Are Everton quickly becoming Wigan Athletic II? As Alcaraz and Robles join Kone

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First Everton’s new manager Roberto Martinez arrived from Wigan Athletic.

Wait, did you hear that horn blast? Now the cavalry are on their way.

Former Wigan striker Arouna Kone joined Everton yesterday for $9 million, earlier today Wigan’s Paraguayan defender Antolín Alcaraz arrived at Goodison Park and now the goalkeeper Wigan had on loan from Atletico Madrid last season, Joel Robles, has signed for the Toffees on a five-year contract

Martinez certainly likes to have familiar faces around, with more players from his Wigan days rumored to be on the way in cut price deals. Is this a sign of things to come for Everton?

Alcaraz is a quality defender, who is a bargain on a free transfer after being handed a two-year deal. Alcaraz was more suited to the 3-5-2 system Martinez deployed now and again with the Latics, so is his signing an early indication that Everton are set to switch to that formation for the upcoming season?

Perhaps. But the arrival of Kone was expected after Everton and Newcastle both met the 29-year-old Ivorian’s release clause. He will add goals and power to Everton’s attack, but how pivotal a role he will play is questionable.

And then their is Atletico Madrid’s young goalkeeper Robles. He wasn’t first choice at Wigan while on loan last season but did play in the FA Cup run and showed that he he has plenty of potential to develop into a top class ‘keeper after winning the European Under-21 title with Spain this summer. At 6 foot 5 he is certainly intimidating, and he is just 23.

What does that mean for Tim Howard? Maybe we will fire up another blog post on the USMNT ‘keepers future at Everton later. But I’d assume it is safe for the foreseeable future. But you never know. Stranger things have happened.

(MORE: Everton finalize $9.7 million deal for Ivorian striker Arouna Kone)

So is Martinez taking a huge gamble by recruiting players that have just been relegated? Yes they are all good players but Martinez, no matter what people say about their playing style, did get Wigan relegated. Okay his resources were very limited and many would argue he worked wonders to keep them within touching distance of safety all season.

But should he be going back to grab the players who ultimately failed to secure Wigan’s EPL survival? I thought at Everton he would have had more resources to bring in some bigger name players who were impressed with what he did with the Latics. A step up in the quality of the club you manage should signify a step up in the standard of player you recruit.

However certain managers take certain players wherever they manage, it just happens, look through the history books.

Maybe it is just me, but if Everton want to push on, Martinez will need to bring in more quality, quickly. His loyal servants from Wigan are solid buys for relatively small sums of cash. But if Everton expect the Spaniard to deliver an improvement on what David Moyes achieved on a smidgen of the budget, they have a rude awakening on the horizon.

Transfer rumor roundup: Van Dijk to Chelsea, Ox to Anfield

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More and more players are being linked with Manchester United, but — believe it or not — the Red Devils aren’t the only club seeking talent.

DiMarzio is reporting that Antonio Conte is close to securing the services of Southampton center back Virgil Van Dijk, insisting the Dutch back is Conte’s top choice ahead of Juventus power house Leonardo Bonucci (which isn’t to say there isn’t room for both). The price? An eyebrow-raising $77 million.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup scenarios ]

Meanwhile, Conte is selling talented Bertrand Traore outside the Premier League. A solid season on loan at Ajax upped interest in the 21-year-old striker, and L’Equipe says it’s a $22 million move to Lyon for Traore.

How much do you think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is worth? Liverpool may think his value is as high as $32 million, as The Independent reports that Arsenal is prepared to sell the Southampton Academy product to the attacker-heavy Reds.

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry‘s wild journey looks to have another stop despite a purchase from Bayern Munich this summer. Gnabry was one of Germany’s heroes at the Olympics and left Arsenal for Werder Bremen last summer. He thrived, and earned a deal to Bayern, but Kicker brings quotes from a Hoffenheim player that are hopeful of a loan for this season.

Messi offers to pay $558,000 to avoid 21-month jail sentence

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said Friday.

State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi’s lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi’s sentence – as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Lopez Riera said Messi’s lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay 360,000 euros ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government attorney representing Spain’s Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi’s salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father’s sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain’s Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

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Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

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Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.