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Carli Lloyd discusses time at Man City, state of USWNT and more

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Carli Lloyd has undoubtedly become one of the faces of women’s soccer, not just in the United States but globally.

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The U.S. Women’s National Team star has done it all. From helping the U.S. hoist the FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 2015 to being named the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, Lloyd has seen her stardom grow over the years, and that’s what brought the 35-year-old midfielder to Manchester City this past season.

Lloyd had proven herself on the international level with the USWNT and domestically in the NWSL and WPS (prior to that), but when an opportunity came knocking to complete a loan spell in England, it simply wasn’t something she could pass up.

“I’ve always wanted to go overseas to play, but it had to be the right fit,” Lloyd told reporters on Sunday prior to the New York Derby. “The door opened up to go and play for Manchester City and all the stars aligned.

“It’s been a great organization to fight for, to work for and kind of see the evolution of all their teams.”

Lloyd played an important role for the Lady Citizens during her spell with the club, scoring three goals in 10 matches across all competitions and helping guide Man City to an FA Women’s Cup title — where she scored in the final.

The Manchester City also fell just short of Champions League glory in 2017, losing 3-2 on aggregate in the semifinals to fellow American Alex Morgan and Lyon — who went on to win the competition.

Morgan also spent time in Europe this season on loan in France, but has since returned to her Orlando Pride club in NWSL.

When asked about her transition to life in England, Lloyd jokingly stated that she “didn’t drive for about the first few weeks.”

Additionally, the USWNT star spoke about how her experiences in England will follow her for the rest of her life, including getting to know Manchester City men’s manager Pep Guardiola.

“I can look back in 10, 15 years time and say that I lived in the same apartment complex as Pep Guardiola and exchanged texts with him,” Lloyd said.

“It was fantastic playing for the women. They really pride themselves on doing all they can to make it the best women’s club in the world and they’re on their way. I’m really excited to follow them and watch them grow.

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Since her time with the Citizens ended in May, Lloyd has since returned to the U.S., where she plays for the Houston Dash of NWSL.

At this point, she says her biggest focus is to help the Dash reach the NSWL playoffs, which is something the club has failed to do in its first three seasons in the league.

The Dash are currently three points behind the Orlando Pride for the sixth and final spot in the postseason.

“I’m going to do all I can to help the club reach a playoff spot,” Lloyd said.

On the national team front, Lloyd remains one of the key figures in Jill Ellis’ side, despite this being an off year for the USWNT in the World Cup cycle.

The women’s squad has had their share of difficulties in 2017, losing matches to England, France and most recently Australia in the Tournament of Nations.

However, Lloyd recognizes that results during this calendar year don’t necessarily reflect how good the USWNT will be in the coming years and that finding players to help strengthen the squad will boost the nation’s chances of hoisting another World Cup title in 2019.

AP Photo/Eugenio Savio

“I would assess it in a couple of different ways,” Lloyd said when asked about the current state of the USWNT. “One, it’s an off year. It’s a transition year. There are some experimentations going on at the moment. Do you remember in 2014/2015 when we lost to France? Everybody just remembers us winning the World Cup in 2015.

“Me as the player, you always want to be in peak form. You always want to be playing at your best, but in order to break these barriers you need to go backwards sometimes and put the pieces back together again in order to jump up a few more levels. I think that’s where we’re at right now and trying to look for more player depth within the squad.

“We’re all trying to do what we can and as we get closer to 2018 we’ll kind of hone in on everything. It’s obviously unfortunate not being able to win all the time, but that’s not the way women’s soccer is going anymore. It’s a lot harder. At the end of the day, 2019 is the real focus.”

For the New Jersey native, 2019 could very well be her last showing for both club and country, according to the former Rutgers Scarlet Knights standout.

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Lloyd has represented the USWNT since 2005, making 242 appearances for the Stars and Stripes and scoring 97 goals in the process.

“The plan is this next cycle,” Lloyd said. “For me, age is just a number. It’s all about evolving. Every part of my career, every phase of my career has been something different. Now, I think it’s about being more sophisticated.

“Players are out to get the ball away from me. They’re out to kick me. I’m in the spotlight, so everybody thinks that I need to score a hat-trick every time I’m on the pitch. It doesn’t happen like that.

Neymar says he’s staying at PSG; rumors “invented by the press”

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Neymar insists he is going nowhere this summer, that he’ll spend (at least) one more season at Paris Saint-Germain, and he intends to bring another handful of trophies back to the French capital in doing so.

[ MORE: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for N’Golo Kante, but must sell first ]

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, his first media availability session since Brazil were eliminated in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals, the 26-year-old superstar went so far as to say that reports linking him with a move to other European mega-clubs (most notably, Real Madrid) were “invented by the press” — quotes from ESPN:

“Yes, I will stay in Paris. I have a contract with PSG. The speculation? The majority of it is invented by the press.

“I have a contract and people know the objective, the reason why I went to PSG. I want to win with this club and I hope this season will be wonderful.”

While it seems a no-brainer that PSG would want Neymar to stay, there’s unquestionably a case to be made that selling him would give them the financial flexibility needed to address needs elsewhere in the squad. N'Golo Kante, for instance, is reportedly transfer target no. 1 at the Parc des Princes, but sales will have to be made before a fee of that size can be paid, due to financial regulations.

Report: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for Kante, but must sell first

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N'Golo Kante might just be the best midfielder in the world, and he might just be leaving Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days or weeks, as French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that the defending Ligue 1 champions are in “advanced negotiations” over a mega-bucks contract with the World Cup winner.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The report goes so far as to say that a “provisional contract” has already been agreed. “Provisional,” in this instance, means there has likely been little — if any — contact between the two clubs thus far.

One major sticking point remains: following last summer’s outlandish spending spree, in which they shelled out nearly $500 million to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are in serious danger of failing to comply with financial regulations set forth by UEFA and could/would be banned from European competition should they fail to achieve compliance.

The likes of Angel Di Maria, Goncalo Guedes, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese Rodriguez and Alphonse Areola have had their names floated as possible departures to recoup the necessary funds before paying another fee of (presumably) over $100 million.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

After helping the Blues to the Premier League title two seasons ago (and doing the same with Leicester City three campaigns gone by), Kante was powerless in saving Chelsea from themselves in 2017-18. They finished fifth in the PL and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Given his age — 27 — it’s wholly understandable that Kante would prioritize playing in club soccer’s top competition (while also making even more money) every season going forward. Throw in the fact that uncertainty is the only certainty at Stamford Bridge these days, and trading west London for Paris — where Kante was born — starts to sounds pretty good, pretty quickly.

18-year-old Vinicius ready to fight for minutes at Real Madrid

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Following in the footsteps of Neymar and Kaka, and Ronaldinho and Ronaldo before them, Vinicius Junior has been dubbed the next transcendent Brazilian superstar, and he’s ready to show why after being unveiled by Real Madrid on Friday.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The 18-year-old from the famed Flamengo youth academy will make his European debut next month when the new La Liga season kicks off, and he has every intention of being part of the first-team squad from the very beginning. While many South American starlets will move to a club the size of Real Madrid and spend a season or two (or more) out on loan as they continue to develop and adjust to life abroad, Vinicius is bullish on his ability to make an immediate impact — quotes from ESPN:

“I am staying at Real Madrid with the first team. I will play some games with Castilla [the youth team] to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I can do everything I did at Flamengo, and do better. I will show I am ready to play and show everything possible as quickly as I can. I know the adaptation will not be easy, but I am ready to do whatever is necessary.

“I am coming from Flamengo, another club with a lot of pressure. The people around me are here to help me with this. I never think of failing, just succeeding, winning as much as possible.”

“Football is a bit different here, but coach Lopetegui is helping me a lot, telling me what I must do, how I can improve. This is the best opportunity a football player can have.

“I will sacrifice a lot to show I deserve this opportunity. But sacrifice is not something new for me. I come from a very simple family, and am very proud of all they did for me and the values they have taught me.”

Vinicius’s $52-million transfer was agreed last summer, but FIFA rules stipulated that the player must be 18 before making the move abroad.

Sports court overturns AC Milan’s ban from Europa League

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — In a legal victory over UEFA, AC Milan is back in the Europa League after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ban imposed for overspending.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The court said Friday the punishment was “not proportionate” following a takeover completed last week, even though UEFA was right to judge Milan had broken financial monitoring rules.

The seven-time European champion had failed to approach breaking even on player transfers and wages over several seasons in which it failed to qualify for the top-tier Champions League.

UEFA was ordered to review the case and apply a “proportionate disciplinary measure,” the court said in an urgent ruling.

Milan’s reprieve was largely due to the takeover by a United States-based hedge fund which last year provided key finance to a Chinese-led purchase of the storied club.

In a statement Friday, European soccer body UEFA noted without comment that the case returns to the judging section of its club finance panel.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

The verdict was given Friday without detailed reasons from a three-judge panel, one day after a hearing at the highest court in world sports.

An urgent ruling was needed because the case affected Italy’s entry in the Europa League second qualifying round next week.

Milan’s legal win restores the club’s place in the group stage which kicks off in September. Atalanta, which placed seventh in Serie A, goes back into the qualifying rounds and plays Sarajevo in a first-leg game in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday. Fiorentina, which placed eighth last season, is now withdrawn from the Europa League.

Milan broke UEFA’s financial fair rules which monitor finances over a three-year assessment period of all clubs qualifying to enter the Champions League or Europa League.

When it was banned last month, Milan said it failed to break even on soccer-related business in the period from July 2014 to June 2017 — before its spending spree one year ago.

[ MORE: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool ]

Milan spent nearly $250 million on new players. This was despite questions over the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that purchased the club from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April 2017.

The team finished sixth in Serie A, missed out on the four Italian places in the Champions League, and qualified for the Europa League.

However, the court said UEFA had not “properly assessed” some relevant points in Milan’s case, and the club’s finances improved after the takeover.

Elliott Management has promised to inject $66 million in capital.

Former owner Li Yonghong missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than $350 million from the hedge fund. Elliott repossessed the holding company in Luxembourg that Li used to buy Milan.

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