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Transfer rumor roundup: Wilson, Paredes to Chelsea; Babel to Fulham

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Chelsea continue to be linked with multiple strikers and midfielders as Maurizio Sarri aims to keep their top four challenge on track.

With Cesc Fabregas sold to Monaco, Alvaro Morata linked with a move away in January and Sarri is desperate need of a new presence in attack, The Star say that Bournemouth will accept offers of $95 million for star striker Callum Wilson. It was believed Chelsea are willing to pay up to $75 million for Wilson.

Wilson, 26, has recently broken into the England national team and has scored 10 times this season for the Cherries as his remarkable return to form after two major knee injuries has been wonderful to see. His ability to make clever runs in-behind and hold up the ball will no doubt suit Eden Hazard down to the ground, and it will give Sarri something he doesn’t have as Morata and Olivier Giroud are statuesque in comparison to Wilson.

West Ham and Wolves are also said to be in the hunt for Wilson, but Bournemouth will surely only sell him to Chelsea as Eddie Howe and the hierarchy at the club must accept the magnitude of this move for a player who battled his way through the lower leagues to the top of the game.


Chelsea have also been linked with a move for Zenit midfielder Leandro Paredes, with the Argentine causing quite a stir on social media.

He appeared to retweet a video saying ‘welcome to Chelsea’ before undoing that action, but Sarri has been clear he wants his club to sign a replacement for Fabregas and Paredes, 24, would fit the bill.

The Boca Juniors product is a playmaker in the Fabregas mold and although this may not be good news for Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek, it is believed Chelsea have made a $35 million bid for Paredes and the deal is moving forward. Nicolo Barella is another target but he is believed to want to stay at Cagliari, so all eyes are on Paredes who will give Chelsea an alternative to Jorginho as a deep-lying playmaker.


Staying in west London, Fulham appear to be closing in on a loan move for Dutch winger Ryan Babel.

De Telegraaf say that Babel will arrive at Craven Cottage initially on loan until the end of the season, as Claudio Ranieri needs help for Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle in attack as Fulham battle against relegation.

The former Liverpool winger, now 32 years old, has had a resurgence in recent months and has found himself back in the Dutch national team as well as scoring 22 goals in 62 games for Turkish side Besiktas since he arrived in Istanbul in 2017.

Babel is a lively character and someone who will help to lift any gloom building at Fulham, but his nomadic career since he left Liverpool suggests this is a gamble. Given the situation the Cottagers are in, it is probably one worth taking.

Sarri: Chelsea fell asleep after first goal, but woke up just in time

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Chelsea went from in complete control, to thoroughly deserving to concede an equalizer after falling asleep, to waking back up and taking their deserved victory over Newcastle United on Saturday.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

That’s how Blues boss Maurizio Sarri saw it, at least.

After going 1-0 ahead through Pedro in the 9th minute, Chelsea “slept for 20, 25 minutes, so at the end of the first half [they] were in trouble,” in Sarri’s words. Newcastle were able to find their footing and work their way back to 1-1 in the 40th minute. Smart money is on Sarri reading his players the Riot Act at halftime, thus the post-game criticism as well as the strong response in the second half — quotes from the Guardian:

“After the goal I think we thought, ‘Now it’s easy,’ but it wasn’t. We slept for 20, 25 minutes, so at the end of the first half we were in trouble. We need to improve in the mental reaction. After our first goal something happened. We need to improve.

Presumably related to his side’s up-and-down showing, Sarri also jumped at the chance to campaign for reinforcements during the January transfer window. With Cesc Fabregas leaving to join Monaco this week, central midfield is the first area Sarri would like to see strengthened, but he isn’t so sure he’ll get what he wants — quotes from the Standard:

“Today Jorginho was in trouble and, on the bench, there wasn’t a player for that position. I need an option for Jorginho.”

“I have no idea. …The club knows very well my opinion.

“I need the player there, it depends on the club decision, I think. I cannot do anything more.”

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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Chelsea can build a six-point gap on fifth place Arsenal by beating attack-starved Newcastle United on Saturday at Stamford Bridge (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Blues start Willian, Eden Hazard, and Pedro across the top, while injury-hit Newcastle has a makeshift center midfield of youngster Sean Longstaff and rare starter Isaac Hayden.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Hazard, Pedro. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Emerson, Ampadu, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.

Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Clark, Ritchie, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu, Perez, Rondon. Subs: Woodman, Sterry, Manquillo, Fernandez, Schar, Murphy, Joselu.

What Pulisic’s move means for Chelsea

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Christian Pulisic’s $73 million transfer to Chelsea is a monumental moment in American soccer.

It could also be a huge clue as to the direction Chelsea is heading in over the next few years.

[ MORE: The right move for Pulisic? ] 

Pulisic, 20, is now seen by many as the heir to Eden Hazard‘s Stamford Bridge throne, and despite many Chelsea fans being excited and intrigued to see how the USMNT star fares when he arrives in the summer, they will also be feeling a little dread that Hazard’s potential move to Real Madrid is edging closer.

Pro Soccer Talk understands that Pulisic has been told that some key attacking players at Chelsea will be moved on between now and this summer in order to allow him to become a key player for the west London club. It is likely that was a big factor in Pulisic not selecting to join the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Manchester United who were also in the running for his signature.

Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.

If the likes of Hazard, Willian and Pedro are on the way out, Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ross Barkley and even Ruben Loftus-Cheek look like being the future of the club. Aside from Hazard leaving, Chelsea fans will be excited to see their forward line freshened up.

[ MORE: Pulisic issues statement ]  

Both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements under Maurizio Sarri, and Hazard playing as the false nine doesn’t get the best out of his talents. If Hazard joins Real Madrid, Pulisic will be handed the keys to this Chelsea attack. He is young and hasn’t played in the Premier League before, but there’s no doubt he is one of those players that only gets better when playing with more talented players around him. The power and pace may take some time getting used to, but being fed by Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and others will surely be a dream for Pulisic to press high and use his trickery in the final third of the pitch.

But what about off the pitch?

Chelsea aren’t daft. They’ve just locked up the best player the U.S. has ever produced and will no doubt try and market Pulisic to boost their presence in the U.S. and North America as much as they can. Having Pulisic in their squad means that any time Chelsea will play on U.S. soil in the next few years, stadiums will be packed to see the kid in action. It is that simple. Chelsea will likely become the top supported PL team in the USA in the coming years if Pulisic is a star at Stamford Bridge during the prime of his career.

When it comes to the old shirt sales myth, the way these deals are structured means that Chelsea will not directly make back what they’re spending on Pulisic, but the player will no doubt gain huge value commercially by being one of the faces of the club. Whatever way you slice it up, Pulisic and Chelsea are good for one another from a business standpoint and the American player is being bought for more than his ability on the pitch. But that, crucially, seems to be the main factor here.

Sarri’s system of possession-based soccer and high-pressing suits Pulisic’s game well and now it is about him hitting the ground running in a Chelsea shirt in the summer. His arrival is exciting for Chelsea as they’ve beaten a number of rivals to sign Pulisic, but it also points to Sarri dismantling their current attacking lineup. If Hazard remains it will be a huge boost for everyone connected with Chelsea. If he goes, Pulisic will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders to emulate the Belgian magician.

Chelsea and Sarri are lining up the dominoes and Pulisic’s arrival will allow the others to start falling.

Report of Arsenal interest in Pulisic signals topic of USMNT concern

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There are myriad reports of transfer interest in Christian Pulisic — Borussia Dortmund could do us all a massive favor and accept a bid for a summer sale in January — but one except from an ESPN post highlights why the camp for the USMNT star will be exceptionally careful in agreeing to his next stop.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Chelsea ]

With Chelsea reportedly leading the way and Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and others linked with the 20-year-old winger, ESPN links Arsenal’s interest with something other than soccer (which happens all the time with every team, but we’ll get to that later):

ESPN FC has been told that Dortmund believe a rival bid might yet arrive from Arsenal, due to Pulisic’s commercial value in the United States. The Gunners are controlled by Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.

Kroenke gets plenty of villain plot lines, but this isn’t news and is certainly part of the others’ interest as well. And it’s especially true when it comes to the major money market that is the United States.

While it’s true that Cardiff City has received a boon in its brand in the Philippines by the success of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s hiring has further boosted Manchester United stock in Norway, this is a different animal as evidenced by clubs from the Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A taking a big interest in U.S.

The American market has dual status as: A) holding massive unrealized potential as the last huge market to embrace soccer, and B) having really, truly rich brands and advertisers.

That isn’t the primary reason that big clubs want Pulisic — A 20-year-old with 15 goals and 24 assists for a Bundesliga power including two and three in the UEFA Champions League is pretty clear-cut — but it should be the biggest reason USMNT fans are concerned about where Pulisic lands for next season.

Fortunately, his camp are also concerned about that.

There have been plenty of arguments against Pulisic moving to specific Premier League clubs, some of them absurd.

For instance: Chelsea, for all its loans, has never immediately loaned any of the players for which its paid more than 50 million euros ($57m). That list is Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Alvaro Morata, Fernando Torres.

Maurizio Sarri was hired in August. He’s doing fine. And he would be approving the transfer. These are good signs for Pulisic, who would carry the same American appeal and BVB resume if he failed at Chelsea. This same idea has not stopped Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko, amongst others, from starting at BVB, AC Milan, and Villarreal. And Alvaro Morata is still wanted pretty much everywhere.

Also, stop worrying about Pulisic being buried on the bench unless you do not believe he is good or he signs behind a clear megastar at right wing. Yes, this means Liverpool would be a poor landing spot unless Pulisic secretly likes the left wing or the Reds prefer Mohamed Salah centrally (as he’s been in recent months).

The Nos. 1 and 2 questions for your favored landing spot for Pulisic, from a USMNT perspective, is, “Will he immediately be a fixture in the 18 at age 21?” and “Will he be expected to start by Season 2?”

Do I believe Pulisic would be better served signing a richer deal at Dortmund with the understanding that the club will not stop him from moving onward after the 2019-20 season? For the most part, yeah, but not if BVB coach Lucien Favre has no plans to deploy Pulisic over or at the same time as Jadon Sancho.

Think about how many exceptional players have dropped down the depth chart at monster clubs, and whether that would’ve stopped you from wanting them as the best player on the USMNT: Willian, Juan Mata, Batshuayi, and — to a lesser extent — Javier Hernandez and . If you believe at all in Pulisic as a player, he’s going to be good regardless when he pops on the USMNT shirt.

Also remember that the previous two best attackers to take a big leap into Europe were older and either didn’t grow into success with said clubs (Landon Donovan, Bayer Leverkusen) or needed a season to find their footing (Clint Dempsey).

What I’m saying is: It’s going to be fine, and it might be great.