Paris Saint-Germain purchase makes Lucas Digne the latest to leave Lille

2 Comments

It’s a ridiculous fee to pay for a left back: $19.6 million. Is this player the second coming of Roberto Carlos? You’d almost need to have that kind of impact to justify that fee at that position, especially when the reported wages (over $4 million per season) take little of the bite out of the huge fee. Then again, when we’re talking about the spending habits of Paris Saint-Germain, there’s only so much time we should spend marveling at the predictably ridiculous outlay coming from the Parc de Princes.

At least PSG are picking good players, a pattern that continued with the acquisition of Lucas Digne. The 19-year-old, who has quickly become one of Ligue 1’s best fullbacks, finalized his move from Lille today, the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup champion calling the transfer “a dream come true”:

“I’m very happy. After the World Cup title in Turkey, I am having an incredible summer. I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have placed in me.”

To put the cost in perspective, PSG paid slightly more for Digne than Barcelona payed for Jordi Alba. While Digne is four years young than Alba was at the time of purchase, Alba was also a proven commodity, having established himself as the first choice left back for the Spanish national team. For a less established player, PSG’s paying more than Alba’s already debatable €14 million fee.

The signing comes one day after PSG spent $84 million on Edinson Cavani, the two purchases sure to increase questions as to how the Parisians are able to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play. To the extent PSG will ever have trouble with Europe’s financial regulations, spending huge money on low-leverage positions like left back can’t help, especially when purchases like Cavani’s double-down on positions already occupied by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi. The difference in quality between Digne and Maxwell or another potential left back acquisition isn’t worth the $41 million they’ve tentatively committed over the next five years.

Putting that PSG, FFP complaint aside, the departure of Digne gives us a chance to circle back on the sure amount of talent that’s left Lille since their 2010-11 title campaign:

  • Mikael Landreau, starting goalkeeper for that title team, controversially left LOSC in the middle of last season;
  • Mathieu Debuchy, that team’s right back, was sold to Newcastle;
  • Adil Rami was promised to Valencia before Lille had even secured their title;
  • Aurélien Chejou moved to Galatasaray this summer;
  • Yoann Cabaye has spent the last two seasons with Newcastle;
  • Eden Hazard moved to Chelsea last summer;
  • Moussa Sow has spent a year-and-a-half at Fenerbehçe;
  • Gervinho’s just completed his second year at Arsenal;
  • Ludovic Obraniak switch to Bordeaux last season;
  • Dimitri Payet moved to Marseille this summer;
  • Digne just confirmed his exist today;
  • and head coach Rudi Garcia moved to AS Roma this summer.

Midfielder Rio Mavuba is one of the few regulars who will survive the third summer since the team’s title, and while the club’s new Grand Stade Lille will eventually help prevent such audacious raids on their roster, a club that once looked like the France’s Dortmund (before Dortmund’s rise) is left trying to recapture their momentum. It’s been a long two years.

Texas-born Dempsey at home 1 goal from record, 1 win from Final

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Leave a comment

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Clint Dempsey is back in his home state of Texas, one goal away from a national scoring record for the United States team that is one win from playing in another CONCACAF Gold Cup final.

The Americans play a semifinal game Saturday night against Costa Rica in a stadium synonymous with American football – the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the Cotton Bowl and where the first College Football Playoff championship game was played three seasons ago.

That is only about 180 miles from Dempsey’s hometown of Nacogdoches.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

“It’s always great to be home and play in front of family and friends, especially for a big game,” Dempsey said Friday. “I have a lot of great memories of playing in Dallas as a kid, and I’m proud to represent Nacogdoches. Being from there made me who I am today.”

Dempsey, one goal from matching Landon Donovan’s American record of 57 national team goals, wasn’t part of soccer’s only Gold Cup games at the $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium.

In a 2013 semifinal game there when the Americans were on the way to their fifth Gold Cup championship, they beat Honduras 3-1. Donovan scored twice in that game – his 55th and 56th goals for the national team – and assisted on the other goal. About two months later, Donovan scored his final goal in a World Cup qualifier win over Mexico.

Within a week after Costa Rica beat the U.S. team 4-0 in World Cup qualifying last November, Jurgen Klinsmann was out as the U.S. coach and Bruce Arena was rehired to the position he had been fired from a decade earlier.

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s super goal vs. Leicester ]

Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said Friday that Arena has seemingly had a positive impact on the U.S. team.

“They look more relaxed in terms of what they’re doing on the field,” Ramirez said through an interpreter.

This U.S. roster for the Gold Cup knockout rounds also is much different than the one that played in Costa Rica eight months ago – not just the change at coach. Only five players from that game that are set for this semifinal game – Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi.

“That’s in the past,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think about that game. … This is just another game. It’s another opportunity for us to see what we’re made out of.”

Altidore, Dempsey, Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, and goalkeeper Tim Howard were all added to the lineup before a 2-0 win over El Salvador in the quarterfinal on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Dempsey set up Eric Lichaj‘s goal in extra time before halftime to make it 2-0 against El Salvador. Dempsey also fed Gyasi Zardes for a breakaway, though that apparent goal didn’t count after he was ruled offside.

That game was Dempsey’s 135th appearance for the national team, trailing only Cobi Jones (164) and Landon Donovan (157) on the U.S. list.

[ MORE: Why PSG’s Alexis-Neymar pursuit makes (relative) sense ]

Dempsey isn’t the only player with Texas ties with the U.S. team. Three players from FC Dallas, the MLS team that plays its home games about 40 miles away from the big stadium in Frisco, are on the roster: Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges and Jesse Gonzalez.

Acosta, the homegrown midfielder who turns 22 next week, was recently named to the MLS All-Star team. He was born in nearby Plano, Texas, and signed by FC Dallas five years ago.

“It’s definitely a proud moment, to get to represent my community, play before my friends and family,” Acosta said. “To be back in my hometown, I’m definitely excited about it.”

Notes: Costa Rica is trying to get to its first Gold Cup final since 2002, when it lost 2-0 to the Americans. “Obviously, we want to look for that reward, that happiness, and go after that,” Ramirez said. “We have a difficult team in front of us.” … The United States’ nine goals are the most in this Gold Cup, while Costa Rica has allowed only one in its four games.

Why PSG’s Alexis, Neymar pursuit fits in a (relatively) smart space

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Paris Saint-Germain’s run of four Ligue 1 titles ended last season, a campaign which also saw exciting league-winners Monaco go two rounds further into the UEFA Champions League.

Monaco looks set for a step back this season, with Bernardo Silva off to Man City and Tiemoue Bakayoko signing for Chelsea. Kylian Mbappe could join Monaco’s list of departures, and reports say Man City had a bid accepted for Benjamin Mendy.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

While Monaco is loading up on young talent again, PSG clearly sees its chance to surge back into the title seat and Les Parisiens may just make themselves European favorites as well if they can pry Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Neymar from Barcelona.

That would be a South American trident nearly as potent as the one Neymar current shares with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and the Brazilian would not be second or third fiddle.

PSG has so far been relatively quiet this summer, with the addition of Dani Alves the lone new buy. Aside from money, how was Alves lured to Paris over Man City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola? The idea of a reunion with Neymar and several Brazilian mates — Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura — may’ve been enough and surely that conversation would’ve happened between the two Barca stars.

The French side has to make a big chance at some point soon, unless they’ve been able to unload their money bags and actually buy a fountain of youth. Thiago Motta is 34, Blaise Matuidi 30, Silva 32, and Edinson Cavani 30.

It’s calculated aggression from PSG to splash cash in hopes of rivaling Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barca in pursuit of the UCL title. The Neymar move weakens one of those rivals. If Marco Verratti isn’t part of a swap deal, the signings of Sanchez and Neymar would meet the Italian star’s ambitions well up the road.

De Boer: West Brom was out to injure Palace star Zaha

AP Photo/Kin Cheung
Leave a comment

No shrinking violet, new Crystal Palace boss Frank De Boer was left fuming at West Bromwich Albion players following the PL Asia Trophy third place match on Saturday in Hong Kong.

While the focus could’ve been on Luka Milivojevic‘s gorgeous free kick (watch here), De Boer couldn’t get past the hard fouls aimed at his key attacker.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

West Brom gave away the free kick that led to the aforementioned goal by chopping down Zaha, and the foul was not an isolated incident.

From the BBC:

“They were looking for him, to injure him,” said De Boer.

“He’s one of the exciting players in the league. I don’t want to think he’d be out for two weeks or months.”

De Boer is no stranger to rough play, so this is not coming from a soft place. We doubt it’s going to change anything from Tony Pulis‘ men, though.

Chelsea hammers Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing (video)

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
Leave a comment

Chelsea struck twice early and Michy Batshuayi put the cherry on top as the Premier League champions cruised past Arsenal 3-0 in Beijing on Saturday.

The Blues started a lineup they’d use on any occasion in the PL, while Arsenal had unproven prospects Cohen Bramall and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the XI.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Strootman talks Roma w/ PST ]

Willian‘s quick goal put the Blues up 1-0 at the Bird’s Nest, and Batshuayi scored the second and third. Both were pretty classy, especially the second.

Marcos Alonso did the lion’s share of the work to produce the second chance for Batshuayi, who is threatening to carry over his fine late season form to this campaign. What a smash.