Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Balotelli to Arsenal, Morrison to United

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Seeing how Ravel Morrison is all grown up and mature at West Ham United, the midfielder’s previous club, Manchester United, are having serious misgivings.

West Ham bought Morrison from United for £650K and agreed to pay a further £250K with every appearance he makes for the Hammers.

A clause in his convoluted contract, however, allows Morrison to be sold if an offer of £18M is made or if they receive a one-off payment of £10M. United are tempted and apparently, so is Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen.

West Ham won’t be excited by the prospect of losing Morrison but that extra dough could come in handy to mitigate the losses from shelling out £15.5M on Andy Carroll last summer. The Hammers will then turn their interest to shoring up a defense that is in desperate need of a center-back. Everton’s Jonny Heitinga looks to be a good fit, with the Dutchman keen on proving why he should be in the World Cup squad. Lofty goals, Mr. Heitinga.

It wouldn’t be a transfer roundup column without mentioning a target of Manchester City, who are desparate to secure a fifth center-back just in case Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis don’t pan out. The object of their desire is 23-year-old Villarreal center-back Mateo Musacchio, who the Yellow Submarine claim is only available for £45M. It’s a lofty goal for the Spanish side as most value the young Argentine in the range of £8M.

Over at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has his eye on a few players including Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic. The Croatian international is valued at around £10M, well within Fenway Sports Group’s wallet range, except that Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are now also linked with the center midfielder. Let the bidding war commence.

Speaking of auctions set to occur this January, expect the bidding for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa to start at £35M. And with Arsenal, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund all reportedly interested in the striker’s services, that number could easily surge up to £45M. But don’t worry Goonahs, in the event that Arsenal becomes gun shy Arsene Wenger has a backup plan: 20-year-old Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.

Finally, we stick with Arsenal for this last one because it’s simply too juicy not to mention. It’s possible that the stars are aligning to pave Mario Balotelli‘s way to the Emirates. It’s a move that makes sense when considering the precarious situation at AC Milan and Arsenal’s need for a striker to spell Olivier Giroud in the second half of the season. Granted, he’s a handful. But he’s also a world-class striker and if Arsene Wenger were willing to try and tame Luis Suarez, who’s to say he wouldn’t be open to doing the same with Balotelli?

NFL’s 49ers purchase minority stake in Leeds United

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One of England’s most famous clubs is receiving investment and strategic business connections from one of the NFL’s most famous brands.

Leeds United and the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the 49ers ownership, has purchased a minority stake in the Championship club. Multiple reports state that the 49ers now own 10-15 percent of the club, but current Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner.

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As part of the deal, 49ers President Paraag Marathe gets a seat on the Leeds United board of directors. Per Leeds, the money invested will stay with the club and be used for the first team, as Leeds looks again to make its way back to the Premier League in next season’s campaign.

An American ownership group investing in England is nothing new, but to identify and purchase a stake in a club with history and a decent chance at making it to the Premier League is impressive. In addition, the York Family, who owns the 49ers, has a net worth in the billions, which could help fund Leeds’ push back into the Premier League.

For the 49ers, this is also a savvy business decision. By investing low in a club in the Championship, they hope that they can experience the financial windfall of playing in the Premier League. This season, clubs made a combined $3.2 billion (with a capital B) thanks to revenue sharing, international and domestic TV rights, and other sponsorship deals.

With even the relegated sides taking home nine figures in revenues from the league, who wouldn’t want to invest and take a cut of that?

Now, only time will tell how long it is before the 49ers influence helps – or hinders, based on the 49ers current state of affairs in the U.S. – Leeds reach the pinnacle of English football.

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

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 midfielder 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.