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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

Torrent replaces Vieira as NYCFC boss

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Domenec Torrent has been appointed as the new manager of Major League Soccer side New York City FC after Patrick Vieira’s move to Nice in Ligue 1 was announced officially on Monday.

A hire from within the City Football Group (CFG) once again is no surprise.

[ MORE: Vieira leaves NYCFC for Nice

Torrent, 55, will leave his role as Manchester City’s assistant manager as the Spanish coach has worked under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Man City, winning 24 trophies along the way. He was previously the head coach of Girona.

Speaking about his appointment as just the third head coach in NYCFC’s history, Torrent is delighted to be the main man at CFG’s club in NYC.

“Though I have enjoyed a wonderful 11 years working alongside my colleague and close friend Pep Guardiola – it has always been my ambition to manage a team again and I really couldn’t have hoped for a better opportunity than at this football club” Torrent said. “I know we have a very talented team, I have watched many of the matches and I enjoy the way the team plays and I now can’t wait to begin working with the players on the training pitch.”

“Though I have been fortunate enough to visit New York on numerous occasions, I am looking forward to living and coaching in this special city and meeting the fans as soon as possible. I am eager to experience and play a part in the soccer culture of New York.”

NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said that hailed Torrent for being “part of building some of the most memorable teams in soccer” and added that he’s excited to see the Spanish coach “continue to give opportunities to our younger players.”

So, NYCFC have moved on quickly from Vieira and, in truth, they needed to given the fantastic job he did during two-and-a-half years in charge at Yankee Stadium.

During that time Vieira turned New York City FC into genuine contenders for the Eastern Conference title and led them to back-to-back appearances in the MLS Cup playoffs after they missed out on the postseason during their inaugural season in 2015.

Torrent’s first game in charge will be at home against reigning MLS champs Toronto on Jun. 24 as NYCFC aim to keep the heat up on Atlanta United in the race for the Eastern Conference title.

NYCFC sit just two points behind Atlanta and they’re in second place in the East as they seek a third-straight postseason berth.

Vieira’s legacy will live on and Torrent’s time to become the main man has arrived.

Sources: Vieira had meeting Sunday to notify NYCFC players of Nice move

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New York City FC’s 1-1 draw against Atlanta United on Saturday afternoon wasn’t indicative of how well the side played, but it will be the last impression of Patrick Vieira as a manager in Major League Soccer.

At least for now.

Pro Soccer Talk has reported throughout Vieira’s ongoing negotiations with Ligue 1 side OGC Nice, and that move is about to be made official.

On Sunday, PST learned that Vieira scheduled a team meeting in the morning to discuss the transfer with his NYCFC players and address the club prior to moving to Nice.

Independent NYCFC podcast Blue City Radio was the first to report Vieira’s meeting.

Following yesterday’s match at Yankee Stadium, NYCFC captain David Villa was heard by YES Network audio telling Vieira, “thanks for everything,” while hugging the Frenchman on the pitch.

The former Arsenal and French international will join last season’s eighth place side on a three-year contract, as Vieira looks to take the next step in his managerial career.

A move is expected to be announced on Monday.

The 41-year-old has spent the last two-plus seasons with NYCFC, after replacing Jason Kreis ahead of the 2016 MLS season.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Steven Goff has already reported that NYCFC is preparing to secure its next manager, and another Manchester City figure could come in to fill the position.

Man City assistant Rodolfo Borrell is considered to be the favorite to take over at Yankee Stadium.

He is currently an assistant under Pep Guardiola, but has past experience with NYCFC and Melbourne City — both members of City Football Group — as a liaison and international technical director.

Borrell previously worked as a scout and youth coach at Liverpool and Barcelona, making him a legitimate talent as a potential young manager.

The 47-year-old has never held a head manager position though, therefore, NYCFC would be his first job if given the opportunity.

2018 World Cup dark horses

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Every World Cup has its underdog story. Every World Cup has its rise to glory. Every World Cup has its rags to riches.

Every World Cup has its dark horse.

So who will grace Russia 2018 with a surprise run? Let’s look at the dark horse contenders.

Egypt

Looking solely at the FIFA rankings, Egypt at #45 appears to be perfect dark horse material. Unfortunately, they don’t perfectly fit the mold.

For starters, they have one of the world’s most in-form players in Mohamed Salah. Because we can’t ever have nice things, he was injured in the Champions League final, but his diagnosis of a separated AC joint likely leaves him available to play in the tournament this summer, albeit at less than 100% as he manages a painful injury. Nevertheless, with Salah on the field, Egypt is particularly dangerous on the counter and could light up any defensive back lines not on their A-game. Without him, though, they are toothless as evident by their inability to score in either friendly this past week against Colombia and Belgium.

In addition, their group is so bad that Egypt is almost expected to make it to the knockout stages. Paired with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay, it would feel disappointing if the African nation didn’t find one of the top two spots. Still, despite falling face-first into pre-tournament expectations, it would still make a great story if Egypt made its first-ever knockout round (since group stage play began in 1950). In fact, Egypt has never won a World Cup match in its history, with two losses and two draws to fall back on.

Morocco

Another overlooked African nation, Morocco finds itself tasked with the opposite issue Egypt faces – they were handed a painfully difficult draw with both Spain and Portugal to navigate through in Group B.

Nevertheless, Morocco should provide the European powerhouses with a stiff test in the group stage. FiveThirtyEight has Morocco ranked 18th in the world, the highest African side in the tournament and higher than other darkhorse candidates like Iceland or Peru. A team that features a high press run-and-gun style of play, Morocco has its Salah-lite in 25-year-old Hakim Ziyech.

Ziyech will give Spain and Portugal back lines plenty to think about as he marauds around the attacking third, but Morocco will need him to reign in the shooting to have a chance against the European giants. As FiveThirtyEight points out, Ziyech’s 202 shot attempts over the past two seasons see him sit nearly fifty shots higher than anyone else in the top five European leagues or the Eredivisie where he plays. His nine goals and 17 assists last season for Ajax are a nice haul and his creativity is invaluable to his country, but wastefulness will prove deadly against Spain or Portugal who are sure to control a heavy percentage of possession.

Peru

Paolo Guerrero is back to business for Peru, a massive boost to the squad (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images).

Paolo Guerrero can play in the World Cup this summer, and that’s all Peruvian fans need to hear to know their team has a chance. The 34-year-old captain is critical to his team’s chances, and after his one-year ban for cocaine use was overturned, Guerrero will be available to lead the attacking front in Peru’s Group C chances. With up-and-coming talent Edinson Flores feeding the captain chances, FIFA’s 11th-ranked country is a dangerous attacking side.

Given a favorable draw, Peru will more than challenge Australia and Denmark for a spot in the knockout stages behind likely group winners France. What makes Peru even more enticing in this World Cup is a potential Round of 16 matchup with fellow CONMEBOL members Argentina, a team they held to a draw in both meetings during World Cup qualifying. Peru has been in the wars, with an experienced side that played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with Colombia on the final day of CONMEBOL qualifying to earn a spot in this summer’s tournament.

The crux of Peru’s knockout stage chances likely hinge on a defense in its prime. 34-year-old Alberto Rodriguez is the grizzled veteran of the group, but alongside him are 28-year-old full-back Luis Advincula and 29-year-old full-back Nilson Loyola, both of whom own over 60 caps each.

Iceland

What would a darkhorse post be without Iceland? This tiny European nation shocked the world with its guts and swagger during a run to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. The Boys followed that up by topping its UEFA World Cup qualifying group with seven wins in 10 matches.

Again, they have a chance to make history with Group D up for grabs behind Argentina. They will do battle with Croatia and Nigeria, two beatable opponents. They know Croatia well, having faced them twice during UEFA qualifying play in Group I, splitting the pair.

Despite the highs of the last two years, Iceland comes into Russia 2018 in terrible form. They have not won since topping Indonesia in January, a run of four matches with three defeats. Most recently, they crumbled in the 87th minute allowing Ghana to snatch a late 2-2 draw after leading 2-0. Their superstar Gylfi Sigurdsson is also in awful form, coming off a season at Everton that saw him grab just four goals and three assists before missing the final six weeks with a knee injury. Iceland has the mental fortitude to progress past the group stage, but the magic may be running out.

England

Can England win the 2018 World Cup? They still have to prove they are among the world’s elite (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Yep, a curveball to finish this list out. Unlike the previous for teams who all look to be dark horses to make noise by unexpectedly escaping the group stages, England is a dark horse to win the whole darn tournament. Sure they‘re generally considered good by most, but still outside the upper echelon of favorites like Brazil, Germany, and the like, you better put the jokes aside and begin realizing the truth: this England team isn’t just good, they’re great.

England hasn’t lost at all since a run of bad friendlies in late 2017, and they haven’t dropped a single competitive match since its stunning 2-1 loss to white-hot Iceland in Euro 2016. They’ve also looked great in their tournament run-up, beating the Netherlands, Nigeria, and Costa Rica while slumping to a 1-1 draw with Italy on a late Lorenzo Insigne penalty.

The biggest question-mark for England is in net, but if Jordan Pickford can effectively replace Joe Hart in goal, this team could challenge for a semi-final spot, or even more. Raheem Sterling lit up the Premier League last season and has grown leaps and bounds under Pep Guardiola, as has John Stones at the back. Marcus Rashford looks refreshed out of the Jose Mourinho shadow. Harry Kane is among the most in-form strikers in this tournament and has seen his future put to rest with a new contract, leaving one more potential distraction back home.

They’re not there yet, and there are plenty of critics, but a chip on their shoulder might be just what this group needs. If England can put block out the noise surrounding the disappointments of recent World Cups, teams like Spain, Argentina, and the rest of the world giants should take note sooner rather than later.

Report: Evans set to join Leicester via $10m release clause

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Jonny Evans isn’t going far from West Bromwich Albion, and for quite a discount (so to speak)

The Northern Irish center back, 30, will reportedly have a medical at Leicester City in the next 48 hours ahead of a move to join Claude Puel‘s Foxes.

[ MORE: Stewart named USMNT GM ]

Evans was linked with moves to Manchester City and former club Manchester United last season, but instead will reportedly try his hand at Premier League life just an hour’s drive from the Hawthorns after West Brom met a near $10 million release clause.

That’s at least less than half than the reported bid of Pep Guardiola last summer.

Leicester City’s stout back line of its Premier League championship season has taken significant steps back, with the Foxes partly addressing it with the addition of Harry Maguire last season.

Maguire, 25, was strong last season as Wes Morgan struggled and Robert Huth made just one appearance.

Evans won three Premier League titles while making nearly 200 appearances for Manchester United, leaving in 2015 for West Brom.

This would be a nice addition for Leicester, whose defending cost it a bid to return to European competition.