Arsenal manager Wenger attends a team training session in London Colney

Bernard providing the latest test for Arsenal’s new, theoretical transfer “might”

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It may seem like each day brings a new rumor about Arsenal’s potential — links that try to explain how Arsène Wenger will empty his uncharacteristically large war chest — but the big money rumors have focused on relatively few targets. Most of the summer, you heard Gonzalo Higuaín’s name connect to North London, but at the death, Napoli swooped for the Real Madrid star. Now Luis Suárez is the most prominent player connected with the Emirates, but that pursuit is starting to sound somewhat Higuaín-esque. Now momentum is building behind the pursuit of Atletico Mineiro midfielder Bernard, though that link entails the same basic question: When will Arsène Wenger spend?

The 20-year-old’s price is roughly half that of Suárez’s, but with the South American champions said to want just short of $34 million for Brazilian international, Wenger would still have to crush Arsenal’s record fee ($23 million) to lure Bernard from Belo Horizonte. With Atletico Mineiro able to hold out and other suitors willing to meet a lower price, Wenger is going to have to pay the going rate to get lure the winger to North London.

The extent to which Arsenal need Bernard isn’t exactly clear. While he is one of the best players in Brazil, will he have a great impacter than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would this year? In his first year in England, would he out-perform Lukas Podolski? Or perhaps Arsene Wenger envisions starting a line of three in attacking midfield of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, in which case the bar to earn playing time would be even higher. If Wenger doesn’t think Bernard can come in and meet that standard, how does that affect how much his willingness to meet Atletico Mineiro’s demands?

All of which are perfectly reasonable considerations, and if some players end up leaving North London before the season starts (Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho in the gossip pages), a crowded scene may yet clear out. Regardless, while many teams of Arsenal’s stature are now spending this type of money (if not more) to acquire Thiago Alcantara, Stevan Jovetic, Isco-esque pieces — players who may or may not be in their teams’ starting XIs next month — the Gunners continue to wade warily through the transfer market. Is there any point where Wenger will cease trying to trim the last couple of million off a price and start bolstering Arsenal’s squad?

Gooners hope there comes a point when these types of discussions become antiquated, when Arsenal finally brings in the type of players that will end all the doubt as to whether Arsene Wenger will actually spend money. But until that first big signing makes his way to the Emirates, it’s all speculation was to whether Arsenal’s approach will always leave the club susceptible to rival buyers swooping in, meeting sellers’ prices, and leaving the Gunners collecting out-of-contract talents and low-priced margins.

Report: Agent in China, Rooney could leave Man Utd this month

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United poses with the Premier League trophy at the start of the Premier League trophy winners parade on May 13, 2013 in Manchester, England  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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Could Wayne Rooney‘s days at Manchester United be over as soon as the end of the month?

The BBC reports that Rooney’s agent is in China in the hopes of negotiating a contract with a Chinese Super League team.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

The 31-year-old is said to be wanted by Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian. The former club has ex-Chelsea standout Ramires, while the latter is coached by Fabio Cannavaro and boasts Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato.

From the BBC:

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.

Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England. While his legacy is secure at the former and the latter, will a move to the CSL end his time under Gareth Southgate at England before another World Cup?

So many questions to unpack as one of the Premier League’s all-timers looks set to leave the country in the next six months.

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, left, react after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
AP Photo/Alberto Saiz
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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39

WATCH: Giovinco nets rain-soaked preseason beauty

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC is presented with the MLS Audi Golden Boot Award as leading scorer for the 2015 season prior to an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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We still can’t get over Sebastian Giovinco’s omission from the list of finalists for the 2016 MLS MVP Award, and the Toronto FC magician gave us another reminder of his greatness on Wednesday.

Playing a preseason match against Minnesota United on a rain-soaked pitch, Giovinco scored a brace. One of those goals came off an ankle-breaking dribble and finished with rain splashing off the net.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Yeah, he’s still good.

Giovinco turned 30 last month but still looks good money to dance up the statistical leaderboard this season. The Reds open at Real Salt Lake on March 4.

Leicester after one leg vs. Sevilla: “We knew they are better than us”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri catches the ball during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti
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Sevilla probably should’ve put Leicester City to bed.

Thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, the Spanish powers couldn’t do that. Now stubborn Leicester is a 1-0 win away from progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ MORE: UCL wrap-up ]

Credit to Jamie Vardy, too, who put away a rare Leicester chance to give the Foxes a road goal from its trip West, but Schmeichel was magnificent.

And Leicester certainly knows how to defend and hit teams on the break.

“We knew they are better than us, they have high quality in possession. We suffered. They showed their quality but we showed our heart. We showed belief and never game up. That makes me satisfied.

“At the end, if we are a little more calm on the counter-attack, we could have done more. It was very important to match them and every result is still open.”

It certainly wasn’t easy to get to the final whistle. Here’s Vardy.

“Everyone has given 110 percent and everyone has come off absolutely blowing. We knew we had to be patient and take our chances but we knew we could hurt them on the press and that’s what Danny (Drinkwater) did. He got it over to me and I slipped it in.”

Again, we wouldn’t sleep on Leicester despite Sevilla’s dominance at home. King Power Stadium will be riled up come March 14, and one moment of magic could be enough for another miraculous moment for Leicester lore.