With many of the title races in Europe's top leagues all but decided, we're reached the time of the year when the proverbial “silly season” cranks up in anticipation of the international transfer window's arrival this summer.
But when media reports in the club's own backyard place a past Sueño MLS winner on Spanish superpower FC Barcelona's radar, it's worth taking note.
On Tuesday, Barcelona-based publication Mundo Deportivo, citing “some Argentine media,” posted a report claiming that River Plate striker Gabriel Funes Mori is back in the Catalan club's crosshairs as a transfer target.
The Argentina-born, Texas-raised No. 9 was River Plate's leading scorer during the first half of the 2012-13 season and has been linked to Barça and other European powers like AC Milan in the past. But he first rose to prominence as the winner of the 2008 Sueño MLS competition, which earned him a spot in FC Dallas' youth academy.
That opportunity quickly led to a trial with England's Chelsea FC. While Funes Mori did not catch on with the Blues, members of River Plate's staff spotted him and both he and his twin brother Ramiro soon joined the renowned Buenos Aires club and rapidly rose through the ranks.
Funes Mori played for Argentina's U-20 side and made an appearance for the senior team in a friendly against Brazil last year, but US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann reportedly took notice of Funes Mori last winter and invited him to switch allegiance to the US.
Funes Mori turns 22 later this year and probably isn't quite the finished product yet. But if he does wind up at Barcelona, he'll be the first player with American ties to join the Blaugrana's senior squad.
How close is Miami to joining the queue to get an MLS expansion franchise?
Maybe not as close as a recent report from Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl seemed to indicate.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee took to Twitter on Monday to address the report, which said that MLS Commissioner Don Garber had engaged in talks with the NFL club about bringing a team to South Florida. Dee said that there had been no formal discussions between the two parties, but explained that the Dolphins would "keep an open mind" about MLS:
Comm. Garber's apparent interest in MIA is the latest testament to our growing reputation as the premier soccer market in N. America (1/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
While we've not taken part in formal discussions re ownership of a MLS team, we'd certainly keep an open mind w/r/t any proposals that (2/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
...could bring an MLS franchise to Miami. (3/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
On Monday evening, MLS released a statement regarding the situation, saying that "no formal discussions" had taken place between the league and the Dolphins.
Eidur Gudjohnsen, Joan Verdú, Nelson Haedo Váldez, Javier Saviola ... it's hard to know which rumors are real and which are mere rumors in the Emerald City.
But the Sounders are clearly up to something, as GM Adrian Hanauer told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday that the club hopes to have news on a Designated Player soon. Earlier Tuesday, Steven Goff of The Washington Post offered up an interesting appetizer:
Seattle Sounders in hunt for Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins? Just a little somethin' I heard today. Thoughts? #mls
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) February 19, 2013
No indication of if that "little somethin'" has legs or not, but Martins is certainly a pedigreed forward who could help Seattle immensely. He's played in all of Europe's "Big Four" leagues and currently is taking a star turn at Levante in Spain's top flight.
What do you think? Would a mercurial Nigerian speedster with nearly 100 career goals for clubs and country be the right fit for the Sounders?
How can the LA Galaxy persuade Frank Lampard to make the leap across the pond? Let him head back to Europe for an offseason loan, according to The Mirror.
The British tabloid claims the Galaxy are willing to let Lampard join a European club for up to three months next winter (sound familiar, LA fans?). The goal is for him to enter 2014 with the best chances of making England's squad for the summer trip to the World Cup in Brazil.
And that's not the only perk Lampard would get from this rumored offer, said to be for $4.5 million annually over two-and-a-half years. According to the report, Lampard would get benefits such as a free house and free flights to the UK.
The 34-year-old midfielder is rumored to want to stay at Chelsea, but his contract with the reigning European champions expires in June and the Blues have yet to make a new offer, leading to plenty of questions around his future.
A Galaxy spokesperson declined to comment on the report.
And bear in mind... it's The Mirror.
Add yet another name to the list of Hondurans connected with a move to MLS.
Toronto FC, who have already been linked to midfielder Arnold Peralta, are now reportedly chasing forward Rommel Quioto (above), according to Honduran outlet Diez.
According to the article, the president of Honduran side Vida, Carla Dip, says she has received an offer from TFC for the 21-year-old, who has featured for the Honduras Under-20 and Under-23 sides but did not make it on the London Olympics squad. He has one cap with the senior team.
"This afternoon, I received an e-mail in which they're interested in the player and they submitted an offer," Dip told Diez. "They would like for him to join them as soon as possible and it would be on loan. I spoke to Quioto and we hope that he can go."
The report finishes by pointing out how Vida were on the verge of transferring Peralta to Toronto a few weeks ago but the player declined at the last minute when an agreement was already in place.
Toronto FC did not comment on the report, with a club spokesman stating that the club doesn't "comment on players not on our roster."
From the people who brought you "C.J. Sapong to Arsenal" a few weeks ago, here's a rumor that for some might prove slightly more credible.
The Football Magazine is reporting that English side "Blackburn Rovers are close to completing a deal for the one-time great hope of United States Soccer, Freddy Adu."
The article says that "Rovers are currently discussing terms with the Philadelphia Union player and are hopeful of completing a deal before the end of the transfer window."
Rovers currently sit in 15th place in the English second tier, 10 points out of the promotion tussle. The club has been challenged in the attacking half of the field with just 38 goals scored, a total only better than six other clubs in the league. Earlier Wednesday, Blackburn sealed the signing of forward Anton Forrester to aid their offensive fortunes.
The Union had "no comment" on the report when contacted by MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday and Union manager John Hackworth indicated that nothing has changed when asked about the Adu situation on Tuesday.
On Freddy Adu, Hackworth says "nothing has changed," and politely declines further comment.
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) January 29, 2013
Hackworth explained the falling out with Adu at the start of Union preseason training, indicating at the time that it had to do with salary-cap issues and a difference of opinion.
As for Freddy Adu, no word from his camp just yet. In fact, he hasn't made any public declarations or tweeted from his Twitter account since November 15.
Honduran media outlets say it's a done deal.
According to multiple publications from the Central American country, the Vancouver Whitecaps are on the verge of signing 22-year-old defender Johnny Leverón. He has featured for the Honduras senior national team as well as the Catrachos' 2012 Olympic team and the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup sides.
The Vancouver Whitecaps confirmed that Leverón is a player the club is interested in, but they stopped short of confirming reports of his imminent signing.
The articles claim that Leverón was out of contract with Honduran side Motagua, paving his way to an MLS contract.
If the signing is confirmed, it would be the latest offseason transaction involving an elite Honduran player and MLS. Walter Martínez recently joined Colorado Rapids camp in search of a contract that would allow him to play alongside former Honduran World Cup player Hendry Thomas. Arnold Peralta and Alex López have also been rumored to be moving stateside.
There are five MLS-based players on the Honduras national team roster for the 2014 World Cup qualifier against the United States on February 6 and that doesn't count Roger Espinoza, who earlier this month moved to Wigan Athletic after a lengthy career with Sporting Kansas City.
It can't hurt to have too many World Cup veterans as manager Oscar Pareja looks to remake the Colorado Rapids.
Forward Walter "El Pery" Martínez (pictured above right) has joined the Western Conference squad on trial with the goal of joining fellow former Honduran national teamer Hendry Thomas. The two featured in the catrachos squad that featured at the 2010 World Cup.
The 30-year-old Martínez was long-rumored to be coming to MLS after a spell in China and he was also linked to the New England Revolution. Instead, he will look to impress Pareja and his staff in Tucson, Ariz., where the club will participate in the Desert Friendlies (live streams on MLSsoccer.com).
MedioTiempo.com reports that former Peruvian international Walter Vílchez is set to sign with Chivas USA.
The defender played 45 minutes for Chivas USA in a 4-1 preseason win over UC Irvine on Saturday at the Home Depot Center and his ties to new Chivas USA manager José Luis Sánchez Solá date back to their time at Mexican side Puebla.
The report indicates that Vílchez severed ties with Peruvian side Sporting Cristal at the end of 2012 to make his move to Los Angeles and that the club will officially announce him in the coming days.
Chivas USA on Monday only confirmed that he was at the club as a trialist/guest player.
Sunday tabloids are for light reading and gossip. So here's a good one for entertainment value.
David Beckham has yet to decide where (or if?) he’s playing in 2013, but if you’re the sort who trusts those loveable UK rags, he’s apparently delivering a handful of fellow English World Cup veterans into MLS to take his place.
According to a report on Sunday in The Mirror, Becks will try to sell Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch, Ashley Cole and Michael Carrick on the league.
Of course, the report also makes the tired suggestion that MLS would be “an ideal destination for them to finish their careers.” That said, the entire quartet is around the same age Beckham was when he made the jump over from Real Madrid six years ago.
In the same report, another Englishman, Jermaine Pennant, suggests that a Stateside move could revive his stalled out career.
“Playing in America is a strong option for me,” he is quoted as saying. “You only have to see the caliber of players there of past and present to see how the league is improving. It is getting stronger with every year.”
The 30-year-old winger – who never delivered on his promise when he debuted for Arsenal as a teenager – has never really quite fit in anywhere. Add to that his history of disciplinary and legal problems, and you have to wonder if any MLS team would take the bait. Then again, Luke Rodgers worked here for a time...
We now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday.