Next stop, Sporting Lisbon: Seattle Sounders announce Fredy Montero’s latest loan

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After a spell with Colombia’s Millionarios that saw him score 10 goals in 29 games, Seattle’s Fredy Montero has earned a ticket to Europe, albeit not the one he and his club may have originally hoped for. Montero’s on his way to Sporting Club of Portugal on loan, with an option to buy seeing the Sounders’ all-time leading scorer potentially move for a reported $3.3 million.

The club confirmed the move Monday, one which had been rumored for some time, though most anticipated the transfer would be a permanent one from the get start. But while a loan does get Montero to Portgual, it also makes his initial spell with Sporting a try-out. If he doesn’t perform well this fall, the club can walk away, leaving him to return to Seattle.

This isn’t exactly what many anticipated when Montero left Seattle this winter. When the Sounders let Montero return home, the player’s professed (but thin) explanation was to increase his chances to get into the Colombian national team. Others saw a Copa Libertadores campaign as a potential springboard to European transfer. After decent results (eight goals in 22 league games, no goals in five Copa matches), the full transfer didn’t come, though Montero has earned a look from one of Portugal’s three biggest clubs.

But with that look being only a loan, it’s worth considering whether this process has been worth it for Seattle. Or the player. Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson, and Sigi Schmid made the decision to move away from Montero this winter, a choice portended by Schmid’s use of the player at the end of last year’s playoffs (removing him from his final game). Combined with Montero’s desire to move, the loan to Millionarios seemed like a win-win situation for both parties. Montero gets his springboard, and Seattle gets to remake a club they felt needed to be tweaked in order to advance farther in the playoffs.

But with Seattle struggling in the standings and Montero failing to land a permanent move, both sides seem worse off for the gambit. Had Montero stayed, it’s likely he would have continued producing at the same levels that made him one of the league’s best attackers. Seattle, retaining their most creative player, could be playing more like last year’s team than the one that’s slumped to seventh in the Western Conference. Granted, we’d still be having the same trite debates about Montero’s big game performances and effort, but on the field, both the Sounders and the player may be better off.

Now comes Montero’s chance to establish himself in Europe, which won’t be easy. His failure to light up the Colombian league meant Sporting were reluctant to pay the $3 million-plus fee Seattle was said to be asking, leaving Seattle willing to accept a chance at recouping that money in the future. If that can’t — if Montero can’t do more to justify the fee than he did in Colombia — Seattle and their franchise’s best player may be set of an awkward reunion at the end of the loan.

Northern Ireland manager O’Neill banned for DUI

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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has pleaded guilty to drunk driving and been banned from the road for 16 months.

O’Neill was caught by police on the outskirts of Edinburgh at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 10 and was found to be around three times the legal drink-drive limit.

O’Neill appeared on Thursday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he received the driving ban and fine of 1,300 pounds ($1,700).

O’Neill’s solicitor, James Mulgrew, told the court “this was simply a bad error of judgment.”

Northern Ireland is still in contention for its first World Cup trip since 1986. The team plays Switzerland in a two-leg playoff next month to qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Newcastle takeover bid moves closer

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Newcastle United fans are getting very, very excited.

PCP Capital Partners, led by Amanda Staveley, have signed a confidentiality agreement with the club’s owners after Mike Ashley put the club up for sale earlier this week

Ashley is said to value Newcastle at over $520 million, while Staveley is said to believe the club is worth close to $395 million, so there is plenty of negotiating still to happen but things are heading in the right direction.

In a statement on Monday Ashley said he would allow any potential buyer to pay the overall transaction fee in installments, while he also wants a buy to be completed by the end of December.

Who is Staveley?

She was seen at a Newcastle vs. Liverpool game at St James’ Park earlier this month as speculation was rife that a new owner was being lined up to buy Newcastle. That is indeed the case and Staveley, 44, is now able to look over the finances of the club exclusively.

Staveley oversaw the purchase of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi United and also lined up a deal for Liverpool to be bought by Dubai International Captial which fell through in the past.

Her close links to the Middle East has seen her become one of the most prominent British businesswomen in recent years and she currently manages over $34 billion of wealth globally. Staveley and her investors are said to be interested in buying several Premier League clubs.

Ashley’s lawyer, Andrew Henderson, released a statement on Thursday stating several other parties have inquired about buying the club since the announcement came that they were up for sale.

“Since Monday, a number of additional parties have come forward which we believe to be credible. We are also continuing to engage with a number of parties with whom we had entered into negotiations prior to Monday’s announcement.”

Things are moving very quickly for Newcastle’s fans as they thought they’d never get rid of much-maligned owner Ashley who is a lifelong fan of the club and bought them in 2007.

After two relegations from the Premier League (followed by instant returns to the PL on both occasions) Ashley has been accused of failing to spend money on the playing squad and realize Newcastle’s full potential as they challenged for the Premier League title on numerous occasions during the 1990s.

With Rafael Benitez getting the most of his squad and the Magpies sitting in the top 10 of the PL as things stand, the future is looking bright for Newcastle with plenty of investment expected if this sale does go through to Staveley or those she is closely connected with.

VIDEO: Man United ooze class after consoling teenage goalkeeper

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Wednesday was a big night for Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his debut in the UEFA Champions League and in doing so he became the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in the competition, jumping ahead of the likes of Iker Casillas to set a new, hugely impressive, record.

Still, the night did not end well for the Belgian youngster.

[ MORE: United targeted Benfica’s goalkeeper ]

With Marcus Rashford‘s free kick floating into the box from out wide, he caught the ball but then stepped back over his own goal line… taking the ball with him.

Goal-line technology showed the ball had gone over and United were awarded the goal and won 1-0.

At the final whistle the teenager was stunned but Romelu Lukaku was one of the many United players who took time to console the distraught teenager.

Classy from Lukaku.

Even if Jose Mourinho did admit afterwards that United had targeted the teenager…

FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.