Jozy Altidore, Abby Wambach named U.S. Soccer Athletes of the Year

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One player set a record for most consecutive games with a goal. The other became the all-time leading scorer in women’s international soccer history. On Wednesday, Jozy Altidore and Abby Wambach were rewarded for their standout 2013 campaigns with their teams’ highest honors, named Male and Female Athlete of the Year by U.S. Soccer.

For Wambach, it is the sixth time she has claimed the honor, having now won the award in three of the last four years. In 2013, the Western New York Flash star ran her international scoring record to 160 goals, passing five-time winner Mia Hamm’s FIFA record of 158 goals.

With the award, Wambach also passed Hamm to become the U.S.’s only six-time Athlete of the Year winner. From her Q&A with U.S. Soccer:

“Of course I’ve never really been competing against Mia. The kind of legacy she left behind is one that makes the people who came after want to strive to better the team and the program; those are the kind of values she wanted to teach. Hopefully, I can pass that on to the others who come behind me as well.”

Altidore, winning his honor for the first time, posted a career high eight goals for the U.S. in 2013, setting a team record by scoring in five consecutive matches between June 2 and Aug. 14. Having helped AK Alkmaar to the Dutch Cup in Holland, Altidore’s play earned the 24-year-old a move to the Premier League when he signed with Sunderland.

From his Q&A with U.S. Soccer:

“It’s a huge honor. I’m really excited. It’s nice to know people thought I had that much of an influence on the National Team.”

“I just tried to keep a routine and keep it when I was with the National Team which is difficult because it’s a whole different environment with different needs. I tried as much as possible to replicate what was working for me. Fortunately it worked out that it was a really successful year for me and the team.”

The federation also handed out awards to their youth athletes of the year, with Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp and Paris Saint-Germain forward Lindsey Horan winning the male and female awards.

And for the second time, U.S. Soccer also honored a Disabled Athlete of the Year, with paralympic national team member Rene Renteria winning the award.

Here are the former winners of each honor, as distributed by U.S. Soccer:

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1984: Rick Davis
1985: Perry Van der Beck
1986: Paul Caligiuri
1987: Brent Goulet
1988: Peter Vermes
1989: Mike Windischmann
1990: Tab Ramos
1991: Hugo Perez
1992: Marcelo Balboa
1993: Thomas Dooley
1994: Marcelo Balboa
1995: Alexi Lalas
1996: Eric Wynalda
1997: Kasey Keller
1998: Cobi Jones
1999: Kasey Keller
2000: Chris Armas
2001: Earnie Stewart
2002: Brad Friedel
2003: Landon Donovan
2004: Landon Donovan
2005: Kasey Keller
2006: Oguchi Onyewu
2007: Clint Dempsey
2008: Tim Howard
2009: Landon Donovan
2010: Landon Donovan
2011: Clint Dempsey
2012: Clint Dempsey
2013: Jozy Altidore

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1985: Sharon Remer
1986: April Heinrichs
1987: Carin Jennings
1988: Joy Biefeld
1989: April Heinrichs
1990: Michelle Akers
1991: Michelle Akers
1992: Carin Gabarra
1993: Kristine Lilly
1994: Mia Hamm
1995: Mia Hamm
1996: Mia Hamm
1997: Mia Hamm
1998: Mia Hamm
1999: Michelle Akers
2000: Tiffeny Milbrett
2001: Tiffeny Milbrett
2002: Shannon MacMillan
2003: Abby Wambach
2004: Abby Wambach
2005: Kristine Lilly
2006: Kristine Lilly
2007: Abby Wambach
2008: Carli Lloyd
2009: Hope Solo
2010: Abby Wambach
2011: Abby Wambach
2012: Alex Morgan
2013: Abby Wambach

YOUNG MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1998: Josh Wolff
1999: Ben Olsen
2000: Landon Donovan
2001: DaMarcus Beasley
2002: Bobby Convey
2003: Freddy Adu
2004: Eddie Johnson
2005: Benny Feilhaber
2006: Jozy Altidore
2007: Michael Bradley
2008: Sacha Kljestan
2009: Luis Gil
2010: Gale Agbossoumonde
2011: Brek Shea
2012: Rubio Rubin
2013: Wil Trapp

YOUNG FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1998: Cindy Parlow
1999: Lorrie Fair
2000: Aly Wagner
2001: Aleisha Cramer
2002: Lindsay Tarpley
2003: Cat Reddick
2004: Heather O’Reilly
2005: Lori Chalupny
2006: Danesha Adams
2007: Lauren Cheney
2008: Kristie Mewis
2009: Tobin Heath
2010: Bianca Henninger
2011: Sydney Leroux
2012: Julie Johnston
2013: Lindsey Horan

DISABLED ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2012: Felicia Schroeder
2013: Rene Renteria

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.