Everton in pursuit of Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder Muhamed Besic

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Multiple sources indicate that Everton are closing in on a $6.9 million transfer for Ferencvaros midfielder Muhamed Besic.

Speculation over the Bosnian’s transfer to Goodison Park has been rife for well over a month and, despite a false-alarm last Friday that a deal was in place, all indications are that Besic will be joining the Toffee midfield by the start of the Premier League season.

Born in Berlin, Besic began his career with Hamburg before disciplinary issues limited his first-team appearances and prompted the club to sell him to Hungarian side Ferencvaros in 2012. It was there that Besic earned a name for himself making 50 appearances for the club over the course of two seasons.

A player with great versatility Besic can play as center-back, right-back or holding midfielder, where his tough-tackling and fiery temper enables him to excel at breaking up play and frustrating the opposition. Which is exactly what Lionel Messi experienced in Argentina’s first group stage match against Bosnia-Herzegovina when the 21-year-old’s tireless engine frustrated La Pulga. Besic went on to feature in all three of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s World Cup matches.

Capturing Besic’s signature would be a major coup for Everton boss Roberto Martinez as his side look to maintain their Premier League success while also making a name for themselves in the Europa League. Those kind of lofty hopes require depth and Besic prove a key cog in spelling James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in the holding midfield role.

The Bosnian’s presence would also allow Martinez to use Leon Osman’s creativity in a more advanced role, where he is better suited. Besic’s presence could, however, spell trouble for Darron Gibson, who is recovering from knee ligament damage suffered last October. While most feel the Republic of Ireland international will remain at Everton there are whispers that Besic’s presence, and Burnley’s interest, could prompt the sale of Gibson.

Additional value for Besic comes in his ability to play as a center-back where he’ll provide added depth to Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, John Stones and Shane Duffy. While the time-proven combination of Jagielka and Distin will be the expected starting partnership, Stones will undoubtedly factor in after his glittering performances last spring. With Duffy waiting in the wings, it would seem there’s little need for Besic except that transfer rumors continue to rage over Stones. Given Martinez’ nurturing of Stones, selling the 20-year-old feels highly unlikely. Adding Besic, however, does provide cover.

From all indications, Besic would factor in perfectly to the balanced squad Martinez seeks to create. His temper will need some adjusting but no better role models for that than Barry, Jagielka and Distin. His youth will need inspiring but no better confidants than Stones, McCarthy and Ross Barkley.

It’s not a question of whether the piece fits but rather, when it will be added.

FA Cup: Man Utd drawn vs. Brighton in QF; Chelsea to face Leicester

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Three more Premier League sides joined Chelsea and Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Saturday, followed by the draw for the final eight…

[ WATCH: Lionel Messi finds Luis Suarez with a brilliant through ball ]

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United

Romelu Lukaku‘s first season at Man United has been, on the whole, quietly fruitful (12 PL goals, plus another 8 in other competitions), though his $96-million price tag continues to loom large. On Saturday, the big Belgian fired the Red Devils into the final eight with a brace against fellow Premier Leaguers Huddersfield.

It was 1-0 after just three minutes, when Lukaku slotted home to finish a quick counter attack set forth by a brilliant through ball from Juan Mata.

Mata made it 2-0 just before halftime, but the goal was wiped away after utilizing the video-assistant refereeing system. They don’t get much closer than this one.

United’s second came 10 minutes into the second half, when Alexis Sanchez took his turn playing Lukaku into acres of wide open space.

When the draw was made following the conclusion of Saturday’s game, we learned that United will host another PL side, Brighton & Hove Albion, in the next round.

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

That’s because Brighton brushed aside League 2 side Coventry City to reach their first quarterfinal since 1986.

Jurgen Locadia, Connor Goldson and Leonardo Ulloa bagged the goals for the ‘Gulls.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Southampton

Southampton are also through to the quarterfinals, thanks to their 2-1 victory away to West Brom. Salomon Rondon’s stunning volley undoubtedly stole the headlines (WATCH HERE), but Saints are the ones to advance, thanks to goals scored by Wesley Hoedt (11th minute) and Dusan Tadic (56th).

In the next round, Southampton will be away to the winner of Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City (Monday, 2:55 p.m. ET).

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City

The last thing relegation battlers Swansea City would have wanted is for a replay to be shoehorned into their remaining schedule, but Carlos Carvalhal’s side was unable to best Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, thus a replay at the Liberty Stadium on a yet-to-be-determined date over the next month.

Full quarterfinal draw

Sheffield Wednesday/Swansea City vs. Rochdale/Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Wigan Athletic/Manchester City vs. Southampton

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Rochdale vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City — 2:55 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-1 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).