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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man United after Portuguese duo, Spurs want Lo Celso

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With the Premier League season complete and the offseason officially upon us, Premier League teams are shopping to keep up with those around them and plug holes that might need improvement.

Manchester United is reportedly after a trio of Portuguese players, and there is significant news regarding two of them.

According to reports in Portugal, central defender Ruben Dias is on the verge of a new contract with his current club Benfica which would bump his release clause from its current $67 million to a whopping $112 million, making it that much more difficult for the Red Devils to pursue the 22-year-old this summer. Currently, Dias is signed through 2023, but the club wanted to boost its ability to control the market with Dias connected to the biggest clubs in Europe.

Dias, a Benfica youth product, played the full 90 minutes in 32 of Benfica’s 34 league matches this season, a fixture at the back for the club as they won the league by a two-point margin over rivals Porto. While Benfica’s main asset was its blistering attack that scored 103 goals, the most in the league by a massive 29-goal margin, the defense conceded just 31 on the season, second-fewest behind Porto’s 20.

Part of that sparkling Benfica attack, 19-year-old Joao Felix, is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, but the club announced Friday that there had not yet been any official submissions for his services. “No offer has arrived,” Benfica executive Domingo Soares told Portuguese television channel TVI24. “There is talk and rumors. It’s true that top European clubs have expectations, but no proposal has arrived to us.”

Felix appeared 26 times for Benfica on the season, including starts in the final 19 games of the year once he earned his permanent place in the team in early January. He scored 15 goals and assisted nine others, earning comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo for his style of wing play that sees him like to drift centrally.


Tottenham is preparing for the possibility of Christian Eriksen to depart the club this summer, with a move to Real Madrid heavily reported. They are reportedly keeping a close eye on Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso, who had a fine season with the Spanish club after moving permanently from Paris Saint-Germain.

The 23-year-old proved his value with an outstanding 16-goal haul in 46 matches across all competitions, a gluttonous tally for a midfielder. Lo Celso was on loan at Betis this season, but the club activated a clause in the loan to secure him permanently this summer for a modest $25 million. According to Spanish publication AS, Tottenham would be willing to pay up to $67 million for the Argentine, a sizable and immediate return on investment for Betis despite owing PSG a 20% sell-on fee for any outgoing transfer.

Lo Celso has been slighted in his career to this point. Proving valuable in his time at PSG, he started 33 league games in 2017/18 and scored four goals with five assists in a deeper midfield role, but was still considered surplus to requirements the next campaign. He was left on the bench for most of Argentina’s disappointing 2018 World Cup journey despite the attack constantly crying out for his creative abilities, and subsequently loaned out to Betis, where he flourished.


According to reports in Italy, Napoli has already rejected a $100 million offer for defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Real Madrid. Koulibaly is yet another defender linked with Manchester United, as it’s no secret the upgrade needed along the Red Devil back line, so the price tag will come as a blow, as will interest from other top clubs. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has previously said publicly that he has turned down massive bids from clubs for his Senegalese defender, but never specified the club.

The 27-year-old signed a five-year contract last summer that runs through the summer of 2023 and contains a whopping $168 million release clause. Napoli appears to be using that as leverage, although any return even remotely close to that would be a significant gain for the Italian side that secured him from Genk for just $8 million back in 2014.

Koulibaly was a reported target of Jose Mourinho before his dismissal at Old Trafford, and it could be difficult again if the price tag is that high. With a number of top defenders on the market this summer, including the aforementioned Ruben Dias as well as Matthijs de Ligt, clubs may be forced to look elsewhere for a defensive replacement.


Arsenal and Manchester United are reportedly targeting Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, as the 25-year-old Ghanan international anchored the Atletico Madrid defense well last campaign and could be on his way out, especially if Atleti faces an overhaul this summer.

Partey played it cool when asked about his future, noting that anything he says can and often will be used against him by the media. “It’s hard for me to talk about transfers because the next minute it will be like ‘Thomas is trying to leave’ but for me playing football is what makes me happy,” Partey told BBC Sport.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me but as long as I play and they are happy with me here then there is no need flirting with others.”

An Atletico Madrid youth product, Partey has made 130 appearances for the club, including a 32-game league season this past campaign. Atleti finished second in the table with 76 points, eight above third-placed Real Madrid and 11 behind the champions Barcelona. They conceded just 29 goals, the least in the league by a significant margin.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: BATE Borisov pick up win, end early-season drought

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Saturday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Rukh 0-1 BATE Borisov

With an early goal from midfielder Stanislav Dragun, BATE Borisov, Belarus’ most successful team (15 league titles) and a regular face in European competition, earned their first win of the season. Kirill Alshevsky, who took over at the helm prior to the season, had started his spell on a two-game losing streak.

BATE, despite not winning the possession battle decisively, generated twice as many shots on target as the visitors, registering a total of 11 shots throughout 90 minutes at Borisov Arena.

A winner of 13 straight Belarusian Premier League titles – spanning from 2006 to 2018 – pressure began looming over BATE after starting the 2020 campaign with back-to-back lackluster results. BATE, who lost to Arsenal in Europa League’s Round of 32 in April 2019, were outscored 5-2 in the first, two games of the league.

Dinamo Minsk, the second most successful Belarusian side, also picked up their first three points on Friday, following a slower-than-usual start to the season. Meanwhile, defending champion Dinamo Brest fell 2-1 to Slavia-Mozyr, dropping to eighth on the table.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Shakhtyor 0-0 Nerman

Dinamo Brest 1-2 Slavia-Mozyr

NWSL extends league-wide training moratorium through May

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The NWSL is extending its league-wide training moratorium another month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced on Saturday.

All NWSL teams will be unable to partake in team trainings until at least May 5, extending its previous training moratorium that was set to expire on Sunday, April 5. The 2020 season – which was set to start on April 18 – is expected to start by the end of June, according to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

“We’ve been just communicating with our players and we’re targeting for the end of June for our season to start,” Baird told The Equalizer. “I say that with conviction and hope, but … we’re gonna adhere to the public health guidelines that are in place at the time and I don’t think that we can predict what they are. But our strategy is in place.”

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer and United Soccer League extended their training moratorium through April 24 and April 19, respectively.

Report: England manager Gareth Southgate agrees to 30 percent pay cut

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England manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to a 30 percent pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic, our partners at Sky Sports reported on Saturday.

[ MORE: What PL clubs are doing to help during coronavirus ] 

Southgate’s move, which is reportedly expected to be confirmed by the Football Association (FA) next week, comes hours after the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) released a statement on behalf of the Premier League players responding to proposed pay cuts.

A FA spokesperson told Sky Sports the following: “The financial implications of the coronavirus are not yet known however, as a not-for-profit organization, we want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organization and our employees.

“We will make a further announcement on our next steps in due course.”

On Friday, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – and a handful of technical staff personnel – became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. Howe’s “significant, voluntary” pay cuts were done in light of the club furloughing non-playing employees throughout the organization, joining Tottenham, Norwich, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Spanish league and players still far apart on salary cuts

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish league and players are still far apart on the size of the salary cuts they need to take to help reduce the financial impact caused by the coronavirus outbreak, with the footballers saying the organization wants them to carry nearly half the total losses.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players have said they are willing to reduce their salaries, but not as much as the league or the clubs want.

“After analyzing the current circumstances of the sector and given the distance in conversations with the players’ association, it is necessary to adopt measures in view of the serious economic crisis that COVID-19 is causing in the Spanish soccer industry,” the league said in a statement.

It also added that government furloughs are “an exceptional mechanism to avoid and mitigate the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on the sector, and thus guarantee its subsequent recovery.”

According to media reports, the league expects losses of 957 million euros ($1.03 billion) if the season is canceled, with 303 million euros ($327 million) lost if it resumes with games in empty stadiums and 156 million euros ($168 million) of deficits if it continues with fans.

The players said the total cuts in salaries requested by the league would account for 451 million euros ($487 million) if the top flight cannot restart.

The reduction in salaries being discussed reportedly varies depending on the clubs, and also on whether they are playing in the Champions League or the Europa League.

Team captains met with the players’ association late Friday to discuss their options after the league earlier in the day called for all clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs to reduce labor costs while the stoppage of play continued. The furloughs help the clubs and guarantee players their jobs once the crisis is over.

The league said it is responsible for preserving an industry that represents 1.37 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs about 185,000 people.

Atlético Madrid and Barcelona were among the clubs to resort to the furloughs in recent days. Both reached an agreement with players to reduce their salaries by 70 percent, and guaranteed the wages of other employees were unaffected.

There are nearly 125,000 cases of the new coronavirus in Spain, which on Saturday surpassed Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States. The death toll in the nation stands at 11,744.

The government is expected to extend lockdown measures until April 26, likely keeping the Spanish league suspended until then.

The league has said the season won’t resume until authorities deem it safe for everyone’s health. It said it will recommend a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can restart, though it suggested recently the training period may begin with restrictions before the lockdown is removed.

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