FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the media in Zurich

Did FIFA intentionally derail England’s 2018 World Cup bid?

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Is this just a case of sour grapes? Or something much more damning?

I’m undecided, but the evidence is staking up against FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the governing bodies other executives.

On Wednesday the British Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, made claims the Blatter intentionally helped sway voters against England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid by reminding FIFA executives about the British media claiming corruption and bribery was rife in FIFA, just moments before the final votes were cast.

And, you guessed it, England got nowhere near winning the bid for World Cup 2018 despite being one of the clear favorites. Robertson explains what happened.

There was a slightly unsatisfactory chapter. I’ve been told by a number of people in the room that Sepp Blatter, straight before the vote, stood up and reminded the delegates what the British press had done to them in the period running up to the vote.

Robertson believed that directly had a huge impact on voters, who had previously promised the Prime Minister or Prince William their vote, and then didn’t deliver.

“That must have influenced the way some of those delegates who promised to give us their vote then didn’t,” Robertson said. “Those things make me feel very uneasy as a Sports Minister about the whole process.”

(MORE: Mounting pressure vs. 2022 Qatar World Cup, as England heads nations asking for switch)

The entire bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was condemned by Robertson.

“It was a strange and obscure bidding process; had it all been made clear I suspect we might not have bid,” Robertson said.”I didn’t agree with the way the competition was run but there was a competition: Qatar won it, and congratulations to them.”

But Robertson wasn’t finished there, as he believed many called Qatar’s bid into doubt right from the beginning.

“The interesting thing is that there was nobody there during that bidding process who really thought that staging that World Cup in the summer was a sensible option, so to me it was always obvious it was going to be moved to the winter.”

(MORE: Qatar hits back “It’s the right place to host 2022 World Cup”)

Yes, most English soccer fans are still bitter about not winning the right to host the 2018 World Cup. After not having a World Cup hosted in England since 1966 — in that time Mexico and Germany have both hosted the World Cup twice — the home of soccer has been neglected by the powers that be. But that’s not important.

What is, is the fact that Blatter would stand up and give a speech, just prior to voting, slamming the British media and obviously trying to sway the FIFA delegates voting.

And it worked, as England’s bid failed despite gaining wide-spread praise from almost every level.

It does make you wonder exactly what has, and is, going on at FIFA…

Mourinho’s agent: Coach paid $27 million in taxes in Spain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Jose Mourinho manager of Manchester United stands alongside his substitute Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Jose Mourinho’s agent says the Manchester United manager paid more than 26 million euros ($27 million) in taxes when he lived in Spain from 2010-13.

The information was made public on Tuesday by Gestifute, a company run by Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes.

[ MORE: Pulisic wanted by Arsenal, Spurs ]

The Portuguese company has been releasing details about its clients’ tax declarations after European media outlets published what they claimed were details of apparent tax arrangements made by top soccer players and coaches, including Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil.

Gestifute, which also has Ronaldo as a client, has already published documents allegedly showing that Spanish fiscal authorities have certified that Mourinho and Real Madrid star Ronaldo are “up to date on … obligations.”

Mourinho coached Real Madrid from 2010-13 and took charge of United this season.

Staying in Dallas: New contract for MLS Defender of the Year Hedges

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 12:  Giles Barnes #10 of the Houston Dynamo battles for the ball with Matt Hedges #24 of FC Dallas during their game at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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This is going to turn out to be one of the most exciting years of Matt Hedges’ life.

The FC Dallas man lead one of the best back lines in Major League Soccer to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

[ MORE: PST talks with Hedges, Zimmerman ]

He’s also likely set for a chance to return to the USMNT fold under new coach Bruce Arena, as Hedges is one of the best players to be largely ignored by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Hedges, 26, was named the MLS Defender of the Year and made the Best XI, and now he’s inked a new long-term deal with FC Dallas.

The four-year deal will keep Hedges in Dallas through his 30th birthday. Capped once, Hedges has 159 appearances with 11 goals for FCD.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Two more Pulisic suitors in North London? USMNT teen in demand

Dortmund's Emre Mor, left, celebrates with Dortmund's Felix Passlack and Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, right, after scoring during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and SV Darmstadt in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Dortmund defeated Darmstadt with 6-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Christian Pulisic is one of the most exciting young prospects in the world.

It’s a statement that isn’t often said without hyperbole when it comes to American standouts, but the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund man has seen his names in the gossip pages a few times this year.

While Liverpool has often been the destination, Italian site Calcio Mercato says Premier League interest is wider than Merseyside. The clubs? Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VOTE: Who should win USMNT player of year? ]

Dortmund doesn’t want to sell the youngster, who is locked up through 2019. The whispered price has been $31 million at a minimum, but perhaps BVB would be tempted given their wealth of young attacking options.

Pulisic has made 27 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, nabbing four goals and six assists. He has 11 caps and three goals for the USMNT as well.

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Real Madrid asks for “utmost respect” to Ronaldo following tax drama

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts after missing a chance during the La Liga  match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo had been linked with massive tax evasion, but Real Madrid would ask you to kindly go back to treating him like a king now that he’s proven his innocence.

In a move usually reserved for politicians aiming for high office, Ronaldo’s agent released some of his tax documents to prove everything’s above board.

It all looks good, unlike what befell Neymar and Lionel Messi, so back off, huh?

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Champions League preview ]

From Real Madrid:

In view of the stories published over recent days and in consideration of the certificate issued by the Spanish Tax Agency which confirms that our player Cristiano Ronaldo is up to date with all of his tax obligations, Real Madrid C. F. call for the utmost respect to be shown towards Cristiano Ronaldo, whose conduct has been absolutely exemplary throughout all of his time at our club.

Only the utmost for CR7.

Real Madrid hosts Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in a match which will decide Group F of the UEFA Champions League.

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