Clint Dempsey’s agent: Tottenham not shopping U.S. international

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There are a couple of degrees of suspended incredulity required to assess this one. First, you have believe the original report from The Times of London that Clint Dempsey was being shopped. If you don’t, Lyle Yorks’ words are irrelevant. If, however, you put one and two together and see a few reasons Dempsey is being shopped to other clubs, you now need to ask yourself: Would his agent, Yorks, know if Spurs were merely discussing the possibility with potential buyers?

If you think yes, Yorks’ comments to Soccer By Ives will resonate. The agent of the U.S.’s highest profile international said he’s constantly talking to Tottenham, they haven’t said anything about Dempsey being sold, so that means nothing’s happening. That’s the only possible conclusion, right?

According to the site:

“I have been in constant contact with Tottenham and they are happy with Clint and he’s happy with the club,” Lyle Yorks, Dempsey’s agent, told SBI. “He’s reporting back shortly. He’ll be back there and will be in Hong Kong (for pre-sesaon) and everything’s good.

“Things could change obviously if a team came in with a big offer, but they are not actively trying to move Dempsey. …”

“There have been no meetings and no discussions. Not with Tottenham or with any other teams about Clint,” said Yorks, who recently completed Jozy Altidore’s transfer to Sunderland. “His focus right now is returning to the team and helping them qualify for Champions League.”

I’m not saying anything Yorks tells Ives is wrong, and rumor mongering among the British press can put any contrived rumor onto a front page, but there are scenarios where The Times’ reporting could be accurate and Yorks would provide the exact same quotes. Tottenham could be sounding out clubs without wanting to unsettle Dempsey, therefore not telling Yorks. The club could have told Yorks, but publicly — be it because the player doesn’t want to move or to preserve a negotiating stance — the agent wishes to deny it. Oh perhaps Yorks has just elected to deny everything for some other reason. Regardless, his comments don’t eliminate many possibilities.

Strangely, in light of these comments, Dempsey leaving Tottenham makes more sense for the player than team, given playing time ahead of the 2014 World Cup becomes a higher priority. But Dempsey also lives in London, has small children, and would presumably want to stay close (hence part of the reason for his move to Spurs from Fulham). Would a loan back to Fulham, or maybe to West Ham United, work?

From Spurs’ point of view, though, why would you move Dempsey if he wants to stay? He’s a good, versatile depth player for a team that will be in four competitions. He’s not expensive, but he also can’t garner the type of fee that will change any of your plans. He’s a good teammate, lives locally, and keeps himself in top shape. If he’s willing to battle for playing time — if he’s not insisting on starting somewhere ahead of Brazil 2014 — why move him?

That’s another reason Yorks’ words seem weird. Not only is it unclear that Tottenham would necessarily keep him informed of every little discussion they have, but if there is anybody who should want a deal, it should be the player, not the club.

Ultimately, while Yorks’ comments could be reassuring to Dempsey fans, they should probably be read an inconsequential. They’re too many scenarios to a possible transfer to know what Yorks’ motives might be. Let alone Tottenham’s.

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?