Cristiano Ronaldo returns to training with Portugal

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Take that, Ghanan witch doctor!

With the public largely in the dark on the extent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s injuries ahead of the World Cup, we now have a small update.

The Portuguese FA has confirmed that Ronaldo, in addition Raul Meireles, has returned to normal training with the team, although it’s unclear to what extent they are partaking.

While a bit vague, it’s great news for Portugal nonetheless, who have looked utterly lost in two friendlies without their star forward.

Reports have been varied and somewhat unclear, but the most serious ones indicated Ronaldo was struggling with a dual injury – one to his left thigh that could involve a torn muscle, and another to his left knee which was reportedly caused by swelling and/or tendinitis.

Before Portugal’s match with Mexico last night, which they won 1-0 on a winner in stoppage time, manager Paulo Bento was mum on Ronaldo’s injury, saying, “I’m unable to change the prognosis. I’m unable to change what we expect. When he’s ready to play is a decision that’s going to be made the same way it’s always been made.”

Others mentioned in the release include defender Pepe, a teammate of Ronaldo’s at Real Madrid, who is doing side work during training as he looks to return from a calf injury that kept him out of the Champions League final.  Goalkeeper Beto is still unable to participate in training at all and is doing rehab work at the hotel.

Teams have up to 24 hours before their first World Cup match to replace injured players on the roster.  Portugal opens against Germany on June 16th, with the United States starting against Ghana on the same day. Portugal plays the US in Manaus on June 22.

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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

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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.