Reports: Fulham close to sealing deal for Steven Defour

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Rene Meulensteen, former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson, apparently took very detailed notes while at Old Trafford.

Now manager at Craven Cottage, Meulensteen is digging into Sir Alex’s bag of tricks, pulling out a bit of the former Manchester United manager’s unfinished business.

The Telegraph is reporting that Porto midfielder Steven Defour is ready and willing to make his coveted move to the Premier League as the 25-year-old has come to an agreement with Fulham.

Apparently, all that is left to complete the deal is a medical, a plane ride to England, and a decision by Porto on whether to sell him.

The biggest hurdle according to the reports is that decision by his current club.  While reluctant to sell, the Portuguese giants are resigned to the fact that their midfielder wishes to leave, which his agent Paul Stefani confirmed last week. Stefani also recently confirmed Fulham are indeed “interested“.

The perfect storm of a World Cup year, the Belgian’s longtime desire to play in the Premier League, and his inability to get onto the pitch at Porto has presented a wonderful opportunity straight into the lap of relegation-threatened Fulham.

Defour was on Sir Alex’s radar in 2010 during his time with Standard Liege, before a broken foot derailed the move and it never rematerialized. Then reportedly priced in the range of £35 million ($57.6 million), Fulham have reportedly been quoted at just around £6.5 million ($10.7 million).

However, they still have to decide whether to outright sell their man, or hedge their bets and agree to a loan deal giving Fulham the option to buy if they were to salvage their Premier League status and stay up.

It would be a masterclass signing by Meulensteen if he can complete the deal, shoring up what could be Fulham’s biggest need – of which the list is practically endless.

The Fulham central midfield, currently consisting of Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell, does not lack in work rate, but does fall well short in the passing and creativity categories.  The addition of Defour would provide pinpoint passing and buildup from the middle, something they’ve lacked since the departure of Cottage throwback Danny Murphy.

All you need to look at are Defour’s numbers. Squawka Statistics has his Champions League appearances accounted for, and while the sample size is small, the numbers are no doubt impressive.  In five matches (four starts) against Zenit St. Petersburg, Atletico Madrid, and Austria Wien, Defour completed 90% of his passes (246/274) including 22/23 long balls, something that would suit Fulham well.

He also completed eight of his ten attempted tackles successfully, and could provide assistance to Sidwell and Parker in front of Fulham’s back line, allowing their wingers to push farther up the field.

Aston Villa were apparently in the mix for the player as well, but their interest has thus far been trumped by that of the Londoners.

MLS weekend preview: Busy Saturday following the World Cup

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You won’t have to wait too long after the final World Cup game of Saturday to get more soccer.

Major League Soccer is back with a busy night of fixtures.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Here are some 1-2 liners to get prepared for what’s in store.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET

Carl Robinson’s rising visitors will hope the inconsistent side of the Union hits the field in Pennsylvania.

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 6 p.m. ET

Dallas’ seven-match unbeaten run includes four-straight wins, but RBNY has not lost at home since late April.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando has not gained a point of its last available 18, while Montreal is slowly finding form.

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western leaders host a Houston side with a tough 1-3-3 mark away from home.

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United — 9 p.m. ET

Two-win Colorado has been much better at home than away, and the Loons can’t afford to give the Rapids win No. 3 if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10 p.m. ET

Real has won six of seven at Rio Tinto, and San Jose has just two wins this season (So, MLS rules dictate this will go in the Quakes’ win column).

Seattle Sounders vs. Chicago Fire — 10 p.m. ET

The Sounders’ awful season gets a Chicago with points in five of six.

LAFC vs. Columbus Crew — 10:30 p.m. ET

Traveling across the country without Carlos Vela and beating a very solid Crew side is asking a lot of Bob Bradley‘s expansion side.


Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers — 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Gio Savarese has manufactured some fine away performances for Portland, but this is a long flight and a tall ask in a possible MLS Cup Final preview.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET Sunday

TFC has yet to climb back into the East’s Top Six, but will like its chances to make a statement against Patrick Vieira-less NYCFC on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Spurs’ Son scores sensational consolation goal for South Korea

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South Korea has not had a good World Cup, but the Taegeuk Warriors have a fine goal for their tournament highlight reel.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son was frustrated by Mexico’s stifling defense for most of the day, but El Tri had little hope of stopping his stoppage time stunner.

Son took a lay-off and then used a pick into his yard of space to rip into a shot in the third minute of extra time.

South Korea must hope for Germany to beat Sweden, then for Mexico to beat Sweden while it beats Germany and builds goals for tiebreakers.

As unlikely as that is, at least Son had this moment.

Lozano, Vela keep Mexico rolling

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Mexico is nearly onto the knockout rounds with plenty of time to spare.

Carlos Vela converted a PK and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez also scored in a 2-1 win over South Korea on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don.

Heung-Min Son buried a shot in stoppage time for South Korea’s goal.

El Tri got another decent performance from Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who also scored Mexico’s goal in a 1-0 win over Germany.

A Swedish win or draw against Germany at 2 p.m. ET moves Mexico onto the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

A handball allowed Vela his chance from the spot, and Mexico had its lead after 26 minutes.

Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa made several decent stops for Mexico in the win, though South Korea were admittedly wasteful in the final third.

Lozano then cued up Mexico’s insurance goal from Chicharito, who danced around a defender before bounding a ball home.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Son scored a beautiful goal in the third minute of stoppage time to put South Korea on the board.

Hazard hails red-hot Lukaku after Belgian blowout

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Belgium was lethal for the second-straight game, mostly doing as it wished in toppling Tunisia 5-2 in Moscow.

The win comes on the heels of a 3-0 defeat of Panama, and “Big Rom” has been the man for the Red Devils.

[ RECAP: Belgium 5-2 Tunisia ]

Romelu Lukaku has four goals in two games, and was a force against Tunisia. His two-goal performance could’ve been four, the highlight a perfectly-timed run to chip home his second off a feed from Thomas Meunier.

Eden Hazard also scored twice, once from the penalty spot, and he marveled at his mate.

“It’s easy to play with Romelu Lukaku, pass him the ball and he scores every time. He was fantastic.”

Belgium advances to the knockout rounds, and will face England in its final match (likely with the group on the line). The winner of the group gets the runner-up of Group H with Japan, Senegal, Poland, and Colombia, and the second place team plays the winner.

“This game we won so we are happy today. We played well and scored five goals. We conceded two, we can improve on that but now we enjoy the next four days and then we play England for the top of the group.”

The England-Belgium match is Thursday in Kaliningrad.