2018 World Cup snubbed starting XI

The World Cup is nearly upon us. Rosters have been released and updated the closer Russia gets. That means there were some players who were not invited to represent their country this summer. I’ve therefore complied what I think would be the 2018 World Cup snubbed starting XI. Disclaimer: I realize that some of these players are on standby should an injury or illness render a teammate incapable of playing, but these players were not listed as part of the original 23-man roster for their country. I have decided to go with a 4-4-2 flat formation for this compilation of players.

Goalkeeper: Stéphane Ruffier (France), AS Saint-Étienne

Since France has a plethora of goalkeeping talent, Ruffier got the short end of this stick. Hugo Lloris, Alphonse Areola and Steve Mandanda were chosen by Didier Deschamps to be the keepers for the French camp. Ruffier claimed 12 clean sheets during the Ligue 1 season in 35 appearances (tied for 4th in the league with Steve Mandanda).

Left-back: Lucas Digne (France), FC Barcelona

Being stuck behind Jordi Alba for first choice LB can be frustrating. Digne was able to produce when called upon as he helped Barca collect five clean sheets in 12 league appearances; Digne also added in 2 assists this season. Deschamps went with the younger Lucas Hernandez (22) for the position, who had 27 league appearances for Atletico Madrid. Digne is 24 and has been named on the list of players on standby.

Center-backs: David Luiz (Brazil), Chelsea FC, and Aymeric Laporte (France), Manchester City

David Luiz was a big part of Chelsea’s league-best defense in 2016-17

Finally, someone that isn’t French that got snubbed. David Luiz arrived 2nd season back at Chelsea was met with disappointment as the Brazilian made only 10 league appearances. Luiz was essentially buried on the bench by Antonio Conte. However, David Luiz is one of those players that plays better for his country than he does for his club.

Back to France we go, as Laporte made 19 appearances in La Liga before being transferred to Manchester City in January; Nine appearances in the Premier League. With Arsenal’s Koschielny out with an injury, Laporte probably felt he would’ve gotten a call-up, but injury struck him as well.

Right-back: Juanfran (Spain), Atletico Madrid

The 33-year-old Spaniard was left out due to the abundance of talent Spain has at RB (Carvajal and Azpilicueta were selected). However, Juanfran played well for Atletico. He attributed to 11 clean sheets in 17 league appearances which is a very nice ratio. The veteran will be missed in Russia.

Left-midfield: Franck Ribèry (France), FC Bayern Munich

Age no doubt played a part in the 35-year-old’s snub. A mainstay in Germany’s top club for years now would surely have Deschamps’ attention. Unfortunately, France has a surplus of young talent on the left wing like Lemar, Greizmann and fellow Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman.

Right-midfield: Anthony Martial (France), Manchester United

Reports suggest that Martial’s attitude in training during the last international break resulted in him not getting the call-up. Deschamps would prefer to work with wonderkids, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. Martial is, however, on a standby list for France. Martial made 30 league appearances for Manchester United producing 9 goals and 5 assists.

Center-midfield: Radja Nainggolan (Belgium), AS Roma, and Adrien Rabiot (France), Paris Saint-Germain

Probably the most controversial omission of all the rosters is that of Radja Nainggolan. With 31 league appearances, nine assists and four goals, the Belgian is arguably the best midfielder in Serie A. And yet, for petty disciplinary reasons, Roberto Martinez has left him out of the squad in favor of the likes of inconsistent Marouane Fellaini. While Nainggolan isn’t the best player of “the golden generation”, he is a huge talent within it. This snub could cost Belgium as his inclusion would only help the team.

Roma leader, Nainggolan, shrugs off his snub; “I have a new Guinness World Record”

Again, France leaves out another valuable player. Must be nice having all this talent to choose from, eh Deschamps? The 23-year-old was in the PSG lineup constantly, making 32 league appearances. Rabiot actually recently asked to be taken off the standby list as he felt it insulting to not be on the 23-man roster. Can’t say he’s short on confidence.

Strikers: Mauro Icardi (Argentina), Inter Milan, and Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), LA Galaxy

It must be hard living in this era of forwards that Argentina has. Once again, Icardi has been snubbed by a coach in favor of Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and some guy named Lionel Messi. With 29 Serie A goals in 34 appearances to his name, Sampaoli decided club teammates Dybala (22 Serie A goals) and Higuain (16 Serie A goals) were a better fit for how he wanted his side to play in Russia. Even if that were the case, Higuain has had his chances with the national team and hasn’t shown up in the big games. I think it is criminal that Icardi has not been given his chance on the world stage.

Zlatan made a move from Manchester United to LA Galaxy last month

The big Swede wanted to un-retire from international football in order to make his first World Cup appearance, but was denied by the Swedish FA and coach. Zlatan did not participate in qualifying so rather than upset the balance and chemistry of the team that got to the World Cup, the coach and FA decided against it. While the neutral fan will be saddened that this World Cup will be without Zlatan, the locker room will have the confidence of the manager.

Substitutions/Honorable Mentions

While the following players may not be the only players missing from the 23-man rosters, these players I feel deserve a mention due to name, reputation or merit:

Mateo Mussachio (Argentina), AC Milan

Kingsley Coman (France), FC Bayern Munich

Javier Pastore (Argentina), Paris Saint-Germain

Alexandre Lacazette (France), Arsenal

Karim Benzema (France), Real Madrid

Fabinho (Brazil), AS Monaco

Joe Hart (England), West Ham United

 

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Memorable season for the Premier League’s top 10

This year turned out to be quite a memorable season for the Premier League; from historic to disappointing finishes, the season was filled with drama. Nonetheless, it was one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory outside of Leicester’s magical 2016 run. Let’s make a magical run ourselves down memory lane for the top 10 from the 2017-18 EPL season:

Manchester City first ever to reach 100 points

Pep Guardiola has brought an exciting brand of football to England and doesn’t look to be slowing down.

Manchester City are historic champions; the only to finish with 100 points in a 38 game season. While they were the best, they still need better defenders to contend for a UCL title; Kompany is old, Otamendi doesn’t fit into Pep’s system and Stones hasn’t developed yet. The left-back position needs the most depth with Mendy out most of the year and Delph having to shoulder the majority of the load. And with Agüero expected to leave this summer, it couldn’t hurt to sign a striker to back up Gabriel Jesus. Pep Guardiola recently signed a contract extension through 2021. With that extension, a new dynasty in Manchester could be on the rise with the hope that European success comes with it.

Jose Mourinho guides the Red Devils to 2nd place

Manchester United finished as runner-up unspectacularly. The Red Devils got off to a hot start this season but fizzled out by Christmas. Man United had to resort to grinding out results and one goal wins. The Manchester side was unable to grab any trophies this season having lost in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea. Mourinho has been at odds with his stars and their instincts; Mourinho appears to want his players to be defense oriented, despite the attacking prowess his team possesses. And yet, Manchester need a better defense. This team needs to buy-in to what the coach’s system or the coach needs to allow his attacking players to let their instincts take over; some sort of balance between the two. If they’re able to find that balance, this could be the challenger to Man City’s dominance over the league.

Another season without a trophy for Spurs

Tottenham edge out Liverpool for 3rd and a few questions pose Spurs fans. Will Pochettino stay? Will Real Madrid come calling for Harry Kane? Assuming both stay, what needs to change to put some silverware on the shelf? They need a better midfield outside Eriksen. Or at least better than what Dembélé and Wanyama can offer. While these players have done well in Pochettino’s system, they haven’t produced trophies throughout his tenure as manager; something has to change to pull this team out of limbo. An FA Cup semi-final appearance and a round of 16 appearance in the UCL hasn’t made this season feel any better for Spurs. At this rate, they are the next Arsenal; always finishing in a top spot, but not a trophy to show for it.

Reds reach UCL qualification for 2nd straight year with Klopp

Liverpool land into the final UCL qualifying spot. Mohamed Salah wins the golden boot with a record-breaking 32 goals this season. The 2018 UCL finalists have a couple glaring needs behind their lethal attack that need to be addressed to contend for a domestic title next season; Goalkeeper, defense and midfield. Dejan Lovren‘s days in that backline should be numbered; van Dijk can only influence him so much to sure up the back. The Reds need a better goalkeeper to continue to compete with Europe’s elite; this would solidify their defenses and get them through their defensive woes. And after letting Coutinho go to Barcelona, Emre Can leaving for Juventus, and Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain battling injury, the midfield could use some depth that Klopp can depend on. If they’re able to address all of these needs, Anfield can start expecting titles to come; Liverpool was one of the few teams that beat Manchester City over the course of the season. Imagine how unstoppable and entertaining Liverpool would be without the defensive woes.

Liverpool boast one of the most entertaining brands of football the world is currently witnessing

Underwhelming title defense for Chelsea

Chelsea go from EPL Champions and UCL qualification to Europa League. Despite winning the FA Cup, Antonio Conte could be leaving (or be told to leave) the club after a disappointing season following his successful 2016-17 campaign. Chelsea is hoping to extend Eden Hazard’s contract or else succumb to his desires to leave for Real Madrid. Whether Conte leaves or not, Chelsea will need to recruit a more able forward than the seemingly mentally fragile Alvaro Morata; the departure of Diego Costa in January decimated the depth at the position. While Olivier Giroud seems to have taken away appearances from Morata, Chelsea would relish the chance to sign a better striker. And with John Terry and Nemanja Matic gone, a gaping hole was left in the Blues defense; a hole that will have to be filled to contend with the top 4.

The end of Wenger means a new Arsenal

Arsenal look to replace Arsene Wenger before the next transfer window (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

The Gunners barely squeeze into the Europa League at 6. Arsenal are looking for a new manager for the first time in 22 years. Whoever replaces Arsene Wenger, will have to rebuild the entire team with exception of about a handful of players. The defense is the portion of the team that requires the most attention. Cech, Mustafi, Koscienly and Mertesacker have all seen better seasons; Gunner fans would love to see some competition to get them into gear or be shown the door. A new mentality is what this team needs and the next manager needs to embody that.

A good season by Burnley standards

Burnley overachieved this season and almost unseated Arsenal completely in European competition at 6; the team, unfortunately, slipped up towards the end. A scrappy and fundamentally sound side; Certainly manager of the year considerations go to Sean Dyche for his work with what would be considered a cheap team by the standards of the “big 6” mentioned above. No one is sure how they’ll be able to financially compete with those 6 next season, but that’s why we play the games.

Investments don’t pay off for Everton

Everton end the season in the top 10, which I would say that was their goal this season. However, given how much they spent in the last two transfer windows, they are probably disappointed with how they played. Sam Allardyce recently has been sacked, so the first order of business would be a new manager. Whoever that ends up being will have to find a replacement for Wayne Rooney as the Englishman is leaving for MLS. Striker and midfield would be the areas most in need of improvement for the Toffees; their goal difference of -14 was the worst of any top 10 team.

Foxes return to the top 10

Leicester City finish top 10. Despite some January drama with Riyad Mahrez wanting a transfer, the Foxes were able to stay out of the relegation battle this season. The club expect Mahrez to leave this summer; the club hopes to invest in more talent with his transfer. Defense will have to be addressed as the Foxes were in the negative on goal difference.

Leicester City return to the top 10 for the first time since winning the title in 2016

Benitez has brought Newcastle back to EPL relevance

From relegation a couple seasons ago and back to the top flight, Newcastle United round out the top 10. Rafa Benitez ought to be satisfied with his job thus far in restoring the historic club. Benitez will have to look for better attackers in the coming transfer window; Newcastle struggled to find the back of the net this season averaging about one goal per game.

 

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Has Chelsea gotten worse this summer?

Chelsea won the premier league with two matches left last season, losing only five matches. They added the second-highest points tally in Premier League history with 93 points. In doing so, they broke the record for the number of wins in a season with 30 and equalized the record for consecutive wins in a season (13.). At the end of the season, they were seen as heavy favorites to repeat with the potential of ending the year with a domestic double. Then the FA Cup Final happened, Victor Moses gets sent off and Arsenal controls the rest of the match to win the title, ending the great season Chelsea with a sour taste.

Transfer moves have actually hurt the Blues chances

Diego Costa was told he wasn’t needed earlier this summer (image: Getty Images)

Ever since Victor Moses was sent off the team in that final, Chelsea has been trending downwards. Diego Costa was told he wasn’t needed a couple of weeks later with the goal in mind that Romelu Lukaku would be brought in as a replacement. Then fast forward a couple of weeks and their main rival Manchester United came in and swooped up the Belgium striker leaving Chelsea forced to buy their second option in Alvaro Morata. In essence, Chelsea created a problem they didn’t have to face by just telling Diego Costa nothing and selling him when the replacement was in the club. Now you still haven’t found a good replacement and the league starts this upcoming weekend.

Is Bakayoko enough?

Tiémoué Bakayoko who Chelsea got for £40 million (Image: Getty Images)

That is just the main example of how the Blues have been fumbling this transfer window. Their second big money signing was Tiémoué Bakayoko which cost the Blues £40 million. The young Frenchman was brought in to make more competition in the middle of the field. He is an elite ball winner coming from the French champs Monaco and is just 22 years old. Yet Chelsea didn’t mess up in signing him, they did in responding to his arrival by selling Nemanja Matic, one of the corner stones of the latest two championships Chelsea has won, and Nathaniel Chabolah.

 

 

Selling players to the competition will hurt Chelsea

Selling Matic to Manchester United has given one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals a great player that fills one of their biggest holes for the same money as Bakayoko. So while you feel the squad has marginally improved United has improved far more. So ultimately the transfer move has in a way benefited your rival more than the team, which is something you never want. Both the selling Matic and denouncing Diego Costa are self-inflicted problems that have really hurt their chances of repeating.

Nemanja Matic who was sold to one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals Manchester United (image: Getty Images)

The third thing that has made them worse is losing many of the young talents that would have helped the squad dealing with the rise of fixtures this season when the team is in the Champions League. Chelsea is known in recent years for having one of the best academies in the world but none of the players seem to be making the jump into the first team. The example this year can be seen with Dominic Solanke who was sold for basically nothing to Liverpool and Nathaniel Chabolah who was captain of the England youth setup and was sold for only £5 million.

 

 

Is Chelsea a selling club?

The biggest problem with Chelsea’s transfer window is they haven’t really spent, which is troublesome in a summer where all your biggest rivals are spending over £200 million. As of today, Chelsea has spent £127,500,000 while earning £105,300,000 from offloading players. This means they have just spent £22,200,000 and that is without the sale of Diego Costa. So once that deal is finally done it would mean Chelsea would be a selling club while the rest of its competitors are spending an insane amount of money.

So while Chelsea making money in the summer is not a bad thing, it is if you are trying to compete in all the competition at the same time. What defending champion has decided to not spend in the transfer market? Even two times European champion Real Madrid is making moves. Big clubs always try to improve the squad in summer but the Blues look more focused on doing good business than actually improving a squad that needs work.

What the community shield showed us

In a matter of months, Chelsea has gone from the heavy favorite to a club that must spend to keep up with the rest. The example of the level dropping was seen in the Community Shield Sunday where the display against an Arsenal team that was missing Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil was pretty poor. Both Batshuayi and Morata struggled to keep the ball up front and hold possession which led to many long balls from the wings to just fly over. This shows that a proper replacement for Diego Costa has yet to be found or that both strikers need to improve for the team to find success.

Arsenal beat Chelsea in the community shield showcasing a lot of Chelsea’s problems ( Images: Getty Images)

The second big hole was seen when Fabregas got tired. When the Spaniard got tired in the second half Arsenal was able to find spaces a keep possession in big spells. Fabregas is no longer the player that can play box to box for a full 90 minutes and there was no Matic to come in and help. Bakayoko will help but he is young and unproven and time will be needed for him to incorporate himself well with the squad.

Chelsea was the talk of English football last season but in a matter of a couple months, they are no longer favorites. This leaves many fans lost with what the plan actually is, Chelsea will have to make moves to try to improve the squad in the coming weeks before the season starts if the Blues really want to repeat as champions and have a good showing in the champions league. The summer has been bad for Chelsea but there is still time to bring in a couple of players that turn everything around.

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Transfer fees keep rising, here is how this summer compares to twenty years ago

How times have changed.
In this summer Manchester city has spent over $300 million on defenders and a goalkeeper. Manchester United has spent over £100 million on two players. Chelsea paid £70 million for a striker who only scored 15 league goals.

If you said that twenty years ago you would have been mocked and call crazy.The numbers today are bigger than anyone thought they would ever be and each summer they keep on rising.To showcase the drastic rise in transfer fees the last 20 years in this article I compared this summer’s transfer window with the one twenty years ago of the 1996-1997 season.

In that summer only three players in the whole transfer window went for over £10 million, now every English team has at least one £10 million signing each summer. The top three leagues spent a combined of £288 million, which sounds about the number Manchester City will end up with this summer. That’s a single team spending as much as 60 clubs did twenty years ago.

Yet, that wasn’t the most shocking thing I found. Here are the top four things that surprise when you look back and compare transfer windows.

Zidane to Juventus for only £3.2 million

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Zidane joining Turin back for only 3.2 Million.(Image: Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane would have been the second cheapest signing in the premier league so far this summer. Besides the free signing and the players on loan, only Eldin Jakupović has come at a lower price. He was named Ligue 1’s Player of the Year for 1995/1996 playing for Bordeaux and France’s Player of the Year for 1996 before coming to Turin. Zidane would finish the year third in the Ballon d’Or and win it the next season. What’s mind-blowing is 20 years ago 3.2 million you could sign one of the best players in the world and today that money only gets you a backup goalkeeper like Jakupovic. If you said that Zidane twenty years from now would actually be worth 100 million you would have been laughed at but you would have been right.

Barcelona’s signing Ronaldo from PSV for a £12.8million fee. (image: Getty Images)

 

Jay Rodriguez cost the same as Ronaldo did

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Jay Rodriguez picking West Brom (images: Getty Images)

In that summer Barcelona paid the second largest transfer fee of £12.8 million for Ronaldo, who was coming off scoring 42 goals in 46 appearances for PSV. He would go on become La Liga’s top scorer with 31 goals and finish second for the Ballon d’Or that season. That is what £12 million got you 20 years ago, now you get Jay Rodriguez. At the beginning of the month, West Brom paid £12 million to Southampton for Rodriguez. Who in his whole career has only scored 26 first division goals, something Ronaldo topped in only one season, and has had chronic knee problems. These problems that have to force the striker to miss 75 premier league games. This is the perfect example of how big the inflation has been. Jay Rodriguez, a middle of the road striker, hasn’t scored more than five goals in a season for three years now. Yet he goes at a rate that only three players went for 20 years ago. £12 million used to buy one the best players in the world in the middle of his prime, in today’s market it gets a 27-year old project that has suffered chronic knee injuries. Something you couldn’t have imagined back then.

31 goals used to cost £15 million now 15 goals cost £70 million

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Alan Shearer signing for Newcastle United for a what was then world record amount of £15million (image: Chronicle Live UK)

Alan Shearer was the most expensive signing that summer when Newcastle paid £15 million. He was coming off scoring 34 and 31 goals in back to back seasons and winning the title with Blackburn the year before. He was 26, right in the middle of his prime, a proven goalscorer and a central part of a championship team. It only made sense he would be the most expensive player that summer. Now compare that to today’s time when a proven 30 goal striker would go upwards of 100 million. Morata just signed to Chelsea for 70 Million having scored only 15 league goals. He was only a rotational player in his club, and while still productive he has yet to prove to anybody he can the focal point of an elite team’s offence. The market for strikers is increasing by the summer. In Today’s game proven goal scorers are hard to find and to buy even more. It leaves teams in desperate search for any of them and to keep them once they do have. Morata has only 40 career first division goals while Shearer scored 65 in two seasons before his transfer. 15 goals in today’s game are almost five times more expensive than 31 twenty years ago.

Lukaku cost the same as the money spent by English clubs 20 years ago.

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Lukaku’s transfer fee is bigger than the sum of all English transfers twenty seasons ago. (image: Getty Images)

Lukaku signed for United for £75 million which is the exact same amount as English clubs spent in the summer transfer window of twenty years ago. Before teams could be composed of players all worth under a million dollars, have an elite team and never really splash the cash. In today’s market that would be impossible. Teams in today’s market are desperate to get players a spend millions on millions and find success. With TV money coming in now, big money flops aren’t as hurtful for a team. Back then every transfer was a huge investment and a mistake could be crucial and set your club up for years in the second division or financial trouble. The TV money has come in and given teams more wiggle room to work with and take a risk. Yet that explains why the lower clubs in the English premier league have been breaking transfer records left and right but not the powerhouses. Teams like Manchester United in today’s game get so much money from a global market besides just the normal TV deal that £75 million is nothing to them. So while the transfer fees keep rising it’s driven due to European elite clubs taking advantage of globalization and creating income that soccer clubs could not have imagined twenty years ago. Which is why a 24-year-old Belgian could cost the same as every player transferred in England twenty years ago.

 

Soccer is truly a global sport and the globalization of the soccer has been the catalyst of transfer fees exponentially rising to places where no one would have thought. In just twenty years we have gone from paying just over £10 million for the best players in the world to buying was seen as hard spending to having multiple players in the news rumored to be having £100 million moves. How times have changed.

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Top 5 Current Transfer Stories

Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal

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Alexis Sanchez,who has yet to sign an extension and would be free to go next summer (Image:Getty Images)

Alexis Sanchez is on the last year of his current contract and there has still been no announcement of him signing an extension. This means even thou Arsenal has started preseason with him in the squad if no contract is signed they will be forced to sell the player or face the fear he leaves on a free transfer next summer(which Arsenal will never let happen). Currently Manchester City and Bayern Munich are looking for the Chilean signature and if Alexis Sanchez doesn’t sign a contract it  might just force Arsenal to sell there main man. While Arsenal will demand a lot of money for the Chilean, teams know the situation and low ball their offers. Sanchez score 24 goals and gave 10 assists for the Gunners last season. What also adds stress to the situation is Arsenal missed out on Champions League Football and it would be very hard to find a proper replacement for the Chilean. They may have the money but Emirates Stadium is not that attractive without Champions League Football. It is essential for Arsenal to try to keep Alexis.

To understand how essential it is for Arsenal I posted a link HERE of Sanchez highlights last season.

Ivan Perisic To Manchester United

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Inter Milan are asking £50 million for Perisic. Who scored 11 and had 8 assist last season.(Image: Getty Images)

This transfer negotiation has been going on back and worth for a while now. The sides are supposedly only £9 million apart with pricing. Ivan Perisic is coming off one of his most productive season with Inter Milan netting 11 goals and creating eight assists, dominating the left-wing. The Croatian is a quick player who is also big and great in the air, things that are usually needed to succeed in the physical English premier league. Manchester United look to bring in the player to bolster their attack, which only scored 53 goals last season. Perisic’s play style also fits the Mourinho classic counter attack style and fits well with United latest signing Romelu LukaKu. From the Inter Milan point of view their isn’t much to do except try to get a much as you can for him. Inter want to keep Perisic but he his trying to force the move and its never smart to try to keep a player if they want to leave.

Highlights explaining his £50 million price can be seen HERE.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid or Arsenal

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Where will he be “the main man” next season? (Image: REUTERS)

The Mbappe saga has been the longest of the summer since it started before the summer had arrived. Kylian Mbappe broke into the scene last season as an 18-year-old earning his spot in Monaco’s starting XI. With that spot he became the best player on the side scoring 15 and totaling eight assists in Ligue 1 and netting six goals in Champions League play. He led the team that won the French league and reached the Semifinal of the biggest tournament in Europe at such a young age. It is no wonder why the 18-year-old kid is rumored to be going for the biggest transfer fee in history, or close to it. Real Madrid seem to be the front-runners but they still haven’t sold Alvaro Morata to make the money and clear the space for French International to come. Arsenal on the other hand can’t offer him Champions League play, a tournament he would be able to participate if he doesn’t move. No deal is close, leaving Monaco worried it all might come down to the deadline. Monaco is trying to convince the youngster to stay one more year in the French league before moving to one of the big teams in Europe.This would give Monaco more time to get the right deal. Ultimately Mbappe has said to press he wants to play for Madrid and it is only a matter of time until the Spanish giants get the financial and squad space together.

Highlights of the wunderkind can be seen HERE.

Nelson Semedo to Barcelona

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After missing out on Bellerin,Semedo has become Barcelona’s main right back target (Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Barcelona has been desperate in their look for a right back. Most of last season they played with Sergi Roberto at the position, a natural midfield player. Their long transfer target for the position. Hector Bellerin, has officially ruled out the move and Barcelona in recent weeks have changed their focus to the Portuguese international Nelson Semedo. The 23-year-old right back started 31 of the 34 games for the Portuguese champions, Benfica, and created seven assists coming from the back. Semedo also has great passing and dribbling skills which goes hand in hand with Barcelona’s system. The negotiations have been slow but expect them to speed up quickly now that it’s official Bellerin is not coming and preseason is starting.

Highlight of the player you might be seeing in every Classico next season HERE

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the last proven striker left in the market, Where will he land? (Image:Getty Images)

Chelsea is desperate to get a world-class striker into the building after missing out on Romelu lukaku and telling Diego Costa he is not wanted. They don’t have a proven goal scoring threat up top. While Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang is not the greatest fit to Antonio Conte’s style, the other strikers Chelsea are looking at are to overpriced. Morata and Andrea Belotti are more ideal targets for Conte but both are priced slightly lower than Aubameyang and are not as proven. The Gabon striker scored 31 goals in 32 appearances and Borussia Dortmund seem to want to cash in on the striker. Chelsea made an 70 million offer for the forward late Thursday night and negotiations are starting to begin. Aubemeyang has become Chelsea’s main target for the position. If the Costa situation isn’t resolved then don’t be surprised if the Blues go a spend as much as they can on Aubameyang, as he really is the last proven world-class striker left in the market.

HERE are highlights of all the goals Aubameyang scored in this year’s Bundesliga.

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Romelu Lukaku to United, what now?

Lukaku chooses Manchester over Chelsea

Manchester United completed the £75 million signing of Romelu Lukaku yesterday, beating out Chelsea who were rumored to sign the player all summer. The 24-year old Belgium International comes to United on a five-year deal reuniting with his former boss, Jose Mourinho.

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Mourinho coaching Lukaku back in 2013(Photo by GETTY IMAGES)

To many people, the move comes off as a surprise. Many believed the big Belgian was on his way back to the Stamford Bridge and to join last year’s champions. Antonio Conte had denounced Diego Costa in the news and sold Chelsea’s young prospect Dominic Solanke to Liverpool, in order to create room in the squad for the striker.

The transfer would have followed Chelsea’s recent trend of repurchasing players they had sold. The main examples of this being David Luiz and Nemanja Matic, who were both instrumental in Chelsea getting the title. Moves like those lead many to believe Lukaku would continue the trend, but it turns out the allure of playing for the champs and his former home just wasn’t enough. Manchester United, at the last moment, hijacked the deal by offering more than Chelsea and when the Blues matched the offer it was too late.

Another element that makes the move interesting is it was Jose Mourinho himself who sold the striker from Chelsea to Everton back in July 2014. So ultimately Lukaku ended up picking the manager who quit on him before over Conte, who was the one cutting people from the roster to make room for him.

Comments on the move

 http://thegamehaus.com/2017/07/10/romelu-lukaku-united-now/

Mourinho happy with the signing (Image: Matthew Peters)

Jose Mourinho, who was delighted with the move and said, “Romelu is a natural fit for Manchester United. He is a big personality and a big player,”

“He will be a great addition to the group. I am really looking forward to working with him again.”

Lukaku, when explaining his surprising decision said, “When Manchester United and Jose Mourinho come knocking at the door, it is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that I could not turn down.”

Morata’s overpricing pushed United to make Lukaku move

 http://thegamehaus.com/2017/07/10/romelu-lukaku-united-now/

Morata’s price pushed United to Lukaku (Photo: Getty Images)

Ultimately the signing of Lukaku was not United’s first choice for replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the team grew increasingly frustrated in chase of Alvaro Morata. Real Madrid would make ridiculous counteroffers every time the Red Devils made a bid, to the point Morata would have cost more than Lukaku.

So United made the focus change and swept up a more productive and proven striker. It might turn out that not signing Morata and ending up with Lukaku was the better move. When you compare the two strikers it’s almost hard to believe Morata is rumored in the same price range. Romelu Lukaku has 168 senior first-team goals, a month after turning 24 meanwhile Alvaro Morata has only 67 senior first-team goals, 8 months after turning 24.

The next step now for United is to keep securing the spine of the team. The two summer signing so far have helped but now the key is finding someone that can sit next to Paul Pogba in the middle.With the main target being Eric Dier from Tottenham. Spurs will probably be reluctant to sell the player but that hasn’t stopped United before.

Everton and Chelsea dealing with the aftermath

 http://thegamehaus.com/2017/07/10/romelu-lukaku-united-now/

Rooney returns to his boyhood club (Image@waynerooney / Twitter)

As for the other team involved in the transfer, Everton will have to replace Lukaku. Which is easier said than done. The Belgian scored 40% of the Toffees goals last year and most of the team game-play revolved around him on the pitch. So no matter who they signed you will see a new Everton going into next season.

However, Everton is not waiting to get talent into the squad having already done nine transfers. Including bringing Wayne Rooney from United alongside one the most promising prospects in Sandro Ramirez. This two striker as of now will have the huge responsibility of replacing Lukaku’s goals or Everton will be taking a step back next season.

 http://thegamehaus.com/2017/07/10/romelu-lukaku-united-now/

After losing out on Lukaku Chelsea might need to make Costa happy (Image: Getty Images)

The other team this deal affects is Chelsea who are now left in the hunt for a new striker with preseason right around the corner. The champions will have to act quickly to get a forward because as of now it looks like they only have one in Michy Batshuayi, who only scored five goals last season. That is nowhere near what is needed to win a title.

Missing on Lukaku might mean trying to reconcile with Diego Costa, who at the beginning of the summer was told he was not needed. The Blues have to act fast and get a world-class striker or they might struggle to defend the title without a pure striker. Without one they will have to change the way they played from last year. Many reports are now coming out that they want the former Manchester United target Morata, Chelsea will have to make a decision overpay for a striker that is their second choice or try to make things work with Costa. Either option is not ideal but keep an eye on what Chelsea does in the coming days.

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What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cincinnati and Tampa Bay Draw In Physical Affair

FC Cincinnati hosted the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a very physical 1-1 draw at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in front of 15,227.

Darwin Jones of Tampa Bay scored in the seventh minute on a screamer from 30 yards out that hit the post and careened in. It will be a definite USL “Goal of the Week” candidate. Harrison Delbridge headed in a corner to equalize in the 36 minute. Cincinnati’s Kadeem Dacres was sent off on a straight red after a high-legged challenge on Jones hitting him in the stomach.

Cincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch on the result stated, “At the end of the night we will take 1 point, something to build on for Saturday.”

An extremely physical night where there were five yellow cards, a straight red, and 31 fouls between both teams. It started early with both teams picking up fouls early on and the first card coming inside the first 20 minutes. Tampa Bay led the way with 20 fouls. Both teams seemed to be up for the match. When asked whose style of play resulted in the physical nature of the match Koch said, “A little more of them…They tried to impose themselves from the start of the game…It probably was part of their gameplan.”

There were a couple scuffles, one inside the first 15 minutes, another that spilled into the Tampa Bay bench with Dacres and a defender. At the end of the match Joe Cole kicked Cincinnati’s Jimmy McLaughlin in the head inside his own box in the 85 minute with no call from the referee.

Cincinnati started the game slow and allowed Tampa Bay to control the opening few minutes. The Tampa Bay goal was a combination of a great strike and no one stepping up to close him down after a giveaway in the midfield. They finally were able to get their flow going around the 30 minute and getting a goal shortly after. Coach Koch said, “We weren’t very happy with how we started tonight.”

The second half both teams came out strong and both teams looked dangerous but couldn’t give their team a lead. Cincinnati started to take over the game around the 60 minute possessing a lot of the ball and looking extremely dangerous. All of that changed after the red card to Dacres. The final 15 Tampa Bay took over and was able to create plenty of chances but couldn’t break through.

This was the second straight red card for Cincinnati this season; Paul Nicholson against Bethlehem Steel had the first. In that match Cincinnati was down a man for 4 minutes. Koch remarked on that match giving them the resolve to close out this one. On potentially appealing the red he said, “We’ll probably have a discussion tonight as a club and see what the right way is to go about addressing that.”

McLaughlin and Dacres both covered a lot of ground on the wings for Cincinnati tonight. Both were able to make good plays on both sides of the ball. Dacres had a great tackle just outside the box on the wing to start a counter attack in the first half that led to a chance. Due to the red card Dacres will be out for the match this Saturday against Louisville City FC.

Djiby Fall was unable to continue his incredible goal scoring streak, with it almost impossible to repeat his four goal performance from last Saturday. Delbridge’s goal was the first one not scored by Fall this season.

Summary

Marcel Schafer hit a gorgeous shot from about 30 yards out to give Tampa Bay the lead in the 7’. The chance was created due to a bad giveaway from Cincinnati in the center of the park.

Tampa Bay was the better team though the first 15 minutes creating chances and winning the ball in the midfield.

Tampa Bay’s Luke Boden picked up the first yellow card of the night for a foul on Kadeem Dacres in the midfield in the 20 minute. It was coming for a little while due to the physical nature of the game to that point. Both sides had been called for a few fouls up to that point.

Cincinnati finally found their attacking legs creating chances and playing well defensively around the 30 minute mark.

Harrison Delbridge equalized off a corner from Kenny Walker into the six-yard box jumping over a Tampa Bay defender.

Jimmy McLaughlin put a shot just wide in the 44 minute. He was able to split two Tampa Bay defenders and just missed on the shot to put it wide. Would have been a great play if converted.

The start of the second half both teams looked dangerous held the ball well but no chances from either side.

Matt Bahner picked up Cincinnati’s first yellow card of the evening after a foul in the midfield attempting to break up a counter attack. Play went on after the foul and he made a block on a cross to slow down the attack.

Michael Nachoff picked up a yellow in the 64 minute for Tampa Bay after a late foul on Fordyce.

Daryl Fordyce had a great chance in the 65 minute after a brilliant bit of trickery from Bahner to set up the one on one chance. His one on one chance was saved after trying to slide it under the charging keeper.

Scuffle in the 68 minute after a coming together between Dacres and a Tampa Bay defender spilled into the Tampa Bay bench area.

Tampa Bay’s Damion Lowe picked up a yellow in the 70 minute after foul on Dacres to stop his great run. Free kick from Walker went just wide but should have been saved by the keeper.

Dacres was given a straight red card in the 78 minute after a hard foul on Jones. Dacres went in with a high straight leg into the midsection.

Jimmy McLaughlin went down in a heap in his own box after getting kicked in the head by Tampa Bay’s Joe Cole in the 85 minute. Play went on and Delbridge closed down where McLaughlin would have been, forcing a cross to go out for a goal kick. McLaughlin was given some medical aid and came back on as play resumed.

Fulltime came after five minutes of extra time where Cincinnati was able to close down the final few minutes only giving up one good chance in extra time that was headed over the bar for a goal kick.

Next Up

Louisville City FC comes to town in the River Cities Cup on Saturday April 22. Louisville is coming off a 2-1 home win against Tampa Bay to stay unbeaten. Currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points (3-0-1) tied with points with Tampa Bay and down on goal differential. Kickoff is slated for 7:00p.m. for what right now looks like it could be a cold wet one with a 100% chance of rain and high of 52 as of this writing. Check here for weather closer to the match.

Last season Cincinnati won the River Cities Cup on goal differential due to having a win, draw, and loss to Louisville. This will be their first match of the season.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati had the chances to win tonight but one point against what very well could be the best team in the Eastern Conference after the poor start and red card. I think it was a harsh red card but the referee was forced to make a decision and it went against Cincinnati. Also when Jimmy McLaughlin was kicked in the head there should have been a card there as well, maybe not a red but at least a yellow. The five yellows could have been several more due to the amount of fouls from both teams.

Cincinnati should bounce back against a very tough Louisville City team who has former forward Luke Spencer leading their line.

Why N’Golo Kante is the Premier League’s Best Player

Since moving to England in the summer of 2015, N’Golo Kante’s 276 tackles lead the league by a comfortable margin. The little French wizard played a key role in Leicester’s shock title run a year ago. This season Kante has been a catalyst of Chelsea’s great form which sees Antonio Conte’s side ten points ahead of their nearest competitor.

It is no coincidence that Kante has been a regular starter on both teams. In addition to his tackling, he excels at reading the game and understanding when to tackle and when to kick-start the counter attack.

Kante is widely considered to be the best tackler in the Premier League

This was extremely vital to Leicester’s style of play last season. As a side that never had much possession and struck quickly and decisively on the counter attack, Kante’s ability to win the ball anywhere on the pitch helped set up Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in their respective breakout seasons. Perhaps under-appreciated last season, the Foxes’ struggles this season show how big of a piece Kante was to their title winning side.

This season, Kante has taken his talents to Stamford Bridge and has been a part of Chelsea’s season of redemption following a tenth place showing last season. Kante’s presence in the midfield has allowed Antonio Conte to run his three back formation, which has taken the Premier League by storm this season. Kante is such a great tackler and defensive mind that Chelsea’s wing backs can go forward and threaten.

Kante has also improved his attacking this season. He has scored important goals for Chelsea against Manchester United and West Ham this season.

Kante is one of the few players capable of making significant contributions anywhere on the pitch.

The impact that Kante has had on the teams he joins is without question. His one title-winning year in Leicester has been sandwiched by two relegation battles for the Foxes. And although he can’t take all of the credit for Chelsea’s resurgence, he has been a major contributor. In a game that is all about winning, the best in England at the moment is the one who brings success with him.

 

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Unclear Futures for Some of the Prem’s Biggest Stars

Since the beginning of the decade, several players have made a name for themselves in the Premier League and have basked in the major dividends that stardom has paid. Players such as Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Philippe Coutinho and Alexis Sanchez are all world-class, but their time at their respective clubs, and in England, may be coming to a close.

Sergio Aguero

The Manchester City talisman and scorer of the most famous goal in Premier League history has seen his role at the club come under threat this season. The Argentine was absent for large portions of December and January in favor of Brazilian starlet Gabriel Jesus. However, Jesus’s injury has seemingly given a new spark to Aguero.

With 22 goals across all competitions, it is easy to see why Aguero is still considered a top striker. While there is no doubt he can still contribute to City, there are still several issues that could force an Aguero exit in the summer.

The first is whether or not Pep Guardiola wants to move on from the 28 year old in favor of youth. Jesus’ potential is so great that he could easily be equally if not more productive than Aguero one day. This is certainly a gamble as Aguero is one of the few experienced players in a youthful attack that includes Jesus, Kelechi Iheanacho, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling among others.

Secondly, it is unknown how Aguero feels about his spot in the starting XI being up for grabs. As he approaches the end of his prime years, a move to another European powerhouse seems likely for Aguero with an eye towards one day returning to play in this native Argentina.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa’s alleged frosty relationship with Antonio Conte could force the striker out this summer.

The Brazilian-born, Spanish-international striker is seemingly constantly at odds with someone. Like Aguero, Costa is one of the premier strikers in England. His 17 goals in the league this season have helped propel Chelsea to a ten point lead at the top of the table. Unlike Aguero, Costa’s problems stem more off the field than on it.

Costa has publicly feuded with teammates before and allegedly has had multiple conflicts with manager Antonio Conte. If these “conflicts” were to get to a point of no return, it would likely be the striker who would move on as Conte has completely turned around Chelsea after last season’s embarrassing performance.

However difficult he may be, Costa is a supreme talent and it is difficult to foresee a scenario where the club let tensions rise to a point where Costa would leave. Now that they have found their footing again, Chelsea would be foolish to let their top scorer leave.

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho’s immense skill set has caught the eye of Barcelona.

Since Liverpool signed him from Inter in 2013, Philippe Coutinho’s immense promise and potential have been on display at Anfield. The Brazilian is already a top player in England and possesses the skill, pace, and mentality to become a superstar.

What has been frustrating for Reds’ fans is the inconsistency shown by Coutinho and the team as a whole in recent seasons. Coutinho has shown improvements under Jurgen Klopp and it really only seems to be a matter of when and not if he breaks into the top echelon of players in Europe.

Liverpool are not the only side that are aware of Coutinho’s talent. Barcelona have been heavily rumored to be weighing a move for him in the summer. With an aging Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi’s contract negotiations ongoing, Barca see Coutinho as a future catalyst in their side.

While Coutinho has all the tools to become a Barcelona player, he is not there yet. Barcelona will likely realize this and wait until Klopp has worked further with the dynamic play-maker before the seriously pursue him. It wasn’t until a 33 goal season in 2013-14 that Luis Suarez sealed his move from Anfield to the Camp Nou. Coutinho will need to mimic Suarez if he hopes to join his former teammate at the Catalan club.

Alexis Sanchez

As speculation on Arsene Wenger’s future in North London has stolen the headlines, Sanchez has taken a back seat. The Chilean winger is widely rumored to be unsettled at Arsenal and is frustrated by poor results in the league and Europe this season. Regardless of whether Wenger or Mesut Ozil stay at the Emirates past this summer, it seems a foregone conclusion that Sanchez will not be back next season.

23 goals and 12 assists across all competitions show how tremendous Sanchez has been this season. At the turn of the calendar year, there was a strong case to be made that Sanchez had been the best player in Europe to that point in the season. His departure would cripple Arsenal in a manner in which there is very little they could do to make up for it.

Now, as he is expected to miss an extended amount of time with an ankle problem, we will get a good look at Arsenal without Sanchez and how they cope.

If Sanchez does leave, Juventus and PSG have been rumored to be keeping an eye on him. A move to Juventus would make sense as they still have money to spend from the Paul Pogba sale. With a rock solid defense and legendary goalkeeper in Gianluigi Buffon, the addition of Sanchez on the wing would certainly put Juve among the favorites to win the Champions League next season.

 

 

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