Should Fulham sell “lazy” Berbatov in January or keep the mercurial striker?

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With Fulham struggling to produce anything of quality this season, Rene Meulensteen has taken the reigns, tasked with rescuing the storied London club.

The green manager’s biggest challenge will be to inspire a squad that seems to have little fire burning beneath them at times.

“It’s a massive challenge,” Meulensteen told Sky Sports. “But at the end of the day, when you’re faced with a challenge like this, it comes down to making sure you get the basic things right.”

The biggest challenge of the squad is none other than its name-brand striker Dimitar Berbatov.

The 32-year-old Bulgarian throughout his career has been on the end of a back-and-forth debate between fans and pundits alike. Some criticize him for a lack  in the work rate department, others praise him for moments of brilliance on the ball with a brilliant first touch and pinpoint accuracy.

With just a single Premier League goal to his name this season in 12 starts, Fulham’s number-9  has given his critics new life and new ammunition.

“We need to make sure that you stay mentally strong, that the fans are getting behind the team, and we need to make sure that the players stay mentally strong and believe,” Meulensteen said to Sky. ” And then you make sure you get the basic things right, work rate, discipline, that sort of thing.”

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It’s been a trying year for Dimitar Berbatov, with Fulham in 18th position and struggling to maintain its Premier League status.

Berbatov has proven to be Meulensteen’s biggest conundrum in the work-rate department, and that’s not news to anyone.

The Mirror’s Darren Lewis called him a “luxury player” and said, “In the situation they find themselves, Fulham now need fighters and scrappers. Not flair players more suited to a grander stage.”

Whether Meulensteen can not only transform his position from temporary to permanent but also transform the club from bottom-3 caliber to Premier League assured will no doubt hinge on a correct decision regarding their main man at the front.

Berbatov’s agent Emil Dantchev told the Mirror that rumors of his client’s desire to leave Craven Cottage this January are true.  He was quoted as saying “Dimitar is not happy at Fulham.”

But not so fast.

In Fulham’s energetic 2-1 loss to Tottenham midweek, Berbatov looked at times a new man.  He showed more touches of brilliance than the entire season prior. Sure there were lackluster moments as well, but it was a clear improvement.

Should the Cottagers decide to offload their biggest signing of the last few years, it would potentially save them a good £2 million ($3.27 million) in wages.  However, they’d also become even more barren in the attack.  After all, Fulham have scored a paltry 12 goals all year, with just Darren Bent and an injured Hugo Rodallega waiting in the wings.

Should Rene Meulensteen give in to the vultures, with clubs like Trabzonspor and West Ham circling, or should he stay the course and keep faith in his main man?

It’s hard to say what the right answer is, but the other options sure don’t seem much better, if better at all.

Toronto FC beats Crew 5-0 to extend unbeaten streak to 8

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TORONTO (AP) Victor Vazquez scored twice and Toronto FC routed the Columbus Crew 5-0 on Friday night to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise record-matching eight games.

[ MORE: Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape ]

Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has lost five of seven since topping Toronto.

Justin Morrow and substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton also scored for MLS-leading Toronto. The Canadian team also was unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.

Toronto was reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute when midfielder Marky Delgado was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Columbus captain Wil Trapp. Osorio and Hamilton then scored to pad the lead for Toronto in its sixth shutout of the season.

Toronto played without the starting forward tandem of Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended for yellow card accumulation). Defender Nick Hagglund also is injured.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.