Bargains among the MLS salary numbers, released today

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MLS Salaries were announced Monday, courtesy of the MLS Players Association.

It’s worth noting that the salaries listed are essentially for reporting purposes, skewed by some technical mumbo-jumbo and not entirely accurate in terms of what they players actually earn. And there are other considerations where “value” is concerned, as in how much salary is being paid by a former team, or scheduled increases ahead, etc.

Still, the numbers represent fairly solid reference points.

So let’s get started by looking at 20 real bargains around MLS (plus a pair of bonus, Super Bargains!):

The Super Bargains!

  • Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution, $80,000 guaranteed: The Revs attack is nothing special, but the winger who loves to come inside to create is still the top man around Gillette in terms of breaking down defenses. Nguyen (pictured) would show even better with a higher quality front line in front of him.
  • Victor Bernardez, San Jose, $100,000:  On many days he is the league’s top center back. “Top center backs” are usually in the $200-$300 range. So, yes, he’s a plum by any measure – but especially at this price.

The Plain ol’ bargain bin Bargains

(price noted is 2013 “guaranteed” compensation; listed in alphabetical order by club):

  • Austin Berry, Chicago Fire, $78,000
  • Michel, FC Dallas, $81,000

Not a name that many know much about, but the first-year MLS man’s ability to hold the midfield helped has enormously for the current Western Conference leaders.

  • Matt Hedges, FC Dallas, $64,500
  • Andrew Driver, Houston Dynamo, $95,000
  • Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City, $180,000

That number may look fair for a center back, but it’s getting into bargain territory, at very least, for an elite CB who just elbowed his way into the U.S. national team rotation.

  • Claudio Bieler, Sporting Kansas City, $200,000

He’s sharing the league lead in scoring after 10 weeks, so that stands out as a bargain price for a veteran, quality striker.

  • Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City, $173,000
  • Oriol Rosell, Sporting Kansas City, $118,000

An underrated element of the current Eastern Conference co-leaders. Once you consider that both Benny Feilhaber and Bobby Convey (different roles, admittedly) both earn quite a bit more, it’s easier to see how the Spanish veteran, so disciplined, composed and clean in the holding midfield role, is well worth that small patch of cash.

  • Omar Gonzalez, L.A. Galaxy, $282,000

I will go to my grave insisting he was the most important element – indeed, the one absolutely indispensable element – in last year’s championship defense. He was definitely the MVP of MLS Cup 2013. None of that happened without Gonzalez, so even at that relatively high number, he’s a steal.

  • Patrice Bernier, Montreal Impact, $162,000

For the league’s best holding midfielder? C’mon! He’s probably the most important man in Impact colors, and the center of the park around Stade Saputo never looks quite the same without him.

  • Jeb Brovsky, Montreal Impact, $84,000
  • Jose Goncalves, New England Revolution, $104,000
  • Fabian Espindola, New York Red Bulls, $150,000
  • Keon Daniel, Philadelphia Union, $80,000
  • Sebastien Velasquez, Real Salt Lake, $46,000

Velasquez, 22, is at that number due to his age. Keep at it, young man, and you won’t be making those apprentice wages much longer.

  • Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders, $210,000
  • DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders, $53,000

Anyone else see the Sounders rookie, now solidly in place as the starting right back at CenturyLink Field, getting a contract re-do this year?

  • Rafael Baca, San Jose Earthquakes, $49,000
  • Steven Beitashour, San Jose Earthquakes, $49,000
  • Joe Bendik, Toronto FC, $46,000

Quality goalkeepers can be had for less than 100K in MLS; still this price is pretty ridiculous for the man who is keeping Stefan Frei on the bench.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Arsenal board will be told decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.