Boost for Arsenal as Arda Turan’s agent reiterates desire for January exit from Barcelona

Arda Turan’s agent has reiterated his desire to find a new team for the Turkey international in January, confirming talks with “several clubs.”

Turan has been out of favour since Ernesto Valverde took over as Barcelona manager this past summer, failing to make any appearances this season.

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The 30-year-old, who has scored 15 goals in 55 matches since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid in 2015, seems destined for a January exit, with his agent, Ahmet Bulut, frustrated that his client has been relegated to the bench under Valverde.

“We’re troubled with Arda’s situation,” Bulut told TRT Spor. “He didn’t even get to play 10 minutes.

“We respect Ernesto Valverde, but I can’t understand how can he assess a player whom he doesn’t put on the field.

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“I’m having talks with several clubs regarding Arda, but I can’t name any of them. I’m trying to wrap this up by January, but if we can’t reach an agreement with any of the teams, he’ll stay at Barca.

“Arda scored 13 goals when Neymar was away injured. He plays hard when he gets a chance.”

Turan has been linked to Arsenal in a potential swap deal involving Mesut Ozil, with the Barca man fuelling those rumours when he was spotted with Bulut in London last week.

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Barcelona director tells Ronaldo: Messi is the best player in history

Lionel Messi remains “the best player in history” regardless of what Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo may say or do, claims Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives.

After landing the 2017 Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo boldly declared himself to be the greatest player of all-time.

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Those claims are backed up by five world player of the year prizes – a tally which places him alongside eternal rival Messi.

Barcelona, though, refuse to believe that anybody compares to their Argentine talisman, with there no doubt in their mind as to who stands at the pinnacle of the global game.

“Respect to the Ballon d’Or and to Cristiano Ronaldo,” Vives, spokesman for Barca’s board of directors, said at a press conference.

Josep Vives Lionel Messi best Cristiano Ronaldo

“We have always considered him a great player and a great competitor.

“But here at the Camp Nou, we can see the best player in history every 15 days, which is Messi.”

Barca have already addressed the issue of Messi’s future this season, with the 30-year-old forward having finally committed to a new contract through to 2021.

The La Liga giants are, however, yet to reveal what the future holds for another of their Argentine stars.

Javier Mascherano is tied to a deal until 2019, but a lack of game time is forcing him to look elsewhere.

The versatile 33-year-old has conceded that he may look to secure a switch during the winter transfer window, with a return to his homeland mooted.

Vives claims there is no update to report at present, with Barca working towards ensuring that their squad is not disrupted by any comings and goings in the new year.

Javier Mascherano Barcelona

He added: “Mascherano has earned respect.

“As the coach said, after the January window, the club should come out stronger and not weaker.

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“The general interest of the club is above the individual wishes of any of us, including the player.

“The player is listened to and taken into account.”

Barcelona currently sit five points clear at the top of the La Liga standings and have a heavyweight encounter with Chelsea to look forward to in the last-16 of the Champions League.

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Winning Europa League unlikely to keep Alexis & Ozil at Arsenal, says Smith

Winning the Europa League is unlikely to convince contract rebels Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to stay at Arsenal, according to Alan Smith.

The Gunners dropped out of the Champions League places last season and no longer have that bargaining chip in discussions with the two players running down their current deals.

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Arsene Wenger’s side have, however, progressed to the round of 32 in their current continental quest, with Swedish minnows Ostersunds awaiting them at that stage.

Arsenal are expected to mount a serious challenge for the crown, despite having made sweeping changes to their side in the tournament so far, but Smith doubts that even a repeat of Manchester United’s triumph from 2016-17 would be enough to get Sanchez and Ozil to pen fresh terms.

“I do not think it would persuade them to stay if they won the Europa League,” the former Gunners striker told Sky Sports.

“Jose Mourinho at one stage in the season went ‘I’ll put all my eggs in one basket’, and it paid off.

“That’s not always going to be the case.

Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Arsene Wenger, Arsenal, 17/18

“I think for Arsene Wenger he could go both ways.

“He is playing a totally different 11 in the Europa League anyway, it’s not like he’s mixing and matching.

“I think he will go that way for as long as possible.

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“I think if they are in seventh position with no chance of getting into the Champions League spots then yes, he will probably do that [play his strongest side] in the latter stages, if they are still there.”

A top-four challenge in the Premier League remains Arsenal’s main focus at present, with the Gunners currently sat fifth in the table – one point back on Liverpool in the final Champions League spot.

They have also made it through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup and will start another FA Cup campaign in January, so will need to decide where their priorities lie when it comes to knockout competition – domestic challenges or a European trophy hunt.

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Chelsea risk losing Hazard unless they can match Man City’s ambition

It has taken a while, but Pep Guardiola has turned a financial giant into a winning machine – and it has huge implications for Chelsea and the rest of English football. 

Chelsea are trying to renew the contract of Eden Hazard as Antonio Conte publicly admits it is “impossible” that his side can retain their Premier League title.

Real Madrid are watching and waiting to see how the talks go as Hazard is set for continued speculation around his future. The Belgian has repeatedly said he enjoys life in London, though, having become a symbolic player for the Stamford Bridge club. 

The Premier League champions have shown they will go the extra yard to keep Hazard happy and even signed his younger brother, Kylian Hazard, from Ujpest over the summer. Eden then jokingly branded Chelsea as “Hazard FC” on social media.  

However, Man City not only look like they are capable of winning the title this season, but they look ready to assert their dominance over the top six clubs in England for many years to come. City have consistently outspent their rivals (in terms of net spending) since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008, but it is only now really beginning to pay off. 

Manchester City celebrates

Meanwhile, Chelsea have reigned in spending on excessive transfer fees and lost out in a crazy transfer market on a number of their targets. This meant the Blues missed out on Danilo from Real Madrid, now at City, while Manchester United had more might to sign Romelu Lukaku from Everton. 

Forbes currently rank Chelsea as the seventh richest club in the world, but they are no longer spending as much as they used to in the transfer market. A £90 million net spend looks a lot on the surface from the summer transfer window, but Diego Costa was sold for £59m after that and Oscar for £60m in the January before it opened. 

Chelsea have been making profits, but the best players in Europe might instead look to Man City for money and success if things continue down this path. If the world’s best players aren’t arriving at Stamford Bridge every summer, then keeping Hazard becomes harder and harder. 

Conte’s men are only eight points worse off than this point last season, while they are still in three cup competitions rather than just the one. The club haven’t gone too far backwards, but Manchester City have hurtled forward and those running the London club will have to think about what their response will be.

Eden Hazard Antonio Conte Chelsea

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Chelsea and Man City compete at every level. They are the two best academies in England, they have the two best women’s teams in England and they’re fighting for commercial revenues as the Premier League becomes more and more popular across the world. 

The story of English football has moved into a new era, with Man City copying Chelsea’s model that disrupted English football to properly challenge the old elite clubs. City have emulated a number of successful clubs to secure glory, but their new loan system looks almost identical to the one at Chelsea.

Another big financial investment in the first-team squad might be useful to satisfy the ambition of Hazard, as well as the manager and the fans. It may take Roman Abramovich, rather than Conte’s tactics, to dig deep to keep Hazard in a blue shirt while keeping Chelsea in contention for major honours. 

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Sizing up LAFC’s options in the MLS expansion draft

It has been a decade since Bob Bradley was a coach in Major League Soccer, but it’s safe to say he has a better grip on the league than you might expect upon his return.

Hired by Los Angeles FC back in July, Bradley has had five months to study the league and figure out the players he might be interested in. Having spent enough time in MLS to appreciate the importance of player salaries and their impact on their overall value in a salary cap league, he will be looking for the moderately priced veterans who could prove themselves to be bargains at positions considered thin in MLS.

But what about all that allocation money? Might the league’s recent announcement that teams can spend up to $4 million in targeted allocation money, as well as the general allocation money LAFC receives as an expansion team, convince Bradley to splurge on someone with a hefty salary number?

And what of the veterans who played for him with the U.S. national team, of whom there are several available in the expansion draft pool? Bruce Arena used to do an excellent job of picking up veterans he knew well to solidify his locker room at the LA Galaxy. Will Bradley take a page out of Arena’s book and reunite with some players he knows well?

Should LAFC look to squeeze some other teams by taking players who could yield an expansion draft ransom? There are certainly some players in the pool that you have a feeling were begrudgingly left exposed by teams praying their contracts will keep LAFC away.

LAFC can go any number of directions. Here are the options the newest MLS team will want to consider:


THE FIVE BEST BETS


Seth Sinovic MLS Sporting KC 10072017

SETH SINOVIC. Left back is a notoriously thin position in MLS, so Bradley will be hard pressed to pass on a seasoned veteran like Sinovic, who enjoyed a bounce-back year in 2017. His 2017 base salary ($125,000) is a great bargain for a quality MLS left back, and would have LAFC all set at fullback following the signing of Egyptian right back Omar Gaber.

CLINT IRWIN. The 28-year-old goalkeeper lost the starting job at Toronto FC to Alex Bono in 2017, but there’s no denying he was one of the better goalkeepers in MLS in 2016 when healthy. His base salary ($200,000 in 2017) is one you only pay if you plan on making him your starter.

CHRIS PONTIUS. Left-sided players are tough to find in MLS and Pontius would be a good option on the left wing. He may have had a down year from a stats perspective, but he also saw opportunities with the U.S. national team, and Arena will have surely given Bradley a good recommendation. Pontius is a free agent this winter, but it’s a safe bet the Southern California native could be convinced to sign with LAFC, which would leave the expansion team with two free agent signings.

JOSH WILLIAMS. The veteran was a big reason for the Columbus Crew’s improvement defensively in the second half of 2017. The former TFC defender played with Bradley’s son, Michael, who should help provide some insight into why he would be a smart pickup for defensive depth and leadership.

JEFF ATTINELLA. Why pick up two goalkeepers? Trade value is the easy answer, and having two good goalkeepers wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing as a starting point. If Bradley only takes one goalkeeper, then someone versatile like Zarek Valentin would be a smart pickup.


THE HIGH-PRICED GAMBLES


Yamil Asad Atlanta United

YAMIL ASAD. When Asad’s name was placed on the list of exposed player it almost felt like it had to be a mistake, but the reality is he was at Atlanta United on loan, and the cost to buy him outright might make him too pricey for an LAFC side that surely has its own high-priced attacking targets. Might LA consider a sign-and-trade? That’s a gamble for a player Atlanta may have already decided to say goodbye to.

YURA MOVSISYAN. His name might seem odd here given his disappointing time at Real Salt Lake, and his pricey salary ($1,973,750 in guaranteed compensation in 2017), but folks may not remember that it was Bradley who coveted Movsisyan when he was coming out of college, only to have Kansas City snatch him up one pick before Bradley’s Chivas USA (which wound up taking Sacha Kljestan instead). Could Bradley see Movsisyan as a player he could get the best out of? If so, this costly gamble might be one Bradley takes.

BREK SHEA. Bradley gave Shea his U.S. national team debut in 2010 and could see the 27-year-old in as a versatile left-footed speedster, though his hefty salary ($670,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2017) could prove too costly to justify.


THE BARGAIN PROJECTS


Richie Marquez Philadelphia Union

RICHIE MARQUEZ. Stuck on the bench in Philadelphia in 2017, Marquez put together some promising seasons in 2015 and 2016, and at 25, he’s still got some room to grow as a central defender.

TONY ALFARO. The second-year pro played 15 matches in central defense for Seattle in 2017, and has some good skills. He also is from the Los Angeles area, and is the kind of player Bradley could mold into a starter with time.

RAHEEM EDWARDS. Bradley surely saw as much of TFC as he did any other team in the league while watching his son captain the eventual MLS Cup champions, and he just might have seen enough in the young Canadian attacker to grab him up. A minimum-salary player who can give you goals and assists? That might be too tough to pass up.


THE FAMILIAR FACES


HD DaMarcus Beasley Houston Dynamo

DAMARCUS BEASLEY. It might surprise some people to not see Beasley on the Best Bets list, but sources tell Goal that Beasley and Bradley didn’t leave on the best of terms after the 2010 World Cup and a reunion is far from a sure bet to be wanted by either party.

RICARDO CLARK. Could the 2010 World Cup starter reunite with the coach who took him to the pinnacle of his career? More importantly, does Bradley think Clark has enough left in the tank at 34 to be worth picking up?

OGUCHI ONYEWU. The big central defender exceeded expectations with the Union in 2017, though he still didn’t perform to the level that makes him a can’t-miss starter in 2018. At 35, is he too old for Bradley to take a flier on, or will Bradley love the chance to add his toughness to the locker room?


THE POTENTIAL TRADE BAIT


Osvaldo Alonso Seattle Sounders

OSVALDO ALONSO. Seattle Sounders are absolutely petrified that LAFC might snatch up their beloved captain. It’s definite a possibility, and you have to wonder if Bradley might not try to convince Alonso to close out his career playing on grass in sunny Los Angeles, which wouldn’t be bad for the veteran’s achy knees. That said, Alonso’s seven-figure salary will probably keep LAFC from trying to take him hostage for a trade.

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MIGUEL IBARRA. Landing a left-footed midfielder with ties to Southern California might have some appeal on its own, but if Bradley isn’t convinced he’s worth keeping, he might be convinced Ibarra has some trade value if rumors are to be believed about interest in the former NASL standout. Would he yield enough to burn an expansion draft pick on?

SAAD ABDUL-SALAAM. If Bradley has other things in mind at left back, and doesn’t grab Sinovic, then picking up a talented right back like Abdul-Salaam for trade bait is a possibility — flipping him in a trade much like Minnesota United moved Chris Duvall a year ago. Fullbacks are a commodity in MLS and Abdul-Salaam has some value.

DREW MOOR. How much bargaining power could LAFC have with a free agent like Moor? It’s a safe bet TFC doesn’t want to lose its defensive leader. Given Bradley’s ties to TFC, you have to think he will play it straight with Toronto and not try pulling anything funny. Also, Irwin is a very good value pick from TFC anyway.

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