Photo Credit: @BenSteiner00 via OneSoccer

Welcome to the second edition of Around The Soccer World here at the Area 51 Sports Network.

Here we will go over the big stories in soccer. That includes local, national and international soccer stories. Soccer, after all, is the world’s biggest sport and there is always something happening. After all, the European leagues have started their seasons.

The Vancouver Whitecaps don’t play until Sunday and that is when they face the San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place as MLS play resumes. Let’s start with the Whitecaps. But we are not going to be talking about their first team in this article

Whitecaps Girls Elite Academy win big

The Whitecaps Girls Elite Academy has taken silverware home this season. Earlier this year they won the FIFA Bluestars/FIFA Youth Cup in Switzerland. That was a tournament that featured big teams such as Arsenal, Juventus, Basel and FC Zurich. But it was the Whitecaps that prevailed as they finished second in their group and beat Basel and Zurich in the semi-final and final. It should be mentioned that both wins came via the penalty shootout.

Earlier this month, the Whitecaps Girls Elite Academy won the League 1 BC women’s championship at BC Place. They finished first in the division during the regular season and won 11 games, lost twice and drew just once. In the playoffs, the Whitecaps women beat TSS Rovers in the semi-finals 5-2 and beat Unity FC 3-1 in the final.

But they weren’t done there.

This past weekend, the Whitecaps women took part in the League 1 Canada Inter-Provincial Championships in Langley. You guessed it, they won the whole thing. The final took place on Sunday and they beat League 1 Quebec champions Programme Excel Féminin 5-0. They are part of CF Montreal’s academy.

Did the Whitecaps women achieve a treble? I would say so. Oh yeah, they also won the Juan De Fuca Plate, which is awarded to the League 1 BC team who had the most combined points among the men and the women.

Katie Collar deserves a lot of credit as head coach. She has done an excellent job mentoring the players and hopefully, we’ll see several of them get call-ups for Canada in the future.

With the treble achieved by the women, it has been quite the year for the Whitecaps from top to bottom.

It is great to see the Whitecaps win trophies at different levels. That goes to show a winning culture is being established. After many years of futility, they need it.

Will Jonathan David leave Lille this summer?

Canadian international Jonathan David was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers last season. His 24 goals with LOSC Lille in Ligue 1 was third behind Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette’s 27 and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe’s 29.

David was also sixth in most goals scored in League play in Europe. He has one more than Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski and two behind Napoli’s Victor Osimhen. Of course, Erling Haaland and his 36 goals ended up being on top.

So you would think David would be in high demand right? Well, that hasn’t happened yet. That’s because the striker market was cool for the first few weeks of the transfer window. But it would take one big transfer for it to heat up and that was Harry Kane.

On August 10, Kane left Tottenham Hotspur to join Bayern Munich for 100 million Euros plus 10 million euros in bonuses.

So Tottenham doesn’t have a striker other than Richarlison, who had more offsides than goals last season. They need someone who can step in, fill the void Kane left and of course, score goals.

David fits the bill and has been linked to Tottenham for quite some time. However, it looks like they are passing on David and looking at his former club Gent. Tottenham is looking at signing 21-year-old Gift Orban according to Dan Kilpatrick of Evening Standard.

If you are playing FIFA, that name may ring a bell. Orban is one of the best young players in the world and has a very high ceiling. He is a pure goal scorer that also brings speed and physicality.

But back to David.

He turned down an offer from Al Hilal of the Saudi Pro League according to Transfermarkt’s Manuel Veth.  David would have earned 12 Euros a year and that is more than what Alphonso Davies makes at Bayern Munich.

But it was a smart move for him to turn down going to Al Hilal. He wants to prove himself in Europe. Other clubs interested in David include Italian clubs Juventus and Napoli. Napoli doesn’t look like it’s happening as it seems Oshimen is staying there. Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic has been in the rumour mill for months. There was nearly a swap deal with Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku but the Blues pulled out as they couldn’t agree to a fee.

David started Lille’s 1-1 away draw to Nice last Friday. He managed two shots on target and had an 87% passing accuracy.

It looks like David is staying at Lille for another season. They finished fifth last season and qualified for this season’s Europa Conference League play-offs. David won Ligue 1 with Lille in his first season.

I do think he needs to leave. He needs to take his game to the next level and prove he is one of the strikers in Europe. Plus, David has proven he is too good to be playing for Lille.

Of course, things can change between now and September 1. It is disappointing that David hasn’t gone to a top club yet.

Neymar is the latest to head to the Saudi Pro League

Speaking of Al-Hilal, it didn’t take them long to turn their attention away from David and make another splash. It was a big one, they are on the verge of signing Neymar Jr.

It was clear that Neymar wanted to get out of PSG. He was rumoured to go to clubs such as Barcelona and Chelsea and even MLS. According to Miguel Delaney of The Independent, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City turned down the chance to sign him due to the fee and his wages.

SkySports reports that Neymar’s transfer fee is 86.3 million pounds and he will earn 129.4 million pounds per year (two-year contract) at Al Hilal. Yeah, the Saudis are loaded.

Neymar joined PSG in the summer of 2017 from Barcelona for 200 million pounds which to this day, is the most expensive soccer transfer in history. His time at PSG was marred by constant injuries. While he enjoyed plenty of individual success in the French capital, PSG failed to win the UEFA Champions League. The furthest they’ve gone is the final, which they lost to Bayern Munich in the 2020 “bubble” Champions League knockouts.

Neymar played alongside Kylian Mbappe and later Lionel Messi but the three of them failed to deliver European success. It seemed like Neymar was following the money when he left Barcelona to join PSG and it seems he is doing the same with Al Hilal.

Was he a PSG flop? No, but you can’t help but think he wasted his career there.

I initially thought Neymar would stay in Europe. But as we’ve seen this summer, the Saudi Pro League is scooping up players like Thanos collecting Infinity Stones. He is only 31 and I do believe he still has a few good years left in him.

The Saudi Pro League started luring in players like sirens after Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Al Nassr last winter. Despite Saudi Arabia being boiling hot and not having equal rights for women and other strict laws, players are following the money.

Sports washing at its finest.

Moises Caicedo and the modern transfer market

Speaking of big-money moves, Chelsea are at it again.

They broke the British transfer record fee for midfielder Moises Caicedo. They signed him from Brighton & Hove Albion for 100 million pounds plus 15 million pounds in performance-related bonuses so the fee is technically 115 million pounds. So Caicedo is the most expensive signing in Chelsea’s history and second, the most expensive domestic transfer after Mbappe signed for PSG permanently in 2018 for 105 million pounds.

Chelsea broke the British transfer record and you might be wondering who the previous record holder was. Well, it was also Chelsea. They spent 106.8 million pounds on midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica back in January.

Caicedo is from Ecuador and he grew up a Chelsea fan. His mom joined him for the announcement posts on social media. This is wholesome content right here.

Chelsea was linked to Caicedo for months and talks dragged on. Brighton wanted 100 million pounds for the 21-year-old but Chelsea refused to pay that amount. Last Thursday, it looked like they lost out on him as Liverpool’s bid of 110 million pound bid got accepted by Brighton. But Caicedo only wanted to go to Chelsea. 

You probably know I am a Chelsea fan. I went through every human emotion possible during the whole Caicedo saga. Bitterness, anger, sadness, joy, euphoria, happiness, you name it. It was a long saga that got really intense but in the end, it is Chelsea who won.

To make things better, Chelsea are close to signing another midfielder. His name is Romeo Lavia, a 19-year-old Belgian who played for Southampton last season. Despite Lavia’s efforts, Southampton got relegated. What is even funnier is that Liverpool wanted to sign Lavia but Chelsea beat them to it.

I don’t know where Liverpool go from here. Sure, Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboslai are good signings. (I still can’t believe they got Mac Allister for 35 million pounds. That is a bargain for a very good midfielder.) But they need more in the midfield, especially someone very good defensively. Caicedo and Lavia both fit what they needed.

Back to Caicedo. He is a ball-winning midfielder just like N’Golo Kante. He and Fernandez make a perfect partnership. Fernandez doesn’t have to drop deep as much anymore because Caicedo is there.

But let me take off my fan cap and put on my objective cap for a minute. Was 115 million pounds too much for a 21-year-old with one good Premier League season? Yes. Do I think the market is bonkers? Yes.

Ten years ago, players going over 100 million was simply unheard of. Nowadays it is become common. Why? Well, for starters, there are factors like talent and potential. But there is also demand. Bidding wars are common and often the highest bidder wins.

But of course, the game is growing and clubs get more revenue through TV, sponsorships, tickets and merchandise. That is especially true for big clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

After all, the modern market started because of Chelsea. Roman Abramovich bought the club from Ken Bates in 2003. They were a club on the rise and Abramovich being the new owner took them to greater heights. Within two years, they were Premier League Champions and three years after that, they were in a Champions League Final.

In the years following Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea, billionaires started purchasing soccer teams and giving them huge pockets of cash. So that is my explanation of why players go for high fees these days. It’s not the best explanation but I hoped I explained it simply and easily.

Women’s World Cup semi-finals preview

If you aren’t watching even just 15 minutes of the Women’s World Cup, you are seriously missing out. The games have been great. They’ve been intense, and physical and we’ve seen upsets and a lot of drama.

I mean, who would’ve thought the US would go out in the round of 16 to Sweden? (I mean no disrespect Sweden is good) Australia is progressing through the tournament without their star Sam Kerr. But she will be ready to go for the semi-final against England.

Sweden will be facing Spain and two-time reigning Ballon D’Or winner Alexa Putellas. Spain got by the Netherlands in an intense game that went to extra time. 19-year-old Salma Celeste Paralluelo Ayingono got the winner in the 111th minute. Not bad for a first World Cup goal.

England got by a scrappy Nigeria team on penalties. The reigning European champions will be looking to bring another trophy back home.

What makes the semi-finals so exciting is that we will see a first-time champion when the tournament is over. All four of these teams are solid and the games could go either way.

Anyone who says women’s soccer is boring doesn’t know what they are talking about.

I’m predicting Spain and Australia will go through. Spain and Sweden play on Tuesday at 1:00 am Pacific and Australia and England play on Wednesday at 3:00 am Pacific. Set those alarms.

Check back next week (hopefully) for the next edition of Around The Soccer World!