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Man City break transfer record to sign Rodri

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Manchester City have spent a club-record $79 million to buy Rodri from Atletico Madrid.

The Spanish defensive midfielder, 23, has officially arrived at City after Atleti confirmed on Wednesday that the reigning Premier League champions had paid his release clause.

[ MORE: Lampard arrives at Chelsea

Rodri has signed a five-year contract and is the long-term replacement for City’s midfield lynchpin Fernandinho. The former Villarreal star is seen as one of the top holding midfielders in the world, with his exceptional passing, interceptions and tackling ability key to his game.

Speaking about his arrival at City, Rodri is looking forward to working with Pep Guardiola as they go for a PL three-peat.

“What City have achieved in the last two years has been amazing and I’m looking forward to being part of such a talented squad,” Rodri said. “It’s not just the titles they have won, but the way they have managed it, playing attacking football at all times. I can’t wait to start working with Pep Guardiola and my new team-mates and hopefully we can achieve great things together. It’s a style that excites me, as do the Club’s ambitions.”

Rodri only joined Atletico from Villarreal last summer for $25 million, so the La Liga side have done pretty well out of this deal.

City have gone about their business very quietly this summer, and this was a key area they needed to address.

When Fernandinho was out injured last season they badly missed his presence in midfield as the likes of Fabian Delph, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva struggled to hold down the defensive midfield role.

Rodri’s passing ability is undoubted and the lanky midfielder is very much the heir apparent to Sergio Busquets as the best defensive midfielder around.

With City signing former left back Angelino after his impressive season at PSV Eindhoven, they have already addressed their top two needs in the transfer market. Right back Joao Cancelo could also join from Juventus, as City’s attacking depth is clear for all to see, although Sergio Aguero can’t go on forever and another option up top aside from Gabriel Jesus may be handy.

If Guardiola’s side can add another center back this summer then they should be pretty much set for the new season as they aim to go one better than winning three trophies and complete the quadruple they wanted to badly last season.

Rodri will be a key piece in Guardiola’s jigsaw for many years to come.

Man City activates release clause of Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo

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It’s been a busy day – and summer – at the Wanda Metripolitano.

After sealing the arrival of midfielder Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid confirmed on Wednesday that Manchester City activated the release clause of 23-year-old Rodrigo, leaving the club no choice but to ship the youngster to the Premier League side. The release clause totaled $79 million, setting a new transfer record at Man City.

Rodrigo joined the club just last summer from Villareal for $25 million, representing a significant return on investment for Atletico Madrid in just one season. He played a heavy role last campaign as Atleti finished second in the La Liga table, appearing 34 times in league play and scoring three goals. He racked up 3,675 minutes during the season across all competitions, fourth-most on the entire squad and more than fellow midfielders Koke and Thomas Partey.

A defensive midfielder, Rodrigo represents an important acquisition for Manchester City. The club’s biggest struggles over the last two title-winning seasons have come during spells without Fernandinho, who has been sidelined at times by knee and thigh problems. With the Brazilian now 34 years old, securing a young, starting-caliber defensive midfielder is a smart investment at a thin position.

Their previous transfer record was the $75 million acquisition of Riyad Mahrez last summer, which itself topped the $72 million purchase of Aymeric Laporte and the $68 million for Kevin De Bruyne.

It has been a summer of change at Atletico Madrid, with club fixtures Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, and Juanfran all leaving for various reasons plus the big-money departures of Rodrigo, Lucas Hernandez, and Gelson Martins. Marcos Llorente, Felipe, and Herrera have arrived with the hopes of filling the void, and there are likely more incoming transfers to be secured.

Brazil, Argentina set for epic Copa America semifinal showdown

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The list of storylines set to litter the field in Belo Horizonte Tuesday night reads like an unfurled medieval scroll.

Lionel Messi and his international goose egg is yet again put to the highest of tests. Brazil returns to the site of a painful memory, the stadium where the Selecao was pummeled by Germany in its own World Cup five short years ago. Star striker Sergio Aguero has just one international goal since last summer’s World Cup. Brazil’s brutal recent results in the Copa America are staggeringly disappointing, while Argentina’s dismal decade against Brazil makes for equally painful reading.

All the talking points come to a head as the two heavyweights go head-to-head in a headlining Copa America semifinal on Tuesday, with kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: Preview USWNT vs. England in World Cup semifinals ]

The Copa America hosts have failed to reach the final – or even the semifinal, for that matter – since they last won the competition in 2007, a title which gave Brazil a second straight Copa America win and four of five. Since, they have two quarterfinal exits and a group stage flop, not much to boast about for a country that sees itself as a world soccer superpower.

Argentina, meanwhile, hasn’t beaten Brazil in a competitive match since way back in 2005 during World Cup qualification for the tournament in Germany that following year. They have since lost four and drawn two against their rivals, sandwiching a six-year gap without a competitive meeting between the two sides from 2009-2015.

Brazil will have much of the obvious pressure as hosts of the competition, but Argentina has plenty on the line as well. This competition could be one of Lionel Messi’s last chance for a major trophy with Argentina, with just the 2020 Copa America in Colombia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar reasonably remaining on the docket, as the next continental competition doesn’t come around again until 2024.

With Neymar injured and Richarlison recovering from illness, much of the goalscoring threat for Brazil lies at the feet of Roberto Firmino (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images).

Still, the visitors have a personnel edge as Brazil must work around a growing collection of injuries. Most notably Neymar still finds himself sidelined for the foreseeable future, but that is only the beginning of Tite’s worries. Important midfielder Fernandinho isn’t expected to play thanks to a right knee injury that has seen him miss the last two matches, and defender Felipe Luis is also a doubt after picking up an injury in the win over Paraguay. Richarlison, who has been fantastic in his short international career, has missed the last two matches after contracting the mumps, and while he’s expected to be in the squad, he’s unlikely to start.

Argentina has not played well in the competition, but put forth its best performance last time out against Venezuela, finally  looking more comfortable and mistake-free at the back than previously against the likes of Colombia and Paraguay who were happy to sit back and let the Albiceleste beat itself. Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has slowly brought young players into the fold to rousing success, with Giovani Lo Celso finally utilized centrally, Lautaro Martinez scorching hot up front, and Juan Foyth the most recent positive addition at the back. The coaching staff has finally come to the realization that running out retreads like Angel di Maria or out-of-form attackers like Paulo Dybala brings little value to the side, and the young players deployed instead have proven hungry to bring Argentina back to the top in a competition they have not won since 1993.

Brazil, meanwhile, had looked its best in quite some time during the group stage, only to draw a blank against Paraguay, requiring penalties to advance after a 0-0 draw that featured 26 shots – eight of which hit the target but none found the back of the net. A rejuvinated Philippe Coutinho and new Champions League winner Roberto Firmino had looked strong until the Paraguay game, and the pair will need to return to form.

While this edition of the Copa America has been generally a dud through the quarterfinals, the semis present fans with a mouth-watering matchup to erase the earlier doldrums. It may not be an electric, high-scoring affair – these anticipated meetings between world giants rarely are – but should prove a tense, well balanced clash that will leave fans on the edge of their seats.

Report: Man City agree to pay Rodri’s release clause

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Manchester City have reportedly agreed to pay the release clause in Rodri’s Atletico Madrid contract.

Several outlets say that City will pay the $73 million for the defensive midfielder, who is seen as the long-term replacement for Fernandinho in the heart of their midfield.

If the deal is completed, Rodri will be City’s new club-record signing.

Our partners at Sky Sports believe that City and Rodri are now set for talks over personal terms, and that the 22-year-old Spanish international is keen to move this summer with Bayern Munich also interested in him.

They also add that Rodri is City’s number one central midfield target for this summer, as he has turned down the chance to join Man United in favor of the back-to-back Premier League champions. A solid move on his part, many would say.

Atletico only signed Rodri from Villarreal last summer for $27.5 million and although Diego Simeone wanted to keep him, the midfielder has spent the past few weeks deliberating over his future and he’s decided to move on.

Is he the perfect fit for the ‘Fernandinho role’ at City? Absolutely.

Rodri has supreme ability on the ball and his passing prowess will see him slot into Pep Guardiola‘s side seamlessly. But coming from a team like Atletico Madrid, where Simeone demands defensive nous, determination and focus, proves that he is the perfect replacement for Fernandinho.

Last season in La Liga he had a 91.1 percent passing accuracy over 34 games, while he also made 103 tackles and 280 recoveries. The latter two numbers were significantly higher than Fernandinho at City, but of course, Atletico Madrid’s style of play is more combative and vastly different to Man City.

You don’t hold down a spot as Atletico’s holding midfielder if you can’t mix it up as well as stroke the ball around, and when you watch Rodri there are so many similarities to the way Sergio Busquets plays.

The arrival of Rodri would fill a long-term need for City, as they just haven’t been able to replace Fernandinho when he’s been out of the team. The Brazilian midfielder is now 34 years old and although he seems to be maturing like a fine French wine, he would acknowledge that his legendary six-year career at City is close to an end.

Rodri, if he does join City, is as close to a perfect replacement for Fernandinho as you can get.

Watch Live: Copa America begins as hosts Brazil meet Bolivia

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The hosts are set to kick off the 2019 Copa America as Brazil takes on Bolivia in Sao Paulo.

Neymar will not take part in the tournament after suffering an ankle injury in the warmup friendlies. That increases the importance on Philippe Coutinho and Richarlison who look to shoulder the brunt of the creativity.

[ WATCH LIVE: Brazil vs. Bolivia on Telemundo Deportes ]

As Tite takes charge of his 39th match as manager of Brazil, Champions League winners Liverpool is heavily represented as Roberto Firmino leads the lines and Alisson starts in goal. Dani Alves captains the side as club teammate Neymar was stripped of the armband before his injury.

PSG teammates Marqinhos and Thiago Silva both start as the center-back partnership, while Casemiro and Fernandinho start together in central midfield. Everton winger Richarlison is in the lineup as well, opposite Ajax attacker David Neres. Miranda, Arthur, Willian, and Gabriel Jesus are all on the bench for Brazil as Tite rotates the attackers.

For Bolivia, Marcelo Moreno of Chinese club Shijiazhuang Ever Bright leads the attack up front supported by a trio of central midfielders in Raul Castro, Fernando Saucedo, and Leonel Justiniano as Bolivia looks to attack through the wide areas with Alejandro Chumacero and Erwin Saaedra.