Valencia centre-back Nicolas Otamendi is apparently “desperate” for a switch to Manchester United.
A long-rumoured target for the Red Devils, Otamendi had a fine season in La Liga in 2014-15 and would add real strength to an often-vulnerable United defence.
The Argentine—currently playing in the Copa America—is seemingly open to the move, having told his international team-mates and friends that he wants to play at Old Trafford, per the Mirror‘s Ed Malyon.
Valencia are refusing to budge, though, in insisting that United meet the 27-year-old’s release clause of £35 million.
Malyon also reports that Otamendi is aware that Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal sees him as a secondary target in central defence behind Borussia Dortmund‘s Mats Hummels.
However, Van Gaal may want to re-think his priorities. Otamendi was brilliant for Valencia last season, making WhoScored.com’s European Team of the Season:
While he is not as good on the ball as Hummels, he is more consistent in defence and would bring a similar steely resolve to United’s back line as Nemanja Vidic provided in his heyday, per uMAXit Football’s Miguel Delaney.
He is also a significant goal threat—mainly from set pieces—having scored six last season—and he is ruthlessly efficient, per WhoScored:
United’s great teams of the past under Sir Alex Ferguson all had fantastic centre-backs as a base—see Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jaap Stam, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce.
The current crop has potential—particularly Chris Smalling—but Otamendi would bring a much-needed but currently absent edge to the defence, with United hoping to contend for the title once again next season.
He is clearly eager for the move, and Van Gaal would be potentially well advised to move on from Hummels and fork out the £35 million needed to bring Otamendi to Old Trafford.
Firmino Deal Close
According to Chisanga Malata in the Daily Star, United have sealed the signing of Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim.
Reports in Germany suggest the Red Devils have agreed a deal with the Bundesliga club worth £13.1 million for the 23-year-old, while Tuttomercatoweb(h/t Malata) now suggest terms have been agreed with the player.
Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Johnson believes Firmino could be a fine signing for United, describing the attacking midfielder as a “very underrated talent:”
Certainly Firmino has excelled at Hoffenheim in recent times, netting seven times and providing 10 assists in the Bundesliga last term, per WhoScored.
He would bring added flair and directness to a United attack that already includes Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria, with Dutch star Memphis Depay also set to arrive in the summer.
Arsenal have reportedly made an improved offer for Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho as Gunners boss ArseneWenger looks to bolster his squad ahead of next season.
Carvalho has been on Arsenal’s radar for some time now and would seemingly be a fine addition in the deep-lying midfield role, a long-term trouble area for the north London outfit.
To that end, Arsenal have apparently tabled a £28.5 million offer for the 23-year-old after failing with a previous £20 million bid, per the Sun‘s Paul Jiggins.
However, Jiggins claims that the Gunners may have to go significantly higher if they want to get their man, with Sporting loath to accept any offer below the player’s reported £37 million release clause.
Sports Witness indicates that Carvalho’s buyout clause is, in fact, slightly lower than Jiggins reports, suggesting Arsenal may be closing in on their man:
Either way, Carvalho is seemingly a serious target for the Gunners, and one who could add a vital element to the Emirates outfit’s play.
Arsenal have long been missing a true midfield enforcer, who can interrupt opposition play, protect the defence and begin attacks from deep.
Bleacher Report’s Graham Ruthven believes Arsenal are just a couple of signings away from winning the Premier League title next season:
Although Francis Coquelin did well in the deep-lying midfield role in the second half of last season, Carvalho has the potential to be a far better player than the Frenchman.
Though far from the finished article, he has excelled for both Sporting and the Portuguese national side, and he is only getting better.
If their reported bid of just shy of £30 million is accepted, Arsenal could have potentially solved a long-term problem in midfield.
Another reported target in the same area for Arsenal is Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia, but Tottenham have now entered the race to sign the Frenchman, per SamiMokbel of the MailOnline.
The 22-year-old is valued at around £25 million, and he is being targeted by a number of big European clubs, including Inter and AC Milan.
With none of Inter, Milan or Spurs able to offer Kondogbia Champions League football next term, the Gunners would potentially have the edge if they made a genuine move for the talented defensive midfielder.
However, Ligue 1 expert Matt Spiro has previously reported that Kondogbia is not a priority for Wenger, with Premier League rivals Manchester City perhaps a more likely destination for the former Sevilla man:
Indeed, in terms of defensive-midfield targets, Carvalho looks like the primary option for Arsenal, and they seem to be closing in on the Portuguese star.
Depth is key for the Gunners if they want to contend once again for the Premier League title next season, and Carvalho could add real strength to a previously vulnerable central-midfield area.
NBA team owners and general managers will likely remain mum this summer when it comes to their biggest restricted free agents. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the league implemented a new set of rules prohibiting team personnel from making any comments regarding offer sheets and whether or not they’ll match the deal.
Stein highlighted how Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors general manager, responded to a question regarding Draymond Green’s future. Rather than affirming the reigning champions would match any offer sheet Green receives from another team, Myers backed away from the topic.
“I can’t comment, per league rules, on that specific question,” he said.
Stein then explained:
ESPN.com has learned that the NBA, as far back as November, issued a memo to all teams warning them that the National Basketball Players Association has officially taken the position that the well-worn “we’ll match any offer” reflex strategy and its corresponding intent to discourage interest in a particular RFA is a circumvention of the salary cap.
The league’s memo, sources said, took the rare step of further cautioning teams that, while the NBA itself doesn’t concur with the NBPA‘s view, league officials see enough potential merit in the union’s stance to advise those who persist with match-any-offer chatter that they could be opening themselves up to legal action.
You can see both sides of the issue.
It’s almost a guarantee that marquee restricted free agents like Green, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Tristan Thompson will receive offer sheets, despite the expectation they’ll all remain with their current teams.
Myers could’ve said that it would be completely pointless for any team to try and sign Green because the Warriors are going to match any amount offered. And somebody would’ve tried anyway just to call his bluff. Mark Cuban didn’t shy away from pursuing Chandler Parsons, and Parsons signed with the Dallas Mavericks.
The counter argument would be that having an owner/general manager publicly state that a team will match an offer sheet could somewhat lessen interest in a player, especially if he’s not considered one of the top guys.
What’s the point in targeting a free agent whom you have little chance of landing? Pro Basketball Talk’s Sean Highkin used the example of Eric Bledsoe from last offseason to drive that point home:
Under normal circumstances, Eric Bledsoe would have been one of the most sought-after free agents on the market last summer, but teams were so convinced that the Suns would match their offer sheets that they showed no appetite whatsoever for going after him.
Bledsoe dangled in restricted free agency until almost the start of training camp, when he finally agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal to stay with the Suns.
In the end, it’s unlikely that the league-wide embargo on discussing restricted free agents will have any sort of noticeable impact on the actual free-agency period.
It’s another example of Michele Roberts and the NBPA looking out for the players’ best interests.
Kimbo Slice believes in evolution. Once seen as a one-dimensional stand-up fighter who would be exploited on the ground, Slice scored the biggest win of his odd mixed martial arts career on Friday night in St. Louis.
Slice knocked out 51-year-old MMA legend Ken Shamrock in the very first round. Bellator MMA has the finish:
It looked as if the critics of Slice would be proven right as Shamrock had a tight rear-naked choke locked on. To his credit, Slice didn’t quit when he looked as if he was a goner. Slice turned his head in direction of the choke and made it to his feet.
There he had his way. Two quick and hard right hands opened up nasty gashes on Shamrock’s face and led to the stoppage win. While the pace was slow, the action delivered in this the ultimate of novelty fights.
Actress and major fight fan Rosie Perez was shocked at the result:
Slice and Shamrock had tons of bad blood leading into the fight, but they put those things aside once the bout was over. Scott Fishman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel applauded Shamrock’s show of respect after the bout.
Pitbull Does it Again
Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire continues to prove he can pull a victory from the jaws of defeat and retain his title. On Friday night, Pitbull was all but stopped in the closing seconds of the first round against Daniel Weichel.
The latter landed a hard combination that sent Freire careening into the Bellator cage. The champion was truly saved by the bell as referee John McCarthy seemed a bit confused at first. However, Freire wasn’t quite out at the end of the round.
He’d obviously use the time between the first and second rounds to recover. In the second round, Weichel tried to mount pressure but he got caught with a left hook that dropped him. Pitbull would go in for the finish, but McCarthy called an end to the bout before Freire could do more damage.
In his last defense, Freire was being soundly beaten by Daniel Straus before gaining an advantage on the ground and coming up with the improbable rear-naked choke victory.
Freire has some defensive deficiencies, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting champion.
Here’s a look at all of the result from Spike TV’s televised card:
Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler emphatically snapped his three-fight losing streak with a submission win over Derek Campos. Chandler wasted no time gaining the advantage. A quick combination dropped Campos and Chandler pounced on his downed opponent.
Campos pulled guard, but Chandler was still able to do damage with elbows. By demonstrating some solid defense off his back, Campos got to his feet, but he’d only be there for a short time.
Chandler would close the distance again and take Campos down and take his back in the process. He locked in the rear-naked choke that led to the win. Chandler hadn’t won a fight since he stopped David Rickels in 2013.
If he can put together a few more wins, he can put himself in position to challenge champion Will Brooks for a third time.
Straus Stops Corrales
After a dominant first round, Daniel Straus finished off Henry Corrales. Straus proved to be better than his opponent in every facet. On the strength of his diverse striking attack, Straus gained a clear advantage in the first round.
In the second round, Strauss put his respected ground game in action. A big left hook put Corrales down and that would be the beginning of the end.
Strauss transitioned to Corrales’ back and locked in both hooks. Corrales was able to use some hand fighting to keep Straus at bay for a short time. Ultimately, Straus would get under Corrales’ neck and forced the stoppage. Straus had Pitbull in serious trouble in his last fight before getting careless—that seems to be a common occurrence.
After this win, he’ll be looking to jump back into the Bellator cage with Pitbull as soon as possible for another shot at the title.
Bobby Lashley destroyed Dan Charles on Friday night. With a myriad of suplexes and a bevy of ground and pound, Lashley scored a dominating second-round win. To be honest, the fight could have been stopped about a minute or two before it was.
Referee John McCarthy was lurking over Lashley’s shoulder for the entire second round before moving in to end the carnage. Lashley has now won six fights in a row and he has his eyes set on earning a shot at the heavyweight title.
An old school WWE connection congratulated Lashley on his win:
Is Lashley ready for Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov? That remains to be seen, but because of his age (38 years old) and his current form, the time is now or never for Lashley,
This was an entertaining card filled with finishes. While Slice and Shamrock aren’t contenders, Bellator 138 had a nice balance of star power and quality fights.
The Chicago White Sox pitcher once again absolutely dominated, pitching eight innings and giving up just two hits and no walks while striking out 14 against the Texas Rangers. Tragically, he was awarded a no-decision after David Robertson blew the save opportunity in the top of the ninth and the Rangers won the game, 2-1.
What Sale did on Friday night—even if the Rangers scored two runs in the top of the night, spoiling what should have been a Sale win—was incredibly impressive on its own. But historically, what Sale is doing right now is downright remarkable. He finds himself in the company of legends like Randy Johnson, as ESPN Stats & Information noted:
Oh, and Pedro Martinez, too, per MLB Stat of the Day on Twitter:
But yes, if you are keeping track at home, just 12 of the 26 batters Sale faced managed to put the ball in play. As Chuck Garfien of Comcast SportsNet Chicago noted, the Rangers were doomed from the outset:
In fact, the only thing that saved Texas on the night was Sale getting the hook, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News:
Remarkably, this isn’t the first time Sale has struck out 14 batters and failed to earn the win, putting him in some interesting company:
Sale is now 6-3 with a 2.74 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 88.2 innings pitched, and has established himself as one of baseball’s finest pitchers. The run he’s currently on is historically good and he’s made a very strong argument for himself as the game’s top pitcher at the moment.
One thing is for certain—there isn’t a player in baseball who looks forward to seeing Sale take the mound at the moment.