Ireland's McClean reacts past Spain's Busquets after McClean missed a shot at goal in the second half of their international friendly soccer match at Yankee Stadium in New York

James McClean deemed surplus goods at Sunderland; Wigan’s bid accepted

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Paulo Di Canio has called time on the James McClean project at Sunderland after accepting an undisclosed bid from Championship side Wigan.

The deal confirms McClean’s fate as surplus goods under Di Canio’s regime, which has brought in nine fresh faces into the fold, including Italian winger Emanuel Giaccherini from Juventus.

McClean joined Sunderland in August 2011 from Northern Ireland side Derry City as a player that then-manager Steve Bruce claimed was “one for the future.” Bruce figured the winger would begin in the youth development side and eventually make his way up.

But McClean had other plans and by December, he had looked a real find. With Bruce out and Martin O’Neill in, the Republic of Ireland international was brought on as a substitute in O’Neill’s first game with the club. Down 1-0 to Blackburn, McClean’s ferocious hunger and athleticism spurred the Black Cats to turn the match on its head, winning 2-1.

McClean went on to prove himself a menace on the left side of the pitch, notching five goals and two assists in just one half of a season, earning him Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year Award for 2011–12. For the $541,000 (£350k) it cost to bring McClean to the Premier League, he was arguably one of the bargain signings of the season.

But the fall was as quick as the rise, as McClean’s 2012-13 campaign was one to forget. Defenders quickly learned that his first touch was one of a brick when closed down quickly. What served as grit and determination in 2011-12 quickly turned to frustration for McClean. The boy had an edge, no doubt, but he also had a temper that reared its head at all the wrong times.

While Di Canio’s overhaul of the Black Cats makes it little surprise that McClean has gotten axed, it is a little curious given their similarities that the fiery Italian did not look to take McClean under his wing. But, sometimes similarities clash rather than gel and at the end of the day, it’s all a business. i

McClean still has talent though and could make quite an impact in the Championship. His pending arrival could also indicate that the Latics are not yet done dealing in this summer’s transfer market, and that Callum McManaman or Shaun Maloney could be on their way out of the DW Stadium.

Once personal terms are agreed to and a medical is passed, McClean will join a family of James’ in Owen Coyle’s midfield, alongside fellow namesakes McCarthy and McArthur.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.