Playback: Trade deals the new norm?

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TRADE DEALS THE NEW NORM?

Alexis Sanchez went to Manchester United. Henrikh Mkhitaryan went to Arsenal. No money was exchanged. Everyone was happy.

Will a “swap deal” become the new normal in years to come?

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ] 

One of the biggest swap deals in soccer history took place earlier this week with Sanchez getting out of Arsenal with less than six months left on his current contract, plus Mkhitaryan escaped under-appreciation (mostly in the form of Jose Mourinho) at Old Trafford.

The swap deal, or “player trade” to use U.S. sporting parlance, is still incredibly rare in the Premier League and in other soccer leagues across the world, Major League Soccer aside. There were no swap deals in the summer window in 2017, but there have been relationships building up across the globe with certain teams willing to do business with others in a chain.

Think Celtic to Southampton to Liverpool. Or Everton to Sunderland and vice versa. Patterns are emerging but straight-up swap up deals are still rare. For now.

This high-profile swap got me thinking: with transfer fees spiralling from the ridiculous to the incredulous over the past 12 months, could clubs become more amiable to swapping players in certain situations rather than dishing out their cash? Look at Arsenal’s pursuit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It is said Borussia Dortmund want cash plus Olivier Giroud in the deal and for Arsenal it may make sense to offload another player rather then splashing out more cash.

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True, it’s not like clubs, particularly in the PL, are hurting for dollars. Deloitte’s study into finances of clubs (in terms of their revenue generated) across the globe in 2016-17 revealed that 14 of the 30 richest clubs in the world are from the PL. But with Neymar heading to PSG for $265 million, Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for $197 million and Kylian Mbappe on the move from Monaco for $190 million to PSG once the 2017-18 season is over, you can understand why clubs are cautious about the recent sharp rise in transfer fees.

These days a solid international player will cost upwards of $35 million. There are still ways of being creative for mid to lower-level teams in the PL but there has been more than an inkling of stock-piling of players at the wealthiest clubs for quite some time.

Player agents may not be happy with this suggestion of more frequent trade deals as the obligatory 10% fee from a transfer fee (if the player didn’t request a transfer) would obviously evaporate. But surely the agent, and his client, would make this “loss of revenue” back when it comes to being handed a higher salary? Sanchez’s reported contract at Man United of close to $19.8 million per year (after tax) is proof of this.

These swap deals obviously won’t always be the most viable option, but in a time when European soccer looks to the American sporting market for inspiration when it comes to growing sponsorship deals, social media presence and a changing landscape when it comes to fandom, the PL and other leagues could do a lot worse than see the removal of inflated transfer fees which would in turn see more money kept within clubs and used to improve stadiums, youth academies and reduce ticket prices.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Of course, this revolution in trade deals could simply see the money just floating straight to players and agents instead of between clubs, but there is a suggestion that wages aren’t rising as steeply as transfer fees.

It’s just a thought, but this swap deal suggests it could be the way to go in the future to try and reduce the huge transfer fees and level out the playing field a little. Yes, huge clubs would still sign plenty of the best players because they can pay bigger wages and signing-on fees, but maybe we will see the clubs take back a little of the power and see more players entering the final years of their contracts eager to stick with their current club rather than shopping around.

The Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal seems to be a rare case of two international stars both wanting to move at the same time and both of their clubs willing to let them leave believing they got the better end of the deal. Who says that can’t continue to happen in the future if clubs start to plan further ahead once their stars only have 18 months left on their current deal?


WHO IS ON THE MOVE?

With just a week left in the January transfer window, it’s been a little quiet in the Premier League, apart from the huge Sanchez-Mkhitaryan swap and the blockbuster deals for Virgil Van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho at the start of the month.

[ LIVE: Transfer window show – Jan. 31 on NBCSN, online via NBCSports.com ] 

We can certainly expect plenty of movement in the final seven days of the window. Before we go all Craig David (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…) and map out exactly what will happen each day between now and the window shutting on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. ET, here’s a look at the 10 players we expect to see on the move.

  1. Guido CarrilloPro Soccer Talk understands Southampton have had a club-record $27 million bid accepted, and personal terms could be agreed by Friday. Quincy Promes will be expensive, but his arrival would mark a superb January window for Saints.
  2. Daniel SturridgeWith Inter Milan sniffing around and Sevilla said to be interested, surely Sturridge will swap Liverpool’s bench for regular action as he tries to make England’s 2018 World Cup squad?
  3. Pierre-Emerick AubameyangArsenal appear to be closing in on the Borussia Dortmund striker but with Olivier Giroud said to be wanted in exchange (maybe initially on loan) by the German club, it could get a little messy. Still, a $70 million deal is in the works.
  4. Aymeric Laporte – A young, powerful central defender who is good with the ball at his feet. Sounds perfect for Pep Guardiola at Man City, right? It appears City are ready to pay Laporte’s $86 million release clause and they do need help defensively. Watch this space.
  5. Jonny Evans – Both Arsenal and Man City want Evans and reports suggest West Brom could lose him for just $4.2 million should they get relegated due to a release clause in his contract. Can Alan Pardew afford to let his captain leave? A big bid surely means yes, as Egyptian defender Ali Gabr is lined up as a replacement.

GREAT RELEGATION BATTLE

We all know that Manchester City are 12 points clear atop the Premier League table and it will take a serious collapse and some incredible form from Manchester United, Chelsea et al. to catch them, but at the other end of the table things are far from straightforward.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

Just six points separates Swansea in 20th to Watford in 10th (who now have a new manager in Javi Gracia after Marco Silva was fired), with just four points between the bottom three and the top half of the table.

Fans of 11 of the Premier League’s 20 teams will be sweating most nights between now and the final day of the season on May 13.

Take a look at the table below with 14 games to go as we get a breather for a week with no PL action until Jan. 30 due to the FA Cup fourth round this weekend.

Even Everton must be a little concerned given their recent bad form and clubs such as Swansea, West Brom, Palace, Bournemouth and West Ham all picking up big wins.

We focus on the big boys throughout most of the season due to the big name stars, the titanic clashes and the scramble to finish in the top four and the riches of the UEFA Champions League, but the biggest battle of them all will take place for survival.

Historically this could well be the biggest, and tightest, battle against relegation that the PL has ever seen.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

New York City FC adds Stuttgart mid with option to buy

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New York City FC might’ve found its dynamic box-to-box midfielder.

Ebenezer Ofori, 22, is bringing his relentless motor and eight Ghanaian caps to the Bronx from Stuttgart on a one year loan deal with an option to buy.

[ MORE: Mourinho on Pogba performance ]

Ofori joined Stuttgart from Swedish side AIK Solna in the January 2017 transfer window, and played a role in the club’s promotion to the Bundesliga. He was a signficant part of Solna’s three-round run in Europa League qualification.

But he found very little time on the pitch once Stuttgart rejoined Germany’s top flight, and is taking his talents to MLS.

Here’s NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira:

“I’m really excited to bring in Ebenezer – he’s a young player who is looking to improve, he is really dynamic and can cover ground. He’s really aggressive but he’s good with the ball too. I’m really pleased that we managed to bring him to the football club.

“He’s a competitor, he’s a guy who likes to win, he’s a strong character. He’s coming to this club to compete with the midfielders we have and, like I always say, that will bring the best out of all of the players we have at this football club.”

Ofori joins a midfield with Alexander Ring, Maxi Moralez, and Yangel Herrera. It’s a promising signing, and a name with the potential to take big steps on the club and international scene.

And moves like this are going to continue to happen for NYCFC, because players will feel the allure of being under the eye of Manchester City and the pull of becoming City property. It’s a different dynamic than Chelsea’s loanees in that young players can make their name and be a star in a gigantic world city while attempting to ingratiate themselves with one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Mourinho: “Paul made a big effort”

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had fine words for Paul Pogba, but was tickled by the performance of 21-year-old Scott McTominay in the Red Devils scoreless draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Sevilla 0-0 Man Utd ]

The visitors emerged unscathed, though without an away goal, and Mourinho raised eyebrows when he kept Pogba on the bench to start the match. The young McTominay started the match, and was paired with Pogba once Ander Herrera left the match with injury.

When a reporter asked Mourinho about McTominay after the match, the boss asked if he could give the reporter a hug before elaborating (via the BBC):

“In the press conference, the questions were about Paul [Pogba] but the question should be about the kid. He was fantastic. He did everything well. He put pressure on Ever Banega and stopped him playing, he’s their playmaker. I think Scott was brilliant.

“I think Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of him. Paul replaced Ander, he tried to bring to the game the same kind of qualities. He lost a couple of possessions but he also gave us stability because we had a good percentage of possession for the way we played.”

Mourinho was sure to include Nemanja Matic as a big part of the midfield trio.

The Pogba-Mourinho questions aren’t going to go away any time soon, though it should be noted — perhaps strongly — that the player was ill this weekend and United has to face Chelsea in Premier League play this weekend.

Still, he couldn’t help but mention how much he believes “Old Trafford has missed a big European night,” and how he’s looking forward to a potentially big win come March 13.

Nil-nil in Seville as De Gea stars

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  • English sides unbeaten vs. La Liga in UCL season (2-6)
  • Pogba subs into match for Herrera, 17′
  • De Gea with seven saves for United

David De Gea was the star as Manchester United escaped Sevilla with a scoreless draw in the first leg of the two sides’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sevilla won a corner kick within 90 seconds, but the ball made its way through the 18 without finding a receiver.

Ander Herrera sprung Alexis Sanchez down the middle, but Jesus Navas cut across to catch the Chilean and thwart the United chance.

Navas then dragged a shot across goal and past a diving David De Gea but inches wide of the far post.

A Herrera injury — yes, another injury United supporters — meant Paul Pogba would join the fray after just 17 minutes with the key position in the 4-3-3.

Lukaku botched a terrific diagonal cross from Sanchez with a blast over the goal in the 25th minute.

The 38th minute saw Scott McTominay pump a ball right at Sergio Rico for the Sevilla backstop’s first save, and Angl Correa’s low shot was collected by De Gea for a third Red Devils save.

De Gea then made a leaping save on Steven N’Zonzi’s redirection of a bicycle kick just before halftime, and then slapped Luis Muriel’s header over the bar before the whistle.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

De Gea nabbed another save, his sixth in the contest, when Clement Lenglet got his head on an Ever Banega free kick in the 64th minute.

A Sanchez giveaway provided Sevilla the chance to counter, and Muriel couldn’t get the step back needed to power a header past De Gea.

United had a goal pulled back in the 83rd minute as the ball struck Lukaku’s arm in the build-up.

Fred’s vicious free kick leads Shakhtar over Roma

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Facundo Ferreyra and Fred scored second half goals to lead Shakhtar Donetsk past AS Roma 2-1 at the Donbass Arena in Wednesday’s first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Cendig Under scored his fifth goal in four matches as AS Roma did manage an away goal before the March 13 second leg in Rome.

Fred has been linked with a summer move to Man City, and the banger of a free kick showed part of the reason the Brazilian is in demand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roma is bidding to make its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal since 2007-08 when they went out at the hands of Manchester United, while Shakhtar last made the quarters only to be dismissed by Barcelona in 2010-11.

Ukrainian backstop Andriy Pyatov had an early save on Edin Dzeko off a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, two minutes after Kolarov mailed a free kick over the bar.

Kolarov and Dzeko remained big parts of the story line, though Pyatov and the Shakhtar defense stood tall.

Dzeko would wind up assisting the opener, and it was the in form Under who’d bury his chance.

Not soon after the break, though, Yaroslav Rakitskiy cued up Ferreyra for the equalizer.

And Fred but the hosts ahead with this outstanding free kick, what they’d call a “bar down bingo” in hockey.