Getty Images

Giovinco’s agent confirms Barcelona interest, denies possible loan move

Leave a comment

Sebastian Giovinco’s stellar season for Toronto FC has put his name towards the top of the rumor list.

After grabbing 22 goals and 16 assists in what will surely be an MVP-winning season, many believed the former Juventus man could return to Europe for a possible loan spell.

One rumor that surfaced was that Barcelona had tried to secure a move for Giovinco, which Toronto FC denied.

[ MORE: Drogba won’t return to Chelsea ]

However, Giovinco’s agent Andrea D’Amico claimed that there was some interest from Barcelona, although he rejected the possibility of any loan moves being made.

Speaking to Italian television, D’Amico was questioned about the reports, and was asked if he thought a stint in Europe would help Giovinco’s chances of making the Italy squad for EURO 2016.

On the rumors that Barcelona was interested in Giovinco:

There was interest, but nothing too in-depth.

It’s a little amazing that these kinds of teams didn’t get in touch with him before he went on his adventure in North America. But right now he’s concentrated on his decision [to play for Toronto FC].

On the possibility of a loan move back to Italy:

No. Absolutely not.

Giovinco made a decision [to play for Toronto FC] of which he’s absolutely convinced and with which he’s happy. And on top of that, Toronto FC have invested in him for a project that is not based on single moments or buzz.

So now they go on vacation and they start preparations again in Florida at the end of January to get ready for the next season and to do even better [than 2014].

Giovinco was called up to the Italy squad for EURO qualifiers in October, coming on as a substitute in two wins against Azerbaijan and Norway.

[ MORE: Claudio Ranieri changing his “Tinkerman” reputation at Leicester ]

His form in MLS was outstanding, but Toronto is in the offseason until March. With EURO 2016 next June, Italian boss Antonio Conte may opt to select a player who has been in-season throughout the winter.

Report: Barcelona to edge out Man United, sign Fernandes

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maybe Bruno Fernandes won’t be staying at Sporting Lisbon after all, as Barcelona have reportedly made a late bid to sign him ahead of Manchester United.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

According to our partners Sky Sports in the UK, Barcelona “have proposed signing him this summer until 2025 but will loan him to Valencia until the end of the 2020-21 season.”

The report adds that with Barca in talks to sign Valencia striker Rodrigo, they are hoping buying and then loaning Fernandes helps to sweeten the deal.

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

This is all very bizarre and all very Football Manager.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has looked a beaten man in recent days when it comes to talking about the pursuit of Fernandes which has been going on since last summer. United are said to be $26 million short of matching Sporting Lisbon’s valuation of Fernandes and even though the Portuguese playmaker would make a big difference for them in the final months of the Premier League season, it is unlikely the deal will happen and Barca seem ready to nip in at the 11th hour to seal the deal.

Speaking to journalists earlier on Tuesday, Solskjaer bemoaned the January window and how difficult it is to do business and shocked everyone as he revealed that Alexis Sanchez will be welcomed back with open arms in the summer when his loan with Inter Milan ends.

“Well, we’ve got players here we are working hard to get back and if there is something out there then the club are pursuing that and looking at it. Of course, it is the difficult window, it has always been,” Solskjaer said. “” can’t remember how many good ‘uns or deals we’ve brought in January. Henrik [Larsson] was good, Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra] were two good ones. Henrik as a loan. Alexis… It is hard because some of the clubs don’t want to lose their players. Alexis will come back in the summer and prove you all wrong.”

It looks like Solskjaer may have to rely on Alexis Sanchez to provide a creative spark for the 2020-21 campaign as Fernandes could well be heading to the Nou Camp instead of Old Trafford.

After chasing Fernandes since the summer, this would be a massive blow for United and Solskjaer.

Liverpool issue injury update on Sadio Mane

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has issued a positive injury update on Sadio Mane but he is still expected to miss the next two Premier League games.

Mane, 27, injured his hamstring against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week and Liverpool feared the worse but the Senegalese winger hasn’t completely torn a muscle.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s trip to West Ham to Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Klopp confirmed Mane will be out against West Ham and is probably going to miss the home clash with Southampton on Saturday.

“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not for Southampton,” Klopp said. “After that he should be then fine. The week we have then after that is for him perfect to get back on track. He has a small muscle tear, which is serious enough to keep him out. We were lucky with the injury as well, so it was not that serious. But of course, when you have three games in a week then that means he is out for these three games.”

Overall, this is good news for Liverpool. Mane has been superb this season and is Liverpool’s leading goalscorer, coming up big so often in tight victories.

With the Reds 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 15 games to go they have the ability to rest Mane and give him as much time as possible.

Klopp has already revealed he will not play his first team in the FA Cup fourth round replay against Shrewsbury Town and he will not be there himself (Neil Critchley will manage the U23 side in the game) as the squad has a week off during the mid-season player break.

Mane will be back in mid-February and that is a much better diagnosis than most Liverpool fans were expecting.

USMNT looks toward Olympic qualifying

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will be looking toward Olympic soccer qualifying when the senior national team plays Costa Rica on Saturday in an exhibition at Carson, California.

Thirteen of the 22 players on the American roster are eligible for Olympic qualifying, which is limited to players under 23. The U.S. men failed to reach the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and they are in a difficult qualifying group that includes Mexico and Costa Rica.

“It’ll be nice to give them an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd in a real international game,” Berhalter said during a telephone conference call on Monday.

Twelve players have no previous international experience. The U.S. has used 74 players in 30 matches since the 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances, and 36 players have made debuts: 24 under interim coach Dave Sarachan and 12 under Berhalter, who was hired in December 2018.

“We think this age group is talented for the Olympic age group and we’re excited to see how they navigate through the qualification process and then eventually build the group for the Olympics” Berhalter said.

Olympic qualifying runs from March 20-30 and the U.S. will be coached by Jason Kreis. Since clubs are not required to release players to under-23 teams, top Americans Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest are not likely to be available. Major League Soccer starts Feb. 29, and its coaches may be reluctant to provide players.

“We’re going to need a lot of cooperation from Major League Soccer, and I know that’s difficult given the early stage of their season,” Berhalter said.

If the U.S. does qualify for the Olympics, it would be able to add three players over the age limit. But clubs could decline to release players.

“It would be nice to field our strongest team in the Olympics. We’re just not sure that’s going to happen,” Berhalter said.

Veterans on the roster this weekend include forwards Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola, defender Aaron Long and midfielder Sebastian Lletget. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid could make his first appearance since a June 2018 exhibition at Ireland.

On other topics:

-Berhalter did not sound overly concerned about Pulisic’s adductor injury. The Chelsea midfielder has not played since Jan. 1 and is not likely to return until Feb. 17 at the earliest. “He played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas,” Berhalter said. “He’s a young player playing at an extremely competitive level and it takes a physical toll on your body. And him coming to terms with that is something that’s normal for the process of adapting.”

-On the best position for Adams, who has appeared at right back and right wing for RB Leipzig: “We see him primarily as a central midfielder. We always have seen him as a central midfielder. But we know that when we when we need to be flexible, he can play that position, as well. We think right now the right back position is filled with depth, and he’ll be most suited in our system in central midfield.”

-On the possibility of Long transferring from the New York Red Bulls to West Ham: “It obviously could be a potential big change in where he’s competing and what level he’s playing at. … That would be a step up for him.”

-Jesus Ferreira, a Colombian-born forward who received U.S. citizenship last month, may not be eligible to play this weekend pending the completion of paperwork.

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

Tottenham sign Lo Celso, close in on Bergwijn

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur have signed Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis, triggering a clause which turns his loan into a permanent transfer for $35.3 million.

Lo Celso, 23, arrived on loan this summer and after injuries disrupted his first few months in England he has settled in very nicely in recent weeks with a surging run to set up Heung-Min Son to score at Southampton at the weekend showcasing his ability.

The Argentine playmaker has signed a contact through 2025 and is the direct replacement for Christian Eriksen who is Inter Milan bound.

Spurs are also closing in on a deal for Steven Bergwijn as PSV Eindhoven left the winger out of training and he has flown to London for a medical.

Bergwijn, 22, is a rising star in the Dutch Eredivisie and according to our partners at Sky Sports he will join Tottenham for $32.5 million, rising to $35 million with add-ons.

With Christian Eriksen’s move to Inter Milan completed on Tuesday, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has brought in a younger, promising attacking player to help freshen up the attack alongside Lo Celso.

Tottenham have got their dominoes in order and now they are falling.

Bergwijn is highly-rated and scored 16 goals in a struggling PSV side last season and has six goals to his name in 29 appearances in all competitions so far in 2019-20. He has recently broken into the Dutch national team and is regarded as one of the top young wing talents in Europe.

This is exactly the kind of transfer Spurs need to be making. Mourinho loves to have tricky and direct wingers in his teams to feed off a central striker and Bergwijn is on the up and is hungry to prove himself in England. It makes total sense with Eriksen on his way out for about $22 million, so it could be yet another shrewd bit of business from Levy and Co.

Aside from Bergwijn there is a push for a striker to arrive on a short-term deal with Harry Kane out injured until April, but given the form of Heung-min Son, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in attack, perhaps Mourinho and Levy will resist the urge to bring in a short-term solution up top.

Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Edinson Cavani and many others have been mentioned as potential stop gaps for Kane but the fluid movement of Son, Moura and Alli could be the way to go in attack. With Bergwijn added to the mix alongside the January loan addition of midfielder Gedson Fernandes, Spurs are getting younger and things have been freshened up quite nicely by Mourinho.

All things considered, not a bad window for Spurs, as they sit six points off the top four with 14 games to go and are still in the FA Cup and now have a plan without Kane for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and the final months of the season.