Done Deal: England’s Deadline Day sees lower teams scurry to ensure top flight status

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It was a furious day of activity in England’s Deadline Day, but the top teams in the table were quiet while the bottom half made plenty of moves in an attempt to avoid relegation.

In fact, Liverpool failing to sign a player may be the biggest news out of the Premier League’s top 7 clubs.

Let’s go through all the completed deals for today:


FulhamMore to come on this complete and total squad turnover, but the Cottagers were by far the busiest team in the league on Deadline Day.  They completed permanent deals for Kostas Mitroglou, William Kvist and John Heitinga, while bringing in Lewis Holtby on loan.  Mitroglou is in on a club record transfer fee, and Holtby could be made permanent if the club stays up.

They also offloaded Aaron Hughes, Adel Taarabt, Dimitar Berbatov, and Philippe Senderos, with manager Rene Meulensteen clearly unhappy with the current squad makeup. They also offloaded Bryan Ruiz earlier in the window, while adding Clint Dempsey in the beginning of the window.

Finally, in the waning minutes of the window, the Whites nabbed Manchester United youngsters Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole.

Crystal PalaceTony Pulis has done a fair bit of dealing today as well, bringing in defender Scott Dann and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey from Wolverhampton to shore up and already strong back line.  Finally they sealed Jason Puncheon permanently, already at Selhurst Park on loan. That allowed them to make their biggest signing of the day, nabbing winger Tom Ince from Blackpool on loan.

ArsenalMany have called for Arsene Wenger to sign a striker, but instead he went for the less sexy option of grabbing 31-year-old midfielder Kim Källström on loan from Spartak Moscow.

West Ham UnitedThe signing of Abdul Razak was made official, with the midfielder coming in from Anzhi.  The Hammers also grabbed Pablo Armero on loan from Napoli, a 27-year-old Colombian left-back.

They did, however, miss out on a striker, most notably in their attempt to hijack Mitroglou’s move to Fulham, ending up empty-handed despite reports that they offered the Greek 25% higher wages.  In fact, they offloaded disappointing striker Modibo Maiga on Queens Park Rangers just in time for the deadline.

Finally, they retained Ravel Morrison despite heavy interest from Fulham and other lower table sides.

ChelseaNo major moves were made by Jose Mourinho, but this morning the confirmed the signing of highly-rated defender Kurt Zouma from St. Etienne, costing them a reported £12 million ($19.7 million).  The 19-year-old was then immediately loaned back to the French side. Gael Kakuta was loaned out to Lazio, the 22-year-old’s fifth loan stint during his time at Chelsea.

Cardiff CityThe Bluebirds’ new manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer brought in a number of familiar faces from his time at Manchester United.  Most notably they captured Wilfried Zaha on loan, joining Fabio who was sealed a few days ago.

SunderlandThe Black Cats signed 24-year-old Liam Bridcutt for a reported £2.5 million ($4.1 million) fee after handing in a transfer request earlier this month at Brighton & Hove Albion. However, Gus Poyet will also be pleased with retaining Lee Cattermole despite heavy interest from Stoke City.  Danny Graham departed on loan to Middlesbrough.

LiverpoolAfter much speculation that they didn’t get the deal done in time, Liverpool did NOT get the deal done for 24-year-old Dnipro midfielder Yehven Konoplyanka.  They hit a snag on a £15 million ($24.7 million) deal and ran out of time.  No deadline day signings for the Reds, on the heels of missing out on Mohamed Salah who was stolen by Chelsea. More on this later.

West BromThe Baggies have added a fantastic hairdo to their ranks when they inked Espanyol striker Thievy Bifouma on loan until the end of the season.  It’s a bit of a panic purchase, with Nicolas Anelka and Stephane Sessegnon both out injured.

Southampton – Mauricio Pochettino, less than 24 hours after confirming he’d never play Pablo Osvaldo again, the striker was loaned to Juventus. So he punches a player at training, and is sent to the Serie A league leaders as a result. Justice is served!

That’s all for around the Premier League, Newcastle failed to replace Yohan Cabaye and Manchester United didn’t add a central defender. We’ll have more from around the rest of Europe a little later tonight.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.