As reports abound that the latest in a long line of teenage “next Wayne Rooneys” is set to get a long contract at Newcastle United, the heat remains on the seat of Papisse Demba Cisse.
And the seat has been occupied rather often.
With England U-17 striker Adam Armstrong set to make his Magpies senior bow as soon as Wednesday, many are wondering why Cisse wasn’t sold to a late window suitor like Trabzonspor.
And the truth is that Alan Pardew is still holding out hope that Cisse will re-emerge as the striker who made Demba Ba expendable when Chelsea’s big money came calling.
“He needs to have a big second half of the season for the summer. We are going to have to make a decision with Papiss: whether he is going to stay at this club and be a big player for us like he was two years ago and last year to a degree, or whether it’s going to be pastures new.”
Cisse was a “Senegalese sensation” when he sit the scene at St. James Park in 2012, recording a blistering 13 goals in 14 matches after arriving in the January transfer window. And while he was productive in the Europa League with 4 goals in 10 matches in NUFC’s 2012-13 campaign, his strike rate dropped markedly, to eight in 36 PL appearances.
This year, he’s notched just one goal in 15 Premier League matches and two more in Cup matches. Cisse’s been third-choice at-best to Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi at true striker and the Magpies just scooped up Dutch youngster Luuk de Jong on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach.
So much of the game is confidence, and a proposed resurgence for Cisse is far from absurd (though those who’ve witnessed his 12-foot touches and bombs wide of the frame this year may roll their eyes). Can he become a hotshot again? More reasonably, can he find form as a decent PL striker at St. James Park? Or will it take “pastures new” for the 28-year-old from Dakar?
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.
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.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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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.