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Transfer rumor roundup
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Transfer rumor roundup: Weghorst loves Liverpool, Estupinan in demand

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From the Netherlands to Germany and now, just maybe, England, Wout Weghorst has held a flame for one Premier League club.

That’s not news, as the Wolfsburg free scorer has spoken up his love for Liverpool in the past.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Well now the 27-year-old is angling for a move to the Premier League as he restarts his second season in Germany with 33 goals and 12 assists in 70 matches so far.

Will his beloved Reds answer the bell? Who knows, but he’s not being shy about it so we should assume Everton and Manchester United may not enter into the equation should Jurgen Klopp lack interest.

From Goal.com:

“I always found Liverpool very special. I still get goosebumps from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. There are other great English clubs too, and I always liked Milan because so many Dutch played there. I am ambitious and want to get ahead. Maybe at some point play at another club, whether in Germany or in England? But at the moment it is still far away. I feel good and try to achieve the maximum here.”

Wolfsburg opens play Saturday at Augsburg, and the club is in shouting distance of a return to European football. Wolfsburg is a point back of sixth-place Schalke, and seventh place will likely be a European spot if Bayern Munich, Borussia Monchengladbach, or Bayer Leverkusen win the German Cup and avoid a precipitous drop below sixth.

Watford may have a hot commodity on its hands, if indeed they are willing to sell left back Pervis Estupinan.

Once-capped by Ecuador, the 22-year-old has impressed on loan to Osasuna in La Liga. He has a goal and three assists this season, averaging 1.3 key passes and 1.9 successful dribbles per outing. Defensively, he has averaged 2.7 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 1.5 clearances (WhoScored).

Estupinan was in the Watford family since 2016, having left Quito for Udinese, who is owned by the father of Watford owner Gino Pozzo.

This is his fourth loan away, having spent time with Granada, Almeria, and Mallorca.

A report by the Sport Witness says Manchester United is hoping to purchase the player from Watford and loan him elsewhere in England for more experience.

Left back is an in-demand spot almost anywhere, so Estupinan may want to try his hand at impressing a new boss at Watford or any of the other suitors linked in the report: Barcelona, Spurs, and Atletico Madrid.

The price tag is said to be around $8 million, and that seems like it could be a good value even if the plan is for well into the future.

La Liga roundup: Messi-less Barcelona halted by Osasuna

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Barcelona’s draw and Real Betis’ win highlight Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Osasuna 2-2 Barcelona

With Antoine Griezmann’s magic nowhere to be spotted, Barcelona felt every bit of Lionel Messi’s absence for a second time this season.

Messi has yet to feature for the defending champions this season. Without him, Barcelona are off to a their worst start since Pep Guardiola‘s treble-winning side 11 years ago, earning only four points throughout three matches.

Barcelona’s latest hiccup? A 2-2 draw against a persistent Osasuna.

Osasuna’s game-defining goal came in the late stages, following a penalty call on Gerard Pique. Roberto Morales’ brace concluded a triumphant draw for the home side, that despite being severely outpossessed, managed to create more chances than Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Although the numbers aren’t in their favor, there is a glaring break in the clouds for Barcelona: 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the club’s youngest player to score in La Liga. The highly-touted left winger was brought on in the second half, and proved to be pivotal in the Catalonian’s punctured frontline.

With or without Messi, Barcelona host Valencia next, while Osasuna hope to continue their positive run against Real Valladolid.

Real Betis 2-1 Leganes 

For the first time this season, Real Betis have won a game.

With back-to-back losses to start the new campaign, Los Verdiblancos were far from meeting the high expectations that had them bouncing back from a wobbly 2018/2019 season. The team’s transition following a plethora of departures didn’t help the cause.

That continues to be the case for Real Betis, but with players such as summer signing Nabil Fekir, who continues to become more influential with each passing day, things can be different for Rubi’s side this time around.

The 26-year-old Frenchman, who missed out on move to Liverpool last summer, scored the game-winner against Leganes. With Giovani Lo Celso in London with Tottenham, Fekir is seamlessly becoming the ideal replacement: scoring two goals in the first three games La Liga.

The Sevilla based side can benefit from it again with Getafe up next, while Leganes, who are dead last, can learn something from Betis’ perseverance ahead of their bout against Villareal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 2-0 Real Valladolid

Getafe 1-1 Alaves

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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Neymar out, Arda Turan has another chance for Barcelona

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Fresh off scoring a hat trick, Turkey midfielder Arda Turan is hoping for another chance to prove he can play alongside Barcelona’s best.

[ MORE: Man City faces Leicester without Aguero, Fernandinho ]

With Neymar suspended for Saturday’s Spanish league match at Osasuna, Turan is likely to take his spot next to Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the defending champion’s vaunted attack.

[ MORE: Arsenal looks to continue unbeaten run against Stoke City ]

Turan filled in superbly for Neymar on Tuesday when he scored his first hat trick for Barcelona to lead the team to a 4-0 victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League.

The treble took Turan’s scoring total for the season to eight goals, making him Barcelona’s third-leading scorer behind Messi (20) and Suarez (12).

Even though nobody doubts Neymar is the more talented of the two, the Brazil striker has managed only six goals despite playing 400 minutes more than Turan this season.

Neymar’s suspensions from both the `Gladbach and Osasuna matches were for accumulation of bookings in both competitions.

“Arda is scoring lots of goals. When he plays on the wing he has many skills he can draw on,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “He can also play in midfield. I am happy for him.”

Turan, however, has proven to be a tough piece for Luis Enrique to fit into Barcelona’s talent-laden puzzle.

As his coach said, Turan has impressed on the left side of the attack. But that spot has Neymar’s name stamped on it, and Turan has struggled when asked to play further back.

While Turan flourishes when given space and the freedom to break down defenses, he looks uncomfortable in Barcelona’s demanding precision passing approach.

His unease with the defensive tasks that playing in midfield entails was clear in last weekend’s match against Real Madrid when Turan went on as a late substitute to help protect a one-goal lead.

Instead, Turan’s foul on Marcelo conceded a dangerous free kick that Luka Modric didn’t waste, placing a cross for Sergio Ramos to head in a 90th-minute equalizer and snatch a 1-1 draw that kept Madrid six points clear at the top of the Spanish table.

Turan took a lot of heat for that foul in the Barcelona sports media, meaning his three goals against `Gladbach couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We haven’t played well recently and haven’t gotten good results,” Turan said. “We tried to get the best possible result and play at our best (against `Gladbach).”

Now 29, Turan developed into one of the league’s top attacking midfielders through four seasons with Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, helping the once second-rate team become one of Europe’s best with league, Copa del Rey and Europa League titles.

But when Barcelona called in 2015, Turan changed clubs despite knowing that he couldn’t play until 2016 because of Barcelona’s FIFA-imposed one-year ban on new players for breaking its transfer rules regarding underage players.

The former Galatasaray standout also joined Barcelona well aware that competition for playing time, never mind a regular starting role, would be fierce with the likes of Messi, Suarez and, above all, Neymar.

After failing to find a spot following his debut midway through last campaign, Turan made a promising start to this season when Neymar was away playing for Brazil.

He scored twice in a Spanish Super Cup victory over Sevilla and notched Barcelona’s first league goal of the season. But once Neymar was back from helping Brazil win the Olympic gold medal, Turan was back on the bench.

[ MORE: Watford, Everton meet with both clubs looking to halt poor form ]

The reserve role clearly didn’t suit him. Only one of his goals this season has come as a substitute, when he sparked a 2-1 comeback at `Gladbach in September.

Unlike this week’s second win over `Gladbach, which came with Barcelona already qualified for the Champions League’s knockout rounds, Barcelona visits Pamplona on Saturday needing to break a run of three straight league draws.

Promoted Osasuna appears to be the optimum rival to end that skid. It is in last place and hasn’t won in seven home matches since its return to the first division.

La Liga relegation places decided

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After an exciting final round in La Liga, the relegation places have been decided: Real Betis, Real Valladolid and Osasuna will be playing in the Segunda Liga next season.

With just 25 points on the season, Real Betis’s fate was sealed long ago. Their unfortunate tangle with Europa League, and their loss of their best player to Bilbao, shaped their season – to devastating effect.

Valladolid fell to Granada in the weekend’s most nerve-wracking match, as Granada could’ve very well slipped down had they failed to win. But Valladolid dug their own grave, with Stefan Mitrović putting the ball in the back of his own net just before the break.

Osasuna had a bit of trouble at their match, with a retaining barrier collapsing twelve minutes in, after the first goal was scored. An estimated 40 fans were injured, although none are in serious condition. After a 35-minute delay, the game was restarted, with the decision made to delay the start of the second half in the three other matches. Osasuna scored a second almost immediately after, but ultimately it didn’t matter. They needed Granada, Getafe or Almeria to lose, and that didn’t happen.

It’s unknown yet who will move up to the top division. Deportivo la Coruna, who were relegated last season and very nearly slipped down to the third division thanks to a dispute over players’ wages, are currently top in Spain’s second division. But with three games left to go after this weekend, it’s really too soon to say who we’ll be welcoming to La Liga.

Here’s how everything else in La Liga shook out…

Champions

Atlético Madrid! They drew with Barcelona to clinch the La Liga title on Saturday.

Champions League

Barcelona and Real Madrid will skip qualifying and go straight into the group stages. Atheltic Bilbao will take the fourth spot, joining the tournament for the last playoff round.

Europa League

Sevilla, Villarreal and Real Sociedad round out Spain’s European teams. That’s particularly impressive for Villarreal, who spent last season in the second division.