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Reports: Dimitri Payet takes pay cut to return to Marseille

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Multiple reports in England claim that West Ham and Olympique Marseille have agreed to a deal to return Dimitri Payet to his old club. The reports say Payet is headed to France for a medical, to join Marseille imminently.

It’s an awkward conclusion to an awkward situation, with Payet set to return to the club he forced his way out of just a year and a half ago. Now, he returns having forced his way out of West Ham, burning bridges at the club where he dazzled England and built his international career to new heights. According to many reports, Payet took a pay cut to return to the club he initially left due to an inability of the club to meet his huge salary request.

With West Ham in the bottom half of the Premier League table, Payet refused to play for the club, leaving manager Slaven Bilic furious, with the Croatian forced to bring up his anger unprompted in a press conference that caught everyone off guard. It got so ugly at one point that West Ham was forced to place security in front of Payet’s image outside the stadium.

Now, the tumultuous standoff has come to a conclusion, with the 29-year-old robbing the Premier League of his technical brilliance and incredible goal-scoring abilities.

Reports say Payet will cost Marseille anywhere between $31 million and $37 million, nearly three times what the French club received for Payet just 18 months ago. It’s little consolation for the Hammers who would much rather keep their best player, but to return three times the investment on a player is always a business success.

Now, Payet must return to the club he made 83 appearances for, but more interestingly, he must rectify relationships he seemed to have destroyed when he left, including that with the fans, who were infuriated by his actions a year and a half ago. At the time, the club claimed in a statement, “his agent demanded a huge and immediate revaluation of the player’s contract to remain at Marseille,. Marseille was unable to meet this demand, and the president expressed his surprise that negotiations were opened with another club without warning to OM.”

UPDATE: Dimitri Payet posted a picture of an airplane with the caption “going home” on his official Twitter account.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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