Stoke City pull off superb signing, land Bojan Krkic from Barcelona

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File this one under, “didn’t expect to ever see this happen.”

Stoke City have pulled off a major coup by signing the player known around the world as “the new Messi” back when he exploded onto the scene as a teenager.

Bojan Krkic has signed for Stoke on a four-year deal from Barca, as Potters boss Mark Hughes has used his connections at one of his old clubs to great effect.

The Spanish international, who came up through Barca’s famed La Masia academy, is looking to kick start his career in the Premier League after spending the last three seasons away from Barcelona on loan. Since 2011 he has spent a season at AS Roma, AC Milan and Ajax but has now left the Catalan outfit for good after making his debut as a 17-year-old way back in 2007.

Speaking about the acquisition of Bojan to Stoke’s website, Hughes was delighted that the 23-year-old chose the Potters to further his career.

“Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player and the fact that he sees his future at Stoke City is really exciting and an endorsement of the Club itself,” Hughes said. “He’s desperate to prove himself in the Premier League and we’re pleased to be able to offer him that platform.”

Okay, Bojan’s career hasn’t quite kicked on the way he would have hoped in the last few seasons, but his quality is undoubted and the diminutive attacker will have fans at the Britannia Stadium on the edge of their seats every time he touches the ball. Bojan played four seasons for Barca from 2007-11, with his tricky feet and Lionel Messi-esque drawing plenty of comparisons with the Agrentine star, before heading out on loan for three-straight seasons. At the Nou Camp he scored 41 goals in 162 games and won two UEFA Champions League titles and three La Liga crowns.

Like we said, Stoke signing him is a surprise and a real coup.

Whilst on loan Ajax last season you began to see the Bojan of old return as he helped the Amsterdam club win the Dutch title. His teenage years are beyond him, and he will now be at the center of Stoke’s plan to kick on from a ninth-place finish in the PL last season. That was their best ever PL finish in history and Hughes has turned them from being a team who favor long balls to a side who like to spray it around on the floor. In his second season in charge of Stoke, Hughes is making moves.

After Mame Biram Diouf, Steve Sidwell, Phil Bardsley and Dionatan Teixeira, Bojan becomes Hughes’ fifth-signing of the summer as the Potters look to continue their climb into the upper echelons of the Premier League standings.

With Bojan on board, anything is possible. What a signing.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET