Soccer’s Choose Your Own Adventure: Gareth Barry

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You’re Gareth Barry.

For 16 years you’ve played in the Premier League, beginning your career at Aston Villa in 1998. For eleven years you wore the claret & blue, patrolling the Villa Park midfield and rising to prominence with the likes of Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.

Labeled Mr. Consistency, you logged 388 appearances for the Villains (notching 47 goals and 27 assists along the way) before catching the eye of Manchester City in 2009.

The Citizens handed Villa a $20 million (£12m) transfer fee and signed you to a five year deal paying out at $168,000 (£100k) per week. Over that time you became a fixture of the City midfield and notably partnered Yaya Toure in the holding midfield role on the squad hoisted the 2011/12 Premier League title.

Then, prior to your final season under contract at City, an influx of world-class players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini rendered you surplus goods. Enter Everton, who offered you a life-line and starting job under new manager Roberto Martinez. Under the Spanish gaffer you thrived, enjoying what was arguably your best professional season on record.

And now here you stand: 33-years old, out of contract and available on a free transfer.

Your options are as follows:

A) Push hard to re-sign a 1-year deal at City where you’ll compete for domestic and European titles and continue enjoying a 6 figure weekly salary. The down side, of course, is that except for the occasional League and FA Cup match, you’ll ride pine like Scott Sinclair (remember him?!).

B) Sign with Everton where you will remain in the Premier League, have a starting position, play in Europe (ok, the Europa League, but still…) and be beloved by fans. The downside is that you’ll need to cut your wages in half to go there, won’t have a shot at winning the Premier League title and will struggle to ever play again in the Champions League.

C) Sign with Arsenal, who are reportedly interested in you. But the same positives and negatives exist in North London as the do at the Etihad – you’ll constantly be wondering why guys like Mikel Arteta (who you are miles better than) continually starts over you. And even though the Gunners can afford to keep you flush, they won’t. You’ll make slightly more than you would at Everton and be half as involved.

D) Sign with QPR or Stoke City. Yep, these clubs want you as well. You like the occasional cracking tackle so in theory Stoke could work but you’re too intelligent to play there — you enjoy the finer things in life, the vast majority of which are found away from the Britannia. QPR may look good on paper (they can certainly keep you well paid) but the idea of lining up alongside Joey Barton is almost as troubling as spending the season with a make-shift, over-touted and under-performing squad destined for a relegation race.

E) Sign with NYCFC. Get paid like you’re still at City, play-make for David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I’m convinced this will happen in 2016), be left Papparazzi-free so you can do things like drink at random East Village bars and, ultimately, become a NYC icon and MLS legend.

Choose wisely, my friend.

 

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE