Lazio could snatch up rising Dutch defender before Manchester United or Liverpool

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Judging by how fast the Italians are acting, transfer business could be over for Stefan de Vrij almost as soon as it started.

The 22-year-old Feyenoord center-back has made an impression across Europe, and was linked with several top teams in the Premier League.

However, with Lazio finishing a disappointing ninth in Serie A this past season, a squad shakeup is in order and defensive reinforcement is likely a top priority.

Lazio conceded 54 goals last season, more than anyone above them in the table and more than three teams below them.

Therefore, the club hopes to snatch up de Vrij for a reported fee of $8 million, according to Italian paper Il Tempo, but Feyenoord is hoping for around $1.5 million more.  According to the report, de Vrij is just one of “at least three” defenders Lazio is hoping to bring in this summer.

According to the report, Lazio officials are in Rotterdam to discuss terms, while de Vrij, owner of 10 international caps, is in the Dutch World Cup squad and is training with the team in Portugal.

The paper says Manchester United and Liverpool also remain hot on the trail, but Lazio have accelerated the process hoping to get a deal done before de Vrij leaves for Brazil to compete in the World Cup.

De Vrij made 32 Eredivisie appearances last season, scoring four goals and maintaining the back line of a Feyenoord squad that finished a smashing second place, conceding just 40 times, third lowest in the Dutch league.  He played every minute of the club’s final 18 matches, including a seven-match win streak at the end of the year which saw them outscore opponents 20-2.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.