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.

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

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The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

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USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

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The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”