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Transfer Roundup: Mahrez to Arsenal; Ederson to City; Fletcher to Stoke

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After revealing that he wants to leave Leicester City in a statement, Riyad Mahrez is a wanted man.

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A report in the Daily Express suggests that Arsenal are the frontrunners for the Algerian midfielder but Leicester’s asking price of close to $65 million could be a major stumbling block.

Mahrez, 26, scored 10 goals in the 2016-17 season but suffered a slump in the Premier League (even though his performances in the UEFA Champions League were remarkably better) 12 months after being named the PFA Player of the Year as he led Leicester to a remarkable PL title win.

Now the winger wants to move on and the likes of Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco appear to be at the front of the queue.

Would Mahrez be a good fit for the Gunners? In this new 3-4-3 system, it’s tough to see him starting out wide for Arsene Wenger with Hector Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal used in the wing-back roles. If one, or both, of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil leave then Mahrez is capable of slotting in behind Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck to provide assists and goals, but it would still be a big ask.

Despite his stunning season in 2015-16, it’s tough to see Mahrez being worth over $65 million. This saga could rumble on all summer.


Darren Fletcher has joined Stoke City on a two-year deal.

West Brom’s captain, 33, is out of contract this summer and the Scottish international midfielder will join the Potters on July 1 when the transfer window reopens. The Daily Mail claims Fletcher had offers from Major League Soccer and Spain, but decided to remain in the PL.

Fletcher spent his entire career at Manchester United before falling down the pecking order after many injuries and eventually he left for West Brom in Ferbruary 2015. While at the Baggies, Fletcher has impressed with all-action displays in midfield but now it appears he will move on.

Being closer to Manchester is probably a big reason for this move, plus Fletcher would be an upgrade on Stoke’s other two-way midfield options, Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan. Adam has an option of extending his deal at Stoke for another year, while Whelan is out of contract next summer but both could well move on with Fletcher coming in.

Alongside Geoff Cameron in central midfield, Fletcher would be able to dovetail with the U.S. national team star and both can get on the ball and surge forward but are also able to shield the defense.


Manchester City look to be closing in on Benfica goalkeeper Ederson Moraes.

The Brazilian stopper, 23, is said to be in Manchester awaiting the final details of the deal to be sorted out, while Benfica have released an official document to the Portuguese stock exchange stating that Ederson has been sold for a fee of $45 million.

They also revealed that half of that fee will go to “third parties” involved in the deal. The Brazil U-23 national team goalkeeper will become the second most-expensive goalkeeper in the world, behind only Gianluigi Buffon who moved from Parma to Juventus back in 2001 for over $50 million.

After the issues with Joe Hart being loaned out to Torino, plus Claudio Bravo struggling in his debut season in England, there was no doubting that Pep Guardiola needed to strengthen in goal, especially with veteran Willy Caballero out of contract and leaving City this summer.

Ederson will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders but after winning the Portuguese league and cup with Benfica this season — he has won five titles with the Lisbon club over the past two seasons — he will be high in confidence.

Could Iniesta succeed at Manchester City

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It appears more likely with each passing day that Andres Iniesta will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

The general feeling around Iniesta’s future is that he’ll either follow former teammate Xavi Hernandez to a club in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, or follow Javier Mascherano to a club in China.

But according to reports in Spain, Iniesta has received a request from a manager who is inextricably linked with his career.

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Per Diario AS, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reached out to Iniesta to try and gauge the 33-year old’s interest in coming to England. It’s a surprising move, considering Iniesta has appeared to have lost a step, and while his skill on the ball is still world class, he hasn’t played as big of a role for Barcelona this season as in years past.

But the big question for Iniesta – as hard as it is to believe we’re asking this – is where he’d fit into the side, and who he’d push out.

If Guardiola sees Iniesta as part of his best XI, and Iniesta played his usual position on the left side of a midfield trio or at left wing, that would see either David Silva or Leroy Sane losing their spot in the team. That’s hard to see, considering how big of an impact those players had.

Sane has scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists in the Premier League while Silva has a nearly-identical stat line, with nine goals and 11 assists in league play.

However, if Guardiola, who played a very small squad this season, wants to have a world-class player to bring off the bench some games or spot start in the UEFA Champions League, he couldn’t do much better than signing Iniesta.

After being given time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, there’s no reason why, even at his advanced age, Iniesta can’t make a big impact in 25-30 games for Man City in the future. You can imagine the Spanish maestro setting up 10 to 15 goals and scoring a few himself as he plays for another title-winning side.

Of course, Iniesta likely won’t earn as much money with Man City as he would in the Arab world or in China, so he has a big decision to make coming up.

Iniesta won three La Liga titles, two Copas Del Rey, two UEFA Champions League and two FIFA Club World Cup titles under Guardiola as Barcelona shined as the best club in the world during that era. Iniesta also made UEFA’s Team of the Year all four years.

Perhaps reuniting with Guardiola can bring the best out of Iniesta once again.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

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Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

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According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

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But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.