Ángel Di María approaching Paris Saint-Germain move

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There various reasons to shake your head at this one, but increasingly, what was once an inexplicable rumor looks likely to come to fruition. At this point, Ángel Di María’s link to Paris Saint-Germain is so well establish, smoke-and-fire logic has taken over, and given PSG is one of the few clubs in the world that could afford such a talented player, the connection makes sense. If Di María is going to move, PSG may be the only team will to pay the $80-87 million it takes to get him from Real Madrid.

Why he may moving from the European champions at all is a mystery to some, but given the star culture that helps define Florentino Pérez’s club, it’s no surprise Di María, an established contributor, may implicitly give way for James Rodríguez, one of the brightest stars at this summer’s World Cup. Never mind the Argentine was the best player in May’s Champions League final. Never mind that performance is consistent with the rest of Di María’s career. With El Real’s midfield increasingly crammed, cashing in on Di María makes sense, on some perverse, short-sighted level.

But if AS’s report (which is echoed by others) comes to true, Di María’s destination should also be a point of confusion. While Paris Saint-Germain is one of the richest clubs in the world, it’s also one of two clubs to receive UEFA’s heaviest Financial Fair Play sanctions to date. Hit with a huge fine and forced to deal with a reduced Champions League squad, PSG is already experiencing the repercussions of its financial neglect.

Part of those consequences could include losing Edinson Cavani, who proved slightly redundant to Zlatan Ibrahimovic last year. The Uruguayan, who has yet to join the club after the World Cup, may have to make way if Di María’s acquired, with PSG unable to carry a higher wage bill into this year’s Champions League. Having already brought David Luiz over from Chelsea, PSG’s need to create some more wiggle room.

It’s all part of the insanity that is the European transfer market, a place that’s become little more than a shell game at its highest levels. Want James Rodríguez? Well, what are you going to do with Ángel Di María? Find a home for him? Too bad they need to get rid of Edinson Cavani.

For long-time fans of European soccer, it’s a new, cumbersome level of complexity. For people who follow American sports, it’s reminiscent of life with a salary cap.

Despite that quirk, the underlying questions remain the same: Why is Real Madrid selling Di María; how can PSG fit him in; and do the Parisians have any intention of changing their way now that Financial Fair Play has become an issue? If all those questions get answered, PSG will end up with one of the best midfielders in the world.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.