SSC Napoli v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A

Just a rumor, but an Edin Dzeko-for-Edinson Cavani swap would make sense for all involved

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World soccer’s silly season is starting early. You can thank a lack of competition of that. With races across UEFA’s top five leagues completely deflated, it’s hard to blame fans and editors for gripping the rumor mill, trying to bring some uncertainty back into an unexpectedly predictable world.

But by now we all know, most of that uncertainty is utter chaff – rumors that only make sense for one of player, club, or other club; gossip fueled by a cynical appeal to readers’ most daft instincts. Yet on a rare occasion, there is a legitimately interesting rumor that surfaces that makes sense for buyer, seller, and player.

Or in this case, players.

And so we have the potential Edinson Cavani-for-Edin Dezko swap, a deal that’s main improbability is the scarcity of swap deals. The last time players of this magnitude were involved in a trade, Samuel Eto’o was going to Inter Milan to help Barcelona pay for Zlatan Ibrahimovic – an extremely rare deal at the time, one that’s already four years old.

Still, this speculated swap makes sense because of Cavani’s enormous buyout ($82.5 million), one Napoli can hold to given the Uruguayan’s production. Since moving to Naples from Palermo three seasons ago, the versatile target man has 72 goals in 95 league appearances. Combined with a nearly unmatched work rate at his position, Cavani is one of the world’s marquee strikers.

source: Getty ImagesThus it’s no surprise he’s been linked with every big club in the world, but with Edin Dzeko seemingly set to leave Manchester City after two years of part-time duty at Eastlands, the Citizens have a way of taking a chunk out of that buyout. If they offer Napoli an elite replacement and $54 million (as is thinly speculated), everybody could win: City get an upgrade that can truly complement Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez; Napoli get return on their investment and a viable replacement; Cavani gets a huge raise to move to a now-elite club; and Dzeko gets playing time while staying with a Champions League club.

The one hiccup: Dzeko may have better options. The former VfL Wolfsburg sniper is presumably keen to move back to Germany, with Borussia Dortmund said to be interested in seeing the Bosnian replace Robert Lewandowski. If Dzeko can go back to a league he likes — to a Champions League finalist who play in front of some of the best fans in the world – what incentive does he have to play ball in this swap?

If, however, BVB can keep Lewandowski, or if they have another replacement in mind, all of a sudden the Cavani-for-Dzeko swap looks far more viable. Dzeko’s style would be hugely successful in Italy, and at Napoli, he’s almost guaranteed to get as much playing time as he wants. Unless one of Italy’s other big clubs comes in for him – somebody like Juventus or Milan – Napoli could prove his best option, should BVB bow out …

Especially if they’re willing to roll over some of that $54 million into his wages.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.