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.

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.