The Transfer Tailor Shop – Christian Benteke

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I can’t hide my love for the transfer market and everything it encompasses. Sure, the rumors are largely that, rumors, procured by one of the major British news outlets like The Guardian, Sky Sports, the Mirror or the least reliable but most creative, the Daily Mail. Point being, few topics within world football drive the banter like transfer talk.

One of the craziest things is that Pro Soccer Talk or any other soccer/football website can perpetuate a transfer rumor without any repercussion whatsoever. But why fabricate when you can evaluate? That’s the most exciting part of any transfer rumor – deciding whether or not the player fits the club and vice versa.

Cue ‘The Transfer Tailor Shop’ – the one place where we set forth the rumor, weigh whether it’s a good fit, and then ask your opinion on where the player should end up. Today we’re looking at everyone’s favorite hulking Premier League striker, Aston Villa front-man Christian Benteke.

On Tuesday night the rumor broke that Villa chairman Randy Lerner was prepared to double Benteke’s basic pay (from £1m to £2m a year) to ensure the Belgian stays at Villa Park. The fear, no doubt inflamed by the striker’s mind-blowing hat-trick in Villa’s 6-1 romp of Sunderland on Monday, is that if the Midlands-based club doesn’t show him some serious love he may leave The Claret and Blue for Tottenham or Arsenal.

Such a move would be devastating to manager Paul Lambert’s desire to return the club to Top 10 status. After having sold off stars Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and James Milner in recent years, Lerner is now poised to do whatever it takes to secure Benteke’s signature. After all, the 22 year old has been in scintillating form this season and with 18 league goals, is the primary reason Villa may avoid the drop.

If Villa were to sell Benteke the club would be left with Andreas Weimann, Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonglahor as its forwards. Weimann (7 goals, 27 matches) and Agbonglahor (7 goals, 25 matches) have enjoyed fine seasons – and may themselves be targets of summer transfer offers – but neither plays the same out-and-out striker role as Benteke. Only Bent covers that. And while the 29 year old England international has enjoyed a few fabulous years, the 2012-13 campaign has hardly been one of them. Overtaken by the Belgian after injury sidelined him in the fall, Bent has barely seen the field since Benteke’s emergence.

Of course, Villa would receive bountiful compensation if they sell Benteke – the figures vary wildly but most assess his value at £20m-£35m – but who’s to say that his replacement produces? After all, even if Villa were to shell out for a top replacement everyone remembers where £50m got Chelsea with Fernando Torres. In other words, losing Benteke would be a crushing blow to Villa, even with a pocket full of money.

But if Arsenal is able to strike a deal for the Villa hit-man, how well would Benteke fit in at the Emirates?

Since selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s side has been frothing at the mouth for a world-class striker. In a semi-panic for cover the Gunners purchased Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Podolski has seldom been utilized up top and despite a love for the club and desire to play, may be sold in the upcoming transfer window.

Giroud has come into Arsenal and made the role of target-man his own, yet few Goonah’s are rushing to defend the Frenchman’s contributions. Yes, he’s showed spurts of talent but 11 goals in 33 appearances for a team that puts balls on silver platters is not a flattering stat line. It’s foreseeable that another year of Premier League action sees Giroud develop into a top striker but it’s objectively clear that when it comes to talent and production, Benteke is the far better asset.

Benteke’s game is built on speed and power, attributes not typically associated with Arsenal. One gets the sense that after this season’s experiment with Giroud, Wenger may be more likely to seek a more skillful forward who excels in pinpoint passes and link-up play. While the Gunners may pony up £15m-£20m for Benteke they seem more poised to break the bank for a striker like Edinson Cavani or Stevan Jovetic.

Turning to Tottenham, now.

There is perhaps no Premier League club in greater need of a striker than Spurs. Emmanuel Adebayor has dropped multiple levels over the last few seasons and his careless play and ridiculous antics has drawn the ire of the White Hart Lane faithful. He will undoubtedly be sold this summer, likely at a cut rate price.

The Lillywhites other striker, Jermain Defoe, will likely remain in the squad despite yet another disappointing and injury riddled season. When healthy, the England international is a dynamo for the Spurs offense, but seems better suited to a role off the bench.

Thus, there is plenty of room for Benteke in Andre Villas-Boas’ squad. The Belgian would provide a massive target for creative players like Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigudrsson and Aaron Lennon to run off of and would be the ideal man to bang home service from the outside. Benteke would also nicely supplement the grit Spurs have down the spine with players like Sandro, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker, William Gallas and Tom Huddlestone.

Rumors have Spurs lining up a bid to bring in Brazil striker Leandro Damiao but I don’t think that necessarily prevents them from looking to bring in a second front-man. Benteke would be a wonderful fit for Spurs, who could be in the position to spend upwards of £25m to acquire his services.

Where do you think Christian Benteke is best suited to play?



Azpilicueta: Biggest thing is “we haven’t conceded goals” since 3-4-3 switch

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea and Modou Barrow of Swansea City chase the ball during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has been called a mastermind in the past for his unconventional tactics. Now, it’s those same tactics that are making him look the part of a genius yet again at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Is 2016/17 the closest Premier League title race ever? ]

Since changing his system to a 3-4-3 following Chelsea’s gutting 3-0 defeat against Arsenal last month, the Blues have gone on to win three straight Premier League matches, including a recent 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United on Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge.

As important as the results are for Chelsea at the moment, the even more impressive aspect is the way that the Blues are winning matches. In their three consecutive victories, Conte’s side has failed to concede a goal, which has helped bring Chelsea to within a point at the summit of the PL.

Not only do the supporters appreciate Conte’s willingness to adapt and build a team that plays up to its greatest potential, but defender Cesar Azpilicueta is one of the many players that have uttered similar sentiments about the Italian’s tactics.

“I find it good. The most important thing for me is the team and since we changed the system we haven’t conceded goals in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports.

“I try to play my part in the team. The most important part of the system is the spirit of the team and the way we work. The tactics make a difference but what was most pleasing was the way the team work made it happen. Some players have different roles now but we have all week to work on that and we have a very clear idea what to do in the game. We have different options from the attacking fullbacks now.”

[ MORE Guardiola says he needs “time to learn, to improve” at City ]

Azpilicueta has been one of three key figures for Chelsea at the back since Conte made the switch defensively, joining Gary Cahill and David Luiz in a partnership that looks hard to crack at the moment.

Report: Mexico open to hosting 2026 World Cup despite potential joint bid with U.S., Canada

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 09:  Chicharito #14 of Mexico celebrates after his goal in front of Andre Blake #1 of Jamaica to take a 1-0 lead during Copa America Centenario at the Rose Bowl on June 9, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Despite some talks linking a possible two or even three nation bid for the 2026 World Cup, Mexico has opened the door for El Tri to host the world’s biggest football competition for a record third time.

[ MORE: Liverpool reaches summit of latest PST Premier League Power Rankings ]

Mexico Football Federation president Decio de Maria recently told ESPN that he and his country are prepared to go ahead with a bid for the 2026 edition of the tournament with or without any hypothetically joint bid.

“I don’t know [whether we would pursue a joint bid] but the rules are already open to it,” De Maria said. “What was agreed upon makes the path perfectly clear.

“Mexico will be in the hunt to host the 2026 World Cup.”

In addition to Mexico, the United States has been considered an early favorite to be named hosts in 2026 after losing out to Qatar for the 2022 competition. The U.S., Mexico and Canada have also been linked with a joint bid between the three CONCACAF nations, as the region looks to bring the World Cup back to North America for the first time since 1994 (when the U.S. hosted).

Mexico previously hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, and is one of four nations to have held the tournament on home soil more than once.

Report: Barcelona eyeing Nathaniel Clyne to fill right back gap

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool clears the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on January 17, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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When Dani Alves left Barcelona to join Juventus over the summer, the Blaugrana appeared to have the right back vacancy covered.

[ MORE: Guardiola says he needs “time to learn, to improve”

However, manager Luis Enrique appears to be turning his attention to the Premier League in order to replace the versatile Brazilian defender.

[ MORE: Tony Pulis extends contract with West Brom ]

According to SunSport, Barcelona is prepared to approach Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne during the winter transfer window as the Spanish giants look to lock down the right back position.

The 25-year-old is reportedly seen as a significant upgrade from Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal, both of whom have been tabbed as starters this season for Barcelona.

Clyne has appeared in 12 matches this PL season for the Reds, who currently sit tied atop the Premier League with Manchester City and Arsenal on points.

In addition to Clyne, SunSport reports that Glen Johnson is also a consideration for the Blaugrana, however, the 32-year-old is certainly not a first option for Enrique and Barcelona given his age and drop in form.

MLS Conference Semis preview: Compelling match-ups all around

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23:  Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates with team mate Tim Howard after victory that sends the USA through to the second round during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
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One of Major League Soccer’s most wide open new rivalries headlines a glorious quartet of first legs when the Conference Semifinals get going on Sunday.

[ MLS: Conference semis schedule ]

Toronto FC and New York City FC have squared off five times in a nascent rivalry which has seen plenty of thrills, including a 4-4 draw in NYC last season.

TFC has three draws but is yet to top NYCFC. There are so many reasons to love this match-up: the tactical face-off between Patrick Vieira of NYC and Greg Vanney of Toronto; the combined firepower of David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, and Andrea Pirlo.

Aside from the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium for the second leg, almost everything about this is wonderful.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Khiry Shelton #19 of New York City FC carries the ball against Marco Delgado #18 and Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

[ MORE: JPW talks with USL commish Edwards ]

The other Eastern Conference semi sees the Montreal Impact building off its upset of DC United with a pair of matches against high-flying New York Red Bulls.

The first match is in Montreal, and the Stade Saputo is a big, loud place. Didier Drogba is no longer featuring for the hosts, but Ignacio Piatti has been as good as any players in the league (He deserves MVP consideration but it seems politically difficult to imagine it will go anywhere besides a New York team or Giovinco).

The Red Bulls haven’t lost since July 3, and feature a dominant group up the middle which includes Luis Robles, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestand, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. This, too, shall be fun.

Over in the West, we see suddenly starring Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy opening up against surprising Colorado Rapids.

A Donovan vs. Tim Howard match-up is in some ways an Evertonian and USMNT fan’s dream, but this will be more about whether Colorado’s “no-name” — outside of Howard and Jermaine Jones — team can stare down the star power of the Galaxy. Look for sneaky star Shkelzen Gashi to make his name known a bit more for the Rapids.

[ MORE: Spain may recall David Villa ]

Finally we’ve got the hottest team in the West, Seattle Sounders, duking it out with Supporters’ Shield and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner FC Dallas.

The playoffs find Seattle as a minor favorite since FCD star Mauro Diaz went out for the year and Fabian Castillo skipped town for Turkey. But ruling out Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, and head coach Oscar Pareja is something you’d do at your own peril.

For Seattle, there’s new star Nicolas Lodeiro and striker Jordan Morris, the latter who is delivering at an unreal level (even for a rookie as hyped as the Stanford man).

All of these matches have the potential for special soccer. Bring on Sunday.