Atlanta United signs Ezequiel Barco from Independiente in record-breaking deal

Atlanta United has officially landed Ezequiel Barco from Independiente as a young designated player, the club announced Friday.

“Securing a player of Ezequiel’s caliber is another significant moment in Atlanta United history,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “This transfer further demonstrates the commitment of our club to bring top level, dynamic young players to Atlanta and to MLS. We are excited to welcome Ezequiel to our club and our city.”


Philadelphia Union acquire David Accam for $1.2M in allocation money

The Chicago Fire have dealt midfielder David Accam to the Philadelphia Union in a blockbuster trade, the MLS clubs announced Friday.

The Fire will receive $1.2 million in allocation money — $300,000 in general and $900,000 in targeted allocation money — making it one of the most expensive deals between MLS clubs. Half of the fee will be sent now with the other half set to be sent after the 2018 MLS season.

Accam joins the Union following three seasons with the Fire, scoring 33 goals and adding 15 assists over that span. The 27-year-old Ghanaian finished last season with 14 goals and eight assists.

“Today’s acquisition of David Accam marks an exciting moment for our club, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Philadelphia Union,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “David possesses electrifying speed and skill to go along with a nose for goal comparable to the very best in MLS.

“We believe him to be a perfect fit as we continue to build our attacking corps. He provides an instant boost on the wing and we look forward to integrating him with our team as soon as possible.”

Accam joined MLS in 2015 as a designated player, after spending the previous three season at Swedish club Helsingborgs IF.


Shaw form sees Mourinho end Man Utd’s search for a new left-back

Jose Mourinho sees no left-backs “better than this Luke Shaw”, with Manchester United no longer seeking reinforcements in that area.

The Red Devils have been heavily linked with a number of performers who can slot into that position, including the likes of Alex Sandro, Danny Rose and Ryan Sessegnon.

Finding a suitable option to fill their left-back berth has been an issue for United at times, with Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian among those to have been shunted out of position to provide assistance.

Shaw has, however, come back into favour of late, and the 22-year-old has offered enough to convince Mourinho that he can justify the £30 million fee which brought him to Old Trafford and end the search for cover.

The Red Devils boss told reporters on a man who has started five successive fixtures over recent weeks: “Luke? Played very well.

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“He was already improving and playing well when I start playing him after that long spell without minutes.

“I remember the first time, Champions League [against CSKA Moscow], he was coming step by step and now with a good run of matches and continuity also.

“Playing like he did against Everton two days after a previous match, good, solid. Physically much better, mentally much stronger, tactically understanding the game much better and what we need in the different phases and circumstances, I’m really happy.

“You like the transfer market, I can say that in this moment I don’t see many left-backs better than this Luke Shaw.”

Shaw is among those set to see their current contracts expire at the end of the season, with Young also occupying that bracket.

Both are, however, expected to be kept on, with there 12-month options in their respective deals which can be triggered.

Those decisions are likely to be taken soon, as is a call on whether or not to offer fresh terms to Mourinho.

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An extension through to 2021 has been mooted for the Portuguese, but he is already tied to United for another 18 months and is in no rush to put pen to paper.

“My contract ends July 2019, so plenty of time to speak,” Mourinho added.

“I know that the club is happy and the owners, the board are happy, they know I am happy and when that’s the case one day we decide to do something we will do it easily, but plenty of time.”


Batshuayi and Joao Mario talk curbed by West Ham boss Moyes

David Moyes did not attend Chelsea’s FA Cup replay against Norwich City to scout Michy Batshuayi, while the West Ham boss has dealt a blow to the Blues in their reported chase of Andy Carroll.

Belgium international Batshuayi has been strongly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge in January after struggling to make an impact at Chelsea in the year-and-a-half since moving from Marseille.

Batshuayi – who scored for Chelsea against Norwich – had been suggested as a potential makeweight in a deal to take Carroll the other way, with Antonio Conte’s side linked with several surprising options, including Stoke City veteran Peter Crouch.

But Moyes attempted to end those rumours in his column for the London Evening Standard, with Carroll unlikely to play again for anyone this month.

“Categorically, I did not go to Stamford Bridge to watch Batshuayi or any other player in particular,” he wrote.

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“I like to get out and watch plenty of matches, I hadn’t seen Norwich this season and there were some players there who had been mentioned to me as having been doing well.

“What may defuse much of the speculation is that the ankle injury Andy picked up against West Brom is sufficiently serious that he will not be able to play again this month anyway and it could even need an operation to put things right, although that has not yet been confirmed.”

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Moyes, meanwhile, has also sought to curb talk suggesting that Inter winger Joao Mario is among those on his January wish list.

The Portugal international, who has also been linked with Manchester United, is a player the Hammers boss admires, but one he is reluctant to speculate on.

The Scot added: “I think he’s a name which has been mentioned but whether he’s from Inter Milan or Chelsea or wherever I’m not talking about players from other clubs,” Moyes added. “He’s an interesting player, he’s a good footballer and certainly very talented.”


Golden boy Robin van Persie returns home to Feyenoord

Since his departure in 2004, it has always seemed inevitable that Robin van Persie would return to Rotterdam to finish his career. The only question was: which club would he go to?

He left his homeland as a promising 20-year-old to become his nation’s all-time top scorer and the best striker in the Premier League for Arsenal and Manchester United, but a mutual love with both Feyenoord and Excelsior has been a constant throughout.

Although he rose through Feyenoord’s youth system from the age of 13 to win the UEFA Cup in his first season of professional football, his journey began when a precocious five-year-old’s impressive technique convinced coaches at Excelsior to welcome him.

Van Persie has declared his heart belongs to both clubs at various times and constantly talked of a return, as Dutch players are prone to do.

While Excelsior dream of seeing the local boy return to sport their colours in front of the stand they named after him, it is Feyenoord who are set to give him a romantic swansong as they draw closer to his signing.

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Following the glorious title-winning end to Dirk Kuyt’s career, Feyenoord turned to the 34-year-old as the next fan favourite to take over as the big presence in the dressing room. Although their attempts to sign him in the summer were derailed by Fenerbahce, their desire to bring Van Persie home has only been enhanced by a disastrous first half of the season in which they’re 14 points adrift of Eredivisie leaders PSV.

Feyenoord’s general director Jan de Jong said on Tuesday that a personal agreement with the forward had been struck, and he has now been freed from his contract with the Turkish giants.

“As long as there is no signature under the contract, anything can happen,” technical director Martin van Geel said.

“He has a huge reputation among the other players, and we expect him to play a leading role, as Dirk Kuyt did, but he will fulfil that role differently.”

The Rotterdam giants are getting a very different player to the one that left to become an Arsenal legend in his youth. In some ways, that’s a good thing.

Although Van Persie was touted as one of the nation’s most promising players when he broke into the first team to play a role in their UEFA Cup triumph, the Dutch Young Player of the Year soon became known for his arrogance.

He had issues with coach Bert van Marwijk and things turned sour towards the end of his time there as he was dropped to the bench and had his head turned by an Arsenal approach in January 2004. He even flirted with a move to PSV before the switch to London in the summer.

The troublesome reputation would reappear later in his career, but Van Persie matured into a star and his mentality will be much different after his experience as a World Cup finalist and Premier League champion.

“Van Persie is no leader in words and gestures, but more in a footballing sense,” his former Netherlands team-mate Mark van Bommel said. “You must pay attention, he’ll amaze everyone with what he can do.

“He is a top professional, just like the others of that generation. Looking at what he has achieved, he can make younger players better. Even if it’s just in training.”

Feyenoord will be hoping to reap the reward on the field as well as off it, however, as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men sit fifth in the table at the halfway point.

But what role he will play is uncertain. Although Feyenoord finished the year with 12 goals in two games, they have had trouble scoring this season. Still, Nicolai Jorgensen has the striker position nailed down after finishing 2017 with six goals from as many appearances.

Van Persie, then, is likely to slot in behind as an attacking midfielder at the expense of Jens Toornstra. From there he can link up with Jorgensen form a dangerous position and make use of space in and around the box.

He could even end up on the wing, and Van Bronckhorst may take time to work out where he can create the best chances.  

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“Another personality, a bit of freshness in a group can’t hurt and he is a great player,” coach and former Oranje colleague Van Bronckhorst said. “Robin van Persie brings something with him, something different from what we already have.

“Robin can play anywhere: as a striker, as a No.10, on the wings, and with him you’re always ensured competition in multiple positions, because he is a winner, I’m a supporter of that.”

They are eager to get him into the team, but the condition he will arrive in is a bit of a concern. His latest Super Lig season was cut short in September by another serious injury, but Feyenoord insist he is fit.

Even then, he is still a player on the decline. After a strong first season in Turkey, he started to lose his place in the team and was open to an early departure.

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The national team have moved beyond him, too. Despite his 50 goals, he has featured for Netherlands just once in over two years as he was left out of their failed 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Van Persie remains a strong link to a great period for Feyenoord. More than that, he is a connection to a golden generation of European football. He played alongside the likes of Van Bronckhorst, Dennis Bergkamp, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and a host of other names. He starred for Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Louis van Gaal.

Now the Dutch icon can return home to Rotterdam, at the perfect time to prove he still has a lot to give and to reward feverish fan excitement after 13 and a half years away.


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