The 10 most in-demand players this summer

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Between the end of the current season and the beginning of next, there will be huge amounts of transfer business done around the world. But who are the 10 best players whose futures will be most under the microscope this summer?

10. MAROUANE FELLAINI (Everton)

The 25-year-old Everton star player is still the club’s record signing, since he joined for $23m in 2008. The Belgium offensive threat is now attracting the attention of the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, and if Everton get a bid of something like $35m for his services it is likely he will leave Goodison Park.

9. DAVID VILLA (Barcelona)

A few years back he was the most respected striker on the planet, but he has declined since his broken leg, and there is a good chance he will leave Camp Nou in the summer. Because of his age, 31, his transfer fee will not be huge, but his wages will be. There is no doubt he is still worth taking a gamble on, and a move to the Premier League, with Arsenal interested, is a distinct possibility.

8. VICTOR VALDES (Barcelona) 

The Barcelona ‘keeper has confirmed that he will leave in the summer for a new challenge, and there will be plenty of clubs bidding for the Spaniard. In his younger days he wasn’t rated too highly, but he has matured hugely as a player. Liverpool’s Pepe Reina has been linked with a swap deal with Valdes, while Arsenal need a top ‘keeper, so like his teammate David Villa, he could soon be playing in the Premier League.

7. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Ajax)

The 21-year-old Danish international is one of the most highly rated youngsters in Europe, with many great clubs monitoring his progress. A technically gifted, creative player, the Ajax star will cost a lot of money but will be worth every buck. Liverpool, in particular, have been heavily linked with acquiring his signature.

source: Getty Images

6. NEYMAR (Santos)

If the Brazilian sensation was definitely leaving Santos in the summer then he would be right at the top of this list, but his future in uncertain. Many think the 21-year-old will become the greatest player on the planet one day, and Barcelona and Real Madrid look favourites to sign the little genius. It looks more likely that he move abroad after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and expect a colossal transfer fee when he does move.

5. ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (Borussia Dortmund)

The Dortmund and Poland starstriker is on fire this season, scoring 30 goals in 41 games, and there is much speculation about his future. Part of him will want to stay at Dortmund, especially given their current success, but the other part will be tempted by a move to a European giant. Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed an interest in the 24-year-old, while Real Madrid have also kept a close eye on him.

4. LUIS SUAREZ (Liverpool)

Like Neymar, Suarez would be higher on the list if there was more certainty that he was leaving Liverpool in summer. The little Uruguayan has been sensational in the Premier League this season, and many feel he should be at a club that can turn him into an ever more special player. His heart is telling him to stay at Anfield, but his head is telling him to join Pep Guardiola’s revolution at Bayern Munich.

3. EDINSON CAVANI (Napoli)

Suarez’s strike partner for Uruguay looks very likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season. The leading goalscorer in Serie A is regarded as one of the form players of world soccer, and he has the ability to transform a team. Manchester City are strong favourites to sign him, with Roberto Mancini unhappy at his side’s lack of goals lately. Madrid have also shown an interest. The fee could be in the region of $45m.

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2. GARETH BALE (Tottenham)

The 23-year-old Welshman is a phenomenon when he is in top form, and he is one of the most unstoppable players on the planet. He has probably stayed at Spurs for longer than many expected, but this summer really does look like the end of his North London adventure. Madrid are favourites to sign him, with Barcelona close behind, but don’t be surprised to see Ferguson make an audacious bid to take him to Old Trafford.

1. RADAMEL FALCAO (Atletico Madrid)

There are some hugely in-demand soccer players around at the moment, as this list shows, but none are being talked about as much as Falcao. Atletico Madrid’s 27-year-old superstar striker has been linked with every big club you can imagine, and will almost certainly join one of them for about $60m in time for next season. Madrid, Barcelona, United, Chelsea, City, Bayern, take your pick. The Colombian will end up at one of those sides in the summer.

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.