Soccer’s Choose Your Own Adventure: Gareth Barry

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You’re Gareth Barry.

For 16 years you’ve played in the Premier League, beginning your career at Aston Villa in 1998. For eleven years you wore the claret & blue, patrolling the Villa Park midfield and rising to prominence with the likes of Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.

Labeled Mr. Consistency, you logged 388 appearances for the Villains (notching 47 goals and 27 assists along the way) before catching the eye of Manchester City in 2009.

The Citizens handed Villa a $20 million (£12m) transfer fee and signed you to a five year deal paying out at $168,000 (£100k) per week. Over that time you became a fixture of the City midfield and notably partnered Yaya Toure in the holding midfield role on the squad hoisted the 2011/12 Premier League title.

Then, prior to your final season under contract at City, an influx of world-class players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini rendered you surplus goods. Enter Everton, who offered you a life-line and starting job under new manager Roberto Martinez. Under the Spanish gaffer you thrived, enjoying what was arguably your best professional season on record.

And now here you stand: 33-years old, out of contract and available on a free transfer.

Your options are as follows:

A) Push hard to re-sign a 1-year deal at City where you’ll compete for domestic and European titles and continue enjoying a 6 figure weekly salary. The down side, of course, is that except for the occasional League and FA Cup match, you’ll ride pine like Scott Sinclair (remember him?!).

B) Sign with Everton where you will remain in the Premier League, have a starting position, play in Europe (ok, the Europa League, but still…) and be beloved by fans. The downside is that you’ll need to cut your wages in half to go there, won’t have a shot at winning the Premier League title and will struggle to ever play again in the Champions League.

C) Sign with Arsenal, who are reportedly interested in you. But the same positives and negatives exist in North London as the do at the Etihad – you’ll constantly be wondering why guys like Mikel Arteta (who you are miles better than) continually starts over you. And even though the Gunners can afford to keep you flush, they won’t. You’ll make slightly more than you would at Everton and be half as involved.

D) Sign with QPR or Stoke City. Yep, these clubs want you as well. You like the occasional cracking tackle so in theory Stoke could work but you’re too intelligent to play there — you enjoy the finer things in life, the vast majority of which are found away from the Britannia. QPR may look good on paper (they can certainly keep you well paid) but the idea of lining up alongside Joey Barton is almost as troubling as spending the season with a make-shift, over-touted and under-performing squad destined for a relegation race.

E) Sign with NYCFC. Get paid like you’re still at City, play-make for David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I’m convinced this will happen in 2016), be left Papparazzi-free so you can do things like drink at random East Village bars and, ultimately, become a NYC icon and MLS legend.

Choose wisely, my friend.

 

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.

Manchester United beats City 2-0 in preseason Derby

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Manchester is Red, at least for the preseason.

Manchester United used quickfire first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to topple Manchester City 2-0 in Houston as part of the International Champions Cup.

The first half-hour saw plenty of action, but nothing in terms of goals. New Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker made a great run to cut down Rashford before he could shoot, while goalkeeper Ederson was required to keep out Paul Pogba.

On the other end, Chris Smalling was active often, nearly conceding a penalty with a pull on the shirt of Patrick Roberts, while also cleaning up after a high City press caught United in their own defensive third.

[ MORE: West Ham signs Chicharito ]

Just before halftime, United went in front thanks to their prized new striker. Pogba launched an absolutely brilliant long-ball, and Lukaku streaked to meet it, heading past a charging Ederson before cutting from a tight angle into the empty net before defenders could recover.

Immediately after, Rashford put United 2-0 up on a cool finish from the right with space after a ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The score is Rashford’s third goal of the United States tour.

After a host of changes at halftime that saw City keep just four players on the field, it didn’t help as United kept on the pressure. Rashford almost scored an accidental long-range chip as his long-ball to the far post nearly went in, but Ederson tipped it over. Moments later, Lukaku thundered a howitzer into the crossbar.

United made a host of changes past the hour mark, and they nearly had another if not for the offside flag raising on Phil Jones after a double-save by Ederson. City had a big chance in the final 10 minutes, as a great ball from Samir Nasri found Gabriel Jesus, but the Brazilian put it well over.

Ederson had a solid game in net for Manchester City despite the loss, while Kyle Walker and 17-year-old City youth product Brahim Diaz also stood out. For United, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was bright as were Paul Pogba and goalscorer Marcus Rashford.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea (Romero 45′); Valencia (Fosu-Mensah 77′), Lindelöf (Bailly 45′), Smalling (Jones 45′), Blind (Darmian 45′); Herrera (Fellaini 62′), Pogba; Rashford (Martial 62′), Mkhitaryan (Carrick 62′), Lingard (Pereira 78′); Lukaku.

Manchester City: Ederson; Adarabioyo (Otamendi 45′), Kompany (Mangala 45′), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Sane 45′), Walker, Foden (Zinchenko 74′), De Bruyne (Diaz 45′), Sterling (Jesus 45′), Aguero (Stones 45′), Roberts (Nasri 45′).