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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Balde Diao to Chelsea, Mahrez to stay

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With Romelu Lukaku almost certainly headed to Manchester United, the transfer slate on Saturday is somewhat light. Teams are reacting to the big news of the morning and planning accordingly, with many Premier League clubs now looking to reevaluate the striker market after a big domino falls.

The biggest rumors on Saturday seem to be who won’t be moving instead of who will.

According to The Independent, Tottenham will not even consider offers for midfielder Eric Dier, who has been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid in the past.

Jose Mourinho is looking for a defensive midfielder, and rumors seem to be pointing him in the direction of Nemanja Matic, but Dier’s name has come up. The report states Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is not willing to listen to offers for the 23-year-old. Levy has been successful in taking a hard-line stance in the past, both in his valuation of players such as Gareth Bale, or in his decision not to sell at any price such as Harry Kane or Moussa Dembele.


Another player who may not be moving is Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez. According to multiple reports, with The Mirror first on the story, Arsenal has decided to move on from its interest in Mahrez.

The Gunners have long been linked with the Algerian ever since he won PFA Player of the Year during Leicester’s title run. Now, however, with their sights reportedly set on Monaco’s young winger Thomas Lemar, they have apparently put Mahrez on the back burner.

Reportedly, the reason for their lessening of interest is Leicester’s hard-line stance on their valuation of Mahrez, which is apparently above $64 million. This, coupled with the regression Mahrez saw last season has seen Arsenal decide against pursuing a move.

Mahrez told reporters in May that he wishes to leave the Foxes, and that has caused clubs to come calling, but also served to dampen his value on the transfer market with teams knowing Leicester is looking to sell. Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare told Sky Sports today that no bids have been submitted just yet for the 26-year-old.


With Romelu Lukaku slipping from Chelsea’s grasp, there will be plenty of rumors on who the Blues will chase now for their next striker. It’s still possible that Diego Costa could stay and man the front line, but with Antonio Conte apparently preferring other options, expect to see plenty of names crop up over the next month.

Many popular choices include Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti, but both players will cost a hefty sum, and the Blues are likely to see that as a last resort. Instead, they could look to cheaper options, with Lazio’s Keita Balde Diao reportedly on the list.

According to Italian TV station Mediaset Premium, Diao is a possibility for the Blues with other clubs in Italy not so keen. AC Milan had a $23 million bid accepted back in early June according to Diao’s agent, but the player turned it down hoping for a move to Juventus. When that didn’t materialize, his situation was back to the drawing board.

Diao’s contract expires next summer, and he does not look likely to sign a new deal at Lazio.


One player who will be tough to keep in one place is Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho. The Reds lightning rod is a stellar player, and is a popular transfer rumor subject every summer for that reason.

According to French paper L’Equipe, Paris Saint-Germain is hoping to bring in Coutinho should they fail to pry Kylian Mbappe free of Monaco. PSG has been heavily linked with Mbappe, with the financial means to make it happen, but they may have to pay a premium to convince Monaco to sell its best player to a direct league rival.

Thus, should the Mbappe project fail, Coutinho is reportedly an option. Liverpool reportedly isn’t opposed to a sale, but it would cost PSG around $98 million, according to the report. The Reds also need to have a replacement lined up, and replacing the Brazilian playmaker is no easy task.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”

Suarez defends surgery decision after Barca lose Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez has defended himself from criticism for undergoing knee surgery that prevented him from playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

The Uruguayan released a statement Sunday saying he had no option despite the timing of the final, which Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia on Saturday.

Suarez said he had to undergo surgery “against my will” after rupturing his meniscus against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

He said the surgery earlier this month had nothing to do with a cartilage issue that he had been nursing since the beginning of the season.

Barcelona won the Spanish league but finished the season on a low after being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League and losing the Copa final to Valencia.

Suarez scored 25 goals in 49 matches this season, second only to Lionel Messi on the scoring charts for Barcelona.

U-20 WC roundup: Mexico hammered by Japan; Italy top Ecuador

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

Mexico 0-3 Japan

Mexico’s heavy defeat at the hands of Japan means El Tri‘s stars of tomorrow, who have zero points from their first two games, cannot finish top-two in Group B and can only advance to the knockout rounds as one of four third-place teams.

Taisei Miyashiro (21st and 77th minutes) and Kyosuke Tagawa (52nd) bagged the goals on Sunday, as Japan picked up its first victory and set up an all-important finale with Italy to decide who finishes top of the group on Wednesday.

Ecuador 0-1 Italy

Andrea Pinamonti scored the only goal in Italy’s 1-0 victory over 10-man Ecuador to reach the six-point mark and guarantee themselves a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Senegal 2-0 Colombia [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Poland 5-0 Tahiti [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Monday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Honduras v. Uruguay — 12 p.m. ET
Qatar v. Ukraine — 12 p.m. ET
USA v. Nigeria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Norway v. New Zealand — 2:30 p.m. ET