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Is Adel Taarabt the ‘Balotelli of Morocco’?

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Adel Taarabt has branded himself the ‘Balotelli of Morocco’ after joining the Italian striker’s AC Milan side on loan.

Taarabt spent the first half of the 2014-15 season at Fulham on loan from Queens Park Rangers but after failing to capture the eye of Cottagers former manager Martin Jol or current manager Rene Meulensteen, the Moroccoan international was sent to the Rossoneri to see out the spring.

It is with the Serie A giants where Taarabt will join up with the talented but rambunctious Balotelli.

“I thought ‘they’ve got the Italian Balotelli and now they’re going to have the Balotelli of Morocco’,” Taarabt said after arriving in Milan. “I can’t wait to get to know Balotelli better and to become his friend.”

A nice gesture by Taarabt but the soundbite begs the question – just how similar are these two players?

More than you might think. Only a year separates the two Taarabt (24-years old) Balotelli (23-years old) and both play in attacking positions, Taarabt as an attacking midfielder who sometimes plays as a second striker and Balotelli as a pure striker.

Both have also had several fallouts with managers.

Taraabt stomped off the ground at QPR after being substituted at half-time for QPR in October 2011, while he retired (before later unretiring) from international soccer after a disagreement with manager Eric Gerets. Balotelli was a constant source of frustration for Jose Mourinho while at Inter Milan and under Roberto Mancini at Manchester City had to be separated after a training ground altercation in January 2013.

Where the difference lays is success.

In his young career Balotelli has already won the Champions League, three Serie A titles, a Premier League title, the FA Cup, the Coppa Italia, the Italian Supercoppa and a FA Community Shield. Taraabt has won a single title, the 2010-11 English Championship.

Of course, there isn’t a ton a player can do about the squad he’s been brought into and that would likely be Taraabt’s argument as to why he hasn’t had as much success as Balotelli. Further, Taraabt is not an out-and-out striker like Balotelli so comparing their Premier League goals (Balotelli has 20 in 54 appearances to Taraabt’s seven in 79) isn’t exactly fair either.

Despite controversy surrounding both player’s careers only Balotelli has provided consistent evidence of his extraordinary talent. Barring one season in England’s second league, Taraabt has failed to do so. No better time to prove doubters wrong than alongside Balotelli in those famous red and black stripes.

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.