Premier League Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pirlo to United, Falcao to Chelsea

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It’s that time of the season, ladies and gentlemen, when rumors begin flying as to what players may be Premier League bound come this January.

So let’s get to it.

Andrea Pirlo has put Premier League clubs on high alert after refusing to rule out a move away from Juventus when his contract expires at the end of this season.

When asked about his future the 34-year-old playmaker remained coy: “I don’t know if [I] will be at Juventus or another team [next season],” Pirlo said. “My future? There is the rest of the season to talk about it. We’ll see. . . . I am optimistic. I want to keep playing because I’m good and enjoy it.”

“Good” is one way to describe the midfield maestro who many still consider to be one of the best in the world. Arsenal and Chelsea are believed to be interested but Manchester United is the club in greatest swoon over Pirlo. The Italian may not possess the fitness to be an everyday starter but there’s no question he could bring a much-needed settling and creative presence to David Moyes’ midfield.

United may also be interested in Holland midfielder Kevin Strootman, believes his former manager at PSV Eindhoven, Dick Advocaat. Strootman, who now plays for Roma, was long rumored to be in line with a move to Old Trafford but it never transpired. And now, despite Strootman’s strong form in the Serie A, Advocaat has hinted that the midfielder could be moving somewhere bigger. “I do not think he will stay at Roma that long. If Kevin is at this level, he will be plucked away,” said Advocaat. “And then it will be a team of the calibre of Manchester United.”

One man Manchester United (as well as Manchester City and Tottenham) can cross of their list is 23-year-old Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian star has been receiving high praise for this performances this season but when asked about his future, ruled out any immediate move away from the Italian capital. “I won’t exclude the possibility of one day playing elsewhere, but I doubt this will happen soon,” he said. “It certainly won’t be in January, which is what some people have said, and certainly not in the next year and a half either.” 

Right then. Time to give Chelsea some love and there’s perhaps no bigger striker love out there to be bought than Radamel Falcao. Oh, you had to know this one was coming! With Fernando Torres injured, Samuel Eto’o adjusting and Demba Ba likely on his way out, rumor at the Daily Mail is that Jose Mourinho is looking for a new striker. And who else would he turn to than the man who currently earns around £12million-a-year tax free at Monaco? File this one under ‘unlikely.’

Moving along to Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele, who raised flags this past weekend when he noted his discontent over his reduced role in the Spurs midfield. Sandro and Paulinho have made playing time tough to come by and with the emergence of Christian Eriksen and the return to health of Etienne Capoue, Aston Villa and Newcastle are rumored to be interested in taking Dembele away from his troubles. Dembele would add some additional brawn to Paul Lambert’s three man midfield while a move to Newcastle would mean the likely displacement of either Moossa Sissoko or Cheick Tiote from the starting XI.

In the ‘laugh of the day’ rumor, the Metro has Nicklas Bendtner tipping himself to a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona. The article fails to explain under what circumstances this deal would go through but one has to assume that the Spanish giants are in need of stadium workers or that Nicky has another Paddy Power trick up his sleeve.

Finally, up in Sunderland Gustavo Poyet is rumored to be eyeing up his first major transfer at the Stadium of Light and it’s for none other than Valmir Berisha. Not familiar with Berisha? We’ll let you off hook as he’s a 17-year-old Swedish striker playing in his domestic league with Halmstads. He caught the interest of Sunderland – along with Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle – last month when he scored a hat-trick in Sweden’s 4-1 victory over Argentina in the Under-17 World Cup.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”