Cristiano Ronaldo makes TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people list

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For the fourth time in five years, exactly one soccer player has made TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Following in the footsteps of Didier Drogba (2010), Lionel Messi (2012) and Mario Balotelli (2013), Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo takes soccer’s spot in this year’s group, one of five athletes chosen to the publication’s annual list.

Professional basketball player Jason Collins, tennis star Serena Williams, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and golfer Lydia Ko also claim spots on the list, one that’s traditionally dominated by cultural celebrities, politicians, artists and innovators.

Despite the solemnity of the task, it’s a list that can’t be taken too seriously, yet it does provide some insight as to who is making an impact beyond our often introverted soccer sphere. Particularly in a World Cup year, the selection as special meaning, acting as a type of mainstream “who to watch as this summer’s tournament.”

That’s why Drogba — the most prominent African player at 2010’s African World Cup — was selected. Lionel Messi’s choice came at the height of the Barcelona star’s dominance (are we already talking about this like it’s in the past?), while the cultural and sociological implications surrounding Mario Balotelli provide an extra dimension to what’s become and obligatory soccer spot.

So why Cristiano Ronaldo? He is the Ballon d’Or winner, but with the selections of Drogba and Balotelli, we see those types of honors aren’t necessary to get on this list. With this summer’s world championship being held in Brazil, it may have made more sense to select a Brazilian national team member, though there are no obvious candidates. And among the other possibilities for this honor, Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be at the World Cup at all.

In all likelihood, it was just Ronaldo’s turn. If TIME’s looking for a soccer player to provide some global athletic relevance, he is the obvious choice. While he may not truly be one of the world’s 100 most influential people (at least, let’s hope not), he is the the best candidate for the soccer slot. As this sport’s prestige goes, Ronaldo has as much as anybody, right now.

But if we buy into a few premises — the TIME does tend to pick one (and only one) soccer player; that repeat selections are avoided — are can already start guessing who will be on next year’s list. If he has a good World Cup, Luis Suárez seems a logical bet, though a world championship for host nation Brazil could also vault Neymar into the spot. Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s newfound social media relevance will make the case for his influence, though TIME may take a year off entirely, as it did after the last World Cup.

This year, however, Ronaldo gets the honor. And deservedly so.

Northern Ireland manager O’Neill banned for DUI

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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has pleaded guilty to drunk driving and been banned from the road for 16 months.

O’Neill was caught by police on the outskirts of Edinburgh at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 10 and was found to be around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

O’Neill appeared on Thursday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he received the driving ban and fine of 1,300 pounds ($1,700).

O’Neill’s solicitor, James Mulgrew, told the court “this was simply a bad error of judgment.”

Northern Ireland is still in contention for its first World Cup trip since 1986. The team plays Switzerland in a two-leg playoff next month to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Newcastle takeover bid moves closer

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Newcastle United fans are getting very, very excited.

PCP Capital Partners, led by Amanda Staveley, have signed a confidentiality agreement with the club’s owners after Mike Ashley put the club up for sale earlier this week

Ashley is said to value Newcastle at over $520 million, while Staveley is said to believe the club is worth close to $395 million, so there is plenty of negotiating still to happen but things are heading in the right direction.

In a statement on Monday Ashley said he would allow any potential buyer to pay the overall transaction fee in installments, while he also wants a buy to be completed by the end of December.

Who is Staveley?

She was seen at a Newcastle vs. Liverpool game at St James’ Park earlier this month as speculation was rife that a new owner was being lined up to buy Newcastle. That is indeed the case and Staveley, 44, is now able to look over the finances of the club exclusively.

Staveley oversaw the purchase of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi United and also lined up a deal for Liverpool to be bought by Dubai International Captial which fell through in the past.

Her close links to the Middle East has seen her become one of the most prominent British businesswomen in recent years and she currently manages over $34 billion of wealth globally. Staveley and her investors are said to be interested in buying several Premier League clubs.

Ashley’s lawyer, Andrew Henderson, released a statement on Thursday stating several other parties have inquired about buying the club since the announcement came that they were up for sale.

“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible. We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”

Things are moving very quickly for Newcastle’s fans as they thought they’d never get rid of much-maligned owner Ashley who is a lifelong fan of the club and bought them in 2007.

After two relegations from the Premier League (followed by instant returns to the PL on both occasions) Ashley has been accused of failing to spend money on the playing squad and realize Newcastle’s full potential as they challenged for the Premier League title on numerous occasions during the 1990s.

With Rafael Benitez getting the most of his squad and the Magpies sitting in the top 10 of the PL as things stand, the future is looking bright for Newcastle with plenty of investment expected if this sale does go through to Staveley or those she is closely connected with.

VIDEO: Man United ooze class after consoling teenage goalkeeper

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Wednesday was a big night for Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his debut in the UEFA Champions League and in doing so he became the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in the competition, jumping ahead of the likes of Iker Casillas to set a new, hugely impressive, record.

Still, the night did not end well for the Belgian youngster.

[ MORE: United targeted Benfica’s goalkeeper ]

With Marcus Rashford‘s free kick floating into the box from out wide, he caught the ball but then stepped back over his own goal line… taking the ball with him.

Goal-line technology showed the ball had gone over and United were awarded the goal and won 1-0.

At the final whistle the teenager was stunned but Romelu Lukaku was one of the many United players who took time to console the distraught teenager.

Classy from Lukaku.

Even if Jose Mourinho did admit afterwards that United had targeted the teenager…

FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.