Romelu Lukaku

Is Everton’s new striker Romelu Lukaku worth $47 million?

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On Wednesday Everton made Romelu Lukaku their record signing by splashing out just a smidgen under $50 million for the Belgian striker.

That’s some serious cheddar.

Lukaku, 21, spent the entire 2013-14 campaign on loan at Goodison Park from Chelsea and scored 16 goals in all competitions. He was the highest fulcrum in Roberto Martinez’s beautifully crafted pendulum which saw the Toffees excite and delight their own fans and neutrals with an attacking brand of soccer.

[RELATED: Lukaku seals Everton deal]

If Lukaku didn’t come back for this season and the foreseeable future, Martinez masterplan for Everton could have quickly come unhinged. When you put it like that, $47 million for Lukaku is worth it. However, is still seems pretty extortionate. Especially for a club like Everton who last season loaned in three players, spent $40 million on six new players and have always been extremely frugal in the transfer market. Now they’ve spent more than last summer’s transfer budget on just one player. It is hard to put an acceptable financial figure on a player these days as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea blow transfer records out of the water every summer. To put it into context Chelsea paid $55 million for Diego Costa this summer, while Real bought James Rodriguez for $107 million and Barcelona snapped up Luis Suarez for $125 million. Lukaku cost less than all of those other strikers and is considerably younger.

So, what are the Toffees getting for their money?

After signing for Chelsea in 2011 from Anderlecht, Lukaku spent his first season at Stamford Bridge playing for the reserves before being loaned out to West Brom for the 2012-13 season. With the Baggies Lukaku flourished, scoring 17 times in 35 PL games and everyone thought he’d head back to Chelsea to compete for a starting spot. Wrong. Jose Mourinho just didn’t seem to fancy Lukaku’s ability and sent him out on loan to Everton, where he dazzled with his pace, power and clinical finishing, and now he’s found a new home on Merseyside.

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Lukaku’s strength and power make him a nightmare for defenders to make.

Lukaku’s strength is what’s key to to the way Everton play. Long balls from full backs Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines often find their way into Lukaku’s feet and the Belgian is so adept at holding it up and bringing Everton’s other attackers into play. Without Lukaku using his brute strength to hold off one or even two PL defenders, the likes of Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and even full backs Coleman and Baines wouldn’t be able to surge forward and join in attacks. He is very important to the way Martinez sets up his Everton side. Just ask Matt Besler and the U.S. national team defense how strong Lukaku is. During the Round of 16 defeat to Belgium at the World Cup, Lukaku jumped off the bench and bullied Besler for the first goal, then scored the second as he effortlessly shrugged off U.S. defenders. In today’s game athleticism and pace is such a key component of being successful. Lukaku is one of the finest physical specimen out there but he is still developing at the ripe age of 21.

That said, the Toffees desperately needed him. Chelsea knew that and have held out for a very good sum of money. The Blues initially paid Anderlecht $17 million (which was set to rise by another $10 million in add ons) for him in 2011, Lukaku has played 15 games for the club, and they have now sold him for $47 million. If that’s not good business, I don’t know what is.

Yes, Everton may have been the victims of over-spending here but they now own a talented player who has scored 33 goals in 71 games over the past two seasons in England. Finding someone who can turn flowing moves into goals is extremely hard, look at Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. They have chucked hundreds of millions of dollars at forwards over the years and have failed nine times out of ten. Everton have faith in Lukaku and know what he can do. Can he now progress as a player by improving his first touch, visual awareness and being slightly more consistent? If he does, he could become one of the greatest strikers the PL has ever seen.

That’s why Everton have splashed the big bucks to get him on board. They’ve seen the potential, now it’s time for Lukaku to become the finished project and flourish.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.

NASL weekend preview: Miami, Minnesota meet playoff fortunes head on

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There are still two full months of soccer to go in the NASL’s Fall Season, but this weekend could be a major day for the title fortunes of one squad in particular.

Miami FC and Minnesota United are level on points with 15 heading into Saturday’s match at FIU Stadium.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

If you’re unfamiliar, the NASL Playoffs involve four teams: the Spring champion (Indy Eleven), the Fall champion, and two other teams with the best combined record between seasons.

Miami’s played one fewer game, and both it and Minnesota — fresh off the news it’s headed to MLS in 2017 — are seven points shy of first-place FC Edmonton.

But Minnesota is on pace to make the playoffs through combined schedule, while Miami had a poor first half and would be better served to win the Fall Season if it wants a shot at the NASL Soccer Bowl Trophy.

Saturday
Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos
Rayo OKC at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Minnesota United at Miami FC

Sunday
Indy Eleven at Ottawa Fury
Puerto Rico at FC Edmonton

Arsenal reportedly set for $69 million double Friday buy

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger‘s much-maligned transfer business is about to take the “much” off the verb.

Lucas Perez of Deportiva de la Coruna is reportedly going to be joining Arsenal on Friday, and the Gunners are also close to finally landing Valencia center back Shkodran Mustafi.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Perez, 27, broke out for a career-best 17 goals last season, and scored on debut last weekend. He’s set to cost $22.5 million, while Mustafi makes up the other $46.5 million.

The 12-times capped German center back stands 6-foot, and would bring stability to a Gunners unit which has (again) been beset by injuries.

From the BBC:

Spaniard Lucas, 27, scored 17 goals in 37 games last season and Arsenal will meet a 20m euro (£17.1m) buyout clause.

Germany international Mustafi, 24, is set to join for a fee in excess of £35m.

Is this, coupled with the Granit Xhaka buy, enough to help Wenger right the ship? Mustafi, especially, would be a key piece. Perez is a bit of a lesser-known quality.

MLS Weekend Preview: Desperation mounts as rivals meet in Oregon

Portland Timbers defender Vytas Andriuskevicius, second from right, trips up Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, right, in the second half of a MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Seattle. Andriuskevicius was called for a foul on the play, and the Sounders' Clint Dempsey scored a goal on the resulting penalty kick. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Desperation is up-and-down the schedule this weekend in Major League Soccer, as the playoff race really heats up.

The calendar turns to September next week, and teams will end this weekend with a clear view of their runs into the season’s final Sunday: Oct. 23.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

The tumult that is an MLS season means only one team is more than two wins out of a playoff spot right now, and that’s Houston (7 points back of Western No. 6 Portland).

Here’s who is feeling the heat of their matches this weekend:

Portland and Seattle: The Cascadia Cup rivals tangle Sunday in Oregon, with the Timbers holding a one-point edge on the Sounders for the West’s final playoff spot. Seattle has played one fewer games than Portland, and a win on Sunday would be a double-whammy for PDX; The Timbers would be level on points with Seattle and Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings with just one match to go (compared to their opponents’ two).

Vancouver: The ‘Caps don’t have a Cup game this weekend, but will face an L.A. team which hasn’t lost at home. Vancouver is in real danger of moving more than one win behind in the fight for a playoff spot. If they lose to L.A. and both San Jose and Portland win, the Whitecaps will be five points back of a playoff spot. Of course, this being MLS, a win and help could see Vancouver in sixth when the smoke clears.

Columbus and New England: No one likes to comment on job status, but Revs’ boss Jay Heaps and his Columbus counterpart (Gregg Berhalter) have to be a bit concerned at this point. New England is a total mess, opening up a goalkeeping controversy, and is pinning its hopes on some Open Cup final karma. The Crew was supposed to contend for a title after last year’s final run, but is currently in the East’s cellar with just three home wins from 13 matches.

Schedule

Friday
Colorado at Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. EDT

Saturday
Chicago at DC United — 7 p.m. EDT
Sporting KC at Philadelphia — 7 p.m. EDT
San Jose at Columbus — 7:30 p.m. EDT
Montreal at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. EDT
FC Dallas at Houston — 9 p.m. EDT
Vancouver at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT

Sunday
New England at New York Red Bulls — 2:30 p.m. EDT
Seattle at Portland — 5 p.m. EDT
New York City at Orlando City — 7 p.m. EDT