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Report: David Beckham looks to bring Xavi to Miami, as glitzy rumors continue

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Last week it was Cristiano Ronaldo, this week it’s Xavi. Who’s next… Lionel Messi?

It seems ever since David Beckham ponied up the cash earlier this month, along with his band of wealthy investors, to set up Major League Soccer’s 22nd franchise in Miami, there’s been rumors galore of world class players arriving with a pair of boots under one arm and a sun hat on.

Plenty of unrealistic targets have been mentioned, but when you start to think about Miami joining the league in 2017, and the age of those targets in three years time, a few of these rumors turn into ‘well… maybe that could happen?”

In the case of Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona’s heartbeat in midfield for over a decade, you could argue that when you start to connect the dots, things start to make sense. Reports suggest the 34-year-old Spanish international has been sounded out by Miami and is receptive to a move to Florida, if his legs still allow him to get around the pitch.

Of course this isn’t the first time Xavi has been linked with MLS, oh no. Remember a few months ago when he was linked with New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls? Yeah, Xavi brushed those rumors aside and stated he’d never spoken to anybody about the move and was happy to see out his playing days at the Nou Camp with Barcelona. Can you blame him?

But if ‘Big bucks Beckham’ came calling and the likes of Ronaldo were also on board, it wouldn’t be a bad place to play out the final few years of your career. Plus, Xavi’s contract with Barcelona runs out in 2016, so that would slot in quite perfectly with a move to MLS for the start of the 2017 season when Miami are expected to join.

(MORE: So much for those Xavi-MLS-New York City FC murmurs)

Xavi is one of those players, despite all the rumors, who could play until he is 40. Like Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo and countless other midfield maestros, the pace of the game never seems to catch up with Xavi. A general of the tiki-taka approach, Xavi has inspired a generation of midfield players and if Miami has the chance to get him on board, whatever the cost, I think they should do it for at least two seasons.

Some MLS fans would scoff at yet another foreign import joining the league in their twilight. I agree, some of the decent European players who have come to MLS to see out their careers just haven’t been good enough. But when it comes to players of Xavi’s caliber, I’m talking David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane, then they will always improve the standard of play in the league.

Not to mention the commercial benefits they bring, along with increased exposure for the franchise. So if Becks does land Xavi, it’s a win, win for everyone concerned. I’d be surprised if it happens. But with Beckham pulling the strings, you just never know.

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.