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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?

 

 

Klinsmann names USMNT preliminary roster for 2016 Copa America

United States Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann instructs his team against Guatemala during the first half of a World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. The United States beat Guatemala 4-0. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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Youth is well served as Jurgen Klinsmann has named the U.S. national team’s 40-man preliminary roster ahead of next month’s 2016 Copa America Centenario.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Youngsters Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, Matt Miazga and Jordan Morris, along with 36 others, will take part in the USMNT’s pre-tournament training camp, beginning May 16 in Miami, Fla., as Klinsmann makes his final decisions in order to trim the squad from 40 to 23 before the May 20 roster deadline.

Along with the aforementioned newcomers (relative so) is most of the regular cast of characters from Klinsmann’s nearly six years in charge — Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Fabian Johnson, Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud, among others.

[ MORE: Dortmund’s Pulisic scores in second consecutive Bundesliga game ]

The USMNT will play three warm-up games ahead of their group-stage opener (June 3, vs. Colombia in Santa Clara, Calif.): at Puerto Rico (May 22), vs. Ecuador (May 25 in Frisco, Tex.) and vs. Bolivia (May 28 in Kansas City, Kan.).

The full preliminary roster is as follows…

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Ethan Horvath (Molde) Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Michael Orozco (Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 2-1 Toronto FC (video)

Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri (8), celebrates his equalizer goal in extra time against Los Angeles Galaxy, Sunday May 11, 2014, at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.  (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Thomas Boyd)  MAGS OUT; TV OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; THE MERCURY OUT; WILLAMETTE WEEK OUT; PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP OUT
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The game in 100 words (or less): The defending champion Portland Timbers are slowly but surely hitting their stride after a less-than-ideal start to the season saw Caleb Porter’s side start their 2015 MLS Cup title defense with just one win in their first six games. With Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Toronto FC, the Timbers are now three games unbeaten (two wins), and quickly ascending the Western Conference standings (started the day in 9th, finished the day in 7th). Just a heads up: Diego Valeri is still the best (24 goals, 38 assists in 94 MLS appearances). Also, backup goalkeeper Jake Gleeson turned in one of the best goalkeeping performances in recent memory, with no fewer than three jaw-dropping saves in the second half alone. As for TFC, their eight-game road trip to start the season is, mercifully, finished. They’ll head back to BMO Field for next Saturday’s home opener with 11 points in the bag and a claim on the no. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.

[ MORE: Monday’s MLS Rewind column  ]

Three moments that mattered

17′ — Adi takes the feed from Valeri, makes it 1-0 — Diego Valeri to Fanendo Adi [insert any Timbers forward here] has been a thoroughly productive formula for the Timbers since his arrival in the Rose City four years ago. Big props to Darren Mattocks with the ball to put Valeri into all that space.

40′ — Johnson keeps it low, makes it 1-1 — Sebastian Giovinco attracted the attention of four Timbers defenders, none of which were quick to pounce on the loose ball after the Italian went down under a crunching challenge. Will Johnson was quickest to the ball, and equalized against his former club.

74′ — Valeri’s stunning free kick is a worthy winner — Enjoy!

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Adi (17′), Johnson (40′), Valeri (71′)

Ronaldo back in training ahead of Champions League decider vs. Man City

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo watches the math at the bench during the Champions League semifinal soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the City of Manchester stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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Cristiano Ronaldo is in a race against time in order to be fit for Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League semifinal decider against Manchester City on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

With just 72 hours to kickoff of the two sides’ return leg (0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium last week), Madrid’s superstar attacker is back in training with an eye toward taking the field on Wednesday after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. Ronaldo has been unavailable for selection since last featuring on April 2.

He has since downplayed the severity of the injury, saying of last week’s first-leg clash, “If it were a final, I’d play.”

[ MORE: Man City, Real Madrid draw | Atleti top Bayern at home ]

Also on the mend for Madrid is Karim Benzema, who was forced off at halftime (hamstring injury) in the first leg. The Frenchman missed Saturday’s La Liga triumph over Real Sociedad, and his availability seems much more in doubt than that of Ronaldo.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Atleti, Real Madrid separated by one point

Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, left, celebrates with teammate Jordi Alba, second left, after scoring against Betis during their La Liga soccer match at the Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain on Saturday, April. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Angel Fernandez)
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A roundup of the weekend’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Betis 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona wobbled; they stumbled; they even went down to one knee so as to avoid being knocked out a couple weeks ago. From nine points ahead with fewer than 10 games remaining in the season, to suddenly level on points with Atletico Madrid, the season was slipping away, and in stepped Luis Suarez with back-to-back four-goal games to end a three-game losing streak, followed by Saturday’s 2-0 away triumph over Real Betis.

Ivan Rakitic (50th minute) and Suarez (81st minute – 35 league goals, 15 assists) provided the goals for Luis Enrique’s side with absolutely zero margin for error between now and the end of the season two weeks down the road. The math is simple: if Barca win their remaining two games, they’ll be crowned champions for a second consecutive season, all thanks due to their obscene goal differential.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano

How much longer can Atleti keep hold of Antoine Griezmann, Los Rojiblancos‘ brilliant talisman for the last two seasons (43 goals, 6 assists combined)? Still just 25 years old, the Frenchman is a surefire top-10 player in the world right now, and will surely be the subject interest from Europe’s freest-spending clubs once again this summer.

Griezmann bagged the only goal in Atleti’s 1-0 home victory over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, keeping the Spanish capital’s “other” side level on points with Barca. It was a stunning strike that, in a just world, would wipe away 10 or 15 of Barca’s 31-goal advantage in the goal-differential column.

Real Sociedad 0-1 Real Madrid

“Hey! Hey, guys! Don’t forget about us!” It must be so difficult to be a Real Madrid fan right now, what with Barca and Atleti currently sitting first and second, and everyone seemingly forgetting about Los Blancos and the fact they’re a measly point behind their two most hated rivals. Sure, it’ll require a fatal slip-up by both of the sides ahead of them, but stranger things have happened.

Saturday’s 1-0 victory away to Real Sociedad saw Zinedine Zidane push his record as first-team manager of Madrid to 15W-2D-1L in league play (47 points – best in La Liga during that period). With Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema once again out injured, Gareth Bale scored the game’s only goal with fewer than a dozen minutes remaining in regular time.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Barcelona 36 27 4 5 104 29 75 15-1-2 12-3-3 85
Atlético Madrid 36 27 4 5 60 16 44 14-3-1 13-1-4 85
Real Madrid 36 26 6 4 105 32 73 15-1-2 11-5-2 84

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia vs. Villarreal (ongoing)
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Celta Vigo
Espanyol 1-0 Sevilla
Granada 3-2 Las Palmas
Deportiov La Coruña 0-2 Getafe
Sporting Gijon 2-0 Eibar