Tributes pour in for Ecuadorian striker Christian Benitez following his tragic death

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With the soccer world still reeling following the shocking death of Christian Benitez, people across the globe have been honoring the Ecuadorian international.

Benitez died at the age of 27 on Monday, as his heart stopped just hours after his debut for Qatar’s El Jaish. According to the Associated Press, Benitez’s funeral will be held in his native Ecuador on Thursday.

Also known as ‘Chucho’, Benitez had been playing in El Jaish’s 2-0 win against Qatar Sports Club in the Sheikh Jassem Cup. It was his first game for his new team following a $16 million move from Mexican giants Club América.

It is thought Benitez was suffering from intense stomach and chest pains before his heart stopped following the game for new team El Jaish. Former teammates, clubs and friends have been speaking out following the forwards death and many plan to honor Chucho at games around the world this weekend.

Chucho’s talent was undoubted and last season with América was his most successful, as he hit 30 goals in 43 games and led the Mexico City based club to the 2013 Clausura title.

President of the Ecuadorian Football Federation, Luis Chiriboga Acosta, had this to say yesterday.

This morning we woke feeling profound pain, a pain that all Ecuadorians share, after losing an extraordinary human being, a son, friend, husband and player.

Benitez was the son of Ermen Benitez, one of Ecuador’s all-time leading goalscorers and the entire country has been shocked by the death of their superstar player. Benitez was capped 58 times by his country and scored 24 goals.

(MORE: Tragedy strikes as Ecuador star Christian Benitez, 27, dies)

Birmingham City, who Benitez played for during the 2009-10 season, will hold a minute’s silence before Saturday’s game against Watford, while Birmingham’s players will wear black armbands in respect.

The English side said this in a statement:  “Everybody associated with the club was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chucho, the Ecuador international was an immensely popular character at St. Andrew’s. A large number of supporters have contacted the club expressing a desire to celebrate Chucho’s time at Blues with a minute’s applause in the 11th minute to mark the striker’s squad number.”

While soccer players around the world took to Twitter to honor Benitez’ memory.

Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand

Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed after suffering a heart attack whilst playing for Bolton vs. Spurs in 2012 and had to retire from soccer

While Antonio Valencia, teammates with Benitez for Ecuador, has asked Manchester United to let him leave preseason to attend Benitez funeral in South America.

A humbling response from the global soccer community for a talented man who was taken from us far too soon.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.