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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a good fit for Chelsea?

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With Borussia Dortmund urging clubs to come forward and pay the cash they want for star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan are all said to be pursuing the Gabonese striker.

And rightly so.

[ MORE: Preseason schedule for PL teams

Aubemayang, 28, was the leading scorer in the Bundesliga last season with 31 goals in 32 games, but as well as his supreme finishing ability he offers a focal point in attack. That’s something Chelsea could badly do with as Diego Costa’s exit edges closer following his latest antics, while potential moves for Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti all seem increasingly complex.

Costa’s situation has provided Chelsea with an issue they need to sort out quickly, and Dortmund’s CEO wants Aubameyang’s future sorted quickly as clubs line up to sign him.

Would Aubameyang be a good signing for Chelsea at $91.5 million? That’s not quite value for money when you think that’s just $5 million less than Manchester United paid for Romelu Lukaku and he is four years younger than Aubameyang.

Yet, if Chelsea can negotiate that down to $80 million or so, then they will have a player who not only delivers goals — he has scored 120 goals in 189 games in all competitions for Dortmund over the past four seasons — but one that would fit into their system perfectly.

Sure, Aubameyang has never played in the Premier League before and we all know how hit and miss it can be with strikers adjusting to the PL after playing elsewhere in Europe for most of their career. Yet nothing about Aubemyang’s considerable sample size suggests that he will struggle physically in the PL as can often the case with foreign imports.

Developing under Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, Aubameyang has improved year on year and he can score all types of goals and is a pure poacher. His work rate may not be as incessant as Costa’s but he is arguably more clinical than the Spaniard and is more mobile to stretch defenses and create spaces for Chelsea’s other attackers.

With the trend of Premier League clubs heading to the Bundesliga for players over the past few years, the style of play in Germany’s top-flight is incredibly comparable to the style of the PL and the risk of a player failing to acclimatize to England appears to be diminished. Aubameyang has offered an option in-behind for Dortmund over the past four seasons, while he is also able to hold the ball up and get on the end of crosses, scoring six headers in the Bundesliga last season.

The way Chelsea have used Diego Costa, and Didier Drogba before him, is the same way Dortmund have used Aubameyang to great success since he arrived from Saint-Etienne in 2013. Putting quick, skilled attackers around a target man isn’t a new thing, but it’s difficult to do it well.

Chelsea does it well and has everything in place in attack with Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Cesc Fabregas able to put chances on a plate for a forward and with Aubameyang trending upwards over the past three seasons (he has scored at least 25 in each campaign, scoring more goals in each season) you can speculate he’d score over 30 goals in all competitions.

That’s worth $85 million, right?

Aubameyang is said to fancy a move back to AC Milan, the club where he came through the youth ranks before spending several seasons out on loan and then starring at Dortmund, but it’s clear from looking at his numbers, style of play and potential combinations, Chelsea should make a big push to sign him.

With Morata, Belotti, Sanchez and Aguero all more expensive and unlikely, targeting Aubameyang is the smart play. Chelsea have had success late in the window over the past few seasons but Dortmund want Aubameyang out soon. That could play in to Conte’s hands.

Timbers sign Peruvian winger Andy Polo from Liga MX’s Morelia

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Timbers have acquired winger Andy Polo on loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old native of Peru played in 25 matches last year for Morelia and made six starts with two goals.

He’s also World Cup-bound, having appeared in Peru’s two-legged playoff against New Zealand in November. Peru won 2-0 on aggregate. Overall, he’s appeared with the Peruvian national team 15 times since his senior debut in 2016.

“Andy is a versatile, young player who will add another element to our attack, and we believe that he has further upside to his development,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in a statement.

The Timbers used targeted allocation money and have a purchase option. Polo’s arrival is pending a physical and receipt of a visa.

He will occupy an international roster spot.

Can Man United still sign Sanchez without Mkhitaryan swap?

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The answer to the (first) titled question is, undoubtedly, yes.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

The latter question — the “will they?” — remains a relative unknown at this point, but if reports out of the UK are to be believed, Manchester United are just as likely to send $40 million (or so) Arsenal’s way in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan refuse the move by declining any contract offers from the Gunners.

[ MORE: Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies ]

The thinking, at least for the last few days since Man United somewhat unexpectedly entered the Sanchez sweepstakes, was that swapping the Armenian for the Chilean was the obvious — and, perhaps only — way forward. Call it special circumstances or an obvious audible, but that’s not necessarily the case — from the Guardian:

“It is understood that if Mkhitaryan does not leave Mourinho believes that, given the club’s robust finances, [Man United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward could still sanction a move for a player who would potentially vastly improve United.”

By the time Sanchez is signed, sealed and delivered, United will have also paid Sanchez and his agent, Fernando Felicevich, massive signing-on fees that could total another $30 million. No matter the order in which the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan saga plays out, United will come out ahead with a superior player at a massively discounted price — should Sanchez ultimately move to Old Trafford, of course.

Conte bewildered VAR not used in Chelsea PK controversies

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If the FA, English football’s governing body, is insistent upon testing video-assistant refereeing (VAR) as they have done in recent FA Cup and League Cup fixtures, Antonio Conte believes they should darn well use it.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Friday ]

Following his Chelsea side’s penalty-shootout victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday, Conte was equal parts frustrated and confused by the fact that video-referee Mike Jones failed to prompt referee Graham Scott to consult the on-trial system on multiple occasions.

Most notably, Chelsea’s 92nd-minute (extra-time) penalty shout following Timm Klose‘s tackle on Willian. Scott, instead, booked the Brazilian for diving — one of three cards, all shown to Chelsea players, for simulation on the night — and that was that.

“If you watch the replay you see very clearly it is a penalty,” said Conte after the game — quotes from the BBC:

“I think that there was a penalty but not on [Alvaro] Morata — on Willian.

“With Willian, the referee heard what the other referee watched and decided to continue to play. If we want to try to use this new system, it is important for the referee to wait, especially in this incident that is not so clear.

“And then when the referee that is watching had a doubt, he has to call the referee to watch and he can make a decision. The referee on the pitch has to make the decision, not one off the pitch.

“We can improve it for sure but we need to try to take the best solution. The final decision is for the ref on the pitch. Otherwise, why is there this ref?

“The mistake wasn’t of the ref on the pitch but the person watching. When you see this, you have to call the referee.”

VAR was used in another third-round replay, on Tuesday, and helped to correctly rule Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho as being in an onside position when he scored his side’s second goal. While offside/onside calls are much clearer, cut-and-dry decisions to make — and with the aid of a natural stoppage in play — clearly much work lies ahead with regard to the process of determining whether the referee has made a “clear and obvious error,” which remains the threshold for using VAR, in instances of fouls/diving.

Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.