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Manchester United’s turn: Shinji Kagawa pursuit takes next step

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There are going to be tons of transfer rumors this summer, but some make so much sense, they’re hard to ignore.

Take the developing tale of Shinji Kagawa. During this month’s German Cup final, Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder was scouted in person by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. With the Red Devils’ midfield currently looking more like mid-table fodder than title-contending material, signing somebody who can actually stimulate the attack has got to be priority number one.

Enter Kagawa, thought to be United’s back up plan should they lose the race to Eden Hazard. Now that the Ligue 1 Player of the Year is headed to London, it’s time for Ferguson to act, not that he hadn’t before.

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United originally offered around $22 million for the Japan international. Dortmund shot that down. Now, the Red Devils have given BVB a bid in excess of $27 million, a bid the German champions seem ready to accept.

Personal terms are yet to be agreed, a potentially significant issue for the penny-pinching Red Devils. Their salary offer to Eden Hazard was reportedly the worst amongst the Belgian’s three English suitors. While Kagawa can’t command the compensation due Hazard, United may try to leverage the club’s reputation.

You know what makes up for less money? Playing for Manchester United! It’s all part of the package.

But don’t make the common error of confusing penny-pinching for being impoverished. A common meme holds that Manchester United have no money, which is really weird since I remember them recently buying all of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and David de Gea. Oh, yeah – they were also in for Eden Hazard. Perhaps Fleet Street just wants Manchester United to spend more, but clearly, they’re not poor. They’re spending something. A lot of somethings.

It would be more accurate to say Manchester United don’t seem to be allocating their resources appropriately. Instead of buying Ashley Young (when they already had Nani and Antonio Valencia), they should have put that money toward Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder (to whom they were linked last year). Instead of signing both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, they could have bought a midfielder that would have kept Paul Scholes in retirement.

The Red Devils seem to be learning their lessons, hence Kagawa. Capped 30 times for Japan, Kagawa has spent the last two seasons with the German champions, scoring 29 goals in 71 all-competition matches. He’s won two Bundesligas, one German Cup, and with Japan, he won the Asian Cup in 2011.

The only problem Kagawa’s had over the last two years has been staying on the field. In each of the league two seasons, he’s suffered a long-term leg injury. It’s led some to label Kagawa as injury-prone, a description which might be premature. Freak injuries are different than chronic ailments, and Kagawa’s problems are more readily thought of as aberrations – bad luck.

For United, Kagawa would be a perfect fit, particularly as Ferguson’s tactics have his team spending more time letting play come on to them. As we were reminded in Dortmund’s dismantling of Bayern Munich in the German Cup final, Kagawa’s excellent at springing a team into the counter. If his presence in red allows Wayne Rooney to shift from starting attacks to finishing them, he’ll be well worth the money.

Kagawa could also sign for less than half the wages of Hazard. If he does, United may have room for one more meaningful midfield acquisition.

Ranieri criticizes Leicester for lacking “desire and heart”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Leicester City looks dejected during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Millwall and Leicester City at The Den on February 18, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri criticized his players for lacking “desire and heart” in a 1-0 loss at third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, the latest setback for the stuttering English champion.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

Leicester, which is one point above the relegation zone in a woeful defense of its Premier League title, is without a victory in its last eight matches.

Millwall played most of the second half with 10 men and won thanks to a 90th-minute goal.

“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” an animated Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

“It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.”

Leicester’s next match is against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

FOLLOW LIVE: Spurs, Man United away in FA Cup 5th round

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his third and his sides third goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-rounders served up the biggest Cupset of them all — fifth-division side Lincoln City knocking off Burnley of the Premier League — as well as two moderately shocking results — Leicester City losing to 10-man Millwall (League One) and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Huddersfield Town (Championship).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sunday’s FA Cup 5th-rounders ]

On Sunday, two more of the PL’s big boys hope to avoid upsets and reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 tournament. First up, Tottenham Hotspur visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage in a renewed London derby, followed by Manchester United’s trip to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park. For live scores and updates, hit the above link, or click right here.

Saturday’s FA Cup results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET

Report: AC Milan negotiating new deal for keeper Donnaumma

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 13:  AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on February 13, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]

According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.

Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.

Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.

Baggio marks 50th birthday by visiting quake victims

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Roberto Baggio (L) is challenged by Diego Lugano during the Interreligious Match For Peace at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.

The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”

Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”

Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.

The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.

Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.

He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.