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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.

Sir Alex’s son in trouble for saying he’d “shoot” refs

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LONDON (AP) It clearly runs in the family.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was known for having an explosive temper during his nearly 27 years at Old Trafford, and it seems he has passed it down to his son.

Darren Ferguson, who is the manager of third-tier English team Doncaster, is in trouble for saying he would “shoot” referees because of what he perceived as their poor standards.

Ferguson was charged by the English Football Association on Wednesday for remarks that “were improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

The 45-year-old coach has already apologized, saying it was a “tongue-in-cheek comment” and that “I do not advocate violence against officials.”

Ferguson was unhappy his team was denied a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday.

“The referees are part-time and the standard is appalling, their fitness levels are a disgrace, I’ve had enough of it,” Ferguson said after the match.

“What can I do? Shoot them, it would be a good idea.”

Follow Live: Chelsea, Swans, Cherries in FA Cup replays

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Chelsea, Swansea City, and Bournemouth look to avoid upsets in replays of their third round FA Cup matches.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

All three matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

The Blues tangle with former Premier League peers Norwich City, this time at Stamford Bridge, in a bid to host a fourth round match with Newcastle United.

Antonio Conte‘s not messing around (too much) with the XI.

Swansea City and Wolves, meanwhile, are arguably battling for a bid in the fourth round, as a trip to Notts County is on the docket for the winner of Wednesday’s replay at the Liberty Stadium.

Bournemouth is at Wigan Athletic for a replay with the third-tier Latics, with the victor hosting West Ham United on Jan. 27.

Benevento captain Lucioni banned one year for doping

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ROME (AP) Benevento captain Fabio Lucioni has been banned one year for doping.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

Italy’s national anti-doping organization made the decision Tuesday after the steroid clostebol was found in a sample taken after Benevento’s 1-0 loss to Torino in September.

Benevento team physician Walter Giorgione was banned for four years for administering the steroid to Lucioni in a spray.

Both Lucioni and Giorgione plan to appeal.

The 30-year-old Lucioni joined Benevento in 2014 and the defender helped the team move from the third division up into Serie A this season for the first time.

Benevento is last in Serie A with only two wins in 20 matches.

The ban is back-dated to October, meaning Lucioni can return early next season.

Everton completes move for Walcott: “I’m dead excited” (video)

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Everton continues to supply its managers with top-end talent, adding Theo Walcott to its expensive season of boys which includes Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Cenk Tosun, Jordan Pickford, and Michael Keane.

[ MORE: Plenty to prove for Big Sam ]

The deal is reported to be near $28 million for Walcott, who’s made only a half-dozen Premier League appearances this season but did nab three goals in five Europa League matches.

Walcott, 28, scored 108 goals in 397 appearances for the Gunners. His 19-goal campaign last season was his second-best — he scored 21 in 2012-13 — but Walcott dipped down Arsene Wenger‘s depth charge and is leaving to pursue regular football.

And his comments will be lapped up by the #WengerOut brigade at his now former club:

“The Club has won trophies but I want them to win trophies now. The manager is very hungry and it’s just what I need. I’ve had a couple of chats with him and straightaway I felt that hunger and that desire that he wanted from me. I need that and I wanted that

The move is another exciting one for Everton, which has underachieved under Ronald Koeman and now Sam Allardyce. And it’s another sale from Arsenal which gives pause: Are the underperforming Gunners going to regret the move?

In the 2005-06 season, Walcott made his Southampton debut in the Football League Championship at the age of 16, and moved to Arsenal the next season.

Walcott has eight goals in 47 caps for England, and won two FA Cups at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Montreal nabs Algerian DP ]

Here is a useful quote from Sam Allardyce:“His physical output is excellent, he would be one of our top players in that area as well, which will hopefully bring us a lot more excitement and more ability to get forward quicker and create.

And here is an utterly useless one: ““If you analyse his goal record, then we are looking at a player who contributes goals on a regular basis.”

You don’t say. To paraphrase: If you look at all his goals, he regularly scores goals. Here’s more from the player on his move.