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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Barcelona preparing fresh bid for Coutinho, and more

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Liverpool FC appears to be preparing to lose one of its biggest stars in the coming months.

According to a report from Sky Sports News’ Guillem Balague, Barcelona is preparing to launch another bid for Philippe Coutinho worth nearly $180 million, and the report states that Liverpool is now more likely to accept an offer, whether in January or after the World Cup this summer.

The Reds rejected a trio of offers for Coutinho over the summer despite the Brazilian lodging a transfer request with the front office. The last bid was reportedly worth around $150 million, which before Neymar’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain would have been a record transfer bid.

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It would be very surprising to see Liverpool offload Coutinho now, with the team still in the race for a UEFA Champions League position for next year as well as this year’s Champions League knockout stage. At the same time, Coutinho would have to adjust to a new club and new setting just six months before a World Cup, which may keep him in Liverpool until then.

The report states that Coutinho signing a new contract at Liverpool is the least likely outcome, a very disappointing note for the Merseyside club.

Here’s some more transfer rumors around the Premier League and Europe:

Jesus injury could speed up Sanchez to Man City

Manchester City may have been reticent to sign Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez during this transfer window, when Man City could get him for free this summer, but with Gabriel Jesus facing a couple of months on the sideline, they could change their minds.

That’s per Marca in Spain, which speculates that Man City could accelerate the process of signing Sanchez and shelling out some cash to Arsenal in exchange for one of the Premier League’s best attackers, who can play as a lone striker or anywhere along the front three of attacking midfielders.

Jesus and Man City received some good news this week as his knee ligament injury won’t require surgery, but the Brazilian forward will miss at least one to two months of action. With Arsene Wenger resigned to losing both Sanchez and Mesut Ozil this summer, perhaps now is the time that Man City can scoop in and sign Sanchez as injury cover and overall improvements in their Premier League title push.

Luiz, Batshuayi could leave Chelsea in January

Antonio Conte is prepared for two of his squad players – both of whom cost a combined $90 million in transfer fees – to leave Chelsea this month.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Chelsea’s match with Arsenal, Conte said that he understands if David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi leave in search of more playing time. Batshuayi has played second-fiddle to Alvaro Morata this season after playing backup to Diego Costa last season while Luiz has found playing time hard to come by with the emergence of Andreas Christiansen in Conte’s back three.

At the same time, Conte said that due to the small size of the first team, if someone leaves, he’d need to have a new signing, something that could complicate matters for Luiz and Batshuayi.

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

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“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

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Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.