Messi brings all-star cast to Chicago and LA in charity event

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Saturday, July 6 will see the stars of the soccer world from all around the globe invade Chicago in support of Lionel Messi’s foundation.

The 4-time Ballon d’Or winner himself will headline the event, with a star-studded cast alongside him in the Lionel Messi and Friends charity tour.

With the first two stops in Columbia and Peru, the match at Chicago’s Soldier Field will be the third of four matches across the Americas which will benefit the Leo Messi Foundation for at-risk children.

Playing in the Chicago event aside from Messi himself are players from around the world including fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero, rumor-heavy Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski, New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry, Chelsea’s David Luiz and Florent Malouda, and Messi’s Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Cesc Fabregas.

American internationals Carlos Bocanegra and Michael Bradley will also take part in the event.

Bocanegra has a decent following in Chicago from his days with the Fire, partly under Bradley’s father Bob Bradley. Michael Bradley played his early youth days with the now-defunct Chicago Sockers.

Then the fanfare will pick up and relocate to Los Angeles‘s Memorial Coliseum a week later, with some players like Aguero, Fabregas, Busquets, Lewandowski, Giovani dos Santos, and Marek Hamsik reprising their role.  New faces will join them as well, including Gerard Pique, Alex Song, Javier Mascherano, Robinho, Kevin Prince-Boateng, and James Rodriguez.

The matches will be organized by Numero 5 LLC.  Its vice-president, Sergio Codino, did his best to play up the event to its American audience by saying, “The Messi and Friends friendly, much like the NFL Pro Bowl or the MLB All-Star Game, will provide fans with an incredible opportunity to witness the world’s greatest athletes from the world of soccer together on the field of competition before the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014.”

Last year Messi held a similar event, a snoozefest in Miami that finished at 7-7 in front of 50,000 clearly bored fans.  Messi and Luis Suarez walked out with hat-tricks.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.