Is Robin van Persie still a contender for player of the year?

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With under nine matches remaining in the 2012-13 Premier League season, pundits seemingly agree that there are three contenders for player of the year award: Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie. But given van Persie’s recent drop in form, are we really still considering the Dutchman in this discussion?

With van Persie’s $30 million dollar move from Arsenal to Manchester United last summer, questions were raised as to whether the 29 year old would be able to duplicate the scintillating form that he had displayed over the last few seasons. Not only did the striker answer the questions but by January 20th he had recorded an astounding 18 goals in 23 league matches.

In the six matches since then, however, the striker has recorded only a single goal (against Everton on February 10th). In that stretch he also came up with goose eggs in both Champions League Round of 16 clashes with Real Madrid and also failed to make the score sheet in the 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinal. It’s no secret that ‘big time’ players step up in ‘big time’ matches. The fact that van Persie has failed to do so has to be considered when evaluating the player of the year.

Perhaps even scarier than van Persie’s goal drought is the demeanor he has adopted over the last few weeks. To say he looks disinterested would be harsh but he no longer illuminates the park like he used to. He sees less of the ball, not because he’s being marked out of the match, but because his teammates can’t find him on the pitch due to the lethargic nature of his runs and positioning. Simply stated, van Persie’s killer instinct has faded of late and comes in stark contrast to the play of Suarez and Bale.

Suarez has scored a league high 22 goals in 29 matches, including five in his last four. Overshadowed by his on-field antics and an English media that loves a villain, the Uruguayan has showed a steely perseverance that has allowed him to overcome bigger obstacles than either van Persie or Bale.

From his position on the left wing and now, as a second striker, Bale has netted 16 times in 27 contests, including a handful of dramatic match winners when his club seemed down for the count. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe both struggling it has been the Welsh international who has single-handedly carried Spurs to 4th in the table and the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

It’s not as if van Persie is no longer one of the great strikers in world football or should lose his place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s lineup. But if we weren’t so impressed by United’s 15 point lead on Manchester City, the talking heads would have removed van Persie from the player of the year discussion a few games ago.

Moore takes hold of West Brom’s promotion bid

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Darren Moore‘s spell as West Brom caretaker manager couldn’t quite pull off a miraculous run to Premier League safety, but the promise it contained has helped him to the first chance at earning promotion back to the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion announced Moore as its new manager on Monday, with the boss promising his Baggies would play attractive football while also being a side “that’s willing to fight and scrap for every ball.”

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Moore is also happy to carry a flame for minority coaches — called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) — in England.

“If it does inspire others, I would be extremely proud,” he said. “I don’t just speak on behalf of BAME coaches but the young, aspiring British coaches across the board.”

Moore, 44, only lost one of his six PL matches as WBA boss, winning three times and inspiring many to wonder what would’ve happened had the Baggies’ pulled the plug on Alan Pardew — and Tony Pulis before him — earlier.

A center back in his playing career, Moore spent 18 seasons between a number of clubs including West Brom, Derby County, and Doncaster Rovers. He won promotion as a player twice with West Brom, and again with Derby.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.

Nashville MLS expansion club snares ex-Liverpool CEO Ayre

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Former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre is moving from Merseyside to the Music City.

The Tennesseean’s Joe Rexrode says Ayre is set to take the reins of Nashville SC as the first CEO in club history when it makes its debut in the 2020 MLS season.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Liverpool hired ex-EA Sports executive Peter Moore to replace Ayre in 2017 after the latter, 54, spent six years with the club as managing director and then CEO.

From the Tennessean:

“The MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory,” Ayre said. “Both as a soccer fan and an executive in the industry, it’s something I’ve had my eye on because it’s important. … You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”

The timing of Ayre’s addition hearkens back to that of former Tottenham executive Darren Eales at Atlanta United. If it has the same success, Nashville will be proud.

Report: Lampard interviews twice with Championship club

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Steven Gerrard‘s longtime England midfield mate Frank Lampard could soon be joining him in a management.

While Gerrard is tasked with rebuilding Rangers’ Scottish title push, Lampard’s reported new gig would entail leading Ipswich Town back to the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

[ MORE: No World Cup for Chelsea trio ]

Sky Sports says Lampard has already interviewed twice with Ipswich Town ownership in a bid to earn his first senior management gig.

Lampard, 39, played for Chelsea, Man City, New York City FC, West Ham United, and Swansea in a sparkling 20-year playing career.

Town finished 12th in the Championship, 15 points back of a playoff spot and 19 clear of relegation.