Benteke heading to Borussia Dortmund?

1 Comment

Aston Villa fans, hold your nerve.

This is going to be the first of many reports of Chrisitan Benteke moving away from Villa Park this summer.

The Belgian international forward has made a sensational start to life in England, scoring 23 goals and almost single-handedly dragging Villa to Premier League safety.

However the 22-year-old striker has been attracting plenty of interest, after a campaign that saw him establish himself as one of the leading marksmen in the EPL.

Benteke’s agent, Eris Kismet, revealed that Dortmund are among plenty of interested suitors.

“I am aware of the Dortmund representation at Villa Park for the Chelsea match [on Saturday], but Christian is still a Villa player and nothing has changed on that point,” Kismet told ESPN. “It is natural for many teams to show an interest when Christian has had such a good season and scored many goals, but it is his first season in the Premier League.”

So if Benteke does leave Villa, how much would it be for? Where would he go? And why would he leave?

Okay, okay, settle down. We will get to all that.

So, the Belgian was relatively unknown before he became Paul Lambert’s big summer signing last year. But everyone knows about him now.

The towering attacker has spent time on loan with Belgian minnows Kortrijk and Mechelen, before establishing himself at parent club Genk in the 2011-12 season, which earned him the big-money move to Villa.

(More: Watch Christian Benteke’s hat trick for Aston Villa here)

And that $13 million price that Villa paid for him seems like an absolute bargain now, as Benteke’s suitors line up around the corner to try and tempt him away from a Villa side firmly in transition.

A move to Dortmund would be a great option, especially if they lose Robert Lewandowski this summer. The Belgian would be guaranteed Champions League soccer next season, instead of another relegation scrap with the Villans. But he is adored by Villa fans, Lambert has shown faith in him and the Birmingham-based club have built their whole attack around the young Belgian. So would he be daft to leave all that behind?

(More: Lambert – Benteke worth more than £25 million)

If he does leave, Villa could see a healthy profit for their star player after only one season on the books. Benteke’s value is currently believed to be around the $30 million mark. So that’s well over a 50 percent profit, which will never be frowned upon by owner Randy Lerner.

But I think it would be premature to leave so early in his EPL career. Benteke’s brute force, pace and tremendous aerial ability really suites the EPL style of play. Bigger teams in England, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham have voiced an interest in his services.

Like I said at the very start, brace yourselves Villa fans. Stories surrounding Christian Benteke’s impending departure are set to rattle on all summer long.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

Harry How/Getty Images
2 Comments

Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

Julian Finney/Getty Images
1 Comment

Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.