Romelu Lukaku completes permanent, $47 million move to Everton

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It was more expensive that reported last week, but after whispers of a larger fee circulating this morning, it was apparent a deal for Romelu Lukaku would get done. Now, after Everton and Chelsea have agreed on a $47.3 million (£28 million), the big Belgian is on the move, with a five-year deal sending him back to Goodison Park.

Lukaku spent the 2013-14 season with the Toffees, scoring a team-high 15 league goals. Having scoring 17 times the previous season at West Bromwich Albion, Lukaku coming off back-to-back successes away from Stamford Bridge.

With today’s deal, Chelsea’s been able to capitalize on that production, getting a significant return on the $31.3 million they paid Anderlecht in Aug. 2011. In the process, Everton sets a club record transfer fee, topping the $27 million it paid Standard Leige for Marouane Fellaini six years ago.

“I am really excited about rejoining Everton,” Lukaku said, via Everton’s website. “I had a fantastic experience last season and a great relationship with the manager, the chairman, the staff, the players and the fans. I can’t wait to get started again and I’m looking forward to a successful season.”

It’s an optimism that’s shared by Everton manager Roberto Martínez, who banked money brought in from last year’s sales of Fellaini, Victor Anichebe, and Nikica Jelavic to make today’s deal possible.

“The arrival of Rom is more than just a signing,” Martínez explained, “it’s the fruition of a lot of hard work to get the player we wanted. This is a big moment for Everton’s history and the perfect way of getting the squad ready for the start of the season.”

“Welcoming Romelu Lukaku back to Everton on a permanent basis is the news that all Evertonians wanted to hear,” Martínez said.

It was an essential signing for the Toffees, who would have gone into the season relying on Steven Naismith had Lukaku stayed at Stamford Bridge. With the Belgian international’s return, key pieces to last year’s fifth place finish will be back this season.

For Chelsea, it’s a good day, too. The ability to flip Lukaku at significant profit is validation. Their plan of swallowing up young players, amortizing the transfer fees, and flipping the talent that doesn’t crack the senior team is developing into a source of income, one that allows a team at the edges of Financial Fair Play to remain a buyer in the transfer market.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ 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.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.