Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo appears in court in tax case


Gab Marcotti explains Cristiano Ronaldo’s tax-fraud case, and Herculez Gomez and Max Bretos discuss the impact at Real.
Zinedine Zidane says Cristiano Ronaldo is enjoying some time off and will be back for the start of the season.

MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court in Madrid on Monday morning to answer charges of a €14.7 million tax fraud

Prosecutors at Spain’s Hacienda tax agency have put together a case arguing that the Real Madrid forward, and his advisors and agents Gestifute, routed image rights income through a network of companies to avoid paying the relevant taxes from 2011 to 2014.

Ronaldo, who has previously denied all the charges through his agents, arrived at the court around 11 a.m. local time. No members of the media were permitted inside the court.

AS has reported that, unlike Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, the Portugal captain will not accept wrongdoing.

If Ronaldo disputes the charges brought by the Hacienda prosecutors, judge Monica Gomez Ferrer will then decide whether to take the case forward and potentially set a trial date. If found guilty, he could be ordered to pay back taxes and a fine — which could be as high as €50 million — and experts have said he risks a custodial sentence if he fails to comply. 

Gestifute owner Jorge Mendes gave evidence in front of judge Gomez Ferrer in late June relating to a case involving former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao at which he denied he or any of his staff have any role in tax affairs. 

Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at court in Madrid on Monday morning.

The image rights income of other Mendes clients — including Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and former Madrid players Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Angel Di Maria and Ricardo Carvalho — have also been investigated by the Spanish authorities.

Ronaldo, on an extended break following the Confederations Cup earlier in the summer, did not appear for Madrid during their International Champions Cup games in the United States this summer.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he is expected to join up with the squad on their return to Europe on Aug. 5. He is then unlikely to feature in the European Super Cup against Manchester United in Skopje on Aug. 8, or the Spanish Supercopa games against Barcelona on Aug. 13 and 16.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan


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Arsene Wenger wrong to call Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez contract situations ideal


Arsene Wenger says he would have signed every player at Arsenal to a 20-year deal if contract length impacted form.
Arsene Wenger believes that players running down their contracts will become normal due to the rise in transfer fees.

The humble manager’s press conference has been one of the central breeding grounds of misdirection in sport and, on Sunday, that of Arsene Wenger featured a line that did not so much stretch credulity, but tear it completely in two.

Discussing the scenario in which Arsenal’s two best players, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, have been allowed to enter the final year of their contracts, Wenger claimed it was “an ideal situation” for the club.

That might appear an inversion of logic, yet there is an argument that a player with one year remaining on his contract would play at a high level to impress interested clubs. The trouble is that, when Wenger attempted to expand on his initial argument, he went in a different direction and what followed didn’t really make any sense.

“When you’re a football player, you perform until the last day of your contract. Whether you have two or one year left, it doesn’t change,” he said.

If that is the case, then, there is no benefit at all to winding a contract down.

It was then put to Wenger that, if Ozil and Sanchez left on free transfers, £72.5m of investment would walk out of the Emirates Stadium door for free.

“Even if that happens, it doesn’t matter,” the Arsenal manager responded. 

Arsene Wenger faces the prospect of losing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez after next season.

While Wenger did make a thoughtful point about the dramatic escalation in transfer fees meaning more players would run down contracts if interested parties are unwilling to pay full price, it simply isn’t credible to describe as “ideal” what is happening with the contracts of Ozil and Sanchez, as well as those of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere.

In a summer of huge spending, how can it be “ideal” that, due to his contractual status, fees being discussed for Sanchez amount to half of what he would be worth, were his contarct one year from expiring?

Moreover, how can it be “ideal” that, on Jan. 1, Ozil could announce he has agreed to move to Bayern Munich — or anywhere else — on a free transfer at the end of the season?

How in any understanding of the word can it possibly be “ideal” that Arsenal could lose their two most valuable players for nothing in under 12 months’ time?

And so the question becomes why Wenger tried to dress it up in such a way. Perhaps it was an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that Arsenal have reached such a situation due to a lack of foresight and inept strategy when it comes to senior contracts. (The club effectively admitted as much themselves when they appointed contract specialist Huss Fahmy from Team Sky earlier this summer.)

But it is too little, too late and the practices of Arsenal’s rival clubs are instructive in highlighting the gap which they need to close. At Chelsea, barely a week has passed this summer without the club announcing that a player has gone out on loan only after signing a new contract at the club. Kurt Zouma, for example, joined Stoke after penning a six-year deal.

Arsenal, by contrast, sent Wojciech Szczesny off to Roma on loan last season, then allowed him to enter the last year of his deal this summer and permitting Juventus to sign the potential heir to Gianluigi Buffon for around £10m.

Chelsea’s policy is evidence of a more evolved strategy but, admittedly, it is not really relevant to players of Sanchez or Ozil’s calibre. For that, we need to look to Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s identikit contract signing pose has become the stuff of internet legend, but it could only evolve into a meme because it was so ubiquitous.

Spurs are very good at getting their best players to sign new contracts, often getting in early enough that they are tied down before they start asking for prohibitive salaries. Harry Kane, the best striker in England, is reportedly on a base salary of £90,000 per week; when Dele Alli signed a six-year deal in September, it was his second new deal in nine months.

It is true that Ozil and Sanchez arrived at Arsenal as fully-formed, world stars and commanded salaries reflecting that. They are said to be demanding wages of almost £300,000 per week.

But while obvious comparisons with players at other clubs are not straightforward, the central point remains Arsenal’s inability to properly manage this side of the football business. That might fairly be described as being far from “an ideal situation.”

Tom is one of ESPN FC’s Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport


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Spanish midfielder Victor Rodriguez training with Seattle Sounders ahead of move


Sigi Schmid’s return was a lackluster affair, as his LA Galaxy played to a scoreless draw with his old club, Seattle.

Spanish midfielder Victor Rodriguez trained with Seattle on Monday ahead of a free transfer from La Liga’s Sporting Gijon, Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said.

Lagerwey told ESPN’s Julie Stewart-Binks on Saturday that the club would announce a new signing “next week,” and sources told ESPN FC on Monday that the Sounders were set to announce the signing of Rodriguez.

Lagerwey then confirmed that Rodriguez trained with the Sounders on Monday morning and was “optimistic we can complete the last steps and be able to add him this week,” though the GM cautioned that no deal had yet been completed.

However, he did say that the potential signing would be below the designated player level, and the club would likely use targeted allocation money in the deal.

“[Rodriguez] is a player Chris Henderson has scouted for almost two years now,” Lagerwey said. “He’s seen him multiple times live and I want to give Chris a lot of credit because he really was dogged about this one.

“He had never been available and suddenly he was available and popped up and we thought, ‘Well, OK, this is a guy we’ve been tracking for a while and are pretty excited about.'”

Victor Rodriguez is near a move to the Seattle Sounders.

Rodriguez plays primarily as a right winger, and scored two goals in 27 league and cup appearances last season for Sporting, which announced last week that the 28-year-old would be released when he signs an MLS contract, with an agreement already in place.

Prior to that he was on the books at Elche, though his second season there saw him loaned out to Getafe, where scored twice in 34 league and cup appearances. He has also spent time with Real Zaragoza and Badalona.

The Sounders are also continuing their pursuit of Dynamo Kiev midfielder Derlis Gonzalez, but a source with knowledge of the negotiations said it’s still unclear if the Sounders will get the deal over the finish line before the close of the summer transfer window on Aug. 9, and that there is still much work to be done.

The hang-up continues to be the transfer fee, even though the Sounders’ offer for Gonzalez remains the best that Kiev has received so far, according to the source. Lagerwey declined to comment on Gonzalez on Monday.

Kiev is standing firm for the moment, but the political unrest in the country in recent years has made Dynamo more vulnerable to losing foreign players like Gonzalez, who is entering his third season with the club.

During that time, Gonzalez has scored nine goals in 52 league and cup appearances. Prior to joining Dynamo, Gonzalez was with Swiss side FC Basel where he scored six goals in 36 appearances.

He has also been on the books of Olimpia and Guarani in his native Paraguay. At international level, Gonzalez has made 27 appearances, scoring four goals.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.


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Neymar in China on promotional tour while PSG reports abound


Gab Marcotti pinpoints two potential Barcelona targets who could help lessen the damage done if Neymar leaves the club.
Neymar poses with Floyd Mayweather, Petke’s rant is immortalised and more in The Sweeper.
The FC crew react to Sergio Ramos’ quote about Neymar’s future and debate the effect his departure would have on Barcelona.
Thiago Motta was asked about the Neymar transfer speculation following PSG’s 2-1 victor in the French Super Cup.

Barcelona striker Neymar spent Monday in China on a promotional tour while reports swirled about his potential world-record €222 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

After helping Barcelona beat Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup in Miami on Saturday, Neymar left his teammates and flew to China, where he was pictured attending a fashion show and being interviewed by state television.

He also took a photo with his countryman Hulk, who is playing for Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League, and said hello to his fans on social media platform Weibo.

“I would like to send a fond embrace to all my fans in China, I want to thank them for all their support,” he wrote. “And to all my friends on Weibo, could you send me suggestions as to what I should do while I am here?”

Meanwhile, Qatari newspaper Al Watan reported on Monday that Neymar will stop in Doha on his way back to Europe to meet PSG chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi and possibly have a medical ahead of what would be a historic move.

However, French newspaper Le Parisien refuted those rumours on Monday evening, saying Neymar is expected to land in Paris when he leaves Shanghai.

Complicating matters further, reports out of Brazil said he would land in Barcelona in time for training on Wednesday.

Neymar faced the Chinese media at a fashion show on Monday.

On Saturday, a source said the Ligue 1 club are so confident in landing Neymar that they are already considering how to unveil him, and French radio station Europe 1 reported on Monday that Paris police granted PSG permission to show him off this week in the city centre, rather than at the Parc des Princes.

Le Parisien cited police as saying they had not received any request to secure a specific site for an unveiling, but the newspaper added that “everything seems in place to welcome Neymar” once details are settled.

The 25-year-old would become the most expensive footballer of all time if the Ligue 1 club sign him for a fee more than double the one Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba last summer.

A source told ESPN FC on July 22 that the Brazil international and his father have already agreed personal terms with PSG, and all that was left to do at that point was for the Ligue 1 giants to work out how to activate the player’s release clause without incurring the wrath of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play watchdog.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was tight-lipped about Neymar’s plans after the Miami Clasico, though PSG’s Dani Alves said after the French Super Cup on Saturday that he hoped his countryman’s move would be “finalised soon.”

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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Toronto FC jumps over Chicago Fire and New York City FC thanks to Sebastian Giovinco


Sebastian Giovinco dazzled again Sunday afternoon, scoring twice and assisting another goal in Toronto’s rout of NYCFC.

Lots of movement in the Power Rankings this week, as Toronto FC leapt to the top after its big win and the Chicago Fire’s loss to Sporting Kansas City.

1. Toronto FC (+2): Just in case anyone had forgotten, Sebastian Giovinco reminded MLS that he remains the best player in the league with two goals in a 4-0 romp over NYCFC.

2. Chicago Fire (-1): On the field, the Fire ran into a Sporting team with something to prove and lost 3-2 in Kansas City. Off it, David Accam’s future remains up in the air.

3. New York City FC (-1): NYCFC were undone by the Giovinco Show in Toronto, with Andrea Pirlo looking decidedly ineffective in Yangel Herrera’s place.

4. Sporting Kansas City (+2): No Dom Dwyer, no deficiencies on the attacking end for Sporting. The emergence of Daniel Salloi in a 3-2 win over the Fire is a great sign.

Sporting KC earned a hard fought 3-2 win over Chicago to maintain top spot in the Western Conference.

5. FC Dallas (-1): A deflected shot and questionable penalty had Dallas in a hole even before a red card for Carlos Gruezo, all of which resulted in a shocking 4-0 loss to Vancouver.

6. Atlanta United (-1): There was a bit of bad luck at play in Atlanta’s 1-1 draw with Orlando in their final game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The frame of the goal kept out several excellent efforts.

7. New York Red Bulls (+2): Since losing to NYCFC on June 24, the Red Bulls are on a four-game unbeaten run, the most recent of which saw them beat Montreal 4-0.

8. Houston Dynamo (no change): Juan Cabezas’ first goal in Dynamo orange helped salvage a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers and kept Houston’s unbeaten home record intact.

9. Seattle Sounders (+2): Seattle kept up its unbeaten run, which is now at six games, with a strong defensive performance in a scoreless draw against LA.

10. Columbus Crew SC (-1): After Wednesday’s 3-0 debacle of a loss in Philadelphia, Crew SC did a credible job with a 2-2 draw across the country in Utah.

11. Vancouver Whitecaps (+4): Not many would have picked the ‘Caps to go on the road and beat down Dallas 4-0, but a bit of a luck and a red card for the host set things up nicely for Vancouver.

12. San Jose Earthquakes (-2): Nick Lima’s sweet half-volley was all the Quakes needed to take down the Rapids 1-0 at Avaya Stadium.

Juan Cabezas netted late for the Houston Dynamo to steal a point against the Portland Timbers.

13. Portland Timbers (+1): The good news is that VAR would have fixed the missed call that kept the Timbers to a 2-2 draw in Houston. The bad news it that VAR won’t be operational until next week.

14. LA Galaxy (-2): Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy debut and showdown with his old club came and went with a whimper as neither teams found the net in a goalless draw against Seattle.

15. Orlando City SC (-2): Kaka has still got it. The Brazilian showed his quality with a wonderful goal in Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Atlanta. Now to sort out the Dwyer / Cyle Larin partnership.

16. Real Salt Lake (+1): Mike Petke’s suspension meant there was no rant this week. RSL’s bad luck with the post kept things to a 2-2 draw with Columbus.

17. New England Revolution (+1): That’s two wins in a row, with seven goals in total, following a 3-0 win over Philadelphia. If this is a resurgence for the Revs, the real test comes next weekend in Chicago.

From Kaka’s stunner to Giovinco’s magical brace, relive all the goals from an exciting 21st round of MLS action.

18. Philadelphia Union (-2): Flip sides of the coin for the Union between two games this week. Good: 3-0 win over Columbus at home. Bad: A dispiriting 3-0 loss in New England.

19. Minnesota United (+2): Nothing like facing the sad sack Black & Red to bring some joy to a difficult expansion season. The Loons set a new mark for largest margin of victory with a 4-0 win over D.C.

20. Colorado Rapids (-1): In the end, it wasn’t the lack of Tim Howard in net that hurt the Rapids in their 1-0 loss at San Jose; Colorado just can’t generate chances.

21. Montreal Impact (-1): It’s the Daniel Royer Show in Jersey these days. The Austrian scored twice in the Red Bulls’ 4-0 romp over the Impact.

22. D.C. United (no change): There’s not much to say about the lost season for United. Attention is already on 2018, a new stadium, and — perhaps — new owners.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.


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Mario Balotelli to miss Nice’s Champions League clash vs. Ajax through injury


Balotelli celeb vs Ajax 170726
Mario Balotelli scored against Ajax in last week’s game.

Nice will be without the injured Mario Balotelli as they try to get the better of Ajax and move a step closer to the Champions League group stage on Wednesday.

Balotelli, 26, scored the French club’s goal in their 1-1 draw at home to Ajax in last week’s third qualifying round first leg.

However, the striker, who recently signed a new deal with Nice, suffered a hamstring injury during the game, sidelining him for the return leg in Amsterdam and Saturday’s opening Ligue 1 game at St Etienne.

Balotelli’s place in the Nice squad, which is due to fly to the Netherlands on Tuesday for the Ajax game, has been taken by teenage striker Ignatius Kpene Ganago.

Balotelli joined Nice from Liverpool last summer and went on to score 17 goals for the club in his first season.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman


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Done deals Europes most expensive transfers Lukaku Morata Mendy


Check out Romelu Lukaku’s full interview with ESPN FC’s Alexis Nunes on the Belgium striker’s move to Manchester United.

The transfer window is well underway, but here are the biggest deals (over £30m) you may have missed from around Europe so far. And check back for updates.

For a full breakdown of all transfers in Europe’s major leagues, sortable by club, please click here.

Note: All fees are undisclosed and based on ESPN FC sources unless noted with *.

Everton recouped a massive fee for Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku was linked with a move back to Chelsea but chose Manchester United instead and is now a teammate of his friend Paul Pogba. Reports suggest the final price with add-ons could be a new world-record of £90m. Wayne Rooney went the other way in a separate deal.

Alvaro Morata had attracted interest from Man United.

Morata scored 15 goals in 26 appearances for Real Madrid in La Liga last season but wanted a chance to become undisputed first-choice. Antonio Conte gave him that chance.

Benjamin Mendy becomes the world’s most expensive defender.

Mendy impressed with Monaco last season and will now have to deal with the pressure of being the world’s most expensive defender at Man City.

Kyle Walker
The fee for Kyle Walker has been criticised but he could be worth every penny.

City have been on the lookout for full-backs and made Spurs’ right-back Walker the joint-most expensive defender in history for a fee that will reach £50m with add-ons.

Alexandre Lacazette joined Arsenal from Lyon for a club-record transfer fee.
Arsenal moved quickly to snap up Alexandre Lacazette.

He almost moved to Atletico Madrid but due to their transfer ban, Lacazette arrived at Arsenal from Lyon this summer instead. 

Bernardo Silva was the first big deal through the door.

Portugal international Silva won Ligue 1 with Monaco last season and caught the eye of Pep Guardiola, who snapped him up in June before any other major clubs had done business.

Mourinho and Matic won the league together in 2014-15 at Chelsea

A reliable, selfless performer in defensive midfield, the Serbia international reunites with his former manager at Chelsea as Man United seek to win their first Premier League title since 2012-13.

Manchester United were interested in Tiemoue Bakayoko but Chelsea pounced.

Another starlet from Monaco’s Ligue 1 winning side, Bakayoko chose to line up alongside N’Golo Kante in a fearsome looking midfield at Chelsea.

Leonardo Bonucci
Leonardo Bonucci made the shock choice to move on from the champions.

It is a transfer that rocked Italy as Milan kept up their spending spree by stealing one of Juventus’ best players. Instead of heading off to Chelsea, Bonucci chose to stay in Serie A.

The France international is tipped for a bright future.

With another €15m in add-ons to come, Bayern have secured their future with the signing of the 22-year-old midfielder. 

Ederson is now the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

With Joe Hart farmed out on loan and Claudio Bravo not trusted, Pep Guardiola spent a record fee for a goalkeeper on the 23-year-old Brazilian stopper. He could be No. 1.

Liverpool were after a winger with pace and they got him.

Salah did not impress too much during his spell at Chelsea a few years back, but Liverpool will hope he can overcome his past.

Rudiger will be comfortable in Chelsea’s back three.

The Roma defender made it clear it was Antonio Conte that persuaded him to move to the Premier League and the 24-year-old has plenty of time to develop his game.

The Portugal international is blossoming with Cristiano Ronaldo.

AC Milan continued their summer of spending by adding the 21-year-old forward to their strikeforce. Big things are expected.

Vitolo is still just 27 and has room to grow.

Atletico Madrid are under a transfer ban until January 2018 but signed the Spain winger and immediately loaned him out to Las Palmas.

Victor Lindelof had been tracked by United for some time.

The Sweden international was linked with a move to Old Trafford for almost six months and finally completed the deal in June as Jose Mourinho got his first signing of the summer.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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Phil Jones and Daley Blind punished for breach of UEFA doping regulations


Jose Mourinho reveals Nemanja Matic would like to sign for the club after a photo emerged of him wearing a Man United training kit.

Phil Jones has been banned for two matches and Daley Blind fined by UEFA after the Manchester United pair were found guilty of breaching the governing body’s doping regulations after the Europa League final in May.

Press Association Sport reports that Jones was verbally abusive toward a doping control officer after he was requested to attend drug-testing after the final in Stockholm on May 24, and will now miss the UEFA Super Cup match against Real Madrid next week and United’s first Champions League group stage match in September. He has also been fined €5,000.

Press Association Sport said Blind was reluctant to take a test as requested because he wanted to celebrate with his teammates, whose 2-0 victory over Ajax ensured their qualification for this season’s Champions League. He was fined €5,000.

There is no suggestion that either player was guilty of doping.

United have been fined €10,000 over the rule breaches. The club are reported to be aware of UEFA’s decisions, and have three days to appeal against them. However, have not yet indicated to UEFA whether they will or not.

More to follow…


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Massimiliano Allegri says Alex Sandro is staying at Juventus


Alejandro Moreno assesses the latest rumours surrounding Alex Sandro, Riyad Mahrez and more in Rumour Rater.
Massimiliano Allegri has warned this year’s Serie A title race will the toughest yet for Juventus.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has said Chelsea target Alex Sandro will remain with the Serie A champions this summer.

Chelsea had been expected to sign Sandro, 26, in a deal worth around £60 million, but Allegri has insisted the left-back is staying put.

“Alex Sandro is a Juve player, he’s extraordinary and he’s not moving from here,” Allegri said after his side’s friendly victory over Roma.

“He’s improved a lot since he arrived here and he still has margin for improvement. Together with Marcelo, I think he is the best full-back in the world.”

Alex Sandro's goal capped Juventus' win on Saturday.
Alex Sandro was strongly linked with a move to Chelsea earlier this summer.

Sandro joined Juve from Porto in 2015 and made 27 appearances in Serie A last season, having played 22 times during his first campaign in Italy.

Following Patrice Evra’s move to Marseille, he has become Juve’s first-choice full-back or wing-back on the left.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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Arsenal’s Emirates Cup win contested by Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder


Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker holds the Emirates Cup trophy
Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker holds the Emirates Cup trophy.

As you may be aware, Arsenal emerged victorious in the Emirates Cup over the weekend despite only winning one of their two fixtures.

Despite losing to Sevilla in their final outing, a quirk in competition rules meant the Gunners’ 5-2 win over Benfica in their opening match secured them enough bonus points to finish top of the overall table despite their Spanish opponents winning both of their matches.

This sporting injustice didn’t go unnoticed by Sevilla forward Wissam Ben Yedder, who took to Twitter after the final whistle to voice his grievances.

“We won [two games out of two], but we are not first… give us back the cup Arsenal,” Ben Yedder joked.

He then swiftly found himself on the receiving end of a tidal wave of scorn from Arsenal fans, but the French striker proved more than a match.

Replying to one particular insult, he quipped: “Ahahaha. Don’t be mad bro, you may get your revenge in the Champions Le… Oh wait.”

Top trolling. Though, judging by Per Mertesacker’s muted reaction to receiving the trophy, he might be only too happy to send the silverware to Andalucia.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.


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Transfer Rater: Mesut Ozil to Barcelona and Thomas Vermaelen to West Brom


Football Whispers, July 31.
The latest transfer rumours from around the world.

Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the whisper.

Here are today’s top five emerging whispers for the summer. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip.

Jean Seri to Arsenal

Arsenal’s pursuit of midfielder Seri may have taken a positive turn. Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere has suggested there could be two departures from the club as they look to sell in order to buy. He said: “There should be three or four more arrivals, and two departures.” L’Equipe claims one of those heading towards the exit door could be Seri, who is also being linked Tottenham Hotspur.

Marouane Fellaini to Galatasaray

With Manchester United closing in on Nemanja Matic it appeared as though it would be one in and one out at Old Trafford. Fellaini has been linked with a move to Turkey to join Galatasaray but Jose Mourinho has acted quickly to pour cold water over those links: “It’s easier for Galatasaray to get me than to get Marouane,” Mourinho told reporters after Sunday’s win over Valerenga. “Forget it. He’s too important to me.” Is the Portuguese manager just keeping his cards close to his chest?

Thomas Vermaelen to West Bromwich Albion

According to Sky Sports, West Brom are keen on signing Barcelona defender Vermaelen. The centre-back still has two years left on his contract with the La Liga side and spent last season on loan with Roma. The former Arsenal captain has been attracting interest from Crystal Palace too but Tony Pulis is keen to take him at the Hawthorns.

Winston Reid to Everton

The Mail on Sunday claims Everton haven’t finished their summer of spending and that West Ham United centre-back Reid is next on Ronald Koeman’s wishlist. The report suggests Slaven Bilic could be tempted to cash in on the New Zealand international as he continues his rebuilding at the London Stadium. And that might mean Everton, who are reliant on ageing centre-backs Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams to compliment new arrival Michael Keane, moving for Reid.

Mesut Ozil to Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho is a top transfer target for Barcelona but, according to Spanish outlet Don Balon, the La Liga side will move for Arsenal playmaker Ozil if a deal can’t be completed. The Germany International has just one year left on his contract and may not sign an extension. The Gunners could look to recoup some of the £42.5 million they paid to Real Madrid, and Barcelona are reportedly ready to spend a £53m to prise him away.


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Antonio Cassano not retiring after Verona exit looking for a new club


Antonio Cassano is now a free agent.

Antonio Cassano says he has no intention of retiring from football yet, adding he left Hellas Verona after less than a month because he did not feel things were right for him there.

Cassano, 35, joined Verona this summer after more than a year spent on the sidelines, having been marginalised and then released by Sampdoria, yet his stay there was blighted by what was reported as homesickness.

The former Italy international threatened to quit Verona before being convinced to give it another chance, but he left the Serie A club days later with the suggestion he was retiring from the game.

But speaking to La Stampa, Cassano has clarified that he has not retired and he is now hopeful the right offer will arrive before the new season starts.

“When I spoke with Hellas, I never said ‘I’m retiring,'” Cassano said. “I would challenge anybody who claims the opposite. Other things have been written, but the truth is this: when we terminated my contract, they asked about inserting a compensation clause in the event that I found another club.

“I accepted. It has nothing to do with homesickness. I definitely want to continue and I have more than a few ideas, but no offers. The main thing is I enjoy myself, like I always have done in my career.”

Cassano has decided to return to his family home in Liguria and is waiting for the next opportunity to arise.

“Life is made of decisions and you can make decisions which you think are right and then reconsider them,” Cassano said. “It’s happened billions of times in the world, but if it happens to a footballer, it makes more noise.

Massimiliano Allegri has warned this year’s Serie A title race will the toughest yet for Juventus.

“Then if you add to that it is Cassano, then he’s just crazy. I’ve made a lot [of decisions] in my crazed life, but I am not stupid, and above all I have always been coherent. As for everything else, I am used to living with media pressures. I’ve become a raincoat — rain just slides off me.

“The spark simply did not ignite with Hellas and I realised that straight away. It’s like being with a woman and realising you don’t want to spend time with her. It’s a question of feeling, of something in the air.”

Cassano still hopes the right offer will come from a Serie A club, even if Virtus Entella — who are based in nearby Chiavari — are an attractive option in Serie B.

“I felt it was better to interrupt things rather than drag them on. [Entella] would be a big challenge, to try to get a miraculous promotion into Serie A,” he said. “I was close to them in February. I had accepted but I took a night to think about it and then did not feel it was time to drop down to Serie B yet.

“Now, if anybody wants me they have to call me because I don’t have an agent. I’ll wait until September, otherwise I will just stay at home.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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Atletico Madrid plan one more signing amid links to Chelsea’s Diego Costa


Fernando Torres reflects on his love for Atletico Madrid, the club’s new stadium and more after extending his contract.
Janusz Michallik explains why Atletico Madrid is the best option is for Saul amid links between the midfielder and Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin says the club plan to make one more signing in the current transfer window — as reported target Chelsea striker Diego Costa continues his holidays in Brazil.

Atletico are unable to register new players until January 2017 due to a FIFA imposed transfer ban for breaking youth transfer regulations — although earlier in the summer they triggered the €36 million transfer clause of former Sevilla winger Vitolo, who will spend the first six months of the new season on loan at Las Palmas.

Reports in both Spain and England have claimed Atletico are keen for the return of Costa, who fired them to the La Liga title before joining Chelsea for €38m in 2014.

Speaking to Atletico’s club website, the Rojiblanco chief did not go into details, but suggested plans to add a second signing remained on course.

“The ban of registering players this summer market affects us in that the two players that we wanted to hire, because there were only two, will have to join us with five months of delay,” Gil Marin said.

While both the Chelsea and Atletico squads are hard at work in preseason, Brazil-born Spain international Costa remains on vacation at home in Lagarto. A fortnight ago he was seen partying while wearing an Atletico shirt, and his most recent social media posts suggest he is unlikely to be fit for the start of the 2017-18 campaign at any club.

Diego Costa’s future remains uncertain as the new season approaches.

Gil Marin also used his interview with the club site to suggest he expected coach Diego Simeone to stay at the club for “several more years,” even though his contract now has less than 12 months to run.

“I always said that the decision to hire Diego, and his decision to accept, has been a great success for both sides,” he said. “It is a clear example of successful synergy, where both parts have grown equally. I am sure that we have ahead several more years of joint work, where we can all continue growing.”

Last summer Simeone cut short his current deal so that it ends in June 2018, leading to much speculation over his future plans. Atletico have recently been briefing local reporters that conversations with his sister and agent Natalia have begun around a new contract which would commit him to the club until 2020.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan


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Allegri warns Scudetto will be toughest for Juve



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LA Galaxy Seattle Sounders draw caps off emotional day for Sigi Schmid


Sigi Schmid’s return was a lackluster affair, as his LA Galaxy played to a scoreless draw with his old club, Seattle.

CARSON, Calif. — One by one, the Seattle Sounders players walked up to Sigi Schmid to shake his hand and give him a hug.

Seattle, Schmid’s old team, had just drawn 0-0 with the LA Galaxy, Schmid’s new team for all of three days.

Yet they felt compelled to pay their respects. These were no cursory postgame handshakes, either. There was a warmth that was the product of hard days on the training field and trophies won.

Not every player came over, mind you. No coach is universally loved by an entire roster. But a solid chunk of the Sounders’ core made its feelings known. Seattle midfielder Nico Lodeiro never even got a chance to play for Schmid given that his signing last year was made official on the very day that Schmid was fired by the Sounders, yet he and Schmid embraced after the final whistle.

Stefan Frei, Joevin Jones and Jordan Morris did the same. Chad Marshall, whose ties to Schmid go back to the days when they were winning titles with the Columbus Crew, was next.

“I came over and gave him a big, sweaty hug,” said Marshall. “Soaked his polo.”

Some players didn’t even wait until the end of the match to show their appreciation. When the halftime whistle blew, Roman Torres and Cristian Roldan both walked over and greeted Schmid.

“It was very emotional for me,” said Roldan, who spent parts of two seasons playing for Schmid. “I sent him my best wishes. Anytime he’s not playing us, I want Sigi to succeed.

“He’s given the club so much. For myself, [he gave] all he had. He’s given me support, advice. I appreciate all that he’s done for myself and for the guys around me.”

For Schmid, the respect shown meant a great deal, especially given that the Sounders went on to achieve their burning ambition as a club — an MLS Cup victory — without him. There were deeper emotions at work as well.

“One of the most important things for me about this game is the friendships and relationships you develop,” he said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC after the match.

“A lot of my former players have become very good friends, and there’s a lot of connections that I have to Roldan, to Morris, to Torres, to Frei and all that. That’s something that you always want to maintain.

“A lot of my former players showed up today to watch the game. It just gives you a good feeling that they care enough about you.”

Without question, the last few days have been fraught with emotion for Schmid, brought on in part by the ironic overload at work. Schmid was hired by LA a year plus a day after he was let go by Seattle. And just like Seattle last year, the Galaxy is in ninth place in the Western Conference standings and has just signed a designated player — in this case midfielder Jonathan dos Santos — who it hopes will help turn the season around.

Julie Stewart-Binks catches up with Sigi Schmid after his first match back with LA Galaxy ended in a draw with Seattle.

There were additional layers underneath the surface. In the wake of Schmid’s firing last year, some relationships were damaged, but not fractured. Schmid indicated that Seattle owner Drew Carey came down for the game, and that he spoke to Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer in the run-up to the match. Schmid’s postgame handshake with his replacement and longtime assistant, Brian Schmetzer, seemed perfunctory — “I said, ‘Hey, we had to stop our bleeding first,'” Schmid said — but in fact the two had gotten together the night before.

“Just two friends talking,” he said. “That’s it.”

Then there is the fact that Schmid is an L.A. guy, and this is the job that he has long wanted to come back to. This was the case even though the Galaxy fired him back in 2004; a shocking development given that he had won the club’s first MLS Cup two years before and the team was in first place at the time. Even as he was winning trophies in Columbus and Seattle, L.A. was still home.

“You have different dreams, and some dreams you don’t achieve,” he said. “But when this opportunity did present itself, I did pinch myself a little bit, saying, ‘Is this really happening?’

“The opportunity was something I didn’t want to pass up.”

So as gameday dawned, Schmid found himself a bit off his game in terms of his pregame preparation. The first days in a new coaching job can be overwhelming in terms of what needs to be done. Staff needs to be settled, there are meetings with players, game tape to be watched. He also found himself a bit out of practice in dealing with the gameday buzz.

“I think you always need to have a little bit of butterflies, or a little bit of nerves, or else you’re not alive,” he said.

“But I was probably more nervous than I’ve been for a long time before a game, just because it’s been a while, it was the opponent and stuff. I needed to get myself in the right frame of mind, settle down.”

Kasey Keller evaluates Sigi Schmid’s first match back at the helm of LA Galaxy, a draw against his old side, Seattle.

Settle down he did. The result wasn’t the storybook start that he hoped for, but for a team that had conceded 16 goals in its last five games in all competitions, it was certainly a step in the right direction.

Schmid asked Jermaine Jones to play in a holding midfielder role, and the U.S. international delivered a disciplined, tough tackling performance. His central partner, Joao Pedro, covered tons of ground. The defense was stout, though Jelle Van Damme’s two yellow cards will now see him suspended for two games, one for yellow card accumulation and another for the ejection. The attack showed promise but still needs some refinement. Jonathan dos Santos is on the way. All of that is just a start, however.

“I think we can be a little sharper, I think we can be a little quicker and I think we can be a little fitter,” said the Galaxy manager.

Schmid will be more focused as well, especially now that the first game is out of the way, and a little more distance has been created between last year’s disappointment.

“I try not to think about the emotion because otherwise I’ll tear up and cry,” he said about coaching against the Sounders. “I don’t want to do that. My heart right now is LA Galaxy.”

And now it’s back where it belongs.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.


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Valerenga vs. Manchester United – Football Match Report – July 30, 2017


Marouane Fellaini made his case to stay at Manchester United this summer with a goal in a 3-0 win over Valerenga in Oslo.

News that United are on the verge of signing Nemanja Matic in a £40 million deal from Chelsea broke just hours before kick off at the Ullevaal Stadion.

But Fellaini, who has been linked with a move to Galatasaray, took his chance to show why Matic’s arrival shouldn’t necessarily mean the end of his stay at Old Trafford.

The Belgium international got the first goal just before half-time before Romelu Lukaku and Scott McTominay got on the scoresheet in the second half.

The day before United flew to Norway, a Galatasaray director gave an interview suggesting Fellaini is for sale and is “close” to a move to Turkey.

But he didn’t play like someone who fancies Istanbul.

Picked from the start by Jose Mourinho, he won the ball in midfield inside the opening minute and gave Juan Mata the chance to set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the first opportunity of the game.

He ended the half even more impressively.

With a minute to go before the break, Mkhitaryan swung in a cross from the right and Fellaini headed into the net at the back post. There was no badge-kissing but it wasn’t a muted celebration, either.

United’s Scandinavian fans had at least seen a goal after a 0-0 draw against Valerenga here during the summer tour in 2012.

It was nothing more than United deserved, especially after Paul Pogba had hit the inside of the post with a curling effort from the edge of the box after 12 minutes.

You couldn’t tell Valerenga, managed by former Celtic boss Ronny Deila, are halfway through their season. They are, though, seventh out of 16 teams in Norway’s top flight and, at times, it showed.

After starting with a back four, Mourinho switched to a back three after half-time.

Lukaku came on to play up front alongside Anthony Martial and it took him just two minutes to double the lead.

The £75m striker headed in Andreas Pereira’s corner at the near post to score his third goal in six games this summer.

McTominay added a third after 70 minutes with a clever turn and finish after Martial had caused panic in Valerenga’s defence with a powerful run forward.

Three goals, a win and a new signing is a good day even by Mourinho’s high standards.


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Inter Milan’s Joao Mario – I told Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches to join AC Milan


Former Milan player Kaka believes that the signing of Bonucci signify’s Milan’s desire to become one of Europe’s top clubs again.
AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini shares his thoughts on the club’s summer of spending with ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti.
Milan head coach Vincenzo Montella suggests Carlos Bacca is nearing an exit from the Rossoneri.

Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario has advised Portugal teammate Renato Sanches to join bitter rivals AC Milan from Bayern Munich this summer, the former Sporting man told reporters on Sunday.

Inter defeated Bayern 2-0 in a July 27 friendly at Singapore’s national stadium, and afterward Joao Mario told Gazzetta dello Sport he gave some advice to the 19-year-old ex-Benfica man who is reportedly nearing a loan move to the Rossoneri.

“We talked on Thursday, after the game,” Joao Mario said. “He is young and he wants to play, I understand that.

“I told him that if he goes to AC Milan he’d join a big club and I’d have one more friend in Milan.”

While Inter won all three of their International Champions Cup games in Asia this summer, the Portugal international cautioned that any talk of a Serie A title for Luciano Spalletti’s side is premature at this point.

Renato Sanches is reportedly nearing a loan move to AC Milan from Bayern Munich this summer

“It makes no sense to talk about the Serie A title,” he said. “Juventus are the favourite team, followed by Roma and Napoli.

“They’ve been together for the last few years and they know each other very well. Then there is AC Milan. We want to win the Coppa Italia and qualify for the Champions League. A team like Inter must play in the Champions League every year.”

An attacking midfielder, the 24-year-old scored just three goals in 33 games over all competitions last season.

He’s pointed to Roma dynamo Radja Nainggolan and Napoli captain Marek Hamsik as examples to follow for the upcoming campaign.

“Nainggolan and Hamsik are my role models,” he said. “They create many goal chances, they score lot of goals and I have to improve in front of goal.

“I hope I will go the extra mile with Spalletti, many midfielders have really improved after working with him, I hope the same will happen with me.”

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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Liverpool keeper Loris Karius returns to training after hip problem


Karius had not been able to take part in training during Liverpool’s Germany trip.

Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius has returned to full training after recovering from a hip problem, the club have announced.

Karius had not been able to take part in training during Liverpool’s Germany trip because of the complaint, but rejoined the squad on Sunday.

Last month, the Germany international’s agent said he had no desire to leave Liverpool despite struggling for form and would focus on impressing in preseason.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo reported that defender Nathaniel Clyne could miss the Premier League opener at Watford.

Clyne has not featured in the preseason programme after problems with his hamstring and back, with back pain continuing to cause him problems.

It means Trent Alexander-Arnold could be in contention for a starting place at Vicarage Road on Aug. 12.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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Thiago Motta: Easier if Neymar stays at Barca



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Pep Guardiola praises Manchester City’s ‘amazing’ Ederson


Pep Guardiola feels new Man City goalkeeper Ederson will soon be Brazil’s first choice.

NASHVILLE — Pep Guardiola has indicated that Ederson’s performances during Manchester City’s preseason tour of the United States have made it more difficult for Claudio Bravo to reclaim the goalkeeper’s No. 1 jersey.

Bravo, a £17 million signing from Barcelona last summer, is due to return to training this week after being handed an extended summer break following Chile’s run to the Confederations Cup final earlier this month.

Ederson has taken his chance to impress in the former Barcelona ‘keeper’s absence after arriving in a £34.7m move from Benfica earlier this summer — a world-record fee for a goalkeeper.

Despite Bravo’s difficult first season in English football, which saw him dropped after a series of costly errors, Guardiola said the 34-year-old still had a role to play.

But the City manager indicated that Ederson was ahead in the race for the No.1 spot.

“Claudio is a captain of a national team who never used to win anything special, and I know how important he was in the two Copa Americas and the final of the Confederations Cup,” he said.

“I never had doubts about the quality of Claudio, but we decided to buy Ederson.

“He has shown us amazing things in this period [in the US], not just the goal kicks, but also he saves a lot of balls and quickly closes down the space for the strikers.

Ederson & Romelu Lukaku
Ederson in action for City against Manchester United.

“He always decides well, with the long and the short [passes], and reads the decisions well. That’s why I wanted him, because to compete at the high level we need two excellent goalkeepers.

“Claudio is a goalkeeper of ours, he will be with us, get fit and after I will decide [who will play]. I have an idea, and I will go to the training sessions and watch my players.”

Guardiola has been impressed by Ederson’s kicking — a quality he first noticed while facing Benfica in the Champions League with Bayern Munich.

“He has this quality, in the goal kicks,” Guardiola said. “When the opposition makes high pressing and it’s complicated, now we have the chance to put the ball in the other box, and of course we have a little bit more space in the middle.

“When I was at Bayern Munich we played Benfica in the Champions League and Ederson was there. When we tried to analyse them, we saw it [his kicking] four or five times and we organised a meeting to say: ‘Guys, what’s the matter? What is that?’

“We tried to work about that because he has this quality to put the ball in the other box and it’s not offside.”

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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