First E.J., now Obafemi Martins? What’s going on at forward for the Sounders?

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Even if the worst case scenario happens, the Seattle Sounders have Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle, a forward duo most Major League Soccer teams would envy. Yet with Eddie Johnson having likely played his last game in Seattle while Obafemi Martins is looking to move, it’s worth considering what’s going on at forward in the Sounders.

The Johnson news made waves on Wednesday, but another piece of news was obscured by yesterday’s headlines of Sigi Schmid’s confirmed return: Seattle’s Nigerian international put out a come and get me plea, saying he felt “out of the loop” in Seattle. That’s not a reference to his place in the team; instead, it hints at his desire to return to Europe, were presumably he’ll increase his chances of making Nigeria’s potential World Cup squad.

[MORE: Cap casualty? Eddie Johnson may have already played his last game for Seattle]

[MORE: Sigi Schmid to remain as Seattle head coach]

Whether it’s true that Europe increases his chances for Brazil 2014 doesn’t matter. Martins perceives it to do true, so despite spending less than a year with a team that had to help buy-out his contract to free him from Levante, the vagabond is looking for another move. The 29-year-old specifically mentioned Turkish champions Galatasaray, who are coached by his former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini. If getting back in the loop is his goal, though, Martins would likely consider other spots, be it on a short-lerm or permanent basis.

He liked MLS, he said. The United States had been a good experience, and he’s been treated well by Seattle’s fans. Seemingly, Martins just has a thing for loops.

For some, this will serve as an ‘I told you so’ moment, with many noting Martins had played with five clubs in six years before joining Seattle. If he were to move back to Europe in January, it would likely be to his seventh team since the summer of 2009. At this point, no new Martins employer should expect the wandering attacker to stay long. The man’s a bit of a mercenary, having only appeared in 20 MLS games before now entertaining a move.

If you’re Seattle, a team already looking to trade one of its starting forwards, what do you do? Given how much was invested to get Martins to Seattle, the team would presumably want some return on their investment (if they’re even willing to let him go). If a team like Gala’s ready to do that, it’d be best to take what you can get, cash in, and go back into the market. Yesterday’s comments cast  doubt on the notion Martin will be willing to settle in Seattle.

Conceivably, this could open a Designated Player spot for Eddie Johnson, but don’t look for Seattle to do an about face on the U.S. international. Even if cap considerations are a big part of the Johnson picture, there would have to be a serious course correction for “E.J.” to be in rave green come March.

Instead, Seattle would likely take Martins’ departure as an opportunity to test the market, even if that opportunity would be an unexpected one. If they’re still willing to show the financial commitment they did with the Dempsey and Martins deals, the Nigerian’s departure could be a boon. The Sounders can find a striker who’s not so obsessed with loops.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.