Nelsen tabs goal-scoring Defoe for World Cup: “If I was Roy Hodgson, I’d pick him in a heartbeat, but I’m Ryan Nelsen”

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TORONTO, Canada — Jermain Defoe was at it again on Saturday, seemingly everywhere on a sloppy pitch as he carved up DC United before finishing one of his myriad chances to give Toronto FC a win in its home opener.

It was impossible not to notice his quality, and his manager certainly did.

“I’ve gotta watch what I say here cause if I was Roy Hodgson, I’d pick him in a heartbeat, but I’m Ryan Nelsen,” said the TFC manager. “What I’d say is he’s got a natural ability to do what you’ve seen out there. If he keeps this up, he’s obviously putting up himself up as a candidate for the striker (position).”

Defoe’s goal Saturday was more of the poacher’s variety, as he coolly slotted in a rebound of a Gilberto attempt. Michael Bradley started the play with a gorgeous ball over the top that had Nelsen searching for the right adjectives.

“The ball from Michael Bradley and the run to Gilberto for the goal was just gorgeous to tell the truth,” Nelsen said. “Beautiful. It was such a weighted pass and touch and shot. It was a good save and it was only going to ever fall to one guy. It always does fall for him.”

Bradley was asked about the difference between playing against Defoe and having him as a teammate. The American midfielder chose to go a different route with his response, praising him effusively.

“He gets chances and scores goals,” Bradley said. “He works for the team. He finds himself in good spots. He knows we need him coming other need. He sniffs out chances and when chances fall for him, he’s really good at knowing what he wants to do with it.”

For his part, Defoe admitted the American game is a tough one. For the second straight week the Englishman took a beating, including some out of the way shots from Jeff Parke.

“It’s difficult,” Defoe said. “On a personal note, you’re playing against defenders who are really physical. But you’ve gotta embrace it. I’m playing with a good team.”

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.