Defoe rides again with England
The second highest English scorer in the Premier League, with 14 goals for bottom club Sunderland, Jermain Defoe is celebrating his shock return to the England ranks, aged 34. Having won the last of his 55 caps in November 2013, Defoe is delighted to be in with a chance again. "I was getting grief from my team-mates for still having the England flag on my boots," he said.
Hamšík great, but not as great as Sagan
While Cristiano Ronaldo was recognised as Portugal's player of the year this week, Napoli's Marek Hamšík celebrated winning the equivalent award in Slovakia for the fourth time in succession – a new national record.
However, when it comes to national sporting ambassadors, the 29-year-old acknowledged that he was still a step down from road cyclist Peter Sagan. "I am glad to have won it again," Hamšík said. "It is great to be enhancing Slovakia's reputation, but not as much as Peter Sagan."
Girls discover Keane's softer side
Forbidding Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane discovered his journalistic kryptonite when he fielded questions from two young girls in a press conference this week, as part of the Football Association of Ireland's Soccer Sisters project.
Disarmed when asked if Ireland boss Martin O'Neill was his best friend, he replied: "No, probably not ... but yeah, he's one of my best friends." Asked for advice as to how to make it as a professional, the former Manchester United player added: "Be on time for training, listen to your coaches and when you get older keep away from the boys."
Bright lights bewilder Dinamo's Nistor
Dinamo Bucureşti's players caused a few raised eyebrows when local paparazzi snapped them in a casino wearing their club tracksuits on the eve of a game.
Midfielder Dan Nistor, however, came up with a brilliant excuse for why he was there. "I did not stay too long," the 28-year-old said. "You know, I am a country boy and when I saw so many lights, I got curious and went in – but I came out quickly." The players caught on camera were ordered to buy a meal for their team-mates who did not get taken in by the lights.
Slavia's footballing prophet
This has been the viral video of the month in the Czech Republic. "Watch, this is going to be a goal," Slavia Praha midfielder Jan Sýkora says to the club's fans as he steps up to take a corner against Viktoria Plzeň, and sure enough there is Michal Frydrych heading the ball in. However, the lucky charm may be off camera: the ball kid who gave Sýkora the ball was Jiří Šmicer – son of former Liverpool star Vladimír Šmicer, a player known to have brought luck to every club he played for. Does that magic power run in the family?
Tak co????? JE TAM!!!🔥🙈🔥🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/a4fYQRbJsq
— Jan Sýkora (@JanSyky6) March 6, 2017
Sýkora is not the only player in Europe who can see into the future; listen carefully and you will hear Monaco's Kylian Mbappé correctly predicting that his side will get Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw.
— L'UEFA (@UEFAcom_fr) March 17, 2017
Who is the best striker in Europe in 2017?
Easy. Dinamo Zagreb's Bosnian forward Armin Hodžić. Why? No one in Europe's top divisions has scored at the same phenomenal rate since the start of the new year. A few have averaged a goal a game (Lionel Messi 11/11, Robert Lewandowski 13/13) or better (Sporting's Bas Dost 15/13, Everton's Romelu Lukaku 12/11), but none come close to Hodžić's tally of 12 in seven outings (1.71 per match) since the Croatian season resumed in mid-February.
You got a roll with it
Belfast's sandwich-lovers got a lunchtime shock this week as Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis put in a shift at a local sandwich shop as part of a commercial event. He said: "I was making sandwiches and sweeping the floor, but I better not let my wife Tracey find out — she doesn't know I can do those things!"
Quote of the week
"Perhaps the international break is a good thing. The Bundesliga will now have time to recover from the shock of me managing to score again."
Bayern striker Thomas Müller after ending his 99-day goal drought last weekend
Is this Europe's sweetest footballing tattoo?
Maximiliano Velasco has made quite an impact since signing for Maltese side Valletta in January, scoring five goals in his last three league appearances. Supporters have also been impressed by his tattoo collection, not least this delightfully innocent one on the 26-year-old's thigh depicting a father and a son standing behind a goal with a ball at their feet. Awww!
Tweet of the week
Never mind if you don't know anything about football in Northern Ireland, just love the language and the mental picture you get from this. Final score: Ballymena 1-1 Coleraine.
RED CARD - the ballboy has been sent off from the pitch for celebrating too hard in front of Winkie Murphy 😂😂😂
— Ballymena United FC (@BallymenaUnited) March 21, 2017
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