Joel Soria

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Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

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Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

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According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID — Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

Burning Question: The most underrated player in history?

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be asking some burning questions we have when it comes to the beautiful game. Today’s topic is naming the most underrated player in history.

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To be clear, there is stark difference between being underrated and being underexposed. The following four players – it was overwhelmingly complicated to trim the list to one, sole player – had intercontinental exposure during and/or after their playing days, meaning that their magic met the eyes of many but, for one reason or another, they didn’t reap the unanimous praise they deserved.

So, with that in mind, let’s break down the world’s most underrated players in the history of the game.

Jimmy Greaves

English professional footballer Jimmy Greaves in action for West Ham in the League Division One match between Crystal Palace FC and West Ham United FC at Selhurst Park Stadium in London on 24th October 1970. The match would end in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Before the turn of the millennial, before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo demonstrated to the modern world that scoring over 400 goals in top-flight soccer was possible, the world turned to Jimmy Greaves’ pristine goalscoring dominancy in England.

From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, the English forward was his country’s reference point as it pertained to The Beautiful Game, scoring 357 first-division goals over the span of 14 years. Greaves’ 266 goals with Tottenham makes him the club’s all-time top scorer, while his 44 goals in 57 caps (0.77 goals per game) with England makes him one the most efficient scorers the Three Lions have ever had.

Ironically, in 2019, it was Greaves’ family that took their concerns to the frontlines, asking English soccer authorities why it is that an ill, 80-year-old Greaves has yet to be recognized by the honors system despite being England’s king of goals.

“I have no idea why [Greaves has not been honored],” Danny Greaves, son of Jimmy, said in 2019. “As a family we are not bothered but if someone knocked on the door tomorrow and said we would like to give your dad an honor we would accept with open arms. It is up to the authorities.”

Garrincha

Garrincha: a dignified soccer phenom that truly never was due to Pelé’s immense, looming shadow over the soccer world, and, specifically, Brazil.

A supreme dribbler and one of the most agile wingers of his time, Garrincha was, without exception, the closest player to match Pelé’s greatness during Brazil’s first Golden Age. But to some, the Botafogo icon was better.

Brazilian forward Garrincha (L) dribbles past Welsh defender Mel Hopkins during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Brazil and Wales 19 June 1958 in Goteborg.

“Garrincha was more of a danger than Pelé I believe at the time, a phenomenon, capable of sheer magic,” said Wales defender Mel Hopkins, who marked Garrincha in 1958. 

It is for that reason, that over the years, a world-wide case has been brewing in the Brazilian’s corner: Garrincha is one of soccer’s most underrated players of all time. No spoilers, but the statement hasn’t turned into an animated debate. It’s as factual of a statement as Pelé being one of the top three greats ever.

Miroslav Klose

No other player in the history of the game has scored more World Cup goals than Miroslav Klose. Most lovers of the game are cognizant of that, which has its own, elite level of merit, taking into consideration that the German tops a list composed of Ronaldo, Gerd Muller, Pelé, among other greats of the game.

One can make the case that Klose is the World Cup’s most underrated player, no doubt. But, at the same time, one can make the case that the German striker is one of the games’ most underrated players in history.

BERLIN, GERMANY – OCTOBER 16: Miroslav Klose of Germany celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier group C match between German and Sweden at Olympiastadion on October 16, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

Klose had it all: a vigorous right foot, slithering movements, a dynamite header, the titles, and, most awarding for any player in his position, a penchant for scoring goals – for club and country. By the time a 38-year-old Klose called it a career in 2016, he’d lifted 11 trophies, was Germany’s all-time scorer with 71 goals, scored 231 goals and was the World Cup’s all-time scorer with 16 goals.

There may never be another Klose, a sentiment even he would likely agree with: “The football I grew up playing is no longer there. Today, all players care about is their cars, their shoes with their names on, and their image. While for me, the only thing that counted was football. Nothing else,” Klose said in January.

Jorge “Mágico” González

Latin America’s long list of greats poses as if it is at full capacity, showcasing names such as Pelé, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Elías Figueroa, Hugo Sánchez, Hugo Sotil in its trophy case. The list truly goes on and on, but always tends to leave one name out of the equation: Jorge “Mágico” González.

The Salvadoran, who is recognized by many as the player who didn’t want to be better than Maradona, was Cadiz’s reference point in the 1980s, characterized as a force due to his unmatched dribbling skills, wizardry faints and zippy speed.

Off the field, however, it was a different story for the player that led El Salvador to a World Cup in 1982.

In 1984, during Barcelona’s tour in the United States, Diego Maradona and the rest of the team made their way out of the hotel they were staying at due to a fire alarm that had gone off. González, who was on trial with the team at the time, was in his room with a woman, and was reluctant to exit the room despite what was occurring. Shortly after they found out about his actions, Barcelona decided to cut Mágico loose.

“I admit that I am not a saint, that I like the nightlife and that the desire to party; not even my mother can take it away. I know that I am irresponsible and a bad professional, and I may be missing the opportunity of my life. I know, but I have nonsense in the head: I don’t like to treat football as a job. If I did it wouldn’t be me. I only play for fun,” González said.

Honorable Mentions: 

Hugo Sánchez

Rivaldo

Dirk Kuyt

Gerd Muller