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June 12, 2019

Transfer Grade: Real Madrid Sign Ferland Mendy for €48M

Tyler Everett June 12, 2019

Who: Ferland Mendy
From Where: Lyon
To Where: Real Madrid
For How Much: €48M
Grade for Real Madrid: B
Grade for Lyon: B+

Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid Overview

As expected, Real Madrid really is not messing around this summer. Mendy is now RM’s fourth addition for significant money, following the March signing of Porto’s Eder Militão and last week’s moves for Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard. A week after bolstering their attack, Los Blancos have now added another young defender to the mix alongside Militão, who is 21. The 24-year-old Mendy is joining RM on a six-year deal.

Who is he?

Mendy was a key cog for a Lyon team that finished third in Ligue 1 this year behind annual runaway champion PSG and second-place Lille. Lyon also advanced as far as any French club in the Champions League – both Lyon and PSG bowed out in the round of 16.

Lyon was an above-average defensive team (47 goals allowed in 38 Ligue 1 matches) thanks largely to Mendy and 22-year-old Tanguy Ndombele. Mendy also performed well in the Champions League this year, playing 707 minutes in eight appearances and earning a solid 6.82 WhoScored rating in the UCL.

No, that’s not a head-turning rating, but most defenders have ratings on the low side against Lionel Messi and Co., who eliminated Lyon 5-1 on aggregate in the round of 16. The encouraging thing for Mendy and Lyon was Leg 1 of that match-up, when they notched a shutout.

Mendy also has three caps for France, including a start in Tuesday’s 4-0 romp over Andorra.

Is the price fair?

It seems to me like RM is paying quite a bit for a player I haven’t seen on many “best young talent in Europe” lists. A big reason for that is that defenders get far less notoriety than attacking players, but still.

Mendy is on the younger side at 24, but is by no means a teenage prodigy. I believe that’s worth mentioning because €48M makes a lot more sense for a 19-year-old with Mendy’s accomplishments and experience (this was just his second season in Ligue 1) than it does for a player in his mid-20s. The price tag does make more sense when we remember that in addition to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and PSG were all hoping to sign him.

What impact should we expect?

Manager Zinedine Zidane has made his interest in Mendy well-known for weeks. Zidane is obviously well-connected in France and probably has as much info on the player as anyone outside Ligue 1. Is Zidane so high on him that we should expect Mendy to see a ton of minutes in his first year? That is the €48M question.

One of the many players for Real Madrid who struggled for most of ’18-19 was Marcelo. Mendy, in terms of physical talent (insert comment about Marcelo being out of shape last season here), has a great shot to beat the 31-year-old Brazilian for that spot. But Marcelo is a veteran fixture at RM, so that battle figures to be a compelling one.

USWNT Celebration Controversy Means Little

June 12, 2019

The USWNT steamrolled Thailand on Tuesday. The final score, a ghastly 13-0, is the most lopsided in World Cup history.

Alex Morgan scored five and six other players scored at least one. It was one of the most thorough blowouts in the history of high-level soccer — the USWNT had 40 (40!) shots, 20 of which went on target, compared to Thailand’s total of two. The US kept 73 percent possession. Expected Goal stats for the game are wildly disproportionate.

Reason for controversy?

It would all be more enjoyable if postgame conversation centered on the game itself instead of the controversy surrounding it.

Critics argue that the US celebrated their goals excessively, and shouldn’t have pressed the gas so hard late in the game, with the result virtually assured after the first 20 minutes. Various pundits (and keyboard warriors) expressed concern for the emotional well-being of the embattled Thai players, and cited sports morality platitudes.

Arguments that the US shouldn’t have run up the score, or at least should have relaxed a bit in the second half, are inherently flawed, and have admittedly received less support. Goal differential is the primary group-stage tiebreaker. While it is unlikely that the US won’t win Group F, a calmer 4-0 or 5-0 defeat of Thailand could have jeopardized first-place. Sweden, the US’s most threatening competition, plays Thailand too, and could have stolen first on goal differential with a point against the US. There are practical reasons for winning by as many goals as possible.

The US would arguably show up Thailand even more by passing the ball around and slowing the game down. This is the World Cup. Thailand aren’t there to concede a few goals and then chase Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle around for an hour. The US have earned the right to enjoy an utter disembodiment of an opposing team. Most of those players won’t have another opportunity to pot an easy goal and assist in a World Cup match. Morgan’s New Star Soccer-type scoreline of five goals, three assists puts her in pole position to win the tournament’s Golden Boot already.

In a way, stacking goals is a measure of respect toward a completely overmatched Thai team. It shows that the US treated them as legitimate enough opposition to try all the way through. Thailand can say they went to the World Cup and competed against a full-strength top team.

The celebration controversy is more legitimate. Led by Megan Rapinoe, the US celebrated ecstatically every time they scored. It was a bit excessive, particularly when they reached double digits and went on stretches in which they scored every couple of minutes. There’s no reason to joylessly walk back to the center circle, but they would have been better off leaving it to smiling and high-fiving teammates.

However, it is difficult on the surface to criticize players for celebrating World Cup goals. People taking serious umbrage with the celebrations come off as the Fun Police, similar to curmudgeonly baseball men who lament bat flipping or old Canadians who hate the Carolina Hurricanes. The USWNT debate should not be as big a deal as it is — celebrating important soccer goals is not a major occurrence, unless you blatantly disrespect the other team or do something that extends beyond the simple act of celebration.

The sudden prominence of this controversy only serves to take away from the national team’s accomplishments. Critics who say the US celebrated too much have a point, but a point that means little in the larger context of the World Cup. Life will go on, the US will probably continue to win. None of these debates should have the power to pull away from the actual soccer.

The US play Chile on Sunday.

Let’s Go Shopping: Atlético Madrid 2019 Summer Transfer Edition

Tyler Everett June 12, 2019

Few teams among this year’s Champions League are quarterfinalists will lose more than Atlético Madrid.

Antoine Griezmann, the team’s top offensive threat in recent years, has confirmed his departure, which is a massive loss (you’re welcome for the newsflash). If it seems like he produced a disproportionate share of his team’s offense in each of his five seasons with Atletico Madrid, it’s because he did. Below is a quick look at his production in domestic play since ‘14-15:

2014-15:  22 goals, 1 assist   

2015-16:  22 goals, 5 assists

2016-17:  16 goals, 8 assists

2017-18:  19 goals, 9 assists

2018-19:  15 goals, 9 assists

As if the loss of Griezmann were not enough, the club will also lose Juanfran, Diego Godín and Lucas Hernández. The loss of those players, one year after Gabi walked away, means that Koke will be one of the few staples of the last several years who is still around next season

To continue with the tough reading for Atleti supporters, now keeper Jan Oblak is reportedly interested in a move. We should also mention here that Filipe Luís has an uncertain future with the club as well.

The good news (not there’s truly a positive way to spin this) is that Atleti is going to have some money to spend for a change. Though his former team, Real Sociedad, will get a percentage of the release clause for Griezmann, Atlético should still be left with nearly €100M from his exit. Hernández also left for a hefty fee that should help his former team restock the cupboard.

Despite all the revenue the team has made the last few years as its standing both on and off the pitch has improved, it has not become a destination for elite talent. That’s going to have to change this summer, though.

Without some significant additions to offset the loss of Griezmann — not that he’s someone you should expect to “replace” — it’s hard to see Diego Simeone’s team making much noise in La Liga, much less the Champions League. Here’s to hoping Los Rojiblancos can work some transfer magic and prevent La Liga from reverting back to a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Let’s Go Shopping: Atlético Madrid

Tyler: Let’s transition from the hand-wringing to the shopping part of this feature. Few players, regardless of position, are more highly-sought than Benfica’s João Félix. Atleti, along with Manchester United and Manchester City, is among the teams that have been mentioned the most as Félix’s next home. Could he choose to become the next Portuguese star to score his goals in the Spanish capital?

Chops: I don’t think that Atleti is Félix’s ultimate home, although I get the thinking about him wanting more first team minutes there vs. a situation like City.

In general, I think Atleti have a major problem: if you’re a top-tier offensive talent, why would you want to go there? Yes, Griezmann found success in the system, but it’s not one that makes Madrid a top destination for first-tier young talent.

Tyler: I won’t rule this out, but based on Los Rojiblancos’ history (not only their unwillingness to spend, but also their lack of appeal to top strikers), I’d certainly be surprised. However, you can’t overlook the first team playing time issue. Atléti can build their offense around Félix. City can’t.

Chops: The type of players Atlético should target–and ultimately the only ones I think they could get–are the second-tier offensive creators. They should look at once-productive stars who are languishing with teams now.

Romelo Lukaku would be interesting for them. Had this been two years ago, a good two-way midfielder like Naby Keita would’ve made sense. While too dainty to be the kind of stout defender who would excel at Atleti, a reclamation project like Philippe Coutinho would be a huge boost in helping them break down defenses (assuming the old Coutinho is still in there, somewhere).

Tyler: I like the idea of Lukaku. Maybe I’m just excessively impressed/traumatized by what he did to the U.S. in the World Cup five (!) years ago, but I’ve always believed in Lukaku. I’ve been puzzled (admittedly from afar) by his relatively unsuccessful stint with Manchester United, but let’s remember that he’s still only 26. He remains a talented scorer and seems like a player whose physicality would fit in well with Atleti. Could he be had for around €50M or less?

Chops: Agree about his physicality being a fit. If you add €10M, then the price you mention I actually think is in the ballpark of what United could fetch (although it’s a far cry from what he’s theoretically valued). He just seems like the right kind of player for Atlético.

The other types of players Atlético should target are the talents left standing in the musical chairs shuffling from top teams. If Manchester City is ready to move on from Leroy Sané, he’s the right age and has the right goal-scoring mentality that would help lessen the blow from losing Griezmann. If Real Madrid can’t find the right price on Christian Eriksen, he’s actually a great fit for their midfield.

On one hand, Atlético Madrid is absolutely an elite top-tier club. On the other, in the context of offensive players, they’re a notch well below the more attractive open systems played by Liverpool, City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and others.

Tyler: I think you’re all over it re: talented players that top teams like City, RM and Barca are forced to sell to afford their outlays for the Eden Hazards of the world.

I think Eriksen will end up either staying at Tottenham or joining RM. Coutinho is an interesting possibility. Speaking of him, it will be fascinating to see how much anyone is willing to spend on him. Though he’s just one year removed from being an elite producer in the more grueling Premier League, he’s coming off a disaster of a season and I have no clue how much Barcelona will be able to get for him.

Chops: Just as an aside–has anyone had a worse transfer ever in the history of soccer than Coutinho? Like, that has to damage his psyche forever, right? You whine your way out of a great situation at Anfield, go to Barcelona and get booed off the pitch every game. You watch your former club get much better after you leave, then go on to lose a Champions League game in the most epic of spectacular meltdowns in front of the home crowd you spurned. And your former team goes on to win the biggest soccer competition in the world after embarrassing you on your old home field. It’s like he dumped a girl, but that girl became a super model overnight and dated the world’s biggest celebrity who is also hung like an elephant and then you were forced to watch them have sex right in front of you while her family stood behind you and laughed at you the whole time.

Anyway, where were we?

Tyler: Wow, that escalated, and is going to be tough to follow. At this point, I honestly have no idea where we were. But to answer your first question, no, I can’t think of a transfer that has gone worse, and after you put it the way you did, it’s hard to imagine any move from one elite team to another working out any worse. To wrap up the Coutinho portion of this piece, I don’t see him as a fit on a team that places so much emphasis on physical toughness.

To leave your beloved Coutinho alone, for now … until very recently, Oblak’s future at the club seemed secure. However, he has said this week that he wants out — apparently he’s hoping for a move to Manchester United. Considering all the other players on the way out, the loss of Oblak would be huge. No Simeone-coached team is going to become a sieve in one offseason, but replacing so many veteran defenders and Oblak would be a hell of a task, to make the understatement of the summer.

One possible GK target for Atleti would be Keylor Navas, who is likely leaving Real Madrid. Staying in Spain — and sticking with the idea of a former rival joining Simeone’s side — Jasper Cillessen is expected to leave Barcelona. Could he join Atlético? Chops, are there any keepers from the EPL who are on the move?

Chops: First, if Oblak leaves, that’s another massive blow. It’s crazy to think a team that just finished second in La Liga and consistently plays Champions League football isn’t more desirable for in-house talent. If you’re Oblak, why would you leave Madrid for Manchester United? What’s the draw? To play in worse weather on a rebuilding mess of a squad?

The only Premier League goalie who comes to mind as a getable option is Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge. He was the best statistical GK in the Premier League the last month of the season, and Liverpool has shown us the benefits of mining unearthed gems from relegated teams. At 29, he’s on the older side of his prime curve, but could serve as a one- to two-season stop-gap while they find the next great keeper.

Tyler: For what it’s worth, apparently Oblak’s upset about the team’s inability to keep its top players other than him. But I’m with you, it makes no sense to leave Atleti because it’s losing defenders, especially when your apparent preference is to go play for a Manchester United side that struggled mightily in the back end this year.

Let’s wrap this up by talking about some under-the-radar signings this team could make. Hector Herrera is a player the Spanish papers expect to join the fold at some point this summer. The Mexican midfielder, 29, currently plays for Porto. A few other names I’ve seen linked to this club are Eintracht Frankfurt forward Ante Rebic and Juve’s Rodrigo Bentancur.

Both are intriguing possibilities, especially the 21-year-old Bentancur, who could look to become the next Uruguayan to hold down Atleti’s back line after Godín’s long tenure in Madrid. Two other options are 20-year-old midfielder Exequiel Palacios from Argentina’s River Plate and Real Madrid’s Mariano, who was not a factor in his first season at RM.

Chops: I like where your head is at with Palacios. That’s one that would make some sense to grow up.

One target I like for them is midfielder José Campaña from Levante. He is right in his prime (26), plays strong and aggressively defensively (12 yellow cards last year), and services through balls well (9 assists). At €15m, he doesn’t break the bank but is a good building piece for whoever your next striker is.

Tyler: Based on this team’s history, Atlético is not going to be adding any household names. Throughout their run, they’ve kept winning despite quiet summers, but they’ve never experienced roster attrition like this. They’re not the highest-profile team in Europe, but to me, they have the most interesting summer ahead of anyone.

Women’s World Cup Daily Fantasy Picks – June 12th – France vs Norway Could Produce Some Offense

High Press 10 June 12, 2019

So, it appears as if the USWNT has course corrected after shellacking Thailand by a record 13-0 score.

Hope you had Alex Morgan in your DraftKings line-up.

Of the picks we recommended yesterday, values like Rose Lavelle, Julie Ertz and Hedvig Lindahl came through. But basically if you didn’t load your roster with USWNT players, you missed out.

Wednesday’s Games

The three games to choose from on Wednesday are:

  • 9am ET: Nigeria vs South Korea
  • 12pm ET: Germany vs Spain
  • 3pm ET: France vs Norway

Our WWC DFS Picks

Ok, focusing some specific picks in this as opposed to a full line-up for Wednesday. Consider the following when filling out your DraftKings roster. $50,000 starting line-up.

  • FW: Eugénie Le Sommer, France ($10,700). We’ll call this the “Alex Morgan Principle” – just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Eugénie gets goals. Norway can be inconsistent but doesn’t exactly give up a ton. If somebody is going to find the net for France though, it’s Eugénie.
  • FW: Jennifer Hermosa, Spain ($8,400). First, she takes the pks, which is always a plus. Second, she scores against elite competition. Germany, btw, is very elite. She’s an overall better value than Le Sommer and might be good to pair with a cheaper attacking option like Norway’s Graham Hansen ($6,600).
  • Mid: Amandine Henry, France ($7,500). Of the midfielders on Wednesday, she’s the best value for production.
  • Defense: Wendie Renard, France ($5,300). She’s only the 4th most expensive defender. At an Avatar-looking 6’2, she’s a threat for a set piece header basically on every single set piece.
  • GK: Almuth Schult, Germany ($5,500). She’s a boss. 5’11, around 160lbs, and solid. For the price, it’s a no-brainer.
  • Utility: Inam Imo, Nigeria ($3,800). You could do worse than a $3,800 salary for someone who has scored in two of her last five caps.
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