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How would Timo Werner fit on Liverpool?

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It sure feels like Liverpool and Timo Werner are on a collision course.

According to The Athletic on Wednesday, Liverpool’s optimal time for submitting a bid will likely be mid-March, a sweet spot when they have previously done deals for the likes of Alisson and Fabinho. The Reds have until an unspecified day in April when Werner’s contract states his $63.4 million release clause expires in order to give RB Leipzig time to garner a replacement before the next season.

The report states that despite contact from Barcelona and Manchester United, Werner is waiting to hear from Liverpool before making a decision. While the report does not state why Werner is waiting for the Reds, the move is seemingly indicative of a preference, great news for Reds fans.

[ MORE: Latest PL injury news ]

The biggest question mark about the whole deal is where Werner fits in to Liverpool’s squad. The Reds have asphyxiated the Premier League this season in large part thanks to their attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino. Brazilian striker Firmino is the biggest threat to Werner’s game time, and the 28-year-old is a critical and established piece of the Jurgen Klopp machine, less of a goalscorer and more of a facilitator. An NFL scout might call Firmino a game manager.

But those at Liverpool might also say that Werner is a threat to Firmino’s game time. While Liverpool has romped through the English top flight in record fashion, the Reds have not always dominated opponents, rather collecting vast quantities of points with timely goals. Liverpool has won a whopping 13 one-goal games this league season; compare that to Manchester City’s dominating league performance last year where they had just nine one-goal victories all year, including three of them coming in the final four matches of the year. Could they use a more consistent attacking threat?

Werner is just that. With 21 goals through 23 Bundesliga matches this season and another six in 10 matches across all other competitions, Werner is a dangerous presence and a ruthless finisher. Judging by his 18.12 xG – already second in the Bundesliga – Werner is actually finishing at a better rate than Robert Lewandowski who is having a historic campaign. Werner’s +2.88 actual goals to expected goals is second in the Bundesliga only to Jadon Sancho‘s absurd +5.75. Not only does Werner get a lot of chances, he’s finishing them in bunches.

But how would that type of striker change the dynamic of Liverpool? At the moment they play through the flanks with dynamic full-backs and dangerous wingers; Firmino does far more work off the ball than he does on it. How would the Reds change with a goal hawk up front demanding service?

If you ever needed a visualization on how different the two players are, take a look at their heat maps below. Firmino’s touches from the 3-1 victory over Manchester City are first, contrasted with Werner’s performance against Tottenham in the Champions League where he scored the game’s only goal.

Timo Werner is an outright striker, with the ability to drift out wide and create almost as much as he scores. Firmino is a workhorse, putting in a defensive shift and cropping up everywhere as Liverpool presses opponents to death. It’s almost impossible to tell from Firmino’s heat map which direction Liverpool is attacking – it’s actually left-to-right.

Still, as The Athletic report points out, Firmino is 28 years old and coupled with the 27-year-old Salah and Mane, Werner’s production at 24 is nearly impossible to pass up. His versatile nature too could prove useful, and while he often plays with a striker ahead of him in Patrik Schick, it seems Werner could translate relatively well into a ball-playing striker who could overlap with the world class wingers and full-backs at Anfield.

And yet this move would not be about the future. With Werner scoring in bunches, it would be hard to keep him off the field. In fact, he may want assurances of his involvement at Liverpool prior to any agreement of a move. Still, he might get a significant amount of playing time even if not first choice. Klopp has run the current front three ragged the last two years and likely would be more than happy to see them rested more often. All three have been forced to play through injuries at some point in the last two seasons.

Tactically, putting both Firmino and Werner on the field together would involve a relatively complicated formational shift that Klopp would need to perfect and would not be something the team could just rotate in and out of week to week. In the same vein, Klopp would also be a fool to look for a Firmino replacement in the same mold as the Brazilian given the rarity of his skill-set, but would changing the mold cause a ripple effect in the tactical setup?

Liverpool spent heavily two summers ago, but with the lack of major purchases this season plus the recent successes both domestic and abroad, it’s likely the Reds will have the money. And fit or not, Werner might be too delicious for Jurgen Klopp to pass up.

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

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 said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

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