Yaya Toure believes his African heritage hurts his world perception

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As far as most who watch the game on a regular basis are concerned, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure is one of the best midfielders in soccer.

The Ivorian has a brilliant combination of power, precision, touch, and stamina that helps him succeed in just about any role a midfielder can find himself in.

But according to the 30-year-old himself, there are many around the sport of soccer who still view Africans as, in his words, “animals not human beings.”

City teammate Samir Nasri said last month that Toure would be considered the best midfielder in the world were he not African:

“If he wasn’t African everyone will say he’s the best midfielder in the world,” Nasri told the media following the Carling Cup victory. I might be a bit biased because he’s my friend, but for me he’s in the top three midfielders in the world. Of course it counts against him being from Ivory Coast. If he was Argentinian or Brazilian everyone will talk about him, everyone. You have some Brazilians or Argentinians, I don’t want to say anything wrong, but just because they are from this country you pay £40 million or £50  million for them. A guy like Yaya, he’s won every trophy, he is always there. Tell me one defensive midfielder who can go forward like him who can score 16 or 17 goals in a season?”

Reacting, the conversation’s subject agreed. “I think what Samir was saying was definitely true,” Toure told BBC World News’s Football Focus.

He pointed mainly to the media, criticizing those covering the game for not giving him the proper focus. “If we play well and we don’t have the recognition from the media, we are not going to be where we want to be,” Toure said, conceding he’s at the mercy of the media to grow his name recognition.

Toure also echoed Nasri’s sentiment about South Americans, specifically pointing to four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. “If you go to any part of Africa now, people will say, ‘yes, we know him [Messi]’, but when you come to Europe and say ‘Yaya Toure’ people will say, ‘who is that?’ Some will say they know my name but not know my face. But they will know Messi’s face.”

He went on to describe the enormous contributions his fellow Africans have brought to the game, mentioning the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, and the only African to win the Ballon d’Or, George Weah. “I am very proud to be African, I want to defend African people and I want to show to the world that African players can be as good as the Europeans and South Americans.”

He also said he believed those players felt equally disappointed not to get the world recognition they deserve.

It also may have partially to do with his position.  No matter how many goals he scores (unless he goes absolutely bonkers), strikers will almost always get the biggest fan following – and with it, the most media coverage and hype.  Only one goalkeeper, and four defenders have ever won the Ballon d’Or, and despite the goals tally, Toure isn’t an attacking-minded midfielder.

Do you agree that Toure’s is being prevented from reaching the individual pinnacle achievements of the game because he is of African decent?

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.