Jose Callejon

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Report: Hirving Lozano in advanced discussions with Napoli

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According to a report by notable Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio, Mexican attacker Hirving Lozano is in advanced discussions with Napoli, and the two sides have agreed to terms on a contract, with just his image rights to work out.

The report states that Lozano is on board with the move and the Italian club is ready to offer $56 million to his current Dutch side PSV Eindhoven as soon as the image rights issue is negotiated.

Di Marzio says that the current hang-up is regarding Lozano’s current sponsorship agreements, which total around $3.3 million.  The two sides are negotiating whether to increase his agreed-upon salary of $5 million per year and transfer his image rights to the club, or leave everything as-is and sell only any future sponsorship agreements to the Italian side.

The reported transfer fee is surprising given “Chucky” reportedly has a $40 million release clause in his contract, but it could be that he is a wanted man and the total is higher with the aim of remaining competitive. Tottenham is also reportedly interested along with Barcelona and Manchester United, and Lozano has gone public saying he hopes to play in the Premier League eventually, but Napoli’s offered total could potentially scare off the others.

Lozano is represented by famed agent Mino Raiola who has reportedly been in contact with Napoli since early May, but he is currently suspended by FIFA, so it’s likely that others are currently negotiating. It apparently took a bit of work to convince Lozano to join the Italian side as there is heavy competition for playing time up front at Napoli, with Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, and Dries Mertens all racking up consistent minutes on the wing. Still, Callejon is 32 years old and coming off a season with just three goals in 2,652 Serie A minutes, both lows for his Napoli career.

The 23-year-old Mexican is currently on the shelf, missing the 2019 Gold Cup due to a knee injury suffered in an Eredivisie game late in the season. The injury could affect his sale price and delay a medical, but it’s not expected to affect his start of next season, as it was initially thought he would recover in time to participate in the summer’s international festivities.

Ronaldo may be tiring as Juve go on record march

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Cristiano Ronaldo is helping Juventus break records but it could be taking a toll on the Portugal star.

Ronaldo has started all but one of Juve’s 23 games this season, having missed only the first Champions League match against Young Boys through suspension following his first-ever red card in the competition.

The 33-year-old forward has scored 12 goals since leaving Real Madrid in the offseason, despite being the subject of a rape allegation in the United States.

Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada in September claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. The Juve player has denied any wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Atlanta hires De Boer ]

Ronaldo’s form in front of goal has dipped in recent games, failing to score in open play in four matches although he did convert a penalty in the Turin derby on Dec. 15.

He went close on several occasions in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Roma and was denied by goalkeeper Robin Olsen. Ronaldo also produced some trademark fancy footwork to set up a goal for Douglas Costa that was ruled out following a video review.

However, the Portugal great looked tired at times and Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he will give the five-time World Player of the Year a rest by sitting out one of the upcoming matches before the winter break, against Atalanta or Sampdoria.

Juve can afford to sideline him after the victory over Roma clinched the unofficial winter title with two matches to go before the halfway point of the season is reached.

Allegri’s side, seemingly unstoppable as it seeks an eighth successive Serie A title, has an eight-point lead over second-placed Napoli and a 16-point advantage over Inter Milan in third.

Juve has won 16 of 17 league matches, dropping points only in a surprise draw against Genoa.

The club’s haul of 49 points has broken its own Italian record and set a record for the top five leagues in Europe.

Still, Juve appears not to have hit top gear. It is traditionally stronger in the second half of the season and appeared to be conserving energy in its past three matches, winning each 1-0.

MISFIRING FORWARDS

Napoli’s top strikers have been misfiring.

Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens have seven Serie A goals apiece this season but neither has scored in five league matches since a 5-1 win over Empoli on Nov. 2.

Both hit the woodwork in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Spal when defender Raul Albiol was on target.

Another Napoli forward, Jose Callejon, has failed to score this season in 20 matches in all competitions.

Mertens was the club’s top marksman last term with 18 league goals.

PIATEK POWER

Genoa forward Krzysztof Piatek has regained his scoring touch.

He netted nine goals in his opening seven league matches, plus four in his first game for the club in the Italian Cup, but the Poland international then failed to hit the target in five games before breaking his drought last month.

Piatek struck again in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Atalanta to take his tally to six in as many matches in all competitions. However, he was dismayed that another effort was given as a Rafael Toloi own goal.

“I am very happy with the great Genoa victory,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I celebrated less because as soon I got to the locker room I heard the news that my first goal was an own goal. I feel that it is in every respect a double and that Serie A should go back on its decision.”

Piatek tops the scoring charts with 13 league goals, two more than Ronaldo. No player in Europe’s top leagues has netted more domestically.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Serie A Roundup: Napoli stays on top, Juventus spanks Chievo

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The Serie A title race this season is the most exciting it’s been for a while, and it stayed that way this weekend.

Juventus trounced Chievo Verona 4-0 in the early fixture to temporarily go top of the table, but Napoli laid the hurt on Empoli 5-1 to regain first place. Other than a 3-2 Bologna win over Sampdoria in an important lower-half battle, there was little other excitement across the fixtures.

Chievo Verona 0-4 Juventus

Alvaro Morata scored twice and Paul Pogba was in beast mode as Juventus jumped into the league lead temporarily. Read about it in full here.

Napoli 5-1 Empoli

Maurizio Sarri pulled his side back atop the league standings with a monstrous second half. A critical own-goal by Empoli’s Michele Camporese on a cross from Jose Callejon put Napoli 3-1 ahead just six minutes after the break. Callejon hit for a pair of his own late to add icing on the cake. The win keeps pace with Juventus and while the Bianconeri have won 12 in a row, Napoli has put together a tidy six-game league winning streak to stymie their challengers.

Bologna 3-2 Sampdoria

In a battle of teams looking to pull away from the relegation zone, Sampdoria fought back from 2-0 down only to fall on an 87th minute penalty by Mattia Destro as Bologna pulled seven points clear of the drop. That’s two wins in a row for Bologna, with summer newcomers Destro and Emanuele Giaccherini providing winning goals in each.

Torino 0-0 Hellas Verona

Genoa 0-0 Fiorentina

Udinese 0-0 Lazio

Welp. The rest of the Italian slate today was a dud. Fiorentina could not keep pace with the top two in Juventus and Napoli, and their draw at 16th placed Genoa really hurts, as they fall six points back of Napoli and see Inter catch up. Lazio had a shot to jump to eighth or even sixth, but failed to capitalize on the road. Torino also could have jumped into the top half, but instead were held by the bottom-dwellers in Verona, who have scored just 14 goals in 21 matches this year.

Left behind: the best players not heading to the World Cup

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Yes, there are a host of players who aren’t going to the World Cup. That’s because the soccer gods have come to the conclusion that there can only be 32 teams in the tournament, which means some talented souls have to watch from the comfort of their own living room.

And yes, there are some incredible men that won’t be going due to the fact that fate is cruel, and they picked up severe injuries that will leave them out of contention in Brazil. This list includes Christian Benteke, Theo Walcott and, most likely, Radamel Falcao.

But what of the ones whose countries qualified, yet still won’t be boarding the plane? In some cases, their national team coaches had reasons for keeping them out of the squad. In others, their lack of inclusion remains a true head-scratcher.

(Clicking the country’s link will take you to the full provisional World Cup roster)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Mönchengladbach and Germany)
Manuel Neuer will be in the net for Germany. We all know it. But why can’t ter Stegen be included as backup? Instead it’s Ron-Robert Zieler, who at least has a fun double-barrelled first name as well. Still, ter Stegen plays for a better club, made more saves, and is on his way to Barcelona to continue his career. Maybe he made fun of Jogi at some point.

Ashley Cole (Chelsea and England)
Cole must’ve thought his chances for England were good after fighting his way back into the Chelsea squad. But Roy Hodgson, slightly surprisingly, gave his England squad a more youthful feel, and it’s Luke Shaw that will take up the role of the understudy of Leighton Baines. It’s a bonus for England, having to choose between talented left-backs rather than taking along Stephen Warnock, but it’s gotta hurt for the 33-year-old to miss out on his last chance for his country. Cole retired from international football after getting the news that he wasn’t headed to Brazil.

Miranda (Atlético Madrid and Brazil)
Miranda edges out Filipe Luís only based on the fact that he managed two goals, but really, why would Luiz Felipe Scolari neglect to bring either? Perhaps Big Phil is a Barcelona fan, and doesn’t like the fact that Atleti could trump them to the title. In general, Scolari seems intent on bringing veterans, but with these two at 29 and 28 respectively, it’s not like they’re short on experience (which could be a reason for leaving out PSG’s talented Marquinhos). And when you add the fact Napoli’s Henrique is going…well, he did play under Scolari for three seasons at Palmeiras, but he only made the partenopei starting XI thanks to injury crisis. Brazil may very well regret not giving one of these two a look.

Samir Nasri (Manchester City and France)
Well, this one was confusing. Nasri impressed at title-winning Manchester City this season, where he had seven goals and seven assists. He was involved in France’s World Cup qualification, making four appearances. So why isn’t he part of les bleus? Turns out Didier Deschamps thinks Nasri has a bit of an attitude problem, and doesn’t appreciate being left on the bench. He likely also now thinks Nasri’s girlfriend has an attitude problem, after she lashed out on twitter when the French squad was announced.

Radja Nainggolan (Midfielder, AS Roma and Belgium)
Yes, Belgium are stuffed to the gills with midfielders, so it’s natural that some of them get left behind. But Nainggolan is a special sort of midfield man – one that could add some protection to the defense, which often looks shaky and uncertain. Just ask Cagliari, who certainly slipped in the standings after Nainggolan went off to Roma in the middle of the season. He adds strength and steel to the middle of the field, but he’s not just an enforcer. Nainggolan can pick out a crisp pass and, when given a chance, loves to put in a shot from distance.

José Callejón (Napoli and Spain)
Yes, we could go on and on about players left off the Spain roster. The defending champions are simply way too well-stocked, particularly in the center of the pitch. But “Ziggy” Callejón deserves a special shout out. He failed to establish himself as a regular at Real Madrid and wound up scoring just three goals in 15 starts last season. Now in Naples, Callejón has blossomed. He may not fit Vicente del Bosque’s system, but in Rafa Benítez’s 4-2-3-1, the wide man has scored 19 goals in all competitions for Napoli.

Francesco Totti (AS Roma and Italy)
Roma’s captain began his international career back in 2000, and was part of the azzurri side that lifted the 2006 World Cup. He retired from international duty after the triumph, but made it clear he was open to returning this season. However, Cesare Prandelli decided to put his faith in younger players, and left the 37-year-old off the roster – despite an impressive season in Serie A, helping Roma fly into second place and challenge for the title.
(Honoroable mention to Luca Toni, another veteran having an amazing season in Serie A. The 36-year-old scored 20 goals for Hellas Verona this season).

Carlos Vela (Forward, Real Sociedad and Mexico)
Again, everyone knew this was coming. Vela hasn’t played for El Tri since 2011, despite various coaches trying to entice him back to the side. After accepting the management gig, Miguel Herrera did his best to convince Vela as well, but the attacker didn’t feel himself mentally ready to return to international competition. That’s too bad for the struggling Mexico team. Vela’s done well for himself in Spain, putting in 41 goals in 104 appearances with Real Sociedad. There are even strong rumors that he just might make a return to Arsenal – assuming he’s mentally prepared for that, of course.

Max Kruse (Forward, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Germany)
Joachim Löw don’t need no strikers. Or at least, not strikers that can actually put the ball in the back of the net. Ok, ok, Lukas Podolski had eight goals for Arsenal this season. And Kevin Volland, of Hoffenheim, did score eleven. But Kruse has twelve to his name, along with nine assists. He’s paccy, he’s precise, and he can get the job done better than Miroslav Klose. The veteran managed just seven for Lazio this season, but sentiment wins out, and he’s the one boarding the plane to Brazil.

Carlos Tévez (Forward, Juventus and Argentina)
A falling out with Alejandro Sabella means Tévez hasn’t played for La Albiceleste since 2011. Of course, Argentina have plenty of firepower up top, what with Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and…what’s that guy’s name again? Oh right, Leo Messi. Still, 19 goals and 7 assists in 33 league games with Juventus is nothing to sniff at. Who knows, if Tévez scores four this weekend, he could even become Serie A’s top goalscorer this season. But no matter – he’s going to Disneyland instead.

Zlatan Ibrahimović (Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden)
So what if Sweden didn’t qualify? Someone high up at FIFA should’ve worked through a quick rule change that would’ve allowed Ibra to switch his nationality. Because what is a World Cup without Zlatan? Nothing. Just wait. You’ll see.

Italy Roundup: Napoli hands Juventus rare Serie A loss

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Napoli snapped a remarkable Juventus run and slowed the coronation cruise control displayed by The Old Lady with a 2-0 home win on Sunday.

Juve posted a remarkable 20W-2D-0L mark in its previous 22 matches, but Napoli came to play with a goal in each half and strong defending. Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens scored for Napoli, which is far off the title chase, though the Juve loss gives a modicum of hope to AS Roma. Carlos Tevez was not suspended for Juve, with Dani Osvaldo getting the slot in Tevez’s absence.

I Lupi scored a controversial win over Sassuolo, now in severe relegation trouble after goals from Mattia Destro and Michel Bastos paced Roma to a 2-0 win. Sassuolo was given a penalty kick in the first half, only to have the call shockingly reversed by official Nicola Rizzoli. Our own Kyle Bonn has a recap of that ordeal here.

Roma has a match-in-hand on Juve, though even that 11-point lead dropping to eight at mid-week wouldn’t be a major cause for concern. Juve still has to visit Stadio Olimpico on May 11, but a few more wins will make the third-consecutive Scudetto all but in the bag.

Fiorentina gave some leeway to Inter Milan in the race for fourth place by sleepwalking to a scoreless draw at 12th place Sampdoria. Despite a combined 36 shots between the two clubs, no one put one across the line. Inter tangles with Livorno on Monday. Both Livorno and Catania are searching for Monday points in their quest to escape the drop zone. A Livorno win would do the trick, though three points for Catania against Udinese would still find them three points from safety.

Elsewhere

  • AC Milan 3-0 Chievo — Chievo’s relegation troubles are real; Kaka’s two goals backed Mario Balotelli’s single tally as all goals were scored before the clock struck 54.
  • Bologna 0-2 Atalanta — Giuseppe De Luca and Marcelo Estigarribia struck twice in four first-half minutes to lift the visitors’ quest for Europe.
  • Verona 3-0 Genoa – 10-men? No problem for Hellas Verona, with a late brace from Luca Toni making the score line defy game play. Marco Donadel also scored for the hosts, who saw a second yellow given to Michelangelo Albertazzi just before half.
  • Torino 2-1 Cagliari – Road woes continue for Cagliari (0W-7D-8L away from home) as goals from Alessio Cerci and Omar El Kaddouri lead Torino to win.
  • Lazio 3-2 Parma– Plenty of drama in Rome, as Antonio Candreva’s stoppage-time winner offseat an own-goal equalizer to keep the hosts in European contention.
  • Udinese vs. Catania – Monday
  • Livorno vs. Inter Milan — Monday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 31 26 3 2 67 22 45 15-0-0 11-3-2 81
Roma 30 21 7 2 58 15 43 12-3-0 9-4-2 70
Napoli 31 19 7 5 59 32 27 10-4-2 9-3-3 64
Fiorentina 31 15 7 9 49 33 16 8-3-4 7-4-5 52
Inter Milan 30 12 12 6 47 31 16 7-7-2 5-5-4 48
Parma 30 12 11 7 49 37 12 6-7-2 6-4-5 47
Atalanta 31 14 4 13 37 39 -2 10-2-3 4-2-10 46
Lazio 31 12 9 10 40 40 0 8-4-3 4-5-7 45
Verona 31 13 4 14 46 52 -6 9-2-5 4-2-9 43
Torino 31 11 9 11 45 40 5 7-5-4 4-4-7 42
AC Milan 31 11 9 11 47 43 4 7-4-4 4-5-7 42
Sampdoria 31 11 8 12 40 43 -3 6-5-5 5-3-7 41
Genoa 31 10 9 12 34 39 -5 7-4-4 3-5-8 39
Udinese 30 10 5 15 33 42 -9 7-2-5 3-3-10 35
Cagliari 31 7 11 13 29 41 -12 7-4-5 0-7-8 32
Chievo 31 7 6 18 26 46 -20 5-2-8 2-4-10 27
Bologna 31 5 11 15 24 48 -24 3-7-6 2-4-9 26
Livorno 30 6 6 18 32 56 -24 4-4-7 2-2-11 24
Sassuolo 31 5 6 20 29 61 -32 4-1-11 1-5-9 21
Catania 30 4 8 18 23 54 -31 4-6-5 0-2-13 20