Should Roberto Martinez be starting Gerard Deulofeu?

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After smashing his 84th minute equalizer into the side-netting against Arsenal, everyone is talking about Barcelona winger and Everton loanee Gerard Deulofeu.

He’s explosive on the ball, criminally skillful and has a voracious appetite for goal.

For those reasons the primary question concerning the Catalan native is whether Everton will be able to sign him permanently.

Emphatically, the answer to that is ‘no’.

While Deulofeu is not yet be ready to play regularly for the Blaugrana, there’s little doubt that his day to line up alongside Lionel Messi is not far away.

Perhaps that feat will come in the 2014-15 season but most believe the 19-year-old will need another season of grooming before that happens. For that reason, Everton manager Roberto Martinez is keen to extend Deulofeu’s loan an additional year, which the terms permit assuming Barcelona are on board.

“We have an agreement to extend the loan for an extra year if Barcelona don’t need Deulofeu,” Martinez admitted following the draw at the Emirates.

Martinez noted his surprise at how quickly the U-21 Spanish international has adapted to life in the Premier League. “I always thought he’d take until February to learn how to deal with the league but he’s surprised me,” Martinez noted.

“He’s very arrogant in the right way and today’s (Sunday) finish is exactly what he deserves.”

The Arsenal goal was Deulofeu’s second in the league following his strike against Stoke City in the Toffees 4-0 victory on November 30th. That was the winger’s first and only Premier League start of the season. In the 10 other matches in which he has appeared, it’s been as a substitute.

It’s a predicament that has prompted Premier League fans to question: Is it time for Martinez to make Deulofeu an every match starter?

Considering his impact and progression, some may feel that time has come. Despite his young age, Deulofeu has been consistently impressive each time he’s stepped foot on the pitch. With devastating cuts inside the park, he has displayed impressive link-up play with Romelu Lukaku and there’s little doubt that, as defenses shift their attentions towards Deulofeu, more space will open up for the Belgian striker.

The impact and ability to attract attention is something Kevin Mirallas, Everton’s current starting right winger, has struggled to do throughout the season. After proving himself one of the Toffees most dangerous players in 2012-13, the Belgian has fallen off the pace this season and, with a single goal in 15 league matches, cuts a frustrated figure on the pitch.

Deulofeu could also take the place of Steven Pienaar, who has only been slightly better than Mirallas this season. The South African left winger formed a dynamic partnership last season with Leighton Baines but has underwhelmed this year – his touch slightly off and his decisiveness blunted.

But while the possibility of bringing Deulofeu into the Starting XI alongside fellow youth studs Lukaku and Ross Barkley is a concept that has many Evertonians frothing at the mouth, it’s a move that Martinez is unlikely to make – and with good reason.

Deulofeu is a spark off the bench and as long as he seems content with this role why rock the boat? Plus, sitting either Mirallas or Pienaar in favor of the young loanee may trigger dissent among the Toffees more established players. Both Mirallas and Pienaar will feel Deulofeu knocking on the door and hopefully this will compel them to raise their respective games.

Furthermore, Deulofeu is a slightly built player and still very young. The more time he spends on the field, the more time defenders will have to line him up for a good whack. Plus, by limiting his time to 20-30 minutes per game, it will take opposing teams longer to ‘figure him out.’

In short, there seems little reason (outside of injury to others) to insert Deulofeu into a full-time starting job. Martinez knows exactly what he’s doing with the boy and Evertonians should be pleased with the rate at which he’s being brought along.

After all, if David Moyes were still boss at Goodison Park there’s a very strong chance the Premier League wouldn’t even know the likes of Deulofeu.

Report: Mourinho to get bumper $89 million extension at Man Utd

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Jose Mourinho is in the third month of his second season in charge of Manchester United, and may join Antonio Conte as men to get a second contract early in his term.

Goal.com says Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in Mourinho will spur United chairman Ed Woodward into action.

Unlike Conte, who received improved terms and the same length at Chelsea, the report says Mourinho will get a new five-year deal.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

The report says Mourinho’s terms would be worth almost $89 million over the length of the deal, close to $18 million per season.

The 54-year-old has never spent more than four years at a club, his longest stay as an assistant as Barcelona. Last season, he won the Europa League and League Cup for United while finishing sixth in the Premier League.

This season, United is off to a second-place start, leading Spurs on goal differential following a first loss of the season Saturday at Huddersfield Town.

This is about money and security for Mourinho who, let’s face it, probably won’t stay at United for five seasons. It would go against his record, and it’s difficult to imagine he’ll buck his career trend and make it five years. The new deal would be a raise, keep him from PSG for now, and probably will do the trick.

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Report: Yaya Toure lined up by New York City FC

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There are few details, but a report tabbed as exclusive by The Manchester Evening News says a new midfield force could be headed to Major League Soccer.

Yaya Toure’s resurgent 2016-17 has not been followed by a busy 2017-18, at least not yet, as the report says Yaya is set to head to New York City FC following the departure of Andrea Pirlo.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Toure, who turns 35 in May, has regularly been on the subs bench for Pep Guardiola this season after signing a one-year contract. He’s played 29 minutes as a sub over the last two Premier League matches, and his lone start came in a League Cup win over West Brom, where he captained City.

Toure has 59 goals and 33 assists in 222 Premier League matches.

The Ivorian is not a pace monger, but neither were Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and both were effective when healthy in MLS. Toure’s powerful presence in the midfield could be worth the wage packet and headache, but we’d pay a penny for Patrick Vieira’s thoughts.

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Italy’s once-vaunted ‘BBC’ defense is showing its age

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ROME (AP) With a combined age of 99, Italy’s once vaunted “BBC” defensive trio is showing its years.

The Azzurri will still rely on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup playoff against Sweden next month but the signs in Serie A lately have not been encouraging.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Bonucci’s red card with AC Milan over the weekend was the latest in a series of poor performances after his high-profile transfer from Juventus made him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Chiellini and Barzagli were beaten for goals twice by Ciro Immobile in Juventus’ 2-1 home loss to Lazio less than 10 days ago, and Chiellini was again off form in the Bianconeri’s 6-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday.

Chiellini was fooled by Stipe Perica for Udinese’s first goal and then left Danilo unmarked to head in another as he appealed for an offside call that never came.

Bonucci is 30, Chiellini is 33 and Barzagli is 36.

While Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has shown interest in developing new talent, he has shown no indication that he plans to cast aside the “BBC” when it counts.

After all, Italy has historically been slow to incorporate younger players, especially defenders.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Bracket set ]

That means the likes of Daniele Rugani (who plays for Juventus), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) or Mattia Caldara (Atalanta) – who are all in their 20s – may have to wait for their chances with the Azzurri.

But Ventura would do well to remember how Marcello Lippi kept Fabio Cannavaro and other veterans in the lineup at the 2010 World Cup only to acknowledge after the first-round exit that he made a mistake and was overly influenced by the older players’ performance en route to the title four years earlier.

From Franco Baresi to Giuseppe Bergomi to Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cannavaro and the “BBC,” strong center backs have been a source of uninterrupted pride for the Azzurri for decades.

Gianluigi Buffon in goal has also provided a security blanket for nearly 20 years but he, too, is approaching the end of his career and will likely retire after this season – or after his record sixth World Cup if Italy qualifies.

Italy’s hopes of avoiding the playoffs were dashed with a debilitating 3-0 loss in Spain last month that offered a first hint of defensive problems. The defeat ended Italy’s 11-year unbeaten run in qualifiers for World Cups and European Championships.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The Azzurri attributed the loss to Spain on Sept. 2 to a lack of physical condition so early in the season.

Bonucci, it was figured, just needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings at Milan.

In July, Bonucci completed a surprise transfer from Juventus, where he clashed with coach Massimiliano Allegri last season and was memorably left in the tribune for a Champions League match at Porto.

The transfer fee topped 40 million euros (nearly $50 million) and Bonucci signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros (nearly $12 million) per season. He was also made captain before he ever wore a Milan shirt.

When Milan started to falter a month ago, physical trainer Emanuele Marra was fired – reportedly in large part because Bonucci demanded better fitness preparation.

But Bonucci was out run by Mauro Icardi on Inter Milan’s first goal when the striker scored a hat trick in a 3-2 derby win eight days ago. He was also to blame for the second, failing to mark Icardi in the area.

Things got even worse for Bonucci when he was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

[ LIGUE 1: Neymar sent off ]

Bonucci will likely be given a multiple-match ban, which would exclude him from facing Juventus next Sunday and could affect his form for the Nov. 10 and 13 playoffs.

“Leo is a champion,” Buffon said. “He’ll become decisive again. But it makes me feel calmer knowing that we won’t have to face him on Saturday.”

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

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Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

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