Europe back on? Juan Agudelo tweets Stoke deal signed, ‘loan imminent’

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The on-then-off move of Juan Agudelo to Stoke City appears to have been revitalized, albeit with a couple of asterisks. Still, after a move to Europe looked in doubt after the former Revolution forward had his work permit application (and appeal) denied, tonight’s tweet from the 21-year-old is an undeniable step forward. Although he is destined to be sent out on loan, the U.S. Men’s National Team hopeful is officially on the Potters’ books.

According to Agudelo’s twitter account, the Colombian-born American signed his Stoke deal on Tuesday, ending hopes the 17-time U.S. international would return to Major League Soccer. Lauding the support the Potters have shown, Agudelo used the hashtags “#SignedToday” and “#Europeanfootballer” to break the news:

[tweet https://twitter.com/JuanAgudelo/statuses/423177618234822657]

The news comes on the same day Stoke City completed the permanent acquisition of Steven Ireland while confirming John Guidetti’s loan from Manchester City. As of Tuesday night, the club had yet to confirm Agudelo’s tweet.

Presumably, the Potters have already worked out a loan deal, paving their way to finalize Agudelo’s contract.  Since his work permit appeal was denied, speculation has linked Agudelo with a move to the Belgian Pro League, with residence in Belgium one of the more common paths non-European players use to obtain an EU passport. Belgium requires only three years of continuous residence to qualify for citizenship, with a pure business (as opposed to familial) relationship all that’s required in a country that supports dual citizens.

The big hope for Agudelo (and undoubtedly, Stoke) is that he can get to England in under three years, something that would require him becoming a regular with his national team. Although he is still a ways from obtaining that status, today’s news is a clear step in the right direction. Be it in Belgium, Scandinavia, or elsewhere, regular, productive playing time will put the Red Bulls product in position to be a factor at the beginning of the next cycle, getting his international career back on track. And on the club level, establishing himself in Europe will open doors to leagues like Portugal or Russia, should Stoke grow impatient waiting for a work permit to be approved.

In the short-term, Brazil 2014 may be too much to hope for, unless the U.S. experiences a number of injuries or dips in form. Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, and Aron Jóhansson seem strong bets to make the World Cup squad, with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann also favoring the likes of Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd. Add in Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan as forward options, and Agudelo may have slid too far down the depth chart to consider Brazil a realistic possibility.

Still only 21 years old, that shouldn’t be Agudelo’s focus. After bouncing from New York to Chivas USA to New England — after trying to jump to England only to end up in limbo — Agudelo should concentrate on playing. Talented but never truly consistent, this gives the U.S. hopeful a chance to embark on the next stage of his professional career. He needs to make it a productive one.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.