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Does the name Zat Knight excite you, Union fans? Because the Bolton veteran has been linked with PPL Park

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Zat Knight has spent most of his career in England’s first division, though over the last year-and-a-half, the 33-year-old central defender has been in the second tier with the Bolton Wanderers. During 11 years in the Premier League with Fulham, Aston Villa, and the Trotters, the two-time England international (back in 2005) was a decent if slightly exploitable defender, a level of performance that’s persisted through his 19 appearances in this years’ Championship. He’s a thoroughly decent if aging player, somebody who’d probably be out-of-place in the Premier League at this point in his career.

Given where a still young Philadelphia core is in its success cycle, does that profile excite you, Union fans? For some, it might. An English pedigree still goes a long way, especially when you consider what 277 games of Premier League experience could do to bring alone Amobi Okugo.

The younger player growing into his position gets some veteran guidance. The older player in the sunset of his career adds depth to a team in need of a few more defenders. Superficially, it seems like a cozy fit, part of the reason we can’t total discard the latest rumors.

But this all assumes Knight can actually fill that bill. Set to turn 34 in May, Knight is at the precarious age where the end could be closer than it appears. Alessandro Nesta, Arne Friedrich, Mikael Silvestre, Matteo Ferrari were all European defenders who jumped to MLS in their 30s. All of them have had injury problems. None of them had a major impact. (Steven Caldwell is one recent recruit who has managed to stay on the field.)

A player whose size has been an asset throughout his career, Knight profiles as somebody who could have trouble. A 6’6″, he will be one of the biggest players in the league, but Major League Soccer players will have no problem with his physicality. Instead, in a league where fit, hard-working, physical forwards are the rule, Knight will be faced with some of the same challenges he dealt with in the Championship. Only instead of dealing with those challenges in the context of a club and culture he knows, he’ll be with a new team and in a totally different country.

If Philadelphia can get a Knight-like player on the cheap — say, low $100,000 range — the risk is low. But for a team with a young core that should see itself as still building a contender, Knight is a strange fit. Rather than investing in a player that will be around when the team’s closer to the top of the conference, the Union will be cutting checks to a player entering the last years of his career.

And again, Knight isn’t an Alessandro Nesta. He’s never been a world-beater. At times, he was fine (even good) in the Premier League, and since moving with his team to the Championship, he’s been mostly fine for Bolton. But that’s it. Though something could change once he arrives in Philly, Knight’s last nine years in England say he’s won’t be a major difference-maker for the Union.

According to the league’s official website (linked, above), Knight’s arrival at PPL Park may be more possibility than probability. The team’s still talking to other options, according to head coach John Hackworth. The team may need another center back, but Zat Knight isn’t necessarily him.

That’s good news for Union fans. Knight could come in cheap, but a worthwhile risk, and render all these caveats meaningless. He could also be a 33-year-old  who, near the end of his career, will have trouble making a significant impact in Major League Soccer.

Bremen beats Wolfsburg to leave Bundesliga relegation zone

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Serge Gnabry of Germany reacts during the Men's First Round Football Group C match between Germany and Fiji at Mineirao Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.

Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.

It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.

Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.

Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.

Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.