Get use to seeing more south American players heading to MLS, as Opta's office in Uruguay will help to unearth Latin American gems (see, Diego Valeri) on the cheap.

Portland Timbers secure Diego Valeri, stability of their attack in multiyear contract


Diego Valeri became Portland Timbers property on Tuesday, as the club shelled out the cash to buy his contract from Club Atlético Lanús in Argentina and sign him to a multiyear deal. He will be a Designated Player the whole time, unless his contract is renegotiated at some point to buy him down.

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported on Twitter that the transfer fee was a little less than $3 million.

In just half a season in Major League Soccer, Valeri has been one of the main figureheads in Portland’s attack, alongside Akron wunderkind Darlington Nagbe and veteran Ryan Johnson. Under head coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers are in the hunt for the 2013 Supporters’ Shield after contending for the Red Lantern in their first two years.

Valeri’s four goals and eight assists make him the top scorer for the club right now, from his position in the classic No. 10 playmaking spot. He drifts all over the field from that central perch, finding gaps and picking passes to the wingers and target man.

An MLS All-Star in his first year, Valeri’s three multi-assist matches are tops in the league. He also finds plenty of his own opportunities, as he leads the team with 53 total shots.

When end-of-season voting comes around, his name should be on the ballot for Newcomer of the Year. While he may not be the most creative player on the team (that’s Nagbe) or the most vocal leader (that’s Will Johnson), Valeri has carved out a spot for himself as a central figure who leads by example.

By locking him up, the Timbers ensured that Valeri’s steady presence would be colored green and red for the foreseeable future, securing a major creative force in their attack in the process.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.