Bargain Bucket – Who is available on the cheap this transfer window?

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They always say players are more expensive in January.

Well, whoever “they” are just aren’t looking in the right places.

With the January transfer window open for business and begging clubs to give her a whirl, we take a look at some players who could be of assistance to clubs with a smaller budget.

Two things to remember. First, cheap moves and loans are infinitely more difficult to predict than big-money transfers.

Due to the much larger pool of clubs which could be in play for a cheap transfer, loan, or free, the ability to predict where players on this list will end up – or even if they will move at all – is a longshot at best.

Second, there are loan limits, and the rules are often foggy.

Without further ado, let’s plunge into the January transfer window edition Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with…

LOANS, FREE TRANSFERS, AND BARGAINS

(alright, nobody’s leaving on a free in January, but I had to try)

1. Younes Kaboul, CB – Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)

Frozen out by former manager Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham’s 27-year-old center-back has played just three Premier League matches so far, and it doesn’t look much better from here on out.

Kaboul has struggled severely with injuries the past year and a half, currently on his way back from a hip problem.  But with Jan Vertonghen, Vlad Chiriches, and Michael Dawson all ahead of the Frenchman, his prospects for playing time don’t look in the near future.

If new manager Tim Sherwood doesn’t completely want to part with defender depth given their injuries at that position, he could be available on loan.  If Sherwood decides he’s dead weight, he could leave on a cut-rate deal, with his contract expiring this summer.  AC Milan are rumored to be involved, but defending is needed around the Premier League’s bottom half as well.

2. Filip Djordjevic, ST – FC Nantes (Ligue 1)

The 26-year-old Serbian is hitting the prime of his career, and it seems now is a better time than any for Nantes to sell and sell high.

Djordjevic cooked up 20 goals in Ligue 2 last season, earning Nantes their first trip back to Ligue 1 since 2008.  But he didn’t stop there.

This season, the poacher has continued his stellar form, striking for eight goals in 19 league appearances, helping the newly-promoted side to their current position of seventh in the Ligue 1 table.

Premier League rumors have surfaced involving both Hull City and Crystal Palace, and at a cut-price cost of approximately £2-3 million ($3.3-4.9 million) he could be the crown jewel of any low-budget wish list if he can translate his French league success to England.

Oh, and did I mention his contract expires this summer? Bid away.

3. Aron Johannsson, FW – AZ Alkmaar (Eredivisie)

source: Getty Images
American Aron Johannsson is making plenty of noise in the Eredivisie and attracting attention around Europe.

Bring out your USMNT links! A bargain bucket wouldn’t be complete without this scorching-hot youngster, who at 23 is blasting his way past Jozy Altidore in the Alkmaar record books.

With Celtic the clear frontrunners, a £2.4 million ($3.9 million) price tag for 18 Eredivisie goals (32 altogether) would certainly turn heads.

(MORE: Aron Johannsson’s move to Glasgow edging closer?)

However (there’s always a catch!), Eredivisie stars have a history of not translating successfully to more physical leagues such as the Premier League.  Look no further Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz.  The £11 million ($18 million) feather in Martin Jol’s cap proved to be one of the biggest flops in recent memory and a big reason Jol ended up without a job at Craven Cottage.

And then there’s always Altidore himself, who is yet again struggling to find the back of the Premier League nets, albeit not all of that is his doing. *shakes fist at Sunderland midfield*

4. Joleon Lescott, CB – Manchester City (Premier League)

The Premier League hasn’t seen much of the sport’s biggest forehead this season, with Lescott making just seven starts under Manuel Pellegrini.  Lescott has been hard done recently by the emergence of Matija Nastasic and the arrival of Martin Demichelis.

Much like Kaboul, being the club’s fourth-string option at a position that often sees iron men hold down the fort isn’t a preferable situation.  At 31 years old, Lescott also has an expiring contract, but is more likely to head out on loan whereas it would seem Kaboul is set for a transfer.  Some rumors also have Lescott taking a pay-cut to push through a move to Swansea.

5. Viktor Fischer, LW – Ajax (Eredivisie)

Am I mad? Putting one of the most talented and talked-about teenagers in the world into the Bargain Bucket? What’s gotten into my head?

Well, here’s my thinking. Fischer (pictured, top) has been close to a household name for the better part of two years now.  At just 18 years old, the young Dane bagged 10 Eredivisie goals in 23 appearances last season for a Champions League side.  That got people’s attention.

Now, at 19, Fischer is having what we in the media like to call a sophomore slump (3 goals and 4 assists in 18 appearances).  With an asking price of around £7 million ($11.5 million) likely to scare away many, I’m not so convinced Ajax wouldn’t like to send him out on loan for the rest of the season. Especially considering his dip in form this year surely cooling rumored summer interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Roma.

A short-term loan deal would serve multiple purposes for both parties.  With Ajax in the lead of a very hotly contested Eredivisie title race, they can’t exactly afford to weather many more below-par matches from their best young talent. Sending him out on loan would not only possibly give him a fresh start to boost his confidence, but also give other clubs a good look at what he can do in another league.

Think of it as a sales pitch. If Fischer performs well at, say, a Cardiff City or Swansea City, then many other Premier League clubs with deeper pockets would unquestionably come calling, and his price would skyrocket.

6. Cristian Tello, LW – Barcelona (La Liga)

With just two starts (10 appearances) in Spain’s La Liga, it’s no surprise Barcelona’s 22-year-old starlet is looking for minutes elsewhere before making a run at breaking into Gerardo Martino’s first team.

Reports are abound that Liverpool has jumped on the opportunity to give Tello more playing time, but that doesn’t mean it’s the Reds or bust. It would be shocking to see Barcelona allow him to leave on anything other than a loan, but with Liverpool reportedly trying to convince them to give him up permanently, someone else could swoop in.

7. Kevin De Bruyne, AM – Chelsea (Premier League)

source: Getty Images
With pressure from his national side, Kevin De Bruyne is openly seeking more playing time before he is able to break into Chelsea’s first team.

Jose Mourinho wants £25 million for the young Belgian. Any clubs have that laying around somewhere for a 22-year-old who has made three league appearances this year? Bueller?

Didn’t think so.

Cue the loan sharks.  And with both De Bruyne himself and Belgium manager Marc Wilmots pleading for more time on the pitch, a loan is certainly in order.

8. Fabio Coentrao, LB – Real Madrid (La Liga)

With Ashley Cole struggling to stay fit and Branislav Ivanovic recently ruled out for a significant amount of time, Jose Mourinho is rumored to be in the market for a left-back.

Enter Fabio Coentrao and his paltry four La Liga appearances this season with Real Madrid.  Carlo Ancelotti would no doubt prefer to keep the 25-year-old’s future under his control, so a loan could be in order for the Portugese international.

Chelsea isn’t the only club in need of a left-back of Fabio’s quality though.  Tottenham Hotspur are in desperate need after a long-term injury to Danny Rose left them exposed at the position, and Everton’s left-back situation could be thrust into clout if Leighton Baines leaves for Manchester United.

9. Urby Emanuelson, LW/LB – AC Milan (Serie A)

Expiring contract alert! With AC Milan sure to make plenty of changes this January to make a desperate attempt at improving their horrific Serie A positioning, Emanuelson may be one of those.

The 27-year-old is out of a contract this summer, and having already been somewhat successful in the Premier League at Fulham on loan last year, he has been open about looking for another shot at the English top-flight.

With his Serie A form dipped this season (alongside many of his teammates) and his contract situation the way it is, the £6 million ($9.8 million) Dutchman could be available for significantly less.

10. Thomas Ince, ST – Blackpool (Championship)

The longer he stays at Blackpool, the more his price seems to increase, leaving him already barely at bargain status.  Unfortunately for his club, they can’t hold onto him forever.  His contract expires at the end of this season, and that may cause the 21-year-old to finally make his way to the Premier League after years of rumors.

At 21, Ince’s numbers didn’t turn as many heads as they did last year, but they’re still enough to intrigue those in the top flight.  He’s got seven goals and six assists from play out on the left wing.  With Blackpool last year, he played in 44 of their 46 league matches (started 42 of them) and bagged 18 goals and 14 assists.

The Championship club, coached by his father Paul Ince, will want to fetch a price in the range of £6-7 million for him or maybe more, but so far all that tag has done is cause Premier League clubs to balk, and the last thing they’ll want is to let him walk come summer. Due to that, he could be available for cheap if Blackpool believe he’ll walk at season’s end.

Premier League social media wrap: Rashford honored, Mendy banters

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The Premier League world continues to move toward the return of soccer, while its social media eyes are trained in several directions.

In Monday’s edition of the PL social media wrap, we visit players from several clubs including both of Manchester’s top-flight sides in addition to a defender in the Northeast and a mournful note from Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

It’s Independence Day in Argentina, and several players were Tweeting love back home from their homes in the Premier League.

Norwich City’s Emiliano Buendia, Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi, and West Ham’s Pablo Zabaleta shared their love for home.

Newcastle’s Federico Fernandez celebrated with Napoli’s clever photo of a makeshift Argentine XI, as the Serie A club has had a lot of strong players from the South American nation.

Didn’t see himself lining up with Diego Maradona any time soon, we imagine.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy came out of his shell to share some thoughts on social distancing.

The outgoing French left back is no stranger to quips, and used his Twitter to post a reminder to stay vigilant in keeping distance from others.

Mendy posed with Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi, and Eric Garcia at City’s training ground Monday.

You may note that he also tagged Bernardo Silva. That’s banter, and see the second Tweet for detail.

On the other side of Manchester, forward Marcus Rashford shared an honor bestowed upon him for his vigilant work raising money this coronavirus pandemic.

Rashford has been working with a group called Fair Share UK to provide free meals for underprivileged people during the pandemic.

Last month, he doubled his personal donation and shared a story that he was once one of the children who’d need such contributions to get by.

Rashford was given a special recognition award by the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester and said, “To be recognized by my city is a special feeling.”

Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger is mourning the loss of a friend, as former Roma academy player Joseph Bouasse died of a heart attack at the age of 21.

Rudiger was with Roma from 2015-17 apart from a loan to Stuttgart in Germany, and Bouasse was a center mid in their academy.

The Chelsea centerback shared a photo of Bouasse on Monday. It’s always so stunning when a someone so young, let alone an elite athlete, succumbs to heart problems. Our hearts are Bouasse and the Roma family tonight.

Bundesliga preview, schedule, predictions: Week 28

Bundesliga preview and predictions
Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images
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There’s a massive derby on Tuesday, with fans of drama likely rooting for a draw or Bayern Munich loss.

That’s because Bayern’s chase for an eighth-straight title was looking like a several horse race for a long time, as Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and Borussia Monchengladbach all keeping first from the reigning champs at points this season.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Bayern has found its groove under Hansi Flick and now boasts a four-point lead on Tuesday hosts Dortmund, who have 57 points, and a seven-point advantage on the field.

The next three teams would all consider the title chance real with a Dortmund win or draw, as Leipzig, Gladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen are on 54, 53, and 52 points.

[ MORE: USMNT stars in Bundesliga midweek ]

Bayern still faces Gladbach and Bayer, so a loss really shakes things up.

Below is a look at the Bundesliga schedule for this week, as you can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action.

Let’s get onto the predictions.

Tuesday

Borussia Dortmund v. Bayern Munich — 12:30 p.m. ET

Der Klassiker has been kind to the home sides in recent seasons and there’s no example more fitting than Bayern’s absolute demolition of Dortmund at the Allianz Arena in November.

That was Hansi Flick’s first time head-to-head with BVB and manager Lucien Favre, the 55-year-old’s only prior head coaching experience coming with Hoffenheim when the now-Bundesliga side was in the Oberliga and Regionalliga.

It went well.

The bad news for Dortmund in addition to the 4-0 hanging its rearview mirror is that this home match is behind closed doors and won’t have the magnificent Yellow Wall looming over the visitors.

BVB and Bayern have swapped wins over their last four outings, including the German Super Cup earlier this year. And no teams in the league can boast the successes of

Dortmund is 9W-1L since returning from Winterpause and Bayern’s fine form extends well beyond the calendar’s change. Flick’s men have 12 wins and a draw since back-to-back losses to Bayer and Gladbach.

Whether Dortmund can win this will depend a lot on who’s available for the Starting XI. Mats Hummels limped off at halftime at the weekend and is in contention to play. Even though his last derby was poor, Dortmund is better with him than without him. Jadon Sancho was a sub on Saturday and is possibly the most complete playmaker between the two rosters including Robert Lewandowski. Axel Witsel may also be ready.

If Sancho and either Hummels or Witsel can go, we’ll expect Dortmund to collect a thrilling 3-2 win. Bayern’s defending was unsatisfactory in a weekend win over Eintracht, especially on set piece, and Erling Haaland is better than anything Bayern saw on Sunday. Still with questions about Sancho’s fitness, we’ll pick an entertaining 2-2 draw.

As Bayern’s Thomas Muller and Dortmund’s Michael Zorc will tell you, there’s no one ignorant of the meaning of this rivalry and this match. We can hardly wait.

Werder Bremen v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET

Bremen’s terrible fixture run to end the season continues, but perhaps they’ve found some momentum in a VAR-aided win over scrappy Freiburg? USMNT forward Josh Sargent started that game and will hope for another run as his goal-shy side has only one player, Milot Rashica, with 10 or more goals. It’ll take more than one to get all the points against Gladbach, a potent offense even when it isn’t facing a defense like Bremen’s 59-goal conceders. 3-1 Gladbach.

Eintracht Frankfurt v. Freiburg — 2:30 p.m. ET

Eintracht found chances against Bayern; It just couldn’t stop the Bavarians. Tuesday’s hosts have now shipped 18 goals during a five-match losing streak and sit four points clear of the relegation danger, albeit with a match-in-hand. Freiburg is in the thick of the Europa League picture despite a letdown of a loss to Bremen. They may find the woes extend into Frankfurt, though, in a 1-0 Eintracht win.

Bayer Leverkusen v. Wolfsburg — 2:30 p.m. ET

The best of the late kickoffs has red-hot Kai Havertz and Bayer, who has scored seven goals in two matches since returning from the coronavirus pause. Havertz has four of those, and he’s been all over the final third in building up his resume. Wolfsburg slipped against Dortmund but a lot of teams do that. Bayer boss Peter Bosz will make a lot of believers if he delivers back-to-back wins over Gladbach and Wolfsburg, who sits sixth. He does, just. Bayer 2-1.

Bundesliga preview and predictions
Maximilian Arnold of Wolfsburg (front) and Havertz (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)

Wednesday

RB Leipzig v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET

Hertha built on its win over Hoffenheim by clobbering Union in the Berlin derby, as Bruno Labbadia has coaxed physical, advantageous performances out of his team against very different opponents. Leipzig is different gravy, though, having rebounded from a draw with Freiburg to bury Mainz 5-0. Dayot Upamecano has looked strong in returning from the coronavirus pause and Leipzig allows very little, anyway. On paper there aren’t any results you’d expect more than three points from the league’s third-place side. Leipzig 2-0.

Augsburg v. Paderborn — 2:30 p.m. ET

The hosts are riding high after moving six points clear of the bottom three and can essentially seal safety by beating 18th-place Paderborn. The basement dwellers have drawn both of their matches since returning and won’t be a pushover. Paderborn’s picked up away points six times compared to just four results at home. This one’s a toss-up. 1-1 draw.

Union Berlin v. Mainz — 2:30 p.m. ET

Expect ornery play from both sides as Union’s dreadful derby was met by Mainz allowing a quintet of goals to Leipzig. Union has dropped to within six points of the bottom three and Mainz can join their hosts on 30 points with a win. Mainz allows a ton of goals and Union’s amongst the Bundesliga’s worst at producing them. Both sides have fared well against fellow bottom sides of late. What’s going to give? Union gets by at home 2-1.

Hoffenheim v. Koln — 2:30 p.m. ET

The hosts have dropped back-to-back matches and now sit three points back of sixth while Koln have taken points from successive 2-2 draws and will feel momentum having scored twice late to grab a point from Fortuna Dusseldorf. Hoffenheim has just three points from its last 21 available to it and has lost eight times at home. Given their talent and reputation you’d say that indicates an end should be in sight. We’re not so sure. Koln 1-0.

Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Schalke — 2:30 p.m. ET

Schalke can’t win and doesn’t score. David Wagner’s men haven’t won since the first match after Winterpause, collecting just four points from nine outings and scoring twice. Wagner cannot find anyone to put the ball in the back of the goal yet somehow Schalke have only dropped two points back of sixth and are level on points with seventh-place Freiburg. Tuesday’s hosts thought they had a potentially season-saving win on Sunday but threw it away to draw 2-2. On the bright side, American midfielder Weston McKennie has been active and one of the club’s lone bright spots in twin blowout losses after the pause. He showed delightful vision and touch in particular on a long pass that could’ve set Rabbi Matondo up for glory against Augsburg. Maybe he’s a difference maker Tuesday and maybe we don’t want to predict any nil-nils. Schalke 1-0.

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Bayern, Dortmund ready for monumental Klassiker

Der Klassiker preview
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Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc is a living legend for the black and yellow side, a one-club man who’s distaste for Bayern runs deep.

Zorc knows Der Klassiker as well as anyone, and Tuesday’s 12:30 p.m. ET derby in Dortmund could be a veritable title decider.

While his league derby successes as a player weren’t many, Zorc was part of some of Dortmund’s most memorable Klassiker wins, including the 1998 Champions League quarterfinal, a German Cup, and a German Super Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

And with so much of the world still in isolation, there’s a spotlight on this derby more than any other since Bayern beat Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League Final.

“Every football fan in Germany is looking forward to this match,” Zorc said of the occasion, later adding that “We must believe in ourselves and not make any cheap mistakes in possession. … We need to ride out the spells in which Bayern are dominant. We’ll need to defend very well together as a team and be aware of our own qualities going forward. We can always score goals against them. And we can beat them”

Bayern star Thomas Muller feels the import of the occasion and momentum for both clubs.

Experiencing a resurgent season with a league-best 17 league assists, Muller is aware that growing Bayern’s table advantage to seven with a win in Dortmund would put the Bavarians on the precipice of an eighth-straight Bundesliga crown.

“We are marching, Dortmund is marching, we can look forward to Tuesday,” Muller said, via Bild. “I hope that we can show what makes us strong and that in the end we will leave the Dortmund stadium with a smile. But it will be hard work.”

The last away win in this derby came seven matches ago, a 3-1 Bayern win at the Westfalenstadion on Nov. 4, 2017. Will Bayern do it again, taking a seven-point lead on all chasers regardless of what happens on Tuesday and Wednesday around the league?

Lyon asks French prime minister to reconsider early end of Ligue 1 season

Lyon Ligue 1
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Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is asking French authorities to backpedal on their decision to end the football season prematurely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The men’s league was canceled four weeks ago with 10 rounds remaining, Paris Saint-Germain declared champion, and Lyon finished outside the European places in seventh.

In a letter on Monday to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, Aulas argued the premature conclusion of the season will have catastrophic consequences for French clubs, which could face losses of “700 to 900” million euros ($760 million to $980 million).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Alongside Amiens and Toulouse – the two clubs demoted to the second division – Lyon took action against the league decision but their case was thrown out last week by a Paris administrative court. Lyon now wants France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to issue a ruling on the matter.

In the letter, Aulas said the fact that the French league was the only one among the seven biggest European leagues to opt for an early end should convince authorities to reconsider their move.

In Europe, the Dutch and Belgian leagues have also ended their 2019-20 seasons early.

Aulas has argued for the French league to be given a chance to be completed by late August with a temporary playoff system, but with PSG staying the champion given its large lead before play was stopped.

“The Bundesliga resumed matches on May 16, Spain will resume matches on June 8. Italy, Russia and Portugal have resumed collective training and England is working on a resumption after June 19,” Aulas wrote. “How can France not be downgraded very quickly and see its professional football devalued?”

On June 2, the French government is expected to make further announcements related to France’s lockdown exit strategy.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date, so that France can gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas said. “Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and to allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a gradual resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the 2019-2020 season over the months of July or August?”

Lyon, meanwhile, still hopes to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating Italian champion Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 match on Feb. 26. The return leg in Turin was suspended.