Welcome to the Rumor Radar, a weekly column by Philly Football Daily MLS contributor, Noah Barnes. Each week, Barnes breaks down the top MLS transfer rumors of the week.
It’s been a wild two weeks in the football world since the last installment of the Rumor Radar. There have been some stunning results in Major League Soccer including abroad in Europe’s Champions League.
In North America, the domestic season is officially in full swing. And, as a result, the rumors have died down for the time being. Neverthless, the transfer window is set to remain open for a few more weeks, and from now until Deadline Day I expect way more rumors to circulate.
That being said, I think I’ve unearthed a few exciting rumors for this week’s Rumor Radar. Let’s kick off!
Iker Casillas — Chicago Fire
Chicago Fire are certainly no strangers to big name, high profile signings over the years, with German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger being the latest signing to arrive during last season.
Now it seems the Chicagoan club may be adding yet another European club legend, according to SB Nation and NESN. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas is rumored to be making a move to the Windy City.
Casillas is widely considered to be one of the greatest keepers of all time, and he has put together a legendary career with La Liga giants Real Madrid, as well as for the Spanish National Team.
Casillas is the most capped goalkeeper in Los Blancos’ history, appearing more than 850 times for the club over a 20 year career. Now 36, Casillas has spent the last few seasons between the sticks for FC Porto in Portugal, where he has enjoyed similar success.
If the Fire are able to capture the Spaniard, they would be getting a proven talent, as Casillas has spent the majority of his career playing at the highest level, in the UEFA Champions League with and against Europe’s very best.
Casillas was reportedly close to joining Chicago this winter, but opted to see out his contract with Porto. Now the rumors are back, and it is thought that Casillas could be on his way to MLS this summer, if he does not receive an offer from a Champions League side.
This could present a challenge for the Fire, coupled with the fact that they would need to free up an international slot in order to sign the player.
Mario Balotelli — D.C. United
According to Sports Illustrated, the next stop on the Mario Balotelli Rebuilding Tour could be North America and MLS. More specifically, it appears Balo could be on his way to the Nation’s capital to sign with D.C. United.
SI reports that United, who currently sit bottom of the Eastern Conference with two points, are currently in talks with the player’s agent, Mino Raiola.
Balotelli, 27, has spent time at six different clubs across Europe, and currently plays in France’s Ligue 1 with OGC Nice. He was once touted as one of the game’s hottest attacking prospects, and even won the Golden Boy award in 2010.
However, the golden boy has failed to consistently live up to the “hype” in Europe, which is undoubtedly due, in part, to the off-field issues that have plagued the striker over the years.
During his time at Inter Milan, Balotelli was described by former manager Jose Mourinho as “unmanageable” and was said to have a reputation for being a difficult character to deal with.
During his time at Manchester City, he did a number of interesting things, most notably throwing darts at youth players, driving to a women’s prison, and most notably lighting his own house on fire after setting off fireworks indoors.
Balotelli’s issues culminated in a dreadful spell at Liverpool, followed by an equally poor time at his former club AC Milan. However, the Italian has since reinvigorated his career in France, showing glimpses of why he was once considered one of the best young forwards on the planet.
If United are able to negotiate a deal, it would be a massive capture for the Eagles, although they would have to prepare for the antics that may follow a player of Mario Balotelli’s nature.
Fernando Torres — Chicago Fire, Seattle Sounders
If MLSSoccer is correct, the Fire could be chasing yet another Spanish legend in addition to goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Multiple reports have linked Spanish striker Fernando Torres, a player whom I, as a Liverpool fan, hold dear to my heart, with a move to MLS. It appears Torres’ most likely destination is either Chicago or Seattle.
Both clubs have been linked to Torres recently, although SB Nation has reported that the Seattle Sounders are no longer interested, leaving Chicago as the likely destination for the 34-year-old, provided he does not opt for a big money move to China.
MLSSoccer suggests that the Fire are preparing to claim discovery rights to the player, and could sign Torres when he decides to leave current club Atletico Madrid in the summer.
Madrid is Torres’ boyhood club, and he is currently in his second spell with the Spanish side. During the interim years, Torres had a fantastic career with Liverpool in England and became a club legend before moving to Chelsea. There is little doubt that Liverpool got the very best out of the striker, but he has shown recently that he is still an incredible talent.
Torres has scored 21 times in 33 appearances this time around for Atleti, which is impressive considering the other top-forwards he has had to contend for playing time with.
If Chicago can sway the player into choosing MLS over China in the summer, they would have even more firepower in what is already a high caliber team. Plus, as a Liverpool fan living in New England, I would love to see El Niño in the Eastern Conference.
Zlatko Junuzovic — Orlando City SC
It appears that an international break was exactly what the Rumor Radar needed in order to once again churn out notable transfer rumors.
Fußball Transfers in Germany is suggesting that Austrian central midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic may be on his way to Florida. German reports cite MLS side Orlando City SC, along with another unnamed club, as the suitors interested in the services of Junuzovic, whose contract expires in the summer.
Junuzovic, an Austrian international, has spent the last six years with Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, but has failed to agree to a new contract deal with Bremen. This has led to a renewal of interest from Orlando, who tried to sign to player back in the winter.
Orlando is permitted, according to transfer guidelines, to negotiate directly with a player whose contract expires in less than six months, and the Lions have done just that, reportedly offering Junuzovic a salary hovering around 2 million euros per year.
Junuzovic, 30, still has plenty left in the tank, and would sure up any MLS midfield. Although he typically plays a box-to-box type role, the Austrian can also drop deeper to provide cover for the back line. Bremen’s captain is a midfield engine who will give his all, regardless of his positioning on the pitch.
Junuzovic has shown the capability for a little flair now and again, too, and is famous for his triple nutmeg (triple!) against Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papadopoulos. If you haven’t seen the clip, you’re welcome.
Stephane Mbia — Atlanta United
If there is one thing that Gerardo Martino’s Atlanta United have shown they need this season, it is help in the back.
United have been a team on a remarkable run of form, as of late. However, the Five Stripes are neverthless the same team who were exposed by a weaker Houston Dynamo outfit on Opening Day, a side who conceded four goals. That, combined with the departure of Chilean Carlos Carmona in the back, has certainly left some questions unanswered.
According to Julien Chaput of beIN Sports France, United are reportedly interested in 31-year-old central defender Stephane Mbia, who most recently played in China after stints in France and Spain.
Mbia recently traveled to Atlanta, which only escalated the gossip surrounding the rumor.
Martino is reportedly keen on signing the Cameroonian, who is capable of filling the void at either center back or defensive midfield. Mbia would bring both experience and defensive stability to Atlanta, who are in need of both in their second MLS season.
Mbia has more than 350 career caps across Europe’s top leagues, and would undoubtedly be a welcomed addition to ATL.
Thoughts? Let me know on Twitter. I’ll be tracking each of these rumors throughout the week. Until next time, cheers.