Please tell me this Stephan El Shaarawy transfer noise isn’t real

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I have this weird impression Milan’s a big club. Maybe that’s me being old, but throughout my lifetime, the Rossoneri have been one of Europe’s marquee clubs. Although financial considerations have tempered that reputation over the last few years, I’d have a difficult time naming 10 clubs in world soccer I thought players would like to play for before AC Milan.

But when you hear things like these Stephan El Shaarawy rumors, you wonder: Would a truly big, elite, near-the-top-of-the-pecking club even consider selling a 20-year-old who, after scoring 16 goals while seeing his first regular time in Serie A, earned a trip to Brazil with the Italian national team this summer? Barring some huge, unprecedented bid that would have the buying team assuming too much of the risk for a young player’s development, there’s no way players like El Shaarawy should move from club like Milan.

Yet here we are, with persistent rumors linking the young half-Egyptian attacker with a life beyond the San Siro. The whispers started in earnest last week and have persisted, with the most reported scenario having Manchester City make up part of Milan’s $53 million (€40 million) evaluation with Carlos Tévez. The Argentine’s inclusion would reportedly drop El Shaarawy’s price to $33 million.

That this rumor didn’t perish in a death of smoldering absurdity breaks my heart, because with the Rossonerin recent years having taken on the pricey likes of Ronaldinho and Robinho while being convinced to part with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, there seems to be some deranged string on which this reality might exist. Yet even in that world, there are reasons Milan should either hold on to their man or jack up the price:

  • El Shaarawy is on very low wages. He made just over $1 million last season. If Milan sell him, a big chunk of their intake will go straight into the wages needed to acquire an equivalent replacement.
  • And that replacement isn’t going to be a 20-year-old you know can perform for your coach, with your players, at your club. There’s a reason we’re even having this conversation, and it’s because those players a rare. Really, really, rare.
  • Players who are slightly more common: The Carlos Tévezes of the world. He’s a great player, but he’s also older and overpriced. He’ll make around $13.5 million this season. The difference in wages means, after three seasons, you’ve funneled the transfer fee into Tévez’s pocket. All your left with is the older and, by that time, likely inferior player.

Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with the astronomical fees players garner in the transfer market, but this scenario highlights how it works. Young players who are cheap, under contract, and highly productive save you a ton of money over the alternatives. You start with that difference and make some educated guesses as to their contributions to other goals (titles, league placements, European spots) and revenue streams (merchandise, ticket sales). Add in some market factors (scarcity, is he in the last year of his deal) and you get some high figures.

For El Shaarawy — a 20-year-old who’s giving peak-level output — the evaluation’s incredible high. It’s probably higher than the $53 million we’ve seen quoted. It’s definitely more than $33 million plus and overpriced Tevez.

The only teams that justify this kind of deal are teams that either (a) don’t have alternatives, or (b) have the type of real world cash considerations that force you to value the money above your club’s prestige. It’s not the move of one of an actor that’s trying to stay among the world’s marquee clubs.

Usain Bolt claims he’s signed with professional team

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A former world-record sprinter is set to take his opportunity as a soccer player, however, he won’t reveal which club just yet.

[ MORE: Three things from Man City’s Carabao Cup triumph ]

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt revealed on Sunday that he has signed a contract with a professional side, although the 31-year-old wouldn’t state which club or where the side resides.

The veteran runner retired from track and field last year after winning eight Olympic gold medals in his career.

Bolt has been connected with several major European clubs in the past, including Manchester United — whom he has been a lifelong supporter of — and Borussia Dortmund.

Bolt was set to have a trial with the German side next month, although it’s unlikely that the Jamaican will have that chance now that he’s signed with a team.

Last month, he also trained with South African side Mamelodi Sundown.

Guardiola hails Man City as trophy haul begins

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LONDON — Trophies were expected to come by the bucket load when Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City in the summer of 2016.

It has taken deep into his second season to deliver his first piece of silverware, but Guardiola secured the League Cup trophy in resounding fashion as Man City hammered Arsenal 3-0 in the final at Wembley.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Speaking after the game, Guardiola admitted the League Cup isn’t at the top of City’s list of priorities as they set their sights on winning the Premier League and UEFA Champions League in the final months of the season.

“It’s important. There are titles more important than this one, but we are so happy. Congratulations to everyone,” Guardiola said. “Big congratulations for all of Manchester City. From Sheikh Mansour to Sheikh Khaldoon until the last person and fan in the club. That is why it is important to win titles because maybe it is going to help us to win the next games in the Premier League to win the league.”

[ MORE: Kompany reacts to League Cup heroics

The Spaniard also played down the importance of his first trophy in England, as much has been made about his expensive rebuild of a City squad already brimming with talent after trophy successes under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini.

Guardiola thanked Man City’s owners from Abu Dhabi for sticking by him after a trophyless maiden campaign in England.

“I’m so happy but I am part of Manchester City. Every title we won, we won as a staff in the past. You are part of the group. That is why I am so happy for Manchester City because I cannot forgot how they take care of me last season when it wasn’t so good in terms of results and winning titles,” Guardiola said. “I cannot forgot. I will always remember all the club, Sheikh Khaldoon and all the people who helped to support me. It was so important. That is why Manchester City won.”

Another reason why they won was because City’s veteran core stepped up big time.

After a testing week which saw them lose in the FA Cup at third-tier Wigan, the hopes of an unprecedented quadruple were dashed. They’ll just have to settle for a treble now.

Captain Vincent Kompany was named Man of the Match, scored the crucial second goal and shackled Arsenal’s danger man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while Sergio Aguero and David Silva both scored and helped City grab the trophy.

“These three guys plus Yaya [Toure], Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta a lot of names, they helped to be what Manchester City is right now,” Guardiola said. “It is special. Sergio, Vincent and David scored the three goals and they help us to understand what it means in the club. They won titles. They put pressure on us to continue to win titles. If you are able to win more titles in the future, the people who are coming here have to know here have to win titles. That’s why it is so so important. Especially for the performance. The first half was not good but the second half Vincent was all over the game, Sergio started amazingly, despite the brilliant goal the way he played, and in the second half David came back to how he normally is.”

Kevin De Bruyne, the star of City’s season so far, has now switched the focus to sealing the PL title as quickly as possible and focusing on delivering the Champions League.

“We have had a good season already, and now we need to keep going,” De Bruyne said. “We have this one in the bag and now we have to maintain the same focus in the Premier League and the Champions League. The potential for this club is amazing, and the way we play is probably one of the best in the world.”

Guardiola is now off and running in terms of trophies and you get the sense this is just the start.

Schalke wins 2-0 at Leverkusen to move 3rd in Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) Nabil Bentaleb‘s late penalty sealed a 2-0 win for Schalke at 10-man Bayer Leverkusen, lifting his team to third in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Leverkusen was left to rue Dominik Kohr’s sending off in the first half as the home side missed the chance to go second and instead dropped to fifth, outside the Champions League qualification places.

[ MORE: Man City 3-1 Arsenal | 3 things ]

Guido Burgstaller fired the visitors into an early lead after a long ball over the top from Daniel Caligiuri. The Schalke forward did well to lift the ball over Leverkusen defender Panagiotis Retsos before dispatching past goalkeeper Bernd Leon inside the left post.

Leon Bailey came very close to equalizing with Leverkusen’s best chance of the half, but the hosts took a hit shortly before the break when Kohr was sent off with his second yellow card for a late tackle, minutes after earning his first for the same.

Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich brought on Argentine forward Lucas Alario after the break, and then went all out with two more forwards, Stefan Kiessling and Karim Bellarabi, for the closing stages.

However, the best chance fell to Schalke’s Breel Embolo, denied by a brilliant reflex save from Leno.

Retsos brought down Embolo in the penalty area, allowing Bentaleb to seal the win from the spot in the 89th minute.

Leipzig had the chance to go second later Sunday with a win over last-place Cologne.

Kompany felt he’d score, relishes League Cup win after injury troubles

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Vincent Kompany turned in a Man of the Match performance as Manchester City dominated Arsenal to win the League Cup Final by a 3-0 margin on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Kompany redirected a goal for City’s second of the day, and had a number of key interventions as he bottled up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The 31-year-old center back has been through the ringer in recent years, with injuries haunting his seasons. Kompany now has three League Cups, an FA Cup, and two Premier League crowns. From the BBC:

“It was a difficult game, but as much space there was for us and Arsenal, we did well and controlled the space and I am proud of the team. Winning 3-0 at Wembley is a massive result against any opponent.

“Before the game, I thought I was going to score. I came close during the game so there was some luck on the day, but also self-belief.

“I have been in the game for 15 years and I have been training well and supporting the lads when I don’t play. When I get the call I want to do the job.”