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Hunter: Costs behind Barca's success

La Liga

Lassana Diarra leads five outstanding performers of the Ligue 1 season so far

Lassana Diarra
After 15 months out of football, Lassana Diarra has joined Marseille and become one of Ligue 1's brightest talents.

We are almost halfway through the Ligue 1 season, and the winter break is looming. Time for praise, then.

Apart from the obvious names like Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Hatem Ben Arfa, there have been some more-unexpected great performances this season in France's top flight. Here are the top five outstanding performers so far in Ligue 1:

Lassana Diarra | 30 | Midfielder | Marseille

No one saw this one coming, for sure. For 15 months, due to a conflict with former club Lokomotiv Moscow,...

Barcelona's rising costs make stadium naming rights key to staying at the top

The ESPN FC crew discuss how enjoyable it is to watch Barcelona football when they are playing at their best.
The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Luis Suarez should have made the Ballon d'Or shortlist over Cristiano Ronaldo.

Whether or not you agree that Luis Suarez's 2015 form merits Cristiano Ronaldo's demotion from the Ballon d'Or top three, there is at least a debate. Whether or not the trident of Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar is the most potent, exciting and irresistible front three in history is a hypothetical. But, increasingly, it's a legitimate debate. Whether these three are capable of powering FC Barcelona to the first "double-treble" in football history... well you know the drill: Their form and ability...

 By Alex Crook

Ronald Koeman can further cement his Saints legacy in Capital One Cup

Ronald Koeman
Ronald Koeman led Southampton to European competition for the first time in more than a decade, but can he end the club's trophy drought, too?

The last time Southampton lifted a major trophy, Brotherhood of Man had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with "Save Your Kisses for Me," and Czechoslovakia -- a country that no longer exists -- were about to become European champions. There is a whole generation of supporters who do not know what it is like to see their red and white heroes parade a meaningful cup around Wembley -- discounting their 2010 Football League trophy triumph over Carlisle.

That is why Wednesday's Capital One Cup...

 By Steven Kelly

Jurgen Klopp faces Liverpool selection dilemma vs. Saints in Capital One Cup

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti believe that Liverpool and Spurs will be competing at the end of the season to finish top four.

Many people regard the 21st century as not being terribly kind to Liverpool so far, but they will compete in their 20th cup quarterfinal since 2000 when they face Southampton on Wednesday.

The League Cup, in all its various sponsorship guises, has been especially good for Liverpool. They have played in four finals in the past 14 years and won three of them.

It does favour the bigger clubs who regularly play in Europe, as they get to skip the earlier rounds. This season, for instance, Liverpool...

 By Chris Wright

Man City defender Pablo Zabaleta meets rock group Status Quo

After barrelling through their repertoire at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on Sunday evening, the mighty Status Quo found themselves mobbed by an adoring fan shortly after they came off stage.

Indeed, after singing along to hits like "Rocking All Over The World" and "Down Down," Quo mega fan Pablo Zabaleta managed to venture backstage to grab a quick photo with his musical idols.

#mcfc Instagram of the Day 590: Zab meets his musical heroes!

A photo posted by Manchester City FC (@mcfcofficial)...

 By Mark Rodden

Real Madrid's Luca Zidane, son of Zinedine, sent off in U17 Madrid derby

Zinedine Zidane's act proved costly for France in the 2006 World Cup final.
Zinedine Zidane sends Marco Materazzi to the deck in the 2006 World Cup final.

Like father, like son, goes the old adage and Luca Zidane seems to be making a habit of following in former France star Zinedine's footsteps.

A goalkeeper for Real Madrid's under-17 side, Luca demonstrated that he has a potentially fiery temperament too when he was sent off in the Madrid derby game against Atletico.

It was not quite deja vu as video footage caught the teenager using his head to make contact with an opposing player. But although the images were nowhere near as violent, they brought...