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Transfer rumor roundup: Arsenal, Man City linked with mids; New home for Mourinho?

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Pep Guardiola may’ve changed his mind on the whole “no January signings” stance.

The Manchester Evening News has quotes from Porto center midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero saying he’s having conversation with Manchester City.

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Quintero is adamant that he will only move if the deal is perfect, as he’s quite happy on loan at River Plate.

The purchase would be the latest big money sale for Porto, having been a regular loanee from the Portuguese outfit. The attack-minded soon-to-be 26-year-old midfielder can also play on the right side of the pitch.

Unai Emery is close to getting a much-desired reunion with Denis Suarez, who’d like an equally-needed change of scenery.

Suarez, who turns 25 on Sunday, has made just six appearances, scoring twice for Barcelona and has a reported $25 million price tag.

The pair spent a season together at Sevilla, where Suarez scored six goals with five assist but was not used in the final two rounds of the Europa League title run.

Meanwhile, Barcelona may be adding a midfielder after the season in mercurial Adrien Rabiot of Paris Saint-Germain.

Ernesto Valverde knows how to handle big personalities, and the lack of a transfer fee would make the risk worthwhile even at a reported $12 million salary.

And Jose Mourinho may be in the frame for his next job already, at the site of his first, very-brief foray into management.

Record (Portuguese link) says Mourinho could move to Benfica, where he presided over a nine-match run in 2000 before resigning after being denied a contract extension.

That was the only controversial stint in his managerial career, period (What’s that you say?).

Finally, The Daily Mirror says Nice outcast Mario Balotelli is preparing a move to Marseille, spuring Newcastle United after falling out of favor with manager Patrick Vieira.

Report: Pity Martinez could cost Atlanta United almost $14 million

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It’s not as much as the club spent on Ezequiel Barco, but Atlanta United has again reportedly shelled out a boatload of money compared to most MLS transactions to sign its latest Argentine star.

According to a report from Argentine daily newspaper Ole, Atlanta United and River Plate agreed on a base $10 million transfer fee for midfielder Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez. The fee could rise to nearly $14 million should Martinez make 10 MLS starts, or should he be sold to a new club, which-ever comes first, along with agent fees and taxes. In addition, Atlanta United and River Player will play a friendly match in the future, with River Plate keeping the proceeds of the match.

The agreement is lower than Martinez’s reported release clause, which has been cited at both $15 million and $17 million from different outlets.

Martinez, 25, scored the third goal in River Plate’s wild 3-1 win over Boca Juniors in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, which took place at the Estadio Bernabeu in Madrid. Martinez decided to take Atlanta United’s offer reportedly because they “put their trust” in him, while European suitors did not. At 25, Martinez is entering the prime of his career and is a major coup for MLS.

Although not many clubs can afford to pay those fees, if more of the top South American stars are looking to come to the U.S., it will only raise the level of the league, as European sides miss out on the available talent. For Atlanta United, it leaves them in an interesting situation.

More than likely Martinez will be a Designated Player, but at the moment, Atlanta United’s three DP spots are all filled by Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Barco. Almiron is reportedly close to a move to the Premier League, with Newcastle reportedly his potential destination, but no announcement has been made yet.

Like the LA Galaxy, Atlanta United has until March to finalize their season-opening roster with three DPs, but expect plenty of movement in January as the transfer window in Europe and abroad opens.

River Plate loses on penalties to Al Ain at Club World Cup

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AL AIN CITY, United Arab Emirates (AP) South American champion River Plate was upset by Al Ain FC in the Club World Cup on Tuesday, losing in a penalty shootout after the semifinal finished 2-2 following extra time.

Al Ain’s players converted all five penalty kicks, before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa saved Enzo Perez’s fifth shot for River to seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout.

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River endured the humbling loss to the team from United Arab Emirates less than two weeks after thrilling its fans with a memorable win over fierce Argentine rival Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores.

Real Madrid plays Kashima Antlers on Wednesday in the other semifinal.

Marcus Berg put Al Ain ahead in the third minute before Santos Borre scored twice to give River the lead in the 16th.

Brazilian forward Caio pulled Al Ain level at 2-2 in the 51st.

Gonzalo Martinez had an opportunity to put River back in front from the penalty spot after Mohamed Ahmad fouled Milton Casco in the area. But Martinez hit the 68th-minute spot kick against the crossbar.

The final is on Saturday.

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

WATCH LIVE: River Plate v. Al Ain, Club World Cup semifinal

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River Plate face Al Ain in a 2018 FIFA World Club Cup semifinal in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

The controversially, and recently crowned, South American champions are the favorites although Al Ain eased by Es Tunis in their quarterfinal clash on Saturday and will have the support of the locals in their hometown.

River’s players will be more than a little drained from the high emotions of beating Boca Juniors in the delayed Copa Libertadores final second leg which was finally played in Madrid last weekend.

Click on the link above to watch the game via Telemundo Deportes, with the game also available to watch on NBC Universo.

You can also watch Real Madrid play the Kashima Antlers on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET in the other semifinal. Real have won the last three Club World Cups on the trot.

The final will take place on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET, which you can also watch on NBC Universo.

Extra-time golazo lifts River over Boca in Copa Libertadores final

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For all of the negativity surrounding the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors — from the bus attack, to postponing the game, to moving it to Madrid — the 90 120 minutes of actual soccer delivered on the pre-final hype of a first-ever Superclasico to crown a South American champion.

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Tied 2-2 after the first leg nearly a month ago now, Sunday’s second leg — played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu — saw River Plate top their bitter Buenos Aires rivals 3-1 (5-3 on aggregate) in extra time.

Dario Benedetto put Boca ahead with the game’s opening goal just before halftime. While the finish was certainly clinical, it’s the through ball from Nahitan Nandez that stole the show, and rightly so. Nandez split two defenders with his inch-perfect pass into space, sending Benedetto in for a straightforward one-on-one chance which he slotted away with ease.

But River fought back with an exceptionally worked equalizer in the 68th minute. Ignacio Fernandez cut the ball back for Lucas Pratto who swept it home from near the penalty spot.

Juan Quintero hammered home the winning goal from outside the penalty area after 109 minutes. Quintero’s left-footed strike departed his foot like a missile and crashed off the underside of the crossbar.

River put the exclamation point on, and added insult to heartbreak, with a stoppage-time, empty-netter to make it 3-1. Gonzalo Martinez raced toward the end of the stadium full of blue and yellow-clad supporters and rolled the ball home with the last meaningful kick of the game.