West Brom rejects bid for Peter Odemwingie – Time to give the striker a break?

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West Bromwich Albion have rejected a bid of $1.3 million (£850k) from Dubai club Al Nasr for striker Peter Odemwingie.

Which makes it as good a time as ever to note that of all the players in the Premier League, perhaps it’s time to give Odemwingie a break.

After the circus that he put the club through last season, it’s unlikely that the people of West Bromwich Albion will agree.

Odemwingie began his 2012-13 in decent form, scoring five goals through mid-January. It was by no mean astounding form, but it was respectable considering Odemwingie started only half of the matches in which he featured, ceding time to a surging Romelu Lukaku. With the Belgian striker and Shane Long in fine form, rumors surfaced in late January that Odemwingie could be on his way out of the West Midlands in favor of a move to Queens Park Rangers.

After West Brom denied two bids, the second of which was around $4.6m (£3m), Odemwingie took to Twitter to sight his discontent at Albion’s decision to reject what he deemed to be a fair bid. As the transfer window was set to close, Odemwingie was under the impression that his prayers had been answered. So he drove to Loftus Road, preparing to sign a last minute contract with the R’s.

When he arrived at the West London club, Odemwingie was refused entrance at the gate after he was informed that a deal had not been completed. Reporters snapped photographs of the confused striker and later, he took to Twitter to set forth his discontent.

Those shenanigans, perhaps justifiably, earned Odemwingie a spot in the dog-house of manager Steve Clarke. But for as much as the striker irritated Albion by the manner in which he handled his potential transfer – and the way he continued to voice his discontent at not being played – the source of these outbursts came from a positive place.

Odemwingie was simply hungry to play.

Lukaku made him expendable at The Hawthorns. And, at age 32 and nearing the twilight of his career, Odemwingie just wanted the opportunity to prove himself.

Can we continue blame him for that? To do so seems a bit unfair, especially considering the impact Odemwingie has had at The Hawthorns since arriving from Lokomotiv Moscow in August 2010.

In his first season at the club he scored game-winners, solidified his status as Arsenal’s nemesis scoring in the 3-2 away victory and the 2-2 home draw, and also netted against top clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham. All in all, Odemwingie went on to score 15 times in 2010-11, earning him the club record in goals for a season.

That form saw the striker linked to a host of big clubs, from Arsenal to Juventus, but he remained faithful to the club that rescued him from racial abuse in Russia. The following season Odemwingie battled injuries but nevertheless managed to score 10 goals in 25 starts, including a hat-trick against Wolves and a brace against Sunderland.

Point being – it’s time Albion looked beyond the circus of events surrounding Odemwingie in 2012-13 and give him a fair shake at a new club.

That being said, Al Nasr’s offer of £850,000 is a joke.

 

You can find Mike on Twitter @mprindi

Barcelona defends Messi over “unfair” suspension

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi’s four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was “unfair and totally disproportionate.”

[ MORE: Messi handed ban by FIFA ]

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing “its surprise and indignation” with FIFA’s decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina’s win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it “wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field.”

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina’s final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.

World Cup hopes back on track: What next for USMNT?

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After a four-point haul over the past week in their two crucial 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the U.S. national team is back on track and heading in the right direction.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

Bruce Arena led the USMNT to a thumping 6-0 win over Honduras last Friday and then a gutsy 1-1 draw in Panama on Tuesday in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, as the Hexagonal standings will now look a lot better to U.S. fans who saw their team sitting bottom of the pile for the past four months following defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica which cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job.

So, the “Road to Russia” is looking a little less daunting for the U.S. but there are still tough tests ahead in the months to come in World Cup qualifying as well as a Gold Cup campaign on home soil in July.

First let’s look at the standings in the Hex. Ah, that’s better but things are now very tight aside from Mexico running away with things.

With six games to go the U.S. currently occupies the play-off spot as the top three teams in the Hex standings will qualify automatically for the World Cup and the fourth-place team has to play against the fifth-place team from qualifying in the Asian Football Confederation region.


Mexico — 10 points (+4 GD)
Costa Rica — 7 points (+4)
Panama — 5 points (0)
———————
USA — 4 points (+1)
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Honduras — 4 points (-5)
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points (-4)


And these are the USA’s six remaining qualifiers as they aim to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

June 8: vs. Trinidad and Tobago
June 11: at Mexico
September 1: vs. Costa Rica
September 5: at Honduras
October 6: vs. Panama
October 10: at Trinidad and Tobago

The first three games at crucial. If the U.S. manages to get seven points from those three matches, that’s magical. Even six points by beating T&T and Costa Rica on home soil would be superb. Yet, if the U.S. drops points to one or both of T&T and Costa Rica, that puts so much pressure on themselves to pick up wins on the road at Honduras and T&T in two of their final three qualifiers. That would not be an ideal scenario.

Still, heading into the past week the aim for the U.S. was to get back on track in qualifying and give themselves a chance of making the 2018 World Cup. They’ve done that. Now, the hard work begins.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.