Thiago Silva’s Barcelona fixation remains a problem for PSG

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Paris Saint-Germain’s ascendance to true, top-flight European destination is complete, with their combination of wages, location, and level-of-competition making the Parc de Princes one of the world’s top 10 destinations. Yet even among that elite group, there’s an elite tier. Manchester United found that out when they lost Cristiano Ronaldo. Arsenal found it out when they lost Cesc Fabregas.

Now PSG is fighting to keep one of their best players from the draw of Spain’s big two. Thiago Silva, who only arrived in France last summer, seems ready to move to Barcelona, if this morning’s reports are to be believed. And if they’re not to be believed, there’ll be another report next week. Silva to Barcelona is something that won’t go away until Silva’s in Barcelona.

The Brazilian international, who rose to prominence after his transfer from Fluminense to AC Milan, apparently wanted to move to Cataluyna last year yet elected to try France because of his relationship with PSG president Leonardo, who had worked with the Brazilian in Italy. But with that tribute paid, Silva’s ready to move on, something PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi is dead set on preventing.

It’s a tough situation for the Parisians, if Silva truly wants to go. You never want a disgruntled player in your squad, and when somebody expresses a wish to move elsewhere, it’s usually best to consider a solution, especially when the player can garner a huge fee.

But PSG is still an ascending giant, one that will acquire more Silvas and Zlatan Ibrahimovics before they make a push for Champions League. If those elites talents can’t be convinced to use Paris as more than a weight station en route to other things, PSG will never make progress. They’ll tread water at their current level, one they could transcended if they could combine their prodigious talent with some longer-term continuity.

That’s the general theory. The specifics may be different. Silva’s may be an isolated case, one that may not portend the departure of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In addition, with Mamadou Sakho in the squad, PSG has a third starting-caliber center back, one who made more Ligue 1 starts last season than either Silva or Alex. If Barcelona’s willing to make the Silva sale a profitable one — one that far eclipses the $53 million PSG gave Milan for Silva last summer — the Parisians could argue a transfer is in the best interests of the club.

Silva, a late bloomer, will turn 29 in September. His value may never be higher.

All of that seems like post hoc rationale, however. Not to discredit the value of those kinds of evaluations, but PSG didn’t enter the summer intending to sell Silva. They still don’t to sell him, so if Silva ends up at Barcelona, on some level, no matter how much money they make, the move will seem feel like a capitulation.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.