Khedira homecoming, Barca ban upheld, United's record spend
As the deadline of the summer transfer window edges ever closer, it is no surprise that this week's selection of top stories is dominated by news of players switching clubs. But there is still room for Barcelona losing yet another appeal, a couple of surprising records on the horizon and the dreaded "banter" rearing its head.
TOP FIVE STORIES
For a player who has recently won both the Champions League and the World Cup, Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira is a player with an uncertain future. Links with a move to the Premier League -- most notably Arsenal -- have come to nothing, so the former Stuttgart player is now apparently considering a return to his homeland with Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga champions -- who are seeking cover for the injured Javi Martinez -- appear to be interested, with honorary president Franz Beckenbauer talking up the move. Later in the week, Der Kaiser also added his voice to the prolonged and public exchange of comments with Borussia Dortmund about Marco Reus. For Real's part, coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Thursday that, while Angel Di Maria has requested to leave the club, Khedira has not, though the Italian did add: "We'll see what happens."
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Barcelona will not be able to bring in any players at all next year after FIFA upheld an appeal regarding the ban on the Spanish club making signings for two consecutive transfer windows. So lucky for them that they have already bought Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Thomas Vermaelen, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jeremy Mathieu, Claudio Bravo and Alen Halilovic this summer, with Sao Paulo full-back Douglas also seemingly on his way. Having been at the Court of Arbitration for Sport just last week for their unsuccessful appeal against Suarez's four-month ban, Barca will be back in Lausanne soon to fight this latest sanction. Even if they fail again at CAS, Barca can look at how they were able to buy a player originally banned from "all football-related activity" at a time when they were initially forbidden from signing anyone and see that things could have been worse.
Manchester United fans hoping to firmly put the David Moyes era behind them were given a shock on Saturday when the club lost their first league match with Louis van Gaal at the helm, going down 2-1 at home to Swansea. And even as they were buoyed by Marcos Rojo announcing he was on the verge of signing for the club, there was a reminder of another disappointment past as the Argentina international cited Juan Sebastian Veron as an influence in him choosing to move to Old Trafford. The deal for the defender -- which also sees Nani go on loan to Sporting Lisbon -- takes United's summer spending up to 72 million pounds, a club record for a single transfer window. However, it will take more than that to satisfy those desperate for a thorough overhaul of the squad, with even former United great Paul Scholes demanding "five experienced players" arrive.
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"It's not something you hear all the time," was the understated summary given by Crystal Palace caretaker manager Keith Millen. He wasn't wrong. At the start of the week Malky Mackay was all set to become the club's new boss and reunite with Iain Moody, only for the deal to collapse on Wednesday. The Daily Mail led reports that evening of a dossier compiled and submitted to the FA by Cardiff owner Vincent Tan containing alleged offensive text exchanges between his two former employees -- who both left the Welsh club last year in acrimonious circumstances. Mackay said in a statement via the League Managers' Association on Thursday that some of the reports concerning the messages were "seriously inaccurate and misleading," and that while he admitted his actions were "very regrettable and disrespectful of other cultures" he described his actions as "letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter." The LMA subsequently issued its own apology for the "inappropriate wording" of its statement.
I'm not sure historians have properly considered the notion that Stalin intended most of those famines as banter.- Brian Phillips (@runofplay) August 21, 2014
Liverpool's raft of summer signings has been largely funded by selling Suarez to Barcelona, who claim to have paid less for the forward than originally believed. However, the Reds' recruitment drive had lacked a marquee name to really get the fans believing there was life after the controversial Uruguayan. That was until Wednesday night, when sources told ESPN FC that talks to bring the equally conspicuous Mario Balotelli to Anfield were underway. The Italy striker said goodbye to his AC Milan colleagues on Thursday after a fee of only 16 million pounds was agreed on Merseyside. Liverpool will get a player who, having just turned 24, still has plenty of time to put his controversial past behind him and truly fulfil his potential -- especially if they get their desired "behaviour clauses" written into his contract. AC Milan lose their last remaining star player, piling further misery on new coach Filippo Inzaghi after a dismal preseason.
Balotelli at £16m is a Rickie Lambert plus a Shane Long (price-wise); or 45.7% of one Andy Carroll (#lfc price). In any language: a bargain.- sportingintelligence (@sportingintel) August 21, 2014
Martin Odegaard, a 15-year-old midfielder with Stromsgodset, became the youngest player ever to be called up to Norway's senior squad for their upcoming friendly against the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 27.
"This is a dream come true," he said. "This is something I have dreamt about since I was a little boy. I am incredibly proud to play with the flag on my chest and represent my country."
Nicklas Bendtner has been urged to make the most of his new opportunity after signing for German side Wolfsburg after being released by Arsenal. Bendtner has signed a performance-based, three-year-deal with a clause allowing Wolfsburg to terminate the contract without any redundancy payment should he be involved in any off-the-pitch scandals, and former Denmark coach Morten Olsen hopes the striker gets his career back on track.
"Nicklas deserves another chance," Olsen said. "And Wolfsburg have offered him a huge chance. I hope he takes his chance. Bendtner has great potential, but has not accessed it in the last years. In the European Championship year 2012 he was one of the best attackers in Europe.
"He had some injury setbacks, and also made a few mistakes off the pitch. He knows that best. That's why he didn't play regularly, and lost his form.
"He might have not acted according to the rules at times. But some of it was exaggerated. He soon had this label. He has now reached the best age for a footballer, and has six or seven years left to play at the highest level. If he does not learn from his mistakes now, he will never do it. Should it come like this, he'll also run into problems with me."
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Juventus general manager Giuseppe Marotta has sought to end the speculation surrounding Arturo Vidal by saying the Chile international is not on the market, and revealed he is as tired with the long-running transfer saga as many other football fans by describing it as a soap opera.
"It's like a soap opera, particularly when it comes to the media, without there actually being any real revelations," Marotta told reporters.
"We have never put Vidal on the market, and he has shown us that he wants to stay here by renewing his contract at the end of last season. At the moment, the player has no desire to be sold -- so yes, at this point the Vidal saga can be considered closed."
Marko Marin has his sights set on an unprecedented hat trick of Europa League wins after officially linking up with his new club Fiorentina. Marin, who joined Chelsea from Werder Bremen in 2012, won the Europa League with the Blues in 2013 and was on loan at Sevilla when they lifted the prize last May. Only three men -- Ray Clemence, Giuseppe Bergomi and Nicola Berti -- have won the old UEFA Cup three times, but none did it in as many years.
"I won the Europa League in the last two years and it would be really nice to repeat that again," the German midfielder said. "Then of course we want to qualify for Europe again, and we have the quality within the side to do that. I want to play my part."
Former Brazil striker Fred warned that he and his Fluminense teammates could refuse to play this weekend following threatening behaviour by a few dozen Fluminense fans who shouted abuse at players, threw objects and hit out at their cars as the team left a Rio de Janeiro airport following their third straight defeat.
"If nothing is done by authorities or club officials, and these cowards try to invade the [team headquarters] Laranjeiras to attack the players, as a captain I will get the group together and Fluminense will not play on Sunday against Sport. They will use their weapons and we will use ours. [It is] unbelievable and lamentable that in 2014, after hosting a World Cup, Brazil still has to deal with this type of barbarity."