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Kaka-to-Galaxy more than a rumor. Is he a better option than Lampard?

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Rising from the gossip rags or your rumor aggregator of choice, the Kaká-to-LA Galaxy rumor has gone legit, with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reporting the defending Major League Soccer champions are in pursuit of the former Balon d’Or winner.

The 30-year-old midfielder has worked his way back into the Brazilian national team picture, but at Real Madrid, he hasn’t held down a starting spot since Manuel Pellegrini was replaced by José Mourinho (who brought in Mesüt Özil).

Though time and injuries have detracted from the brilliance that led Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan teams, Kaká would be one of the best players in MLS. Better than an aging David Beckham, Kaká would be a significant upgrade for Bruce Arena’s team.

Speaking to Wahl, one of the potential move’s power brokes spoke with confidence about the possibility of snaring the former Rossoneri standout:

“We’re well aware of Kaká’s interest in MLS, and we in turn have made it very clear to him that he’s aware of our interest in him,” said Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, which owns the Galaxy. “We have a great relationship with Real Madrid, and just as we worked through a player with them six years ago [Beckham], I’m absolutely convinced we could find the right deal this time, too.”

Wahl does a great job of walking through the obstacles to a deal, factors which include Kaká’s Real Madrid contract, a potential transfer fee, competition from Brazilian clubs, and the player’s potential preference to play in New York. There’s much more on that here (along with more quote from Leiweke regarding the Galaxy and AEG).

There is one other factor that may dissuade a move: Brazil 2014. Kaká is in the mix for a role at the next World Cup, a role that would be risked if he left Europe for MLS. When Beckham and Thierry Henry made their jumps to North America, their national team fates seemed sealed (Beckham subsequently revitalized his). The lack of competition in Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill’s teams meant less risk in their moves.

It’s mostly an issue of perception, but since that perception exists, it may be a factor in Kaká’s decision. If he wants to play at Brazil 2014 and believes staying in a top league is necessary to that end, he may not come of Major League Soccer. He may not be willing to play the 11-month seasons Beckham had to endure to stay in frame for England, serving loan spells at Milan to stay on Fabio Capello’s radar.

Of course, the same issue would apply to Frank Lampard, the Chelsea midfielder and England international who has also been linked with David Beckham’s Galaxy spot. As Wahl points out, the Kaká news is bad for him, with LA only able to bring one of the two midfielders to Home Depot Center.

Leiweke, as told to Wahl:

“… I’m a huge Frank Lampard fan, and I personally have great respect for him. I’ve gotten to spend some time with him, and he’s an unbelievably good guy. Is he the right fit for our team now for what we need?”

“We now have a Time Warner Latino channel that we are very focused on. It was a major reason that we made the deal with them. And as much as we understand the Lakers are the mothership, on the Hispanic channel the Galaxy has a chance of being an equal partner to the Lakers as to the demand, and we get that. But we’d better build a team that ultimately acknowledges the demos and how they’re changing. We’re going to be very careful with that [Designated Player] slot.”

I don’t find a potential Kaká-versus-Lampard discussion that compelling. Apparently, neither does Leiweke, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Kaká’s a much better, younger, and more popular player. There’s a large number of English Premier League fans in this part of the world that might love to see Lamps in the States (and there is no shortage of Chelsea fans in Los Angeles), but this is Kaká we’re talking about. It’s a pretty each choice.

But what say you? If you were in Tim Leiweke’s immaculately shined shoes, who would you pursue? Kaká? Or Frank Lampard?

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.