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Wayne Rooney hits out at critics: “I’m ready for this World Cup”

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After weeks of pundits and fans alike claiming that Wayne Rooney should be stripped of his starting spot by Roy Hodgson, the Manchester United striker is finally fighting back, claiming “I don’t care what anyone says, I’m ready for this World Cup.”

The motives behind the movement to oust Rooney from his starting spot have been weak at best, yet nevertheless, in this pre-World Cup time of drama, have caught fire.

It began with cynics accusing him of having a poor 2013/14 season at United where he managed 17 goals and 12 assists in 29 appearances. It then progressed on to Rooney’s unremarkable form in past World Cups, where injuries and a lack of fitness played strong roles in his failing to score a single goal. Finally, the scales reached the tipping point as England’s young talent – notably Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and, to the extent you consider a 26-year-old to be ‘young’, Adam Lallana – have shown strong form in England’s warm-up matches.

The whole argument was vintage English drama leading up to a World Cup: find a potential negative and magnify it. Since the squad has looked quite good leading up to the tournament and, miraculously, there’s hardly a whisper of winning the title, Rooney has become everyone’s favorite scape-goat.

Finally, Phil Neville (of all people) came out earlier today calling the whole situation a “witch hunt” and noting that “Wayne is our best player and that’s a fact.” And now, Rooney himself has stepped to the mic to hit out at his critics.

“I don’t care about what anyone says. I’m ready for this World Cup. I’m focused and I feel I’ve still got a massive role to play in this team,” he said.

“Of course there is competition for places, there always is playing for your country, but I’m ready for that and I’m not worried about anything. There is so much ability and it’s a joy to be a part of.

“I feel great. I feel 100% fit and ready for the tournament. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘expect this, expect that’ from me, I know how these tournaments work, but I will give my best for the team.”

England’s 2014 World Cup opener is against Italy this Saturday, in Manaus.

 

Ex-Guatemalan soccer chief pleads guilty in FIFA bribe case

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) A former Guatemalan soccer federation president has pleaded guilty in New York to charges related to a sprawling corruption investigation of world soccer.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri ready for return, pursuing Chinese Super League ]

Brayan Jimenez pleaded guilty Friday to federal racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges, each carrying up to 20 years in prison. It’s unclear when he’ll be sentenced.

The 62-year-old Jimenez is among 40 people from around the world charged in a FIFA bribery scandal over lucrative broadcasting rights.

Prosecutors say Jimenez accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Florida-based sports marketing company. They say in exchange for the money Jimenez awarded the company media marketing rights to the Guatemalan soccer team’s World Cup qualifying matches in 2018 and 2022.

Jimenez’s attorneys haven’t returned a message seeking comment on his guilty plea.

D.C. United acquires Igboananike from Fire in trade

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - MARCH 06:  Andrea Pirlo #21 of the New York City FC looks to pass against Kennedy Igboananike #77 of the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on March 6, 2016 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The New York City FC defeated the Fire 4-3.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With the playoffs still very much in sight, D.C. United is making another attempt to boost its struggling attack.

[ MORE: NYCFC, Rapids meet in Bronx on Saturday ]

After recently trading for New York City FC forward Patrick Mullins and New York Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam, D.C. has completed a trade for Chicago Fire attacker Kennedy Igboananike in exchange for target allocation money and a third-round draft selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

In over a season-and-a-half in MLS with the Fire, Igboananike notched 11 goals and four assists in 49 matches. The Nigerian forward is a Designated Player, and is due to make over $900,000, according to the MLS Players’ Union website.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri trying to make comeback in Chinese Super League ]

D.C United is currently eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, sitting on 20 points through 21 matches. The team is four points behind the New England Revolution for the final playoff position.

Report: Atletico set to offer $52 million for Chelsea’s Costa

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  Diego Costa of Chelsea shoots past Thiago Silva of PSG to score a gol to level the scores at 1-1 during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 9, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Already with one of the world’s most dangerous attacks, Atletico Madrid is prepared to add another dimension into the mix.

[ MORE: Man City makes final bid for defender John Stones ]

Daily Mail is reporting that the Spanish side is prepared to offer Chelsea over $52 million for striker Diego Costa, who joined the team from Atletico back in 2014.

While the Blues have maintained their position that Costa isn’t for sale, Atletico looks to boost its already strong offense with the 27-year-old Spaniard. Diego Simeone’s group already features talented attacking duo Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres.

During his previous stint in La Liga, Costa netted 56 goals across all competitions in two seasons with the Rojiblancos.

[ MORE: Christian Vieri trying to make comeback in Chinese Super League ]

Chelsea is reportedly pursuing former striker Romelu Lukaku after signing Belgian Michy Batshuayi this summer. Antonio Conte’s side also features young forward Bertrand Traore, who has made a strong impression during the preseason.

Report: Manchester City makes final bid for John Stones

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and John Stones of Everton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on January 16, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Take it or leave it.

Manchester City has made a final push for Everton defender John Stones, and has set its last offer at $52 million. Last month, the Citizens made the same exact bid for the 22-year-old, which was rejected by Everton.

[ MORE: Italian legend Christian Vieri looks to join Chinese Super League ]

City is said to be looking to avoid overpaying for Stones, after compensating Porto over $55 million for centerback Eliaquim Mangala two years ago.

While Stones has gone on record saying that he wants to play for manager Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, it remains to be seen if Everton will part ways with its prized defender.