European clubs, including Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid. Take it with a grain of salt — talkSPORT spoke to Ioan Becali, Chiricheș’s agent — but outlets in multiple countries corroborated the story.

The 23-year-old has been on the ascent since he moved to Benfica in 2007 to play for its youth team, returning to Romania to sign with FC Internațional Curtea de Argeș in Liga II, playing for two seasons before the club folded entirely despite being in the top flight, at which point Chiricheș signed with Pandurii Târgu Jiu.

He played there for a season, earning his first international caps, before moving to Steaua. He made a quick impression on his new club, scoring on an overhead kick to defeat Molde FK in the Europa League and extend Steaua’s lead at the top of Group E.

It wasn’t the last impressive goal he would score, as he also blasted home from long range as Steaua beat Ajax in a penalty shootout the Europa League round of 16 four months after his goal against Molde.

Judging by his performance against Vardar this week, Chiricheș is in fine form again on the eve of the Romanian league season. Before long, he could be on the move to a richer club in a more stable league.


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WATCH: Carrasco levels Champions League final, finds partner for long kiss

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid celebrates afte scorig the equalizing goal during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Milan on a starry night sounds romantic. Add in a massive match-tying goal, and it was all too much for Yannick Carrasco.

The 22-year-old Belgian attacker got on the end of Juanfran‘s cross and beat Keylor Navas at the near post.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s PK miss ]

In celebration, Carrasco raced toward a pitch side suite and into the arms and lips of what we presume is his partner for a gift that must count as much as a few dozen roses (but probably smelled much worse).

WATCH: Griezmann misses Torres-won PK in huge Champions League moment

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid speaks to head coach Diego Simeone during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Frankly, Antoine Griezmann embodied the Atletico Madrid attack in the first half, so it was no surprise when he stepped up to the penalty spot early in the second half.

Fernando Torres had won a penalty kick from Pepe after the Portuguese back stamped on his ankle in the 46th minute, and Greizmann got Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong direction before cranking the ball off the bar.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

The miss looms large.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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