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Is Robert Lewandowski on his way to Bayern Munich?


In a week of ripples through soccer worlds, one just radiated through the German Bundesliga. If German outlet Der Spiegel has this one right, Poland international Robert Lewandowski — the dangerman for back-to-back Borussia Dortmund title-winners — may be ready to pull the pin and toss a grenade between the two biggest rivals in Germany. In a move sure to bring a smile to Luis Figo’s face, Lewandowski is reported to have agreed to a contract with Dortmund rivals and Bundesliga titans Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski signed a four-year deal with Dortmund when he moved to Germany from Poland in 2010, so he’s not free to move. Next season would be the last on that original deal, a status that has fueled speculation in summer move. Manchester United had been widely assumed to be the leading contender for the 24-year-old, an assumption that’s part of today’s shock. Where did Bayern Munich come from?

That’s the big story here. The Manchester United part? Yeah, cute footnote. But Bayern? Nobody saw this coming, and it’s still unclear what kind of number would be required to sell Lewandowski to the Bundesliga’s other huge power. If midfielder Javi Martínez moved to Bayern this summer for $50 million, how much will BVB want for Lewandowski?

The move would be reminiscent of Portuguese superstar Luis Figo’s 2000 move from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Bought for a then-record $54 million, Figo engendered a sense of betrayal among Barcelona’s fans as he crossed the divide between the world’s biggest rivals. Now Lewandowski’s not Figo, and Bayern-Dormtund is nowhere near Barcelona-Real, but there are obvious parallels. Lewandowski’s move to München would represent a significant loss for BVB, one directly inflicted by their biggest rivals.

Another player that comes to mind is Marco Reus, the 23-year-old attacker who chose Borussia Dortmund over Bayern when he moved from Borussia Moechengladbach this summer. For a talented, young, German international to reject an interested Bayern is huge. And for that player to elect to go to an emerging rival, one that would later prove capable of re-signing its core players? It was a statement. Dortmund was more than pesky. They were dangerous. Bayern forcing Dortmund’s hand on Lewandowski could reverse some of their momentum.

After an initial adjustment season in Germany, Lewandowski has been on of the league’s best strikers, hitting for 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches in 2011-12. He finished the season with 30 goals in 47 all-competition appearances, a rate he has replicated this year with 19 in 29.

Were he to move, it’s unlikely incumbent No. 9 Mario Gomez would stay. The German international has scored 97 goals for Bayern since moving from Stuttgart in 2009, but as we heard ahead of Gomez’s summer ankle injury, FCB’s management isn’t offering universal praise for the 27-year-old’s. Add in the stylistic dissonance that will come when Pep Guardiola lands in Germany and Gomez moving on this summer makes sense.

The Guardiola factor is also worth considering. Why would a player like Lewandowski, who could almost choose his destination within the soccer world, potentially pick such a controversial move, particularly when he could me similar or higher wages by jumping to England or Spain? In addition to Bayern’s brand, history, and obvious quality, only Munich can offer Guardiola.

It’s way too early so know for sure. We’re in the well-reported rumor stage, not the move’s postmortem. If Lewandowski ends up at the Allianz Arena we can dive into the Guardiola factor, the influence on rivalry, and the effect on the Bundesliga scales. For now, the mere possibility that a prominent Dortmund player — one everybody assumed would jump abroad — could move to Bayern is worth our pause.

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City FC
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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms
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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

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The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

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The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.