Reports: Fulham close to sealing deal for Steven Defour

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Rene Meulensteen, former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson, apparently took very detailed notes while at Old Trafford.

Now manager at Craven Cottage, Meulensteen is digging into Sir Alex’s bag of tricks, pulling out a bit of the former Manchester United manager’s unfinished business.

The Telegraph is reporting that Porto midfielder Steven Defour is ready and willing to make his coveted move to the Premier League as the 25-year-old has come to an agreement with Fulham.

Apparently, all that is left to complete the deal is a medical, a plane ride to England, and a decision by Porto on whether to sell him.

The biggest hurdle according to the reports is that decision by his current club.  While reluctant to sell, the Portuguese giants are resigned to the fact that their midfielder wishes to leave, which his agent Paul Stefani confirmed last week. Stefani also recently confirmed Fulham are indeed “interested“.

The perfect storm of a World Cup year, the Belgian’s longtime desire to play in the Premier League, and his inability to get onto the pitch at Porto has presented a wonderful opportunity straight into the lap of relegation-threatened Fulham.

Defour was on Sir Alex’s radar in 2010 during his time with Standard Liege, before a broken foot derailed the move and it never rematerialized. Then reportedly priced in the range of £35 million ($57.6 million), Fulham have reportedly been quoted at just around £6.5 million ($10.7 million).

However, they still have to decide whether to outright sell their man, or hedge their bets and agree to a loan deal giving Fulham the option to buy if they were to salvage their Premier League status and stay up.

It would be a masterclass signing by Meulensteen if he can complete the deal, shoring up what could be Fulham’s biggest need – of which the list is practically endless.

The Fulham central midfield, currently consisting of Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell, does not lack in work rate, but does fall well short in the passing and creativity categories.  The addition of Defour would provide pinpoint passing and buildup from the middle, something they’ve lacked since the departure of Cottage throwback Danny Murphy.

All you need to look at are Defour’s numbers. Squawka Statistics has his Champions League appearances accounted for, and while the sample size is small, the numbers are no doubt impressive.  In five matches (four starts) against Zenit St. Petersburg, Atletico Madrid, and Austria Wien, Defour completed 90% of his passes (246/274) including 22/23 long balls, something that would suit Fulham well.

He also completed eight of his ten attempted tackles successfully, and could provide assistance to Sidwell and Parker in front of Fulham’s back line, allowing their wingers to push farther up the field.

Aston Villa were apparently in the mix for the player as well, but their interest has thus far been trumped by that of the Londoners.

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.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

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.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.