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Berbatov’s greatest Premier League hits

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Dimitar Berbatov announced his retirement on Thursday, closing out a two-decade professional career.

The Bulgarian striker never flashed much pace in the helter skelter Premier League. But it didn’t matter. Over his eight seasons in the Premier League, Berbatov may go down in history for the greatest technical player in the Premier League era. I mean, just look at this first touch!

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Look at how nonchalantly Berbatov brought down that 50-yard bomb from across the field, controlling it as if he was just juggling the ball three feet in the air to himself. That slow, methodical play was evident for Berbatov across his time with Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham, but it didn’t matter, because he always ended up in the right place in the box to score, or he could pick out a pass to set up a teammate. He even had a few dribbling tricks.

Berbatov finished his Premier League career with 94 goals and 40 assists in 229 games. He joined Tottenham after a stellar five-year run with Bayer Leverkusen in 2006 and immediately became a fan favorite. In 2008, he made a then-Man United record transfer to Old Trafford for around a reported $38 million. After four seasons and 48 league goals, Berbatov moved to Fulham for another couple of years before heading back abroad.

During his time in England, Berbatov left crowds stunned with stupendous goals, flicks and tricks. Here’s a collection of some of his best highlights.

An Englishman in Bordeaux

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Very few have traveled the path from south London to Manchester, then Sunderland and then the Southwest of France. Then again, few people are Josh Maja.

While Jadon Sancho and Keiran Trippier may garner most of the media attention for English players plying their trade off the British Isle, one young Englishman is poised for a breakout year in Ligue 1. Maja, who joined Bordeaux during the January transfer window in 2019, is finally healthy after a knee injury cut short his first season in France, and he’s ready to make a big impact as part of a young squad.

 [ MORE: Ligue 1 score, schedule ]

The 20-year-old striker has an impressive story, overcoming the odds to not just become a professional, but also to make it to the top division in France. Maja began his career playing for St. Andrews Youth Club, its headquarters just steps away from Westminster Abbey.

He also spent time as a youngster with Crystal Palace and then Fulham, but left the club after three-and-a-half years for personal reasons. He then returned to St. Andrews, all the while going for trials across the country, trying to latch on with a team. While training with Manchester City and featuring in a friendly match against Sunderland, his fortunes suddenly changed. Sunderland liked what it saw, brought him to the northeast of England, and gave him a chance.

After working his way up the ranks from the Under-18s through the Under-23s and reserves, it was then-Sunderland manager David Moyes who gave Maja his first team debut in 2016. After working on his game for another season, Maja had a breakout year with Sunderland down in League One at the start of the 2018-2019 season.

Maja scored in Sunderland’s season opener, a 2-1 win over Charlton, and then went on to score 15 league goals in the first five months of the season, scoring with both feet and his head, and making it look easy at times.

Amazingly, Maja wasn’t even supposed to start that first game of the season. Sunderland had just signed experienced forward Charlie Wyke. But an injury to Wyke in the buildup to the game put Maja in, and he didn’t look back.

“I probably say everything was clicking,” Maja said in an interview with Pro Soccer Talk. “(Wyke) got injured in training so I had to start that game, and then I scored in the first game. From there, my confidence just went up. I think just the momentum and the confidence I had going into games was pushing me on to be successful that season.”

Suddenly, there was interest from clubs in the Championship, Premier League, and abroad. For a player who had trained at Manchester City, Fulham, and Crystal Palace, this could have been a big moment for him to make a move to a bigger club. But Maja said he didn’t see it that way.

“I just felt it was a good time for me to go abroad,” Maja said. “I didn’t feel like I was ready to take the step into the Premier League. I think signing for a PL team wouldn’t have been the right decision for my development.

“Obviously for me developing is playing games and I felt as if going abroad was going to enhance my development and get more game time. I think it was the right decision and I hope this season I can push on.”

By late January, it was done. Maja’s agent, Emeka Obasi helped Maja move from Sunderland to Ligue 1’s Bordeaux on an undisclosed fee, with Maja signing a four-and-a-half year contract. Obasi has been influential in seeing some of England’s top young talents move abroad, including Jadon Sancho’s move to Borussia Dortmund, Ademola Lookman’s move to RB Leipzig and Reiss Nelson’s loan to Hoffenheim last season.

“There was interest before the season, I knew there was a little bit there,” Maja said. “When I was scoring goals as the season was going on, the attention from them grew. My agent was the one, just because he’s got a good relationship with a lot of teams, he basically gave me confidence to listen to clubs abroad, and Bordeaux showed the biggest interest. That’s the main reason I took the opportunity to come here.”

After joining Bordeaux, Maja quickly integrated into the young squad and played in seven matches, starting three and scoring one goal. However, a torn meniscus in his left knee shut down the rest of his season for good. Instead of spending the time injured back home in London, Maja said he remained in Bordeaux to rehab, and he was ready to go at the start of the season for coach Paulo Sousa.

Following a preseason with Bordeaux, in which Maja participated in EA Sports League 1 games in Washington D.C., Maja seems primed for a big season in France. He’s come off the bench in each of the first three league matches of the season, scoring in Bordeaux’s 1-1 draw with Montpellier. Bordeaux’s young team looks to improve from a 14th-place finish last season, in which the club only earned 41 points.

“He’s very young like a lot of players on our team, but he has a lot of experience,” Maja’s Bordeaux teammate Aurelien Tchouameni said. “He played a lot of games in League One in England so he’s a very good player, a very good striker. I think he will help the team this season.”

At just 20, there’s still time for Maja to continue to improve, grow, and potentially return to England as a finished product.

“It’s a possibility,” Maja said about playing in the Premier League in the future. “I am focusing on my work in France with Bordeaux, maybe if the timing is right and the right club comes in, I’d love to take that opportunity. Right now I want to be the best I can be here.”

Liverpool sign youngest-ever PL debutant from Fulham

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Fulham will spend the 2019-20 season in the EFL Championship after suffering relegation from the Premier League last season, but 16-year-old Harvey Elliott — the youngest-ever debutant in a PL fixture as of last May — won’t be joining them.

[ MORE: Report: Bale to stay at Real Madrid after move to China canceled ]

Elliott signed with Liverpool on Sunday, making the move from London to Merseyside for an undisclosed transfer fee. Barcelona, Real Madrid and RB Leipzig had previously been linked with moves for the teenager earlier this summer.

“To have joined the club that I supported as a boy is a dream come true for me and all of my family and it’s an incredible feeling to now officially be able to call myself a Red,” Elliott wrote in an Instagram post.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Elliott won’t be eligible to sign his first professional contract until his 17th birthday, which isn’t for another 251 days days, on April 4 near the tailend of the upcoming season.

Jean-Michael Seri joins Galatasaray on loan from Fulham

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One of the most lauded transfers one year ago turned into one of the most disappointing failures in recent Premier League memory as Fulham flop Jean-Michael Seri leaves the relegated Whites to join Galatasaray on loan.

Tracked by the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal, it seemed a coup when Fulham announced the midfielder’s capture from French side Nice for around $32 million. He started Premier League play in excellent form, hitting the ground running with smooth passing, solid link-up play, and what turned out to be Fulham’s goal of the season against Burnley early on.

That goal turned out to be his high-water mark, as the Ivorian’s form dipped sharply with Fulham’s loss total rising higher and higher. Eventually, Seri found himself on the bench behind the likes of Kevin McDonald and Calum Chambers as the season dragged on.

Seri’s loan to Galatasaray reportedly comes with a meager $1.6 million loan fee with an unreported option to buy tacked on. He will link back up with Ryan Babel who joined Fulham on a short-term contract in January and looked bright on the wing before his deal ran out and he moved to the Turkish club as a free agent.

Fulham is making wholesale changes this summer, with the departure of Babel and Seri offset by the arrival of Ivan Cavaliero and Martell Taylor-Crosswell, with more moves rumored. The Whites have been linked with Anthony Knockaert of Brighton.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Dunk to Leicester City, Everton to Arsenal

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The news that Manchester United has agreed with Leicester City on a world-record transfer fee for Harry Maguire has dominated the Sunday morning transfer talk, but there are a few more deals that are seeing movement this weekend.

[ MORE: Maguire nearing $100 million move ]

Directly connected to the Maguire deal is a rumor that Leicester City has already lined up his replacement, spending half the reported Manchester United payment on Brighton Hove & Albion defender Lewis Dunk. The Sun reports that Dunk, a Brighton youth product, will take over the Leicester City transfer record from newly acquired Youri Tielemans at a price tag of $56 million.

Brighton finished 17th last season, narrowly escaping relegation by a mere two points. Still, the defense was solid, conceding 60 goals in the campaign, fewer than any Premier League side in the bottom seven. Brighton gambled on Dunk on back in 2015 amid heavy interest in the player from Fulham, turning down a number of reported bids. The 27-year-old has repayed that faith, making 270 appearances for the club across all competitions and helping them earn promotion in 2017. Now, he will net the club an enormous payment should the move go through.


Brazilian winger Everton, who has been linked heavily with a move away from his current club Gremio, has added fuel to the fire by confirming he has a tabled offer and suggesting things are progressing rather quickly.

In quotes to Brazilian radio station Radio Grenal confirmed by The Mirror and Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, Everton said, “At this moment I have an offer, but I can’t say the name of the club. Just like I can’t promise that on Thursday I’ll still be playing for Gremio [against Bahia], we’ll see.”

The 23-year-old winger burst onto the scene at the Copa America this summer, helping Brazil cope with the absence of Neymar by scoring three goals and assisting two across the six games en route to the title. He has been linked with Arsenal and AC Milan, with the Gunners reportedly holding talks with his representatives. With Arsenal’s pursuit of Wilfried Zaha looking unlikely due to Crystal Palace’s high price tag, Brazilian reports state new Arsenal technical director Edu is using his many contacts in Brazil to take a deeper look at Everton’s situation.


Two days ago, reports claimed Roma representatives were in London to discuss a possible transfer of Toby Alderweireld to the Serie A side. The Belgian defender has a clause in his contract that would let him leave for a seemingly cheap price of $31.4 million before July 25, but Roma apparently wanted an even cheaper price.

According to Italian publication Il Tempo, Daniel Levy isn’t moving a muscle on the release clause, sending Roma packing. Very few clubs have shown interest in Alderweireld despite the cheap price, with rumors stating the Belgian is asking for heavy wages, and at 30 years old is not a massively valuable asset long-term. Still, it’s odd that teams like Manchester United would rather spend an exorbitant amount of cash on a defender like Harry Maguire when Aldereweireld could be had for far cheaper.


Sky Sports reports that West Ham defender Reece Oxford could be on his way out of London Stadium, with the 20-year-old being traced by Championship clubs Swansea City and Fulham as well as German side Augsburg.

Oxford was not part of West Ham’s 23-man squad that departed for its preseason trip to China, and after making just eight top-flight appearances last season while on loan at Augsburg, Oxford’s future is in flux. A West Ham youth product, Oxford has spent time on loan at Reading and Borussia Monchengladbach before last year’s half-season spell at Augsburg, and while the German club has been rumored to be in for a permanent move all summer, Swansea and Fulham entering the fray is new news.