Soccer

Onion Bag: European Club Soccer Less Than One Month Away

Soccer has entered America’s mainstream this summer, with sports fans grasping for anything that’s not mind-numbing regular season baseball. For the futball enthusiast, however, this is the offseason. The summer international tournaments are cocktails and canapes ahead of the European club feast that begins in August. Here are some things that have been happening on that front, while Alex Morgan and Hope Solo have distracted your gaze.

Praying For The End of Time: Carlos Tevez wants to leave Manchester City. Manchester City likely want the discontented Tevez (who doesn’t speak English despite playing in England since 2006) to leave, but, barring a fortune shift, it looks as though both may be stuck with each other for another season. Tevez’ $70-$80 million price tag and his $240,000 per week salary price out all but the world’s top clubs. With three years left on his contract, he has little leverage. He also hits the market with younger, sexier, similarly priced attackers such as Sergio Aguero, Javier Pastore, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar.

City’s only serious offer was a surprising $64.5 million bid from Tevez’ former Brazilian team Corinthians. It was surprising, since the Brazilian transfer record is about $15 million. The Manchester club was skeptical, and the skepticism turned out to be warranted. Corinthians could not provide a bank assurance they could pay the fee. They could not even raise the $14 million for the first payment.

Tevez may be unhappy and he’ll likely be playing for a club not especially pleased with him. That said, he faced the same situation last year and was a better version of Wayne Rooney. Looking forward to the claims his own statement was taken out of context.

Growing Stale: The extended flirtation between Barcelona and Cesc Fabregas has continued, long past the point where either party or invested spectators are titillated. He wants to return to Barcelona. Barcelona wants him to return home. Barcelona players want him. Arsenal claim they don’t want to sell him, but, really, want more money. The story has progressed little from last summer, or, indeed, the summer before.

For Barca, it’s simple. Fabregas is a native son, a seamlessly fitting Catalan and perhaps the ideal player to spell and potentially replace Xavi Hernandez. For Arsenal, it is more complicated. Fabregas’ ability is irreplaceable. Fans have a strong connection with him, having watched him mature in the first team from a precocious youth into one of the world’s most potent scoring chance creators. His leadership, however, is nonexistent. As a captain he “leads by example,” a euphemism for exerting no perceptible influence. He’s at least in part culpable for the mental fragility that has plagued the club lately.

It’s hard to imagine an Arsenal team without Cesc, but the ones with him having a prominent role have been universally disappointing. Fortunately, Arsenal has already prepared for his impending departure, by lowballing Samir Nasri and filling their pressing hole at sub 5’10” attacking midfielder/striker hybrid.

Title Intact: The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has rejected a petition from Juventus to strip Inter Milan of its 2005-06 Scudetto. First-place Juventus was stripped of all points and relegated after the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. Second-place A.C. Milan was docked 30 points. The result handed the title to third-place Inter Milan. Subsequent revelations, however, have shown Inter had also tried to influence referee selection, but the FIGC could not alter the decision because of a statute of limitations. Juventus, presumably, would want the title returned to them, though proper protocol would award it to original fifth-place finisher Roma.

Summer Vacation: Cristiano Ronaldo has had an eventful summer. The Real Madrid star has been leering at a teammate’s girlfriend and looking fly while monitoring four time zones simultaneously. He also managed to encapsulate himself perfectly in car form.

Ambition: Fornicating Frenchman Franck Ribery believes he can reach Lionel Messi’s level of play, with the small caveats that he needs to be 100 percent healthy and in a perfect frame of mind with a coach who supports him. Bayern Munich brass would be content with him reaching Pre-Euro 2008 Franck Ribery’s level of play, and restraining his urge to take the team bus for a joy ride.

[Photo via Getty]

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