Friday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Diego Costa to Arsenal, Mata to Napoli

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Arsenal are actively on the lookout for a new striker to join their ranks, following ankle injuries to both Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner over the festive period, and they may have found their man. Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa has been in sensational form in La Liga for quite some time, an the Brazilian born Spanish international forward has a release clause of $47 million that may tempt the Gunners. Costa, 25, has scored 19 goals in 17 La Liga games this season and would certainly add an extra punch to Arsene Wenger’s front line. But can Arsenal afford to add another megastar in January after splashing out $60 million for Mesut Ozil in the summer?

Another Premier League title contender could be losing one of their best players, as Chelsea’s Juan Mata is being courted by some of Europe’s best sides. Mata, 25, has been in and out of Jose Mourinho’s side this season and Chelsea’s manager has revealed that several teams have inquired about Mata’s availability. Chelsea do not want to sell Mata to another PL team but are quite willing to let him leave to a European outfit, with the likes of Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Liverpool all sniffing around. However it’s thought that Napoli have emerged as the frontrunners for Mata’s signature as the Spanish attacker wants to be reunited with Rafael Benitez who was in charge at Chelsea last season on an interim basis and got the best out of Mata, who scored 20 goals and added 35 assists.

Sticking with Chelsea another midfielder, Kevin de Bruyne, is attracting plenty of interest from overseas as Wolfsburg and Atletico Madrid are looking to grab the Belgian winger. De Bruyne, 22, has featured sparingly for the Blues but Bundesliga side Wolfsburg would have to fork out $37 million to buy him permanently. While it’s thought that Atletcio would prefer a loan deal for the young winger.

Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott could be allowed to leave the Citizens in January, as the England international searches for regular games in the Premier League. Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa are all interested in Lescott, 31, and his contract is up in the summer so a deal on the cheap could be done to grab him now. Lescott starred for City when they won the PL title in 2011-12 but in the last 12 months he’s hardly featured and Manuel Pellegrini could be willing to let him leave.

Finally, Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher is being tracked by plenty of sides as the Black Cats woes continue and the Scottish international forward looks ahead to next season and beyond. Fletcher, 26, has shown his predatory marksmanship once again this season but is said to be available for just $9 million. Hull City in the PL and Scottish champions Celtic are interested but if Fletcher manages to keep the Black Cats away from relegation he may well stay at the Stadium of Light.

Sources: Patrick Vieira move to Nice finalized

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New York City FC’s fantastic start to 2018 will have to continue without its manager, as Patrick Vieira is set to move overseas.

Multiple sources have told Pro Soccer Talk that Vieira’s move to Ligue 1 side OGC Nice –which was reported by PST over the weekend — has been finalized.

The deal is for a two-year contract with the French club, who finished eighth place in Ligue 1 during the 2017/18 campaign.

French outlet L’Equipe has reported that NYCFC won’t receive a buyout for the remainder of Vieira’s contract, which was set to run through the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season in December.

Vieira was at NYCFC training on Tuesday, and is expected to be once again on Wednesday, per a source familiar with the situation.

Tomorrow’s training session will likely be Vieira’s last though, and he won’t travel to coach NYCFC for the team’s MLS match on Friday night against the Houston Dynamo.

There aren’t any indications to this point as to whether or not NYCFC has an interim manager in mind to replace the outgoing Vieira.

The 41-year-old manager has spent the last two-plus seasons in New York City, guiding NYCFC to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Eastern Conference. He took over at the team in 2016, following the firing of the team’s first-ever manager Jason Kreis (now at Orlando City).

Vieira will be replacing Lucien Favre at Nice, who recently left the club at the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season. Favre has since taken the vacant managerial position at Borussia Dortmund.

Over recent months, Vieira has been linked to several other European jobs, including Saint Etienne (Ligue 1) and Southampton (Premier League), neither of which escalated to a serious level of interest.

FIFA: Insufficient evidence of doping by Russia’s World Cup squad

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says there is insufficient evidence any players in Russia’s World Cup squad have previously doped.

The governing body has been assessing information from the World Anti-Doping Agency, samples recovered from the Moscow lab, and information from its former director Grigory Rodchenkov.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Russia last week named a provisional 28-man squad, plus seven reserves for the World Cup, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.

After investigating the players, FIFA says “insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation. FIFA has informed the World Anti-Doping Agency of its conclusions, and WADA in turn has agreed with FIFA’s decision to close the cases.”

FIFA did not provide information on the status of investigations into players who are not in the World Cup squad.

Why Pulisic could be more likely to stay at Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short of potential suitors this summer as he ponders his future.

Without a World Cup, Pulisic has plenty of time to recover from another full season of European football, one where he fully experienced the harsh realities of soccer at the highest level – two managers in and two managers out.

[READ: Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal]

With Dortmund hiring another coach, it seemed there was a chance Pulisic could decide to leave Dortmund and reunite with former manager Jurgen Klopp, or head elsewhere for a more stable situation. But Tuesday’s news that Dortmund has hired Lucien Favre may change all of that.

The 60-year-old Swiss native signed a two-year contract Tuesday, and his preferred style of play fits perfectly into how Pulisic performs best on the field.

The Bundesliga recently posted a detailed look at Favre’s tactics from his time at Nice, where he led the club to finishes of third and sixth the last two years, while re-juvinating the careers of Mario Balotelli and Younes Belhanda as well as unearthing young gems in Jean Seri and Allan Saint-Maximin.

In Favre’s 4-3-3, you could easily see Pulisic lining up on the right of the forward trident, running to the byline and dishing out assists, with Marco Reus on the left, cutting inside and firing shots home with his howitzer of a right leg. Or we could see the pair switch.

One thing that is currently missing is a dynamic No. 9, but with the whole summer transfer window ahead, Dortmund could easily re-sign Michy Batshuayi or find a new powerful center forward (Balotelli, anyone?).

In short, while Pulisic may have had a reason to leave Dortmund had another Peter Stoger-type manager been hired, Pulisic now has no reason why he can’t be a wild success at Dortmund for years to come. The 19-year-old (he’s still a teenager!) American star will have plenty of chances to bend in crosses or cut in and score goals himself, as well as the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.