Saturday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Witsel to AC Milan, new Ramos bid for Manchester United

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Belgian international Axel Witsel is reportedly in discussions with AC Milan over a potential transfer this summer, although there’s still much work to be done.

According to a report by multiple Sky Sports Italia journalists including Gianluca di Marzio, AC Milan contacted Witsel’s father to begin discussions about personal terms. Only once those are completed will AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani travel to Russia for negotiations with Witsel’s club Zenit St. Petersburg. The original asking price by the Russian club is said to be a solid $44 million.

This news is somewhat surprising considering Tuttosport claimed two days ago that Witsel was not convinced a move to AC Milan would further his career, and that he had become the third high-profile player this summer to ultimately reject the Italian club after Jackson Martinez and Geoffry Kondogbia had come close to deals before telling Milan no. The 26-year-old midfielder has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea earlier this summer, like just about every top transfer target so far this year has.

Witsel scored four goals in 28 Russian Premier League matches with Zenit this past season, leading them to the league championship. He also bagged a goal against his former club Benfica in the Champions League, and grabbed one more in Europa League play this season. After coming up through the Standard Liege youth system, Witsel has played at Champions League challengers in Benfica and Zenit, which would make his skepticism at joining AC Milan understandable – but he has yet to test himself in a Big Five European league. Milan is also reportedly joining the race for Colombian Carlos Bacca as well.

[ RELATED: Latest transfer gossip ]

In the Premier League, reports are flying through England that Manchester United are prepared to hurl even more cash at Real Madrid for Spanish defender Sergio Ramos. According to a report in The Independent, they have upped their bid to $55.7 million and that Ramos personally told club president Florentino Perez that he would like to have offers for him considered.

Ramos is apparently on vacation in the United States, and Perez has asked that his iconic player take some time to process his future, but the report says the 29-year-old is quite adamant about his desire to consider offers.

Manchester City have been linked to Aston Villa winger Fabian Delph for some time now, but new information could prove costly to his current club. According to a report in The Mirror, Delph’s contract – only renewed as recently as January with his previous deal near expiration – has a dangerously low release clause of just $15.7 million. Having earned a place in the England national team, City could snatch up the 25-year-old and pay what seems to be below market price for an England international.

The report actually would make sense, considering Villa was desperate not to let Delph leave for free in the summer and also did not want to sell him during a relegation battle, therefore it makes sense they would capitulate to including such a low release clause just to make sure he stuck around for the immediate future.

The aforementioned Jackson Martinez, who has been widely reported to be finished with a move to Atletico Madrid, confirmed the transfer himself after Colombia’s heartbreaking loss in the Copa America. “I can confirm I am going to Atlético,” he told Spanish newspaper AS following the loss. “I am going there for four years but I still don’t know when I will be introduced.” It has not yet been made official by his new club.

Emotional scenes as Thailand scores in World Cup loss (video)

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Kanjanaporn Sung-Ngoen won the World Cup for Thailand.

Well, that’s not entirely correct, but the late goal she scored against Sweden in Thailand’s second game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup sure means a lot to the team.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Thailand was hammered 13-0 by the USWNT in the first match of the World Cup, a statement of the Yanks’ strength as much as the underdogs’ weakness. After all, Thailand carries a higher FIFA ranking (34) than its final opponent Chile (39).

But Sung-Ngoen’s finish late in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Sweden was a visible relief to the Thai team, who will now turn its attention to Chile and a possible win (The USWNT’s destruction of Thailand’s goal differential gives the Asian side little chance of getting a third-place spot in the knockout rounds).

It was a fine finish, too (See below). Linda Sembrandt, Kosovare Asllani, Fridolina Rolfo, Lina Hurtig, and Elin Rubensson scored for the Swedes, who are 2-0 heading into Thursday’s meeting with the USWNT.

Juve, Chelsea announce Sarri agreement

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The white smoke coming out of Italy isn’t a new pope, it’s Maurizio Sarri setting up shop in Turin.

Juventus and Chelsea confirmed the long-anticipated news: Sarri is returning to Serie A and will manage The Old Lady’s quest for a UEFA Champions League crown.

[ MORE: Pogba says he could leave Man Utd ]

Chelsea executive Marina Granovskaia says an agreement was reached and that the Blues wanted to allow Sarri the chance to be closer to home. From ChelseaFC.com:

“He also believed it important to be nearer his family, and for the well-being of his elderly parents he felt he needed to live closer to them at this point.”

If it took Sarri some time to understand the personality of Eden Hazard, just wait until he gets a load of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sky Sports says the move will net Chelsea around $6 million, and that Gianfranco Zola will also leave Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard has been widely expected to get a shot at the Chelsea gig, though Derby County is trying to lock him down with a new deal.

Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

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It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are their Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 10

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Ten months ago, the United States women’s national team beat Chile 3-0 and 4-0 in a pair of friendlies, but the expectations were ratcheted up when the ladies began their 2019 World Cup with a 13-0 demolition of Thailand.

The Yanks and Chile tangle Sunday at Noon ET in the business end of a Women’s World Cup Group F doubleheader, with Sweden and Thailand opening play at 9 a.m. ET.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Friday, June 14 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group F: Sweden v. Thailand – 9 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: USWNT v. Chile – Noon ET – STREAM LIVE