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England’s Jude Bellingham, USMNT’s Yunus Musah named most promising U21 players

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The CIES Football Observatory has issued a new report ranking the Top 200 U-21 players in the world, and there’s plenty to discuss for both Premier League and United States men’s national team fans alike.

More than 26,500 players were observed for the study, including 567 players from the United States, meaning less than one percent of players made it into the top 200.

The study uses what it calls “experience capital” in official adult matches played in 2022 to rank the top 10 players in 20 different categories.

Eighteen-year-old Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina is ranked fourth on the table for goalkeepers, two slots behind Southampton’s Gavin Bazunu, and is the first USMNT player to forge his way into the discussion (by virtue of the CIES study listing ‘keepers first!).

[ MORE: Erling Haaland makes Premier League history ]

It comes as little surprise that RB Leipzig and Croatia star Josko Gvardiol is named the top ball-playing center back, while current Burnley and former Man City back Taylor Harwood-Bellis is also among the top ten in that category.

New York Red Bulls left back John Tolkin is 20 years old and is listed as the most promising “defensive left back” amongst U21 players, ahead of Barcelona’s Alejandro Balde. Mexico’s Emilio Lara makes the top ten promising “defensive right backs,” while Brentford’s Aaron Hickey is the third-rated two-way left back under 21.

Two-way right backs have two huge pats on the back for New York City FC’s academy, as Borussia Monchengladbach’s Joe Scally is ranked behind only Salzburg’s Amar Dedic and current NYCFC man Tayvon Gray is just two spots behind Scally (who made the USMNT’s World Cup roster but did not play). Colombian international Juan David Mosquera of Portland Timbers is fourth amongst attacking right backs.

Back to the USMNT, Valencia’s Yunus Musah is ranked fourth in attacking midfielders, behind Jude Bellingham, Jamal Musiala, and Gavi but ahead of Liverpool duo Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho.

Leeds’ Wilfried Gnonto is named as a top 10 promising shot-oriented right winger, while Man United’s Anthony Elanga is fourth amongst all-around left wingers. Another NYCFC talent, Talles Magno, makes the latter list.

Is there hope in the center forward pool for the USMNT? It seems so, as 18-year-old Jackson Hopkins of DC United is listed as the fifth-best all-around CF.

Top Twenty “experience capital” U21 players (via CIES Football Observatory)

  1. Jude Bellingham, CAM, Borussia Dortmund — 58.3
  2. Gavi, CAM, Barcelona — 51.2
  3. Pedri, CDM, Barcelona — 46.6
  4. Josko Gvardiol, CB, RB Leipzig — 45.2
  5. Jamal Musiala, CAM, Bayern Munich — 43.9
  6. Piero Hincapie, CB, Bayer Leverkusen — 42.0
  7. Marcos Leonardo, CF, Santos — 37.8
  8. Nuno Mendes, LB, Paris Saint-Germain — 35.1
  9. Quentin Merlin, LB, Nantes — 31.3
  10. Pablo Maia, CDM, Sao Paulo — 34.3
  11. Castello Lukeba, CB, Lyon — 34.4
  12. Yunus Musah, CAM, Valencia, 31.3
  13. Eduardo Camavinga, DM, Real Madrid — 31.0
  14. Adam Hlozek, LW, Bayer Leverkusen — 29.3
  15. Taylor Harwood-Bellis, CB, Burnley — 29.1
  16. Nicola Zalewski, CM, AS Roma — 28.4
  17. Ansgar Knauff, LW, Eintracht Frankfurt — 28.3
  18. Arsen Zakharyan, CAM, Dynamo Moscow — 28.3
  19. Valentin Gomez, CB, Velez Sarsfield — 27.6
  20. Nico Williams, LW, Athletic Bilbao– 27.3

USMNT transfer news: Yunus Musah wanted; Milan to keep Sergino Dest

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The 2022 World Cup was a success on several levels for the United States men’s national team.

For one thing: They qualified for the tournament, impressed defensively in the group stage, and got loads of experience for their young team on the world’s stage ahead of the North American-hosted tournament in 2026.

[ RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates ]

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that those young players are getting plenty of transfer interest in what could be the busiest January transfer window in some time.

Yunus Musah and Sergino Dest are already in the rumor mill this week. Here’s the latest on potential moves for USMNT players in the coming days.

Sergino Dest transfer news: Milan stay on the cards

This is a weird report, given that Sergino Dest has been with AC Milan for months on loan from Barcelona, but apparently the player’s World Cup has convinced the Rossonieri that he’s got more to offer the club.

Dest turned 22 in November and has made nine loan appearances for Milan totaling 375 minutes. Dest played nearly that much in four World Cup games for the USMNT.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings from the World Cup ]

Corriere dello Sport reports that Milan is now willing to give cash-hungry Barcelona $20 million to make Dest’s loan deal a permanent one.

Could this be how it all works? Could Milan’s board really not have made its mind up on Dest until it saw him in a U.S. shirt against Wales, England, Iran, and/or the Netherlands?

More importantly, would it be a good move for Dest? We suppose it would be best if Dest had the chance to experience this uplift in belief from Milan with playing time before he agrees to a long-term move.

Yunus Musah transfer news: Chelsea, Liverpool, join Arsenal pursuit

A report in 90min claims that Valencia is trying to lock USMNT midfielder Yunus Musah into a new contract amid interest from abroad given his strong World Cup.

Musah turned 20 last month and has been with Valencia since leaving Arsenal’s academy in 2019. The New York-born Musah spent 2012-19 with the Gunners but went almost straight into Valencia’s B-team and has now made 81 first-team appearances for La Liga’s outfit.

Musah’s current deal runs until 2026 and includes a release clause of $105 million, but surely he’s not a 9-figure player even at his tender age.

Arsenal has reportedly been monitoring his progress since he left, and he could join international teammate Matt Turner as well as several longtime friends back with the Gunners. Surely that would be attractive, but Chelsea and Liverpool have reportedly joined in the pursuit of Musah.

Musah is being played centrally at Valencia more and more after playing a lot of time on the right side. Valencia’s in 10th place on La Liga’s table and is three years removed from its last European campaign but wants Musah to be an every-week starter.

Those clubs back “home” in England can’t promise that, but can Musah resist the urge?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Neymar appears in court in trial over Barcelona transfer

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BARCELONA, Spain — A few hours after scoring the winning goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Marseille in the French league, Neymar arrived in court in Spain on Monday to face a trial for alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona in 2013.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA  

Neymar’s parents, former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and representatives for both the Spanish club and Brazilian team Santos also appeared in court after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS regarding the amount of the player’s transfer.

The Brazil forward arrived at the court in Barcelona wearing sunglasses and a black suit and tie. Neymar’s mother and father, who also is his agent, were among those arriving alongside the player.

What is the latest?

The defendants, who have denied wrongdoing, sat near each other to hear the opening arguments in the trial that comes nearly a month before the World Cup opens on Nov. 20 in Qatar, and is expected to last until the end of the month.

Neymar and the rest of the defendants have to be in court for the first day of the trial, but the player is only expected to testify on Friday.

On Sunday night, Neymar scored his ninth French league goal of the season in first-half stoppage time to lead PSG to a 1-0 win over Marseille in French soccer’s biggest game.

What are the charges?

Neymar and his father face corruption charges. Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of up to two years, although any jail time would likely be suspended. DIS asked for a five-year prison sentence for the 30-year-old Neymar and his father, and for compensation of 34 million euros ($32.1 million) and a fine of 195 million euros ($190 million) that would be paid to the Spanish state.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Prosecutors seek a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million) for Neymar and his father. They also seek five years in prison for Rosell for fraud and corruption charges, plus a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million).

Neymar’s representatives have argued that the crime of corruption between individuals was not punishable in Brazil, which is where they say the transactions originally took place. They said that according to Spanish law, a crime can’t be punished in Spain if it didn’t happen in both territories.

The financial details

DIS was entitled to 40% of Neymar’s transfer but said it received a smaller compensation because part of the transfer fee was concealed. Prosecutors said those involved tried to hide the real amount of the transfer in order to pay a lower commission to the investment group.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that DIS only received its due percentage from the 17 million euros ($16.6 million) that Barcelona and Santos initially announced as the transfer fee between the clubs, while the real cost was about 82 million euros ($79.9 million). An investigative judge in Spain has already said that the real cost was at least 83.3 million euros ($81.2 million).

Neymar and his father previously appeared in court in Madrid a few years ago because of the accusations.

Neymar made his highly anticipated move to Spain at age 21. He helped Barcelona win the club’s last Champions League title in 2015, and eventually became involved in a soap-opera like transfer to PSG in 2017.

Neymar’s move from Santos also got Barcelona in trouble with Spain’s tax office. In 2016, the Catalan club paid a fine of 5.5 million euros ($5.3 million now) to settle a separate case brought by authorities. In that settlement, the club acknowledged it had made “an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer.”

El Clasico, live! Real Madrid vs Barcelona, stream link, lineups

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Barcelona will hope it can ‘Take Care’ of its La Liga advantage over Real Madrid when it wears Drake-sponsored jerseys in Saturday’s El Clasico at the Bernabeu.

The Canadian singer’s OVO owl will be front and center on Barca’s jerseys when the first-place Blaugranas enter the season’s first Clasico ahead of second-place Real on goal differential.

[ MORE: Kane scores again as Spurs win ]

Xavi Hernandez will be feeling pressure to get a momentum-building win and avoid a crushing defeat as Barca’s UEFA Champions League knockout round hopes have taken a huge hit with a midweek draw against Inter Milan.

Reports say that Barca’s finances and budget, dicey for a few years now, counted on the club making at least the UCL quarterfinals.

Real, meanwhile, remains undefeated with the same record as its classic rivals: Seven wins, one draw. The reigning European Cup champions have already sealed a place in the knockout rounds.


El Clasico: Real Madrid injuries, team news vs Barcelona

Antonio Rudiger has 20 stitches in his face but will be available versus Barca, but Thibaut Courtois will not be able to start between the sticks.

 

El Clasico: Barcelona injuries, team news at Real Madrid

Barcelona will have Jules Kounde available to play.


El Clasico: How to watch Real Madrid vs Barcelona, stream

The 120-year-old rivalry takes center stage Sunday.

Kickoff: 10:15am ET Sunday
TV: ESPN Deportes
Stream: ESPN.com / ESPN+

USMNT, European review: Pefok scores for leaders Union Berlin; McKennie’s Juve lose

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This was a heck of a weekend in European football, and the USMNT players abroad played their parts well.

Also a heck of a weekend for Borussias (Borussium? Plural police?), but that’s nothing compared to the vibes in Berlin.

Union Berlin remains first in the Bundesliga as USMNT man Jordan Pefok continues his dynamic duo with Sheraldo Becker.

Borussia Dortmund won a derby and sits first after Bayern Munich suffered a surprise loss.

Borussia Monchengladbach thumped RB Leipzig to move back within shouting distance of the top of the table.

[ MORE: Premier League hub -> Fixtures, results, highlights ]

Over in La Liga, Robert Lewandowski proved his shooting boots are still fine while the latest Barcelona teen to raise eyebrows picked up two assists.

Serie A saw another loss for Juventus, whose last season swoon might’ve been a harbinger of what’s to come for Weston McKennie and Co.

And Ricardo Pepi had a little more pep in his step after being called up to USMNT camp and bagged his first Eredivisie goal.

Read on!


Bundesliga: USMNT youngsters play roles in major wins; Bayern loses

Giovanni Reyna in a Revierderby. Joe Scally In a top-four tilt (most years) versus RB Leipzig. Jordan Pefok (Siebatcheu) keeeping Union Berlin in first!!!!!?!?!?!?!111

Oooh, this is why we like our best and brightest sliding into historic club.

Reyna again had to come off the bench for injured Marco Reus, the latter part being a disheartening trend and a possibly World Cup-ending injury for the BVB bright light, but Borussia Dortmund won the first Revierderby in a few seasons by a 1-0 score at home to Schalke.

Reyna entered in the 32nd minute and went 52 minutes before Thorgan Hazard brought a more veteran presence to the field with BVB in the lead with six minutes to play at the Westfalenstadion.

He finished with a key passes, two completed dribbles, and two shots (neither was on target).

As for Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach seized a bit of momentum by putting a 3-0 beating on Leipzig. The right back won 7-of-10 duels and drew two fouls while registering a key pass

By the way, Bayern lost to Augsburg despite Manuel Neuer’s best efforts.

And Union Berlin won again, with uncalled USMNT striker Jordan Pefok continuing his electric introduction to the Bundesliga and an incredible partnership with Union forward Sheraldo Becker.

Becker had a goal and an assist in Union’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, registering five shots and two key passes in a performance that would raise the eyebrows of any national team boss (though maybe any says too much, as Pefok’s only played 30 minutes for Gregg Berhalter since Sept. 9, 2021.

In a nice addition, Wolfsburg deployed 19-year-old American left back Kevin Paredes for the final 11 minutes. The diminutive DC United product has made three first-team appearances this young season.

Union sits first with 17 points, two ahead of Dortmund, and four clear of Freiburg. Bayern, Hoffenheim, and Gladbach follow with 12 each.

Serie A: What?!? 10-man Juventus loses at Monza

What’s more surprising:

  1. Monza has its first Serie A win after entering the game with a minus-11 goal differential through six outings
  2. Juventus has just two points and sits eighth going into the international break?

Wow.

An early Angel Di Maria red card put Weston McKennie and Juve behind the 8-ball away from home but surely winless Monza’s only hope was a point, yes?

Wrong.

Outshot 17-10, Juve’s attack struggled despite McKennie’s best effort. The USMNT man was pretty good and registered two key passes in the loss.

La Liga: Lewandowski shines with latest Barcelona teenager

Robert Lewandowski is going to get a whole ton of headlines after bagging a pair of goals in La Liga following his chance-frittering day against former club Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.

But look at Xavi doing Barca things, bringing a teenage-year-old left back into the fold for a two-assist day in a 3-0 win over 10-man Elche.

Balde turns 19 next month and has made a handful of senior appearances in each of the last two seasons, but appearance No. 6 was a magic one on Saturday (video below).

La Masi-you later!

Elsewhere in La Liga, USMNT man Yunus Musah remained out through injury for Valencia and that meant we did not have USMNT vs USMNT when Luca de la Torre came off Celta Vigo’s bench late in Valencia’s 3-0 win.

Americans Abroad: Ricardo Pepi scores first Eredivisie goal

Even as Augsburg scores a historic win over Bayern Munich, Ricardo Pepi is enjoying life on loan from the Bundesliga set.

Called up to the USMNT for friendlies versus Japan and Saudi Arabia later this month while in-form Union Berlin striker Jordan Pefok was not, his form is clearly joining his national team stock while on loan in the Netherlands.

An assist on debut in a draw versus Cambuur was nice and now the lone Groningen goal in a 2-1 loss to Sparta Rotterdam gave him goal contributions in consecutive games.

Look out Saudi Arabia and Japan? Look out Wales? Here’s where I embed the video at top of my questioning Pefok’s omission and Pepi’s inclusion. Because honesty is good.

Really classy header here: