Agudelo-New England

Young United States striker Juan Agudelo still harboring 2014 World Cup hopes

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Young U.S. striker Juan Agudelo may be off the national team radar presently, but he certainly has not abandoned dreams of a World Cup 2014 roster spot.

In fact, boosting his chances of a landing a seat on that golden summer charter into Brazil, whatever they may be at this point, was a big factor in Agudelo’s choice to take a loan in high-scoring Holland at FC Utrecht.

So said the 21-year-old striker from England on Sunday as he spoke to Soccer Today (disclosure: it’s a weekly radio show/podcast I co-host along with Marc Stein). Agudelo is now property of the Premier League’s Stoke City after a prolonged and troubled transfer process. Having been denied a UK work permit, Agudelo was immediately sent away on loan to FC Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie, a league known for offense and one that has served other U.S. strikers so well.

“If the World Cup wasn’t in six months, I don’t know if I would have chosen Utrecht or not,” Agudelo told us. “But I’ve chose it now, this is what I’m going to do now, keep my head on straight and work as hard as I can to help the team out. Everybody wins once Utrecht wins.”

(MORE: U.S. national team gets a rare day off in Brazil)

There was more from Agudelo in the interview as he prepared to move later that day to the Netherlands.

Altidore said he spoke to U.S. international Jozy Altidore, who had that breakout year at Alkmaar in the Netherlands just a year back.

We actually went out to dinner about five days ago and we spoke about it. He told me about how great that league is, and how I’m going to get a lot of chances. … He said he loved his time there and that he would go back. And it made me feel like Holland was a good place for me, because a lot of Americans have played there and gone well there.”

By the way, what a great mentor for Agudelo, even though Altidore is just a couple of years old. Both are from New Jersey, both started with the Red Bulls and now are following roughly parallel career paths.

Agudelo also said he was shocked that the work permit was denied last year – but equally flattered that Stoke City would continue to doggedly pursue the young American.

By the way, from what I understand, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann did write a letter or recommendation for Agudelo despite some likely reservations, having written them for others before (Brek Shea, most notably) and then having watched the young American winger languish on the sidelines at Stoke City.

(MORE: Getting to know Agudelo’s next home, FC Utrecht)

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.