Getty Images

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs in late Rabiot swoop, Deulofeu to Milan

Leave a comment

As the January transfer window winds down, teams that still have needs work furiously to get deals done and reinforce the squad. Some are not going according to plan, as Newcastle announced it has scrapped a deal with Jordan Lukaku after the 24-year-old Belgian failed a medical.

The rumors in the winter aren’t nearly as heavy as the summer, with teams often unwilling to part with even bit-part players unless they find a replacement. Still, there are some rumblings across Europe as to who might get a last-minute deal across the line with about a week to go.

According to multiple reports in England, Tottenham is after wantaway PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot as a desperate attempt to fill holes in the midfield left by recent injuries. The biggest is to England international Dele Alli who injured his hamstring against Fulham last weekend and will be out until March. They are also missing Moussa Sissoko, and while the Frenchman could return soon, he will at least miss this weekend, a cause for some concern.

Thus, it would make sense that Spurs would look to make a cut-rate deal for Rabiot, even as a rental for the rest of the season. According to the Daily Mail, it would cost about $26 million to pry away the 23-year-old midfielder, likely worth more than that on the open market but with his contract out this season and certain to leave PSG in the summer without a new deal, his value has been hacked. He’s been openly courted by Barcelona, and even had his agent – and mother – claim that Spurs is “beneath him,” but on a short-term deal could be valuable to the London club.

The biggest stumbling block to the deal is PSG welcoming Rabiot back to the squad. He was sent to train with the youth squad and removed from the matchday team, but they have recently been forced to take him back on court order. With that in mind, the team wants to sign a replacement before letting him go. Still, it would behoove them to get some kind of return on investment, with Rabiot otherwise ready to leave for free this summer.


Championship side West Brom is reportedly looking into bringing Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald in on loan for the rest of the season. McDonald was a critical piece of the Fulham team that won promotion via the playoff last season, but has been relegated to just 10 Premier League appearances this season with new signings Jean-Michel Seri eating up minutes in midfield.

The Telegraph reports that West Brom has nearly secured Newcastle winger Jacob Murphy on loan, and that McDonald is next in line. At 30 years old, McDonald has looked a little behind the Premier League pace, but could do a job in the Championship if given a chance to reprise last year’s form.

West Brom currently sits third in the Championship table, in the thick of the promotion race. They are three points back of Norwich City in second, and just four behind Leeds United in the top spot.


According to Italian outlet Tuttosport, AC Milan is hoping to bring Gerard Deulofeu to the San Siro as the Serie A giants are in desperate need of a winger.

Deulofeu seemed to have finally found a home at Watford on a permanent switch from Barcelona after a plethora of loans, and has been his usual streaky self, accumulating three goals and three assists. Still, a move to AC Milan could prove lucrative to Watford, who acquired him just this summer for a reported $15 million.

The 24-year-old Spaniard was at AC Milan on loan from Everton during the second half of the 2016/17 season, and was excellent at the San Siro, but Milan reportedly passed on acquiring him permanently despite fan pressure to do so. There could be a twinge of regret in Milan, and with Deulofeu’s excellent performances in Italy still fresh on the mind, it could be an important move with Milan clinging to the last Champions League place in Serie A.


According to Fiorentina director of football Pantaleo Corvino, Manchester United saw a bid for defender Nikola Milenkovic rejected earlier this January. Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport quoted Corvino admitting they turned down a bid from Manchester United along with a host of other bids from French and other Italian teams for different Fiorentina players. Corvino called Manchester United’s bid a “great bid” but did not specify a value.

Milenkovic has played the full 90 minutes in every single Fiorentina Serie A match this season except for two, and has helped the club to the fifth-best defensive record in the Italian top flight. The 21-year-old Serbian joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2017 from his boyhood club Partizan Belgrade. He already has 10 caps for his country and has become a fixture for Serbia at the back, with the country conceding just two goals over his five Nations League starts.

Manchester United has looked to bring in defenders over the last few transfer windows, but has in large part failed to do so. A big sticking point for former manager Jose Mourinho was his desire to bring in a defender, reportedly targeting Toby Alderweireld and Harry Maguire of late, but failing to find the backing from the front office.

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

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
Leave a comment

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