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Lynch: US investigators continue to pursue soccer corruption

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BALTIMORE (AP) American criminal investigators are continuing to pursue soccer corruption, according to outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who initiated the prosecution of fraudulent FIFA executives.

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Lynch attracted global attention by jolting the world’s most popular sport, launching sprawling criminal cases that burst into view with early morning arrests in May 2015 at a luxury hotel in Zurich ahead of the FIFA presidential election.

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The FIFA case, which started when Lynch was a U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn before being appointed the country’s chief law enforcement officer in 2015, has led to more than 40 people or organizations being charged.

“The work that we did, the cooperation from our international partners really made that case possible as well. It continues. It’s ongoing,” Lynch said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The first trial is scheduled for October, and the investigation continues,” she added.

The American case alleges bribery, fraud, money laundering, and racketeering, including in the award of hosting rights for FIFA’s showpiece World Cup and broadcasting rights for the tournament’s qualifying matches and other international competitions.

“FIFA is supposed to help (children) by building soccer fields and maintaining them,” Lynch said. “So when you have an organization that has so much power, so many resources … and to have them just abdicate that responsibility for personal gain to me, was and is, particularly galling.”

The scandal helped to topple FIFA President Sepp Blatter, whose 17-year reign ended in October 2015 when financial wrongdoing was unearthed in a parallel Swiss investigation.

Lynch’s tenure ends when the President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Friday and Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, is the choice to succeed her. Highlighting the importance of pursuing cases against sports-related sleaze, Lynch said the FIFA investigation “exemplifies why corruption is so corrosive” in society.

“When you’re talking about sports, that’s how we teach our kids about fair play and sportsmanship,” she said. “We want them to look up to these sports figures. It’s a character building exercise for them to play sports. So when someone takes that and turns it into the exact opposite and uses the American financial system to do so, that’s when we have to crack down.

“And that’s the lesson, I think, of that case – not just the cooperation and the hard work, but also corruption is corrosive on so many levels in terms of the financial system, in terms of the legal harm, but also the way it kills ideals – in young people, in people who look up to their figures and place their trust in organizations.”

One of the highest-ranking executives to plead guilty is former CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, who awaits sentence at his Atlanta area home after pleading guilty to racketeering charges.

Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF’s No. 2 official from 1990-2011 who was the top American on FIFA’s executive committee, helped Lynch to unearth wrongdoing in soccer. Her name was on 2013 court documents detailing a plea agreement that led to Blazer wearing a wire to assist the investigation. Blazer pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and tax evasion, including admitting receiving payments in a $10 million bribe scheme to support South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

“(The FIFA) case to me also symbolizes what we do at DOJ (Department of Justice), which is we look at things that affect peoples’ everyday lives,” Lynch said. “Soccer is the most popular game in the world.”

Harris reported from London.

Chelsea update on transfer deals for Dzeko, Palmeri

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Chelsea are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to the potential arrival of Roma duo Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeri.

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It has been reported that Chelsea have bid $72.5 million for the pair, with Dzeko, 31, fitting the ball for the target forward they’ve been searching for.

Speaking to the media ahead of Chelsea’s League Cup semifinal second leg at Arsenal on Wednesday, Conte was tight-lipped over the approach for Dzeko and left back Palmeri.

“I don’t know. As you know very well about the transfer market, if there are news the club will inform you,” Conte said.

As for Roma, they have acknowledged that Dzeko, the former Manchester City striker, has been impacted by the talks surrounding his future.

Speaking ahead of their game against Sampdoria on Wednesday, manager Eusebio Di Francesco had the following to say about Dzeko’s future.

“As things stand at the moment, he will. Obviously I’m going to have to assess things and see what frame of mind he’s in. I’ll speak to him about it,” Di Francesco said.

With Roma fighting for the Italian title and in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, it’s tough to understand why they would want to offload Dzeko in January. However with Dzeko now 31, Roma could recoup all of the $40 million they paid to Man City (and then some) for the Bosnian forward in 2015. That’s a decent deal for them after getting two-and-a-half seasons and 61 goals in 117 appearances in all competitions (46 goals in 88 Serie A games) from Dzeko.

The man who won the Premier League title twice with Man City may also feel like he has a little left to prove in England as he fell behind Sergio Aguero and many others in the pecking order towards the end of his time at the Etihad Stadium. It is also believed Dzeko will almost double his wages if he moves from Roma to Chelsea.

With Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll mentioned as potential signings for Chelsea as Conte looks for a big man to mix up his attacking options, Dzeko is by far the most prolific name mentioned and he must have previously impressed Chelsea this season after scoring twice against them in a 3-3 Champions League draw at Stamford Bridge in October.

Alvaro Morata is out of form and has struggled with injuries, plus Michy Batshuayi has struggled to deliver whenever he has stepped in so far so this season, getting a reliable back-up striker has become the main aim for a Chelsea side in third place in the Premier League table and still in the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.

As for Palmeri, the deal for the Brazilian born left back, 23, will see him become a valuable squad member and add depth at left wing-back with no real options to back up Marcos Alonso. Think of a left-footed Davide Zappacosta who steps in admirably for Victor Moses at right wing-back whenever needed.

With Cesar Apzilicueta now a permanent fixture at center back, Conte needs help at left back, especially as he revealed on Tuesday that a loan deal for Kenedy to Newcastle United is all but complete.

Arsenal confirm talks over Aubameyang transfer

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal are in negotiations with Borussia Dortmund over signing striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis and their new Director of Recruitment, Sven Mislintat, are in German to talk with Dortmund about a deal for the 28-year-old Gabonese forward.

Aubamyenag hasn’t played in Dortmund’s last two games, first due to a disciplinary problem and he was then left out of their squad to face Hertha Berlin last Friday due to a lack of focus. The man who has scored 141 goals in 212 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions since 2013 seems to be edging his way out of the Westfalenstadion.

Asked if he was confident that the reigning Bundesliga top goalscorer would arrive at Arsenal during the January window, here’s what Wenger had to say.

“Confident or not confident, I don’t know. You never know how close you are,” Wenger said. “This is the kind of thing – he is one of the possible movements, but we have other things in mind as well. We have plenty of opportunities and the final decision is not made. At the moment we are not close to any deal, Aubameyang or anybody else.”

Okay, Arsene, so you may have other targets too. You sly fox…

But seriously, it seems like Arsenal have gone all in on Aubameyang and given his goalscoring record over the past five seasons, who can blame them? Here comes the juicy stuff.

Reports have stated that Dortmund wanted Olivier Giroud plus cash in exchange for Aubameyang, but Wenger said that negotiations aren’t yet at that stage.

Various reports over the weekend suggested that a fee of close to $70 million would nab Aubameyang from Dortmund, but it is believed Arsenal have offered close to $61 million so far.

The languid forward is a good friend of new Arsenal signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the duo wrecked havoc during their time together at Dortmund, and having Ozil and Mkhitaryan thread balls into Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang will leave Gunners fans salivating uncontrollably.

Stop drooling. Whip your keyboard or smartphone clean. But if Arsenal pull off this deal for Aubameyang, it could well signal a new era of challenging for the top four seriously and getting themselves back into the title conversation.

Yes, they’ve lost a final talent in Alexis Sanchez in the swap deal with Mkhitaryan, but they also gained a fine playmaker who will slot into their style of play seamlessly and they could have one of the most lethal marksman in world soccer on his way.

An intriguing final eight days of the window away with Wenger, Arsenal and Aubameyang.

List of top 30 richest clubs in world revealed

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10 Premier League were listed among the top 20 richest clubs in the world, with 14 PL clubs in the top 30.

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Deloitte released their Football Money League findings after analyzing the financial performance of clubs across the world for the 2016-17 season, with Manchester United coming out on top for the second season on the spin and the 10th time overall.

However, United were less than $2.2 million ahead of Real Madrid who finished in second, as the reigning European and Spanish champions switched places with third-place Barcelona. Bayern Munich and Manchester City rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth place respectively.

14 PL clubs were in the top 30, an increase from 12 this time last year. Arsenal were in sixth, Chelsea in eighth, Liverpool in ninth, Leicester in 14th, West Ham in 17th, Southampton in 18th and Everton in 20th.

Southampton are the only newcomer into the top 20, with Saints benefiting from their eighth-place finish in the PL last season, their fourth-straight finish in the top eight of the Premier League table, plus their appearance in the Europa League for a second-straight season. The South Coast boom in the PL also saw Bournemouth as the only debutants in places 21-30 with the Cherries now the 28th richest club on the planet, with Crystal Palace, West Brom and Stoke also among the top 30.

A noticeable trend is that Italian giants AS Roma and AC Milan both slipped out of the top 20, while just one team from France featured in the top 20 (Paris Saint-Germain), plus three teams each from Italy, Germany and Spain.

Below is a look at the top 30 and how much revenue they generated in 2016-17, with a more in-depth look at the top 20 available here via Deloitte.


  • 1. Manchester United: $828.4 million
  • 2. Real Madrid: $826.2.m
  • 3. Barcelona: $794m
  • 4. Bayern Munich: $720m
  • 5. Manchester City: $646.4m
  • 6. Arsenal: $597.1m
  • 7. Paris Saint Germain: $595.5m
  • 8. Chelsea: $524.2m
  • 9. Liverpool: $519.6m
  • 10. Juventus: $496.9m
  • 11. Tottenham: $435.5m
  • 12. Borussia Dortmund: $407.3m
  • 13. Atletico Madrid: $333.7m
  • 14. Leicester City: $332m
  • 15. Inter Milan: $321m
  • 16. Schalke: $281.9m
  • 17. West Ham: $261.3m
  • 18. Southampton: $259.8m
  • 19. Napoli: $245.8m
  • 20. Everton: $244m
  • 21. Lyon: $242.9m
  • 22. AC Milan: $234.8m
  • 23. Zenit St Petersburg: $220.9m
  • 24. Roma: $210.4m
  • 25. Borussia Monchengladbach: $207.5m
  • 26. Crystal Palace: $200.8m
  • 27. West Bromwich Albion: $196.6m
  • 28. Bournemouth: $195m
  • 29. Stoke City: $193.9m
  • 30. Benfica: $193.1m

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.