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West Brom pays record fee for Dynamo Kiev striker Brown Ideye

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After spending decade bouncing back-and-forth between England’s top two divisions, West Bromwich Albion has enjoyed four straight seasons in the Premier League, a run that nearly came to an end last season. Seemingly determined to avoid another close call, the Baggies have broken their club record transfer fee, albeit for a name few fans may recognize.

That’s because Brown Ideye, a Nigerian striker who helped the Super Eagles claim the 2013 African Cup of Nations, has spent his career in Switzerland, France, and Ukraine, though after three years as one of Dynamo Kiev’s main attackers, the 25-year-old may have popped onto a few radars. A fast, explosive, along-the-line striker, Brown scored 34 league goals over the last three season, half of which came during the 2012-13 season.

For $17.1 million, West Brom is betting the former Sochaux forward can replicate that production in England.

“Brown is a quality striker, and I’m looking forward to working with him,” head coach Alan Irvine said, via the club’s website,

“He’s a strong, quick, powerful player who likes to get in behind defenses and has plenty of Champions League and international experience.”

Most of that experience came before last season, when Brown was reduced to a substitute’s role. After Dynamo’s acquisition of Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokani from Anderlecht, Ideye went from 25 starts to seven, with 12 appearances off the bench giving him little chance to replicate his 17-goal season.

It’s part of the reason why West Brom’s willingness to set a record for Ideye looks a little curious, though if you’re looking for silver linings, consider the striker’s goal rate. Whereas Ideye averaged 0.674 goals per 90 minutes in 2012-13, his rate only dropped to 0.627 last year. Perhaps his diminished role could save you a few million pounds in the negotiation, but if you liked Ideye a year ago, little about the striker’s 2013-14 numbers should change your view.

Technical director Terry Burton certainly hasn’t changed his:

“When I arrived at Albion the recruitment department flagged Brown up as the man at the top of their wish list.

“It is a fantastic signing because of the quality and the potential of the player.

“I can see that he really wants to be here and that he really wants to be playing in the Premier League.

“He’s a dynamic player who likes to get in behind defenders and he has the pace to do so.

“He gets himself into good scoring positions in the box and if there are opportunities then he will get on the end of them.”

All of which sounds great albeit clichéd, as if Burton is listing off a series of minimum requirements for a Premier League striker. If you’re paying £10 million for an attacker who isn’t “dynamic” or capable of finding “good scoring positions” in Ukraine, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of acquisitions in England.

Despite the flat rhetoric, Brown really could turn into a difference-maker at The Hawthorns. Saying somebody has “pace” sounds clichéd, but in Brown’s case, it’s true, even by Premier League standards. His ability to read defenses, get into those good positions, and score goals a variety ways made him one of the best strikers in Ukraine’s Premier League, when he played. Strong, standing 5’11”, Brown has the size to compete with Premier League defenders. Given how players have performed when making the jump from the Netherlands (Suárez, Bony) or Belgium (Benteke, Lukaku), it’s not unreasonable to assume a talented player moving from a league at a similar level could succeed, too.

Unfortunately, $17.1 million adds a lot of gravity to that educated guess, but joining a team whose leading scorers (Stepháne Sessegnon, Saido Berahino) tallied five goals last season, Ideye doesn’t have to provide an eight-figure return to have an impact with West Brom. Having a mere presence may be enough.

While the price makes this more of a gamble, there’s a lot of room for this purchase to come good.

Bremen beats Wolfsburg to leave Bundesliga relegation zone

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Serge Gnabry of Germany reacts during the Men's First Round Football Group C match between Germany and Fiji at Mineirao Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) — Midfielder Serge Gnabry scored twice as Werder Bremen moved away from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a 2-1 win at fellow struggler Wolfsburg on Friday.

Bremen and Wolfsburg are level on points and two above Hamburger SV, which is in 18th place and in the relegation zone.

It was a fifth defeat in six games for Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael, who won the league and cup double as a player with Bremen in 2004.

Gnabry fired the visitors ahead with a deflected shot in the 10th minute and made it 2-0 eight minutes later, controlling the ball with his chest before prodding home on the volley.

Striker Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored with his chest following a Wolfsburg corner as Wolfsburg hit back moments later.

Midfielder Daniel Didavi struck the post with a free kick as Wolfsburg kept pushing for an equalizer.

Mancini reportedly not interested in Leicester City, De Boer says no

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 20:  Head Coach of FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini looks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 20, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Two top candidates to replace Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City have reportedly turned down any interest in the job.

Roberto Mancini, the heavy favorite out of the gates after Ranieri’s dismissal, tweeted his support for Ranieri after the news broke. “I am sorry for my friend Ranieri,” Mancini said. “He will be in the history of LCFC, in the hearts of Leicester fans and all football lovers.”

However, the fellow Italian has rebuffed Leicester’s informal advances towards his services. According to Sky Sports, Leicester sent “intermediaries” to “sound out” Mancini’s feelings towards the position, but came back empty-handed. The report states Mancini was turned off to the club after a short and unsuccessful spell there as a player in 2001.

That leaves a host of other names who have been linked to the job, with no clear favorite. One person mentioned was Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is unemployed after an unusually short stint in charge of Inter Milan. However, De Boer’s agent went public to say he was not ever in the running.

“There is zero possibility that Frank could go to Leicester,” agent Guido Albers told Italian publication Tuttomercatoweb. “I too heard these rumors, but that’s all they are – rumors. I can affirm without doubt that Frank will not become the Leicester City manager. This will 100 per cent not happen.”

Albers explained that De Boer is only interested in joining a club in the offseason, preferring to enter a project with a blank slate rather than joining midseason with particular goals already clearly laid out. With Leicester, it seems De Boer is turned off by the notion of a relegation battle.

Win over Las Palmas again has La Real on edge of CL spot

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 11:  Xavi Prieto of Real Sociedad in action during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol at Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium on December 11, 2015 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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All it took was one mistake. Real Sociedad’s Xabi Prieto capitalized, and has La Real once again on the verge of next year’s Champions League.

La Real finished 7th in 2013/14, and 9th in 2015/16, and this year, they’re closer than ever. Preito’s goal on the mistake by Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas gave Real Sociedad the 1-0 road win and has them just a point off a Champions League place.

[ MORE: Antonio Conte pulling from experience to keep Chelsea on top ]

That could be even closer next week, as fourth-placed Atletico Madrid has to welcome Barcelona to the Calderon tomorrow, leaving the door open for La Real to make another move next weekend.

The goal down the stretch is not just to win the games they should, but make the teams above them work. La Real has won seven of their last ten matches, but the three losses came to Real Madrid, Villareal, and Sevilla, all teams fighting at the top of the table. They still have chances down the stretch, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Eibar coming up, with the latter on the docket next weekend.

Conte pulling from prior experience as title race pushes on

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on February 18, 2017 in Wolverhampton, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte has recalled some painful memories to push himself and his players forward despite their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea sits eight points clear of Manchester City, and has the chance to go even further in front with many of the top teams off this weekend, but that won’t give the Italian any better sleep at night.

In the 1999/2000 season, Conte was nearing the end of his 13-year Juventus tenure. He’d won three league titles already, plus two league cup trophies and a Champions League title with the Serie A giants. With a comfortable nine point lead after 26 matches, the club became complacent. They would lose four of their final eight matches, collapsing on the final day in the pouring rain, allowing Lazio to come roaring back to win the title.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks for Week 26 ]

“I was captain of the team,” Conte said. “I remember after this game I must go to the European Championships with the national team. I didn’t sleep for six days because it was a shock for me to lose the title.”

Clearly, that still haunts him. “I have experienced this,” Conte continued. “When I continue to repeat that there are 13 games, there are 39 points… there is a long time before we can say we won the title. We must be focused, we must go step by step.”

The Blues host Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before a trip to West Ham next weekend. If anyone believes the Chelsea players are complacent holding such a significant lead with 13 matches to go, it’s clear that’s not nearly the case. Anything can happen in three months.