Five stars MLS teams should consider for DP deals in 2018

Major League Soccer is doing its part to shed the ‘retirement league’ label, with more and more teams choosing to spend big bucks on top players in their 20s. But as much as there has been a shift in philosophy in recent years, that doesn’t mean we still won’t see older stars choosing to finish their careers in North America.

The one thing international stars are surely more aware of is the fact that the fast and physical style in MLS makes it grueling for players who aren’t at their physical best. This reality is what former Barcelona star Xavi pointed to when he revealed why he wound up passing on MLS. It is also the reality Andrea Pirlo endured during his largely disappointing tenure with New York City FC.

You can’t wait until you’re on your last legs and expect to come to MLS and dominate, but if you choose to leave Europe’s top flight with some gas still left in the tank, like David Villa did, then you can thrive. Villa has been outstanding for New York City FC since arriving from Spain three years ago, even earning a return to the Spanish national team in the process.

Cristiano Ronaldo once seemed destined to finish his career in MLS, but his run of trophy collecting with Portugal and Real Madrid in the past two years has helped keep him on the “Not time to join MLS yet” list. As much as it once seemed inevitable that Ronaldo wraps up his career on American soil, now it feels more like a long shot.

Plenty of superstars have looked destined to play in MLS only to never make the jump. Ronaldinho, Xavi, Ronaldo and even newly-minted Liberian president George Weah have been leading players in the MLS rumor mill only to see those rumors fail to bear fruit.

Then there are all the rumors that did become reality, such as the MLS stints of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kaka and Didier Drogba.

So who are some of the big-name stars MLS teams should consider trying to lure to MLS in 2018? Here are some prime candidates.


ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC


Zlatan Ibrahimovic Manchester United Bristol City

MLS made a hard push for Ibrahimovic before the torn ACL that cut short his 2017, and now that he’s back playing for Manchester United, the questions should surface again about whether the Swedish star is ready to take the United States by storm.

The LA Galaxy could certainly use the Manchester United striker, even though the 36-year-old’s surgically-repaired knee might have some wary about spending big to bring him to MLS. That said, it’s hard to deny the star power he would provide.


JAVIER HERNANDEZ


Javier Hernandez Chicharito West Ham

Long-linked to MLS, which has made several big-money overtures for the Mexican star, Hernandez is currently at West Ham trying to find his form ahead of the 2018 World Cup. A summer move to MLS, after what he would hope is a strong showing in Russia with El Tri, could make for perfect timing for a move.

Hernandez seemed tailor-made for a move to Los Angeles, but with LAFC having signed Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, that would leave the expansion newcomers out of the race. Orlando City once made approaches, but the Lions seem more likely to pursue a big-ticket playmaker (unless their current discussions with the New York Red Bulls about Sacha Kljestan prove successful).


WAYNE ROONEY


Wayne Rooney Everton

When he was struggling at Manchester United, Rooney was considered a risky proposition who wouldn’t be worth the hefty price tag it would take to draw him to MLS. His return to Everton has rejuvenated his career, and suddenly the 32-year-old English star doesn’t seem like quite as big a gamble.

Where might he fit best in MLS? The Galaxy have been been a popular choice among high-profile English stars like David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, but could a team like the Seattle Sounders be tempted to add him to their attack?


ANDRES INIESTA


Andres Iniesta Barcelona

It wasn’t too long ago when some were questioning whether Iniesta was on his last legs. A resurgence in recent years has put that talk to rest, and his performance in Barcelona’s El Clasico romp over Real Madrid reminded us all just how good he still is.

Does Iniesta have any interest in coming to MLS? If he did, New York City FC has the connections and resources to make it happen. And after failing in its attempt to lure Xavi to MLS, it’s a safe bet NYCFC would jump at the chance to add the World Cup hero and midfield magician to the fold.

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FALCAO


Radamel Falcao Nantes Monaco Ligue 1 29112017

Another player who was previously linked to an MLS move before rejuvenating their career in Europe, Falcao is enjoying an excellent run at AS Monaco, and may be in no hurry to leave for an American journey at the age of 31.

The Columbus Crew were linked to Falcao two years ago, and it would make sense again if the Crew decide not to keep Ola Kamara. Gregg Berhalter’s squad is reportedly eyeing Uruguayan striker Santiago Garcia, but if they’re still looking for a big-time forward by the summer, perhaps the Colombia striker would be a good fit.

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Porto 5 Monaco 2: Aboubakar double sends rampant hosts through

Vincent Aboubakar scored twice as Porto eased into the Champions League last 16 by thrashing Monaco 5-2 in a game that saw both sides reduced to 10 men.

Sergio Conceicao’s men needed a win to guarantee second spot in Group G ahead of RB Leipzig and a place in the first knockout round – where they fell at the hands of Juventus a year ago – and they might light work of a poor Monaco side at Estadio do Dragao.

Aboubakar took advantage of the Ligue 1 champions’ pedestrian defending to score twice inside the opening 33 minutes before Felipe and Rachid Ghezzal were sent off following a clash in the centre circle.

Yacine Brahimi extended Porto’s lead before half time and when Kamil Glik pulled one back for Leonardo Jardim’s beleaguered troops with a penalty just after the hour mark, Porto ruthlessly powered forward to restore their three-goal cushion through Alex Telles.

Second-half substitute Radamel Falcao then scored against his former club but there was to be no Monaco fightback as Tiquinho Soares wrapped up a result that leaves Monaco out of the competition with four defeats and two draws from six games, ending a miserable campaign from last season’s semi-finalists.

Porto, meanwhile, will hope for a favourable draw as they aim to go one better than 2016-17 and reach the quarter-finals.

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Monaco 1 RB Leipzig 4: Werner brace dumps Ligue 1 champions out

Timo Werner struck twice as Monaco self-destructed in the Champions League on Tuesday, going down 4-1 at home to RB Leipzig to be dumped out of Europe early.

A woeful start from the hosts – winless in five Group G games – saw two Jemerson mistakes hand Leipzig a massive advantage in the first 10 minutes at Stade Louis II.

The defender first turned a low cross from Marcel Sabitzer into his own goal before gifting Kevin Kampl possession with a loose pass, the midfielder setting up Werner for the second.

Monaco were not finished causing problems for themselves, though, and Radamel Falcao fouled Willi Orban in the box to allow Werner to emphatically convert a 31st-minute penalty.

Although Falcao’s header gave his side hope, that was soon extinguished by Naby Keita’s fine goal on the stroke of half-time. Monaco are now guaranteed to finish bottom of Group G, meaning they will not play any further European football this term.

For Leipzig, a do-or-die clash at home to Besiktas – already confirmed as the winners of the group – awaits on matchday six, when Monaco visit second-placed Porto.

Leipzig knew a loss would send them out but they were gifted the lead just five minutes in.

Sabitzer burst clear down the right wing and tried to pick out Yussuf Poulsen with a low cross, only for Jemerson’s interception to wrong foot helpless goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

It was 2-0 to the visitors in the ninth minute, leaving Monaco with a mountain to climb. Jemerson was again at fault, the defender surrendering possession tamely to Kampl, who sent Werner through on goal to beat Subasic with a cute finish.

Keita Balde Diao forced a smart save from Peter Gulacsi and the goalkeeper had to be alert again to deny Falcao as the Ligue 1 champions rallied.

But more chaotic Monaco defending led to a third for Leipzig, Falcao clumsily bringing down Orban and Werner stepping up to crash home his 15th goal of the season for club and country.

It might have all been going to plan for Leipzig, but Sabitzer’s dislocated shoulder forced his substitution and Monaco looked to have briefly given themselves a lifeline before the interval.

Gulacsi misjudged a Marcos Lopes free-kick, allowing Falcao to head into the gaping goal, yet Leipzig immediately restored their three-goal advantage with a clinical attack.

Marcel Halstenberg fed Keita outside the box, the Guinea international wriggling away from Kamil Glik and Fabinho to roll home a composed finish.

Gulacsi denied Andrea Raggi as the defender tried to turn in a free-kick after 58 minutes, but Leipzig were never likely to let a first away win in Europe slip, the Bundesliga side content to run the clock down.

Monaco – second behind Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 – are well-placed to return to the Champions League next season, but an exodus of star names since their surprise run to the semi-finals last season has proved costly for Leonardo Jardim’s side.

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‘Neymar great for Ligue 1’ – Reynet a fan of €222m deal and Mbappe’s PSG switch

Neymar’s €222 million transfer and Kylian Mbappe’s switch to Paris Saint-Germain are “great for Ligue 1”, according to Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet.

Having seen the French top-flight crown wrestled away by Monaco in 2016-17, PSG spent the summer embarking on an elaborate recruitment drive in an effort to climb back to the summit.

Nantes 4/1 to beat Toulouse 1-0

A record-breaking agreement for Neymar saw the Brazilian arrive from Barcelona, while exciting teenage talent Mbappe was acquired in a deal which will eventually cost €180m.

PSG’s business has not been universally well received, amid accusations of flouting Financial Fair Play regulations, but Reynet considers the attention they have generated to be healthy for French football.

“It’s very positive,” he told Goal.

“We all know Neymar, he is one of the three best players in the world. 

Baptiste Reynet Neymar Mbappe Ligue 1

“We are happy that players like this are coming into our league. It highlights the division and generates more talk of Ligue 1.

“I thought it [the Neymar deal] was a very good thing, as was the fact that Mbappe stayed. It’s great for Ligue 1.”

Reynet has already kept Neymar and Mbappe out this season, in a Ligue 1 contest back in October, but conceded twice to Thomas Meunier in a 2-1 defeat.

He still considers them to be among his toughest opponents, with Monaco striker Radamel Falcao – who put a hat-trick past him in August – another fearsome frontman that he holds in the highest regard.

Reynet added: “Falcao has made me miserable a few times.

“Last year he scored a goal from free-kick, after the first goal of Monaco came after a free-kick from him hit the bar. 

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“This year he put three past me. He is an outstanding striker who is very skilful in front of goal. 

“And there are of course the three Parisians,[Edinson] Cavani , Mbappe and Neymar, who will turn a lot of heads this year.”

PSG currently hold a four-point advantage at the top of Ligue 1, with Unai Emery’s side still unbeaten in all competitions.

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Falcao sparks match-fixing storm after discussing draw during Colombia clash with Peru

Radamel Falcao has sparked World Cup controversy after admitting to discussing playing for a draw during Colombia’s qualifying clash with Peru.

A 1-1 stalemate in the final round of CONMEBOL fixtures proved to be enough to see Colombia through to next summer’s showpiece in Russia, while earning Peru a play-off spot.

Colombia 33/1 to win 2018 World Cup

Both sides were aware of the situation as their game was ongoing, with results elsewhere allowing them to take their foot off the gas.

Monaco striker Falcao has conceded that talks were held on the field, with neither team needing to push for a winner.

He told reporters after the game: “We knew what was happening in the other matches, we were playing with [the knowledge of] the other results and in that moment [I tried] to transmit that.”

Falcao was caught on camera speaking to a number of Peru players, as Colombia edged their way towards automatic qualification.

Radamel Falcao Colombia Peru play for draw

Renato Tapia has revealed that the 31-year-old did float the idea of seeing out the final few minutes with little competitive spirit.

He told Panamericana Television: “We were focused on the game and then in the final five minutes the Colombians approached us.

“They knew the situations from the other grounds. The game was managed as it had to be managed.

“I spoke with Falcao and he said to me that we were both in, so there was happiness about that.”

While Falcao’s actions have been questioned by some, with playing for a draw considered to be a form of match-fixing, Peru have moved to rubbish claims that there was any kind of “pact” between the two nations.

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Former Newcastle and Aston Villa midfielder Nolberto Solano, who is now a member of the Peruvian coaching team, said: “We needed to win, them too. What pact? That’s speculation.

“Obviously, at the end, we knew what the other results were and you tell yourself: ‘calm it down a bit, we mustn’t take any risks’.”

While Colombia march on to Russia, Peru will only secure their ticket if they can successfully negotiate an inter-confederation play-off clash with New Zealand in November.

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Monaco 1 Montpellier 1: Camara stuns champions as PSG stay top

Monaco failed to get back on track after their poor Champions League loss to Porto in midweek, drawing at home against Montpellier.

Substitute Souleymane Camara grabbed a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser as Monaco were held to a 1-1 home draw by Montpellier and missed the chance to go top of Ligue 1.

Champions Monaco did not produce a vintage performance on Friday, but Radamel Falcao’s 12th goal in eight league games, scored seven minutes before the break, continued a stunning individual start to the season for the striker and looked like it would prove decisive.

But Monaco failed to build on that lead and Camara headed home in the second minute of stoppage time to grab a draw that Montpellier deserved.

Failure to win means Monaco remain behind title rivals Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference ahead of Unai Emery’s men facing Bordeaux on Saturday.

It was another blow for Leonardo Jardim’s men after their morale-denting 3-0 Champions League loss to Porto last time out and only the second time in 22 home league games they had failed to win, in a run stretching back to last season.

Montpellier, meanwhile, add to their surprise draw against PSG last week and move up to 10th after an impressive performance.

Underdogs Montpellier were in control for much of the first half, Isaac Mbenza curling a 20-yard free-kick inches over with their first opportunity of note.

The visitors should have been in front when they seized on slack Monaco passing to produce a well-worked move that resulted in an unmarked Stephane Sessegnon firing over after being set up by Jerome Roussillon.

Pedro Mendes then cut inside from the right and forced a low save from Danijel Subasic, who was making his 150th Ligue 1 appearance in the Monaco goal.

But against the run of play, it was the hosts who moved in front. Rony Lopes raced down the right and played in perfect low cross which a stretching Falcao turned in at the far post, goal-line technology showing the ball had just crept over the line before Benjamin Lecomte got back to save.

The second half was a much quieter affair, with the first significant chance not arriving until Ruben Aguilar volleyed narrowly wide after Roussillon’s cross from the left flicked into his path.

Monaco could have wrapped up the points when Thomas Lemar was caught in two minds after being played in, the France international failing to hit the target with a poor finish.

And the hosts were stunned in stoppage time when Hilton’s high ball was nodded on by Kevin Berigaud to fellow sub Camara, who headed past Subasic from eight yards to silence Stade Louis II.

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In-form Monaco striker Falcao revels in career-best scoring streak

Radamel Falcao says his current hot streak for Monaco is a highlight in his career.

Colombia striker Falcao hit 30 goals last season as Monaco claimed the Ligue 1 title and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League against the odds.

Toulouse 5/1 to beat Marseille

The 31-year-old has already hit a remarkable 11 goals in just seven Ligue 1 games this term, including a double in Friday’s 4-0 win at Lille, which saw him rack up 200 goals for European clubs.

With league crowns, and two Europa League medals to his name, Falcao’s is a storied career, but he believes he is now at the peak, having recovered from a serious knee injury and returned to his best following underwhelming loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea. 

Falcao told Canal+: “Even Porto’s Falcao wasn’t scoring that much.

“I’m grateful for the team’s efforts and thank God, I was efficient. 

“It’s a highlight of my career, I’ve been praying a lot to get to this moment so I can play lots of games and score that much.”

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Monaco will welcome Falcao’s former club Porto to Stade Louis II in the Champions League on Tuesday, but the striker will have no split loyalties, despite his fondness for the Portuguese giants.

“Porto is a special game for me and I want to help Monaco get the three points,” he said.

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Lille 0 Monaco 4: Falcao hits double as champions romp to win

Stevan Jovetic, Rachid Ghezzal and a Radamel Falcao double gave Monaco a 4-0 Ligue 1 win against Lille.

Monaco drew level on points with Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-0 victory over Lille on Friday.

Radamel Falcao scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season alongside first strikes for the club for Stevan Jovetic and Rachid Ghezzal at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

The defeat will likely pile more pressure on Lille boss Marcelo Bielsa, who insisted this week he would not resign despite a run of six games without a win.

Monaco looked the more dangerous from the off despite allowing the home side the majority of possession and they fully deserved to take a 24th-minute lead, with Jovetic firing into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area for his first goal in Ligue 1.

Ghezzal, another arrival in a hectic transfer window, opened his account six minutes later as he arrived unmarked at the left-hand post to drill home a loose ball.

Lille heads had well and truly dropped, but Falcao made the points certain three minutes after half-time, heading in a rebound following Mike Maignan’s save from Rony Lopes.

Fares Bahlouli at last forced Diego Benaglio into a save, but matters got worse for Lille moments later, with Falcao dispatching a penalty in confident style after Rominigue Kouame clipped the heels of Jorge in the box.

The result moves the champions on to 18 points from seven matches, level with PSG, who take on Montpellier on Saturday.

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Falcao’s phenomenal finishing leaves Cavani and Neymar in his wake

Radamel Falcao has laid down the gauntlet to Edinson Cavani and Neymar with his phenomenal finishing for Monaco this season.

The Colombian striker, who was written off by many on the back of two frustrating loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, has been rejuvenated in the last 18 months.

His efforts in 2016-17 helped Monaco to the Ligue 1 title, and he has picked up where he left off this term despite losing attacking partner Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain.

Falcao already has nine efforts to his name to lead the French top-flight scoring charts, with that return coming from just 10 shots on target.

Falcao netted 21 times in Ligue 1 last season, with Cavani and Alexandre Lacazette the only men to better that return.

Cavani has started positively again for PSG, with seven goals plundered so far in 2017-18.

Neymar, meanwhile, has managed four following his record-breaking €222 million move to the French capital.

They, along with Mbappe, will be looking to chase Falcao down as the season progresses, but they will have to go some if they are to match the South American’s remarkable conversion rate.

Monaco will be desperate for the 31-year-old to maintain his standards, as he has become a talismanic presence.

Falcao’s efforts so far this season have seen him reach a 40-year high in Ligue 1, with few players throughout history having managed to match his burst out of the blocks.

Falcao, who netted twice in a 3-0 victory over Strasbourg on Saturday, will go in search of more goals when Monaco travel to Lille on Friday.

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