Is Michael Laudrup engineering a move to Real Madrid?

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Last year, despite our respective affiliations, many Premier League fans started to fall in love with Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup. At least a little bit.

How could you not?

The Dane came to South Wales last June and within eight months –

  • Added a sprinkling of low-cost, high-value transfers (Michu (£2m), Jonathan De Guzman (loan), Chico Flores (£2m), Ki Sung-Yeung (£6m), Pablo Hernandez (£5.5m))
  • Sold want-away players who were getting too big for their britches for incredible value (Joe Allen (£15m), Scott Sinclair (£8m))
  • Was smashing teams by the first week of the season (5-0 over QPR in Matchweek 1 and 3-0 over West Ham in Matchweek 2), and
  • Was hoisting the League Cup (and claiming the first spot in the Europa League) by late February.

All that was accomplished, of course, by taking the entertaining style of play imposed by past managers (Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers) and make it straight up intoxicating. In footballing parlance, it was what we call a master-stroke.

But with the good comes the bad and for Swansea supporters, the ‘bad’ set in shortly after the 5-0 thrashing of Bradford City when rumors began to fly of the interest that high-profile clubs had in Laudrup. The rumors weren’t unexpected. Most everyone could see that the man who starred as a player for European giants Juventus, Lazio, Barcelona and Real Madrid, would someday be doing the same as a manager. It was only a matter of time.

To his credit, Laudrup pledged his short term desire to stay at Swansea with the caveat that, within a season or two, he would be moving to a bigger club. Fair play.

But the rumors kept coming. Speculation grew. And within the last two weeks, Laudrup has begun to voice his concern over the amount of money that Swansea owner, Huw Jenkins, is willing to pony up for transfers.

Things took a turn for the worse yesterday when Jenkins and the rest of the Swansea board cut ties with Laudrup’s agent, Bayram Tutumlu, who was allegedly trying to dictate the club’s transfer policy. Tutumlu said

[Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins] wants to bring in players who do not have the quality for Michael Laudrup. . . . Huw Jenkins has paid me nothing, but I have spent a lot to try to bring players to Swansea.

In an attempt the quell the situation, Laudrup made the following statements

Bayram is my agent and that’s not going to change. If the club do not want to work with him or Bayram does not want to work with them, it’s their problem not mine. . . . The only thing I care about is to have the best players possible at Swansea who are within range of the economy of the club.

Again I must say that my intention is to stay – I have repeated it so many times in the last three months.

The only thing I am interested in is having the best players at Swansea within the budget that is possible. . . . That’s what I have been fighting for every day, last year when I arrived and this year as well. That will always be the most important thing for me wherever I end up in the future.

Ugly stuff, no doubt. But is it enough to end Laudrup’s tenure at the Liberty? Probably not, although Tutumlu seems completely hell-bent on making it happen.

There’s also the possibility, however, that this is all part of Laudrup’s exit plan to free himself for that aforementioned big-time managerial move. But to where?

I heard there may be a vacancy in Madrid.

But, if that doesn’t work, Paris could be quite nice as well.

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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