Juninho-Red Bulls

Brazilian midfielder Juninho leaves New York Red Bulls

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“Ah man, we never even got to see one of his awesome free kicks…”

That is likely to be the response from fans of Major League Soccer and the New York Red Bulls after today’s announcement that Brazilian legend Juninho has agreed to cancel his contract.

After only half a season in MLS, Juninho didn’t do much to endear himself to Red Bulls fans. Reports concerning Juninho’s retirement at the end of this season has surfaced recently, but there’s no need to worry about that now.

The 38-year-old former Lyon star was always a questionable acquisition by New York. Just check out Steve Davis’ take on Juninho when he signed way back in December 2012.

Ahem, told you so.

The fact that we never got to see one of those magnificent dipping free kicks which Juninho made his trademark whilst at Lyon upsets me. And Steve. And probably most soccer fans out there. Because boy, they were spectacular.

It seemed that every time I watched a Lyon game on the European highlights show as a youngster, Juninho would arch some incredible free kick into the top corner. The bend he got on those babies make Cristiano Ronaldo’s set pieces look pedestrian.

(MORE: Dead ball specialist Juninho signs for New York Red Bulls)

But the fact that I can recall Juninho’s brilliance way back to my early childhood, is in essence the main problem here. Major League Soccer is full of tremendous athletes, who play throughout the summer in hot conditions, on turf fields and it is an extremely physically demanding league. Juninho is 38. He is slight. And he doesn’t want to do much running anymore. He is a playmaker. His type may be dying out in MLS.

On his official Facebook page Juninho spoke of his decision to cancel his contract with New York. “I am leaving New York because I wasn’t playing well. Also I wasn’t getting along with the manager.”

He also said that he would return to his homeland to think about his next move.

You can’t blame the Red Bulls for giving him a try. In theory, having a dead ball specialist on hand and someone to sit in behind the front two and create chances for Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola was a magical idea. But that’s all it was. In fact Juninho got more yellow cards (5) than assist (4) and didn’t score once in his 13 matches with New York.

We said it on this blog when Juninho signed. Quote: “Debilitating heat and burden of soccer-combat in a highly physical league, can sometimes leave technical types ill equipped to deal with it all. We’ll see.”

We did see. And we were right here at Pro Soccer Talk. But that does nothing to numb the pain of never seeing Juninho Pernambucano bend one of those magical free kicks into an MLS net.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all. Best of luck in your future endeavors, Juninho.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.

Saga over: Saido Berahino finally has a new home (video)

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What in the world is the transfer rumor mill going to do without Saido Berahino?

Linked with a move away from West Brom for the better part of two years, the English striker has been freed from the bad graces of Tony Pulis and has joined Stoke City on a five-and-a-half year deal.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires Steven Gerrard ]

Berahino, 23, was sold for $15 million, a fee that could rise as high as $19 million. West Brom has previously rejected bids from Spurs amongst others that reached as high as $31 million.

It’s a smart, calculated risk for Mark Hughes and Stoke, who have not been able to get over the mid-table hump and encroach on European competition. Berahino scored 14 PL goals in 2014-15, a figure that rose to 20 when including all competitions.

Now could this mean Bojan Krkic is indeed off to Middlesbrough? We’ll wait to see if it’s a domino move for the Potters, and also if we one day yearn for the dulcet tones of Pulis screaming, “Saido!”, again and again, on the West Brom touch line.

Moyes says new Sunderland buys won’t be big difference makers

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: David Moyes, Manager of Sunderland (L) speaks to Jermain Defoe of Sunderland (R) before he comes on during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay between Burnley and Sunderland at Turf Moor on January 17, 2017 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Sunderland boss David Moyes isn’t expressing the emotions of an optimistic man.

The former Everton, Manchester United, and Real Sociedad manager says his transfer budget is “limited with a big L” and that any names in the transfer market are not the players he’s allowed to pursue.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

Sunderland has been linked with Phil Jagielka, Leonardo Ulloa, Robbie Brady, The Chronicle did report that free agent Joleon Lescott has been training with the team.

Even worse, Sunderland’s two most impactful players, Jermain Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt, have been reported as targets for other PL sides and may prefer to leave the Northeast.

From The Chronicle:

“I’d be kidding you on if I said the players we are going to bring in in January are going to massively make a big difference because first of all, we probably couldn’t get that level of player and secondly, we probably wouldn’t have the finances to do that.

“To suggest that the player we bring in would be making a big difference, I think, wouldn’t be correct.”

Woof. That’s a tough pill for already beleaguered Sunderland supporters to swallow, and will only cause more unrest from a fan base that has been to know to leave a match early. Sunderland are far from dead in the water, but Swansea, Hull, and Palace are all making moves as it looks more and more like a four team race for 17th. Is Sunderland doomed?