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.

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)