San Jose reportedly about to bring in its own South American playmaker

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Javier Morales is the ideal, but with the Argentine’s success at Real Salt Lake has come a series of South American playmakers: Federico Higuaín with Columbus; Felipe Martins in Montréal; the Timbers’ Diego Valeri; even younger versions, like FC Dallas’s Mauro Díaz. And those are just the ones who’ve worked out. Though the league’s tradition of relying on South American maestros dates back to Carlos Valderrama, recent expansion and the league’s economic health has led a series of CONMEBOL’s talents to look for new CONCACAF options.

The next player to join that list appears to be Argentine Matías Pérez García; at least, if reports from ESPN Deportes pan out. According to last night’s report, the 30-year-old midfielder is “virtually” set to make a move to San Jose, ending two seasons with Tigre of the Argentine Primera Division.

One Deportes source claims the deal involves two million dollar, though it was unclear whether that was a transfer fee or the player’s compensation. Given the salaries for the likes of Morales and Valeri ($300,000, $500,000), the quoted amount is likely going to Tigre, who become the latest club to benefit from MLS’s continued mining of Argentine talent.

From this distance, it’s unclear whether the player justifies the expenditure. Since moving to Tigre in the summer of 2012, Pérez García’s scored 13 times in 63 league appearances, playing primary behind a single striker. Though he’s been Tigre’s leading scorer during that time, he’s also 30 and has never had success beyond Argentina (in France or Chile).

In that way, he profiles like Valeri, with the two sharing a connection to Lanus. But when Valeri moved to Portland, he was 26 years old, and while his transfer fee was  over $2 million (reportedly, closer to $3 million), the nature of his move meant the Timbers had a chance to test the fit before MLS paid the full fee.

Though you never want to accept one web site’s word as gospel, there seems to be reasons why Transfermarkt’s evaluation isn’t close to $2 million. Perhaps the actual fee will turn out to me lower, but if Deportes’ source is correct, Major League Soccer appears to be over-paying.

And that’s the other part of this transaction to consider. Whatever the fee ends up being, it’s likely coming from the league’s collective coffers. From a San Jose fan’s point of view, that makes the price a lot more tolerable. For an MLS fan, though, is a 30-year-old playmaker the best use of the league’s transfer budget?

This is part of the problem with paying for teams’ transfer fees. If Pérez García becomes available and Earthquakes general manager John Doyle wants him, how can Major League Soccer say “no” after paying fees for players like Valeri and Matías Laba (not to mention higher price points like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley)? Unless the request is egregious, a precedent has been set. Why can’t San Jose be part of the club?

All of which gets us pretty far away from the field. For a San Jose team that’s found itself at the bottom of the Western Conference, there are more pressing issues; specifically, can García turn help Mark Watson turn this around? While the odds are stacked against making the playoffs this season, the team needs to build for next year, when it will be opening its new venue. By then, the Earthquakes need to have moved away from the blunt style which, at one time successful, has proved a hinderance over the last year-and-a-half. When they’re winning, it’s fine, but we San Jose’s results fall off, the team’s approach makes it difficult to justify the product.

With a player like Yannick Djaló, San Jose’s moving in a different direction, but even when healthy, the Portuguese attacker hasn’t been a game-changer. García, whether it’s by position or price, will be expected to serve that purpose. If he’s not a game-changer, he a least needs to be a style-changer.

That’s assuming the move happens, of course. Right now, it’s just a rumor – a very detailed, consistent, sensible rumor, one which hints a San Jose is moving in a different direction. The team that’s been forced to live a modest existence may be ready to add some extravagance to its roster.

Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri: Our goal is 40 points

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When Claudio Ranieri was brought into Leicester City this summer, he set a goal for the club: Get 40 points and stay up in the Premier League.

A third of the way through the season, Ranieri has far exceeded expectations, sitting top of the table with 28 points through 13 matches.

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Originally thought of as a favorite for relegation, the perception of Leicester has changed very quickly, as both Arsene Wenger and Louis Van Gaal said you could not rule them out as title contenders.

Responding to Wenger’s comments, Ranieri played down the Foxes’ title chances, saying their goal is still to get 40 points and stay above the drop.

Thank you to Arsene but he’s a joker. He knows the truth very well. The league is very strange and open but our goal is 40 points.

Our goal at the moment is this but let me see the next two months and then maybe I change the goal.

Like everybody else I am also curious in these days to watch my team, and to see how we respond in these big matches.

At this point last season, Leicester sat bottom of the table with a record of 2-4-7 and ten points. Today, Leicester is top of the table with a record of 8-4-1 and 28 points. Under Nigel Pearson, the Foxes won just 11 games all of last season, with seven of those coming from the final nine matches in a legendary run to stave off relegation.

[ RELATED: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks — Week 14 ]

With a tough run of matches coming up against the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, Ranieri is trying to keep his side in check, knowing you can never take anything for granted in the Premier League. However, if Leicester was to pull out a win over United on Saturday, Foxes’ fans will certainly have much higher hopes than 40 points.

Report: Guardiola to take manager’s job at Man City next season

Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.

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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?

Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”

However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.

“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.

“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”

With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.

Mourinho-Costa feud could mean January transfer activity for Chelsea

Diego Costa & Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.

The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.

The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:

Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.

The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.

Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.