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Aston Villa welcomes back previously marginalized players

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Aston Villa want to avoid yet another season in which they struggle against the drop. However, that might be difficult: Owner Randy Lerner put the club up for sale at the start of the summer, and has yet to find a willing buyer. As such, Villa have been restrained in the transfer market, with Lerner making it clear that money can be spent only if current players are sold.

Villa have already brought in three players on the cheap, and all are Premier League veterans: Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson. But they’ve also decided to turn to players that were marginalized after Paul Lambert arrived at the club two years ago.

The infamous “Bomb Squad,” high-paid players that have been frozen out over much of the past 24 months, are to make a return next season, ensuring Lerner gets at least a bit of a return on his investment. While Shay Given is never likely to feature heavily, as Villa have Brad Guzan as their first choice goalkeeper, there are other big names looking to finally make their mark.

Darren Bent was Villa’s record signing in January 2011. While he helped the club avoid relegation that season, he’s made little of an impression since. He lost his starting place to Christian Benteke in August 2012, and went on loan to Fulham for the 2013-2014 season.

But despite Bent’s paltry three goals last season, Villa are determined to get some use out of him, particularly with Benteke and Libor Kozák still recovering from injury. The forward came good in his first appearance of the preseason, grabbing a brace against League Two side Mansfield on Thursday evening.

Another man looking to impress is Charles N’Zogbia. The winger tore his Achilles while on vacation last June, and had not played since. However, Lambert seemed pleased with his performance on Thursday, and with Marc Albrighton now gone, N’Zogbia could see plenty of time this season.

Finally, there’s Alan Hutton. The defender has not played for Villa since the 2011-2012 season, when he was brought in by fellow Scot Alex McLeish. Instead, he’s seen loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers. But with Matthew Lowton disappointing last season, it’s likely Hutton will find himself back in the first team — especially since Villa rejected an offer from West Bromwich Albion last week.

Aston Villa are set to leave for Texas, where they will play FC Dallas on July 23 and Houston Dynamo on July 26. Those two games could give Lambert even more of an idea as to whether the previously marginalized players should be welcomed back with open arms.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.