Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The cat flashes his claws

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Karim Benzema has shrugged off the disparaging label of being Real Madrid’s pussycat and turned himself into a fearsome feline under Jose Mourinho.

In the space of a year, the 24-year-old has gone from expensive bench warmer to first-choice leader of the line at the world’s richest club by revenue, and won over a skeptical coach.

Benzema was a match-winning substitute in Tuesday’s King’s Cup first leg win at home to Malaga, when a weakened side skulked in at halftime trailing 2-0.

The French international helped galvanise his team after the break, tormenting the visitors’ defence with his pace and link-up play and bursting through the middle to grab the comeback winner late on.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday

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SOCCER-WORLDThe first day of the fourth month means April fools day, so we would really love to hear from you if there are any dubious stories doing the rounds.

Here are some. Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ at the World Cup is to be finally given. Ronaldo will start playing for Spain. And here is a list of five other classics from the past.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Relief in Barcelona as Guardiola extends contract

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SOCCER-FIFA/During Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp last Saturday, which set a Spanish record of 16 straight La Liga victories, there was one thrilling passage of play which perfectly illustrated the work ethic Pep Guardiola has instilled among his squad of wonderfully gifted players.

The ball was played into space for Atletico forward Sergio Aguero. Lionel Messi suddenly appeared, sprinting back into defence. The World Player of the Year ran shoulder to shoulder with his Argentina team mate, stole the ball, beat Felipe Luis with an audacious piece of skill and started yet another assault on the visitors’ goal.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Five things we learned, or had confirmed, in Monday’s “Clasico”

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SOCCER-SPAIN/CLASICO1. Lionel Messi is a more effective “big game player” than Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese may be the world’s most expensive player but Argentina forward Messi has got the better of the man whom he succeeded as World Player of the Year on their last four meetings.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Transfer deadline day live blog

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

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

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.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

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.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Not a classic “Clasico” but a fascinating experience

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SOCCER-SPAIN/Saturday’s game between Real Madrid and Barcelona had been dubbed “the match of the millennium” by sports daily Marca and for anyone living in Spain it was impossible to ignore "El Clasico" in the days leading up to the clash at Real’s Bernabeu stadium.

There was certainly plenty at stake for the protagonists, not least the chance to take a big step toward winning La Liga, but the country seemed in the grip of a fever at least as intense as anything I have seen during a major international tournament.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Champions League quarter-finals — live

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We're live blogging the night's two Champions League quarter-final first legs, with expert commentary and analysis, including on-the-spot details from our reporters in the stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer).

Join us here from around 1645 GMT for all the build-up and action from the biggest club competition in town.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Should fans have the right to buy into their clubs?

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SOCCER-SPAIN/BARCELONA-PRESIDENTInteresting story in the Guardian this morning, saying Britain's Labour government, if re-elected, are ready to unleash plans to give fans the right to buy their clubs when they come up for sale, and to insist that current club owners give up a stake as high as 25 percent to their supporters.

If we can leave the politics aside (there is an election on the way, and the opposition Conservatives have said acting now, after 13 years in power, makes it a pre-vote gimmick) do you think this is a good idea?

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