Jack Wilshere pictured smoking, Arsene Wenger’s not happy

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In most countries around the world, photos of a superstar sportsmen smoking a cigarette wouldn’t be a big deal.

But in England on Friday, there’s been what many would call a ‘storm in a teacup’ after Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere was photographed smoking outside a bar earlier this week.

Wilshere, 21, is one of English brightest young talents, and has been slammed by many for the act.

Speaking on Friday morning, Wilshere’s spokesman insists he wasn’t smoking the cigarette, just joking around with friends.

Here’s the picture snapped up by The Sun. What do you think?

“Jack was with team-mates and friends,” a representative said. “One dared Jack, who does not smoke, to momentarily hold the cigarette as part of a prank. Jack absolutely didn’t smoke the cigarette, and nor does he condone smoking. Jack is utterly committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle.”

Then finally the rep had this to say: “In no way is this picture an accurate reflection of his attitude towards smoking.”

(MORE: Premier League Breakdown – Kyle Martino: Jack Wilshere must step up)

Okay, but still, it was a pretty silly thing to do out in public, as Arsenal’s players had a night out to celebrate their 2-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday. In the game Wilshere was only used as sub, and many are questioning whether or not he will still be a regular for the Gunners throughout this season.

Which seems ludicrous.

Speaking on Friday morning, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger condemned the actions, and said he’s planning to speak with Wilshere about

“I disagree completely with that behavior,” Wenger said. “I don’t know really what happened, so I will need to have a chat with him about that. There are two things – first of all when you are a football player you are an example and as well you don’t do what damages your health. The fact is that you can damage your health at home, you can smoke at home and you can drink at home, and nobody sees it, but when you go out socially you also damage your reputation as an example.”

Does all this talk of ruining his reputation and setting a bad example seem a little over the top? I mean, after all, it was only one cigarette.

But Wilshere is a role model for millions, and many would argue he is England’s future captain. Wenger spoke about English cultural and how this story wouldn’t have even been a big deal in many nations around the world.

“Yes of course things are different, in England especially,” Wenger said. “I must say as well, English society is very sensitive to smoking, much more than France, more than in southern (European) countries, so it is a bit more shocking here than it is somewhere else.”

Whatever you think about this, Wilshere is a supreme talent who does have a bit of an edge to his game and the way he lives his life. Many will applaud that, but today expectancy levels on globally renowned athletes are high. One little slip up is all it takes to get rid of a desirable image.

I expect this to blow over relatively quickly, but Wilshere will now think twice before he, reportedly, lights up in public again.

But it has to be said he’s not the first, and won’t be the last, Premier League start to be caught smoking. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Dimitar Berbatov and Mario Balotelli have all been caught in the past.

Is this really such a big deal?

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.