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Ajax exec Overmars makes Ziyech sales pitch to Arsenal

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Ajax technical director Marc Overmars has made a public pitch to Arsenal for winger Hakim Ziyech, who he believes would be high enough class to directly replace Mesut Ozil at a fraction of the cost.

The 46-year-old Dutchman, a former Gunner during his playing days when he spent three seasons at Highbury, made a bold and direct statement, calling out his old club to make a change in the attack that he believes will benefit them greatly. In fact, he insinuated that the two sides already spoke, but he was rebuffed, a surprising result to the Dutchman.

“I am a bit surprised that it is still so quiet around Hakim,” Overmars told Dutch publication Voetbal International. “I think he has played better every year and his statistics are exceptionally good. Many clubs are increasingly looking at that.”

It’s no surprise the technical director of a selling club is playing up one of his players, but it was only just beginning for Overmars, who specifically said Arsenal should rethink its strategy. “I think Hakim Ziyech is better than Mesut Ozil. I would say sell him and you will get Hakim for half [the price]. But they [Arsenal] didn’t listen to me. So it could just be that he stays with Ajax.”

It’s certainly quite a shock to see such a brazen public statement from an executive when most involved in transfer dealings are all too happy to keep the inside information out of view.

Ozil, who turns 31 in October, is a polarizing figure at Arsenal, where he has produced a host of brilliant and glittering moments but also gone missing for extended periods of a long season. He has failed to truly push Arsenal towards a genuine title challenge since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013, having secured just three FA Cup titles in his time at the Emirates, a relatively disappointing haul at a club that prides itself as one of the biggest in the English game.

The 26-year-old Ziyech is one of the stars of Ajax’s surprising Champions League run this season, helping the club reach the seemifinals and serving as an experienced presence in a squad bursting with young talent. He scored five goals and assisted four more in 17 Champions League matches and added another fantastic Eredivise haul to his wonderful season, scoring 16 league goals and assisting 17 more in 29 top-flight matches. Ziyech has 12 goals in 23 international matches for Morocco and started all four of their matches in this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, failing to find the back of the net before the country was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Benin.

In the interview, Overmars also lauded David Neres for rejecting a move to China last winter, pointing out how well it worked out for both the club and player, with Ajax reaching far into the Champions League and Neres earning an international call-up.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Bayern offer big for Sane; Ozil out at Arsenal

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With a small matter of the UEFA Champions League final happening Saturday in Madrid, let us pause for a brief moment and divert our attention to the latest rumblings out of the transfer rumor mill.

[ MORE: Win or lose UCL final, not much changes for Spurs ]

Bayern Munich’s pursuit of Manchester City winger Leroy Sane is real — very real, in fact — to the tune of $88 million, according to the Guardian. After the two-time reigning Premier League champions swiftly the seven-time reigning Bundesliga champions’ bid, they’re already pondering a second offer in short order.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed last week that Bayern would indeed be making an approach for Sane. “We will try. I can not promise whether it will succeed.”


According to Spanish newspaper AS, Bayern are expected to part ways with James Rodriguez this summer. Serie A side Napoli is one potential suitor, as it would facilitate a reunion with Carlo Ancelotti, who oversaw the most productive period of Rodriguez’s club career at Real Madrid.


Stoke City goalkeeper is a wanted man after spending a season in the EFL Championship, and a return to the PL looks a sure thing for the 26-year-old… only, it won’t be with the Potters. According to the Star, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth are set to enter the race for England’s no. 2. Stoke are seeking a fee of nearly $40 million, however.


Sergio Ramos appeared headed for the exit door following the end of Real Madrid’s disappointing season, but new/old manager Zinedine Zidane reportedly intervened and convinced Ramos that Madrid is still the right place for him. According to ESPN, Zidane helped to reduce the growing tension between player and president Florentino Perez, thus he is set to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu for at least one more season.


According to the Standard, Arsenal manager Unai Emery will allow Mesut Ozil to leave the club this summer… if anyone will take him and his $440,000-per-week wages off the Gunners’ books.


The Daily Mail is reporting that Leicester City midfielder James Maddison is one of Arsenal’s targets this summer, but they have told the asking price is $75 million for a player who just a year ago was playing in the Championship before moving to Leicester for $25 million.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Europa League fallout for Arsenal, Chelsea

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With the Europa League final complete and Chelsea reigning supreme, there is plenty of fallout to come with the Blues back in the Champions League and Arsenal failing to seal the deal.

For Arsenal, the blow could be heavy. The club is strapped for cash now headed for its third straight season in the Europa League, and they allowed 28-year-old Aaron Ramsey to depart this summer for free, a financial failure that could have serious consequences.

According to a report by The Mirror, manager Unai Emery is hoping to overhaul the squad this summer, but his job will be difficult given the financial constraints of failing to reach the Champions League. He could be forced to sell assets to generate cash, and while Arsenal fans may be happy to see the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil on the list of players who could depart this summer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan could reportedly also be sacrificed in the process. The report states that the wage bill may actually be a bigger obstacle to the club’s acquisition power than transfer funds, yet still there may only be around $50 million for Emery to play with this summer.

Players like Ozil and Mustafi could generate a decent cash flow, but they have underperformed the last few seasons, and Ozil especially has wages that could limit the club’s ability to shop him. The report states that Inter Milan could be a possible destination with possible new manager Antonio Conte hoping to boost the attack.


For Chelsea, their summer is also in question, despite securing Champions League play. The Blues have a potential transfer ban hanging over their heads, and the impending decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have an enormous impact on their proceedings over the next few months.

Regardless of the decision, however, it looks as if Eden Hazard has played his final game in Chelsea blue, and the rumors continue to churn of his departure for Real Madrid. English tabloids have stated that Hazard is off to Real Madrid for an enormous $145 million fee, although that seems unlikely as reports consistently stated over the last few weeks that Los Blancos were holding firm to their $125 million ceiling and that Chelsea would likely concede to that amount due to Hazard’s contract situation.

Should Chelsea be able to replace Hazard this summer and the ban is lifted or delayed, the Blues could look to a former Premier League star to take over. Philippe Coutinho has had a horrible first year at Barcelona, and it seems the club is shopping him to various interested parties. Chelsea could be a perfect landing spot for Coutinho and they could secure him far below market value after his disastrous season at the Camp Nou. Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo claims that Chelsea would be in pole position to secure Coutinho should the CAS allow the club to sign players this summer, and while Manchester United is interested, their lack of Champions League play this season sees them at a serious disadvantage.

Chelsea could also secure the permanent signatures of current loanees Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain whether the club is banned from transfer acquisitions or not, as they are both already registered with the club. Kovacic, a Real Madrid player out on loan, could likely be secured on a permanent deal separate from the Hazard negotiation. Higuain, meanwhile, may wait to see if Maurizio Sarri is confirmed as the Chelsea manager next season before he commits his future to Stamford Bridge.


According to Mundo Deportivo in a report that corroborates earlier reporting in the English tabloids, Manchester United is seriously considering a massive offer to free agent midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The Red Devils are reportedly set to offer Rabiot an $12.5 million signing bonus and wages of around $220,000 a week or about $11.5 million a season, which would match the demands he’s stuck to in negotiations over the past few months.

The report states that with other top clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus unwilling to meet his high financial demands, Rabiot could find United’s offer intriguing. Rabiot, a 24-year-old French midfielder, has had major character issues in the past at both the club and country levels, but his play on the field as a top box-to-box midfielder is helping offset the questions about his personality. Should Manchester United bring Rabiot on, he could directly challenge Paul Pogba for a spot in the team, or even serve as a Pogba replacement should he depart this summer as rumors have suggested over the past few months.


24-year-old Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe is a wanted man this summer, and while he has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent weeks, Liverpool has also entered the fray, according to Sunday Times reporter Duncan Castles on the Team Talk podcast. Castles said that Liverpool “has been in contact” with Lille still waiting on anything official to come through. Castles says that Lille has been quite public about an asking price in the range of $89 million for the Ivory Coast international who just appears to be entering his prime.

Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals this season which put him second on the campaign behind PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe. He helped Lille finish a stunning second in the league table, qualifying the club for Champions League play for the first time since 2012. Manchester United is in desperate need of reinforcements all over the pitch, but could miss out if Champions League play is a priority to Pepe who has never played in the competition. Still, Liverpool may pass on any players that cost such a hefty amount, as their squad is already one of the strongest in Europe and may not require such a massive cost to add missing pieces.

Ozil finally earning Emery’s trust at Arsenal

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There has been one constant in a month of fluctuating fortunes for Arsenal, and few could have seen it coming.

[ MORE: Lloris, Son give Spurs lead over Man City (video) ]

Mesut Ozil, all of a sudden, is a mainstay in the team and is set to start for the sixth straight game when Arsenal plays Napoli in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

No other attacking player has taken the field for Arsenal as much in that period. It is Ozil’s longest unbroken run in the team under Unai Emery, the Arsenal manager whose preference for a high-energy approach seemed to conflict with the German playmaker’s natural style.

Only a few months ago, there seemed no way back for Ozil, who endured several spells out of the team with Emery publicly acknowledging that, for certain games, he simply needed players who worked harder.

Ozil can be a divisive player, with his supporters pointing to his vision and ability to conjure chances out of nothing while his critics question his commitment, attitude and work rate.

[ MORE: Harry Kane could miss rest of season, says Pochettino ]

But just as the season has reached its defining stage, Emery is starting to lean heavily on the club’s top money-earner.

“He is playing like a team player,” Emery said. “He’s working very well, playing very well. He’s helping us. I’m very happy with him.”

Ozil certainly seems to be putting in more effort in matches. So much so that Emery trusted Ozil to start in an away Premier League last weekend for the first time since Dec. 26.

It didn’t go too well – Arsenal lost 1-0 at Everton on Sunday and Ozil was substituted in the 74th minute after a largely anonymous display – but it was still another signal of the growing harmony between the club’s manager and its most high-profile player.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Spurs’ victory over Man City ]

Arsenal heads into the Europa League’s last eight potentially needing to win the competition to secure a return to the Champions League next season. Finishing in the top four of the Premier League would also guarantee that and Arsenal is currently in fifth place, locked in a tight battle with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United to claim the two qualifying spots behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

Five points separate Chelsea in third place and United in sixth, with Chelsea having played a game more than its three rivals.

Ozil’s five-match run in the team started in the 3-1 Europa League loss to Rennes in the first leg of the last 16. But Arsenal’s 3-0 victory in the second leg kept alive Emery’s bid to win the competition for the fourth time, after doing so with Sevilla in three straight years from 2014.

Napoli, which is second in the Italian league, won the now-defunct UEFA Cup – the precursor to the Europa League – in 1989. It is the club’s only major European honor.

Emery raves about Ozil, Ramsey as Arsenal goes 3rd

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Unai Emery has answered a lot of off-the-field questions about Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey this year, so we imagine he loved talking about the two for their on-field exploits.

Ozil has struggled to stay in Emery’s side despite his big paycheck, and Ramsey would not sign a new deal with Arsenal and is headed to Juventus on a mega watt deal of his own.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle ]

Asked about two star players from Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat of Newcastle on Monday, a win which pushed the Gunners ahead of rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Emery was happy to gush about both. From the BBC:

“We were improving little by little and our first goal helped us a lot. Mesut Ozil has quality, when he can find the best performance for the team, he is playing like we want with the system and how tactically we want. He is giving us his quality.

“I think Aaron Ramsey is happy, he is helping us and is playing with a very good performance and scoring. Each energy from the players is very important for us and he is doing that. We are at the most important moment of the season.”

So what’s next? Emery is careful not to aim too high considering the congested schedule for all Top Four challengers, and the immense skill on display at each club.

“We are making progess in the table but we know it is difficult, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United are going to win a lot of games.”