Sandro Ramirez

Everton sign striker Sandro Ramirez from Malaga

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Everton’s busy summer continues with Ronald Koeman making his fourth signing of the transfer window.

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Sandro Ramirez, 21, has arrived at Goodison Park from Malaga with the former Barcelona striker arriving for just $6.7 million after the Toffees triggered the release clause in his contract.

He has signed a four-year deal at Everton as the Barca product scored 16 goals for Malaga in La Liga last season after leaving the Nou Camp for regular action.

Speaking to Everton’s website Sandro was full of enthusiasm for the big challenge ahead as he believes the Toffees can challenge for a UEFA Champions League spot.

“I’m very happy, this is a big step in my career,” Sandro said. “I know I’m signing for a massive club in England. Everton is the ideal place for me, I’ve got the ideal manager who is going to keep giving me the confidence to improve my game. I cannot wait to wear the blue shirt in front of the Everton fans at Goodison Park.

“It’s a big jump in my career coming to the Premier League and for a club like Everton which is really on the up. They have got big plans and want to succeed and keep developing. I’m hoping I can get to know my teammates as soon as possible, and want to adapt to the football and the way of life in the city. Everton have made some big signings and we’re hoping we can put in a great season and hopefully then we can achieve that aim of getting in the Champions League. It will be a big season for us.”

Sandro’s arrival comes after Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaasen and Henry Onyekuru (he will spend next season on loan at Anderlecht), with the total spend now over $90 million.

With Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley expected to leave this summer, Koeman is certainly doing his business early as he looks to rebuild the spine of his team which finished seventh in the PL last season and have UEFA Europa League action to look forward to.

Pickford will start in goal, Klaassen will be the main creator in midfield and Sandro could well be their main forward if Lukaku leaves. Onyekuru is one for the future with the Nigerian youngster the top scorer in Belgium’s top-flight last season, and all of a sudden Everton’s promise to invest heavily in their playing squad has come true.

Owner Farhad Moshiri promised extra funds when he arrived and with a new stadium proposal in the works, Koeman bringing an exciting brand of play to Goodison and youngsters involved with plenty of new signings, Everton is a club on the up.

A top four finish still seems a little way off, especially with the Europa League to contend with in 2017-18, but Koeman’s boys are well-equipped for a battle in all four competitions this season.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

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Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

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[Update: The Croatia FA confirmed the decision, releasing this statement from Dalic. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinić was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.”]

The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.

VAR, Granqvist penalty lead Sweden over South Korea

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On Day 5 of the World Cup, VAR took center stage once again.

Referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador made the trek over to the video monitor in the 63rd minute after a no-call on a South Korea challenge in its own box, eventually reversing his decision and giving Sweden a penalty kick. Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and sent his side in front before holding on for a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday morning in Nizhny Novgorod.

With the win, Sweden is joint top of Group F with Mexico on three points.

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The key moment in the match took place in the 62nd minute, as Sweden’s Viktor Claesson got his foot on a loose ball first before South Korea’s Kim Min-woo went through Claesson to clear the ball away.

Aguilar initially waved the penalty claim away, but after about 20 seconds and a word from his assistant referees in his ear, Aguilar made the sign for VAR and ran over to take a second look. Around 20-30 seconds later, Aguilar reversed his decision, awarding the Swedes a penalty.

Granqvist, who plays his club football for FC Krasnodar in Russia, stepped up to the spot and with veteran poise, sent Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

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Sweden had chances in the first half to get on the board. Marcus Berg was alone on goal in the 20th minute but Hyun-woo stuck out a leg and deflected it away. Another chance from Berg led to another save from Hyun-woo as he kept South Korea in the match.

Following Sweden’s goal, Sweden sat deep and allowed Heung-Min Son to find space on the wings, where South Korea set up numerous half-chances. But the final pass was just missing, and Sweden was able to clear the ball out of the box on numerous occasions, holding on to victory.

It’s a big win for Sweden, which will face an angry and pumped up Germany side coming off a loss in its first match. Meanwhile, South Korea looks to rebound against Mexico, with its spirits higher than the clouds.