Friday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Rooney to Chelsea, Ibrahimovic to Man City

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With Wayne Rooney returning to the UK after injuring his hamstring during the first few days of Manchester United’s preseason tour to the Far East, speculation is rife that a $38 million move to Chelsea is in the cards. Rooney is set to miss the next month through injury, but many believe he is back in England to finalize a move away from Old Trafford. José Mourinho is a big admirer of the England international and Rooney wants a fresh challenge away from United. Do we have another Fernando Torres situation on our hands here? Or can Rooney bring European glory to Stamford Bridge? I’d bet on the latter.

It seems as if Bayern Munich are close to sealing a deal for Barcelona’s talented youngster Thiago Alcantara. Former Barca boss Pep Guardiola is keen to bring the Spanish international to the Bundesliga and Thiago, 22, looks set to snub Manchester United and join Bayern. Guardiola is adamant that Thiago is needed in Munich, but where will he play? Obviously Pep has big plans for him but competition for places will be extremely high unless the Spaniard clears out some of the attackers at the Allianz Arena. Thiago and Mario Götze in midfield running into attack would be quite the duo, another season of dominance from Bayern beckons.

With Manchester City set to miss out on long-term target Edinson Cavani, they could bring Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Etihad instead. It it understood that the 31-year-old Swedish striker is upset after Carlo Ancelotti left PSG and City are able to pay his massive wages so they’ve jumped to the front of the queue to sign the mercurial forward. City certainly need another striker and Ibrahimovic has scored goals by the bucket full wherever he has played. But can Manuel Pellegrini handled his ego?

Stevan Jovetic is still being chased by both Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, as the Montenegrin international’s future at Fiorentina is still in doubt. But the 22-year-old is edging closer to joining City, as they’re favorites to seal a $45 million deal for the exciting attacker. Is Jovetic worth that much? For a City team that struggled to score last season, he definitely is. His flowing long locks of hair often buzz in and around the penalty box, creating numerous chances and scoring quite a few himself. Chelsea may look elsewhere, as Jovetic seems to be heading to Manchester and join a fresh crop of attacking midfielders that will reignite City’s EPL title aspirations.

Arsenal may lose out on Brazilian international Julio Cesar, as the Queens Park Rangers ‘keeper is in advanced talks with Serie A outfit Napoli. Goalkeeper Cesar, 33, recently said he wanted to stay in London but the Gunners may be out of the race to sign him. Cesar shone at QPR last season, but with the London club relegated to the Championship he was always going to move on. Impressing for hosts Brazil in the Confederations Cup, Cesar could be heading to Naples instead of AS Roma and Arsenal. The Brazilian would’ve been first-choice at the Emirates and Arsene Wenger won’t be happy to lose a target many thought was in the bag. Unless Arsenal can persuade him to stay in England, their goalkeeper struggles look set to continue this season.

MORE: Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, Suarez to Real Madrid, Benteke to Spurs

MORE: Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, Benteke to Chelsea, Luiz to Barcelona

Premier League clubs vote VAR into use for 2019-20 season

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It’s been inevitable for quite some time, but now it’s official: video review will be used in the Premier League when the 2019-20 season kicks off next August.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

20 of 20 current PL clubs voted on Thursday to confirm the use of the modern technology beginning next season.

The Bundesliga and Serie A began using the video assistant referee (VAR) at the start of the 2017-18 season, and have continued (successful) operation of the system in 2018-19. Major League Soccer introduced the protocol two-thirds of the way through its 2017 season, to far greater degrees of varying success. La Liga is set to begin use of VAR next season as well.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

VAR was first used in the English game last season, when select FA Cup fixtures were used as test runs, while the same is being done in the EFL Cup this season.

Chelsea expected to let Cahill leave on loan in January

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Gary Cahill is no longer first-choice at Chelsea — anything but, in fact, as he’s played just 21 minutes in the Premier League this season — and the club is prepared to allow its captain to leave on loan in January as a reward for six years of excellent service, according to a report from the Guardian.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

New Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has used Cahill sparingly thus far — even leaving him out of the 18-man team for Sunday’s draw with Everton — but has praised the 32-year-old for his professionalism and influence as a valued member inside the locker room. For those reasons, Sarri is prepared to do right by one of the club’s most senior members as Cahill seeks regular first-team minutes.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

Cahill’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2020, thus a loan in January and an ensuing permanent transfer this coming summer represents the club’s final opportunity to recoup a small fee for a player who will surely garner plenty of interest from within the PL. Having paid under $9 million to sign him from Bolton in January 2012, Chelsea have gotten pretty good value for their initial investment, including two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and one Champions League and Europa League title each during Cahill’s spell at the club.

U.S. U-20 men one win from World Cup

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One win.

That’s all the United States’ U-20 men’s national team will need to advance to this summer’s World Cup in Poland and the Pan-American Games in Peru.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

The Yanks cruised through group play with a nearly perfect nine days of soccer, the closest of five wins a 6-1 defeat of Trinidad and Tobago.

Competition is a bit tougher in the knockout stage, but Costa Rica and Honduras did the U.S. a massive solid by drawing 1-1 in their opener.

Now Tab Ramos’ kids can qualify for the World Cup with a defeat of Costa Rica on Friday or Honduras on Monday.

The top two teams in each group qualify for Poland, while the Group A winner advances to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to face the winner of Group B (Mexico, El Salvador, or Panama).

The U.S. has spread the scoring around, lead by 17-year-old Ulysses Lainez of LA Galaxy II (six goals). His former Galaxy Academy buddy, Alexis Mendez of Freiburg has five goals, as does Toronto FC 18-year-old Ayo Akinola.

Atlanta United sits atop Forbes’ list of most valuable MLS franchises

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Atlanta United came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s off-the-field success is No. 1 with a bullet.

Giving high marks to attendance and merchandise sales, Forbes places the Five Stripes atop its list of the most valuable franchises in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

United sits first, with a valuation of $330 million. Both Atlanta and the second place Galaxy have valuations ahead of the two-least valuable teams combined (Columbus and Colorado). And the Five Stripes are worth twice the individual values of those teams and Vancouver. Full list here, from Forbes.com:

“Last season, average home-game attendance was 48,200, and this year the team is drawing over 50,000 fans per game. In just two seasons Atlanta has already laid claim to the league’s eight best-attended games ever, and nine of the top eleven.”

The margins are fine, relatively speaking, with Atlanta’s advantage over second place LA Galaxy by $10 million. Seattle is third at $310m, with newcomers LAFC at $305m, and Toronto FC at $290m.