Stoke City boss Mark Hughes really wanted Juan Agudelo.
The young American forward was slated to join countrymen Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu as Potters in November, but had his work permit denied. The move was resurrected in January, raising a few eyebrows along the way.
And as Stoke City made the signing of Agudelo official — as well as his loan to FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie — we know that Hughes wanted to make sure the former New England Revolution player was under his banner in some way.
He couldn’t keep Agudelo, but he didn’t want someone else to sign the player who scored seven goals in 14 appearances for New England last year and had scored for his country against South Africa and Argentina before he turned 19.
The loan comes as Stoke says they’ll keep applying for Agudelo’s work permit. Potters chief executive Tony Scholes said:
“We were surprised and bitterly disappointed when our application for a work permit was rejected by the appeals panel – as were many other people in the game.
“It’s still our view that Juan is a great talent and is a player that Mark Hughes would like to join our squad. We have therefore decided that we are going to reapply for a work permit at the earliest opportunity.
“We have signed Juan but he cannot play in this country, so we’re loaning him out to Utrecht to allow him to not only develop his experience of playing in Europe but also to stay match sharp.
“Hopefully we will be successful with our second work permit application and Juan will be able to join Mark’s squad in advance of next season.”
It’s easy to forget that players like Agudelo and Altidore are as young as they are, thanks in large part to how willing the striker-starved States are to put a youngster on the radar. Hopefully this a fine “rebirth” for a young player who wants into the World Cup. And Holland is a place that will keep Jurgen Klinsmann’s attention.
Here’s some more on FC Utrecht from our own Steve Davis.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.
The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.
“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.
[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]
Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.
“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.
Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”
Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.
Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.
The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.
After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.
Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.
After their devastating defeat two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid looks for revenge and their first UEFA Champions League title on Saturday against Real Madrid.
Milan will be the site for the action, as Zinedine Zidane and Real are seeking their 11th title in the competition and have the opportunity to knock Atleti out in the title match for the second time in three seasons.
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Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Subs: Casilla, James, Nacho, Lucas Vasquez, Jese, Isco, Danilo
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Gabi, Fernandez, Koke, Saul Niguez; Griezmann, Torres. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Correa, Hernandez, Thomas, Ferreira-Carrasco, Gimenez.
With Atlanta United FC set to make their MLS debut in 2017, the club is reportedly set to make a major splash with one or possibly two Mexican stars.
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ESPN FC‘s John Sutcliffe reported from the team’s future home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Friday, saying that the team is targeting both Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela.
[ MORE: Edgar Castillo to replace Timmy Chandler for USMNT ]
Guardado, who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven, has long been a staple of the El Tri midfield, making 124 appearances for the Mexican national team.
While Vela wasn’t included in Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster, the Real Sociedad striker has every bit of talent you’d want from a future Designated Player, which is likely what either Guardado or Vela would be.
Atlanta currently has three players on their roster. Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tabakis, Junior Burgos and Jeffery Otoo currently round out the squad.
The potential addition(s) of an Andres Guardado or Carlos Vela would prove to be not only big for Atlanta but for MLS as a whole, more so with Vela though. MLS’ growth over recent years has brought young DPs like Sebastian Giovinco and Giovani Dos Santos to Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy, respectively.
Another league addition who is in the prime of their career will only continue to build the league’s reputation, and immediately put Atlanta on the map next season.