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Chiesa, Son among 5 Ballon d'Or snubs

The finalists for the 2021 Ballon d’Or award were unveiled Friday, with many of football’s biggest stars occupying a spot on the prestigious list.

As is the case every year after France Football releases its 30-man shortlist, there are a handful of controversial omissions.

Here are five of the biggest snubs for the 2021 Ballon d’Or award:

Heung-min Son (Tottenham/South Korea)

Adam Davy – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

On the heels of another sensational season at Tottenham Hotspur, Heung-min Son somehow failed to make the cut for the revered honor.

Son was brilliant for Spurs last term, forming a dynamic partnership with Harry Kane on his way to finishing the 2020-21 Premier League campaign with 17 goals and 10 assists. But even though his statistics eclipsed the figures that earned him a place in the top 30 two years ago, the South Korean’s best season in north London went unrewarded by the French outlet.

Federico Chiesa (Juventus/Italy)

There’s not much more Federico Chiesa could’ve done to earn his place among football’s elite.

The 23-year-old winger developed into an integral component for both club and country last season. But even after playing an influential role in spearheading Italy’s journey toward capturing the Euro 2020 title and emerging as a star for Juventus, his heroic efforts weren’t enough for some, apparently.

Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich/Germany)

Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Joshua Kimmich is perhaps the most puzzling omission of the lot. The versatile German is one of Bayern Munich and Germany’s most consistent players, yet he’s been overlooked by France Football for the second time running.

There’s no doubting the 26-year-old will eventually get recognized in the near future. But there’s also no doubt that, right now, Kimmich is arguably one of the most important and talented players for a Bayern Munich side that habitually competes for – and wins – titles.

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid/Slovenia)

There wasn’t any room for Jan Oblak in this year’s list of Ballon d’Or contenders, with Italian Gianluigi Donnarumma singled out as the lone representative of the goalkeeping brotherhood.

While there are cases to be made for other goalkeeper snubs – such as Manchester City’s Ederson, Liverpool’s Alisson, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, and Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy – Oblak’s exclusion may be the most egregious considering his commanding performances in helping Atletico Madrid end their seven-year wait for a La Liga title.

Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

Simon Stacpoole/Offside / Offside / Getty

A trophy-less season at Paris Saint-Germain could be one of the explanations for overlooking Marquinhos. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good reason to omit one of the world’s top defenders.

While it was a disappointing season overall for PSG, Marquinhos was a force throughout the campaign before going on to play a vital role during Brazil’s journey to the Copa America final last summer.

Honorable mentions: Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich/Germany), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea/Senegal), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany), Kyle Walker (Manchester City/England)

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La Liga

Best and worst new kits in European soccer this season

theScore takes a look at this year’s collection of new kits and breaks down the best and worst designs from Europe heading into the 2022-23 campaign.

The best ?

Arsenal (away)

Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal FC / Getty

While the yellow away tops have been wildly popular in recent seasons, it’s impossible not to love Arsenal’s new black-and-gold uniforms. The classic colorway looks good and is accompanied by the club’s famous cannon logo.

Bayern Munich (away)

S. Mellar / FC Bayern / Getty

After 10 straight Bundesliga titles, it’s only natural that Bayern Munich would incorporate some gold into their kits. Like Arsenal’s color scheme, it’s hard to go wrong with the simplicity and fresh look of white and gold.

Crystal Palace (home)

Sebastian Frej/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Altering stripes is usually a good way to ruin a club’s traditional look, but Crystal Palace are on to something with their 2022-23 home kits. Uniform manufacturer Macron brought Palace’s classic look to life with an eye-catching crayon-style design, which is also featured on their away and third kits.

Real Madrid (away)

Helios de la Rubia / Real Madrid / Getty

Real Madrid will be one of the sharpest-looking clubs in the world when they hit the road this season thanks to the crisp away kits developed by Adidas. Shades of purple have been used before at Real, but this top could go down as an all-time classic.

Venezia (home, away, and third)

Venezia’s new gold kit is fitting for a club that came out on top with the best designs last season. It’s the same story in 2022-23, as the Serie B outift is the undisputed winner of the summer fashion show. Venezia’s trilogy of uniforms will undoubtedly make its way to every football-top lover’s wish list.

The worst ?

Tottenham Hotspur (away)

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

It’s as if Nike handed the reigns over to an intern for Tottenham Hotspur’s away kit. Spurs players will march into visiting stadiums wearing a uniform that looks like it was designed using one of the early versions of EA Sports’ FIFA video games.

Chelsea (home)

Trevor Ruszkowski/ISI Photos / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Unlike their transfer policy, there’s been a distinct lack of imagination when it comes to developing a home top at Chelsea in recent years. New signings such as Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly will be forced into one of the blandest tops in the Premier League when they make their debuts at Stamford Bridge.

Atletico Madrid (home)

Europa Press Sports / Europa Press / Getty

Incorporating local landmarks or, say, rivers into the design of football tops don’t always work. Case in point: Atletico Madrid’s attempt to pay homage to the Manzanares river, which ran near their old stadium, has resulted in a dizzying eyesore.

Paris Saint-Germain (home)

Koji Watanabe / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Not even the best footballer on the planet can pull this one off. For a team based in one of the fashion capitals of the world, Paris Saint-Germain will parade their star-studded squad out at the Parc des Princes in a top that lacks any kind of imagination or style.

Juventus (home)

James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Two years removed from their unsightly tire-inspired design, Juventus have come up with a new way to tarnish their famous stripes. Seemingly discontent with keeping things simple, the Old Lady’s home kit is made up of tiny triangles that look like a shoddy stereogram.

Newcastle United (third)

The tweet says it all, really.

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La Liga

Fact or fiction? Dissecting some of the summer's biggest transfer rumors

The summer transfer window is in full swing, and the rumors are running wild. Below, we analyze some of the biggest stories circulating at the moment and dissect whether they’re genuine or just the latest in a long line of fabricated reports that become all too common this time of year.

PSG trying to offload Neymar

With the winding Kylian Mbappe saga mercifully resolved – for everyone but Javier Tebas, it seems – attention and speculation have shifted to the other superstar in Paris. No, not Lionel Messi. The other, other one.

Rumors of Paris Saint-Germain trying to ditch Neymar have gained steam, partially thanks to recent comments from Nasser Al-Khelaifi that have been interpreted as a not-so-veiled shot at the Brazilian attacker.

“I can tell you that we expect all of the players to do more than last season – much more,” the club president told Le Parisien, as translated by CBS Sports.

“We must become humble again. You must be disciplined on and off the pitch, and whoever wants to stay in their comfort zone and not fight will be cast aside. We want players proud to represent PSG and ready to fight.”

Oof.

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

PSG are apparently exploring every possible avenue, offering him to Juventus, gauging interest from Manchester United and nouveau-riche Newcastle, and trying to parlay Thiago Silva’s relationship into a deal with Chelsea.

There is, of course, a significant difference between PSG trying to offload their former centerpiece and the flashy footballer actually wanting to leave. In an era increasingly defined by player power, that difference is stark – the choice, ultimately, belongs to Neymar, particularly after he signed a contract extension through 2025 with the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar’s CV in the French capital is extensive – including four league titles, five domestic cups, and two French Super Cups – but to date, it’s not difficult to frame his record-smashing €222-million move from Barcelona as a failure. The club’s come close, but the primary goal of Al-Khelaifi’s project, winning the Champions League, remains unsatisfied, and Mbappe has clearly surpassed Neymar as the crown jewel.

Verdict: Fact. Do PSG, now under the direction of adviser Luis Campos and soon to have a new manager, want to dispatch an oft-injured 30-year-old and his gargantuan salary? Almost certainly. Can they? That’s another matter.

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘untouchable’

Publicly, Manchester United are saying that Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be going anywhere this summer despite rumblings of discontent within the Portuguese star’s camp. A lack of Champions League football, coupled with the Red Devils’ slow start to the transfer window, has seemingly left the 37-year-old and his infamous agent, Jorge Mendes, looking for an escape route.

What gets leaked, and by whom, is important here. United can convey a sense of stability during a distinctly unstable time at the club by sending out a signal that Ronaldo – their top scorer from last season and one of the few players to escape widespread media criticism – isn’t leaving.

Gareth Fuller – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

But since his return to Old Trafford, Ronaldo’s stylistic fit within the squad has seemed tenuous. Erik ten Hag’s arrival and the uptempo football he’ll want to play seem destined to accentuate that concern.

In the latter stage of his career, Ronaldo’s best suited as a No. 9 who operates primarily inside the penalty area, but he still wants to float across the front line and drift into wide areas and channels, creating imbalances that then hinder United’s ability to press in a structured way when the ball is lost. He’s also not generating shot volume how he once did, and his Expected Goals total was down significantly last campaign from previous years.

The outstanding moments – and there were admittedly several of them last season – are no longer frequent enough to outweigh the drawbacks.

Verdict: Fiction. If the right offer were to arrive and Manchester United identified someone more appropriate for Ten Hag’s system to replace the Portuguese veteran, you better believe they would explore the possibility of making it happen. Nobody is untouchable.

Chelsea signing all the defenders

Pick a defender – any defender – and Chelsea have probably been linked with them this summer. The list is exhaustive, bordering on exhausting.

Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus’ potential captain-in-waiting, appears to be new co-owner Todd Boehly’s priority to solidify a backline that’s lost Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and could yet see versatile veteran Cesar Azpilicueta depart with them. The Dutchman, still only 22, would command an enormous fee. But Boehly, now overseeing Chelsea’s recruitment strategy in the wake of Marina Granovskaia’s departure, wants to make several big splashes and put his imprint on the club right away.

Boehly’s already on the verge of sprucing up the attack. The defense will follow.

Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Thomas Tuchel has long admired Jules Kounde, while Napoli colossus Kalidou Koulibaly is also in the mix. The Blues are also said to be monitoring PSG’s pursuit of Milan Skriniar, obviously hoping it comes up short. Josko Gvardiol, Croatia’s future stalwart, isn’t to be discounted either, and Nathan Ake – objectively the least exciting name of an increasingly bloated group – could be an option, too.

Money is no obstacle here. Expect two of the listed players to be unveiled at Stamford Bridge at some point before the window slams shut.

Verdict: Fact. This one makes too much sense. You can’t go into a new campaign with a 37-year-old Silva as your only seasoned central defender, especially when your manager regularly employs systems that utilize three center-backs. If it looks like a duck …

Everyone wants to join Barcelona

Generally, it’s good to be skeptical during the transfer window. It’s also vital to consider where certain information comes from, especially when dealing with the notoriously partisan sources in Spain. It behooves Catalan outlets to portray Barcelona as the most desirable club in the world, even if that is quite clearly no longer the case.

By now, the financial fiasco at the Camp Nou is no secret.

Barcelona are desperately seeking creative solutions to bolster their squad despite operating under €1.3 billion of debt. Selling players is an obvious way to alleviate some of that crushing weight, but that process takes time – especially when dealing with significant transfers like Frenkie de Jong’s proposed move to Manchester United. Clauses, bonuses, and various fees aren’t agreed on overnight, to say nothing of the actual human being in these cases, who needs to sort out all the personal details that come with uprooting your life to another city or country.

So another source of income is required. And fast.

LLUIS GENE / AFP / Getty

Barca president Joan Laporta wants to use “economic levers” to inject €700 million and ease the club’s immediate financial pain. That avenue, which involves selling off significant assets relating to commercial operations and TV revenues, would consequently create more long-term issues.

The most prudent thing would be to accept that a spending spree is unwise right now and rely on the team’s exceptional crop of young players – especially in midfield – to initiate a rebuild.

But this is Barcelona. The mystique must be upheld, which is why Robert Lewandowski, Bernardo Silva, Raphinha, Franck Kessie, and Christensen, among others, have been linked with a transfer this summer.

Verdict: Fiction. Creative accounting can only get you so far. At some point, Barcelona have to accept the reality of their crippling financial situation: The club, one of the sport’s great historical institutions, simply doesn’t wield the same power it once did. There will be some additions this summer, perhaps even one marquee arrival to offset a key sale, but dreams of a massive overhaul with several opulent deals will go unfulfilled.

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La Liga

Gareth Bale 'offered' to Getafe, claims club president

Gareth Bale could prolong his club career in the unlikely confines of the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Getafe president Angel Torres claimed the Welsh attacker was offered to the Madrid-based club during Wednesday’s launch of next season’s kits. “Anything is possible,” Torres said of Getafe signing the former Real Madrid star on a free transfer, according to The Guardian’s Sid Lowe.

“People might take it as a joke, but about 45-50 minutes ago, I spoke to his representative, and they have offered him to us,” a smiling Torres told the presenter of the kit launch.

Getafe’s apparent discussions regarding Bale’s transfer come amid Cardiff City’s reported efforts to recruit the 32-year-old. A return to Tottenham Hotspur and a move to Major League Soccer have also been mooted.

Torres didn’t specify whether the representative he spoke with was Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett or somebody else, but he insisted the presenter of the event didn’t fabricate Getafe’s links.

“I had seen it mentioned last night on TV, the reasons why he wants to stay were looked into, the possibility of him (wanting) to come to Getafe,” he said. “I have to turn it over (in my mind) and speak to the coach (Quique Sanchez Flores), who is away.”

Getafe’s home ground Angel Martinez / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Perez is a 20-minute drive from Bale’s home, Lowe reports. Bale is also desperate to stay match fit while Wales prepares to compete in its first World Cup since 1958 later this year.

The Azulones attracted an average attendance of under 9,000 while finishing 15th in La Liga last season. They’ve never won a major honor, but they finished atop Group 1 of the Segunda Division B in 1999.

Bale had a difficult relationship with Real Madrid supporters despite collecting five Champions League titles, three La Liga crowns, three Club World Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, and one winner’s medal apiece in the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana over nine years with the club.

Bale confirmed his Real Madrid “dream” was over last Wednesday.

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