Mario Balotelli is not one to hide his emotions on his sleeve.

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.

Spurs’ Bentaleb off to Schalke on loan, joining PSG’s Stambouli

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Nabil Bentaleb of Spurs U21 looks on during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Leicester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspurs U21 at The King Power Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Schalke’s quest to rejoin Germany’s elite was buttressed by a pair of interesting pickups on Thursday.

The Royal Blues have added Benjamin Stambouli from Paris Saint-Germain and Nabil Bentaleb from Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bentaleb deal is a loan, as the oft-injured attacker looks to shake off his underperforming reputation. The 21-year-old has 19 caps and three goals for Algeria.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints ]

Stambouli joins on a four-year deal. A defensive midfielder, Stambouli left Spurs for PSG last year and made 27 appearances for the French champions.

The side nabbed high-profile prospect Breel Embolo earlier this offseason, and should be a problem for most opposing sides when the season begins this weekend.

Schalke finished in fifth place last Bundesliga season, and brings back captain Benedikt Howedes and Olympic star Max Meyer.

Ranking toughness of UCL groups for Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City

Kompany and City's defense struggled to contain Messi and Barca in the first half.
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Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all entered the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and they found out their fate on Thursday following the draw in Monaco.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

Right now Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs will be feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to the UCL’s Round of 16. As for Man City, boy, it will be a tough route through the group stage once again for them.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins top award ]

Below is a look at the toughness of the group stage draw for all four PL teams.


GROUP G: Leicester City, FC Porto, Club Brugge, Copenhagen

Their first-ever season in the UCL, the draw could not have gone any better for reigning PL champs Leicester in terms of their dreams of advancing. Claudio Ranieri‘s side have FC Porto, who will be a very tough test, but in Club Brugge and Copenhagen they drew two of the easier teams they could have faced. Overall, this is not a tough group especially when you see the full draw. Looks like the fairytale for the Foxes will go deep in the Champions League this season. Toughness ranking: 3/10


GROUP A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Arsenal will fancy their chances against PSG and when it comes to FC Basel and Ludrogorets they will expect to take two wins from each of these teams. But this is Arsenal so they’ll probably need a 3-0 win in their last group game to make the knockout rounds… Seriously, though, Arsene Wenger will be a relieved man to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Barelona in the group stage but Arsenal’s games against PSG will be pivotal in their chances of getting a good draw in the last 16. Overall, could’ve been a lot tougher. Toughness ranking: 4/10


GROUP C: FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchendgladbach, Celtic

It just had to happen for Pep Guardiola, didn’t it? He will return to the Nou Camp in his debut season at City to face his beloved Barcelona and Man City’s fans will be sick of the sight of Lionel Messi and Co. after they knocked them out of the competition in two of the last three seasons. That said, there will be two magnificent games between the giants with Barca the favorites to win the UCL this season. As for Monchengladbach, they are quietly a very strong team and even Celtic (who famously beat Barca in the group stage in 2012) will provide a tough challenge for City at Celtic Park in the away game. All in all, couldn’t have been tougher for City but they will likely squeeze through with Barca to the Round of 16.

Toughness ranking: 8/10


GROUP E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco

Maurcio Pochettino’s side will be grinning like a Cheshire cat with this draw. Arguably it is even easier than Leicester’s with CSKA Moscow perennial strugglers in the UCL, plus German side Bayer Leverkusen very beatable and Spurs have done well against Monaco in the Europa League recently. Overall, if Spurs don’t win this group they will be very disappointed. A great draw for the north London club. Toughness ranking: 3/10


Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal kisses the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after their 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League.

Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy.

Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title coming in 2014.

Previous winners of this prestigious award, which takes into account the form of the player both for this club team in Europe and also for his national team, include Messi (the only other player to win the award twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery.

UEFA Champions League group stage: Premier League teams learn their fate

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  The  UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Premier League teams got off very lightly, overall, in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday as reigning Leicester City were handed a very comfy group of opponents in Group G with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, as were Tottenham Hotspur who were placed in Group E with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

Arsenal also got a very decent draw with Paris Saint-Germain, FC Basel and Ludogorets in Group A, but Manchester City once again got a very tough draw at the group stage along with FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in Group C.

[ MORE: Full UCL schedule

Reigning champs Real Madrid have been drawn in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid drawn together in Group D.

Below is the group stage draw in full with the opening group games to take place on Sept. 13/14 and a further five group games taking place — each team plays one another home and away — between September and December. The knockout stages then begin in February 2017 ahead of the UCL final in Cardiff, Wales on June 3, 2017.

You can click on the link above for the full schedule for group games.


GROUP A
Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal
FC Basel
Ludogorets

GROUP B
Benfica
Napoli
Dynamo Kiev
Besiktas

GROUP C
FC Barcelona
Manchester City
Borussia Monchendgladbach
Celtic

GROUP D
Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven
Rostov

GROUP E
CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen
Tottenham Hotspur
Monaco

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Sporting Lisbon
Legia Warsaw

GROUP G
Leicester City
FC Porto
Club Brugge
Copenhagen

GROUP H
Juventus
Sevilla
Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb