By DAN KARELL
French midfielder Paul Pogba could be the most sought after transfer target of the summer.
Both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have made the 20-year-old Juventus man their No. 1 target this summer, and according to a report in Gazzetta Dello Sport, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has already met in person with Juventus president Andrea Agnelli. PSG are reportedly willing to spend upwards of €70 million ($97.3 million) to sign Pogba.
Spanish publication Marca report that Real Madrid have also contacted Juventus inquiring about Pogba.
Pogba, last year’s FIFA Under-20 Golden Ball winner, has kept a regular place in the Juventus side this season after breaking through in 2012/2013. Pogba has played 34 times for Juve in all competitions this season, scoring eight goals.
Here are some more stories to kick off your Friday:
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
With fellow title contenders Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool off from English Premier League action, Chelsea have a perfect opportunity this weekend to get one step closer to the title.
The first-place Blues, who are on a 13-match unbeaten run in EPL play, will head into Saturday’s clash against fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur with a 4-point lead on second-place Arsenal. Although Tottenham have won more matches away from home than any other club in the EPL, Chelsea will be favored to grab all three points at home and put more pressure on their major rivals in the race for the title. Chelsea are still unbeaten in league play at home under Jose Mourinho, and visiting Spurs are winless in their last 16 trips to Stamford Bridge across all competitions.
Tottenham will look for a result in order to stay in the midst of the race for a Champions League spot, but they will visit the Bridge with several major injury concerns, especially in defense. Their low-scoring offense has also come under fire in recent weeks, and it will go toe-to-toe Saturday against a Chelsea defense that has only allowed two goals in their last five league games at home. Saturday’s match against Chelsea will open a grueling month of March for Spurs, one that includes matches against Arsenal, Benfica and Liverpool.
Another clash between a league leader and a Champions League contender will take place in Italy, where first-place Juventus will host fourth-place Fiorentina in Turin. Sunday’s match at Juventus Stadium will be the first of three March matches between the two sides, who will also square off in the Europa League Round of 16. Fiorentina handed Juventus their lone Serie A loss of the season back in October, a 4-2 thriller for the Viola, and the defending champions would want nothing more than another home victory on their quest to a third consecutive league title.
Here is a closer look at the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
By IVES GALARCEP
We are one day away from the official start of the MLS season, and the latest episode of The SBI Show takes a look at all of the opening week action across Major League Soccer.
Episode 120 features a look at all eight match-ups, including Sporting Kansas City’s visit to CenturyLink Field, and the Philadelphia Union’s trip to Portland.
Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I als complete this week’s preseason preview of MLS with our predictions for the league’s regular-season awards, including our picks for MVP, Rookie of the Year and winners of the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup.
Give Episode 120 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:
Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
D.C. United has shown Eddie Johnson the money.
Johnson has signed a deal with D.C. United as a Designated Player, the club announced on Thursday. The move was expected almost immediately after Johnson joined D.C. via a trade from the Seattle Sounders, but it had not been worked out until now.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but an SI.com report states that Johnson signed a two-year deal that will see him earn an average of $600,000 a season.
“Eddie is an elite striker who is in the prime of his career, and we are thrilled that he has made a commitment to D.C. United,” said D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper. “We look forward to Eddie’s contributions on and off the field.”
Johnson has been one of the best forwards in MLS since returning in 2012. The 29-year-old U.S. Men’s National Team forward netted a combined 23 times and delivered five assists for the Sounders in regular season play the past two seasons, but was moved this offseason after becoming unhappy about his contract situation with the club.
During a game last year, Johnson celebrated a goal by making a pay-up gesture and uttering the words “Pay me.”
“I want to thank D.C. United for showing faith in me,” said Johnson. “I’m extremely proud to wear the Black-and-Red, and I am excited to get the season started with my new teammates.”
Here are more notes from around MLS:
By IVES GALARCEP
When Eric Lichaj left his first match in a month after just 45 minutes, there was reason to be concerned that he had suffered another setback.
He did, and he may require surgery that could cost him a month of playing time at a crucial time.
According to Sky Sports, Lichaj could wind up missing up to a month as he battles a groin injury that looks like it will require surgery.
Nothing official has been released by Nottingham Forest about Lichaj’s condition, but his halftime departure from Forest’s 4-1 loss to Wigan Athletic over the weekend set off alarm bells considering the start was Lichaj’s first appearance in more than a month.
Photo by Andrew Katsampes/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
After a bit of uncertainty, Heath Pearce has a found a home in MLS.
Pearce has signed a deal with the Montreal Impact just ahead of the 2014 season, according to a report from Goal.com. Pearce had been trialing with the Impact in recent weeks, and convinced the club’s brass that he was worth bringing on board.
Montreal made the move official on Thursday afternoon.
The versatile, 29-year-old defender has been without a club since the Red Bulls parted ways with him back in November. Pearce made 14 appearances for the 2013 Supporters’ Shield winners, but was hindered by a hip injury from the beginning of the year and opted to have season-ending surgery in June after his performances started suffering.
Pearce joins a Montreal back line that lost incumbent Alessandro Nesta but still includes the likes of Nelson Rivas and Matteo Ferrari.
What do you think of Pearce joining the Impact? Do you see him having a big season in Montreal? Wishing your club would’ve picked Pearce up?
Share your thoughts below.
By IVES GALARCEP
The 2014 MLS season is just two days away and it’s time to get your MLS Fantasy Teams in order for the new campaign.
The Official SBI Fantasy MLS League is back, and if you want to compete with a stacked list of competitors, this is a league you want to be a part of.
If you haven’t signed up for your Fantasy MLS Team, do so ASAP. Just go to the Official Fantasy MLS site to build your team today.
And if you are interested in joining the Official SBI League, you can find the league’s official code to join after the jump:
Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
A season-finale result away from reaching the playoffs, the Chicago Fire have had quite the makeover this offseason.
Gone is head coach Frank Klopas and in his place is Frank Yallop, the seasoned manager who led the Earthquakes to two MLS Cup last decade. Yallop is in charge with trying to fine-tune the Fire into a legit contender in the Eastern Conference, an extremely tough task given how much teams like Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union have improved.
Yallop has already begun to leave his stamp on the team, trading away back line regulars Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. Yallop looks set to turn to more experience in the defense, with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni and Lovel Palmer among the additions made by the club this offseason.
On the offensive side, 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee will once again be the focal point of the squad. He will need help, however, and it is up to Yallop to find the right balance in his attack, one that includes the talented likes of Patrick Nyarko, Dilly Duka and Chris Rolfe.
The pieces are in place for the overlooked Fire to return to the postseason and make a statement this year, but how quickly the team jels and understands Yallop’s system will go a long way in determining just how successful the first season of a new era really is.
Here is a closer look at the 2014 Chicago Fire: