Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Are Diego Costa and Juan Mata set for swap?

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Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claims his side isn’t in the market for a new player but is apparently keen on shipping Joleon Lescott out with Aston Villa, Newcastle and West Ham all interested. The 31-year-old has fallen down the pecking order at City and is convinced a loan or permanent move is all he needs to catch the eye of England boss Roy Hodgson.

Despite Pellegrini’s assertions to the contrary, reports rage on regarding his interest in Basel center-half Fabian Schar. The 22-year-old is in high demand since rallying his side to a Champions League victory over Chelsea last month. In fact, the Blues, Liverpool, Arsenal Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Barcelona and PSG are all reportedly interested in giving the Swiss center-back a new home.

Staying at City, Stevan Jovetic has made just six appearances since signing in the summer due to a mixture of injury and illness. It’s form that the City fans have begun to pan with the song: “Jov the builder, can he fix it? Jov the builder – no, he’s ill!” Rumors had the 24-year-old returning to former club Fiorentina on a loan spell but the Italian side squashed the deal after Jovetic’s €5 million salary proved too much for Vincenzo Montella’s side to afford.

At cross-town rival United, David Moyes has been boosted by a transfer kitty that, depending who you believe, is between £100-£200M. His targets? A left-back, two center-mids and a striker. Topping his list are La Liga stars, Andre Herrera and Diego Costa but he’s also keeping tabs on Dortmund’s Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan, Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala. In other words, anyone and everyone who could end his misery.

Costa, however, could be headed to Chelsea if Jose Mourinho decides he wants a new striker this January. His bait? Playmaker Juan Mata, who has (inexplicably) fallen out of favor with the Portuguese gaffer. A Costa-Mata swap would be a sensational deal and one that could see Chelsea striker Demba Ba pushed out. The Senegalese hit-man has featured only eight times in the league this season with Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Ham all inquiring about a loan deal for Mourinho’s surplus goods.

Newcastle’s interest in a striker comes amidst the eagerness of Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp to sell Loic Remy on a permanent deal to the Magpies. Redknapp has the Frenchman clocked in at £16 million and is confused as to why the Magpies have yet to pull the trigger. Of course that could have something to do with the fact that QPR’s asking price is nearly double with the R’s paid Marseille for Remy last year.

When Tottenham purchased Argentinian winger Erik Lamela from Roma last season, Spurs fans thought they had the next Gareth Bale. And in a way, they did. Unfortunately it was the Bale who began his Tottenham career with a winless streak of 25 matches, not the one who sniped 21 league goals in 2012-13. Lamela’s slow start reportedly has the North London side considering a loan deal with Lazio and Inter battling to take him on board.

One Manchester United player everyone seems to covet (except David Moyes) is Wilfried Zaha. A number of sides are interested in taking the athletic winger on loan with Crystal Palace pushing the hardest. Word has it manager Tony Pulis has made a bid for Zaha only for Moyes to deny it. Despite playing the 21-year-old appearing in only two league matches, Moyes reportedly wants to keep Zaha in the mix due to Nani’s hamstring injury.

Finally, at Villa Park, Paul Lambert wants his side to buy a proven #10. So naturally he’s lining up a bid for a former player of his at Norwich City, Wes Hoolahan. If the Villa manager can’t capture the Irish Messi, he’s expected to make moves for another diminutive playmaker, Porto’s Steven Defour.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.