Rodríguez looks to Spain in lieu of “physical” Premier League

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James Rodríguez may have his long-term sights set on Real Madrid, but in the wake of a World Cup performance that has the 22-year-old on track for the Golden Ball, a number of options are sure to open up for one of Brazil 2014’s top performers. Though Monaco paid a premium to get the Colombian from Porto a year ago (just under $60 million), France’s runners-up could be in a position to reap a surprisingly quick profit on their investment after the festivities in Brazil are done.

Premier League teams looking to drive the biding may be left disappointed, though. According to the Colombian star, a move to England wouldn’t make sense, at this point in his career. Whereas the technical quality and time on the ball you see in Spain’s Primera Division suits his game, the physicality of England’s top-level doesn’t.

From Rodríguez, via reporting by The Guardian:

“I’ve said in the past that I’d like to play in Spain one day, because it is a league that is good technically, and where you get a lot of touches on the ball, which is my style,” he said. “The Premier League is maybe a bit physical at this stage. But I am a Monaco player and I’m not thinking about anything like that at the moment. I am now just concentrating on Brazil, which is going to be a wonderful experience for us.”

If Premier League teams are out, that really only leaves two possible destinations for Rodríguez – two clubs that can afford to give Monaco a decent return while staying within the guidelines of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (sorry, Paris Saint-Germain). Bayern Munich can afford to pay a huge transfer fee, but they’ve typically been less audacious with their biggest purchases (think Mario Gomez, Javi Martínez). If you throw out England’s big spenders, Spain’s big two are the only logical destinations for Rodríguez.

All of which brings us back to Real Madrid. Though it would be dazzling to see Rodríguez play within Barcelona’s scheme, it James may just be a Real Madrid guy. For a lot of players, you’re either one or the other. Besides, it’s not like the Merengues play anything close to boring soccer.

Regardless, a move’s unlikely to happen this year. Barcelona may be spending big elsewhere. Real Madrid may have other players on their mind, too. A sale or two, and Real and Barça could have more flexibility, but given FFP restrictions, it may take another year before Spain’s big two can carve out room for Rodríguez.

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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