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Rose, Gacinovic to Man United; Alli, Griezmann to Barca?

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It’s nowhere near January 1, but Manchester United (of course) have been linked with moves for two wide players.

Danny Rose continues to be linked with a move away from Tottenham Hotspur with the England international left back still out injured and his comments at the start of the season about wanting to be “paid what he deserves” still rings true.

With Ben Davies filing in ably for Rose over the past six months, that could persuade Daniel Levy to cash in on another full back if United offer over $60 million for the 27-year-old. Italian outlet Tuttomercatoweb say Jose Mourinho will come in with a fresh bid for Rose in January after missing out on him in the summer.

Another wide man United are keeping on eye, according to the Daily Mirror, is Eintracht Frankfurt winger Mijat Gacinovic.

The 22-year-old is regarded as one of the top attacking talents in the Bundesliga and it would explain why Mourinho was spotted in Austria last week wearing a baseball cap as he looked on sheepishly from the stands. Serbia (who have since qualified for the World Cup) lost 3-2 to Austria in a 2018 World Cup qualifier and Mourinho was said to be watching Gacinovic closely.

Gacinovic scored two goals in his first three games for Serbia and comes from the same youth team as Dusan Tadic at Vojvodina. With a deal for Ivan Perisic not coming to fruition following a summer-long chase, Mourinho could well swoop for the promising winger.

Quite why he needs another wide man with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata all capable of playing those positions is beyond me. But Jose usually gets what he wants.


Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been linked with a move to Barcelona and Real Madrid as Barca turn their attentions away from Philippe Coutinho.

According to Sport, Alli, 21, is a key target for both Barca and Real and Real are also eyeing up a move for Harry Kane. Of course, we would be taking about monstrous transfer fees for both of these Tottenham and England stars but given Alli’s recent dip in form, perhaps Spurs would be more wiling to cash in on him compared to Kane.

Barcelona are said to believe that Spurs cannot keep hold of both of their star attackers and that enticing Alli away from north London, just a few weeks after he changed his agent, could be a lot easier to do.

Another star attacker said to be interesting Barca, according to Mundo Deportivo, is Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.

The Frenchman decided to stay at Atleti last summer once their transfer ban was confirmed but now that Diego Costa is back at Atleti from January onwards, it is believed Barca will try and swoop in to meet Griezmann’s release clause of $117 million before July 1 when it doubles for the remaining five years of his contract at Atletico.

Griezmann, 26, looked set to move to Manchester United in the summer but Barca will be keen to make him their main man and his record of 86 goals in 167 games for Atleti has seen his star rise over the past three season.

Barca are keen to exploit this loophole in Griezmann’s contract and after all, they now better than most about the risks and rewards of release clauses.

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.