Friday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Soldado to Spurs, Agger to Barcelona

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With Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic signed on for a whopping $65 million, Manchester City aren’t about to stop their summer spending spree. Now Benfica’s Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio is next on their list. The right midfielder would cost a cool $37.5 million and City are tight-lipped on his acquisition. But Benfica are already lining up a replacement for the attacker, who played in 51 games last season and scored 10 goals and added an impressive 13 assists. If City want production from their wide men, Salvio would be a superb buy. Young, energetic and eager to attack from wide areas, he would fit in perfectly with Manuel Pellegrini’s new attacking mantra at Man City. The revamp continues.

All has been quite down at White Hart Lane for a few weeks, but Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas could be set to swoop for Valencia forward Roberto Soldado. The Spanish international striker has been chased by Tottenham for some time, and it’s believed that AVB has upped his bid to $30 million for the 28-year-old forward after Soldado impressed at the Confederations Cup. He’s captained cash-strapped Valencia for the past few seasons, scoring 81 goals in 141 games. Prolific, hungry and a leader. Exactly what Spurs need. But will Soldado leave his hometown club for London?

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina could be coming to the end of his Anfield career, with former manager Rafael Benitez hoping to take him to Napoli. Reina, 30, has spent eight seasons with Liverpool but after Brendan Rodgers signed Belgian international Simon Mignolet over the summer, Reina’s time as first-choice ‘keeper for the Reds looks to be over. A great shot-stopper and good with his feet, Reina would do well in Serie A. But some high-profile mistakes have slipped into his game over the last two years, raising question marks over the Spanish international’s future. Reina wouldn’t want to sit on the bench at Liverpool. Adios, Anfield.

And the Liverpool exodus looks set to continue, as Danish central defender Daniel Agger could be on his way to Barcelona. The aggressive 28-year-old is hugely admired by Barca boss Tito Vilanova and after the Spanish side won’t get Thiago Silva, they’ve turned to a $18 million move for Agger. Superb in the air and good on the ball, Agger overcame a shaky start at the beginning of his Reds career to become a regular. Liverpool are short of defenders after Jamie Carragher’s retirement so they won’t to lose Agger. But if Barca come calling, what can you do?

Several Premier League teams are lining up bids for FC Porto’s Christian Atsu. The 21-year-old Ghanian has left Porto’s preseason tour of Holland and Everton and Spurs are both monitoring the situation. Liverpool are also said to be interested, as Atsu looks to leave the Estadio do Dragao. He only has one year left on his deal and could be snapped up for less than $10 million, as Porto want to cash in rather than lose him for nothing. The skillful winger could fit in at any of the aforementioned clubs, but Everton could perhaps be the best fit as they lack pace going forward from wide areas. Atsu could be a bargain and Roberto Martinez is the master at finding those.

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

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Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.

Juventus suffers blow with apparent Higuain injury

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The back-and-forth battle at the top of Serie A continued on Sunday as Juventus topped Torino at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, however, the visitors suffered a big injury scare in the process.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup ]

Alex Sandro‘s winner came in the 33rd minute, but the focus of the match will leave all eyes on Gonzalo Higuain — who exited after just a quarter of an hour.

The Argentine international was looking to latch onto a through ball from Miralem Pjanic in the fifth minute, before jumping over an oncoming Salvatore Sirigu — goalkeeper for Torino.

Higuain appeared to land awkwardly on his ankle, though, and while he attempted to continue on in the match he was substituted off for Federico Bernardeschi 10 minutes later.

The extent of Higuain’s injury is unknown to this point, however, it comes at a very bad time for Juventus.

The Italian giants are heavily involved in the Serie A title race, holding a two-point lead over Napoli at the top of the table.

Additionally, Juve has important fixtures coming up in both the Coppa Italia and Champions League against Atalanta and Tottenham, respectively. Higuain and Co. are level at 2-2 with Spurs heading into their UCL second leg in early March, and Juve will surely need the striker’s presence to have a shot at advancing to the quarterfinals.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.