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Blog - ESPN FC United

 By Tony Mabert

Pep snubs handshake, no Suarez 'bite clause'

The ESPN FC panel weigh in on Pep Guardiola's actions following his side's 2-1 loss to the MLS All-Star team.

Early August is often the most fallow of periods for football news, but this week still brought with it a big sign of the Premier League power shift, retirements of two very different legends in their field and some awfully bad manners.

Top 5 stories

No Suarez "bite clause" (Tuesday Aug. 5)

Josep Bartomeu took over as Barcelona's president in January so predecessor Sandro Rosell could fight allegations of hiding the true fee the club paid for Neymar, so he is a man used to facing demanding questions. But even he cannot have expected that one day he would have to confirm that Luis Suarez does not have a "no biting" clause in his Barca contract. That will have come as a disappointment to many, as did the news that, despite appearances, there will be no 'Suarez bite' function in the next edition of Pro Evolution Soccer. Suarez's appeal against his four-month ban was heard as the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday, with a verdict expected next week.

Xavi passes the baton (Tuesday Aug. 5)

It came as little surprise that Xavi Hernandez -- the diminutive midfield metronome for whom pass-completion statistics could have been invented -- quit the Spain national side this summer. After his country's catastrophic World Cup defence in Brazil, it was the right time for the 34-year-old to step back. The real story of his international retirement was that he was doing so to focus on his club career at Barcelona. Despite being linked with moves to clubs in MLS and the Middle East, Xavi revealed as he announced his retirement that new Barca coach and former teammate Luis Enrique convinced him to stay at his first and only club.

- Hunter: Xavi, Casillas have points to prove

Webb hangs up whistle (Wednesday Aug. 6)

Whoever would have thought a referee quitting the game would ever be such a talking point? Webb announcing his retirement less than two weeks before the start of the new Premier League season came as a surprise to many. The ensuing rush to make jokes on social media and in comment sections about Manchester United losing another key figure was not such a shock. The former police officer from Yorkshire took charge of his first top-flight match in 2003. Just seven years later, he became the first official to be in the middle for the final of both the Champions League and the World Cup in the same year. That doesn't happen by being consistently biased towards one team in the most high-profile league in the world.

- Macintosh: Webb walks away as one of the best

Guardiola's handshake snub (Wednesday Aug. 6)

The wave of optimism in the U.S. following the national team's creditable performance at the World Cup was sustained by the MLS All-Stars coming from behind to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at Portland's Providence Park. It may have been little more than a preseason friendly for the German champions, but coach Pep Guardiola was seemingly still angered enough by the result and some hard tackles on his players to avoid shaking the hand of his counterpart, Caleb Porter, after the match. Guardiola's excuse -- "I didn't see him" -- was right out of Arsene Wenger's book, but Thierry Henry explained his former coach at Barca's attitude by saying: "He doesn't like to lose. That's why he is who he is."

MLS All-StarsMLS All-Stars
Bayern MunichBayern Munich
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Vermaelen moving on (Friday Aug. 8)

It speaks volumes for the changing fortunes of Arsenal and Manchester United over the past year that Arsene Wenger was able to stop his club captain leaving for Manchester United. Where once Robin van Persie virtually had the door held open for him to leave for Old Trafford, now Thomas Vermaelen was more or less told he would have to go abroad. The news that the Belgium international (seven Premier League starts last season) is heading to Barcelona was arguably not even the most surprising of the week involving an Arsenal defender on the move -- Johan Djourou completed a permanent move to Hamburg on Thursday, reminding many people that he had still been on the Gunners' books at all.

Vermaelen is set to move to Barcelona for a fee of around 15 million pounds.

Oddballs

JFK PR OG (Monday Aug. 4)

Carlo Tavecchio, who has maintained his candidacy to become president of the Italian Football Association (FIGC) after being involved in a racism row, claimed: "John F. Kennedy's assassin didn't suffer what I've been through in these days."

Italy internationals Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele De Rossi have both spoken out against Tavecchio while Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina are separating from the block of Serie A clubs set to vote in favour of Tavecchio when he runs against Demetrio Albertini next week.

Rare football-related heart-warmer (Monday Aug. 4)

Everton forward Steven Naismith has bought tickets for Goodison Park games to donate to unemployed people across the city of Liverpool.

"Liverpool has a similar history [to Glasgow] and I am aware that, through no fault of their own, there are many unemployed in Liverpool trying hard to find a job who may not be able to afford a ticket," he said.

"I thought this might be a small gesture to help those in that situation to enjoy a day out at one of our league matches. Hopefully, it can bring some joy to many people."

"You can't take it with you..." (Tuesday Aug. 5)

A billionaire Hamburg fan loaned the Bundesliga club 17 million euros to help them finance their summer squad building. International transport tycoon Klaus-Michael Kuhne, 77, dipped into his estimated five billion-euro fortune to help out his favourite team, who subsequently spent 4.5 million euros on Germany international Nicolai Muller from Mainz.

Summer transfer window roundup

- Premier League: Team-by-team ins and outs
- Transfer Centre: All the done deals
- Marcotti: Mind-boggling transfers
- Delaney: What did we learn on deadline day?
- Horncastle: European transfer grades
- Smith: Transfers more important than the game?
- Macintosh: We worship goals, not balance sheets

Ibra embellishment (Friday Aug. 8)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's former youth coach at Malmo, Stefan Hansson, has accused TuttoSport of inventing quotes in which he said the Paris Saint-Germain forward wanted to return to Juventus before he retires.

"The Italian from Tuttosport I talked to has distorted the whole story -- that we've been talking on Skype, and that I have the answers to things surrounding his future," he said.

"Zlatan and I talked eight, nine years ago. I've met him three or four times. I know the family a bit, and have coached him, but not more than that. It is deplorable that it has taken on these kinds of proportions when they find out what I have said. What the hell are they doing?"

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