Conflicting reports on Balotelli to Liverpool as Rodgers denies the move

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Brendan Rodgers has denied his club is in for Italian striker Mario Balotelli, telling reporters in Miami, “I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool.”

Despite this, a report from Italy’s Sport Mediaset says Balotelli’s agent – the famed Mino Raiola – is nearing a deal with Liverpool.

The report states the two clubs have not discussed a transfer amount yet, but that AC Milan is very open to offers for the 23-year-old striker and they are hoping to offload him for under $27 million.

Balotelli’s stock has plummeted since a disinterested showing at the 2014 World Cup, and having personally watched him play Liverpool in Charlotte this weekend, to say he appeared lost would be an understatement.

Still with obvious individual quality, Balotelli’s effort has long been criticized, and his boredom for the game has appeared to slowly become more widespread.

Just yesterday, Rodgers ignored that criticism and instead heaped praise on the striker, claiming his club “had a real close eye on him” during his time at Manchester City. Liverpool attempted to get Loic Remy as their replacement for Luis Suarez at striker but the deal reportedly fell through due to a failed medical.

The above report states Milan is hoping to use the money from any potential sale of Balotelli to purchase either PSG winger Ezequiel Lavezzi or Tornio’s Alessio Cerci, but that time is of the essence because Monaco is also interested in both players.

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi confirmed a month ago that Balotelli was set to be sold to an unnamed Premier League club before the World Cup, but that his shocking performance killed the deal. Liverpool very well may have been that club, and therefore it’s possible that Raiola simply reignited talks that existed a while back.

It’s in Liverpool’s favor to get a deal done with Balotelli’s stock having plummeted – and thus his price, too – but it remains to be seen if the Italian can recapture the form that vaulted him to notoriety with Manchester City as a youngster.

It’s possible that Rodgers and staff were in for Balotelli, but after seeing him lumber around the pitch in Charlotte with a few good touches but mostly jogging aimlessly, they changed their mind.

Things have been tumultuous at AC Milan recently, and as the Italian giants look to recover from a shocking 9th place finish in Serie A last season, things have looked even worse this preseason.  If Berlusconi is looking to rebuild his squad, offloading Balotelli is a likely start.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Crystal Palace

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Leicester City host Crystal Palace on Saturday at the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams in fine form recently.

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Claude Puel has led Leicester to four consecutive wins and the Foxes have surged up the standings since he took charge in October with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in fine form.

Palace are unbeaten in six games, winning twice, as Roy Hodgson has turned them into an incredibly tough team to beat.

In team news Leicester bring in Demarai Gray for Shinji Okazaki despite the Japanese international scoring twice in the win over Southampton in midweek.

Palace bring in Martin Kelly and James McArthur for Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Luka Milivojevic.


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Luan, Gremio looks to dethrone Real Madrid at Club World Cup

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“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.”

That’s Gremio youngster Luan after being told Real Madrid star and countryman Marcelo said he has a huge future in the game.

Luan and his teammates could make a lot more noise with a win in Saturday’s Club World Cup final against Real.

[ MORE: Galaxy to acquire Bingham? ]

Gremio edged Pachuca in extra time of its semifinal after Real came back to beat Al Jazira, and now hopes to become just the second non-European club to win the Club World Cup since 2007.

Brazilian clubs won the first three CWCs between 2000-06, but Corinthians claimed the lone Brazilian title since when it beat Chelsea in 2012.

Spanish clubs have won the last three finals, with Real sandwiching two around Barca’s 2015 win over River Plate.

The 24-year-old Luan won Olympic gold with Brazil in 2016, and has two caps with the national team.

Still waiting for these Premier League summer transfers to hit

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They seemed like hits at the time, but some significant summer transfer buys are are struggling in the Premier League.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

Whereas Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic, and Alvaro Morata have been solid pickups, and even lesser moves like Kurt Zouma to Stoke and Grzegorz Krychowiak to West Brom have hit the spot, some purchases just have not panned out at their new clubs.

Some aren’t getting playing time, while others aren’t hitting their stride, but here are some moves which just haven’t paid off (yet).

Andre Gray, Watford — The striker has two goals and two assists, but has had problems keeping hold of the ball and has the same amount of goals as defender Daryl Janmaat and midfielder Will Hughes despite playing about 300 percent of their minutes.

Marko Arnautovic, West Ham — The ex-Stoke player was a menace in a midweek draw against Arsenal, but Arnautovic has managed just one goal for the Irons this season. That’s equal to his amount of red cards.

Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa, Swansea City — Sanches hasn’t been able to get into the squad despite being one of the more talked about loans of the summer; Mesa may be coming around in recent weeks, but was an unused sub or not in the squad in 10 of Swans’ first 13.

Jese, Stoke City – The Real Madrid attacker was almost certain to take time to adjust to the Premier League, but his match-winner against Arsenal on Opening Day remains his lone marker.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool — His deadline day move to join Liverpool, supposedly to play centrally, seemed a head-scratcher. He’s only recently seen consistent minutes in a more central role despite Liverpool having loads of problems there. Maybe that’s on Jurgen Klopp, but we’re still scratching our heads.

Report: Galaxy close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper

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The LA Galaxy may be turning to its Cali Clasico rival for a new goalkeeper.

Reportedly denied in its pursuit of longtime Vancouver backstop David Ousted, the Galaxy are said to be close to scooping up thrice-capped USMNT keeper David Bingham from San Jose, according to ESPN.

[ MORE: LAFC close to signing third DP ]

The deal would reportedly cost LA between $200,000 and $250,000 in TAM.

Bingham, 28, lost his starting gig to Clemson product Andrew Tarbell this season, and the latter looks intent on keeping the position.

The Galaxy have not had a long-term answer in goal since Jaime Penedo left the club in 2015 (though 24-year-old Jon Kempin showed some very good things last season). Bingham would be a fine addition for a Galaxy team that hemorrhaged the second-most goals in MLS.