Arsenal’s chief transfer negotiator is in Germany with Julian Draxler on his mind

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Finally, some real life traction has begun in the Julian Draxler-to-Arsenal rumors as the Gunners’ chief transfer negotiator, Dick Law, is currently in Germany exploring the possibility of a January deal for the Schalke starlet.

The Draxler rumor has followed a path that’s been quintessential Arsenal transfer drama. It began sometime last summer as nothing more than a natural linking – a stylish club looking for a stylish player. Then in December chatter of the German international coming to North London was ramped up the the Mirror, the Daily Mail and other speculation-pumping hyenas (bless their souls) of the footy tabloid world.

When the New Year finally rolled around Goonah’s across the globe snatched their ticket in the transfer deli line and when asked their wish, the request was broad and reasonable: ‘One world-class striker, please.’

How about Draxler?‘ the Transfer Voice responded.

Er… well… I think he’s an attacking midfielder… but yes, sure, he’ll be great,‘ Goonah’s replied with hopes that, like former Arsenal hitman, Robin van Persie, Draxler could be converted to a striker.

All the while Gunners boss, Arsene Wenger, played it cool. So damn cool, in fact, that when asked about the Draxler-to-Arsenal link he replied: “That is an illusion. There is nothing happening, honestly no. We don’t need to take players on the flanks – we have 17 players on the flanks.”

Best poker face in the game, that Wenger.

Because while the crafty ole Frenchman does have plenty of options in the attacking midfield, he also has some injury concerns, mainly to Theo Walcott, who is out for the season with a cruciate knee ligament rupture. But then there’s also Aaron Ramsey’s setback in rehabilitation from a thigh strain, Jack Wilshere’s ankle problem, Tomas Rosicky’s nose and the four-match ban defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini picked up for his two-footed challenge against Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin on Tuesday.

Then there are the issues up top. Olivier Giroud is tired (even if he says otherwise) and Nicholas Bendtner doesn’t possess the requisite proven quality (even if he says otherwise).

So, to answer the question everyone is asking, yes, Draxler fits into the needs of this Arsenal side.

First and foremost he fits because he is a world-class talent – a 20-year-old with infinite potential to impact the game at a number of positions. Much like Mesut Ozil last summer, Draxler is, at his core, a player that if you can get your hands around him you do it, regardless of whether he’s currently in the exact form of your club’s needs.

Second, Draxler provides the injection of new blood into a squad facing a Champions League and Premier League title run. No, he won’t be able to play in the Gunners’ European campaign, but his ideas and imagination will be there domestically and in training, which will be a huge boost.

Third, Arsenal’s three headed monster could use a kick up. Santi Cazorla, Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ozil have done incredibly well but including Draxler will provide fresh ideas and some much needed rest.

Fourth, and finally, Draxler is capable of excelling in the role of a False 9. It would be a work-in-progress, no doubt about that, but one that few opposing defenses would want to be on the receiving end of.

Which brings us back to the news that one of the best named transfer negotiators ever, Dick Law, is in Germany. The cat is out of the bag, Wenger. Arsenal is at least trying to get this deal done. And the club is just one easy payment of a £37M buy-out clause away from making it happen. The transfer window closes Friday at 11pm GMT/6pm ET.

Tick-tock.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

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Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

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Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.

Serie A: Napoli rout Inter, leaving UCL race wide open heading into final week

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The race for the third and four places in Serie A, and with it, a berth in the UEFA Champions League next season, remain open heading into the final week of the season, thanks to a stellar performance from Napoli.

Playing at home in the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli thrashed Inter Milan, 4-1, to keep Inter in fourth place in the table on 66 points. That’s just one point ahead of AC Milan in fifth place, which jumped up after a 2-0 win over Frosinone, and three points ahead of AS Roma, which succumbed to a scoreless draw with Sassuolo this weekend. Atalanta meanwhile came ten minutes from beating Juventus in Turin, and even with a point in a 1-1 draw, Atalanta is still only in third place by 66 points.

[READ: Bayern Munich still too good for the rest this season]

Piotr Zielinski made a statement with a 30-yard blast past Samir Handanovic in the 16th minute to put Napoli up 1-0 and then Dries Mertens and a pair of goals from Fabian Ruiz gave the Neapolitans a massive lead, while leaving Inter in a precarious position. Mauro Icardi scored late to give Inter a small reprieve, but the defeat was set and it leaves Inter essentially needing to win in the final week of the season to secure a place in the Champions League next year.

Elsewhere, Josip Ilicic scored his 12th league goal of the season as Atalanta took Juventus down to the wire in Juve’s final home match of the season. Juventus fans serenaded Andrea Barzagli, playing his final game for the Bianconeri, and even had a message of support for Daniele De Rossi.

Gianluigi Buffon was even in attendance.

Also in action in Serie A, Parma beat Fiorentina, 1-0 and Empoli defeated Torino, 4-1.

Report: Former Chelsea great Clarke set to be new Scotland manager

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The Scotland FA is set to appoint a former Chelsea star as its new men’s national team manager.

Former Chelsea midfielder, and West Bromwich Albion and Reading manager Steve Clarke is reportedly in talks with the Scotland FA to take over the national team. Clarke has a difficult job ahead, with Scotland already having lost, 3-0, at Kazakhstan in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying.

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Although Scotland finished top of their group in Level C of the UEFA Nations League and earned promotion to League B, the team’s play was very up and down under Alex McLeish, back in the job after a one-year spell in 2017. McLeish eventually lost the federation’s support after the 3-0 defeat at Kazakhstan, ranked then 117th in the world, made Scotland look like Europe’s whipping boy. Though Scotland saved some face with a 2-0 win over San Marino, the damage was done.

Clarke, after disappointing tenures at West Bromwich and Reading in his first full managerial roles, has since found success in Scotland. He’s led Kilmarnock this season to third place in the table and a spot in the Europa League, an impressive feat considering the club’s budget is dwarfed by Celtic and Rangers. Aberdeen have impressed, while both Hibernian and Hearts of Midlothain have also recently spent big on new signings, yet Kilmarnock finished above them this season.

Clarke, who only played a half dozen times for Scotland during his playing career, will now have to galvanize the squad ahead of two crucial qualifications in June and quickly imprint his tactical ideas and plan in a short amount of time. During his time at Chelsea, Clarke won the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup Winners Cup between 1987 and 1998. He was also assistant coach under Jose Mourinho and played a key role in some of their most successful seasons.