Liverpool v Olympiacos - Steven Gerrard Testimonial

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.

Why Antoine Griezmann is exactly what Man United need

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JULY 07:  Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA EURO semi final match between Germany and France at Stade Velodrome on July 7, 2016 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Multiple reports are linking Manchester United with a summer move for Antoine Griezmann.

Do they need him? Yes. Yes they do.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.

The Independent claims that United are willing to pay Griezmann’s release clause of $106 million to sign him from Atletico Madrid and the French international said back in November that he would like to link up with his international teammate Paul Pogba.

Seems straightforward enough…

There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.

For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.

Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.

On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Antoine Griezmann (L) and Paul Pogba (R) of France shows their dejection after their team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.

When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.

If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.

This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.

For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.

If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.

USWNT star O’Reilly signs for Arsenal

BIRMINGHAM, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Heather O'Reilly #9 of the United States of America reacts after scoring a goal against Haiti during the US Women's 2015 World Cup victory tour match at Legion Field on September 20, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Former U.S. women’s national team star Heather O’Reilly has completed her move to Arsenal Ladies.

[ MORE: Messi talks about future ]

O’Reilly, 32, is the eighth-highest capped player in USWNT history and retired from the national team in September 2016. She was an integral part of the team which won the 2015 World Cup in Canada, plus she has three Olympic gold medals from the 2004 games in Athens, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

The midfielder scored 47 goals in 231 appearances for the USWNT, while she has also played for the Boston Breakers and most recently the Kansas City Stars in the NWSL.

Speaking about signing for the FA Women’s Super League powerhouse, O’Reilly was delighted to be moving to London.

“Having come over to Arsenal last year to train, I was very impressed with the club,” O’Reilly said. “The facilities are world class and they have a tradition of excellence at the club that I wanted to be a part of, I’m very happy to be here.”

The schedules for the 2017-18 season in both the WSL 1 and 2 were released last week and the opening weekend of the season is on Apr. 22 when O’Reilly’s Arsenal play Notts County.

O’Reilly joins USWNT winger Crystal Dunn in the WSL 1, as she plays for Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea.

Report: Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Antonio Conte agree truce

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates victory with Diego Costa after the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Chelsea at Riverside Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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The feud is over. For now.

[ MORE: New rules stop Costa move

After Diego Costa was left out of Chelsea’s traveling squad for the win at Leicester City last weekend, he has been training on his own amid reports of a back injury which his manager Antonio Conte

It seems very likely that this situation was about much more than a back injury as Costa and Conte reportedly had a bust-up on the training ground, while links surrounding a big-money move to China continue as Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, was seen visiting owners of Chinese Super League clubs last week.

A report in The Times states that Costa and Conte have decided to put their differences aside and the Spanish international is back in contention to start against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

It was also stated that although everyone is buddy-buddy for now, Costa could still leave in the summer as his volatile nature is far from impressing Conte who continues to stamp his authority not only on the players but the entire club.

It’s clear Conte is boss but he can’t have Costa undermining him as seems to have been the case over the past week and it was also the case earlier on in the season when Conte demanded Costa remained on the pitch.

That said, Costa’s importance to Chelsea can’t be understated as he is the join-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and he’s added another five assists this season. With reports linking Chelsea with a summer move for Alvaro Morata, it appears Conte is already trying to plan for life without Costa.

Can the Blues win the PL title this season without Costa’s goal and presence up top? Despite a seven-point lead, probably not. That’s why Conte calling a truce in his instance makes sense.

That said, he now has six months or so to line up a long-term replacement for Costa.

The cracks have been papered over for now. But how long will it be until two fiery characters collide once again?

Lionel Messi discusses his Barcelona future

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on January 11, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has addressed speculation linking him with a move away from the only club he has ever known.

[ MORE: Who are title favorites? ]

Messi, 29, has been at Barcelona since the age of 13 and the Argentine superstar has won every possible trophy with the Catalan giants, plus has been crowned the World Player of the Year on five occasions.

Time for a new challenge?

Reports had suggested that Barcelona have wanted to start talks over a new contract with Messi for quite some time but with just 18 months left on his current deal, Messi and his representatives are yet to hold talks.

“I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be,” Messi said in Coach magazine.

Hmm.

Messi also spoke about his former manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, and his challenging start to life in the Premier League as manager of Manchester City.

“It is a very competitive league, last season showed that, so it makes it very difficult to predict,” Messi added. “Of course Pep is a very successful coach, he will be adjusting to the league, but I am sure that he will be successful.”

Will Messi be part of Pep’s success at City?

It is obvious Barca will want him to stay but if a huge offer comes in for Messi from Man City this summer, or others in the Premier League, then surely he will think twice about it.

If Pep can coax Messi to join him at City, who can clearly afford him, then it would be another glittering star in their attacking line. That said, if Guardiola is going to be successful then he’ll have to add plenty more quality in defense as City currently sit 10 points off leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go in the PL season.