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Transfer rumor roundup: Shaqiri wanted; Fred finalizing

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Xherdan Shaqiri has confirmed he will not be at Stoke City next season following their relegation from the Premier League.

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Shaqiri, 26, was Stoke’s top goalscorer last season as they were relegated from the top-flight following a 10-year stay. It is believed he is available for $17.9 million due to a release clause in his contract.

The Swiss international is focused on a big World Cup for his country this month, but speaking to Swiss outlet Aargauer Zeitung he confirmed he will not be playing in England’s second-tier next season.

“Yes, of course. It is no secret that I will leave the club. I would love to stay in England, I think the league is perfect for me,” Shaqiri said. “It’s the best league with the best players, but I do not want to exclude anything. Everyone wants to compete with the best, that was one reason why I chose the Premier League. And that’s why I want to take the next step now.”

Where next for Shaqiri? He has been linked with a move to either West Ham or Everton, which would be a good fit for the diminutive winger who operated in a more central role for the Potters last season.

Shaqiri’s ability is clear for all to see but a combination of him flashing in and out of games and Stoke not getting him the ball enough has seen him have an up and down time of things in the Premier League.

Surely he will flourish in a team willing to give him the ball and with other attackers around him who he can bounce off.

Brazilian midfielder Fred is closing in a move to Manchester United from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Fred, 25, was reportedly at United’s training ground on Monday for a medical after playing for Brazil in their 2-0 friendly win against Croatia at Anfield on Sunday.

After that game he spoke to the media and confirmed that a move to United was in the works but he that he was focused on heading to the 2018 World Cup with the Selecao.

The central midfielder will reportedly cost $69 million and Jose Mourinho sees him as a perfect foil to Nemanja Matic in the heart of United’s team. Fred can make surging runs from deep positions but is also able to lock down midfield and doesn’t shirk from his defensive responsibilities.

Fred has played 156 times for Shakhtar since joining them from Brazilian side Internacional in 2013, and has appeared in the UEFA Champions League regularly. He was previously linked with a move to Man City but Pep Guardiola cooled his interested in the man who has eight caps for Brazil.

Mourinho loves a midfield terrier and it appears likely that Fred is about to be a red…

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.


U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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