Tearful Hernanes leaves Lazio for Inter Milan

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Around 200 Lazio fans gathered at Claudio Lotito’s home Friday morning. Word had gotten out. Hernanes, the club’s best player since his arrival in Rome three summers ago, was reportedly set to leave the Aquile. Singing the Brazilian’s praises over the next three hours, the small throng of devotees hoped to change their club president’s mind.

As Friday progressed, a slightly different picture of the deal unfolded. In tears as he left the club the he led to last year’s Coppa Italia title, the 28-year-old Brazilian international confessed he’d pushed for the €20 million ($27 million) move. Lotito hadn’t forced him out. He’d decided it was time to go, a decision he explained via Facebook:

“I would like to explain my tears because I’ve seen [Lazio] have been misunderstood. I cried not because the club president was stopping me leaving.

“I cried because the negotiation between the two clubs is happening.

“I had the possibility to leave Rome, the place I love, the supporters I love. But it has to be me who told the president I would like to leave because I think it’s best for me on a professional level.

Late Friday Italy-time, Inter finally confirmed the news, announcing Hernanes had signed a deal that commits him to the Nerazzurri through the 2017-18 season.

The World Cup’s coming up, but the move is as likely to hurt Hernanes as help. He’s in Luiz Felipie Scolari’s team, but he’s struggling to crack the Seleçao’s starting XI. Instead, this move seems to be all about Hernanes’s club future. At 28, his value possibly peaked a player who has become one of Italy’s best midfielders has decided to move on, electing to join Erik Thorir’s rebuild in Milan rather than confirm his legend in Rome.

Check out all of the latest transfer news form ProSoccerTalk

source: AP
Since arriving at Lazio in the summer of 2011, Hernanez has posted 11-, 8-, and 11-goals seasons while helping the Aquile to the Italian Cup last May. (Photo source: AP.)

It’s a crucial loss for a Lazio team that just found its footing. While the team did lose the defense of their Coppa title with yesterday’s quarterfinal loss to Napoli, a four-game unbeaten run in Serie A has lifted the team into the league’s top half. Thanks to that mini-revival — organized by the restored Edy Reja — the Aquile are only five points back of a European spot. The team currently holding that spot: Inter Milan.

Lazio would have to pass four teams to snare that spot. Given the irregular form the team has shown for most of the season, they’ll need a  longer run of success before being considered serious top-five contenders. In the face of that uncertainty, cashing in on Inter’s $27 million offer may have made more sense. At 28 years old, Hernanes is unlikely to garner a much better offer in the future.

For Inter, the coup gives head coach Walter Mazzarri a valuable addition to Esteban Cambiasso in central midfield.  Averaging 10 goals per season over the previous three campaigns, Hernanes adds another scoring threat to a team that’s relied on a variety of attackers to complement Rodrigo Palacio (team-leading 10 goals).

“Hernanes is a golden boy,” Mazzarri said in a television interview after the signing. “I’ve always known that.”

 

Capable of controlling a game from the middle the Brazilian could be an ideal fit for Mazzarri’s approach, whether he’s used as part of a strong two with Cambiasso or given room to surge forward if he plays in a three. Especially with Fredy Guarín’s situation unsettled at Inter, Hernanes may be necessary if the team’s going to return to Europe.

That’s a fit that won’t do anything to console Lazio fans. Maybe Hernanes isn’t leaving for the reasons they assumed, but he’s still leaving. Their team has lost their best player; or, at least, the man who’s been their best player over the last three-and-a-half years. Though Hernanes may have wanted it to happen, and the team got top dollar, that won’t make this any easier to take on the blue side of Rome.

 

AT HALF: Watch Willian, Lukaku goals as Chelsea, Man Utd level

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It’s been a good one so far at Old Trafford, where Willian and Romelu Lukaku traded first half goals for Chelsea and Manchester United.

Both players started and finished their goals, though plenty more time elapsed between the beginning and end of Chelsea’s opener.

[ MORE: Watch the second half live, online ]

Willian broke up a United cross and Chelsea nearly went the length of the pitch on their goal. David De Gea will want to have done better on the Brazilian’s rocket finish, but a fine goal nonetheless (above).

As for Lukaku, he went head-to-head with Andreas Christensen and the Chelsea man hit the deck while the Belgian striker was merely stunned before getting on the end of terrific one touch work between Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez, and Anthony Martial.

Off-kilter Kane saves sloppy Spurs at Palace

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  • Tottenham goes fourth
  • Spurs with 76 percent possession
  • Kane scores 150th Spurs goal

Harry Kane made amends for an atypical day of sloppy finishing with an 89th minute winner as Tottenham Hotspur persisted to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

The win gives Spurs 55 points, good for fourth in the Premier League before Chelsea faces Manchester United.

Palace remains 17th, behind Saints but ahead of Swans on goal differential. The Eagles are sorely missing Wilfried Zaha.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ben Davies was fouled in a bid to meet a back post free kick in the eighth minute, but no penalty was given and Palace cleared the corner as Spurs provided the first true scoring chance of the match.

Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey was at his left post for a fine save on Harry Kane in the 10th, as Patrick Van Aanholt lost the English superstar.

At the other end, Luka Milivojevic‘s free kick was headed into the arms of Hugo Lloris by James Tomkins. Lloris would deprive Christian Benteke of a finishing bid in the 16th minute, too.

A penalty was coming for Kane before the referee noticed the linesman’s raised flag and saved Timothy Fosu-Mensah from conceded the opportunity.

Palace made it to the locker room at 0-0, with Townsend hitting a low ball to Lloris before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The second half began, and Spurs worked some chances to score that were lacking the appropriate finish. Both Kane and Christian Eriksen shanked attempts in the first five minutes.

A pair of gorgeous flicks from Serge Aurier and Eriksen met Kane near the back post, but the striker atypically missed what should’ve been an easy opener.

Palace thought Alexander Sorloth might’ve earned a penalty from Davinson Sanchez, but Spurs escaped punishment in the 63rd minute.

Hennessey continued to play his role, stopping from Aurier before extending fully to palm away Davies’ offering in the 73rd.

Dele Alli dove in a bid to win a penalty soon after the Davies denial, but had no success.

Kane found a moment of brilliance in the 83rd minute, but Benteke of all players slid to block the shot and Hennessey collected the ball.

Davies should’ve had an assist moments later, but Aurier tripped on the ball.

Kane dragged an 86th minute shot inches wide of the goal, and it just seemed unlikely to be Spurs day despite dominance on the ball.

Of course, that meant an off-balance Hennessey couldn’t get a hold of Kane’s header off an Eriksen free kick with 90 seconds remaining before stoppage time.

Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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It’s a big one, you know: Manchester United hosts Chelsea in a battle for table positioning on Sunday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Scrutinized summer signings Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata start at center forward for their respective sides.

Morata scored the lone goal when Chelsea beat United 1-0 in November.

Jose Mourinho has opted for Scott McTominay over Michael Carrick and Juan Mata in the midfield, while Anthony Martial gets the call over Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.

Chelsea will have Pedro and Olivier Giroud on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, Alexis, Lukaku, Martial. Subs: Pereira, Bailly, Shaw, Carrick, Mata, Lingard, Rashford.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Drinkwater, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Emerson, Fabregas, Pedro, Giroud.

Aubameyang says off-field criticism “goes over my head”

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The Daily Mirror posted a profile on Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late Saturday, speaking with the Gabonese striker as well as a number of people in his life.

[ MORE: PL Saturday roundup ]

Most of the talk dealt with his obsession with soccer, which started as an admirer of his internationally-capped father, but the quotes getting attention come from Aubameyang and deal with his comfort as a flashy personality.

So for those wondering whether the 27-year-old is going to tame his off-field activities now that he’s moved to London, well, it’s unlikely.

Aubameyang has a bit of David Beckham in him, cognizant of his background and relishing his place in life.

“The clothes, the cars and all that are a bonus. I enjoy living this way. I like who I am and it doesn’t matter if other people can’t ­accept that – it goes over my head.

“As they say ‘you only live once’. It’s important to know where you come from and where your roots are – the rest is a big bonus.”

Any number of players, from Andy Carroll to Cristiano Ronaldo, have appreciated the very same things.

It’s not a big deal.

As long as on-field performances accompany them, any criticism is driven by envy or a need to attract a similar form of attention as the player himself.