Roma will demand top dollar for defender

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If a club wants to woo Mehdi Benatia away from AS Roma, they’re going to have to pay a lot of money to do so. The club’s director of sport, Walter Sabatini, slapped a €61m ($83m) price tag on the defender, stating that his weaker foot is worth €30m alone, so his right must be worth at least €31m.

Benatia, who joined Roma from Udinese at the start of last season, has been the center of much discussion recently. Last week, the 27-year-old offended many giallorossi supporters when he stated that he needed to reflect upon offers from clubs “any player dreams of“. He then went on to list Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

The Moroccan then went on to publicize his dispute with the club over his wages. Benatia insisted Roma had promised him a fat contract should the club qualify for Champions League. But what they offered wasn’t anywhere close to what the defender wanted. He’s quoted as saying, “They said to me, ‘Here, you can have this little bit more,’ treating me like a child.”

After such displays, you’d think teams would back away from the player. But Benatia’s play last season at Roma make him worth taking a risk – he is one of the primary reasons the giallorossi made a run at the title, ultimately finishing second and qualifying for Champions League.

While his dream of playing at Camp Nou may not come true, Benatia is being linked with a number of Premier League clubs. Manchester City don’t have him as their number one target, however, which means that it could be Chelsea that nips in and grabs his signature. Both clubs can certainly afford his high price tag (leaving aside concerns of Financial Fair Play, of course) but will Benatia find Chelsea enough of a dream?

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.