Report: Lukas Podolski agrees to terms with struggling Inter

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Arsenal fan-favorite, selfie king, and bench victim Lukas Podolski has agreed to personal terms with Serie A side Inter Milan, according to a report in Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

Podolski has long held true to his public displays of affection for his current club, citing a love for the fans and an appreciation for his close personal friends as teammates.

However, Podolski has played just 106 minutes this Premier League season, despite the fact that first-choice striker Olivier Giroud went down with a long-term injury. The German international has yet to start a game this season, coming off the bench in every appearance and playing more than 13 minutes just twice this season. He has yet to score as well, even finding himself behind Yaya Sanogo on the depth chart.

Podolski, who moved to Arsenal in 2012 from FC Cologne, seems to have at the least a 6-month loan in place on his way to Inter. The details that have yet to be agreed upon include the option to buy at the end of the loan. The Corriere report says if Inter’s buy clause at the end of the loan is mandatory, they are willing to pay around $7 million, while they will extend that up to around $10 million if the option to buy is just that, optional.

It will be tough to see Podolski leave the Premier League if the reports are true, since his electric playing style and jovial personality are an enjoyable part of Arsenal’s team makeup, but it’s completely understandable why he would decide to depart. What’s more confusing is why he hasn’t seen the pitch more often under Wenger. Yaya Sanogo has talent but it clearly still raw, and while Podolski isn’t a natural target man, but he seems to be a solid option in Giroud’s absence.

With Danny Welbeck – a summer purchase – in the fold, Podolski still offers a ton of pace and tactical ability on the wing, but with Arsenal’s injury troubles plaguing the central midfield and not the wingers, the 29-year-old World Cup champion still found himself clogged behind the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, and even young Serge Gnabry.

Inter is struggling mightily in Serie A, and with new boss Roberto Mancini looking for top-level talent to revive the club mired in 11th position, he’s singled out a serious lack of wide players as a serious club weakness.  Podolski would fit right in on the left wing, where Mancini last played natural left-back Dodo in their most recent 2-2 draw with Lazio this past weekend.

The Italian club has plenty of big-name talent, including goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and in-form striker Mauro Icardi, but a struggling defense (including the now-benched Nemanja Vidic, who seems to be into the declination stages of his career), and an inconsistent strike force has been their downfall. While Inter has only been held scoreless twice this season, they also managed just five goals in a crucial five-match stretch against some of Italy’s stronger sides that resulted in the dismissal of Walter Mazzari and also marked a rocky start for Mancini.

Podolski’s play will no doubt be missed, but so too will his animated friendships with his Arsenal teammates, most notably Mesut Ozil, Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, and Olivier Giroud, who often found themselves sprinkled around Podolski’s frequent social media use.

Going by what is lacking from the report, the two clubs have yet to agree on any kind of a fee.

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

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Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.