VIDEO: Juan Agudelo scores first goal for FC Utrecht, will he make late World Cup charge?

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After just three games in Europe, Juan Agudelo notched his first league goal on foreign soil as the Stoke City attacker, on loan to Dutch side FC Utrecht, bagged a beauty to give everyone a reminder that he hasn’t left MLS to mess around.

Agudelo is still just 21-year-old, but following his January move to Stoke City which saw him immediately loaned out to Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie due to work permit issues, the U.S. international forward is certainly taking to life in Europe.

During his current loan spell to Utrecht, Agudelo has reminded us of the 17-year-old kid that burst onto the scene in 2010 when he scored in two of his first three senior international for the USMNT, including this beauty vs. Argentina at MetLife Stadium.

On Thursday night against FC Zwolle he picked the ball up on the edge of the box, performed a fluid half turn and then rifled the ball into the top corner with his right foot to put Utrecht 1-0 up. The Dutch side ended up losing 2-1 (minor details) but Agudelo put in a solid performance that shows his game is developing and he is more than capable of making a concerted push to get on the plane to Brazil.

(MORE: Klinsmann says roster door remains open, regular match time a must for USMNT hopefuls)

It seemed as though the career of the promising young striker, who came through the MLS academy system with the New York Red Bulls and then bounced around to Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, was starting to falter. But this loan move and regular action overseas could be exactly what he needs to get back into the U.S. fold.

This summer may be too quick for Agudelo to worm his way back into Klinsmann’s plans, but after the U.S. head coach spoke on Tuesday about the likes of Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Danny Williams and Timmy Chandler getting a second chance and that the majority of his squad for the friendly vs. Ukraine in March will be from his European contingent.

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Will Agudelo be on the plane to Brazil this summer? It is a big ask…

Surely Agudelo has one more chance to shine in front of the U.S. coaches?

And let’s face it, with Jozy Altidore struggling for goals at Sunderland, and only Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski as out-and-out strikers to back up Jozy (let’s assume Eddie Johnson will operate out wide) surely Agudelo has an outside chance of going to Brazil?

I know, I know, for all you skeptics out there I realize this was only one goal in the Dutch top-flight, which many believe to be one of European soccer’s backwaters when it really isn’t, but coming from someone who has seen Agudelo up close and personal tear up top European opposition back at the 2011 Emirates Cup, this kid has got genuine talent.

After his New York team scored a late equalizer against Arsenal to win the Emirates Cup, a prestigious preseason tournament that included Boca Junior, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, I spoke to Agudelo in the tunnel at the Emirates Stadium about playing in Europe” “This is where it’s at man, this is where I want to be,” he replied.

(MORE: Americans Abroad Review – Cameron dependable in upset, Agudelo picks up assist)

Now he’s finally in Europe, I think this kid has come along way since his raw athleticism often stole the show a few years back.

Last fall the reaction from New England Revolution fans was telling when Agudelo decided to head to Europe, they did not want to see him leave MLS. But even if he doesn’t make the plane to Brazil, Agudelo’s European experience at Utrecht will do him the world of good. Plus if he ever gets a work permit and is allowed to play for his parent club Stoke City in the PL, I’d expect him to shine there too.

But right now, these next few months are huge for Agudelo. Given the chance, this kid can play. He has pace to burn, an eye for goal and he has no fear when he brings his A-game.

I have no doubts Klinsmann will be keeping a close eye on Agudelo between now and May.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.