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Chelsea announce Hakim Ziyech deal

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Only a day after news first broke of potential contact between Chelsea and Ajax for playmaker Hakim Ziyech, the Blues have announced the completion of a deal with the Dutch club.

The London side declared Thursday morning they have agreed to terms with Ajax for the permanent transfer of Ziyech in the summer. That the deal is subject to personal terms.

Ajax also confirmed the deal, announcing a fee of around $43.5 million.

There were reports over the last 24 hours that stated Chelsea made an attempt to sign Ziyech in the January transfer window, but that the player was adamant he wished to stay through the end of the season and would only sign for a team in the summer.

Ziyech was a major part of the Ajax squad that reached the Champions League semifinals last season, and while many thought he would depart the Dutch side along with fellow hot commodities Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax did not offload the 26-year-old as to not completely dismantle the squad and remain competitive, and instead signed him to a new contract last summer. However, with Ziyech’s contract expiring in the summer of 2022, it seems the plan was always to re-up him for another year in preparation for a sale this summer.

From Ziyech’s perspective, the agreement of personal terms still seems to be a somewhat significant hurdle in the deal. Chelsea sits fourth in the Premier League and is by no means guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season. According to the pair of Dutch reports that first broke the news on Wednesday, Ziyech wants his next team to be a Champions League participant, and it’s possible he holds out to see if the Blues do in fact qualify for next season’s competition or if they fall out of the race.

The attacker is naturally a right winger who can also play through the middle, though his strengths come in delivering crosses and long-balls for teammates. He has 97 Eredivisie assists across 213 league appearances, and he has delivered seven Champions League assists in 27 appearances over the past two campaigns. He also has goalscoring capabilities, with 27 goals across all competitions the last two seasons.

For the Blues, adding a winger is critical to the club. Pedro is out of contract this summer and almost certain to depart the club. Willian has played well in significant minutes, but the Brazilian is also out of contract this summer and Chelsea may not be willing to commit to the Brazilian long-term at 32 years old. As the squad stands, Christian Pulisic is likely a starter on the left when healthy, with Ziyech starting on the right. Callum Hudson-Odoi is also a solid wing option although the 19-year-old still has some developmental progress to make. Mason Mount has locked down the attacking midfield role, while Ziyech could slide over should Mount find himself on the sidelines.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

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It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

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Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

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The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

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A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf