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West Ham desperate to keep Dimitri Payet

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Can West Ham keep hold of Dimitri Payet?

They really need to.

[ MORE: United to spend $220 million? ]

That’s not me saying that, those are the words of Hammers manager Slaven Bilic ahead of their massive relegation battle against Swansea City on Boxing Day (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Speaking to the media, Bilic confirmed that Payet is not for sale despite the 29-year-old playmaker being linked with Arsenal, Manchester United and others in the upcoming January transfer window.

“We do not want to sell him – he is our top player,” Bilic said. “We said the same the last window and now all the speculation starts again. He’s got a contract with us, a long contract and I’ll say what I always say: we don’t want to sell him. West Ham have given a strong statement that we want to keep our best player. You can’t stop speculation; great players always attract attention when the window comes. We always knew this would happen, that there would be stories, rumours in the media. This is why it’s important for the club to say this, but it’s nothing new.”

In the week Payet spoke to French outlet RMC and praised Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and said he missed playing in the UEFA Champions League. Bilic said he had no problem with that, but with the Hammers embroiled in a relegation battle, is Payet trying to acclerate a move away from the London Stadium?

Payet has achieved cult status in east London after his breakout first season in the Premier League in 2015-16. Those performances pushed him into the French national team as he shone at EURO 2016. Despite signing a new contract at West Ham in the summer, if Arsenal, United or anybody else comes in with a huge bid, can West Ham stand in Payet’s way?

He’d be swapping a relegation battle for a top four and potential title battle, yet do either Arsenal or United really need Payet?

Payet doesn’t seem made for a relegation battle and although he has produced some magic moments this season (the mesmerizing solo goal against Middlesbrough and a wonderful free kick at Anfield against Liverpool) he has often looked disinterested in rolling his sleeves up against the smaller teams.

The Hammers owners can’t afford to sell Payet and have the already angry fanbase to turn further against them following the so far controversial move to the London Stadium from Upton Park.

Bilic is open and honest but you get the sense that even he is a little worried that Payet may not be around at West Ham for much longer.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

[ MORE: Perisic talking with Man Utd? ]

The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”

MLS roundup: Outrageous dive, posts doom ‘Caps; Ramirez stays red hot

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Six matches are in the books on a busy Saturday in Major League Soccer, and five of them finished 1-0.

How they got there? Much different stories. With the Cali Clasico still to play, let’s dig into the five that followed Seattle 1-0 Portland.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]


Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 DC United

It’s especially difficult to win on the road in Major League Soccer, unless the hosts fritter away four good chances off the woodwork — including a Cristian Techera PK — and give away a spot kick of their own. Lamar Neagle converted the 61st offering after a sinister dive from Jose Guillermo Ortiz. He was taken off soon after, and is probably going to miss sometime when the DisCo is done with him. Outrageous.

New York Red Bulls 2-1 New England Revolution

Not one, not two, nor three, but four New England players saw a low cross slide by them for Daniel Royer to finish as New York came from behind to take all three points at Red Bull Arena. Cody Cropper committed a gaffe that allowed Bradley Wright-Phillips to equalize after a Lee Nguyen PK had put the Revs ahead early.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Sporting KC

Homegrown defender and University of Denver product Kortne Ford has his first MLS goal, as the Rapids surprised the Western Conference leaders on Saturday. SKC outshot Colorado by nearly 20 attempts (Shoulder shrug emoji).

Minnesota United 1-0 Orlando City

There were questions as to whether NASL superstar Christian Ramirez could translate his game to Major League Soccer.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Ramirez has eight goals in 13 MLS matches, and should be hearing his name from a certain Bruce Arena around Gold Cup time. Those USMNT dreams of last season should come true.

Bobby Shuttleworth made six saves for his third shutout of the season. All have come at home.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Joao Plata keeps shooting, and the tiny Ecuadorian menace keeps scoring, too. His 36th minute goal was enough for the hosts at Rio Tinto.

Raiola: Zlatan to “100 percent” stay in Europe for two seasons

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35 and coming off major knee surgery, but that isn’t stopping suitors from lining up across Europe.

[ MORE: Perisic to Man Utd? ]

Ibrahimovic’s agent, Mino Raiola, says that MLS is not an option for the Swede over the next two seasons. From Sky Sports:

“Many clubs have asked for Zlatan. He can play two more years and will stay in Europe, 100 per cent.”

It would make sense for Ibrahimovic to stay around Manchester United, where he is admired by Jose Mourinho and coming off a season that showed he’s still capable of contributing at a high level.

But he remains beloved in Italy, and would be effective for most clubs in the Top 5 leagues should he return at even 75 percent of the Zlatan we’ve seen regularly.