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

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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.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 3: Gap developing at the top

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We’re just three weeks in, and while there’s still obviously gobs of time for teams to right the ship, we are also seeing who’s for real at the top of the table, and while the table doesn’t always show it, we’re starting to learn more and more about each team that picks up the points.

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Atlanta continues to win, still yet to lose in MLS play three matches into its inaugural season, and Portland bounced back to prove they’re still in control. At about the 7-8 mark there looks to be a clear gap developing. Can anyone buck the trend moving forward? Your updated power rankings:


TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

 

22 (19)

21 (22)

20 (21)

DC United: Six goals conceded, none scored in their last two. Not much else needs to be said.

Minnesota United: Their very first MLS point was an important one, holding on down a man. Still a very long way to go.

New England Revolution: More of the same for New England who admittedly had a tall task against FC Dallas but couldn’t hold on.

19 (20) Columbus Crew: Could this week be the one that starts the climb? Six shots on target out of seven total, that’s efficient. Still need a result against a better team to back it up.
18 (18) Real Salt Lake: No Glad, No Plata, down a man, still almost pulled it out. Still, the defending was poor at times a man down and Beckerman knows better. Need to start picking up points.
17 (16) Philadelphia Union: 14 shots, just two on target. That’s the type of day it was in Orlando. Just a point from three is worrying.
16 (12) Chicago Fire: Ouch. It’s hard to take much of anything from a big loss to a smoking hot team playing 79 minutes with 10 men. Still…that one will hurt.
15 (17) Montreal Impact: They held firm against a good NYCFC attack, and actually did the coming back for once.
14 (14) Vancouver Whitecaps: In a vacuum, no shame in losing to Tigres or Toronto, but now they’ve got a bit of poor form with the Galaxy coming to town and then the CCL second leg. Will want to avoid a string of bad results.
13 (15) LA Galaxy: All road wins are good wins. That said, beating a weakened RSL by a goal after playing a man down the entire second half is not exactly convincing. They were second best until Beckerman went off and managed just 4 shots on target.
12 (13)
Sporting Kansas City: Have conceded just one goal. They have a plan, and it’s working so far. Just need to figure it out on the other end.
11 (5) Colorado Rapids: Give the Loons credit, but a draw against 10-man Minnesota is not a good look. The defending has been poor.
10 (7) San Jose Earthquakes: Bit tough to figure out this San Jose team early on, but with Godoy held in check, they were outshot 15-5 by KC.
9 (6) Houston Dynamo: Caught Portland at a bad time. This is still a good team, but maybe with some soul-searching to do after a big loss.
9 (10)
Orlando City: An extra week of rest helped Orlando and Cyle Larin did Cyle Larin things. Six possible points, six taken. Still need to prove themselves on the road after last season.
7 (9) Seattle Sounders: Just like Portland, Seattle got back to what it does best, and that involved Dempsey and Morris scoring. The attack looked dangerous
6 (4) New York City FC: Montreal hacked NYCFC to death and it worked. They’re still a good team, but will have to figure out how to win ugly too.
5 (8) Toronto FC: A very solid bounce-back win without Giovinco, who will be back after the break. The rough start appears to be more of a blip.
4 (3) New York Red Bulls: The ugly wins finally came back to haunt them. Hard to take much from a cross-country road trip, but they fell short in a tough test.
3 (11) Atlanta United: You betcha. This team’s for real. Well, they certainly appear to be with Josef Martinez on fire, but now he’s injured. Now what?
2 (2) FC Dallas: A win over New England continued FC Dallas’s hot start. It’s mind-boggling how little attention Max Urruti gets.
1 (1) Portland Timbers: That’s more like it. The scary Portland attack bounced back by putting four goals past 2-0-0 Houston.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five games in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.