According to reports in Spanish media, Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitić is close to completing a move to Barcelona. The clubs have been in negotiations for several weeks, and it looks as though Rakitić will sign on on a five-year-deal for a fee of €20m (~$27m).
While the summer signing window has yet to open, there’s already been a flurry of activity, with players signing on free transfers and, of course, plenty of rumor to go around. And it looks as though the summer’s hottest rumor has an effect on the Rakitić signing, as well. Everyone’s talking about where Cesc Fàbregas will end up – but of course, if he leaves Barcelona, that means the club has a hole they’ll need to fill.
Rakitić is a smart pickup. The midfielder was born in Switzerland and came up through Basel’s youth system. After impressive displays in his teenage years, he moved to Bundesliga side Schalke, but it’s been at Sevilla where he’s truly turned heads. He joined the Spanish club in the middle of the 2010-2011 season and has since made 117 appearances, scoring 27 goals along the way. He’s not just a goal-scorer, however: last season he notched 13 of them, but also recorded 12 assists.
If you haven’t been watching many of Sevilla’s games, you can catch Rakitić for Croatia at the World Cup (he is of Croatian descent). There he’ll be paired with Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić in one of the silkiest midfield partnerships you can imagine. The duo’s build-up play, through balls and pinpoint passing will be key to Croatia’s success.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday