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Report: Diego Forlán to be unveiled by Toronto FC this week

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If the Toronto Globe and Mail is to be believed, Tim Leiweke is not screwing around with this move to Toronto FC. And as a result, the man who brought David Beckham to Los Angeles may be on the verge of landing the the league’s biggest catch since Thierry Henry touched down in New York. That is if ‘best player at the last World Cup’ is a big enough for you.

According to the report out of Toronto, Uruguayan international Diego Forlán will sign with the Reds this week. The 34-year-old is expected to agree to “a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal likely in the Thierry Henry range (around $4-million U.S.).”

While Forlán’s had high profile club stints in England, Spain, and Italy, he is best known for his performance at the last World Cup. At South Africa 2010, Forlán won the tournament’s Golden Ball after guiding Uruguay to a surprise semifinal appearance. His five goals were tied for the tournament’s top mark.

At his age, many will speculate how much Forlán has left in the tank, but if recent returns are any indication, this is no Juninho Pernambucano. Forlán has recently worked his was back into a regular role with the Uruguayan national team, his goals against Spain and Nigeria at the Confederations Cup giving him 34 in 102 international appearances. For a player whose ability to stay in shape should never be an issue, Forlán’s recent goal scoring hints his age shouldn’t deter success in Major League Soccer.

At club level, Forlán has played with some of the most renown teams in the world: Argentina’s Independiente; England’s Manchester United; Villarreal and Atlético Madrid in Spain; Internazional in Italy; and Brazil’s Internacional. In 2009-10, he led Atlético to the 2009-10 Europa League title, the honor culminating a three-year stretch at the Vicente Calderon that saw him score 86 goals in 165 all-competition games.

Since moving to Internacional in 2012, Forlán’s accumulated 15 goals in 34 games, though nine of those scores were in the lower-level Campeonato Gaúcho, not the national Brasileirao. His resurgence over the first half of this calendar year has helped make up for a lack of production in last year’s Campeonato, where he scored five times in 19 games.

For Toronto, Forlán could slot in behind Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw as an attacking midfielder or be played in tandem in support of either forward. While his arrival may prove too late to elevate Toronto, 13 points out of a playoff spot, to postseason contention, the prospect of an elite attacker may revitalize fan spirits around BMO Field.

That may the most important part of this deal. For as promising as Toronto’s start was in Major League Soccer, the enthusiasm around the franchise has waned amid the team’s recent failings. No TFC supporter needs to be told about the franchise’s lack of postseason play, but with Leiweke and Kevin Payne willing to go out and get a player of Forlán’s caliber, there should be little debate new management intends the team to be a more entertaining if not more successful one.

According to the Globe and Mail, Forlán could be introduced “Monday or Tuesday” and be available for Toronto’s Saturday game against Sporting Kansas City.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

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On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”