Vancouver striker Kenny Miller retires from Scottish national team

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The Vancouver Whitecaps can expect to have all of Kenny Miller’s attention from here on out, that’s because his days of representing the Tartan Army are over.

33-year-old Miller’s retirement from international soccer was announced earlier today ahead of Scotland manager Gordon Strachan naming his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Belgium and Macedonia.

Miller scored a terrific goal in his final game for Scotland, in the 3-2 defeat to England at Wembley on August 15. The former Hibernian, Glasgow Rangers, Celtic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City striker has been in terrific form for the Whitecaps this campaign and he can now focus solely on helping Martin Rennie’s side make the playoffs for the second straight year.

The predatory striker scored 18 times in 69 games for Scotland, and has scored seven times in 15 games for Vancouver in the 2013 MLS season so far.

(MORE: The push and pull for Vancouver’s Kenny Miller; big choices loom)

With his international retirement confirmed, Miller won’t have to worry about long jaunts back to the UK and across Europe to represent Scotland. Having settled tremendously well during his second season in MLS, the Edinburgh born striker has a leading role to play at BC Place.

This international retirement will help him play at club level longer, and other professionals such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Thierry Henry have played on well past their respective international retirements. However Miller’s contract is due to run out next year and talks are expected with Vancouver at the end of the 2013 campaign as to how they move forward.

But for most of this season, Miller has captained the Whitecaps in Jay DeMerit’s absence and with his goals and general play, the Scot has justified the big money the ‘Caps are paying him. His salary in the latest numbers released was $1.12 million, which was head and shoulders above the rest of Vancouver’s players. But he deserves it.

Some question marks were raised following his arrival in North America towards the end of the 2012 MLS season.  Miller started just eight games and scored 2 goals for Rennie’s side that bowed out at the first round of the playoffs. Yet Miller has given Vancouver extra attacking impetus this year and has been a real thorn in the side for opposition defenses, he has always worked hard and certainly knows how to finish. His enthusiasm, belief and courage has ignited the ‘Caps offense into action this year and they’ve scored more goals than any other side in MLS as LA prepare to visit British Columbia this weekend.

He will go down as one of the best strikers in Scotland’s history and currently ranks as the country’s sixth highest goalscorer of all time and has also played the sixth highest number of games for Scotland.

A glittering international career has come to an end. Can Miller continue to be the leading man in Vancouver for years to come? Or is his international retirement just a precursor to his retirement from the game altogether after this season?

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.