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Analyzing contenders in Chelsea’s hunt for star striker

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With Diego Costa‘s Chelsea future seemingly non existent, who will Antonio Conte turn to for goals this season?

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The Chelsea boss has to first offload Costa, which is proving problematic given the striker only wants to re-join Atletico Madrid and their current transfer ban is making his departure complex.

One thing which is easy to understand is that Conte wants Costa out and the sooner the 28-year-old Spaniard departs, the sooner his replacement can arrive.

After losing out on Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Conte has seen his options diminish when it comes to signing a new striker to spearhead Chelsea’s quest for success in the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.

Below is a look a the contenders to replace Costa, with all five players linked with a move to Chelsea over recent weeks (or in Alvaro Morata’s case, many months).


Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid) – Transfer value, $103 million
With James Rodriguez leaving Real Madrid for Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal, it appears Morata may well stay with the reigning European champs after all. Chelsea, and Conte, have been long-time admirers of Morata and the Spanish international is about to enter his prime. If he stays at Real Madrid he will still be behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Karem Benzema and Gareth Bale in the pecking order, but Zinedine Zidane appears to want to play the 24-year-old more. If he doesn’t, perhaps this deal happens later in August but Chelsea will surely want their main man to be in place by the start of the season on Aug. 11. Real’s valuation is another stumbling block.

Andrea Belotti (Torino) – Transfer value, $114 million
He has become an oft mentioned target for both Man United and Chelsea during the summer window and the Italian forward has had two impressive seasons for Torino, scoring 38 goals in 70 Serie A games. “The Rooster” possess a powerful shot, is a clinical finisher and is quick off the mark. He is everything a modern forward should be, hence why clubs around Europe are willing to pay big money to sign him. That said, Torino are holding out for $114 million and that doesn’t seem likely. Belotti is just 23 years old and has never played in European competition, but he does have four goals in nine games for the Italian national team.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund) – Transfer value, $80 million
Reports state that Dortmund are willing to let the 28-year-old leave for $80 million this summer and he could be just the man Chelsea need. The price is high, but Aubameyang has pedigree in the UCL and he led the Bundesliga in goals last season nwith 31 from 32 games. He can run the channels, lead the line and is good in the air. The Gabon striker would appear to be the perfect fit for what Chelsea need and he’s used to playing in a fluid front three from his time at Dortmund. If Chelsea can get the fee down to $70 million, then surely he will be their first choice to replace Costa.

Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) – Transfer value, $60 million
Palace aren’t willing to sell Benteke this summer but with Everton and Chelsea reportedly interested, could a bid of over $60 million twist their arm? Benteke, 26, scored 17 goals in a struggling Palace side last season and his pedigree as a clinical finisher is clear for all to see. Benteke’s arrival may not wow the Chelsea faithful, but if Conte is looking for a pure finisher who can hold the ball up and be a menace in the air, Benteke is your man.

Fernando Llorente (Swansea City) – Transfer value, $15 million
A bit out of left field, but there’s definite interest in Llorente from Chelsea with Conte working with him at Juventus in the past. Llorente scored 15 goals in a poor Swansea side last season and despite his broken arm, which means he’ll likely miss the start of the season, the Spanish veteran (32) has plenty to offer. Signing Llorente would mean Conte backs Michy Batshuayi to be his main striker next season and that seems unlikely given the lack of playing time for the Belgian last season.

Quick look at the other options: Even though Alexis Sanchez would be perfect, it’s unlikely Arsenal will sell him to a London and Premier League rival, and the same could be said for Olivier Giroud. Daniel Sturridge would be an intriguing buy, but after his tumultuous spell at Chelsea in the past a return seems unlikely. Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan is a poacher but the Argentine would cost big bucks from Inter Milan and another cheap but potentially solid option is Mexico’s Javier Hernandez with his contract at Bayer Leverkusen said to have a release clause of less than $18 million.

Report: Six Barcelona board members quit, recommend new election

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Barcelona might be atop La Liga, but the behind the scenes atmosphere is ugly.

A day after reports that president Josep Maria Bartomeu asked four board members to leave the club, the quartet and two others have resigned and called for new leadership.

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Marca translated the letter signed by Emili Rousaud, Enrique Tombas, Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Maria Teixidor and Jordi Calsamiglia (Spanish report here). The first four were asked to leave, with Teixidor and Calsamiglia joining them.

That leaves the board at 13 members.

“We ask that once the results of the audit entrusted to PWC are presented, all responsible to be swept away with the eventual corresponding compensation.

“As a last service to our club, we recommend that as soon as circumstances allow it to call new elections to allow to direct the club, with all the ‘authority’ and in the best possible way in the face of the important challenges of the most immediate future.”

It’s been a terrible season for Barca off-the-field, and Bartomeu’s leadership simply must be questioned given the actions of him and some of the people under his watch. Former players and legends have spoken out against the club’s hierarchy, including Pep Guardiola.

The ouster of Ernesto Valverde was handled without much class, and director Eric Abidal threw the players under the bus for the managerial change. The club has also dealt with “Barcagate,” in which a contracted social media company was fired for posting Tweets against Barca’s players.

Both drew the ire of Lionel Messi, who can exercise a clause to leave the club this summer (though that seems unlikely). Messi also admitted he “sees weird things happening” after Bartomeu spoke to the players after “Barcagate.”

Messi also refuted Thursday rumors of a move to Inter Milan in a since-deleted IG post.

Bartomeu has been Barca’s president since January 2014, and the club has won the 2014/15 Champions League and four of five La Liga crowns during his full seasons in charge. There have, however, been a lot of misses in the transfer market.

It might get uglier before it gets better, but there isn’t too much room for worse.

Premier League March Madness: Handicapping the Final

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There was a thriller when Wolves and Everton met at Goodison Park on Sept. 1, and we’re hoping for the online poll equivalent when our Premier League March Madness concludes on Friday.

Wolves already gave us one on Thursday, blowing a lead they held for most of the day to see a 50-50-to-the-vote deadlock before a sizeable win in extra time (30 minutes of added voting).

Everton had an interesting win of its own, destroying Merseyside Derby rivals Liverpool with more than 80 percent of the vote.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

Road to the Final

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

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The Toffees are the favorites here, having knocked off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool.

But this will be the first time in the tournament where Everton won’t have the benefit of a club many other teams hate as the opposition.

Wolves’ extra time win over Sheffield United was a first real scare of the tournament, and the Molineux set will hope its extra time performance was a showing of what it will do when faced with elimination.

It’s difficult to choose against Everton here, even if the Anfield faithful will move to the side of the Wolves. We’ll call it 54-46 to the blue side of Liverpool.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Final Four

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Everton has its first Merseyside Derby since 2010 thanks to the voters of ProSoccerTalk.

The Toffees’ 21-match run without a win over Liverpool “ended” Thursday in Premier League March Madness, the fusion of two of our favorite sporting competitions.

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We hinted at this win on Wednesday given the exits of all the Premier League giants besides Liverpool, as supporters of Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea might leap at the chance to take the Reds off any throne.

But to say we saw this margin? The Toffees didn’t just beat their rivals; Carlo Ancelotti’s men stomped the Reds into online oblivion.

So who will Everton meet in the final after knocking off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool?

The winner of Sheffield United and Wolves came in nail-biting fashion, the two sides nearly as evenly-matched as their 1-1 draw at the Molineux on Dec 1.

Wolves led for much of the day but saw their lead slip to 50.4-49.6 with minutes left in voting.

At 6:30 p.m. ET, it was dead-even. 50-50.

So we extended voting to extra time, and Nuno Espirito Santo must’ve deployed a ridiculous substitute because Wolves ran away with the thing to the tune of 59.6-40.4. #Swing.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ]

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Much-chased Havertz reportedly prefers Bayern move

Kai Havertz
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The latest transfer gossip regarding rumor mill regular Kai Havertz pours a lot of cold water on the hopes of several Premier League giants.

Havertz, 20, has been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City this season with his odds of leaving Bayer Leverkusen at an all-time high. He’s also been connected to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham to cover most of the Top Six bases.

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But Sky Sports says the German playmaker is keen to stay in his home country and make a move to Bayern Munich, who has been linked with Havertz, Leroy Sane, and Timo Werner in a bid to revolutionize its UEFA Champions League credentials.

Havertz has 10 goals and eight assists in 34 matches this season after exploding for 20 and seven in 42 last year. He doesn’t turn 21 until June.

The youngster provides little defensively but averages 2.3 key passes and 2.3 dribbles per match in Bundesliga play while passing at a tidy 87 percent despite living in the danger areas.

Whoever gets Havertz has a gem on its hands, but perhaps the Premier League will amp up their interest and recruiting efforts after these reports (if they haven’t already).