Atletico Madrid and Barcelona agree to deal for David Villa

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David Villa will not be playing in the Premier League this season.

Instead, the 31 year old striker will be taking his talents to Madrid. Atletico Madrid, that is.

Los Colchoneros and Barcelona reached an agreement in principle earlier today that will see Villa head to Spain’s capital on a deal that could cost around £4.4 million ($6.6m).

Atletico will pay Barcelona £1.8 million ($2.7m) this season, £1.7 million ($2.5m) more if Villa stays at Atletico in 2014-15, and £900k ($1.4m) if he extends his contract through 2015-16.

In addition, Barca will retain the rights to 50% of any future transfer on Villa.

Villa will arrive at the Vicente Calderon after three seasons at Barcelona where he scored 33 La Liga goals over the course of 67 appearances. The striker signed for Barca in a £35 million ($52.3m) deal from Valencia, where he spent five seasons scoring 108 goals in 166 league games. Before then Villa enjoyed prolific spells Real Zaragoza and Sporting Gijon.

Atletico will look for Villa to pick up for the loss of Radamel Falcao, who was sold to AS Monaco earlier this summer for a fee of £50 million ($74.7m). While few expect Villa to be able to replicate Falcao’s 28 goal haul of 2012-13, snagging the Spaniard for a mere £4.4 million (if it even gets that high) is a sensational coup for a player of Villa’s ilk.

Not only does Villa remain one of La Liga’s better strikers but he arrives at Atletico with a dearth of Champions League experience, which will come in handy when the squad returns to Europe’s top club contest this fall. Plus, by negotiating such a dirt cheap fee, Diego Simeone’s side has plenty of reserves to buy more players.

One such player could be Fernando Torres.

Chelsea have been widely rumored to be in the market for a new striker, with many believing Torres could be sold back to his boy-hood club, Atletico. If such a deal is struck it would mean the reunion of El Nino-El Guaje, one of Spain’s most heralded goalscoring partnerships.

In the meantime, the Villa signing comes as a major blow to the striker’s main admirer, Tottenham, as well as other pursuers, Arsenal and Liverpool. Spurs balked at the notion of paying Barcelona £12 million ($17.9m) for Villa but were reportedly willing to go as high as £10 million ($14.9m) to sign the striker. Now, they must look elsewhere for a replacement of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, who reportedly could leave White Hart Lane this summer.

Pessimists will note, however, that Villa is a player who turns 32 years old in December, has no Premier League experience and has arguably not fully recovered from the broken tibia he suffered at a Club World Cup match against Yokohama in December 2011.

Nevertheless, it will be fun to see what kind of damage he can do in Madrid.

 

 

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.