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Benitez frustrated over lack of Newcastle signings

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Rafael Benitez has called the transfer market “crazy” as Newcastle United’s preparations for their Premier League return continue to go at a snails pace.

[ MORE: Lukaku joins United for $96.5 million ]

Surely Newcastle won’t make the same mistakes they’ve made in the past.

Benitez, 57, spoke at a fan event in Newcastle and revealed that his side are struggling to bring in the players they would like to push on after gaining promotion from the Championship.

“It’s not easy for a lot of teams because the market is a little bit crazy. We have to try to do our best,” Benitez said. “The top sides have a lot of money. The other teams are spending too, but we will see what we can do. We know where we are – that is not ideal because everybody wants to see a lot of players signing already, but we have to keep working and see what we can do. We can do nothing other than just keep working to find the players that we want, and hopefully we can do it.”

The timing of this comment is clever from Benitez and the former Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager has always been keen to push the owners and board as much as he can to get what he wants.

With Newcastle starting preseason, the Magpies boss is giving owner Mike Ashley a nudge to remind him that he needs backing in the transfer market before the new season kicks off on Aug. 12.

Benitez was given huge funds last season (Dwight Gayle, Mohamed Diame and Matt Ritchie all arrived) when Newcastle were in the second-tier after Benitez came in late during the 2015-16 campaign but couldn’t save them from relegation. For the past six months reports have popped up stating Benitez was unhappy with the lack of transfer funds available and it was thought he could walk away in May after guiding Newcastle back to the PL.

However, the club released a statement early in the summer stating that Benitez would be staying on and he commented on how happy he was with the transfer policy as the owner had promised every penny from promotion would be spent on the squad. Benitez obviously isn’t too happy with Newcastle’s transfer dealings right now (they missed out on signing the likes of Willy Caballero and Tammy Abraham) but there’s still over eight weeks left in the summer window to get deals done.

Christian Atsu has arrived on a permanent deal from Chelsea this summer, while defender Florian Lejeune arrived from Eibar but it’s been hard going apart from that. Yes, the likes of Gayle and Jonjo Shelvey provide Premier League experience and will be vital if Newcastle are to kick on and finish in the top half of the PL table as they hope to, but adding more quality is essential if Newcastle aren’t going to embroiled in yet another relegation battle.

Benitez knows that. Hence, these comments.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

 

 

 

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.