Matt Besler, Dries Mertens

Report: Besler would spurn Premier League, Europe for new deal in KC

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Sporting KC and United States national team defender Matt Besler is ready to say “thanks but no thanks” to interest from around Europe’s top leagues to stay in Major League Soccer.

It’s been just a few days since Besler, 27, confirmed interest from Sunderland and Fulham, stating no preference but asking for a quick resolution to the issue.

Now a report from the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell says Besler would turn down any European interest in order to sign a long, lucrative deal that would keep him at Sporting Park through the prime years of his career.

From the Kansas City Star:

While Besler previously conveyed interest in an opportunity to transfer overseas — an option his agent said remains in play — he would rather sign a new long-term contract to remain with his hometown club, the source said.

Eddie Rock, Besler’s agent, said his client has not dismissed the possibility of playing overseas. He declined to comment when asked if Besler is leaning one way or the other, but he acknowledged productive conversations with Sporting Kansas City over the past week as the two sides look to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Besler is under contract through the 2015 season but is searching for a raise from his $220,000 salary, which makes him the league’s 32nd-highest paid defender in Major League Soccer.

“Matt has continued to engage in discussions with the owners and executives,” Rock said. “Talks are in an advanced stage.”

A decision will be reached by the end of the weekend, as Rock doubled down on his client’s desire for a quick resolution. Besler has been at KC since departing Notre Dame in 2008 and has played 137 games for the reigning champions, currently boasting the most points and least goals allowed in the Eastern Conference.

So what’s the catch for KC? How much money is Besler looking for? His agent says he’s not looking to be the highest-paid defender in the league, while the source told McDowell that Besler is looking for less than $1 million per season.

The 6-foot-1 Besler will be 31 at the time of the 2018 World Cup, so the story begs the question of whether Jurgen Klinsmann would be okay with his starting center back staying in Major League Soccer. Klinsmann recently used Facebook to implore players to “add to the competition level“, which some took as another nod to the coach’s preference for European competition.

And we have to ask whether part of this could be a smoke screen, as also of note in the report is that KC has not received a tempting bid for Besler, according to head coach Peter Vermes. With Besler under contract with KC, it would follow suit that his agent should take advantage of his client’s World Cup performance in any way possible. If there hasn’t been a suitable offer from overseas, Rock’s job is a Besler raise and contract stability.

There’s undoubtedly a market for Besler’s services, and this report takes the conversation fodder for MLS fans up to the next level. Turning down a move to Europe to stay home is admirable for his club and league and Besler, by all accounts one of the ‘good guys’, has earned the right to do whatever he sees fit.

He’s also earned the right to ask for a raise. Could be win-win-win for MLS, KC and MB.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.