Pro Soccer Talk’s Premier League Player of the Week – Robin Van Persie

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Tough call on Player of the Week for the opening fixtures of the Barclays Premier League.

A lot of players were quite impressive – Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck for Manchester United, Fernandinho, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero for Manchester City, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturrdige for Liverpool, Frank Lampard and Oscar for Chelsea . . . the list goes on.

But one man sticks out and despite it being the popular choice, it also feels like the right choice.

Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman has us running out of adjectives he’s so talented.

For his first seven seasons at Arsenal, RVP was defined by one thing: injuries. When he did manage to play, his quality was obvious. But in those first seven years, from 2004-2011, he failed to play more 28 matches in a single season. Naturally, the talk was always about what if.

What if Van Persie got healthy?

What if he could be a consistent starter?

What if he managed a full season at 100%?

Then finally, in 2011-12, we got our answer as RVP appeared in all 38 Premier League matches (starting all but one of them) and scored 30 goals. It was clear, right then and there, that Van Persie deserved to be in the conversation of who is the best pure striker on the planet.

Manchester United didn’t hesitate, pouncing on the Dutchman who was looking for the one thing he desired when arriving at the Emirates in the summer of 2004 – a Premier League title. After bagging 26 goals last season on the way to hoisting the championship trophy in May, Van Persie finally had his title along with the praise from entire footballing world.

And yet just two months later, the majority of pundits were back questioning Manchester United. Doubters, myself included, suggested that the spending of Manchester City and Chelsea had put those clubs in the lead for the 2013-14 title. Implied within that doubt was the issue of whether Van Persie, now aged 30, could duplicate his extraordinary form of the last two seasons.

On Saturday, Van Persie (and all of Manchester United for that matter) silenced the doubters. Oh yes, there will be a title race in 2013-14 and the Red Devils have just as good of a chance at winning it as City and Chelsea.

As for the race for Golden Boot, well, Van Persie has set forth his intent to make a run at that as well. The Dutchman’s brace in the driving rain at the Liberty Stadium was something to behold. An incredible leaping side volley that put cement into the boots of Swansea defender Ashley Williams was followed by a net-popping rifle of a goal in the second half.

This man can do it all, my friends. And we look forward to watching the Robin Van Persie Show each and every week from now through May 11, 2014.

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.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.