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Report: West Ham, other PL teams chasing Nice striker Plea

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According to Sky Sports reproter Kaveh Solhekol, West Ham has made a bid for Nice striker Alassane Plea and is among a number of Premier League teams interested in the prolific Frenchman.

Plea, 25 years old, broke out last season at Nice scoring 21 goals in 49 appearances over all competitions. Before last season’s 16-goal Ligue 1 haul, he had just 20 league goals in 84 appearances.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Solhekol reports that West Ham has made a bid of $36 million, which is over Nice’s asking price, reported by Solhekol as about $35 million. According to the report, newly promoted Newcastle and Fulham are both also interested in signing Plea. Newcastle would seem to make more sense than Fulham, given the Whites’ chasing of Magpie frontman Aleksander Mitrovic who spent the second half of last season on loan at Fulham and was prolific.

The report also states another, slightly lower bid has been received by Nice, but the source of that bid was not revealed.

Plea began his career in the Olympique Lyonnais youth system, but only made 12 appearances for Lyon before moving to Nice in 2014. Last season he broke out, linking well with Mario Balotelli as the two put together a solid season to lead Nice to an 8th place finish in Ligue 1, with a solid attacking haul of 53 goals to balance out a leaky defensive performance. Plea has been involved in the French U-21 international setup in the past, but has yet to make an appearance for the senior side.

Balotelli back with Italy after four years, ready to be a leader

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TURIN, Italy (AP) — As far as Mario Balotelli is concerned, he doesn’t have to be Italy’s captain to be a role model.

“I’m here to score goals. You can also be a role model without wearing the armband,” Balotelli said at a news conference on Sunday, a day before Italy’s friendly against the Netherlands.

Earlier this week when Balotelli played for Italy for the first time in four years, a banner that read, “My captain is of Italian blood,” was draped on a pitch-side wall during a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in Switzerland.

With Balotelli one of the most experienced players on Italy’s squad, there had been discussion that he might be named captain.

The issue has come to the forefront amid the installation of Italy’s new populist leaders, which includes a staunchly anti-immigrant, right-wing party in its governing coalition.

Balotelli was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants.

“It would be a good signal for African immigrants to represent my country as someone of African origin and captain,” Balotelli said.

“Racism really hurts,” Balotelli added. “It’s time for Italy to become like many other countries — more open — and to start integrating people who come from abroad.”

Balotelli hadn’t played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.

He said he understands why former Italy coach Antonio Conte didn’t use him — “I wasn’t in great form” — but couldn’t see why Gian Piero Ventura never called him up.

“With Ventura I have no idea. We spoke but I didn’t understand his explanations very much and I was doing well,” Balotelli said. “But he was the coach and so I respect his (decision).”

Ventura was fired in November after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Balotelli played under current Italy coach Roberto Mancini at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.

Mancini announced that Balotelli would not start against the Netherlands, revealing that the attacking line would consist of Simone Verdi, Andrea Belotti and Lorenzo Insigne.

Balotelli scores, then injured in Italy friendly win over Saudi Arabia

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Mario Balotelli‘s long-awaited return to the Italian national team was punctuated with an exclamation mark, but came to an early end as the striker was forced off with an injury.

In Roberto Mancini’s first match in charge of the Italian national team, he brought back the mercurial Nice striker who has turned his club career around. He earned the start in Monday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia, and would you know it, Balotelli scored in his 14th career international goal in his 34th cap.

The 27-year-old put Italy 1-0 up in the 21st minute when he skillfully cut between three defenders and sliced a shot that threaded the needle into the lower left corner.

Unfortunately, things came to an earlier end than expected when he was forced off with a muscular issue in the early stages of the second half.

Still, Balotelli’s return will give hope to Italy fans who have seen their team disappointingly miss the World Cup this summer. Later in the second half, Andrea Belotti scored the winning goal as Italy finished the match 2-1 winners. Gianluigi Donnarumma manned the goal in place of the retired (for now) Gianluigi Buffon.

Why Pulisic could be more likely to stay at Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short of potential suitors this summer as he ponders his future.

Without a World Cup, Pulisic has plenty of time to recover from another full season of European football, one where he fully experienced the harsh realities of soccer at the highest level – two managers in and two managers out.

[READ: Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal]

With Dortmund hiring another coach, it seemed there was a chance Pulisic could decide to leave Dortmund and reunite with former manager Jurgen Klopp, or head elsewhere for a more stable situation. But Tuesday’s news that Dortmund has hired Lucien Favre may change all of that.

The 60-year-old Swiss native signed a two-year contract Tuesday, and his preferred style of play fits perfectly into how Pulisic performs best on the field.

The Bundesliga recently posted a detailed look at Favre’s tactics from his time at Nice, where he led the club to finishes of third and sixth the last two years, while rejuvenating the careers of Mario Balotelli and Younes Belhanda as well as unearthing young gems in Jean Seri and Allan Saint-Maximin.

In Favre’s 4-3-3, you could easily see Pulisic lining up on the right of the forward trident, running to the byline and dishing out assists, with Marco Reus on the left, cutting inside and firing shots home with his howitzer of a right leg. Or we could see the pair switch.

One thing that is currently missing is a dynamic No. 9, but with the whole summer transfer window ahead, Dortmund could easily re-sign Michy Batshuayi or find a new powerful center forward (Balotelli, anyone?).

In short, while Pulisic may have had a reason to leave Dortmund had another Peter Stoger-type manager been hired, Pulisic now has no reason why he can’t be a wild success at Dortmund for years to come. The 19-year-old (he’s still a teenager!) American star will have plenty of chances to bend in crosses or cut in and score goals himself, as well as the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League.

NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira “very close” to Nice contract

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Patrick Vieira’s tenure in Major League Soccer has brought about significant improvement in his New York City FC side, but his current club will have to forge its progress without the Frenchman.

[ MORE: Man City defender Vincent Kompany talks with PST ]

Pro Soccer Talk can confirm reports out of France that the former Arsenal midfielder is in contact with Ligue 1 side Nice to become the club’s next manager, however, Vieira hasn’t finalized a deal yet.

This story was first reported by French outlet L’Equipe on Sunday morning.

PST has learned through several sources that Vieira is “very close” to signing with the eighth-place French side from 2017/18, and a deal is expected to be completed within the coming days despite Vieira’s commitment to NYCFC.


(Update) Nice representatives, including managing director Julien Fournier, are currently in ongoing negotiations with Vieira and his camp, which flew to France on Monday.

A source familiar with the contract discussions told PST that a deal by the end of the week is “very possible,” although the NYCFC manager is expected back in New York for the team’s training on Tuesday.

Additionally, PST has been able to confirm reports that Nice is negotiating a two-year deal with the former France international.

City Football Group, in conjunction with NYCFC, have resisted allowing their manager to leave as best as possible, however, another source says “a move away from Yankee Stadium is almost inevitable.”

Vieira is still viewed as the French side’s number one managerial target, after former coach Lucien Favre was let go by the club last week. Favre has taken the vacant Borussia Dortmund job.


Vieira’s contract with NYCFC runs through the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.

Another source close to the situation told PST that Vieira will likely take over his new post prior to the start of this summer’s World Cup in Russia, which begins on June 14, pending finalization of a deal with Nice.

Meanwhile, Nantes — who recently parted ways with manager Claudio Ranieri — has also had interest in Vieira’s services. Nantes finished one spot behind Nice in the final Ligue 1 table this season.

The French transfer window doesn’t open until June 1, despite the Premier League’s recent shift to a May 17 opening and August 9 close — prior to the opening kick off of the season.

Other top European leagues, including La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A have all continued their June 1 start dates for the summer transfer window — which runs until the final day of August.

Favre has already found a new destination with Borussia Dortmund, who will once again be involved in the UEFA Champions League next season.

Nice features a number of top-rated players at the moment, including notable transfer targets Mario Balotelli, Jean-Michael Seri and on-loan defender Marlon Santos (Barcelona).

Vieira joined NYCFC in 2016, after previously being involved in parent club Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad (EDS) as a coach.

He played professionally from 1994 to 2011, including a lengthy stint internationally for France, which featured a 1998 World Cup win and runner up in 2006 to Italy.

Since taking over in the Bronx, NYCFC has become one of MLS’ elite sides, and currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference and MLS table on 24 points through 12 matches.

The 41-year-old Frenchman recently received some interest from Arsenal over the London side’s vacant managerial position left by Arsene Wenger, however, Vieira suggested that the approach from the Gunners was a mere gesture of courtesy.

Vieira has previously been linked to a number of European jobs, including Saint Etienne and Southampton, neither of which came to fruition.

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