Defour

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.

Ronaldo shows no sign of injury while hanging with Conor McGregor

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Cristiano Ronaldo may not be ready for the UEFA Super Cup, but he’s no longer limping around.

To explore the Real Madrid superstar’s Instagram is to see Ronaldo, sometimes clothed, hanging out with celebrities.

In the last couple weeks we’ve seen him with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, and now his “bro” Conor McGregor.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Wait, what?

Yeah, Ronaldo is friends with the MMA star, and showed no ill form (and no brace of any kind) in several posed photos with McGregor.

Although admittedly, McGregor’s IG game is a bit better: The Irish fighter posted a photo of himself sunning in his briefs with the caption, “I’m gonna get him on the Forbes list by next year. But I’m gonna get him on the tan by next week.”

Good luck with both, bro.

Great to see you bro!!💪🏽🔝

A photo posted by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:48pm PD

Bruce pens letter to Hull fans: “Desperately wanted to make it work”

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Steve Bruce manager of  Hull City ahead of the pre-season friendly match between York City and Hull City at Bootham Cresent on July 23, 2014  in York, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
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Many Hull City fans didn’t want Steve Bruce to leave the club, and this open letter shows why.

After leaving the club by “mutual consent” on Friday — it was first widely reported that he quit — fans protested at Hull’s game on Monday.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Bruce may’ve had his problems with Hull’s ownership, but he certainly got his supporters’ feelings right down to the core.

From the Hull Daily Mail:

My biggest regret is having to walk away but it was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club. The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

I desperately wanted to make it work this summer and be a Premier League manager again but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I’ve left Hull City with some fantastic memories that I’ll always cherish, including just eight weeks ago in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Class from the longtime boss, and we imagine he’ll have a job very soon if he wants it.

Report: Everton to activate release clause of Stoke’s Arnautovic

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Marko Arnautovic (1st L) of Stoke City competes for the ball against Seamus Coleman (2nd L) and Gareth Barry (1st Rof Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 28, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
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Everton is going to activate Marko Arnautovic‘s $16 million release clause to bring the Stoke City striker to Goodison Park, according to a report out of Austria.

Stoke had been trying to sign Arnautovic to a contract extension, but the player was reportedly prepared to play out the final year of his deal.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

The huge 27-year-old Austrian has been with Stoke since 2013, and broke through with 11 Premier League goals last season.

Arnautovic would give Everton support behind Romelu Lukaku, and insurance in case the Toffees do wind up selling their Belgian striker. Everton also has Arouna Kone as a potential target forward, but Oumar Niasse is expecting to leave after less than a year at Goodison Park.

Chelsea wins the League… of Hate; Bournemouth, Leicester not hated

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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A family of English newspapers conducted its annual survey of which teams are the most hated in the Premier League, and there’s a new champion.

Manchester United has dropped to second in the table to Chelsea in what the Manchester Evening News called the “League of Hate”.

[ MORE: Rooney’s England position not set ]

According to the MEN, 10,000 fans were quizzed on their love and hate:

A national survey asked fans of each top flight club which sides they hate, and which they love, and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.

United, who won the dubious accolade last year, have been revealed to be the next most reviled side.

It’s no surprise that the league’s more successful sides sit atop the table while newer PL clubs like Bournemouth and Burnley are not reviled. That said, Leicester’s dream story has them 19th. How much more success do they need to have before shooting up the hate table?

Here’s the Top Five, and all results:

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester United
3) Liverpool
4) Manchester City
5) Arsenal