Getty Images

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal target Torreira; Evans signs for Leicester, and more

Leave a comment

Ahead of the World Cup, Arsenal is getting in touch with a potential breakout star.

According to multiple reports in Italy, Arsenal has begun negotiations to sign Sampdoria’s Uruguayan holding midfielder Lucas Torreira. The 22-year-old started all but two Serie A games for Sampdoria last season, his second season at the club, and it was also his breakthrough into the Uruguayan National Team, where his performances earned him a place in the World Cup squad.

[LATEST: 2018 World Cup news]

The reports state that Torreira comes with a nearly $30 million release clause and that Napoli are in the driver’s seat to sign him, but it all depends on Manchester City’s protracted negotiations for Napoli midfielder Jorginho. Arsenal coach Unai Emery has been reportedly looking at a number of new signings across Europe, especially at defensive midfield, which is where Torreira would slot in.

Here are some more transfer news and notes from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Grealish, Kluivert; Darmian to Juve

Photo by Andy Astfalck/Getty Images
Leave a comment

As Thibaut Courtois is linked with a Chelsea exit and Alisson mentioned as a replacement, the Roma goalkeeper’s agent has shot down a link to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Zlatan displeased with LA effort ]

“The idea he already has an agreement with Real Madrid is completely false. I don’t see how Cafu could know more than I do on the matter,” he said.

So what might not be completely false? Let’s rumor run.

A sale of Jack Grealish would be helpful for Aston Villa as it looks to balance its books and avoid running afoul of Financial Fair Play.

Grealish, 22, is said to be interesting to a number of big names teams including Arsenal and Manchester United, but a $53 million price tag is said to hang from the player.

Sky Sports says Leicester City is mulling a bid for Grealish as they perceivably move on from Riyad Mahrez (linked often with a $75 million momve to Man City).

An attacking midfielder who also can operate on both wings, Grealish overcame immaturity issues to score three times and add five assists in the Championship last season.

— Di Marzio reports that Justin Kluivert, son of Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert, is set to leave Ajax for AS Roma to the tune of $17-23 million.

Justin, 19, scored 10 times with five assists in Eredivise play this season, featuring mostly on the left wing. Despite his tender age, he boasted the league’s ninth-best rating according to WhoScored.

— Manchester United may have found a buyer for right back Matteo Darmian, with Juventus ready to spend $16 million on the Italian. Darmian, 28, played every position across Jose Mourinho’s back line, but was limited to 17 appearances running 1,105 minutes last season.

Three things learned: Aston Villa v. Fulham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham sealed promotion back to the Premier League on Saturday as the 10-man Cottagers beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the Championship playoff final at Wembley.

Tom Cairney‘s strike midway through the first half was enough to send Fulham back to the top-flight and leave Villa heartbroken.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a tense battle in the heat at Wembley.


FLUID FULHAM FIT FOR TOP-FLIGHT 

Since December Fulham’s fluid, attacking style of play saw them go on an incredible run of just one defeat in 24 games as they just missed out on automatic promotion with a defeat on the final day of the season.

The Cottagers’ silky play won them the playoff final as Slavisa Jokanovic’s men stuck to their playing philosophy with Tom Cairney pulling the strings in midfield, Aleksandar Mitrovic a handful up front and teenager Ryan Sessegnon floating about to cause havoc. They dropped deeper in the second half as Villa went at them but still had good chances and always looked dangerous on the break, even when they were down to 10-men after Denis Odoi picked up a second yellow card.

With their brave style of play, Fulham will add panache to the Premier League.

You can expect special things down by the banks of the River Thames at Craven Cottage as American owner Shahid Khan will no doubt splash the cash to take them to the next level after they dropped out of the big time in 2014. They will be desperate to solidify themselves back in the top-flight.

Fulhamerica is back and on that note U.S. men’s national team center back Tim Ream had himself a heck of a game at the heart of Fulham’s defense at Wembley to help seal the deal.


SESSEGNON SENSATIONAL

You can understand exactly why the biggest clubs in England have been chasing Sessegnon for many years.

The 18-year-old was the Player of the Season in the Championship and he was involved in the key moment in the final as the Fulham academy graduate has been the main reason they’re back in the Premier League.

Sessegnon finished the season as Fulham’s top goalscorer with 17 goals and there were many pushing for him to be included in England’s World Cup squad this summer. He has all of the talent available to flourish as a wide forward in the top-flight and after Matt Targett‘s arrival in January he has been pushed further forward from left back and has thrived.

There’s no doubt that Sessegnon is destined for big things but now he has the fairtyale end to a fairytale season for him at Fulham.


VILLA’S EXPERIENCED HEADS RATTLED

Villa’s experienced defense boasts Ahmed Elmohamady, John Terry, James Chester and Alan Hutton and in a massive game at Wembley they were rattled early on and Villa couldn’t quite drag themselves back into the game.

Steve Bruce‘s side had the second-best defensive record in the second-tier this season and they kept Fulham from opening them up for most of the first half but one lapse in concentration was exploited by Sessegnon and Cairney as Hutton stepped up, Terry was caught out and Villa conceded.

To be fair to Bruce’s side they dragged themselves back into the game impressively after a turgid first half display and were easily the better team after the break with Jack Grealish pulling the strings.

Grealish (who could well have been sent off) squandered two good chances either side of half time with a rising shot in the first half and then a header he should’ve done better with in the second, while the English playmaker also danced through Fulham’s defense before being denied by Marcus Bettinelli.

Villa have made significant progress this season under Bruce but you have to wonder if he and most of this Villa squad will be around next season, especially after a year of struggle off the pitch for Bruce as he lost both of his parents within a few months.

If Bruce sticks around then Villa will be one of the favorites for promotion next season.

Fulham returns to the Premier League

Twitter/@BBCSport
Leave a comment

The Premier League beckons once more for the Cottagers.

Fulham earned its way back into England’s first division on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the final of the Championship promotion playoff.

[ MORE: PST ranks all 23 MLS managers ]

The victory ensures Fulham’s place in the PL for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign.

The Cottagers took the lead on 23 minutes when Tom Cairney slotted past goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

Cairney was set up wonderfully by Ryan Sessegnon, who delivered an inch-perfect through ball into the path of his teammate for the 1-0 lead.

Slaviša Jokanović’s side was reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute, after defender Denis Odoi picked up his second yellow card.

Stefan Johansen nearly doubled the Fulham lead with 23 minutes remaining in the match, after Sessegnon set up the Norwegian on the edge of the penalty area.

The Villans came out with more ferocity after halftime, and Jack Grealish was at the center of Villa’s attack.

The 22-year-old made a brilliant individual run into the Fulham penalty area on the hour mark, but his final shot was straight at goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.

However, just minutes later Grealish was lucky to not be sent off when he came in late from behind on a challenge with Cairney.

Grealish and Co. nearly found an equalizer in the 50th minute when Grealish’s free header was sent over the Fulham goal.

Villa had its best chance of the opening stanza with five minutes to go from a set piece, but Grealish’s close-range shot was blasted well off target.

Robert Snodgrass‘ clever set piece chip did well to pick out Grealish, although the final product was severely lacking.

Fulham’s run back to the English top flight comes after a tremendous second half of the Championship season in 2017/18, which included a spell of 23 games unbeaten to close out the regular season.

Aston Villa holds off Boro, moves onto playoff final

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Playoff finals are old hat for Steve Bruce, but a new event for Aston Villa.

The Birmingham club beat Middlesbrough 1-0 over two legs, the second a 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Tuesday, to advance to meet Fulham in the Championship Playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 26.

Stewart Downing‘s 89th minute free kick off the cross bar was Boro’s only sniff of the goal.

[ MORE: The season of Salah ]

Villa is in just its third season outside of the English top flight since 1975, though Bruce managed Hull City and Birmingham City to the Premier League through the playoffs.

Boro scored plenty under Tony Pulis in the season, but it was a case of traditional Pulis stats in the playoffs. The notoriously stingy manager saw his side manage just two shots on target over two legs, with both coming in the home leg.

Lewis Grabban of Villa had the two best scoring chances of the match, but Darren Randolph made a pair of saves.

Villa won the first leg on a Jack Grealish to Mile Jedinak goal.

On Monday, Fulham flipped a first leg deficit to Derby County on its ear to clinch its space at Wembley.