Verbal fisticuffs ensue between Toronto FC, Philadelphia leaders

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Feel free to take a side as the inevitable questioning over Toronto FC’s bank-breaking off-season spending spree gains speed.

Thing is, this isn’t two tipsy Joes in cheapo replica jerseys at the end of some soccer friendly pub – these are fellow MLS officials giving each other the business in public!

It was bound to happen. Supporters and members of the chattering class have had our say about TFC’s audacious dash for glory. Heck, even Toronto front man Tim Leiweke, architect of the deals in question, does not always sound 100 percent convinced the deals make sense from a pure business perspective.

In comments to The Philly Soccer Page, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz questioned the wisdom of TFC’s recent high-dollar moves, the ones that have netted England international Jermain Defoe and U.S. midfield general Michael Bradley.

I get frustrated when I see people say how smart Toronto is spending $90 million. I’m not sure how smart that is.”

He wondered aloud whether Bradley at somewhere around $6 million a year is better value than Maurice Edu at something near $1.5 million?  It’s a fair question.

Bradley is a better player. He has a higher profile. He’s the best U.S. national team player in a year where so very much attention will be going to that very national team. Bradley wears it all well, and he’s a fabulous addition to the league.

Plus, TFC is a place where Leiweke might have to overspend to get the project out of a hole; remember, the team has still never tasted playoff soccer.

But $6 million? Even before adding Edu and his salary to the calculus, prominent voices in the domestic game immediately began wondering if Bradley could have been had for something less, perhaps substantially less?

Past that, the usual big market-small market arguments seem to have Sakiewicz in a frothy lather. That was probably inevitable, too. After all, soccer is just catching up with baseball and other American sports in that regard.

The Philly Soccer Page story wasn’t really about Edu, Bradley or TFC; it had a bigger sweep, starting with the Union boss addressing rumors of his own demise. I’ll boil that part down for you: “Buncha bunk,” he essentially says.

But the comments directed toward Leiweke proved to be the eye-raisers. Leiweke responded professionally in comments to the Toronto Sun, defending Bradley before asking everyone to recognized what he thought was apples to oranges in marketplace. It’s a great point, too.

Everyone has their own marketplace. On ours, we’ve sold 17,000 tickets in three weeks. We’re going to have a packed stadium every game this year. Our ratings are going to be great. Our merch sells are going to be great. … In our world, with our fans, with the commitment they’ve made the last seven years, we owed them this. This is about our business and our relationship with our marketplace. We knew people were going to shoot at us. The shooting has begun.”

Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

Premier League clubs on League Cup upset alert

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The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.

[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]

All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.

Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.

Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.


Upset alert ranking for PL clubs

Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10

Wednesday
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10

Barcelona sues Neymar for $10 million signing bonus

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona is suing Neymar for the $10 million bonus it paid the Brazil striker for signing a contract he later broke to join Paris Saint-Germain on a world-record transfer.

Barcelona said on Tuesday that it wants Neymar to pay back the bonus for a contract in Oct. 2016 that tied him to the club through 2021. It also wants an additional 10 percent interest.

Neymar was able to leave Barcelona earlier this month after PSG paid 222 million euros ($262 million) to trigger a release clause included in his contract.

Barcelona said in a statement that it “has taken these actions in defense of its interests after the unilateral breaking of the contract carried out by Neymar just a few months after having signed his renewal.”

The club is also demanding that PSG pay the money, if Neymar is unable to do so.

Barcelona said the suit was filed on Aug. 11.

Diego Costa moves out of his London home

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The clearest indication yet has arrived that Chelsea striker doesn’t intend to return to England.

According to multiple reports in the UK Costa, 28, has sent in a removal firm to clear up his remaining belongings at his home in Surrey on the outskirts of London and has also had all amenities cut off at his base in England.

His friends say he no longer has a home in London, as Costa had been living in the $10 million home previously occupied by Fernando Torres.

The Brazilian-born Spanish international striker is currently back in Brazil at his family home, refusing to return to Chelsea until they sell him to his former club Atletico Madrid.

This all came after Costa was told by Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, reportedly via a text message, that he was no longer needed at Chelsea and could leave this summer. Chelsea say that Costa has known since January that he would be sold this summer, but his lawyer has threatened legal action against Conte and Chelsea for their handling of the situation.

With Atletico unable to register any new players until January 2018 due to a current transfer ban from FIFA, Costa’s situation is complex.

What isn’t complex is his stance that he will stay in Brazil and isn’t bothered about being fined by Chelsea who insist he should return to their Cobham training base and train with their reserve team.