Mario Balotelli

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Absurd Paul Scholes pass has Premier League fans all nostalgic

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Vincent Kompany‘s testimonial on Wednesday featured some big names from the former Manchester City defender’s time in the Premier League, and one in particular put jaws on the floor.

Paul Scholes, whose time at City’s cross-town rivals Manchester United overlapped Kompany’s Premier League journey by four years, produced a moment of brilliance that brought fans back to his time in midfield for the Red Devils. The 44-year-old donned a dark blue shirt for the Premier League All-Stars side at Kompany’s testimonial and wow’d the crowd.

With Robin Van Persie and Robbie Keane breaking forward, Scholes took a square pass from Cesc Fabregas and produced a stunning flick with the outside of his boot that fell perfectly in line for the two strikers on a run. Unfortunately, both Keane and van Persie went for the ball, and they ran into each other allowing Jolean Lescott to recover and end the chance.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw as Benjani Mwaruwari scored a last-minute equalizer for the Manchester City Legends. Martin Petrov opened the scoring for Man City Legends, but the Premier League All-Stars took the lead through goals by van Persie and Keane before the late goal left things all square.

Current Manchester City players David Silva and Sergio Aguero were on hand to participate, as were former City players Samir Nasri, Joe Hart, Kolo Toure, Mario Balotelli, and Pablo Zabaleta. The likes of Edwin van der Sar, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Thierry Henry suited up for the opponents.

Kompany himself was unfortunately sidelined for the match by a hamstring injury – a cruel homage to the rampant injury history of his long 11-year playing career at the Etihad. He picked up the injury while playing for his new club Anderlecht where he serves as player/manager. The club has started the Jupiler Pro League season on a terrible run of form, without victory through its first five games, but picked up its first win of the season against rivals Standard Liege with Kompany out injured.

Proceeds from the match went to benefit A Bed Every Night, a charity in Manchester dedicated to helping aid the homeless in the city.

Balotelli headed back to Italy after turning down move to Brazil

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Mario Balotelli is headed back to Italy, where he’ll sign with Serie A side Brescia — in the city he affectionately calls home — after three largely successful seasons in France, according to multiple reports from across Europe.

[ MORE: Man United shut door on Paul Pogba departure ]

In opting to join the newly promoted side on a reported three-year contract, the 29-year-old rejected an offer from Brazilian powerhouse Flamengo. Brescia were champions of Serie B last season, finishing a point ahead of Lecce, who were also promoted.

Balotelli was born in Palermo, but he spent much of his childhood in Brescia. He has always said that Brescia is the only place where he feels at home.

[ MORE: Frank de Boer calls equal pay at international level “ridiculous” ]

Since he last played in Italy, for AC Milan during the 2015-16 season, Balotelli scored 41 goals in Ligue 1 (33 in two and a half seasons for Nice; eight in a half-season for Marseille).

Report: Balotelli in talks to sign in Brazil

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Mario Balotelli may have a chance to revive his career across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Brazilian publication Globo Esporte, Brazilian giant Flamengo is in talks to sign Balotelli. Balotelli is currently a free agent after spending the last five months with Marseille.

[READ: Premier League season previews]

Balotelli scored eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 games last season but wasn’t in Andre Villas-Boas’ plans. The move to a Marseille came after two and a half years with Nice, where it seemed Balotelli had gotten back on his feet.

The former Italian international, known for his outrageous skill as well as his outrageous behavior, struggled mightily between spells at AC Milan and Liverpool.

According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo’s new signing Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa recommended Balotelli from their time together at Milan.

Marseille’s ‘Champions Project’ in tatters

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PARIS (AP) Ridiculous Project.

Arrogant Project.

Fiasco Project.

Deficient Project.

Defeat Project.

These were some of the slogans displayed by Marseille fans last weekend at Stade Velodrome, mocking the “Champions Project” plan of American owner Frank McCourt, who aimed to return the club back to the summit of French soccer and among the European elite.

[ MORE: Sarri’s job in jeopardy? ]

Instead, in front of those poster-holding fans, former European champion Marseille was humiliated by Lyon 3-0 at home.

Ahead of the trip to Toulouse on Saturday, Marseille is seven points behind fourth-placed Saint-Etienne. With only two rounds left in Ligue 1, it means the club won’t even qualify for the Europa League.

Two and a half years after McCourt took over, the southern side has not lived up to expectations, and coach Rudi Garcia’s future is hanging in the balance after he failed to find the right balance in a squad featuring some brilliant individuals.

Marseille, which made it to the 2018 Europa League final but earned only one point in the group stage this season, has 13 defeats in 36 matches in the French league, has conceded 50 goals – its worst total in more than 30 years – and lost all of its matchups against the top three teams.

Constant tinkering with the lineup – Garcia fielded 41 different starting XIs in 44 matches in all competitions – to find a winning combo contributed to Marseille going backward, in sharp contrast to the club’s motto of “Straight to Goal.”

“There is no point looking for excuses,” World Cup winner Florian Thauvin said last month after a loss in Bordeaux. “We should stop fooling ourselves. We did not make a good season. And even if we qualified for the Champions League, what could we achieve? Every year it’s the same thing. We don’t win the games we need, we make too many mistakes.”

Marseille Ultras supporters, who play a major role in the running of the club, have had enough, too, and are asking for Garcia’s firing. They are also unhappy with club president Jacques Henri Eyraud, who appointed the coach when McCourt, the former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, launched his project of making Marseille great again, then extended Garcia’s deal to 2021.

“It’s one of the most difficult seasons of my career,” says Garcia, who seems under no illusion his time is up at the club. “But it’s part of my experience, and I’m sure I will use it in the future.”

Upon arrival at the buoyant Mediterranean city, McCourt pledged to revive Marseille by investing 200 million euros ($210 million) over four years. Large amounts of cash have been spent on Mario Balotelli, Valere Germain, and Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Marseille’s squad also features Lucas Ocampos, Kevin Strootman, Dimitri Payet, and Florian Thauvin, but Garcia has failed to make them gel as a team.

Thauvin has appeared unconcerned in recent weeks, and has not scored in the league in more than two months. He has repeatedly said his main goal in club football is to play the Champions League and appears bound for a transfer this summer.

Balotelli is not expected to stay either, but Marseille could struggle to find credible replacements as it remains closely monitored by UEFA in regard to financial fair play rules, and might not be allowed to spend as much as it wants.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Superagent Raiola given three-month transfer ban in Italy

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Ahead of the summer transfer window, Italian superagent Mino Raiola has been handed a three-month transfer ban by the Italian FA for unknown reasons. Raiola announced he is appealing the suspension.

Raiola is best known for representing Paul Pogba, plus Mario Balotelli, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and many others.

The statement from the Italian FA read, “The Sports Procurators Commission condemns Mr Carmine [Mino] Raiola and Mr Vincenzo Raiola, on their own behalf and as legal representatives of the companies they represent to sanction of the suspension from the exercise of the activity of sports attorney to the extent, respectively: with regard to Mr. Carmine Raiola, of 3 months, with regard to Mr. Vincenzo Raiola, of 2 months.”

Raiola himself said he does not know why he was banned, incredulously claiming it to be “perhaps the result of a story by some frustrated weirdo.”

“I immediately called in lawyers and I appeal,” the 51-year-old told Dutch outlet Eindhoven Daglbad. “This is a personal error. I have not received any explanation.”

“You can ask me three thousand questions about it, but I honestly don’t know what is going on,” Raiola insisted. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the suspension has to do with the 2015 transfer of Gianluca Scamacca from Roma’s youth system to PSV. Scamacca, now 20 years old, was just 16 at the time, and the transfer reportedly angered Roma.

“My personal feeling is that this punishment responds to a political will, without taking the law into account,” Raiola later said in a tweeted statement. “It’s a sanction based on falsehoods and lies. Law and justice must prevail in any correct system and I hope my name will be restored in the next chapter of this story.”

Raiola’s ban only takes effect with regards to Italian clubs, so it shouldn’t affect Pogba’s reported efforts to leave Manchester United for a top Spanish club. It would have affected Romelu Lukaku‘s reported interest from both Juventus and Inter, but Lukaku left Raiola earlier this year for Roc Nation Sports.

It could, however, affect the summer fortunes of Dutch youngster Matthijs de Ligt, who is represented by Raiola. The 19-year-old Ajax captain has been linked with top clubs all over the map, with Juventus included in the mix.