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Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp lining up USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes

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If you blinked, you might have missed the first half of January, along with the first half of the January transfer window.

Don’t worry, though. Given the lack of deals completed thus far, it would appear that most Premier League clubs missed it, too…

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

U.S. men’s national team midfielder Weston McKennie sits high atop Jurgen Klopp‘s wish list and could be set for a move to Liverpool — most likely in the summer — according to a report from the Sun (from the same reporter who was first on the scene with word of Manchester City’s interest in USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen).

A bid — expected to be around $26 million — for the 20-year-old could very well be made this month with McKennie allowed to remain at Schalke through the end of the season. Fellow USMNT star Christian Pulisic will join Chelsea this summer, for $73 million, after completing a similar arrangement with Borussia Dortmund.


Perhaps the highest-profile move we’re likely to see this month could be completed inside the next 24 hours, as Chelsea are doing everything within their power to bring Gonzalo Higuain to London in time for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com).

The Blues reportedly made an official offer to Juventus for a six-month loan, with an option for a further 12 months and/or an option to make the transfer permanent, on Wednesday. Higuain is currently on loan to AC Milan.

According to the Standard, manager Maurizio Sarri is desperate for the 31-year-old to arrive as soon as possible.


With Higuain widely expected to complete his move to Chelsea in the coming hours or days, the dominoes will almost certainly quickly fall, beginning with current Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata. After an up-and-down first season and a half at Stamford Bridge, Morata has fallen out of favor with Sarri and could very well leave the club before the window closes on Jan. 31.

According to a report from Sky Sports, Atletico Madrid are already in advanced negotiations with the club and/or player over a $60-million transfer back to the Spanish capital where he was previously surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. Chelsea paid nearly $100 million for the now-26-year-old in the summer of 2017. Atleti signed Diego Costa from Chelsea, for more than $70 million, not long after acquiring two summers ago.


With Harry Kane set to miss the next two months due to another ankle ligament injury, Tottenham Hotspur will surely be linked with a loan move for every available forward over these next 14 days — no matter unlikely they are to actually make a move.

Today’s fill-in comes courtesy of the Telegraph, who claim Liverpool’s Divock Origi is one player currently considered as an option. Fernando Llorente remains at the club despite rumors linking him with various moves around Europe. Mauricio Pochettino will also consider promoting 16-year-old Troy Parrott from Under-23 team, according to talkSPORT.


  • Arsenal are desperate to shed Mesut Ozil’s $450,000-per-week contract with the German international seemingly not in the plans of manager Unai Emery. The Gunners will almost certainly have to eat a significant chunk of his remaining wages, or accept a heavily reduced fee.
  • At 21 years old, Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is one of the most sought-after youngsters in the world, with the likes of Man City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly hot in pursuit. According to the Mirror, only PSG are willing to meet Ajax’s $85-million valuation of the five-times-capped Dutch international, despite his preference being a move to the defending PL champions.
  • Another Chelsea forward, Michy Batshuayi, remains in limbo as the club attempts to secure a $50-million offer for the 25-year-old. Ligue 1 strugglers Monaco have reportedly already agreed loan terms with Batshuayi and Valencia, where the Belgian has been on loan since the start of the season, but the Blues are holding out for a bid leading to recouping a hefty fee.
  • Bayern Munich claim to be in negotiations with Chelsea and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi after the 18-year-old has shone brightly in limited opportunities with the Blues. In a bid for more first-team action, Hudson-Odoi is said to be open to a move to Germany, following in the footsteps of Dortmund wonderkid Jadon Sancho.

Girona shocks Atletico Madrid behind stunning goals

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Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.

Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.

[READ: Berhalter announces USMNT staff]

Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.

But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbia re-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.

Would Martins swap help Atleti land Chelsea’s Morata?

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Atletico Madrid hopes to offload two under performers in the January transfer window, with at least one of them serving as a make good in a loan deal for Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata.

Atleti is without former Chelsea striker Diego Costa, and Diego Simeone sees something he likes in the misfiring Morata.

[ MORE: Zimmerman spurns Europe for LAFC ]

But the Atleti boss would need to come up with something additional for Morata aside from a $4 million loan fee, according to several reports.

Would the Blues accept either Nikola Kalinic or Gelson Martins in order to rid themselves of their Spanish striker?

Martins fits the Chelsea profile more, a 23-year-old attack-minded midfielder and winger, as Kalinic at 31 is a season-and-a-half removed from his last double-digit goal campaign.

Martins had 10 goals and nine assists for Sporting Lisbon last season.

Report: Atletico Madrid in talks to sign Morata

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Alvaro Morata’s tough time at Chelsea could be over very soon.

Sky Sports are reporting that Morata, 26, could be heading back to his native Spain on loan in January with Atletico Madrid eager to snap up the Spanish international striker.

Per the report, Atletico are in talks with Chelsea to complete the signing as Morata will return to the club where he began his career as a youth team player. Chelsea want a $12 million loan fee for the rest of the see with an obligation to buy Morata in the summer, as the player also earns $12 million per year at Chelsea.

It is believed he is willing to take a pay cut to return to Spain.

Following his $90 million club-record move from Real Madrid to Chelsea in the summer of 2017, Morata has failed to find consistent form and just hasn’t settled into life in the Premier League.

Morata has scored 16 goals in 47 PL appearances for Chelsea, but just five of them have come this season as he’s warmed the bench in recent months and has looked increasingly unhappy.

With Morata and Olivier Giroud sitting on the bench in recent weeks in favor of playing Eden Hazard as a false nine, Maurizio Sarri has made his feelings on the duo crystal clear.

Chelsea continued to be linked with moves for Callum Wilson, Gonzalo Higuain and other strikers in January, as they look to beef up their attack for the pivotal final few months of the campaign as their place in the top four remains in jeopardy.

As for Morata, he hasn’t been short of suitors despite his patchy form at Stamford Bridge as Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico have been keen to sign him.

Heading to Atletico is a smart move for everyone concerned, as he will aid their La Liga title push in the second half of the season and he can also play in the UEFA Champions League as he hasn’t played in that competition for Chelsea this season.

With Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann to split minutes with, it will be tough, but  it seems like Morata fancies a return home after 18 months in England. Plus, former Chelsea striker Costa has scored just once in 11 league appearances for Atleti this season as he’s struggled with injuries.

This move works out well for everyone.

Griezmann standing in way of Barcelona’s title march

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann is almost single-handedly keeping Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league title race.

With the league at its halfway point, Griezmann is challenging Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the status of most valuable player for their clubs.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

While Messi is beyond doubt the top player in Spain – and more – Atletico has stayed in second place behind Barcelona almost exclusively thanks to the goals of Griezmann.

The France forward has done more than any other of his teammates, especially in recent weeks, to keep Atletico five points behind Barcelona. And with Sevilla and Real Madrid already 10 points adrift, Griezmann’s Atletico looks like the only serious challenger standing in the way of Barcelona’s title defense.

Griezmann is on a five-game scoring streak and he has scored Atletico’s last six goals – five in the league and one in the Copa del Rey. He has found the net nine times and made six direct passes for goals in the league this season.

Messi leads the league with 17 goals scored, but he also has Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele combining to add another 21 goals between them.

In contrast, nobody else at Atletico has scored more than two goals in the league. Indeed, the second key player at Atletico is goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who anchored a defense that has allowed a league-low 13 goals.

Griezmann secured another win for Diego Simeone’s side on Sunday when he confidently stepped up to the spot and blasted a penalty kick to secure a 1-0 victory over Levante.

There were inspired runs by Victor “Vitolo” Machin and a couple of attempts by Angel Correa and Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, but Atletico’s attack mainly depended on the quickness, speed and scoring touch of Griezmann.

Griezmann, however, said he was not satisfied with Atletico’s attack.

“We need to have more poise when we arrive to the opponent’s area, that’s what our coach says,” Griezmann said. “Maybe we have to shoot when we pass, and vice versa. It’s not easy. At the end, a 1-0 win is worth the same as 8-0, so we are happy.”

Griezmann helped France to the World Cup title last summer – a feat that has eluded Messi’s Argentina – shortly after guiding Atletico to the Europa League title.

He also turned down an offer to join Messi at Barcelona, opting to remain at the club where he is the undisputed star.

Now he is proving to be Atletico’s best reason to dream about winning another Spanish league title, or even an elusive Champions League crown.

“We all dig down deep and do our part when things get tough,” Griezmann said. “Without my teammates, I couldn’t do anything.”

WILLIAMS’ BRACE

Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams has everything a team could want in a forward – speed, power and a good work ethic.

Everything, except for the ability to score lots of goals.

The 24-year-old Williams finally broke a two-year scoring drought at Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium to lead it to a much-needed 2-0 victory over Sevilla on Sunday.

Williams netted both goals, and they were almost worth such a long wait for fans.

Williams got his first goal when he cut back from the left side and blasted a strike into the far corner of the net.

He topped that in the 84th with an eye-catching, 50-meter solo run that started in Bilbao’s territory. Williams used one touch to tap the ball forward before he sped between two defenders, streaked to the area, and rounded goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik before gliding the ball home.

“What I have experienced today is incredible,” Williams said. “Personally, I am so happy to score at San Mames after such a long time. It is very important.”

Williams also scored Bilbao’s winning goal last round on the road. Its first back-to-backs wins of the season were good enough to lift the Basque club out of the relegation zone.

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