Remembering the five hours when “League DP” was a thing in MLS

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The subtext of today’s surprise trade between Toronto and Portland was confusion, into which always steps speculation. This time, however, that speculation was aided by reports from The Canadian Press, who reported that a new “league designated player” category now exists, with MLS wanting such players to be playing regularly. Speculation elsewhere held Urruti, limited to 37 minutes during his time in Toronto, may have had his path steered to Portland.

That news was first published around noon Eastern. Five hours later, Major League Soccer was holding a conference call with a small group of reporters, wherein MLS Vice President of Competition and Player Relations Lino DiCuollo denied the report.

Here’s what we DiCuollo had to say:

  • There’s no such thing as a “league designated player.” The league denied The Canadian Press’s report in that regard.
  • Max Urruti is not a Designated Player. He was not a Designated Player when he came into the league, either.
  • The league had no hand in steering Urruti to Portland. Toronto had multiple offers, MLS understands, and made their own choice. The league does not become involved in trade discussions beyond guidance on and enforcing rules.
  • MLS did not pay Urruti’s transfer fee from Newell’s Old Boys. In fact, Urruti didn’t have a  transfer free at all. DiCuollo confirmed Urruti moved on a free from Argentina.

All of which leaves the same confusion that arose this morning: Why would Toronto do this deal?

The pieces seemed to fit when League DPs were a thing and Major League Soccer had an interest in finding playing time for them. But with Major League Soccer denying today’s reports, we’re left wondering what went down between Toronto and Portland. Maybe this really was about getting rid of one of Kevin Payne’s signings?

Don’t expect speculation to die down entirely. For too many, this will be a smoke and fire scenario. Particularly after the Clint Dempsey signing, there’s a certain level of distrust of MLS’s guidelines. Some fans see the league office as willing to bending the rules as needed. If Dempsey needs to come in and wants to go to Seattle, how do they make the story fit? The creation of a “League DP” for the Urruti situation fit that narrative.

Regardless of whether that speculation’s true, it’s a growing perception. The Urruti deal and the short life of a “league designated player” won’t calm concerns.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.