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Report: Gonzalo Higuaín agrees to leave Real Madrid for Napoli; where does this leave Arsenal?

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Whether this is Arsenal sleeping, deciding not to match, or otherwise being blindsided, the long-rumored purchase of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain is not going to happen, if Spanish outlet AS has covered all its bases. Instead the 25-year-old Argentine will be moving to Napoli, replacing Edinson Cavani as the Neopolitans give manager Rafa Benítez a $48.8 million striker to build behind.

According to AS, Higuaín has agreed to personal terms that will pay him $7.9 million per season. Though the length of his deal wasn’t reported, if it’s a four-year contract, Napoli’s overall commitment to Higuaín will exceed $80 million. That’s nearly all of the fee PSG paid for Cavani and just over half of the Parisian’s total commitment to their new striker.

For their money, Napoli get a player that scored 106 times in his 188-match La Liga career, averaging exactly two goals every three games since his breakout, 22-goal season in 2008-09. After moving from River Plate in December 2006, Higuaín’s been part of three league champions and one Copa del Rey winner, though for the first time in his European career, the Argentine international will have to replicate his successes beyond the Santiago Bernabeu.

How close he can come to replicating Cavani’s success will be the bigger issue for Napoli fans. With the Uruguayan’s move to France, Napoli are losing a player who averaged 26 goals per season over the last three years. To put that in perspective, Higuaín’s best year in Madrid was 27 goals, but that was also the only time he eclipsed 22. Cavani’s worst season in Napoli produced 23 goals.

Higuaín won’t have to make up the whole the difference to make this move work. In fact, comparisons to Cavani’s value provide an impossible standard for Higuaín to live up to. Acquired from Palermo in 2010, Cavani had become a bargain for Napoli, more than paying off their initial $23 million investment. While he signed a new contract after his 2010-11 breakout with the partenopei, Cavani’s sale to PSG still gave Napoli a windfall on their investment. Higuaín, a finished product, can’t be compared to that kind of buy low, sell high proposition.

He will, however, inevitably be compared to whomever Arsenal end up starting as their number nine next month, be that Luis Suárez or incumbent Olivier Giroud. With the Gunners linked to Higuaín since before the end of the season, many fans had been expecting the Argentine to eventually arrive at the Emirates. Now, with Napoli swooping to claim a player who seemed a perfect fit, Arsenal fans are back where they started: Wondering if their hope for a big summer move will be in vain.

USC wins NCAA women’s soccer national championship

Southern California's Morgan Andrews celebrates after scoring a goal against West Virginia during the first half in the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Katie Johnson broke a tie in the 75th minute and Southern California won the NCAA women’s soccer title Sunday, beating top-ranked West Virginia 3-1 at Avaya Stadium on Sunday.

The second-seeded Trojans (19-4-2) also won the College Cup in 2007.

The Mountaineers (23-2-2) lost for the first time since a 1-0 setback to Georgetown on Sept. 18. West Virginia had a 17-game unbeaten streak snapped, and allowed three goals for the first all season.

Johnson, who also had the winning goal in USC’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Georgetown on Friday, was wide open in front of the net when Leah Pruitt took a pass up the left sideline, beat defender Easther Mayi Kith, and delivered a perfect cross. Johnson simply rolled the ball into the goal to the right of goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Johnson scored again off an assist from Nicole Molen in the 87th minute.

The Trojans got on the board just 1:22 into play after Julia Bingham directed a corner kick to the top of the penalty box, where Savannah Levin headed the ball forward to Morgan Andrews, whose header from 5 yards eluded Foster.

West Virginia’s Ashley Lawrence, a member of the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, tied it in the 66th minute when she ripped a shot from the top left corner of the penalty box just inside the near post.

After USC took the 2-1 lead, the Mountaineers nearly drew even in the 81st minute on a shot by Heather Kaleiohi that was stopped on a diving save by goalkeeper Sammy Prudhomme.

The Mountaineers outshot USC 21-8 and held a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.

The Trojans joined North Carolina (21 titles), Notre Dame (3) and Portland (3) as the only multiple winners of the College Cup.

USC won its 126th national team title on the same day its men’s water polo team lost 10-8 to Cal in the NCAA final just 45 miles away in Berkeley.

West Virginia, in its first College Cup final, was hoping to claim its first NCAA title in any sport besides its co-ed rifle team, which has won 18 national titles.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN