Ilkay Gundogan would brighten not just Manchester United, but the Premier League as a whole

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If you told me before the season that I would get to watch both Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan in the Premier League this year, I’d probably try my hardest to give whoever made that happen a big ol’ hug.

Having seen what beautiful things Ozil has brought to the English game at the Emirates, the prospect of both being on my television come February 1 is salivating.

Manchester United, having been linked heavily with a bid for Gundogan, will have to try very hard to pry him from the clutches of a Borussia Dortmund side already reeling from the thought of losing Robert Lewandowski this summer.  It’s not a long shot, but it’s close.

However, should David Moyes pony up a successful £24 million ($39.6 million) offer, and convince Gundogan to risk his Champions League playing time (think green, that usually helps), the German could very well save their season – and the manager’s job.

The 23-year-old is currently missing long-term from Dortmund’s lineup, having made just one appearances this year due to a spinal injury.

But when healthy, Gundogan is an absolute workhorse. His style isn’t exactly as “sexy” as Ozil’s, but having completed a position change from a No. 10  to a holding midfielder, he possesses the best qualities of both roles melded into one player – what is known as a “complete midfielder.”

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Ilkay would be just what the doctor ordered at Manchester United, should David Moyes choose to pursue the German.

It’s a style of player that fits beautifully into the rigors of the Premier League.  Technical yet physically weak players are eaten alive (see: Ruiz, Bryan) but Gundogan possesses the seizing abilities of a holding midfielder while still proving dangerous in both build-up and attack.

The German international had an 87% pass completion during the 2012/2013 Bundesliga season – not stellar until you notice Dortmund play a style that relies on an incisive yet risky passing attack.

He also paired the following statistics together last year: an outstanding 80% tackle completion percentage (51/64) and a 64% take-on success rate (58/90). He can dispossess and dribble.

With Manchester United’s midfield currently featuring such yawn-inspiring players such as Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, and 40-year-old Ryan Giggs, the middle of the pitch at Old Trafford could use some life.

That’s what David Moyes thought he was doing bringing Marouane Fellaini with him from Everton, but Fellaini’s been both injured and underwhelming, proving his passing abilities to be sub par when thrust into the bright lights.

Gundogan’s playmaking abilities would light up Old Trafford, and feed Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie (given he’s on the pitch and not in the physio’s room) the service they’ve so lacked this season.

Rooney should be lauded by United fans, having singlehandedly created nearly every sliver of United’s attack – nine goals and 11 assists (61% of their goals this season!). Pair the two playmakers, and watch Manchester United soar up the table.

If it happens, consider yourselves lucky to be graced with the ability to wactch the beautiful playmaking skills of two different yet equally tantalizing players.

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

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A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

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Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

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Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

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The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.

Report: Blatter to attend Portugal vs. Morocco as guest of Putin

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is still in the middle of an eight-year ban from the organization he once ran.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on some of the World Cup action, live in Russia.

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BBC journalist Richard Conway reported early Tuesday that Blatter is set to watch Portugal vs. Morocco in Moscow as a guest of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 82-year-old would normally not be able to sit in the presidential box due to his FIFA ban, though he likely could attend matches with a regular ticket like the vast majority of soccer fans.

Just four years ago, Blatter was president during the 2014 World Cup, one that was marred by corruption scandals in addition to the corruption scandals surrounding the World Cup bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

His reign of power at FIFA finally came to an end on June 2, 2015, when he resigned following an embarrassing month for FIFA in which many of its members were arrested in a joint-raid between the Swiss authorities and the FBI.

Blatter was eventually handed an eight-year ban from FIFA’s ethics committee for an “unauthorized payment” of $2 million from Blatter to Michel Platini, the former France star and FIFA vice president who was also handed an eight-year suspension.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

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