Transfer news: Firmino to Real Madrid, Traore to Barca, Wilshere to MLS

0 Comments

An audacious report says (at least) one of Liverpool’s top attacking trident could leave this summer, while Arsenal and Wolves products are looking abroad in Sunday’s rumor mill.

[ MORE: Palace 2-1 Fulham | West Ham 1-1 Man City ]

Lots to consider with these moves…


Roberto Firmino to Real Madrid

Reports in Spain say Liverpool center forward Roberto Firmino would like to play for Real Madrid and is being targeted by Florentino Perez for a summer move.

The 29-year-old Brazilian is considered by many to be the straw that stirs the drink for Mohamed Salah (28) and Sadio Mane (28), all three still in their prime but perhaps starting to see the other side of it.

A big sale of one of the three seems to make sense for Jurgen Klopp, and Liverpool has done well in the past when forced to sell peak players at the right time.

Liverpool has made three giant sales in the last decade: Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, and Luis Suarez. There were different reasons for all, not the least of which was the fallout from Suarez’s World Cup bite, but the approximate $320 million combined price tag sure helped the Reds land Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker, and Virgil van Dijk.

Real has purchased a lot of youth over the years and will certainly be looking for the finished product as Karim Benzema continues to fire but age. This is just a rumor but also a natural fit… and could the money help Liverpool afford a next level of center forward?

Adama Traore to Barcelona

Wolves wide man Adama Traore continues to be linked with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City, but a move home to Barcelona could be on the cards.

Traore, 24, was with Barca’s academy from 2005-2014 before moving to Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and then Wolves. He made one La Liga appearance when he was 17 in 2013.

Wolves reportedly want to sign Traore to a new deal, having locked up Raul Jimenez and Conor Coady in recent months.

Recently capped by Spain, Traore has played at right back, right wing, right mid, and center forward for Wolves this season.

He’s incredibly valuable and it doesn’t seem like Wolves would favor selling him to a Premier League side after sending Diogo Jota to Liverpool.

With Nelson Semedo arrived and impressing at the Molineux and young Ki-Jana Hoever behind him, might a Traore move — like Firmino above — fund changes at other positions of long-term interest?

Enjoy this photo of Adama Traore, nearly eight years and eight inches of biceps ago.

Adama Traore to Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 23: Adama of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Foulquier of Granada CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Granda CF at Camp Nou on November 23, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Wilshere to MLS

Where could free agent Jack Wilshere fit in the Major League Soccer climate?

The longtime Arsenal man, who also spent time at Bournemouth and West Ham, is being linked with a move to North America after rumors of a move to Rangers did not pan out.

No locations are named in a report by The Daily Mirror, who says the 28-year-old Wilshere prefers a move to MLS over the options available to him in England.

The North (or north of) London boy could join Blaise Matuidi as veteran playmakers to hit the center of an MLS pitch, and might we suggest Toronto FC? The club has three Designated Players in Pablo Piatti, Alejandro Pozuelo, and Jozy Altidore but perhaps could get creative.

Perhaps NYCFC could be a fit, the bright lights of New York some sort of relative to London. LA could also be a landing spot, though maybe Chicago or DC would like to make a big splash having seen strong runs from Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Or maybe a reunion with Thierry Henry in Quebec?

The options are many.

Ex-Chicago coach Paunovic wins Championship honor; USMNT prospect promoted

Reading FC news
Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
0 Comments

Ex-Chicago Fire manager Veljko Paunovic’s first stop after MLS is off to a flyer.

Paunovic, 43, has been named Football League Championship Manager of the Month for September after starting his career in England with a 4-0 record.

[ MORE: Olsen out as DC United coach ]

Reading has beaten Derby County, Barnsley, Cardiff City, and Watford by a collective score of 7-1.

Paunovic spoke at length on the influence of former teammates Diego Simeone and Fernando Torres, coaching Bastian Schweinsteiger with Chicago and learning big things in MLS during a feature interview with Sky Sports:

“I found a project [at Chicago] with people who were fantastic for my development and very supportive. They gave me the chance to work in a fantastic league that is still growing and expanding, and has incredible resources and potential.

“They mentored me and helped me, and I learned a lot from them. They also guided me and let me make my own decisions and mistakes. That is what I was looking for and I’m very grateful for that. I also led them to one of their best-ever seasons in 2017.”

Paunovic played 17 times for the Philadelphia Union in 2011 at the end of a well-traveled playing career with Atletico Madrid, Tenerife, and Getafe. He led the Serbia U-20s to the 2015 World Cup title before joining Chicago, where he made the playoffs once in five seasons.

Another reason for American fans to keep an eye on Reading? Paunovic has an USMNT prospect in his Premier League 2 side in Augustus McGiff (What a name, by the way).

The 18-year-old former NYCFC Academy graduate joined Reading’s U-19 side in 2019 and scored twice with an assist in eight outings before signing a pro deal and moving up to Premier League 2 this season.

McGiff has a goal in three matches at center forward for the U-23s, scoring the opener in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sept. 25.

He split time as an attacking mid and center forward with the U-19s.

NYCFC has churned out European prospects like Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), and current NYCFC youngsters James Sands and Justin Haak.

On This Day: Chelsea beats Bayern in Munich to win UCL (video)

Chelsea wins Champions League
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages
0 Comments

Almost four years had passed since John Terry’s penalty kick slip stopped Chelsea from grasping its first Champions League crown when the Blues flipped the script on its ear.

Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in Munich on this day in 2012 to lay claim to its first European Cup after a dramatic 1-1 match required penalty kicks to settle the tournament.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The match was scoreless for 82 minutes when Bayern sent the Allianz Arena into ecstasy via a Thomas Muller goal. They’d only have to hold on another 10 minutes or so to win a fifth UCL title.

They made it just five, as Didier Drogba stroked Chelsea level in the 88th minute.

Extra time didn’t separate the Blues and Bayern, and Chelsea fans would’ve been feeling deja vu when Juan Mata missed their first penalty kick.

The Blues wouldn’t miss again, and Bayern’s Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the Germans’ fourth and fifth attempts.

Champions.

In the era of the looming, formidable manager, it’s worth remembering the interim manager Roberto Di Matteo led Chelsea to this title as well as the FA Cup. He’d only last until the following November, posting a 24-9-9 record with those two trophies.

Report: MLS discussing significant change to Designated Player Rule

Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Ride of Fame
0 Comments

Major League Soccer is toying with a change to its roster structure aimed at spreading the wealth, according to The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal.

That’s both a literal and figurative turn of phrase.

Currently, the league allows teams three Designated Players. Put too simply: a Designated Player is a player that is considered outside the team’s salary cap.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Some of the biggest names in league history have come via the DP rule, and they’ve brought immense cred to the league: Wayne Rooney, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sebastian Giovinco, David Beckham, and Didier Drogba are a handful of players who fit the bill.

Well now the league is aiming at making sure at least one of the three DPs is under the age of 23, which would eliminate DP triumvirates like Toronto FC’s uniting of Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore.

The idea is that players under the age of 23 bring a lot more money to the table when they are sold than the the older guys.

The new plan would break down something like this, via The Athletic:

Sources said that the league and its influential product strategy committee are considering a new set of DP rules designed to more strongly encourage the signing of younger players. Under these new rules, if none of a team’s three DPs are under 23 years old, the annual spend for one of those players would be capped at a sum of $1 million plus that season’s maximum budget charge. In 2019, that total would’ve been $1.53 million, or the upper limit for a player who could be bought down using targeted allocation money. If teams have at least one U-23 DP, they would be able to spend any amount on all three of their DPs.

Stejskal cites sources as saying it’s not just about making money for its coffers, but that it could help close the gap between those spending boatloads and those not quite willing to do that.

My opinion? I don’t like it, unless the league is going to let all of the sale money stay with the individual clubs.

There has to be another to encourage teams to sign young bucks without taking away from the people bringing neutral fans to the table. And if a team feels it’ll get more acclaim from three David Villas than three Matias Pelegrinis well, which name did the average fan need to look up?

Take your average U-23 hot shot who’s yet to reach his peak. He may score some bangers and capture the league’s imagination a la Miguel Almiron. And that’s great, especially Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, and other markets which have really embraced their clubs regardless of the stars’ identities.

Some of that is myopic, and the league’s progress has rocketed because of players from all over the planet. Scientifically speaking, MLS is 100 times better than it was even 10 years ago. To put age restrictions on DPs in order to fuel transfer fees not just for clubs, but for the league itself? Nah.

Finally, I have to beg a little bit of ignorance to the incredibly complicated world which is the MLS rulebook. If I’m missing something, well, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Wicky leaves U.S. U-17 side for Chicago Fire job

Chicago Fire hire new coach Raphael Wicky
Photo by Martin Rose - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
0 Comments

The Chicago Fire have landed their new coach, and he has a decent pedigree.

Raphael Wicky will take the helm of the Illinois set, leaving the U.S. U-17 national team. He’s the second coach to leave the USYNT set-up for MLS this season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The former Basel manager, 42, played for Werder Bremen, Atletico Madrid, and Hamburg over a 15-year playing career that ended with a short stint with MLS side Chivas USA.

Wicky was most recently with the U.S. U-17 national team, where he led the side an impressive run to World Cup qualification. Unfortunately, that ended with a spectacular disappointment at the tournament proper in Brazil.

“I am honored and proud to be named the head coach of Chicago Fire FC,” said Wicky. “This is a position that comes with a lot of responsibility and I can promise the fans and everyone at the Club that I will work hard and give my all. During conversations with Joe Mansueto and Georg Heitz, I felt that we all shared a similar vision for the Club and how to move it forward. That was important to me. Chicago is a world-class sports city and this Club has a bright future, both on and off the field. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Fire have had an interesting offseason that included an eyebrow-raising rebrand and a return to Soldier Field.

Nemanja Nikolic is gone and Bastian Schweinsteiger has retired, with 25-year-old Real Madrid product Alvaro Medran a new addition to the squad.