Manchester City reunites Caballero with Pellegrini, brings in challenger for Hart

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Say you haven’t seen Málaga play over the last few years. You not only managed to avoid their UEFA Champions League run two years ago, but after their financial mishaps led them out of Europe last season, you didn’t bother digging into La Liga’s depths to follow their post-Manuel Pellegrini progress. With Isco, Joaquin, and Javier Saviola following the now-Manchester City manager out the door, Málaga remained irrelevant to you.

If that’s the case, you’ll probably see City’s $10.2 million signing of goalkeeper Willy Caballero as a depth purchase, but more likely, this is Martín Demichelis all over again. The veteran Argentine defender, who was so important for Pellegrini at Málaga, was brought in last season despite the presence of Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic, and Joleon Lescott in central defense. He ended up being of the team’s starting center backs shortly after his arrival.

Caballero’s acquisition could play out the same way. While there may be the perception that Joe Hart will retain the starting spot, a number of circumstantial factors hint Caballero could get a chance. Given Hart’s performance, Pellegrini’s history with the Argentine, and the manager’s willingness to bench Hart last season, Manchester City’s newest goalkeeper could be given every opportunity to win the starting job.

While luring Caballero to Manchester, Pellegrini wasn’t ready to go that far. He did, however, say that should Hart slip again, the job is his. From The Guardian:

Caballero was initially reluctant to join City as he did not want to see his chances of first-team football limited … But the City manager has offered Caballero assurances that he would be given a fair chance to establish himself should Hart slip up once more and the size of the fee – which could rise to around £9m due to appearances and other clauses – reflects the role Pellegrini wants him to occupy.

That price is more than you’d pay for a mere safety net, though given how Caballero played for Málaga after Pellegrini signed him from Elche, the fee makes sense. Over the last three years, the now 32-year-old has been one of the best goalkeepers in Spain, with his shot-stopping helping an often over-matched Málaga maintain a solid defense (46 in 38 games) while finishing in 11th place. Though Bernd Schuster’s team barely eclipsed one goal-per-game (1.02), Caballero made Málaga into an average side.

To me, Caballero’s been clearly better than Hart over the last three years. Whereas the Englishman has been decent if erratic, Caballero has been borderline elite. Perhaps he’ll have some David de Gea-esque troubles adjusting to the Premier League, but it’s also possible he’ll be the better goalkeeper from day one.

Given Hart’s reputation in England, Manchester City could sell him and make a profit on what they paid for Caballero. With Costel Pantilimon having departed for Sunderland, that probably won’t happen, but today’s move does provide an alternative. If Hart has another bad spell, Pellegrini’s probably won’t hesitate to turn to the alternative.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.

NASL side to broadcast all its matches on Twitter

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It’s fair to expect the San Francisco Deltas to be trendsetters in tech given their location and pedigree, and the first-year NASL club is doing just that.

The Deltas announced Wednesday that all of their home matches will be broadcast live on Twitter — in English, Spanish, and Portuguese — making them the first North American pro club to broadcast all of their matches on social media.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Twitter senior executive Josh McFarland had previously named as one of the investors in the Deltas, which makes the announcement even more natural. Other investors include tech execs from around the Silicon Valley.

Zlatan: Guardiola falling out “still drives me”

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Time heals all wounds, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still feel the scars from his falling out with Pep Guardiola.

The megawatt personalities saw their relationship deteriorate at Barcelona, with Ibrahimovic loaned to AC Milan one year after scoring 21 goals in 45 matches for Guardiola and the Blaugranas.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs Honduras? ]

Ibrahimovic never played for Barca again, and now has a chance to stare down Man City’s Guardiola in a Manchester Derby which could alter the Top Four fortunes of both sides. And he’s still powered by Pep.

From The Guardian, quoting a Sky Sports Italia interview:

“The problem wasn’t with me, it was with him, and he never came to terms with it. I don’t know what his problem was with me. It is something that drives me, gives me adrenaline and extra motivation. It is normal after what has happened. I’m using it as a positive, not negative.”

United visits City at the Etihad Stadium on April 27, and Ibrahimovic will be extra motivated (if that’s possible for the Swede, who seemingly would be fired up to beat someone in arcade bubble hockey).