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Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Hulk to Chelsea and Tevez to Juventus

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Without question the biggest transfer rumor of the day comes out of West London where Jose Mourinho looks to clean up Chelsea’s mess of missing out on Radamel Falcao by signaling his intent to bring in Brazilian striker Hulk from Zenit St Petersburg.

The Blues are reportedly willing to pay the Russian outfit £35 million for his services, which would be a £15 million loss on what Zenit paid to obtain the 26 year old striker from Porto just one year ago.

If Hulk does come to Stamford Bridge expect Mourinho to part ways with either Fernando Torres or Demba Ba, who have each provided modest returns over the course of last year. Mourinho will also need to figure out what to do about Romelu Lukaku, who impressed on a loan stint last year with West Brom, scoring 17 goals in 35 appearances.

But why stop at just Hulk? Chelsea are reportedly within a whisker of signing Bayer Leverkusen’s attacking midfielder come forward, Andre Schurrle. If reports out of Cologne are to be believed, the 22 year old is set to be Mourinho’s his first signing since returning to the Bridge.

If Schurrle does come to Chelsea, there will be question marks. While he’s a flexible player who could be deployed up top he tends to drift to the left side during matches and is best suited as a winger. The Blues, of course, have no shortage of those and whether Schurrle has the talent to displace the likes of Eden Hazard, Victor Moses or Oscar, remains to be seen.

Over at the Lane, Leandro Damiao’s agent is failing to rule out a move that will make his client a Lillywhite. “Our idea is to always work with big clubs, all players dream of playing in the Champions League,” Vinicius Prates said. “But Tottenham are an important club in London, we can’t rule them out.”

In other words, Leandro wants A) Champions League football, or B) a ton of money.

To the Midlands we go where Aston Villa continue to feel the growing shadow of clubs looming above them wanting to poach striker Christian Benteke. Mere days after rumors surfaced claiming that Atletico Madrid, Spurs and Arsenal were poised to launch bids of £17.5 million for the Belgian, the Villains have gone ahead and slapped a £40 million price tag on his head.

Ah yes, the old tag slap, a move guaranteed to drive an in-demand player positively bananas. Although I feel bad for Villa this is fast looking like a walk-out situation on Benteke’s part. While £40 million feels a bit aggressive, Paul Lambert’s side should look hard at getting a deal done for £25-30 million before things turn ugly and that price bottoms out.

Up in Manchester, we might be in for some much needed Carlos Tevez drama. Juventus are apparently looking to swoop the Argentine striker if they fail to finagle Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic away from Arsenal and Chelsea. The Serie A champions are also open to scooping up the rest of City’s scraps, including Javi Garcia, Edin Dzeko and Joleon Lescott.

Tevez to Juve could be a real possibility, especially if City snap up Edinson Cavani. If the Citizens do make a move for the Uruguayan striker, expect Carlitos to be sent to Turin for money that could be surprisingly reasonable. Such are the brakes of investing in a new player before selling off an old one.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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