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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Cairney to Boro, second Foxes bid for Mbodji

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As the January transfer window comes close to shutting, teams who missed out on targets earlier in the season begin to panic as they try desperately to fill holes for the second half of the season.

That perfectly describes the situation Middlesbrough is in right now, having missed out on Hull City playmaker Robert Snodgrass, who moved to West Ham a few days ago. Boro was thought to be heavily involved in discussions for the player, and Aitor Karanka has yet to bolster his toothless attack. Middlesbrough also reportedly was in for Bojan, but missed there too as the Stoke forward went to the Bundesliga.

Now, according to a report in The Sun, Karanka has turned his sights to the Championship and Fulham playmaker Tom Cairney. The 26-year-old has been statistically the best player in the second tier this season, leading the charge of Fulham’s possession-heavy attack.

[ RELATED: West Ham sells Dimitri Payet to Marseille ]

According to the report, Middlesbrough is “in discussions” with Fulham for Cairney, but they will need to seriously pay up if they wish to pry the most important player off a team pushing for promotion. He is the gem for manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who favors a Barcelona-like style, and American owner Shad Khan has Premier League ambitions. Fulham sold 31-year-old striker Ross McCormack for a whopping $15 million last summer, and Cairney is both much younger and equally as important to the squad as McCormack was then.

Leicester City also needs to boost the squad, in 15th place a season after shockingly winning the title. The Foxes defense has regressed mightily from its championship winning form, and as Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, and Christian Fuchs all creep further away from the 30 year old mark, Claudio Ranieri knows he needs to get younger at the back.

Cue the rumors of Leicester’s interest in Anderlecht defender Kara Mbodji. The 27-year-old Senegalese international has spent the last three and a half seasons in the Belgian top flight after coming from the Norwegian league. This season, Mbodji has made 17 league starts for Anderlecht, helping the club to a third-place position and one of the league’s better defensive records. Mbodji is currently on international duty in the African Cup of Nations, although he will be returning shortly as Senegal was eliminated by Cameroon on penalties in the quarterfinals. Kara scored in the shootout, while Liverpool forward Saido Mane had the deciding miss.

According to rumors in England, Leicester is readying a second bid for Mbodji after their first was rejected. The reports say the first bid totaled $9.5 million, while Anderlecht values the defender at around $16 million.

One player definitely not on his way to England is Liverpool target Leandro Paredes. The Roma midfielder is not someone the Reds are going to continue pursuing, according to the Liverpool Echo. Manager Jurgen Klopp said the other day that he would not likely be adding players in this transfer window, saying, “It’s not about not wanting [to sign players], it’s about getting the right players.” The Echo report also shoots down links to Real Betis defender Riza Durmisi.

Finally, there are reports that Tottenham could look to make a late move for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who has just returned from African Cup of Nations after the Ivory Coast fell short of expectations with a group stage exit. The Sun reports that Spurs were interested in Zaha over the summer, and now could make a move before the window shuts.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.