Sunday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Balotelli to Chelsea, Real Madrid staying put

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With Mario Balotelli unhappy with AC Milan’s floundering Serie A position, there is a new rumor that striker-hungry Chelsea could be in the market for the Italian superstar.  Balotelli’s previous success in the Premier League combined with the desperate need at the striker position for Jose Mourinho makes this rumor not just a juicy one but a sensible one as well.  Could we see the pairing of two of the most controversial and outspoken personalities in the game of soccer paired up on one team? It’s an exciting thought, and with Mourinho loving to make headlines and grab attention, this would be an outstanding opportunity to ensure he remains in the papers day in and day out.  Despite Milan’s struggles, Balotelli has six goals in 12 Serie A matches this season, and another three goals in eight other appearances elsewhere for his club.  But rumors are abound that between last year’s close shave into a Champions League position and this year’s current 13th place standing, the 23-year-old could be ready to move on. In three seasons previously with Manchester City, he scored 19 goals in 40 appearances before a very rocky 2012 saw him depart.

Rumors are flying out of Real Madrid (as they always inevitably do) that unsettled/dropped players such as Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso could be ready to move on.  However, manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted nobody will depart this January, and that contract talks with the Spanish captain Alonso will get moving shortly.  “No players are leaving and we’re not going to sign anyone. The window is closed for us,” Ancelotti insisted.  While this isn’t exactly a “rumor” per-say, it’s always difficult to take a manager’s intentions to heart considering the amount of times over the years we’ve seen bosses go back on their word.  Nevertheless, it’s hard to see where Madrid really need any serious overhaul, and it’s also likely that even the great Los Blancos could still be low on cash after their world-record transfer for Gareth Bale in the summer.

We heard just as recently as Friday that Juan Mata’s preferred destination was Napoli, but now it appears that serious moves are being made by Atletico Madrid, and the Spanish club on the rise are making a legitimate play with his agent in talks with a number of clubs (including PSG and Juventus).  The likely move would be a loan for the rest of the season with an option to buy, and the same Daily Star exclusive that describes the Balotelli situation also suggests Atletico could be leading the race for Mata’s arrival.  The rumor isn’t a new one, with the same coming through in summer from the Daily Mail, suggesting there could be some truth to it. It would be a serious coup for the Spaniards, who are into the Champions League knockout stage and also leading the La Liga table, and reinforcements of Mata’s caliber would give their chances in both competitions a serious boost.

As Robert Lewandowski gets ready for live at his new home Bayern Munich, talk has increased about what they will do with incumbent striker Mario Mandzukic.  Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge wants to put all that talk to rest immediately.  While that may be impossible, he worked quickly to do his part, saying, “He’s a fantastic player who has come on leaps and bounds with Bayern. His contract runs until 2016 and I told his advisor in Marrakech that we would be willing to talk about an extension. We have absolutely no intention of selling Mario.”

While Rummenigge was at it, he also ruled out a move inwards for Chelsea defender David Luiz.  When prompted on the player, Rummenigge said, “There’s always lots of speculation and it’s extreme in England, but I can say for certain that he is not a thought for us.” The chairman pointed to the potential return of defender Holger Bastuber from injury as a reason they do not need Luiz’s services.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

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That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.