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Top five free agents for Premier League clubs to target

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With July 1 just around the corner (it’s on Saturday, folks) the summer transfer window will open and you can expect a flurry of deals to be confirmed as free agents sign new deals elsewhere.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news 

The likes of Jermain Defoe (Sunderland to Bournemouth) and Willy Caballero (Man City to Chelsea) have all but confirmed their moves as upcoming free agents, but plenty of other big names players still have their future up in the air.

Here’s a look at the five players Premir League clubs should target to sign on a freebie.

Pepe – Not everyone’s cup of tea (understatement alert) but an experienced defender who will no doubt suit the physical nature of the PL with his style of play. After winning three UEFA Champions League titles in four years at Real Madrid, Pepe is out of contract with the Spanish giants and the 34-year-old could be a useful proposition for plenty of PL clubs. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United could all do with reinforcement in central defense and Pepe’s pedigree, despite question marks over his temperament, are worth picking him up on a free. Unlikely to want to join a club not in the Champions League though.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 28 goals for Manchester United last season says it all. Zlatan is out of contract on July 1 and it doesn’t seem like he’ll sign a new deal at Old Trafford. His situation is a little more relaxed than others with the 35-year-old currently recovering from surgery after a serious knee injury prematurely ended his heroics. If United don’t offer him a new deal, plenty of other PL clubs will be willing to do so. China and MLS remains an option but Zlatan proved he can score goals and have an impact in the PL. Which PL club would be willing to pay Zlatan the big bucks to score goals?

John Terry – Bournemouth, West Brom and Swansea are all said to have been interested in signing Terry following the end of his deal at Chelsea. The Premier League legend still has plenty to offer at the age of 36, but it appears he may be heading to the Championship with Aston Villa and Birmingham City battling for his transfer. If a midtable PL team want to add experience and leadership to their defense, adding a five-time Premier League winner and one of the finest defenders England and the PL has ever seen would be a grand idea. It seems like JT may try something different and head to the lower leagues, perhaps with a focus on coaching, but it would be great to see him at Swansea of Bournemouth leading young defenders.

Jan Kirchhoff – Soon to be out of contract at Sunderland, the 26-year-old German midfielder/defender missed most of last season through injury. That hurt Sunderland a lot as they were relegated from the PL. His arrival from Bayern Munich in January 2016 helped Sam Allardyce steady the Black Cats and keep them up and his supreme reading of the game is coupled with a destructive calmness. Midtable PL clubs could do a lot worse than picking up Kirchhoff to help shore up the space in front of their defenses.

Bacary Sagna – The speedy right back has departed Manchester City (along with Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas who are both good full back options too) and even at the age of 34 he is appearing for the French national team and is a reliable defender. You don’t see as many marauding runs from Sagna as we did during his early days at City and before that at Arsenal, but he provides power and pace when needed. A great pick up for a top half PL team looking to add a versatile defender who could easily play in any defensive position. Newcastle, Watford or Crystal Palace would be a good fit for him.

Notable mentions: Martin Caceres, George Boyd, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas, Joe Ledely, Charlie Adam, Zoran Tosic, Iker Casillas

Report: Liverpool to resist all offers for Salah

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Liverpool has a message for any club looking to sign Mohamed Salah this summer: Not gonna happen.

The Merseyside club has reportedly said it will “not sell Salah under any circumstances this summer” as the Reds look to hold off the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, according to The Telegraph. Salah’s four-goal tally against Watford on Saturday took his goal total to an incredible 28 in 32 Premier League games, with another seven goals in cup competitions.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Liverpool famously kept Barcelona – and Arsenal – off Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan striker wanted to leave in 2013, but Liverpool was only able to stop Barcelona from signing Philippe Coutinho for six months.

As things stand, Liverpool are qualified for the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League with the club sitting in first place, and keeping Salah is absolutely vital if the Reds want to make a deep run in the competition and compete for a Premier League title. It remains to be seen though if Salah is happy to stay at Liverpool or if a big-money offer from Spain or France can tempt him otherwise to set himself and his family financially for life.

Report: Sarachan’s contract with USMNT extended through June

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U.S. Soccer will wait until after the World Cup to decide on a new head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that U.S. Soccer had extended interim coach Dave Sarachan’s contract through June, after his original deal was set to expire this month. Sarachan has led the U.S. since the resignation of Bruce Arena last October. Sarachan was Arena’s long-time top assistant coach with the LA Galaxy and USMNT before taking the reigns.

[READ: Manneh added to USMNT squad]

Sarachan has led the U.S. to a pair of draws with Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with two U.S. starting lineups stocked with youngsters as the preparation for the 2022 World Cup gets underway.

Sarachan and the U.S. are currently holding a training camp in Cary, N.C. ahead of a friendly match next Tuesday against Paraguay. Sarachan will also coach the U.S. against Bolivia, Ireland and France before departing.

By extending Sarachan through June, it makes it more likely that U.S. Soccer will either look abroad for its next coach or pick a coach who is currently a free agent – like Caleb Porter – or already within the system – like Tab Ramos. It’s possible, but unlikely, that U.S. Soccer could sway Peter Vermes, Oscar Pareja or Gregg Berhalter to leave their clubs halfway through the season for the national team job, and it’s equally unlikely that U.S. Soccer would hold the position open until the next MLS offseason.

Joint World Cup bidders: Trump hasn’t sparked voter concerns

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Organizers of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup insist FIFA members have not expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s harsh words about foreigners or the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting corrupt soccer officials.

[ MORE: Digging into the latest USMNT roster ]

“Look, this is not geopolitics,” new U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said Monday during a conference call. “We’re talking about football and what fundamentally at the end of the day, what’s the best interests of football and our footballing community, and we’ve had no backlash. We’re very focused on the merits of our bid.”

A joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada was submitted to FIFA on Friday along with a proposal by Morocco. The 207 other members of the international soccer governing body will vote on June 13 in Moscow.

Cordeiro, Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria and Canadian Soccer Association President Steven Reed spoke from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they were meeting with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, a subset of the Asian Football Confederation.

A solo bid by the U.S. for the 2022 World Cup was favored going into the 2010 vote but lost to Qatar. FIFA then changed the vote rules to give the decision back to the entire membership, which chose hosts prior to 1986, when the choice started being made by the roughly two dozen members of its executive committee.

“We believe that the member associations are going to judge us on the quality of the bids, on the merits of our bid, and that’s it,” Reed said. “We’re very confident about what we’re putting forward, and I don’t think that we’re concerned about politics.”

Sixty games would be played in the U.S. under the bid plan, including all from the quarterfinals on. Three cities were included from Mexico and Canada, and both of those nations would host 10 games.

Holding a tournament in the U.S. would subject many of the documents generated to subpoena by U.S. federal prosecutors, who have secured numerous guilty pleas to corruption charges from soccer officials since 2015 and obtained convictions at trial last year against Juan Angel Napout, the former president of South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.

“We haven’t had any of those concerns raised by any of the members that we’ve met so far,” Cordeiro said. “The reforms that FIFA undertook some years ago I think were spot on and we feel very confident that ultimately the right decision will be made.”

Morocco’s bid envisions spending almost $16 billion, including $3 billion to construct nine new stadiums, refurbish five others and build or renovate 130 training grounds.

[ MORE: Brazil to face Austria in final World Cup tune-up match ]

The North American bid proposed venues be selected from among 23 stadiums that exist or already are under construction, including three each in Mexico and Canada. Sixteen of the U.S. stadiums are sites of NFL teams.

“The split of matches that we have proposed to FIFA frankly reflects the resources of the three countries,” Cordeiro said. “We in the United States are blessed with some very substantial resources in terms of stadium infrastructure, of cities and so on, and that reflects the 60 matches that we have on the table. But at the end of the day there is a reason why FIFA have asked for or have encouraged joint bids and we do think that our joint bids taken together provide for a vastly superior bid than our competition.”

AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

Ailing LA Galaxy could miss as many as 10 players this weekend

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We’re less than a month into the new Major League Soccer season, and one club is already left scrambling to find players for its next match.

[ MORE: A deeper look at the USMNT roster ]

Between injuries, international call ups and a suspension, the LA Galaxy could be without as many as 10 players this weekend.

Ola Kamara, Romain Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos are among the notable names likely to be absent for Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but seven more players could be left unavailable for Sigi Schmid’s squad.

Kamara was the latest player to be named to his respective national team, with the striker being called up to Norway on Monday.

Meanwhile, both Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos have earned call ups to Mexico, and Emrah Klimenta has been selected by Montenegro for its next friendlies against Cyprus and Turkey.

Both Dos Santos brothers are battling injuries of their own, so they may not feature for El Tri, but that won’t necessarily help the Galaxy either as they are kept sidelined.

Of the ten players possibly missing the Whitecaps match, five of them (Michael Ciani, Cole, Gio dos Santos, J. dos Santos and Kamara) started in the Galaxy’s last game — a 2-1 loss to New York City FC.