Carlos Vela would fit in perfectly at LaLiga champions Barcelona, according to his Mexico team-mate and Blaugrana youth product Jonathan dos Santos.

Barca reportedly considered a move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

The short-term switch failed to materialise, however, with the Spanish champions instead signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Should Barca come calling again, though, Dos Santos – whose LA Galaxy side were beaten 5-3 by Vela's Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-final on Friday – believes Vela would have no problems slotting in alongside Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Suarez.

Dos Santos, who played for Barca between 2009 and 2014 after also representing their academy and B team, told reporters: "Vela could fit in at Barcelona. He is a great player with a lot of quality; he has shown it in every team that has been.

"I hope a team like Barcelona is interested in Vela. He would do well surrounded by such excellent players."

Speaking after Friday's game, Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic made headlines by suggesting MLS would be forgotten quickly if he were no longer playing in the league.

Amid rumours the former Sweden international could return to Europe when his contract expires in December, Dos Santos said: "Zlatan is very mysterious. He has not said anything else after the game and if he stays he will help us a lot in the campaign. He is a player of excellent quality."

AC Milan director Paolo Maldini believes "fear" could hold Zlatan Ibrahimovic back from returning to Serie A.

LA Galaxy superstar Ibrahimovic's contract is set to expire and the former Milan, Inter and Juventus striker has been linked with a move back to Italy.

Ibrahimovic, whose side were eliminated from the MLS play-offs by Los Angeles FC, claimed he would score 20 goals a season in Serie A amid growing links to Napoli, Bologna and Inter.

The possibility of Ibrahimovic returning to Milan has also been mentioned as the Rossoneri struggle for goals, however, Maldini cast doubt over the 38-year-old's Italy comeback.

"Ibra would be a dream return for many reasons, but I think within his mind there is a little fear that he won't be the dominant Ibra of old," Maldini told Sky Sport Italia.

"I remember when [former Milan head coach] Carlo Ancelotti put me on the bench for a derby and that's when I realised, I could not accept a season like that. I don't know if Ibra could accept that either.

"Krzysztof Piatek is a good striker. He needs to think more about playing with the team, but his strength is scoring goals."

Ibrahimovic has flourished since moving to Los Angeles from Manchester United in 2018 – scoring 53 goals across two seasons for the Galaxy.

 

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic wondered if Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson was distracting the El Trafico VAR when Carlos Vela's controversial second goal was allowed to stand.

Los Angeles FC claimed their first victory over rivals LA Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals, running out 5-3 winners in an instant classic.

Vela netted twice to open the scoring, but his second effort saw a borderline call go in LAFC's favour, with Brian Rodriguez and the Mexican having appeared to be offside in the build-up.   

LAFC part-owner Johnson was in the stands, prompting Ibrahimovic to playfully suggest he had a role in the referee's failure to reassess the decision with the help of VAR.

Told Vela's strike was offside by a reporter, Ibrahimovic replied: "Was it? Are you sure? Are you 100 per cent sure? And you think we didn't know that? But the referee didn't know that.

"[VAR] didn't [get involved]. What was he doing upstairs? Drinking coffee with Magic Johnson?

"It's difficult, because if you have the VAR, it means the game is extra-controlled by the fifth referee upstairs. But if he's drinking coffee with Magic Johnson, it's difficult to play the game.

"He has to be in control. [The referee] didn't even go out and check. He said he needed a signal from the VAR people to go out and check. So what are the VAR people doing?

"But I don't want to complain about that, guys. We just lost, and I don't want to be a loser complaining about the refs because it's not my level."

Bob Bradley took issue with criticism of Carlos Vela after the Los Angeles FC captain led his side to a first victory over rivals LA Galaxy in an instant El Trafico classic.

LAFC cruised to the Supporters' Shield title this year but had not previously beaten Galaxy in five attempts coming into a crunch MLS playoff on Thursday.

That run was ended in a gripping contest, though, as Vela netted twice, getting the better of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - on the scoresheet once - in an encounter that had been billed as a showdown between the league's two leading stars.

ESPN reported both Vela and Ibrahimovic refused to fulfil media duties ahead of the game, which LAFC won 5-3.

And coach Bradley then fumed when a reporter put to him that Vela, a former Arsenal and Real Sociedad star linked with Barcelona, had not previously delivered in big matches.

"Who asked those questions?" Bradley said to ESPN, glaring at the reporter. "Have they been asked this year? Why would we ask that question?

"For this season? Get lost. Get lost."

Vela's brace took his 2019 MLS tally to 36 goals in 32 games after a record-breaking regular season, while Ibrahimovic is now out of contract with Galaxy, having talked up a potential return to Europe.

Part-owner and Hollywood star Will Ferrell was in greater mood than Bradley to celebrate LAFC's success, leading chants alongside defender Walker Zimmerman.

"I think if we could have traded those five games to win this game, we'd do it in a heartbeat," he said. "What a great way to win, finally, in the playoffs, beat the Galaxy."

Ferrell added of the Western Conference final clash with Seattle Sounders: "It's going to be tough. They're playing really well at the right time. See, I know my stuff.

"But this was a huge mountain to get over the top of. We'll just see. It's a quick turnaround - Tuesday, right? I've got to stay limber."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic potentially aimed a parting shot at MLS as he discussed his LA Galaxy future following their playoff defeat to rivals Los Angeles FC.

The 38-year-old, who scored 30 goals in the 2019 regular season to lead Galaxy back to the postseason, was on target on Thursday but could not save his side from a 5-3 derby defeat.

It was Galaxy's first El Trafico reverse as LAFC, the Supporters' Shield winners, took a huge stride towards a first MLS Cup triumph.

Ibrahimovic is out of contract in Los Angeles in December and has not been shy in talking up a possible return to Europe, with former club Manchester United linked along with a host of Serie A sides.

The former Sweden star insisted a further contract with Galaxy does not depend on financial terms, despite having become a Designated Player heading into this season.

However, in typically bold fashion, he suggested MLS would be quickly forgotten if he was no longer playing in the league.

"It's not about money," he said, as reported by ESPN. "I have another two months [on my contract]. We'll see what happens.

"[If I stay], then MLS is good, because the whole world will watch it. If I don't stay, nobody will remember what MLS is."

Ibrahimovic has scored 53 goals in 58 MLS games for Galaxy, including the playoffs, since signing from United early last season.

The future of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is once again in the headlines.

Lazio star Milinkovic-Savic has been linked with Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Now another club are reportedly in the mix for the Serbia international midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Chelsea sent scouts to watch Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the Europa League, reports TuttoMercato.

One of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe, Milinkovic-Savic has attracted interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Milinkovic-Savic – who was reportedly set to join United if Paul Pogba left Old Trafford – was watched as Lazio lost 2-1 to Celtic in Glasgow on Thursday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and The Sun claims Chelsea are interested in Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

Manchester United have rekindled their interest in Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller, according to Sport BILD. Muller was wanted by former United boss Louis van Gaal before the Dutchman's departure in 2016. Now with Muller seeking a Bayern exit, United and Inter are in the mix for the Germany international.

- The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining Antonio Conte's Inter has hit a snag. According to CalcioMercato, the presence of agent Mino Raiola could cause an issue in talks. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is coming to an end and the veteran has been linked to Napoli and Bologna.

- Sky Sport Italia says free agent Jack Rodwell is set for a shock move to Serie A outfit Roma. The former Manchester City midfielder, who spent time at Blackburn Rovers last season, is poised to undergo a medical.

Los Angeles FC finally beat rivals LA Galaxy 5-3 in a wild Western Conference semi-final that could have been Zlatan Ibrahimovic's last game in MLS.

Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the former AC Milan, Inter and Juventus striker has been linked with a January return to Serie A via Napoli, Bologna and the Nerazzurri.

Amid the uncertainty over his future, Ibrahimovic was unable to prolong the Galaxy's season as LAFC prevailed in an eight-goal thriller to advance to the Conference final on Thursday.

Supporters' Shield winners LAFC had never beaten the Galaxy in five previous fixtures but they quickly moved to end that drought thanks to Carlos Vela's first-half brace at Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC captain Vela broke the deadlock in the El Trafico derby, cutting inside onto his right foot and firing a low shot past Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham in the 16th minute.

Vela doubled the lead in the 40th minute, when he was on hand to side-foot into an empty net after Brian Rodriguez's selfless pass, before Ibrahimovic teed up Cristian Pavon a minute later.

Ibrahimovic put the visiting Galaxy on level terms 10 minutes into the second half but their joy quickly turned to despair as quick-fire goals from Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande restored LAFC's two-goal advantage with 22 minutes remaining.

Rolf Feltscher set up a frenetic finale by reducing the deficit to 4-3 in the 77th minute, however Diomande's stunning solo effort ended the Galaxy's hopes within three minutes.

Bob Bradley's LAFC will now meet Seattle Sounders for a spot in the MLS Cup final.

In the day's other match, defending champions Atlanta United accounted for Philadelphia Union 2-0.

Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez saw Frank de Boer's Atlanta advance and earn an Eastern Conference final date with Toronto.

Aurelio De Laurentiis is convinced Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be a "driving force" for Napoli should the striker sign for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Ibrahimovic's contract with LA Galaxy expires in December, and the 38-year-old - who starred in Serie A with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter - has suggested he would be happy to return to Italy's top flight.

Napoli president De Laurentiis confirmed on Wednesday he had met Ibrahimovic by chance in Los Angeles and stated the former Sweden forward - who scored 30 MLS goals in the 2019 regular season - would be welcomed with open arms at Stadio San Paolo.

De Laurentiis expanded on those comments on Thursday, telling ESPN: "Ibrahimovic is a beautiful person, regardless of my Napoli team.

"He can still do a lot and he can be a driving force for the team. I'm convinced that any coach would love to have him at their disposal.

"Maybe even as a kind of reference point. He could be one for any team."

Napoli spent big in the recent transfer window to bolster their forward ranks, splashing out a club-record fee on Hirving Lozano from PSV.

The Mexico international so far has just one goal to his name in Serie A, which came on his debut against Juventus, but De Laurentiis is not concerned.

"Lozano's looked good. You need to be patient with new players who haven't played in Italian football before," he added.

"He must settle in a different city, with a new coach and team-mates. Lozano's a great player. As soon as he came on against Juve, he scored a goal.

"You can't have everything right away and you can't expect these players to fix problems right away. It's necessary to give them time and also the coach, who must find their best position.

"In the past 18 months, we've bought 13 players, so it's normal that it takes time for everyone to adapt and perform at their best."

Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela remains keen on the idea of linking up with Lionel Messi in a loan spell at Barcelona at the end of the MLS season.

LaLiga giants Barca reportedly considered a left-field move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad attacker in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

MLS MVP candidate Vela confirmed a deal was "really close" but the short-term switch failed to materialise as the Spanish champions instead signed Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Were Barca to come calling again, though, Vela would seize the chance to return to LaLiga.

He told the New York Times: "Who could say no to playing with Messi for four months and then coming back to LA?

"Enjoy, learn and then come back home."

For now, Vela is focused on LAFC's playoff campaign and an El Trafico meeting with LA Galaxy in the Western Conference semi-finals on Thursday.

The Mexican scored a record-breaking 34 regular-season goals this year as LAFC won the Supporters' Shield, and this match has been billed as a showdown with Galaxy talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Earlier this year, Ibrahimovic rubbished suggestions Vela was the best player in the league, questioning why his rival was playing in the United States in his prime.

"I have not had the pleasure [of meeting Ibrahimovic]," Vela said, adding: "Maybe the people don't really love my decision [to play in MLS].

"But for me, it was the best option, and I'm really happy that I made it because I am enjoying it."

Alex Morgan has revealed she is pregnant just three months after helping the United States to Women's World Cup glory.

The Orlando Pride striker is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco, the LA Galaxy midfielder, with a daughter due in April 2020.

Galaxy congratulated the pair on their news with a Twitter post on Wednesday, before Morgan uploaded pictures and a message to her Instagram page.

"We are already in love and we haven't even met her yet," she wrote. "Newest member of the Carrasco family, coming soon."

Morgan scored six goals at this year's World Cup - five of them coming in a record 13-0 win against Thailand - as USA defended their title.

She was nominated this week for the 2019 Ballon d'Or Femenin.

The 30-year-old has not featured for Orlando since suffering an injury 13 minutes into a 2-1 victory over Chicago Red Stars in late August.

Morgan revealed last month the knee issue had ended her National Women's Soccer League season early.

Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis is eager to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic and says talks about a possible move have gone on "for a few months".

The 38-year-old has hinted he would be interested in a return to Serie A when his contract with LA Galaxy expires at the end of the MLS playoffs.

Ibrahimovic has said before he would like to play for Napoli before retirement, having previously won Serie A with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter, although his two titles with the Old Lady were revoked following the calciopoli scandal.

Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti, who worked with Ibrahimovic at Paris Saint-Germain, has already said the club are "waiting" for the Swedish star to arrive.

De Laurentiis, who met with Ibrahimovic in Los Angeles by chance, has suggested the player need only agree to a Napoli offer and the deal can be concluded.

"[Ibrahimovic] is a friend," he told Sky Sport Italia. "I met him in Los Angeles not as a footballer but as a normal person because we were in the same hotel.

"I invited him over for dinner with his wife and kids and we had an amazing time. It would be my wish to see him in Napoli colours. It's more than a suggestion and it depends on him. It's been talked about for a few months now."

Ibrahimovic has scored 30 goals in as many games in MLS in 2019, helping Galaxy reach the playoffs.

Having beaten Minnesota United 2-1, Galaxy will now meet city rivals Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference semi-finals on October 25.

LA Galaxy set up a blockbuster El Trafico derby showdown with rivals Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-finals after edging Minnesota United 2-1.

Second-half goals from Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos saw the Galaxy past hosts Minnesota in the first round of the play-offs on Sunday.

After a scoreless first half at Allianz Field, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Galaxy broke the deadlock via Lletget – who bounced on a deflected shot by the former Manchester United striker with 19 minutes remaining.

Dos Santos doubled the lead four minutes later with a curling effort beyond Minnesota goalkeeper and ex-Arsenal shot-stopper Vito Mannone.

Jan Gregus scored a late goal for Minnesota, but the Galaxy were not to be denied as they look ahead to a mouth-watering clash against Supporters' Shield champions LAFC.

In Sunday's other play-off match, Philadelphia Union prevailed 4-3 against New York Red Bulls after extra time in an historic victory.

The Union overcame the Red Bulls in a thriller for their first play-off victory, having lost their four previous post-season matches.

Philadelphia trailed 2-0 and 3-1 but rallied on both occasions to force extra time as Marco Fabian's 106th-minute goal sent the Union through to the next round.

Next up for the Union are defending champions Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semis.

Carlo Ancelotti joked he will call Zlatan Ibrahimovic about a move to Napoli following Saturday's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.

LA Galaxy superstar Ibrahimovic talked up his chances of a return to Serie A as the 38-year-old expressed his interest in playing for Ancelotti's Napoli.

Former Juventus, Inter and AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic claimed he would score 20 goals a season in Italy's top flight during an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

Responding to Ibrahimovic's comments after Arkadiusz Milik's double guided Napoli past Verona, head coach Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia: "I'll call him tonight and say we're waiting!

"I have a great deal of affection for him, I saw he scored 29 goals in 30 MLS games.

"Tomorrow, after I've called him, I'll let you know how it went!"

Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy are in action in the MLS play-offs on Sunday.

The Galaxy will meet Minnesota United for a spot in the Western Conference semi-finals against Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles FC.

Ibrahimovic netted 30 goals during the regular season, four adrift of top scorer and LAFC captain Carlos Vela.

Ex-Manchester United star Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the veteran has been linked with a return to Italy, as well as Argentine giants Boca Juniors – where Roma great Daniele De Rossi is based.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed he would still score 20 goals a season in Serie A as he talked up his chances of a return to Italy's top flight.

But Ibrahimovic labelled former club AC Milan "a disaster" in a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, while also poking fun at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was discussing his options for a next move as his LA Galaxy contract expires in December following the MLS playoffs.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United, but he suggested Serie A, where he represented Juventus and both Milan clubs, might be his preferred destination.

"I am 38 years old and have the enthusiasm of a kid, with that same desire to win. That, for me, is everything," Ibrahimovic said.

"Italy is my second home. I will listen to all offers, but I want to fight for the maximum target. If I were to come back, I'd want to challenge for the Scudetto, not just be signed by someone because I am Ibrahimovic.

"I can still make the difference. I'm not a zoo animal to be put on display for people to see. I can still get 20 goals in Serie A."

Milan, who are 13th in Serie A with nine points from seven matches, would not appear to be an option, though, and Ibrahimovic picked out Paolo Maldini for criticism.

"Milan are a disaster. They're all talk and no action," he said.

"This is not the club everyone fell in love with, in Italy and all over the world. Perhaps there are too many wrong people who should be elsewhere.

"Paolo Maldini doesn't have what it takes to be a director, whereas in his playing career he was one of my all-time favourites."

Meanwhile, the striker revealed a mooted bet with former team-mate Lukaku, whose touch was maligned by some supporters during his time at United.

Ibrahimovic explained: "At Manchester United, we made a bet, 'I'll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make'. He replied: 'What do I win if I get them all right?'

"I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing."

The MLS playoffs are here once more.

Los Angeles FC cruised to the Supporters' Shield title, but the path to MLS Cup glory is far from straightforward even for the league's outstanding team.

Since 2011, only Toronto FC have successfully followed up a regular season championship by conquering the postseason.

Will LAFC join them, or can Bob Bradley's men be stopped? We take a look at the key issues surrounding the leading contenders heading into the playoffs.
 

ARE LAFC AND CARLOS VELA THE BEST EVER?

The above statistic may make for uncomfortable reading for Shield winners LAFC, but no past regular-season champions have been able to match the standards set by Bradley's side.

Toronto broke a points record that had stood for 19 years when they earned 69 in 2017, yet the New York Red Bulls bettered that last year and the new benchmark of 71 was topped once more by LAFC, a late-season slump merely limiting the runaway leaders to 72 points.

Carlos Vela was key to the team's achievements this year and any side hoping to stop LAFC must somehow master the Mexican. He scored a record 34 goals, including a final-day hat-trick, and will aim to echo Josef Martinez, the previous record-holder in 2018, by making his mark in the coming weeks.
 

CAN ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC AND THE GALAXY STOP THEIR RIVALS?

Having missed out on the postseason last year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rather bold - perhaps unsurprisingly - as he slammed the playoff structure in MLS earlier this term, believing it provides excuses for players not to deliver all year round.

The Swedish superstar has at least followed up those words by guiding LA Galaxy to the playoffs this time, while seemingly on a personal crusade to prove he is the greatest player in league history - sparking a rivalry with Vela.

Galaxy's style of play has not been particularly pretty since trading a potentially smart newly built side for long-ball-to-Zlatan early last year, but it has proved effective on occasion. Notably, LAFC still have not beaten their neighbours in five attempts and might fear another meeting.
 

HAVE NYCFC GOT WHAT IT TAKES WITHOUT BIG NAMES?

New York City made a big bang when they arrived in MLS, signing David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, but their star power counted for little in a desperate first season.

Club icon Villa then led NYCFC to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in three straight seasons, before departing at the end of 2018 with the team struggling to recreate the high level of performances under Patrick Vieira with new coach Domenec Torrent.

However, Torrent has got the Bronx outfit playing some of the best football in MLS this season, all without a standout star. The supposedly more modest talents of Anton Tinnerholm, Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita and Heber, among others, have fired City to the top of the conference, but the playoffs are a different beast.
 

IS THERE LIFE LEFT IN DEFENDING CHAMPS ATLANTA YET?

Despite failing to win the Shield, Atlanta United's class of 2018 might still have a case for being the best team in league history for the timebeing, but they then lost inspirational coach Tata Martino and star playmaker Miguel Almiron after MLS Cup.

Frank de Boer arrived and his infamously unconvincing record outside of Ajax looked set to continue early on, until a string of clean sheets steadied the ship. Even then, it took Martinez's sensational 15-game scoring streak to secure a comfortable playoff spot.

Pity Martinez has not really convinced and a late-season injury for Josef means Atlanta's preparation for their postseason title defence has not entirely gone to plan.
 

THE BEST OF THE REST...

Minnesota United have been a surprise package this year, having added experience last offseason, but a title push is surely beyond them. Rivals Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers both have experience of success at this time of year, however.

In the East, Wayne Rooney will hope to leave DC United on a high but the signs have not been promising late in the campaign. Philadelphia Union have impressed, while Toronto still have a very strong side on paper.

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