Liverpool v Olympiacos - Steven Gerrard Testimonial

Top five transfer targets this summer: Will they go in the window?

1 Comment

With Monday’s transfer deadline edging ever closer, certain players still have no clue which team they’ll be playing for when September 2 arrives.

This summer window has seen an unprecedented number of long-term transfer saga’s play out at some of England’s top clubs. You know who we’re talking about.

But with less than a week to go until the dreaded transfer window shuts, will any of these drawn out episodes come to a finale?

(MORE: Premier League club-by-club needs, as transfer deadline looms)

Remember, clubs can’t add to their squad until January 1 at the earliest. So expect a flurry of business this week as deals go down to the wire.

Will any of the following players be involved in a big money transfer?

source: Getty ImagesGareth Bale

Okay, so we have pretty much heard this one is a done deal for quite some time now. But until we see the Welshman shaking hands with Florentino Perez and Alfredo di Stefano with the number 11 Real Madrid shirt in his hands, we have to expect this isn’t completely done and dusted.

Bale, 23, hasn’t featured for Tottenham in their opening three games of the season and is apparently injured. The reining PFA Player of the Year will apparently swap White Hart Lane for the Santiago Bernabeu for a world record fee of $129 million.

On Monday morning reports of Manchester United becoming involved surfaced, but that’s probably a ploy from Spurs to try and hustle a few more million or a player in exchange out of Real Madrid. Bale has his heart set on a move to Madrid and all signs lead towards that being finalized later this week.

But until we see it with our own eyes, Bale can’t surely stay at Spurs this season… can he?

source:  Luis Suárez

Will he really leave Liverpool this week? Rumors flying around over the weekend suggest that Liverpool have tied down the tricky Uruguayan to a new contract and all will be forgotten. But will Arsenal or Real Madrid, or anybody else for that matter, table a sneaky last minute bid to try and catch Liverpool off guard? The 26-year-old forward will be essential to Liverpool pushing into the top four and getting the Champions League soccer everyone involved with the Reds craves.

Suárez has been the subject of two failed bids from Arsenal and with Liverpool’s American owner John W. Henry sticking to his guns about keeping his prized possession, this transfer window may end with Suárez in the same place his started it. Liverpool Football Club.

After all the talk, tantrums, speculation and furor this little guy has caused, it’s astonishing that Liverpool could keep hold of him.

source: Getty ImagesWayne Rooney

On Monday night at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney will play for Manchester United against Chelsea in a gigantic Premier League clash.

Next Monday we could well see Rooney smiling whilst holding up a Chelsea shirt with his name on it.

The Blue badly want England’s star forward and have already had two bids rejected by David Moyes and Manchester United for the 27-year-old. Rooney has wanted out of Old Trafford since last May and all summer this one has dragged out. Chelsea are the only club willing to bid for Rooney and Mourinho has already stated that the Blues will table another bid following their clash with United at Old Trafford on Monday.

Will the Red Devils buckle and offload their prized possession that wants to leave after a decade of service?

Karim Benzema

source: Getty ImagesThe Real Madrid striker may seem his playing time reduce significantly this season with the impending arrival of Gareth Bale. The 26-year-old French international striker is clinical, strong and can lead the line on his own superbly.

One problem throughout his Real career has been getting a decent run in the team. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain have often been the preferred options up top but with Higuain signing for Napoli should Benzema stay at the Bernabeu?

One club have been chasing the bustling striker harder than anybody else: Arsenal. The Gunners need reinforcements up top with Olivier Giroud their only real central striking option. If there’s any chance of grabbing Benzema, Wenger should beak the bank to get him. The former Lyon forward is just entering his prime, has vast international and Champions League experience and can score goals of any kind. A true poacher who can also lead the line, the Gunners should snap Benzema up before next Monday.

If they don’t another top European side will, but that’s only if he leaves Madrid.

Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines

source:  Well, I couldn’t narrow it down to five without including these guys, so let’s make it six.

Manchester United have made two double bids for the Everton duo, both have been described as “derisory” by the Toffees and unless the Red Devils dramatically up their bids then Baines and Fellaini won’t be following their former manager David Moyes to United.

A recent $45 million bid was put in and laughed away, after Moyes had already tried to bring in the duo earlier this summer. But do United really need both of these players? They certainly need Fellaini, but missed the boat earlier this summer as the midfielder has a minimum release clause of $37.5 million in his contract that is no longer available. United have lacked creative midfielders who can score goals and genuinely make a difference in the opposition box in the past few seasons. Fellaini can keep things ticking over but also find pockets of space in the box and use his aerial prowess to score goals. As for Baines, United still have Patrice Evra putting in some terrific displays from left back and Baines is now 27.

If they fail in a double bid once more, United should go back and try grabbing Fellaini on his own.

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

1 Comment

MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”

MLS Cup Playoffs Weds. preview: Toronto, LA host openers

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, right, celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the New England Revolution during first-half MLS soccer game action in Toronto, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Here we go, sports fans.

Major League Soccer starts its playoffs with a pair of knockout round games on Wednesday and another two on Thursday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Union are back in the playoffs for just the second time in playoff history, the same amount as Toronto. The difference is that Toronto has made the postseason in back-to-back season and isn’t entering the second season on a brutal cold streak.

Philly has lost three-straight and five of seven, making the playoffs on goal differential and — as Brotherly Game points out — has the lowest points-per-game of a playoff team since 2006.

That’s probably not going to fly at the new, loud BMO Field, where TFC’s supporters will finally get a home playoff match. Sebastian Giovinco is close to full fitness, Jozy Altidore has been on fire, and Michael Bradley isn’t exactly a player who shirks the big game spot light.

But it’s going to be players like Drew Moor and Clint Irwin who keep TFC calm under the bright lights. They’ve been here before. In fact, Moor has actually been at BMO in the playoffs, when Colorado trumped FC Dallas for a 2-1 win at MLS Cup 2010.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy –10:30 p.m. ET

Before the season began, LA looked like it had an embarrassment of riches that could challenge for one of the best records in MLS history. Between Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong, Steven Gerrard, and Gyasi Zardes — let alone the rest of the crew — the Galaxy were terrifying.

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Robbie Keane #7 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his goal with Giovani dos Santos #10 to take a 4-1 lead over the Orlando City FC at StubHub Center on September 11, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Dos Santos and Keane (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

About 700 miles northeast was a team expected to do, well, not much. Real Salt Lake had its mainstays in Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, but had the club done enough to make up a 10-point playoff deficit from 2015?

Injuries and defections stopped the Galaxy from reaching its potential, while RSL rode a hot start into the playoffs. Both teams finished their seasons in cold fashion; In Real’s case, ice cold.

The Galaxy only lost one game at the StubHub Center this season, and it’s realistic to think that trend will continue on Wednesday. But there’s something about RSL and the playoffs — and the potential absences of not just Zardes but Keane and Gerrard — that lead us to believe something strange could be coming by the time Thursday morning hits the East Coast.

USMNT’s Zardes nearing return for LA… but not this week

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Gyasi Zardes #11 of Los Angeles Galaxy attemps to break away from Leiton Jimenez #30 of Club Tijuana at StubHub Center on February 9, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
1 Comment

Gyasi Zardes waits on X-rays, and it’s not just a matter for LA Galaxy concern.

Yes, the MLS side is chasing its sixth Cup and has as many as two playoff matches coming in the next five days.

But Jurgen Klinsmann has regularly called upon the 25-year-old attacker for the United States men’s national team who, in case you haven’t heard, have two of the toughest World Cup qualifiers on their slate in the next few weeks.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good, from

Gyasi Zardes, returning from a broken foot this past August, happily took to the field with his teammates in a sign of a potential return in time for the postseason. The offensive favorite spent a little under an hour with the team, not quite completing a full training session, but definitely close to returning to his usual fitness.

Now the less good: Zardes cannot return until his next scheduled X-ray on the aforementioned broken foot.

That X-ray comes next Thursday – well after Wednesday’s game and any weekend matches.

Will a fit Zardes instantly reclaim a spot in Klinsmann’s 23? Wingers have had strong performances in his stead, and the coach’s take on that position is a bit unknown as we anticipate the United States and Mexico in Columbus on Nov. 11.

Juventus CEO: agent to earn $30 million for Pogba transfer

VERONA, ITALY - JANUARY 31:  Paul Pogba of Juventus celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and Juventus FC at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on January 31, 2016 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
1 Comment

TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that Paul Pogba‘s agent will be paid 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player’s record transfer to Manchester United.

Pogba returned to United in August for a world-record fee of $116 million.

Marotta was quoted by Italian media as telling Juventus’ shareholders meeting Tuesday as saying “27 million (euros) will be paid to (Pogba’s) agent Mino Raiola. So the total net gain for Pogba was 72 million ($78 million)” after other fees are taken into account.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Marotta says that Pogba joined Juve from United in 2012 for a bargain price of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million).

Marotta adds that Juan Cuadrado‘s two-year loan from Chelsea costs 5 million euros ($5.4 million) per season and if Juventus wins Serie A this season it will be obliged to buy Cuadrado’s full rights for an additional 20 million ($22 million).