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Ballack clings on to captaincy but will he make the team?

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SOCCER-GERMANY/When Germany coach Joachim Loew confirmed Michael Ballack as team captain this week he put an end to a tug-of-war with defender Philipp Lahm. Lahm had been the captain at the World Cup in South Africa and wanted to remain after Ballack’s return from injury.

The 33-year-old Ballack was forced to miss the tournament due to an ankle injury but had insisted he was the undisputed team captain. Yet without Ballack’s heavy presence in midfield, Germany played exciting fast-paced football in South Africa, finishing in third place with their youngest World Cup squad in 76 years and winning considerable respect.

Germany’s young players, including joint-top World Cup scorer Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng immediately became household names. Ozil and Khedira signed for Real Madrid, Mueller extended his contract at Bayern Munich and Boateng joined Manchester City

Loew opted to stick with Ballack as captain going into the Euro 2012 qualifiers yet the Bayer Leverkusen skipper will not play in the upcoming games against Belgium and Azerbaijan. Loew said he lacks match practice. It is also unclear whether he will be called up for the qualifiers in October. By that time he will be 34.

from Shop Talk:

Major League Soccer turns to training clubs’ ticket sales staff

mls1With new teams on the way and attendance rising, Major League Soccer has turned to a league-funded program to train its clubs' new sales staffers to help drive ticket demand.

The new 45-day training program, dubbed the MLS National Sales Center, got its start last month with the graduation of 10 trainees to jobs with seven clubs. MLS calls it the first ticket sales school owned by a pro sports league.

Transfer deadline day live blog

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We’re following all the deals as they happen on the final day of activity in the transfer market. Comments always welcome…

Who will be Mourinho’s Milito this year?

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Should Real Madrid have stepped in and taken Zlatan Ibrahimovic off Barcelona’s hands instead of AC Milan?

Perhaps a preposterous idea, but after the opening round of matches in La Liga, Real may be concerned they did not heed coach Jose Mourinho’s warnings about the need for a third striker.

Milan again drawn in Real’s group for Champions League

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New Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho will get a quick return to the San Siro but instead of facing former club and champions Inter Milan, it’s another double header with AC Milan for the Spaniards like last year.

Chelsea’s Didier Drogba can look forward to a trip to old haunt Marseille and Arsenal will have a speedy reunion with ex-striker Eduardo who now plays for Shakhtar Donetsk.

The strange story of Ibra and Pep

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As Barcelona close in on the signing of Javier Mascherano from Liverpool, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future at the club seems to becoming ever more complicated.

Coach Pep Guardiola’s decision to move for the combative Mascherano is understandable after Yaya Toure’s departure to Manchester City.

Toothless Liverpool losing touch already

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Liverpool’s current plight was laid bare on Monday when they were humbled 3-0 by Manchester City — a result which left Roy Hodgson’s side fourth bottom of the Premier League.

After just two games it would be churlish to suggest Liverpool will spend too long down in the bottom half of the table, but the feeling that the 18-times English champions are in danger of losing touch with the top four was inescapable.

Ibrahimovic? Milan need something

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AC Milan have confirmed they are trying to sign Barcelona forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and judging by their pre-season form, they really need a spark.

Ronaldinho showed some good touches in Sunday’s drab 0-0 draw with Juventus, Milan’s final pre-season friendly, but he will never be the player of old and has never been a out-and-out striker.

Deja vu all over again? Soccer romantics will hope so

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/FULHAM-HUGHES‘Plus ca change’ was the defining refrain of the Premier League’s opening weekend, but football fans tired of the established order will hope déjà vu is lurking round the corner for Manchester United and Chelsea.

Neither the champions nor the runners-up broke sweat as they strolled to opening victories that pointed ominously to another two-horse race for the Premier League title.

Real put faith in youth to topple Barcelona

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SOCCER-WORLD/Real Madrid’s signing of Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil is further proof that they have opted for youth and pace this year, after glitz and glamour failed to knock Barcelona off their perch last season.

Poster boys Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema were Real’s star signings in a 250 million euro rebuilding programme last summer, but they only managed second place as another trophyless campaign ended back in May.

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