Bournemouth confirm signing of Brentford’s Chris Mepham

Bournemouth have signed Wales international centre-back Chris Mepham from Championship side Brentford for a reported £12million ($15.6m).

Mepham, 21, has signed a “long-term contract” with the Cherries, having developed into one of one of the most highly rated young British defenders.

After coming through Brentford’s academy, Mepham made his breakthrough last season, making 21 appearances for the Griffin Park club and nailing down a spot in the starting XI in the second half of the campaign.

The former Wales Under-21s captain added to that with another 22 outings this term and has impressed despite Brentford languishing in 17th in the table.

Mepham joins a strong collection of talented young players at Bournemouth, including Nathan Ake, Lewis Cook, David Brooks and Dominic Solanke, and highlighted the influence of manager Eddie Howe in his signing.

“It’s taken a while to get my signature on the dotted line but it’s been worth the wait,” Mepham told Bournemouth’s official website.

“There’s so much to like about this club, not least the manager. Eddie Howe is a fantastic manager and what he’s done here is remarkable, so to be working under him every day is a really exciting prospect.

“I’m still young and have lots to learn and develop on my game, but I can’t wait to get started, to meet everyone and to get out on the training pitch.”

Speaking of his new signing, Bournemouth boss Howe said: “Chris is a talented, young defender who has been on our radar for some time, so I am delighted he is finally our player.

“He has shown a huge amount of potential in his time at Brentford and while playing for Wales, and we believe this is the perfect environment to continue his development.

“Chris is a good defender and comfortable on the ball, and we believe he will be a great addition to the squad here.”

Mepham becomes Bournemouth’s third signing of the month, following the reported £19m acquisition of Solanke and Nathaniel Clyne’s loan arrival, both from Liverpool.

He could make his debut against Chelsea in the Premier League at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday January 30.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth have allowed midfielder Marc Pugh depart the club on loan for the rest of the season, joining second-tier Hull City.

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Howard announces retirement after 2019 season

Goalkeeper Tim Howard has announced he will retire following the 2019 Major League Soccer season.

The United States international has enjoyed a distinguished career that saw him feature at Manchester United and Everton, as well as star at the World Cup for his national side.

Now 39, Howard took to social media on Tuesday to make it known his 2019 season with the Colorado Rapids will be the final one of his professional career.

“I’m greatly looking forward to kicking off the 2019 MLS season, as it will be my LAST,” Howard wrote on Twitter. “There will be plenty of time for sentiment later. For now, I am going to enjoy every minute.

“And as I’ve always done, compete hard and help lead the Rapids with the sole purpose of winning.”

Howard broke into MLS with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now Red Bulls), winning the league’s goalkeeper of the year award in 2001.

His success in MLS drew the attention of Premier League giants Manchester United, and in the summer of 2003, Howard made the move to Old Trafford, where he was the starter for the following season.

However, he was unable to retain his place with the Red Devils and would eventually make his way to Everton in the summer of 2006.

It was at Goodison Park where Howard would find a true Premier League home, as he played for Everton for 10 years. For most of that time, Howard was the club’s undisputed No.1.

During that spell, Howard also enjoyed plenty of success with the USMNT, and was the starter at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup as well as for their run to the 2009 Confederations Cup final.

Howard’s biggest contributions included a pass to start the move which resulted in Landon Donovan’s famous game-winning goal against Algeria in 2010 that saw the USMNT advance to the knockout stage, as well as a 15-save performance against Belgium in the round of 16 in 2014.

Though the U.S. lost 2-1 in extra-time, Howard set a World Cup record for saves in a match.

The goalkeeper returned to MLS in the summer of 2016, joining the Colorado Rapids and becoming the club’s captain. That season, he helped the Rapids defeat the LA Galaxy in a penalty shoot-out, and make the Western Conference finals. 

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‘You say all signings are controversial’ – Valverde defends Boateng’s arrival at Barcelona

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has defended the arrival of Kevin-Prince Boateng, telling the media they have been critical of “all” signings during his tenure as coach.

Boateng completed an unlikely loan switch from Sassuolo on Monday, with Barca also having the right to purchase him for €8million (£7m/$9.1m) during his stay.

The signing raised eyebrows throughout world football, with many surprised by Barca opting to sign the journeyman midfielder, whose three most recent clubs were Sassuolo, Eintracht Frankfurt and Las Palmas.

But Valverde pointed out media coverage of Barca’s signings during his time at the club has generally been negative, yet few have been deemed failures.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at Sevilla, Valverde said: “Since I’ve been here, all of them are controversial signings, and then…?

“[About] Arturo Vidal, Paulinho, you talked a lot, with Arthur also, then he also gives us a great performance. Things always end up going well.

“The departure of Munir [El Haddadi] is a matter of the club, and we would like to have strikers in the team who score 15 goals, but that’s not been the case. Boateng arrives for a few months.

“He knows the trade, a player who, having made a career in other positions, now plays as a number nine, he knows La Liga and the role he is playing in.

“He was available, Munir left, the club thought he was the best option and I hope he helps us a lot.”

Boateng has on occasion been accused of having problems with his attitude, but Valverde insists the former Ghana international has a clean slate at Camp Nou.

“We trust in the presumption of innocence,” Valverde said. “We do not want to fight with him, but want him to help us and to score goals. In Las Palmas he had a great year.”

One player linked with a move away from Barca is Brazilian winger Malcom, who is said to be interesting Tottenham, among other clubs.

Valverde accepts the former Bordeaux talent could depart, though he feels Malcom has the talent to play for Barca if he commits himself.

“Until January 31, everything can happen,” Valverde said. “But we cannot run out of players.

“There are players who play more and others less. Malcom must fight to play more, because he has the qualities to do so. We expect a lot from him.”

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Demba Ba returns to Istanbul Basaksehir on loan

Demba Ba has returned to Turkey to join Istanbul Basaksehir on loan from Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

The 33-year-old leaves his Shanghai club for his third loan spell having spent the second half of the last two seasons in Turkey with Goztepe [2017-18] and Besiktas [2016-17].

With the Chinese Super League yet to resume for the new season, Ba who scored five goals in 17 league games in 2018 chose the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium as his next destination this winter.

The former Chelsea and Newcastle United talisman reunites with former Premier League stars Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Robinho and Kerim Frei in Abdullah Avci’s squad.

Ba’s addition comes as reinforcement for Basaksehir who are in the running to win their maiden Turkish Super Lig title this season.

They sit at the summit of the league table with 38 points from 18 matches.

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Emiliano Sala missing plane: Rescue operation suspended as hopes fade for Cardiff City striker

The search for ​a plane carrying Cardiff City record signing Emiliano Sala has been suspended until Wednesday morning, local police have confirmed, with chances for survival “slim” for the Argentine.

Sala and a pilot were on a small aircraft flying from Nantes to Wales on Monday evening when it disappeared off radar off the coast of Guernsey, in the English Channel between the UK and France

A search was carried out on Tuesday but, at 5pm local time, the search and rescue team confirmed that no trace of either person aboard the plane had been found. With daylight fading, police suspended the search for Tuesday.

“During the course of the 15-hour search, which used multiple air and sea assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, a number of floating objects have been seen in the water,” Guernsey Police said on Twitter.

“We have been unable to confirm whether any of these are from the missing aircraft.”

In a further update, the police sounded a pessimistic note on Sala and the pilot’s chances of survival due to the cold temperature and weather conditions.

“We have found no signs of those on board. If they did land on the water, the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim.”

Cardiff released a statement earlier on Tuesday from club CEO Ken Choo, who said the club were “praying for positive news”.

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team,” the statement read.

Emiliano Sala flowers Cardiff City

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire club with Emiliano and the pilot.

“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time. We continue to pray for positive news.”

Sala completed a £15 million ($19m) move to Cardiff from Ligue 1 side Nantes on Saturday, and had travelled back to France to bid farewell to his former team-mates.

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