We're almost 24 hours away from Tuesday's transfer window deadline ⌛ as the rumors mill continues to churn at a rapid pace. I'm Mike Goodman, and welcome to the Golazo Starting XI newsletter, we'll make sure you've got everything you need to keep track of the madness and 👀 surprising moves (like Joao Cancelo leaving Man City Bayern Munich). In addition, we will make sure you're up to date on just how incredible Napoli continue to be, plus the rest of the takeaways from this weekend's action. Let's get to it.
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📺 On Paramount+ or CBS Sports Network
🇮🇹 Serie A and Coppa Italia action in Italy
⚽ Serie A: Udinese vs. Hellas Verona, Monday, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ Coppa: Inter Milan vs. Atalanta, Tuesday, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+ & CBS Sports Network
🇦🇷 Argentina league opener
⚽ Barracas Central vs. Godoy Cruz, Monday, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ Banfield vs. Unión, Monday, 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ Vélez Sarsfield vs. Gimnasia, Monday, 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. Try one month for free by using the code: SERIEA.
📺 What else we're keeping an eye on
⚽ EFL Cup semi: Newcastle vs. Southampton, Tuesday, 3 p.m.
⚽ The Forward Line
🇺🇸 McKennie on his way to Leeds
Weston McKennie is set to join Leeds from Juventus in a move encapsulates a lot about both the state of international soccer and American soccer at the moment. By any measure, McKennie's time at Juventus was successful. He spent his age 21-23 seasons earning himself regular playing time and starting about half of the Serie A matches during a turbulent stretch for the Italian giants, to say the least. He's started 13 out of 20 Serie A matches this season, while -- as he has through most of his career -- battling injuries. He's leaving a club in Italy that was sitting in Champions League spots -- before receiving a 15-point penalty for fraudulent accounting practices -- to a team in Leeds that is battling against Premier League relegation. As McKennie takes his medical to finalize the move to Elland Road, Leeds currently sit 15th, only one point clear of relegation, with one game in hand on most of their competitors.
This move would've felt odd a few years ago, but that's not the case these days. It's just a fact of life now in European football that even the lowliest Premier League teams have budgets that dwarf most of Europe. There was a time when moving from Juventus to Leeds would have been unthinkable. Now it's just a random Tuesday. Leeds can afford the move (a loan with a €35 million option to buy) and they can afford to pay McKennie enough to make it all a viable destination. And so he is on his way to England.
There was also a time when the USMNT midfielder transferring from Juventus to Leeds would have been considered, fairly or unfairly, a referendum on the state of American soccer. But now, McKennie is just one of too many players to count playing the game at the highest level in the Premier League. He joins Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams at Leeds where they're coached by another American in Jesse Marsch. Elsewhere, Christian Pulisic is undergoing his transfer saga at Chelsea, Gio Reyna is silencing haters at Borussia Dortmund, Sergino Dest has bounced from Ajax to Barcelona to AC Milan, the left side of Fulham's defense is made up of Antony Robinson and Tim Ream, and the list goes on and on. And it doesn't even include a single player who took the field in the USMNT's disappointing 0-0 draw with Colombia on Saturday.
Ultimately, the most remarkable thing about McKennie's move from Juventus to Leeds is how unremarkable it is, all things considered. For more on the move and how Leeds will line up with McKennie, check out Chuck Booth breaking it all down.
- Booth: "Primarily, Marsch has used a 4-2-3-1 with a double pivot of Marc Roca and Adams behind Jack Harrison, Willy Gnoto and Aaronson but a few times, the team has used a 4-3-3. McKennie can slot almost anywhere but is most comfortable as a left-sided midfielder with freedom."
🔗 Midfield Link Play
🌐 It's Napoli's world
It was just another ho-hum weekend for Napoli's Scudetto chase. It's funny to think of Roma, the team they faced on Sunday as one of their closest competitors, but Jose Mourinho's side entered the clash trailing by only 13 points. It was a hard-fought, evenly contested affair that felt -- as many big Mourinho matches tend to -- like an intense cup final. A gorgeous 86th-minute strike from substitute Giovanni Simeone proved to be the difference for Gli Azzurri, who are now 13 points clear of the field (and 16 from sixth-place Roma) and playing like absolute rock stars.
By the time Napoli's coronation is over, people will forget just how likely it was that this side would come together this way. During preseason, there were four or five teams considered more likely to win the Scudetto than them. Sure they finished last season in third behind the two Milan teams, but this season was supposed to be a transitional period with Kalidou Koulibaly, Fabian Ruiz, Dries Martins and Lorenzo Insigne, collectively the core of this generation of Napoli teams, all moving on. In their place, the squad added Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-Jae.
And yet here we are. Napoli have all but wrapped up the title before the calendar hits February, and they've done it playing a stylish and entertaining brand of soccer. They've scored eight more goals than anybody else this season while also conceding the fewest goals, 15, in Serie A. Nobody saw this coming, and it's all the sweeter for it. And, as Champions League (on Paramount+) returns next month, we're all wondering just how magical can this Napoli side be at the European stage.
And now let's get to some links:
- 🔗 The vibes were immaculate at the Napoli watch party in New York.
- 🔗 You may have heard of a little club called Wrexham? Well, they're still alive in the FA Cup after a wild six-goal thriller.
- 🔗 AC Milan are in free fall, Francesco Porzio looks at exactly what's going wrong.
- 🔗 The Serie A studio show weighs in on the mess that is AC Milan. Don't forget, they will be in Boston next week!
- 🔗 House of Champions: Fabrizio Romano joins the show as deadline day ticks down.
- 🔗 In Soccer We Trust: USMNT kept a clean sheet, but the crew has questions about their overall performance.
- 🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman talk to Michelle Cooper, the No. 2 overall pick in the NWSL draft.
- 🔗 As Arsenal lob bids at Brighton for Moises Caicedo, James Benge reports on how Brighton are preparing to proceed.
- 🔗 Speaking of USMNT, one of their targets is striker Folarin Balogun, who scored late to net Reims a draw against PSG.
- 🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. Try one month for free by using the code: SERIEA.
💰 The Back Line
💵 Best bets
We're looking for intrigue the next couple of days. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern.
- EFL Cup: Newcastle vs. Southampton, Tuesday, 3 p.m.
💰 THE PICK: Under 2.5 goals (-120) -- Newcastle enter with a lead in the tie after winning the first leg 1-0. They're a staunch defensive side that doesn't take risks, otherwise known as exactly the kind of team where it's a nightmare to have to chase against. Southampton will struggle to create and Newcastle could pick one or two up on the counter, but don't expect a lively affair here. Follow SportsLine's best bets on this League Cup showdown here.
- Coppa Italia: Inter Milan vs. Atalanta, Tuesday, 3 p.m.
💰 THE PICK: Atalanta (+280) -- Atalanta have been a surprisingly feisty team this season. After being disappointing last season, they've bounced back to be in the thick of the top-four race in Serie A. They're worse than Inter but not a lot worse, and the big price makes this matchup worth looking at a little closer. Inter, meanwhile, haven't played a tough opponent in a long time with the exception of a Supercoppa win over a AC Milan side that is in the midst of imploding. Follow SportsLine's best bets for the here.