Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have just begun his maneuvering out of Paris Saint-Germain

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Carlo Ancelotti’s departure from Paris Saint-Germain may be all but inevitable, but as we’ve previously discussed, PSG’s reluctance to let their head coach go may be more about containing  damage than forcing  hands. Were Ancelotti to leave for Real Madrid without an appropriate transition in place, the Parisians would risk derailing their project as the squad’s high-priced talents consider moves away from France.

Such is the in-between state of French soccer. Under-appreciated and under-watched, there’s still the perception that Ligue 1 is the fifth of five big leagues, a difficult proposition to reconcile if you watch both the French and Italian leagues. Each circuit has its charms and its limitations, but with the regression of Serie A combined with on-and-off the field improvements in Paris, Lille, and (to a possible expired extent) Montpellier, the differences between the league’s are more difficult to detect on the field. Still, for many players, Serie A is a more desirable destination, as is the Premier League, La Liga, and the German Bundesliga.

Take, for example, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he of the league-leading 30 goals in 34 Ligue 1 appearances. The big Swede was convinced to switch from Milan to Paris thanks to a huge wage package, the chance to be part of PSG’s emerging project, and the presence of a Serie A legend: Ancelotti. In one season at the Parc de Princes, he’s led the club to a league title and the quarterfinals of Champions League while being France’s best player.

But if Ancelotti leaves, Sky Italia reports, Ibrahimovic wants to go, too. At least, that’s what one reporter is relaying tonight:

[tweet https://twitter.com/tancredipalmeri/status/338753547468431360]

Just like PSG’s big denial of Real Madrid seemed like posturing toward another end, Ibrahimovic’s could be the same. This could be about making sure PSG hires a coach to his liking, getting some role in that process, or perhaps just getting a little something tacked onto his contract. When you have an agent as astute as Mino Raiola, any opening can be exploited to any end.

That end could, however, be a move, transfer potential that leaves very few viable destinations. Real Madrid is an obvious one, as the Spanish titans would be able to afford his wages, offer him Champions League soccer, and give him a chance to play in a major league. Chelsea would also make sense, as would Manchester City, though the citizens are said to be less than interested (perhaps because of the Barcelona influences in their front office).

Those are some of the few clubs could afford Ibrahimovic, though it’s hard to discount a move back to one of the Milanese clubs, something that would require Ibrahimovic leave  money on the table. At 31 years old and with a family that loves Milan, don’t count out a return to AC Milan or Internazionale, even if that would require one of those clubs to drastically alter their plans to bring their former number nine back home.

Also, don’t forget this could all be bunk, that people could be speaking out of turn (which has happened before around Ibrahimovic), and he’s perfectly fine with his deal in Paris. Sky Italia, however, is reporting otherwise.

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

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

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

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