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Shortlist for FIFA’s Best Player of the Year announced

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The 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s Best Player of the Year award has been announced, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Neymar and Luis Suarez missing out.

[ MORE: Coach of Year shortlist ]

Four current Premier League stars feature in the top 10, with Eden Hazard who moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid over the summer also named among the nominees.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane is joined by Liverpool trio Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane with VVD the favorite to be crowned the top player on the planet as his dominant displays led Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory and within one point of Manchester City in the Premier League. Van Dijk also captained the Netherlands to reach the UEFA Nations League final and led their resrurgence from central defense.

Dutch duo Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, who have both left Ajax this summer for Barcelona and Juventus respectively, are included after their breakout years for club and country, while superstars Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo (who has won the award twice in the past three seasons) and Lionel Messi make up the top 10 based on performances for club and country from 16 July 2018 to 19 July 2019.

Who is the favorite to win this award?

Van Dijk is up there, while Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo will be among the leading contenders once again. The winner from last year, Luka Modric, isn’t included in the nominees this year and the absence of any players from Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid (not counting Hazard) proves just how difficult it is to narrow this list down to 10 players.

Below is the list in full, as the winner will be announced on Sept. 23 at FIFA’s ceremony in Milan.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea (now Real Madrid) and Belgium
Harry Kane – Tottenham and England
Frenkie de Jong – Ajax (now Barcelona) and Holland
Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax (now Juventus) and Holland
Sadio Mane – Liverpool and Senegal
Kylian Mbappe – PSG and France
Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus and Portugal
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool and Egypt
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool and Holland

Aston Villa sign Egyptian star Trezeguet

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Aston Villa continue to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion.

Villa made their ninth signing of the summer transfer window on Wednesday, as Egyptian winger Trezeguet (full name Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan) arrives at Villa Park.

Trezeguet, 24, joins from Kasimpasa for a fee believed to be in the region of $10 million initially with add-ons, as newly-promoted Villa have now spent $140 million on new players this summer.

Speaking about the arrival of the Egyptian attacker, Villa boss Dean Smith is looking forward to the creativity Trezeguet will bring.

“We’re really excited to work with ‘Trez’. I’ve watched him a number of times,” Smith said. “He’s the type of wide player that we have been looking for who is direct, causes problems for the opposition in the final third and scores goals.”

Trezeguet has already played 41 times for Egypt, scoring six times, as he played at the Africa Cup of Nations this summer and at the 2018 World Cup last summer.

Villa already have Egyptian captain Mohamed Elmohamady in their squad and he played a big part in Trezeguet arriving.

“He’s [Elmohamady] my captain and always speaks with me about Aston Villa, saying it’s an amazing club and that I’d be happy here,” Trezeguet revealed. “I asked him a lot of questions. He will help me and believes I will help the team. It will help having him here with me and I look forward to working with him again. As for joining, I’m happy to be here at one of the biggest clubs around. I hope I can help the team to be successful – I will do my best. I’m looking forward to playing in the Premier League – it’s a dream.”

Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris owns 55 percent of Villa, while the rest of the ownership group comes from the USA, and that Egyptian connection at Villa will help him settle into his new surroundings.

Villa are making plenty of sensible signings this summer and although there has been quite a churn in terms of turnover from their promotion winning squad, they haven’t been able to bring back key loan signings Axel Tuanzebe and Tammy Abraham from last season so making these additions makes sense. They have also moved on 18 players from last season as plenty of veterans and squad players are now off the wage bill.

Trezeguet joins Anwar Al Ghazi, Matt Targett, Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konza, Jota, Wesley, Kourtney Hause and Bjorn Engels as the new arrivals and he will compete with Al Ghazi, Andre Green, Jota and Jonathan Kodjia for one of the wide positions. He has scored 22 goals in 65 appearances in the Turkish Super Lig over the past two seasons and that end product will excite Smith.

Villa’s hefty additions this summer seems a little different to Fulham’s scattergun approach of signing players last summer. There is a real plan and identity to this side under Smith and Trezeguet gives them even more options in attacking areas as they aim to get the ball to new central striker Wesley and build off his flicks and hold-up play.

LIVE, AFCON round of 16: Nigeria v. Cameroon, Egypt v. South Africa

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Saturday is setting up to be a massive day at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as three nations with a legitimate chance to win the entire tournament set sail in the knockout rounds.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

Cameroon and Nigeria, with eight African Cup between them (five and three, respectively), will face off in the day’s first game (12 p.m. ET), followed by host nation and seven-time champions (all-time leaders) Egypt versus South Africa (3 p.m. ET), one-time winners themselves.

Senegal and Benin were the first two nations through to the quarterfinals after their respective victories on Friday.

Below is the full schedule for the AFCON action on Saturday, while you can follow all of the action live by clicking on the link above.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Saturday, July 6

Cameroon v. Nigeria — 12 p.m. ET
Egypt v. South Africa — 3 p.m. ET

Africa Cup of Nations last 16 preview: Salah, Mane on collision course?

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The group stage of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been low-scoring, so we’ll be hoping for some early goals to open up play for the many electric stars of Africa.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the big names find the score sheet, as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and host nation Egypt has two goals — as many as anyone in the tournament — the same amount as club teammate Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: JPW’s Round of 16 predictions ]

The Reds may be on a collision course for Cairo on July 19, with Senegal the 22nd ranked team in the world via FIFA and Egypt hosting the tournament.

All five of the nations to qualify for the 2018 World Cup remain alive, with three in the top of the bracket and two in the bottom.

The 32nd edition of the competition could see a rematch of the 31st final in the quarterfinals, but it will require Cameroon emerging from a massive Round of 16 meeting with Nigeria.

Should they do so, and the hosts beat South Africa, the rematch will arrive on Wednesday in Cairo.

The Cameroon-Nigeria match may be topped by one in the upper half of the bracket, as Ghana looks to reassert itself as a power by knocking of Tunisia. The Black Stars missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and the winner is arguably a favorite to reach the final.

Premier League talents on show

Senegal – Mane (Liverpool), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace)

Morocco – Romain Saiss (Wolves)

Democratic Republic of Congo – Arthur Masuaku (West Ham)

Ghana – Christian Atsu (Newcastle), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)

Mali – Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)

Ivory Coast – Serge Aurier (Spurs), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa)

Algeria – Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Islam Slimani (Leicester)

Guinea – Naby Keita (Liverpool)

Nigeria – Leon Balogun (Brighton), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Henry Onyekuru (Everton).

Cameroon – Gaetan Bong (Brighton),

Egypt – Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa)

Round of 16 schedule

Uganda v. Senegal – July 5
Morocco v. Benin – July 5

Madagascar v. Democratic Republic of Congo – July 7
Ghana v. Tunisia – July 8

Mali v. Ivory Coast – July 8
Algeria v. Guinea – July 7

Nigeria v. Cameroon – July 6
Egypt v. South Africa – July 6

Salah helps Warda get reinstated to Egypt’s national team

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CAIRO (AP) Mohamed Salah‘s intervention helped get Amr Warda back on the Egyptian national soccer team despite accusations that he sent lewd messages to two women.

Warda was originally expelled from the team at the African Cup of Nations, but Egyptian soccer federation president Hany Abou Rida reversed the decision on Friday following a plea from Salah and other teammates, and a meeting with the national team that was attended by the country’s minister of sports on Thursday.

“During the meeting, (Abou Rida) praised players for their sense of solidarity, their desire to see their teammate pardoned, to end his suspension, and also for their respect of any decision made by the EFA in this regard,” the federation wrote on its website. “Hence, he decided to alleviate the sanction by suspending the player only until the end of the group stage.”

Egypt, which has already qualified for the knockout stage after beating Congo on Wednesday, has only one match left to play in the group stage. The game against Uganda is scheduled for Sunday.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian federation issued a brief statement saying Abou Rida had decided to send Warda home to maintain “discipline, commitment and focus” in the squad. The decision came after videos emerged of women alleging that Warda verbally harassed them.

Warda initially denied the allegations but he soon posted a video on his Facebook page where he apologized to his family, teammates and coaches.

“I promise you that everything will be fine and that I won’t do anything that would be upsetting to anyone,” the 25-year-old player said.

Salah condemned Warda’s behavior on Twitter but said he should be given “a second chance.”

“Women must be treated with the utmost respect. `No’ means `no.’ Those things are and must remain sacred,” the Liverpool forward wrote on Thursday. “I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better and shouldn’t be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out.

“We need to believe in second chances … we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer.”

Egypt captain Ahmed el-Mohamady also showed solidarity with Warda. After scoring against Congo on Wednesday, El-Mohamady celebrated his goal by making a 22 sign with his fingers in reference to his teammate’s shirt number.

However, Salah’s comments in particular elicited the ire of many of his fans on social media and reignited the debate on Egyptian society’s tolerance of injustice against women.

Ghadeer Ahmed, a young Egyptian feminist, mocked Salah on Facebook by changing his nickname from “The pride of Arabs” to “The pride of sexual harassers.”

Sexual harassment, mostly ranging from catcalls to occasional pinching or grabbing, is rampant in Egypt. Polls have found that a majority of both men and women in the conservative Muslim country believe it is justified if women dress “provocatively” in public. According to a survey by the U.N. women’s agency, released in April 2013, nearly 99 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed, with 91 percent saying they feel insecure in the street as a result.

Amro Hassan Elserty, a journalist and soccer commentator, called Salah an “absolute disgrace” on his Facebook page.

“I’ll never ever support a team of sexual harassment endorsers, who believe in giving second chances to someone who has long been imposing himself on females and sexually harassing them for years,” Elserty wrote.

Since Thursday, the hashtag “unfollow-mosalah” has started attracting social media users who voiced their disillusionment with Egypt’s 27-year-old striker.

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