Tagged in: Soccer

Chelsea set to sign teenage midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka from Aston Villa for up to £20 million

Chelsea are set to sign Aston Villa midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka in a deal which could reach £20 million, sources have told ESPN.

In a brief statement, the Blues confirmed: “Aston Villa and Chelsea can confirm that the clubs have reached an agreement for the permanent transfer of Carney Chukwuemeka.

“The 18-year-old has been given permission to travel to London to discuss both personal terms and undergo a medical.”

Sources have told ESPN that the medical is expected to take place on Wednesday with Chukwuemeka set to become the Blues’ third summer signing after the arrivals of Raheem Sterling from Manchester City and Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli.

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Chukwuemeka had just one year remaining on his deal at Villa Park and rejected multiple offers to sign an extension, amid interest from several rivals across Europe including Barcelona and AC Milan.

A move abroad appeared the most likely option if Villa were pushed to sell but the size of Chelsea’s offer has proved too difficult to resist:

Sources have told ESPN the deal comprises an initial fee in the region of £15m with add-ons taking it to a potential £20m depending on the player’s progress.

Chukwuemeka won the European Under-19 Championship with England last month and is tipped for a bright future after making 12 Premier League appearances last season.

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Atletico Madrid announce Luis Suarez will leave club at end of season

Luis Suarez will leave Atletico Madrid at the end of the campaign, the club revealed on Sunday.

The 35-year-old has spent two years in the Spanish capital and Atletico confirmed his exit before their LaLiga home clash versus Sevilla.

“At the end of the game, the Wanda Metropolitano will pay tribute to Luis Suarez and Hector Herrera, who are saying goodbye to the Red & White family today,” the club posted on social media.

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Suarez moved to Atletico from LaLiga rivals Barcelona on a free transfer in 2020 and played a key role in helping Diego Simeone’s team side claim their first league title since 2014.

The striker scored 21 goals in all competitions during the 2020-21 campaign, including the winning goal in the final day triumph at Real Valladolid to clinch the title.

The Uruguay international has struggled to reproduce his fine form this season and has not enjoyed much playing time on the pitch.

Suarez has contributed 13 goals and three assists in all competitions this term but hasn’t been a first-team regular and only played eight minutes during Atletico’s Champions League knockout matches versus Manchester United and Manchester City.

He started Atletico’s final home game against Sevilla on Sunday and his last appearance for the club will come at Real Sociedad next week.

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Champions League draw repeated after UEFA’s Man United error

UEFA suffered embarrassment on Monday when the Champions League round-of-16 draw had to be repeated after the initial draw was rendered invalid due to a clerical error where Manchester United were mistakenly omitted as potential adversaries for Atletico Madrid.

During Monday’s initial draw, United were eventually paired with Paris Saint-Germain, having earlier been placed as opponents for Villarreal, whom they could not have met, having been in the same group as Unai Emery’s side.

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“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League round of 16. As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone at 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET/ 2 p.m. GMT),” a UEFA spokesperson stated.

Atletico were the next team drawn and, while United should have been one of their potential adversaries, they were omitted as a computer glitch appeared to indicate they had already been drawn when they had not.

“We are speaking to UEFA to check for an explanation and resolution after the errors committed during the Champions League round-of-16 draw,” an Atletico statement read.

The draw was repeated later on Monday and the standout ties contained Atletico Madrid v Manchester United and PSG v Real Madrid.

The first legs will be played across February 15/16 and 22/23, while the second legs will be played across March 8/9 and 15/16.

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Lionel Messi agrees Barcelona contract, accepts significant wage cut

Lionel Messi and Barcelona have reached an agreement for the forward to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, sources have confirmed to ESPN. Sources added that Messi has accepted a significant wage cut to prolong his stay.

Messi was a free agent after his contract at Barca expired, and he had courted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since first revealing a desire to end his 20-year relationship with Barca last summer. The 34-year-old’s previous contract, which was worth over €500 million ($594m) over four years, expired at the stroke of midnight on June 30.

However, with the return of Joan Laporta as president in March, Messi grew more open to staying at Camp Nou. An official announcement is expected in the coming days. Laporta had hoped to finalize an agreement before Messi’s previous terms expired. Barca’s financial problems made that impossible, though, with their gross debt over €1 billion. Cutbacks have been essential, in terms of transferring players out, reducing the wage bill and getting Messi to accept a lower salary.

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La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned Barca they will not be permitted to register Messi’s new deal if they are unable to reduce spending to comply with the league’s Financial Fair Play rules. Barca’s spending limit has been reduced from over €600m to €347m since the coronavirus pandemic, with further reductions expected to be imposed for the upcoming season.

Therefore, to register Messi’s new deal, in addition to new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal, Barca need to continue reducing the wage bill and moving players on. With that in mind, sources at the club refuse to rule out the departure of Antoine Griezmann, a €120m signing in 2019.

Messi is on holiday with his family after his Copa America triumph with Argentina last weekend, which was his first senior trophy with his national team.

He will link up with Ronald Koeman’s squad later in the summer, with Barca’s league campaign kicking off on Aug. 15 versus Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Messi had first expressed a desire to leave Barca last August after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu had reached a breaking point.

In a September 2020 interview with Goal, after Barca had blocked his departure, Messi called Bartomeu a “liar” and said the board had been “making things up as they go along” and “plugging holes” for years.

Bartomeu, facing a vote of no confidence, resigned last October and was ultimately replaced by Laporta in March. Laporta has a good relationship with Messi and his family. He was Barca’s president when Messi made his first-team debut and when he signed his first professional contract with the club.

Sources told ESPN in April that Laporta was working on a contract renewal for Messi that included the option of playing in Major League Soccer before returning to Barcelona.

In public and in private, Laporta had always maintained that he was “convinced” he could persuade Messi to stay. The club have already made a series of signings this summer, bringing in Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, as well as recalling Emerson Royal.

Messi first joined Barca’s academy in 2000 and has gone on to play 778 games for the club, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record last season. He has scored 672 goals, another club record, and has helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

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Argentina qualify for Copa America quarterfinals with win over Paraguay

Argentina ensured their place in the quarterfinals of the Copa America on Monday when they defeated Paraguay 1-0 in a game notable for Lionel Messi’s record-equaling 147th appearance for the national side.

The victory in Brasilia was Argentina’s second 1-0 victory in a row in this tournament and their 16th match without defeat since losing in the Copa America semifinal in 2019.

It gives them seven points from three games and leaves them top of Group A, two points ahead of Chile, four ahead of Paraguay and six ahead of Uruguay.

Bolivia are bottom with no points from two matches so with four of the five teams qualifying for the last eight, Argentina are sure of progressing.

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“We’re through but we have to keep improving,” said defender German Pezzella. “We had a great first half, our intensity wasn’t the same in the second but they didn’t have very many chances at goal.”

Paraguay had never beaten Argentina over 90 minutes in the Copa America, a run that covers 25 matches, and they were up against it as early as the 10th minute when Argentina went ahead.

Alejandro Gomez took a delightful pass from Angel Di Maria and dinked the ball over the diving keeper.

“Angel’s pass was great,” said Gomez. “I just had to get my foot under it and put it away.”

Argentina thought they had a second when Junior Alonso deflected a cross into his own net on the stroke of half-time, but the goal was chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Paraguay came out more positive in a changed second half, with Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron always dangerous on the left wing.

However, although they enjoyed the bulk of the possession they could not turn it into opportunities and now face two tricky games versus Chile and Uruguay.

For Argentina, Sergio Aguero made his first international start since November 2019 but was anonymous up front and it was Di Maria and Messi who stood out.

On the night he equaled Javier Mascherano’s record of 147 games in the blue and white shirt, Messi was a busy presence in the Paraguayan half.

Both he and Di Maria drew fouls from their opponents who ended up committing 23 fouls to Argentina’s 11.

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Barcelona, Bayern Munich to Georginio Wijnaldum signing

Paris Saint-Germain have beaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich to the signing of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool on a free transfer.

Wijnaldum, 30, has agreed a three-year deal with PSG after deciding to run down his contract at Anfield, which concludes at the end of June.

“Signing for Paris Saint-Germain is a new challenge for me,” Wijnaldum said. “I’m joining one of the best squads in Europe and I want to bring all my desire and commitment to this ambitious project. Paris Saint-Germain have proved how good they are in recent years and I am convinced that together, with our supporters, we can go even further and higher.”

The Netherlands international had previously reached an agreement to join Barca. His agents met with the Catalan club’s president Joan Laporta at the end of May and a medical had been penciled in.

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Barca’s interest in Wijnaldum dates back to last summer, when Ronald Koeman made him a target after being appointed as the club’s coach.

However, as first reported by ESPN on Friday, PSG made a late play to hijack Barca’s move for Wijnaldum.

Sources close to the negotiations told ESPN that the Ligue 1 side were willing to double the terms agreed with Barca, while a phone call from coach Mauricio Pochettino also helped persuade Wijnaldum to change his mind.

Bayern Munich also held talks with Wijnaldum, who informed the German club and Barca last weekend that he had decided to sign for PSG.

The midfielder becomes PSG’s first signing of the summer as they look to strengthen after missing out on the league title to Lille and a semifinal Champions League exit to Manchester City.

Wijnaldum, who is preparing for the European Championship with Netherlands, played for Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven before making the move to England with Newcastle United in 2016 for around €15 million.

After Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League a year later, he joined Liverpool on a five-year deal for a fee of €25m.

He helped Liverpool collect the Champions League in 2019, famously scoring twice in the semifinal victory over Barca, and was part of the side which won the Premier League a year later.

During his five-year stay at Anfield, he also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. In total, he made 237 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 22 goals.

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Man City’s Guardiola: I won’t sleep ahead of Neymar, Mbappe meeting

Pep Guardiola stated he won’t sleep ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal with Paris Saint-Germain if he thinks too much about the threat posed by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

City will come up versus PSG’s formidable forwards in the first leg in Paris on Wednesday and Guardiola said the pair are so good, they can give opposing managers restless nights.

“Always I believe the quality of these players, they have too much,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday. “I tried to sleep well last night and that was when I was not thinking of them. Incredible top players, their quality. We are ready to try to stop them, defend as a team, play good football and try to score goals.”

Guardiola first faced Neymar when the Brazil forward was playing for Santos versus Barcelona in the Club World Cup in 2011.

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After joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar moved on to PSG in 2017 but Guardiola said there would be more Champions League trophies in the Camp Nou trophy cabinet had he stayed.

“I remember against Santos, I said this was the king of Santos and all the players were open mouthed: ‘Oh my god, what a player,'” Guardiola added.

“A joy to watch as a spectator, he has Brazil on his shoulders, the No. 10, it’s not easy to wear.

“I’m pretty sure if he’d stayed in Barca they’d have won two or three more Champions Leagues. With Neymar, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, the best three I’ve seen.”

While the tie is only City’s second Champions League semifinal, PSG are trying to reach for the final for the second year in a row after narrowly losing out to Bayern Munich last campaign.

Since then, Thomas Tuchel has been replaced as manager with Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Tottenham boss has been able to get the best out of Neymar since he arrived in January, leading to speculation the 29-year-old is a candidate for the Ballon d’Or and is set to extend his contract.

“I have already talked about it [his contract],” Neymar told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It is not a topic now. I feel great. I am happy this season. It has been by far my happiest this season. “My main objective is the Champions League, not the Ballon d’Or. That is not a priority. I want to be a leader for my team. I want to win. In the future, I will want to remember I have managed to win the Champions League a few times.”

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Man City’s Aguero has Barcelona, PSG, Juventus as transfer options – sources

Sergio Aguero is considering interest from Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after ruling out a return to club football in Argentina following confirmation of his exit from Manchester City this summer, sources have told ESPN.

The 32-year-old, who is the highest-scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history with 181 goals, will leave the Etihad at the end of the campaign after City confirmed on Monday that he would not be offered a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

Aguero had previously stated that his ambition, at the end of his stay at City, was to return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Independiente. But sources have told ESPN that Aguero considers he can still perform at the top level in Europe for at least two more seasons and the forward is now ready to take advantage of his free agent status this summer to secure a move to one of the game’s top clubs.

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ESPN reported recently that Barca were monitoring Aguero’s situation at City amid concerns that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season.

PSG are also interested in the Argentina international, while Juve are another option with the Italian champions keen to plan for life without Cristiano Ronaldo in the event of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward leaving the Turin club at the end of the season.

Sources have told ESPN that Aguero is aware of interest from within the Premier League, but after 10 years in England, the player would prefer to move to Europe.

Having signed for City in a £35 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero has won four Premier League titles, five EFL Cup trophies and one FA Cup in his time at the club, with his winning goal, four minutes into stoppage time versus QPR in May 2012, sealing City’s first title in 44 years and becoming one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

But injuries, and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19, have restricted Aguero to just four Premier League starts and one goal this season.

In total, he has made just 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Aguero is now fit, however, and ready to contribute to City’s push for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League this season.

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Everton knock Tottenham out of FA Cup on Bernard winner in extra-time goal-fest

Everton sent Tottenham Hotspur packing from the FA Cup with an extra-time goal from Bernard on Wednesday night at Goodison Park to send his team through to the quarterfinals with a 5-4 victory.

Tottenham opened the scoring and took a deserved lead inside of five minutes when Davinson Sanchez headed Son Heung Min’s corner past Robin Olsen in the Everton goal.

Everton hit back to go ahead in the span of several first-half minutes with a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal and a Richarlison strike from outside of the penalty area that a diving Hugo Lloris could not reach.

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was then whistled for a penalty after tripping Calvert-Lewin in the area and Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up and calmly sent Lloris the wrong way from the spot to put Everton up 3-1. However, Spurs scored just before the break as Erik Lamela pounced on a Yerry Mina error and slotted a neat, left-footed shot past Olsen to trim the deficit for Jose Mourinho’s team to a single goal at half-time.

The back-and-forth match continued in the second half

With Spurs drawing level at 3-3 before the hour mark through Sanchez’s second of the night when he redirected a saved header off Olsen’s mitt and tapped into the back of the net.

Richarlison fired Everton back in front with his second goal, defeating Lloris at his far post with a screamer after Sigurdsson played him into the area with a clever little through ball.

Harry Kane, who had looked menacing all game, finally scored to put Tottenham back on level terms with a smashing header at the back post from a beautiful, whipped in cross from Son that set the teams on course for extra time.

Sigurdsson added to his assist tally in the first period of extra time with a lovely chip over Spurs’ defense and into the box that left Bernard time to settle, have a look at goal and fire an unstoppable volley past Lloris to give Everton the lead yet again.

Ancelotti and Everton will now await results from the final two games of the FA Cup on Thursday to see who they will face in the quarterfinals.

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Cadiz shock Barcelona despite Lionel Messi’s return for the Catalans

Cadiz pulled off a shock 2-1 victory over Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday night, piling on to the mounting troubles for the Blaugrana in their domestic campaign this season.

Lionel Messi returned to Ronald Koeman’s starting XI after sitting out the midweek Champions League victory over Ferencvaros.

The hosts took a shock lead from a corner kick when Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed the ball into the path of Alvaro Gimenez, who simply had to tap it into the net to make it 1-0.

The goal seemed to enliven Barca, who were firmly in control for the remainder of the half, but save for a near miss by Martin Braithwaite the visitors could not score and went into the half-time break trailing.

Koeman rang the changes at half-time in an attempt to spark his team, with Pedri replacing Oscar Mingueza and Ousmane Dembele coming on for Philippe Coutinho.

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Barca continued to dominate possession and drew level just before the hour mark when Messi played in Jordi Alba and his shot from a tight angle took a fortuitous deflection to beat Cadiz keeper Jeremias Ledesma.

However, Cadiz took the lead again minutes later when a miscommunication between Clement Lenglet and Ter Stegen following a throw in left Alvaro Negredo alone for a simple tap in to Barcelona’s open net.

Barca poured on the pressure down the stretch and Messi saw two good possibilities go right to Ledesma, but Cadiz were up to the task and saw out the match to take all three points and stay ahead of the Catalans in La Liga.

The victory was Cadiz’s first over Barcelona since 1991 and put them just outside the Champions League places in the table.

The Andalusians also beat champions Real Madrid 1-0 away from home earlier in the campaign.

Barca’s fourth defeat of the season left them seventh in the standings on 14 points after 10 matches and Koeman’s side have failed to win their last four away matches.

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