Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ibrahimovic to Chelsea, Vadillo to Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur have this morning been linked to Real Betis youngster Alvaro Vadillo. The 18-year-old winger has been dubbed the “new Cristiano Ronaldo” by many and Andre Villas-Boas has been impressed with the Spaniard. Vadillo broke into the Betis side last December and has impressed Spurs’ scouts with his direct wing play. Many observers believe Tottenham may make a move before other clubs to ensure they have a long-term replacement for Gareth Bale, if the Welshman does move on. Vadillo is young and can play on both wings and with Spurs actively looking to freshen up their attack, why not splurge on a talented youngster who could turn into a gem? That tactic worked with Bale.

If Chelsea don’t seal a deal for Wayne Rooney, could Zlatan Ibrahimovic be heading to the Bridge? Zlatan’s name has been linked with a whole host of Europe’s top clubs this summer, and now that Edinson Cavani has arrived at PSG, Zlatan’s departure from Paris could be imminent. The 31-year-old striker could be the man Chelsea and Manchester City are looking for, but his astronomical wages of $16 million a year could put both clubs off. Can he fit into the Chelsea side? Of course. Just like Didier Drogba did before, Zlatan would be the focal point of Chelsea’s attack and José Mourinho’s direct philosophy would suit him. But is it a case of Zlatan or Rooney?

Young Brazilian defender Marquinhos may join Manchester United, after the AS Roma star is being targeted by David Moyes. Marquinhos, 19, has shone in Serie A but has yet to win a full international cup for Brazil. His agent Roberto Calenda said: ‘There are offers from PSG, Manchester United and Barcelona.” But United appear to be in the driving seat. With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand not getting any younger, and the likes of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans not living up to their potential, should Moyes splurge on a young center back? Definitely. It is an area that needs strengthening and Marquinhos pace and power would suit the EPL. Sign him up.

This has to be a non-starter, but apparently Arsenal’s star midfielder Santi Cazorla is close to joining Atletico Madrid. The 28-year-old Spaniard has earned rave reviews since joining the Gunners last season from Malaga, with his style and panache going hand in hand with Arsene Wenger’s approach. But would Cazorla jump at the chance to return to Spain? According to this report from his homeland, Cazorla misses his homeland and Atletico are offering a fee of $28 million to tempt him back. Can Arsenal afford to lose yet another star player? No. And I don’t expect this to happen… But the rumor mill believes something is in the works.

Pepe is apparently closing in on a move to Manchester City, with the 30-year-old Portuguese defender keen to tie up a $30 million transfer from Real Madrid. New City boss Manuel Pellegrini is a huge fan and with Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and youngster Matija Nastasic the other three main center backs at the Etihad, Pellegrini could bring in a familiar face to strengthen City’s defense. Pepe comes with a lot of controversy, after several red cards and falling outs with managers and players. But he did like playing for Pellegrini. He would bring experience, pace and a bite to City’s defense and huge experience on the international stage. Expect to see this one completed soon.

More: Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, De Rossi to Chelsea, Suarez to Real Madrid

Bundesliga: Leipzig join Gladbach, Bayern in 2nd-place battle

Jan Woitas/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) Germany forward Timo Werner again scored twice to help Leipzig consolidate fourth place in the Bundesliga with a 4-1 home win over Mainz on Sunday.

Yussuf Poulsen also scored two goals as Leipzig maintained its unbeaten record at home this season and tightened its grip on the last qualification place for the Champions League.

Leipzig stayed two points ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt and two behind Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund leads Bayern and Gladbach by nine points after 15 rounds.

If Werner scores in the league, fans have got used to expecting another goal – with his 10 goals coming in five games.

The former Stuttgart striker sealed Leipzig’s win in the 74th and claimed his second goal in the 88th off an assist from Poulsen, who grabbed two goals in five minutes in the first half.

Karim Onisiwo pulled one back before the break for Mainz, which remained 10th.

Mourinho hits out at “injury prone” Man United; praises Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Jose Mourinho insisted he was happy with the effort of his players in their 3-1 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, but it didn’t take Manchester United’s manager long to start having a dig at his players “physicality”.

Once again.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Mourinho spoke to reporters after the humiliating defeat at Anfield, as the scoreline didn’t tell the story of just how dominant Liverpool were.

United lost Chris Smalling in the warm up and played an injured Eric Bailly, struggling Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young as the likes of Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia were missing amid a string of injuries.

When asked about the style of his team Portuguese coach once again referred to “mad dogs” he had in his previous teams, and once again suggested this United squad do not possess the grit and ability to play through injury that he needs.

“First of all we have lots of problems related with physicality,” Mourinho said. “We have lots of players that I could consider injury prone. Some of our players are always injured. It is not just with me, it is before me. If you look to the stats with Mr. Van Gaal and David [Moyes], in that period we have players that are permanently injured. When you are permanently injured physicality is very hard to get.”

He then went on to describe the qualities his team has, and seemed to go around in circles before lauding Liverpool’s physical, high intensity players.

“Then you have qualities which a player either does or he doesn’t have. You cannot improve, make them have, I give you an example: Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho. They are physical players, on top of that they are good players technically, I also have lots of good players, technically, but we don’t have many players with that intensity, with that physicality,” Mourinho said. “So when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us. First 20 minutes was difficult for us. Then when we had the ball, the tension and intensity went down it was easier for us to be in the game and to bring the game into our side, to play the way we can. Those are our qualities.”

Not content with lauding Liverpool’s intensity and having a pop at the lack of physicality of United’s squad, Mourinho then went on a trip down memory lane, rattling off how great his teams at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan were in different playing systems.

“You look to say some times that it is the managers choice. You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool. The qualities of the players are there,” Mourinho said. “It was my best team in defensive transition. We lose the ball, we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball after two seconds. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter attack because I had young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuain and young Benzema. We killed everybody in offensive transition. In Inter I had my best team in a defensive low block, Materazzi, Samuel, Lucio, Cordoba in a low block you can be there five hours and you don’t concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way.”

Right now, whatever players Mourinho has at his disposal aren’t getting it done as they’re 11 points off the top four and have now lost away at Man City and Liverpool, as well as Brighton and West Ham.

“I believe we are going to make many more points in the second part of the season than we did in the first part,” Mourinho said. “I know we lost some of the other matches, but we played away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham. We played with them away.”

The excuses keep on rolling out of Mourinho’s mouth and with United’s banged up squad, and with star players being left on the bench such as Paul Pogba, the Red Devils look like they have no clear plan and are destined to finish outside of the top four.

One word can sum up United’s season so far under Mourinho: regression.

It is tough to see how he is going to turn this tide around and last beyond the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

“How the boys fought!” – Klopp glows after Liverpool win

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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Jurgen Klopp is “over the moon” with his Liverpool men after a Xherdan Shaqiri double led the Reds to a dominant 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday at Anfield.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

“How the boys fought,” Klopp said. “The mix up of big fight and really playing football against an unbelievably strong team. United didn’t want to play defensively but we didn’t let them out.”

Klopp gave himself a little love for bringing Shaqiri into the fray at 1-1, as the ex-Stoke City midfielder had two deflected shots find the back of the goal.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Entering at the 70th minute, Shaqiri scored in the 73rd and 80th. Klopp calls that timing “not too bad.”

But it wasn’t just about the Swiss scorer. From the BBC:

“The way the boys played tonight was outstanding. We saw the line up of United and their quality – how organized they were and they fight from the back. The plan was to be brave and chip the ball behind the lines. The first goal was how, if you could have drawn, it would have been the goal. It’s so deserved. Top, top first class team.”

Coupled with taking down Napoli in the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool now has a pair of marquee wins after a stretch in which they struggled against the big names. Now nearing their best again, the Reds are ready for the festive fixtures.

Mourinho: Liverpool should be stronger than Man Utd, and they were

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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It wasn’t even close, and Jose Mourinho makes it sound like Manchester United’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool was simply down to a gulf in class.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd ]

Maybe that’s true, but if so it means United has spent a disproportionate amount of money on a second-class group of players.

Here’s Mourinho on NBCSN following a loss to his rivals in which United was out-attempted 36-6.

“Well, they are the stronger team. They should have the strongest team but it’s hard to concede two goals in a moment and it’s even harder the way the goals happened.

“Our difficult period in the game was the first 20 minutes where we couldn’t cope with their fantastic intensity, speed, and pressing. After that we were quite calm in the game. It was controlled. We can say of course they attacked much more than us, but that was exactly the moment where the game was going into a dynamic where they were really frustrated with their center backs coming with the ball, shooting from 30 meters to the stands.”

Mourinho said the best United will finish this year is fourth, but guarantees they won’t drop out of the Top Six.

He went as far as to say that Liverpool was fortunate to get their second and third goals thanks to deflections, which was partially accurate but, again, 36 shots to six.

Thirty more shots.

Three-zero.

In spite of that, Mourinho defended his players when asked if they’ve quit on him. From the BBC:

“Are you calling the players dishonest? I believe they are honest. You believe they are dishonest. Players give maximum every day, every minute. If the players don’t do the maximum then you call them dishonest.”

And Paul Pogba sat the bench all 90 minutes. A higher-up at United, preferably Ed Woodward, needs to come out and make one of two statements to the media. Either he’s cutting ties with Mourinho, or they are simply waiting out the string to swap out key parts in the hopes of a Champions League and FA Cup run.

Otherwise, it looks like a lost manager trying to guide a rudderless ship from one squall into another.