Milan inching closer to finalizing Keisuke Honda’s move

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Last time we touched base with Keisuke Honda, the Japanese international was said to be on the verge of signing a pre-contract deal with AC Milan. The story wasn’t without a few caveats, however. Milan were still hopeful of convincing CSKA Moscow to let the 27-year-old go before his contract expired in December. And strangely, his arrival was supposed to be contingent on Robinho finding another home, with the Brazilian’s fallback club (Santos) reportedly ready to give him a third go.

Fast forward three weeks and we’re on the verge of some clarity. Well, we’re on the verge of clarity if you put as much stock in today’s reports as you did in the originals, as the updated news has Milan and CSKA closing in on a deal that would allow the attacker to move before the start of Milan’s Serie A season. That move would also carry the snazzy virtue of allowing the Rossoneri to register him for UEFA Champions League, something that may not have happened if Honda played out the fall with the defending Russian champions.

From Milan chief executive Ernesto Bronzetti, who dropped in a bit of a brow-wrinkler at the end:

“The gap between our offer and [CSKA’s] asking price is low,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“Tonight after their League game he will speak with the President and tell them that he wants to leave.

“They would like to keep him for the Champions, but the guy just wants to join Milan.

“He even turned down a move to Barcelona.”

All that other stuff beyond the “gap … is low” is decoration. You either agree to a price or your don’t, one that would justify CSKA letting him go before their own Champions League campaign starts. Though it is nice that Bronzetti threw in that completely relevant Barça bit! (I image a microphone dropping in Bronzetti’s mind when he let’s that little bit slip.)

Incidentally, the Robinho move to Santos never happened. In fact, he signed another deal with Milan last week. How does a player go from being cast off to signing a deal through the summer of 2016? Maybe we swapped some of the annual salary he was reaping from his Manchester City deal for a few more years of security at a lower wage? At least, that’s one scenario that would keep him in the picture while the Honda talks are still moving forward.

As for the Honda deal, we’ve discussed about the virtues before. Honda feeding Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaawary, and M’Baye Niang? It might not closer the gap in the standings between them and Juventus, but I know which team I’d rather watch.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”