Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Aston Villa’s Bent buy will flummox O’Neill

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/

If eyebrows were raised when Aston Villa decided to spend up to 24 million pounds on striker Darren Bent then former manager Martin O’Neill’s forehead must have been pinned to his living room ceiling when the news broke on Tuesday.

The absurdity of the switch lies not in the inflated figure or Bent’s abilities on the pitch and in front of goal, but in the timing of Villa chairman Randy Lerner choosing to dig deep into his pockets.

O’Neill walked out of the Midlands club just days before the start of the season after being told transfer funds were scarce and the £18 million to be raised from the sale of James Milner to Manchester City would not be reinvested in the squad.

Just six months later, however, Villa have splashed a mammoth fee on a player who has been permanently on the fringes of the England squad while a further six million was spent last week in French midfielder Jean Makoun.

Happy Birthday Pep. Now, about that contract…

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SPAINBirthday congratulations have been pouring in all week for Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who turned 40 on Tuesday, and it is worth taking a moment to reflect on his phenomenal record since he took over from Frank Rijkaard at the end of the 2007-08 season.

The softly-spoken former Barca and Spain midfielder has helped lift the Catalan club to unprecedented heights, winning eight of the 10 competitions they have contested, including a treble of Spanish league and Cup and European Champions League in his first season and an historic six trophies in 2009.

Real’s search for a striker — who fits the bill?

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SOCCER-EUROPAJose Mourinho’s constant pressuring of Real Madrid for another striker has finally paid off, with director general Jorge Valdano saying they were in the market for a number nine.

In the past, many top clubs would have been worried that the world’s richest club by income according to the Deloitte’s Football Money League, would be turning the heads of their prize assets.

Bosnian diamond Dzeko could turn City’s fortunes

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CITY-DZEKOIf Edin Dzeko can adapt seamlessly to the Premier League’s high-tempo game, the blue half of Manchester may at long last get the trophy they have craved since 1968, when City won their last top-flight title.

With Carlos Tevez having a punishing workload up front for Roberto Mancini’s side as the lone striker in a 4-3-2-1 formation, Dzeko appears to be just what City need to start firing on all cylinders.

Winter World Cup looks more and more a reality

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SOCCER-ASIA/AFCWhat Sepp Blatter wants he usually gets. So when the FIFA president said that the Qatari World Cup finals will “probably” be in the winter because of the summer heat you can safely begin preparations now for your trip to the Middle East in January 2022.

The decision to move the date of the first World Cup in the Middle East, which first needs to be ratified by FIFA’s executive committee, is going to have huge ramifications on club and international soccer up to five years before the 2022 tournament as well as on other sports.

Messi’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award is still a victory for team football

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It’s strange that when 2009 winner Lionel Messi was awarded the combined FIFA Ballon d’Or award on Monday there was shock in the Zurich auditorium and around the globe.

He is clearly the best player in the world but most fans and pundits had expected one of Barcelona team mates and Spain World Cup winners Andres Iniesta or Xavi to take the prize.    

Kenny makes cute move in turning to Clark

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPKenny Dalgish resisted the temptation to surround himself with Liverpool “old boys” on Monday when Steve Clarke was named as first team coach at Anfield.

It was an astute decision by Dalglish to hire his fellow Scot whose background work at Chelsea as assistant to the high-profile Jose Mourinho was a factor in the London club’s back to back titles in 2005 and 2006.

Dalglish needs a quick fix to hint at hope for future

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Kenny Dalglish may not be a long-term solution as Liverpool manager but his appointment will give hope to disgruntled fans and provide a fillip to the club’s underperforming players.

The Liverpool hero has been thrust back into the limelight after 10 years out of management and will lead the club out at Old Trafford for an FA Cup clash against Manchester United on Sunday after replacing Roy Hodgson at the helm.

Patience not always a virtue in Hodgson’s case

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SOCCER-EUROPA/The Liverpool owners’ decision to use this weekend’s break for the FA Cup as a chance to sit back and ponder the club’s future under Roy Hodgson is a rare patient act in the hasty world of soccer but it might not end up doing the manager any favours.

The Anfield club, just four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone, face rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round of the Cup on Sunday after another week of speculation and supporter unrest surrounding Hodgson’s future.

Fergie’s smile spells trouble for Premier League title rivals

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/When Alex Ferguson declares he is happy with his squad for the season remainder, it is time for Manchester United’s Premier League title rivals to start worrying.

The busy Christmas and New Year period is often important in the Premier League, as fringe players are called upon to help negotiate a sea of fixtures which put managers under increasing pressure.

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