Bryan Ruiz

Bryan Ruiz heading back to the Eredivisie, set for six-month loan with PSV

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Call this a typical World Cup-year move, because for Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, this is all about playing time. With his national team headed to Brazil this summer, the Ticos’ captain needs more than the spot duty he’s seen at Craven Cottage. As a result, two-and-a-half years after becoming Fulham’s record signing, the 28-year-old is moving back to the Eredivisie, joining PSV through the end of the season.

“The name Bryan Ruiz speaks for itself,” PSV technical director Marcel Brands said at Wednesday’s unveiling. “We attempted to sign him last summer and tried again this winter but it was still hard work … “

Ruiz had been connected with a loan move to Spanish Primera División side Real Betis. Instead, he returns to the Eredivisie, where he won a league title with FC Twente in 2009-2010. In 65 league games with the Enschede-based club, Ruiz scored 35 times, earning him a $17 million move to Fulham in August 2011.

This season, Ruiz had made 12 of 21 possible appearances for Fulham, seeing only 772 minutes for a team that’s transitioned from Martin Jol to René Meulensteen as manager. Since Jol was fired on Dec. 1, Ruiz has played six times, but without a goal since Sept. 28, the attacking midfielder has been allowed to go out on loan.

“When the opportunity arose I was interested,” Ruiz told PSV’s official website. “I want to get my confidence back, help PSV finish as high as possible and prepare for the World Cup.”

After four straight top-three finishes, PSV currently sit a disappointing seventh in the Dutch first division. Led in goals by 19-year-old Memphis Decay, Phillip Cocu’s team does not have a player who has found the net more than six times, something Ruiz’s production at FC Twente suggests he will remedy.

In his first year in Enschede, Ruiz scored 24 league goals, leading his team to the 2009-10 Eredivisie title. Next year, Twente finished second while claiming the Dutch Cup, Ruiz continuing to make good on the $7.7 million investment that brought him from Belgium’s Gent in July 2009.

To date, Ruiz has failed to pay similar dividends for Fulham, having scored seven times in 68 Premier League appearances. Still, in announcing the move on their website, the Cottagers emphasized its temporary nature, hinting they expect Ruiz to be back with the team after the World Cup.

“Everyone at Fulham would like to wish the Costa Rica captain well during his temporary spell in the Netherlands,” according to FulhamFC.com.

In the interim, Ruiz gets to play himself back into form, something that will be needed if Costa Rica stands a chance of getting out of a stacked World Cup group. Although the Ticos can also rely on Álvaro Saborío and Joel Campbell for goals, Ruiz provides some needed dynamism and creativity from midfield. Against the likes of England, Italy, and Uruguay in Group D, his ability to create chances down the right will be crucial to Costa Rican hopes of pulling off at least one upset.

Moving to PSV gives Ruiz a chance to hit the ground running come Brazil. It also gives him a chance to gain the confidence that could put his Fulham career back on track. Whether that career continues in the Premier League or Championship remains to be seen, but over the second half of the season, Ruiz’s bigger concern will be getting PSV closer to the top in Holland.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.