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David Beckham closing in on return; decision to come next week

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David Beckham’s been out of the news for so long, it started to seem like retirement was more likely than return. Whereas the former LA Galaxy star said he had one more challenge left in him after this year’s MLS Cup final, a month passed without word from the icon. At 37 years old, the man should be afforded time to make his decision, but with his family enjoying themselves in London (making appearances at events like this weekend’s West Ham-Manchester United match), it started to look like life after soccer was finally here.

Not so, says a Wednesday report from England’s Press Association. The brief update says Beckham will make a decision next week after receiving offers from 12 different clubs:

Beckham, 37, has been made offers from Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East – though it is understood not from Qatar.

The report goes on to say a return to England is not in the cards (links to Queens Park Rangers, West Ham and Manchester United set to fall flat).

Likewise, it seems very unlikely Beckham returns to North America, having already said he doesn’t plan on playing in Major League Soccer (though it would be interesting to see Beckham on Club América).

If Russia’s among the suitors, you have to think Anzhi Makhachkala’s calling. In China, league champion Guangzhou Evergrande are most likely (though they’re not the only big spenders in the CSL).

Who knows what Beckham could make in the Middle East (it only takes one Shiekh with a crush), but that destination along with South Africa seems unlikely.

The most intriguing to me is Brazil, and not only because fellow set piece master Juninho Pernambucano just came the other way. Multiple clubs in the Campeonato could make it worth Beckham’s financial while, and although Brazil isn’t the usual landing spot for expatriate Britons, Beckham isn’t your normal English player. He’s played in La Liga, Serie A, and the Premier League, and among the leagues listed as his latest suitors, only Brazil’s comes close to approaching that level of prestige.

But when Beckham came to Los Angeles, league prestige wasn’t his priority. It was a lifestyle choice. It was a business choice. He was embracing a new challenge.

Depending on how he and his family view the East Asia, China would check all those boxes, too.

So if forced to rank the Press Association’s list based on my ill-informed views, I’d have China and Brazil as co-favorites; Europe, Russia, and the Middle East on the next level; North America and South Africa as very unlikely.

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday