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Wenger, Conte among favorites to replace Zidane

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The dust has barely settled at Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane announced his dramatic departure as manager, but already there’s plenty of talk about who could take charge of the Spanish giants next.

[ MORE: Guerrero cleared for World Cup ]

Zidane, 45, walked away from the Santiago Bernabeu just five days after winning his third-straight UEFA Champions League title as Real boss. Talk about a mic-drop moment…

His three years in charge of Los Blancos will surely go down in history as one of the greatest managerial stints ever and is unlikely to be replicated.

But who’s next in the notoriously toasty hot seat for Real’s president Florentino Perez? Real’s president seemed slightly stunned that Zidane had stepped down but knows he needs to act fast to keep his superstars in check over the summer and allow Real to build on their success.

Via Oddschecker, here’s a look at the favorites to replace Zidane.


Arsene Wenger – 3/1 – Now this would be something, wouldn’t it? Real have tried to get Wenger in the past but the Frenchman always resisted their advances to remain in charge of his beloved Arsenal. Now he’s a free man and has been speaking about his next managerial move being overseas, what’s to stop this happening? Could Wenger handle the egos of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale? His style of play would certainly delight the Real fans and this would be some way for Wenger to get back on the coaching carousel.

Antonio Conte – 4/1 – Look, his stock is still incredibly high across Europe despite what happened at Chelsea this season. A Premier League title, a fifth-place finish and an FA Cup in his two seasons at Stamford Bridge isn’t bad at all and Conte has proven he can work with big-name players at Juventus, Italy and Chelsea. Real could do a lot worse and Conte and Chelsea may have found the perfect escape route for their uncomfortable situation as the Italian enters the final year of his contract.

Mauricio Pochettino – 6/1 – Now, the Argentine has just signed a new long-term deal with Spurs until 2023 and seems very happy at Tottenham. There are also reports out there that Tottenham didn’t include a release clause in Pochettino’s new deal, so it seems as though he’s staying put at White Hart Lane. But come on, it’s Real Madrid. Daniel Levy will be keen to halt the conveyor belt from North London to the Spanish capital (Ahem, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric) and stopping Pochettino from jumping ship is pivotal to keeping the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli wanting to join him in Spain. Poch will manage Real one day, that much is true. But this could be slightly too early for him.

Guti – 6/1 – Remember this guy? What a fine head of hair he had during his playing days with Real as a twinkle-toed central midfielder. Guti has been working hard behind-the-scenes at Real with their academy players and the U-19 coach is well-respected at the club. Promoting from within worked out pretty well for Florentino Perez and his board before. That said, Guti doesn’t quite have Zidane’s stature in the game so again, it may be a few years before he could take the reins. A good back-up option and a Real legend.

Massimiliano Allegri – 12/1 – It appears that he may well remain at Juventus but the Italian tactician is yet to commit his future to Juve and this opportunity would surely be intriguing for him. A coach who loves the art of defending may find it a little tough to drill the flamboyant Real stars, but for sustainable, long-term success, he’s your man. Allegri has built a fine squad at Juve and a group of players who play together instead of individuals.


Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.