Manchester United line up massive bid for Robert Lewandowski

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You had to know this was coming.

One day after his incredible four goal performance against Real Madrid, Robert Lewandowski is rumored to be the target of a $46.4m (£30m) bid by Manchester United. It’s been a rumor that has gone hot and cold throughout the last year but after Lewandowski’s scintillating display last night, it’s now come to a boil.

Dortmund, however, are desperate to keep their star striker and claim they aren’t rushed to sell Lewandowski even though he has just 12 months remaining on his contract. United face competition for the Polish international from Bayern Munich, who recently triggered the $49.5 (£32m) release clause of Dortmund playmaker, Mario Gotze. Fortunately for the Black & Yellows, there is nothing to indicate that Lewandowski’s contract contains a similar provision.

Dortmund are expected to ramp up their efforts to re-sign their 33 goal hitman despite the reports that Lewandowski has turned down multiple offers and wants to leave for a bigger club. BVB will do everything they can to ensure that if they are unable to re-sign the striker that he does not end up in Bavaria. Relations between the two clubs are at an all-time low after Dortmund were furious with Bayern’s decision to announce the Gotze coup on the morning of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

The strain in relations between Dortmund and Munich will be a huge boost to United’s chances of signing Lewandowski. It is widely believed that it will take more than $46.4m (£30m) for Dortmund to part with the striker although BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke has made the outlandish statement that his club may even keep Lewandowski for the next 12 months, even if it means the player eventually departs on a free transfer.

Surely, Sir Alex Ferguson can convince him otherwise.

If United are to sign the Polish phenom, a swap deal could be in the cards. The Red Devils have previously suggested bringing Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao into the fold for cash and a swap of Javier Hernandez, who United claims to be valued at $31m (£20m), which seems a bit rich. Don’t be surprised if a similar offer is proposed to Dortmund.

One thing United won’t be doing is buying both Falcao and Lewandowski. Not only do they occupy the same role on the pitch but the cost required to purchase the two would be astronomical. Plus, United already have one of the best strikers in the world in Robin van Persie. Which raises the question – what would happen to the Dutchman if United purchased another high-line striker?

Surely, RVP won’t be sold. But we could see a situation where Ferguson begins to limit the number of appearances the Dutch striker makes in order to prolong his career. Van Persie turns 30 years old this summer and given his injury ravaged past and the number of competitions United participate in on a yearly basis, such a rotation might not be a terrible idea.

A move for Lewandowski would also raise questions as to what to do with Wayne Rooney. United could effectively finance a deal for Lewandowski if it were to sell Rooney to Paris Saint-Germain but whether Ferguson is truly ready to part with the Englishman remains to be seen.

But don’t be so sure United is the only English squad ready to make a play for Lewandowski. Manchester City are widely rumored to be looking to bring in a world-class striker and the Pole could be just the man for the job. What’s more, City are looking to unload Edin Dzeko and have entertained the idea of a swap plus cash deal.

The question then becomes: If you’re Dortmund, who would you prefer to swap for Lewandowski – Chicharito or Dzeko?

 

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.