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Horncastle: Pogba's Ballon d'Or potential

Juventus about an hour ago
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Talking football with Xabi Alonso

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 By Tony Mabert
Aug 15, 2014

Suarez tastes appeal defeat, Klose quits, Ronaldo stands tall

The ESPN FC panel preview the upcoming Premier League season and note what they're looking forward to.

The final week before the new Premier League season brought with it the final word in the Luis Suarez bite saga, a World Cup legend bowing out gracefully and a shock managerial departure.

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW

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TOP 5 STORIES

Klose calls it a day (Monday, Aug. 11)

Another week, another round of international retirements. Franck Ribery blamed his nation's media for forcing him to quit France, while Eric Abidal also said he was done with Les Bleus despite not playing for them since November. Elsewhere Belgian Daniel Van Buyten quit the game altogether, and former Italy star Massimo Ambrosini may do the same. But it is Germany striker Miroslav Klose whose departure from the international stage was the most noteworthy. No one expected the 36-year-old to continue after he lifted the World Cup as the competition's record goal scorer (with 16), but Klose's understated and graceful step out of the international limelight gave the football world its perfect moment to lavish fully deserved praise on a consummate professional who has squeezed every last drop out of his potential.

Italy 'elects controversial president' shock (Monday, Aug. 11)

Gazzetta dello Sport summed up Italian football's decision to elect a 71-year-old man accused of making racist and sexist remarks as its federation's new president by saying "an opportunity has been missed to break with the past." Carlo Tavecchio beat running opponent Demetrio Albertini -- a former top player nearly 30 years his junior with a clear outlook and fresh ideas -- by a two-thirds majority after the third round of voting. Former Juventus and Inter Milan star Patrick Vieira joined the ranks of those expressing their disapproval, but it hasn't stopped Tavecchio getting straight to work. Antonio Conte was announced as the new coach of the Azzurri on Thursday amid reports that kit sponsors Puma will subsidise the former Juventus manager's salary.

- Horncastle: Ugly reality of Italian football emerges

Rooney era begins at United (Tuesday, Aug. 12)

This past August, it looked as though Wayne Rooney could have been on his way to Stamford Bridge as Chelsea pursued a very public bid to buy the England forward. A year on, Rooney is not only still at Old Trafford, but has been given the armband by new United boss Louis van Gaal. With a strong manager, Darren Fletcher as vice-captain and Ryan Giggs on the coaching team, Rooney will not be required to bear the burden shouldered by many other skippers. Robin van Persie was thought to be another candidate for the post, having captained Van Gaal's Netherlands side to the World Cup semifinals in Brazil, but former United hero Dwight Yorke said he believes appointing the Dutch striker "would have been a disaster."

- Okwonga: Rooney the pragmatic choice

CAS shows teeth with Suarez verdict (Thursday, Aug. 14)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is a rare thing: a body of authority in the industry which is held in high regard and rarely criticised. After it announced the eagerly awaited verdict of Suarez's appeal, that perception remains intact. Upholding the striker's four-month suspension for a third high-profile instance of biting an opponent, but ruling FIFA's edict barring him from training with his club was "excessive" and "would still have an impact on his activity after the end of the suspension" was a reasonable, common-sense decision. With the ban only applying to official FIFA matches, Barca fans may yet see their new star make his debut in Monday's preseason Joan Gamper Trophy match.

- Ledwith: Common sense prevails in Suarez appeal
- Carter: How Liverpool have replaced Suarez

Pulis leaves Palace over transfer politics (Thursday, Aug. 14)

The names involved may not be as stellar as others hitting the headlines this week, but Tony Pulis leaving Crystal Palace just two days before the Premier League season kicks off certainly grabbed the attention (and ruined the evening for at least one local paper's editor). Less than 48 hours before Palace travel to Arsenal for their opening match, the man who won the Premier League's Manager of the Year award for steering Palace away from relegation so effectively last term will not be in the dugout when they travel to London rivals Arsenal on Saturday. A row over the club's transfer policy is said to be at the heart of the exit. If that's the case, spare a thought for Martin Kelly, who arrived at Selhurst Park on loan just hours before Pulis stormed out.

MEANWHILE ...

Life imitates art (Monday, Aug. 11)

Professional clubs will now be able to use information from the computer game series "Football Manager" to scout and recruit players after the game's developer struck a deal with Prozone Sports.

"For years we've heard stories of real-life managers and scouts using our data to help with the recruitment process," Sports Interactive Studio Director Miles Jacobson said. "From now on, it's official ... real managers around the world will be finding and comparing players using data and a search system that will be very familiar to players of 'Football Manager.'"

Zlatan shows why he's the man (Tuesday, Aug. 12)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic dug deep into his own pocket to donate 38,000 euros to enable the Sweden team to take part in the INAS Learning Disabilities World Cup. When Ibrahimovic, who missed out on the chance to represent Sweden in Brazil this summer, heard his country's learning disabilities team had failed to gather the 65,000 euros they required to participate in their own World Cup in Sao Paulo between Aug. 11-25, he stepped in to help.

"Football should be played by everyone, regardless of gender, disability or not," he said. "I was deeply disappointed to miss out on the World Cup, but when I heard about this national team, I said to myself I would do anything in my power to help them experience the World Cup. That goes without saying, that was self-evident. Now I get to experience the World Cup through them."

- Laurens: Talking football, life with Zlatan

'The future is 4-4-2' (Wednesday, Aug. 13)

Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini believes Italian football will continue to set the tactical agenda in the world game as he ponders a switch to "futuristic football" to combat the rise of the three-man defence, a style he claims a significant role in re-popularising.

"Have you seen how many national teams in Brazil used a three-man defence?" he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "People always said you'd never get far with a three-man defence in international football. Well they've been proven wrong. And when more and more people start playing with three at the back, I'm going to change.

"I'm already preparing a nice, revamped 4-4-2. Get ready, I'm going to surprise you. It's futuristic football with systems which change during the game."

Ronaldo head and shoulders above the rest (Tuesday, Aug. 12)

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Cristiano Ronaldo upstaged Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale in the Welshman's hometown of Cardiff with two goals that earned the European champions the first of six possible trophies for the season: the UEFA Super Cup. But even before kickoff, the reigning Ballon d'Or holder did his best to assert his status in the most expensive starting XI ever by standing on tiptoes for the pre-match team photo. That led to him being dubbed one of Keith Olbermann's "World's Worse" sports stars on his ESPN2 show, but he could yet be crowned Europe's best after making the three-man shortlist for UEFA's award, along with Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer.

Klopp marvels at Spider-Man (Wednesday, Aug. 13)

Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reprised an old favourite after scoring in the German Super Cup win over Bayern Munich when he donned a Spider-Man mask to celebrate his goal. The Gabon international explained that he had done it to honour his son's third birthday, Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp reacted in his characteristic easy-going manner by saying: "It made me chuckle -- as long as he can run with that thing in his socks and he doesn't get booked, he's allowed to do it. I'm accustomed to that kind of grief. I once had a player at Mainz who celebrated a hat trick at Aachen with such a thing [a Grim Reaper mask]."

- Honigstein: Lax Bayern pay price

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