Fernando Torres to Barcelona is a rumor with legit backing

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So apparently the Fernando Torres to Barcelona rumor isn’t just a rumor, there’s legit belief that this could happen.

This morning it was widely reported – along with the typical baseless summer transfer rumors – that the Blaugrana were set to offer £17 million ($26.7m) for the Chelsea striker’s services.

To which we all nodded and sarcastically thought: ‘Yeah, sure Barca want Torres.’

But now, the highly respected Spain-based journalist, Graham Hunter, is giving the rumor some extra firepower, claiming “[it] is a well-sourced story,” and that Barcelona are looking to rid themselves of David Villa and buy a new center forward.

Hunter told Sky Sports –

Every time Torres played for Atletico Madrid against them he scored and terrorised them at Camp Nou. He also scored for Chelsea when they were knocked out of the Champions League.

He is patently full of vim and vigour after an initial difficult time at Chelsea. The Barca president has long coveted him and once advised his board to bid for Torres.

They believe there may be movement at Chelsea and that new coach Jose Mourinho will try to bring in different strikers and that Torres may become available.

The truth of it is that Barca are saying they are ready to move for him and they are assessing their resources and it is a story that may evolve over the coming weeks.

And suddenly, we’re all nodding our heads, saying, ‘Ok, that actually makes a lot of sense.’

Chelsea must feel torn by the predicament.

On one hand, Barcelona’s offer means the Blues will take a £33 million loss on the transfer fee they paid to acquire Torres from Liverpool back in January 2011. Plus, despite an infamously horrid start to his career at Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard’s form dramatically improved this past season, scoring 23 times in all competitions.

On the other hand, £17 million is not terrible money for a player who has drastically underperformed since moving from Anfield two and a half years ago. Plus, with the signing of André Schürrle earlier today, there is a surplus of strikers queing up at Chelsea with Torres, Demba Ba, Romelu Lukaku also on the books.

Making the deal even more tasty is that Chelsea can now take that cash and put it towards the purchase of a world-class striker like Edinson Cavani. Although it has to be noted that by selling Torres to Barcelona the Blues may actually be scuppering themselves in the Cavani sweepstakes as Napoli were keen on a swap plus cash deal between the players.

The other issue to figure out is what will happen to David Villa in this deal?

The Spain striker’s value will plummet if Barca show their hand by buying Torres without a deal in place for Villa. That means we could see the 31 year old transfered out of Catalan at a cut-rate price. You can bet clubs like Tottenham and Arsenal will be sniffing around this deal with great interest.

 

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
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Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images
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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.