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Benitez reportedly reaches Newcastle breaking point over transfers

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The Telegraph claims that Rafa Benitez has issued an ultimatum to stingy Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley: Buy me two players, or I’m done after the season.

The celebrated manager has had success with Newcastle despite its failure to spend on players since promotion back to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

It’s believed that one of the players is Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron, with the Premier League outfit and MLS club far apart on their valuation of the player.

A move for Almiron would break Newcastle’s transfer record, which has stood since the 2005 purchase of Michael Owen.

According to Football365.com, 15 PL teams have broken their transfer records more than five times since Newcastle set its milestone.

Newcastle’s transfer record is just over $20 million, a figure that was spent more than two dozen times this summer alone.

If Newcastle fails to sign Benitez to a new deal, it’s difficult to imagine them finding a manager anywhere near his level to take over the squad. And given the value of players on its pitch, the club would almost certainly continue its recent pattern of being annual relegation fodder.

That is if the penny-pinching doesn’t again doom Newcastle to the Championship.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man Utd wants Bergwijn; Bournemouth after $16M CB

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Manchester United is hoping to beat a host of teams to $32 million PSV Eindhoven attacker Steven Bergwijn.

The 21-year-old has 10 goals and nine assists this season after breaking out with nine and 11 last season.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

Bergwijn plays across the top of attack as a center forward or wing. He has a goal or an assist in 13 of his last 14 Eredivisie matches.

Inter Milan, West Ham United, and Tottenham Hotspur are among the other clubs linked with Bergwijn.

Bournemouth have reportedly seen a near $16 million bid for Brentford defender Chris Mepham, a Welsh international viewed as a piece to help fill the void caused by Simon Francis‘ long-term injury.

Mepham, 21, was with Chelsea’s academy before moving to Brentford. Standing 6-foot-3, he has 48 appearances with a goal for the Bees.

Rafa Benitez and Newcastle continue to seek reinforcements in the market, with The Daily Mail reporting that the Magpies are nearing a breakthrough at left back in the form of Milad Mohammadi.

The 25-year-old Iranian plays for Russian side Akhmat Grozny, and is currently on international duty with Iran at the Asian Cup. He’s one of the mid-table side’s top performing players this season.

The Magpies have also joined West Ham in tracking Josh Maja, the Sunderland striker who is out-of-contract this summer. Maja, 20, has 15 goals in 24 League One matches this season.

Cardiff record signing Sala aboard missing flight

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Cardiff City record signing Emiliano Sala was on a flight that disappeared en route to Wales, Sky Sports is reporting.

UPDATE: The Guernsey Police say the search and rescue operations have ceased for the night, with “the current plan to resume at sunrise” on Wednesday. The police said there were “a number of floating objects in the water,” but could not confirm them as pieces of an aircraft.

The plane disappeared from radar Monday night, and authorities suspended the search because of treacherous conditions before resuming Tuesday morning with “five aircrafts and two lifeboats.”

Here’s Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman:

“We are very concerned by the latest news that a light aircraft lost contact over the Channel last night. We are awaiting confirmation before we can say anything further. We are very concerned for the safety of Emiliano Sala.”

Sala signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Cardiff just three days ago on what was announced a club record purchase from Nantes in Ligue 1.

The Argentine forward, 28, has scored 12 goals in each of his last three seasons at Nantes, the latest dozen coming in 16 matches before his sale to Cardiff.

Cardiff City canceled morning training, while Nantes has postponed its French Cup match. Chairman Waldermar Kita said that Sala is “loved by everyone.”

“He absolutely wanted to say goodbye to his friends, which is normal,” said Kita. “This is a nice boy, polite and loved by everyone, he is very respectful and courteous, I think of his family, and I hope he is somewhere. I am still hoping that it is not finished.”

Report: Atlanta “playing poker” over Almiron

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Atlanta United seems prepared to ride out the January window in the hopes that it lands a better deal for Miguel Almiron.

[ MORE: Juve wins again ]

Atlanta president Darren Eales had made it clear that he wouldn’t be accepting any offer that doesn’t start with a 3, and West Ham initially was linked with interest in a $33 million Almiron move.

Newcastle United has been consistently linked with Almiron, but for no more than $19 million. Eales and Atlanta have stayed consistent in their stance.

Here’s South American football writer Tim Vickery, via The Chronicle:

“They have done very, very well out of him and it seems at the moment they are playing poker. They are prepared to wait until the end of the window to try and get the best deal possible for him. …

“So they have lined up a replacement and now it is all about playing poker until the closing of the transfer window, hoping that either they can get a better deal from Newcastle or they can smoke out some other interest.”

The end of the January window is moving closer. Atlanta has its Almiron replacement in the form of Pity Martinez, who is in the United States as the worst-kept secret in recent MLS history (although Ezequiel Barco, one of Atlanta’s other recent DPs, had a similar arc in his arrival).

Atlanta’s path toward selling Almiron and getting down to the MLS maximum of four Designated Players is a fascinating one. Clearly the club has a plan should no one reach their asking price, but what if famously-stingy Newcastle won’t budge any higher or, even worse, pulls out of the running?

Again, fascinating. And Atlanta is playing high stakes games with one of the most alluring transfer assets in the league.

As for Newcastle, you could make a Best XI with the players initially linked with the Magpies before the club balked at the fee and let another Premier League club buy the player: Michy Batshuayi, Alexandre Lacazette, Virgil Van Dijk, Dele Alli, Mohamed Salah

Almiron’s success in the Premier League is a big question mark, not because of talent or drive but because of size. There’s an air of uncertainty that comes with attackers coming from lesser leagues, and — even for Newcastle — it’s somewhat forgivable that the club isn’t rushing to meet the Five Stripes’ asking price.

Prince-Boateng seals surprise loan move to Barcelona

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Kevin Prince-Boateng is moving from Sassuolo to Barcelona on loan with an option to buy for the Catalan giants.

The move is a big surprise, bringing the well-traveled 31-year-old midfielder to his 10th club.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Prince-Boateng has four goals and two assists in 13 Serie A appearances for Sassuolo, and has 15 caps for Ghana (though he has not represented the Black Stars since their scandalous 2014 World Cup).

He’ll have plenty of chances to impress Ernesto Valverde in the next few weeks, with Luis Suarez the only other true center forward on the roster. Valverde has used Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele, or Munir El Haddadi in that role when Suarez has been unavailable.

He has spent two stints at AC Milan, as well as time with Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Las Palmas, Eintracht Frankfurt, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, and Hertha Berlin.