Real Madrid have been crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time with a game to spare.
- Goalkeeper plays hardball in bid to force Madrid move
- Thursday’s domestic transfer deadline increases urgency
Thibaut Courtois has made clear his desire to leave Chelsea before the closure of the transfer window this month by spurning talks with Maurizio Sarri and failing to report back for pre‑season training at the Premier League club.
The Belgium international, like his compatriot Eden Hazard, had been due on Monday afternoon at Chelsea’s Cobham training base where the new head coach hoped to hold discussions over his future. Instead, the 26-year-old is understood to have remained in Belgium while he awaits news of a prospective return to Spain with Real Madrid.
Courtois has entered the final 12 months of his contract, with no progress having been made last season to convince the player, who spent three years on loan at Atlético Madrid earlier in his career, to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had anticipated him joining the England defender Gary Cahill in the stands to watch the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday but the goalkeeper did not appear, offering no explanation, as his teammates lost 2-0.
The situation feels similar to Diego Costa’s messy divorce from the club a year ago, when the Spain forward had attempted to force through a move back to Atlético by remaining in Brazil. Costa was eventually permitted to re‑sign for the Spanish club, albeit after the transfer window had closed.
Real have bid around £35m for Courtois whose agent, Christophe Henrotay, went public last week calling for Chelsea to allow his client to move. “I have been reading everywhere that Chelsea are saying it is up to Thibaut,” Henrotay had told the Sun. “But he has made it clear to the club the best option for him is to move to Madrid. For him this is a big decision because he wants to be near his family, and there is an offer in place for Chelsea to accept.”
Courtois’s two children live in Madrid with his former partner.
The goalkeeper had employed similar tactics to force through his move from Genk to Chelsea, just before a preseason friendly against Lyon, in 2011. Regardless, with time a healer, the Belgian had actually been honoured by Genk before kick-off at their game against Sint-Truiden on Sunday, presenting the match ball at the Luminus Arena and accepting a large picture of him in action during his time at the club. Chelsea face Lyon in a similar fixture on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.
While the transfer deadline is set at 5pm on Thursday for English clubs, Chelsea can sell Courtois at any point up to the end of the month when the market closes for their counterparts in Spain. Despite Sarri suggesting on Sunday that it might be preferable to sell the goalkeeper if he informs him of his desire to leave, the sense of urgency to secure a replacement has been heightened by Courtois’s no-show.
Stoke’s Jack Butland could be secured for around £25m and is eager to retain his England place by featuring regularly in the top flight. Sevilla’s Sergio Rico, who has been expected to leave this summer, could be an alternative. There have been suggestions in Spain that Chelsea might be prepared to trigger a €100m (£89m) buy‑out clause in Jan Oblak’s contract at Atlético, but such a move might be surprising given Chelsea had been reluctant to meet AS Roma’s valuation of Alisson this summer, with the Brazilian subsequently moving to Liverpool for a world-record £66.9m.
While the board scramble to secure a replacement, Chelsea are unlikely to confront similarly disruptive problems with Hazard, despite the Belgium captain having indicated at the end of a successful World Cup campaign that the time may be right for a new challenge. The club are keen to secure the 27-year-old to new terms worth around £300,000 a week. But while Hazard, who has two years to run on his contract, is unlikely to rush to sign, nor will he agitate for a move this summer.
Real have not bid for the playmaker’s services, despite Hazard having made clear his desire to move to the Bernabéu at some stage in his career. He was joined by N’Golo Kanté, who has been offered a new deal worth £290,000 a week, Michy Batshuayi, Cahill and Olivier Giroud at Cobham for a 4pm session at Cobham on Monday as they reported back after the summer tournament.
It was an interesting, but heart-aching night for football lovers as the big heads lock horns in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarter finals.
For a brief moment, there was stunned silence. It felt as if nobody could comprehend what they had witnessed. Then the applause broke out. It came from all sides of this boisterous arena. In great blocks, the Juventus supporters rose to their feet. It was to recognise sporting genius and it did not matter to them that it had come from a rival.
Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real Madrid in control of this Champions Leaguequarter-final with an early poacher’s finish. He now had them in sight of the next stage and, even by his exulted standards, it was a jaw-dropping intervention. When Dani Carvajal stood up a cross from the right, Ronaldo instinctively knew that the overhead kick was on. He leapt, hung and stretched before, with the ball at its highest point, he swivelled his hips and worked a right-footed masterpiece beyond Gianluigi Buffon.
Ronaldo has 25 goals in his last 14 games for club and country. He has scored in every Champions League tie this season to lead the field for the competition’s Golden Boot with 14. Something seems to stir inside of him when the aria plays. Juventus were broken.
Paulo Dybala, their great hope, was sent off for a high boot on Carvajal, having previously been booked for diving and, when Ronaldo ushered in Marcelo for Real’s third, it was all over. Juventus have won the previous four two-legged ties against Real, going back to 1996, but they need a miracle to progress. After the loss to Real in last season’s final in Cardiff, this was another bitter pill.
Massimiliano Allegri had likened grand Champions League occasions to an evening at La Scala. “We live for nights like this,” read the Juventus slogan on the big screen during the pre-match lights show. One of Europe’s classic matches pulsed with stardust and history, with the subplots rich and numerous.
Zinedine Zidane was once feted as a Juventus player. This was his first return to Turin as a coach. Cardiff had framed the occasion, with Zidane starting with the same Real lineup as he had in last season’s final. Allegri insisted that the tie was not about revenge. Nobody truly believed him.
Ronaldo’s numbers are freakish and needed to be updated – and further gawped at – after three minutes. Marcelo’s lovely switch of feet created the angle for the pass up the left to Isco but it was still shocking to see how much space the Real midfielder had to measure his cross. Ronaldo held his run. Then, he bolted for the near post. When Karim Benzema stood tall in the middle, he effectively set a screen for his team-mate. Andrea Barzagli was blocked off and, when Ronaldo converged, everybody knew what would happen next. It was Ronaldo’s sixth appearance in Real’s colours against Juventus. He has never failed to score against them.
The significance of the away goal was lost on nobody and the tie became shaped to Real’s liking. Juventus had to push; the visitors were more than happy to punch on the counter. With Luka Modric and Isco showcasing sumptuous touches, they threatened another before the interval. Raphaël Varane headed over from a corner when unmarked. Toni Kroos thumped a 25-yard drive against the crossbar.
Juventus looked a little frantic as they chased the equaliser but they had their moments – the biggest coming on 22 minutes. Gonzalo Higuaín volleyed a Dybala free-kick goalwards and it took a wonderful reflex save by Keylor Navas to deny him.
Real were indebted to Sergio Ramos and Varane for important interventions but it felt symptomatic of Juventus’s frustrations that Dybala attempted to win a penalty in the 45th minute with a blatant dive. He was booked. Moments earlier, the home crowd had howled for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Varane’s arm at close quarters. An award would have been harsh.
The burden on Dybala to create was heavy. He drew a foul from Ramos on 54 minutes for which the defender was booked – the Real captain is suspended for the second leg – and Dybala watched his subsequent free-kick deflect wide. His night would end in ignominy.
Ronaldo had gone close at the start of the second half and he should have completed the hat-trick late on from point-blank range. The substitute Mateo Kovacic rattled the bar. The 12-time champions scent further glory.
Thiago Alcântara’s header gives Bayern Munich upper hand against Sevilla
At the final whistle there was applause and then at one end of this stadium they began to bounce about, chanting about how proud they were of the team that soon came over to clap them back. At the same time, Bayern Munich’s players, headed to the other end. It had not been easy but they had won 2-1, taking an important lead into the second leg. There is still the Allianz Arena to come, but the reaction from the Sánchez Pizjuán felt final, like the fans here knew they had probably reached the end of the road. It is 60 years since Sevilla have come so far and there was reason to be satisfied even if there was reason to be a little sad too. For Bayern, this is familiar territory, but the next step will be harder.
Sevilla always knew this would be difficult, the banner depicting them as Asterix and Obelix spread across one end expressing the enormity of what they had before them, but they had come to believe. “Sevilla score a goal,” the fans sang as the clock ran down. They had scored one in the first half, through Pablo Sarabia, but an own goal from Jesús Navas and a header from Thiago Alcântara had seen Bayern recover to take a 2-1 lead. Now Sevilla tried to find the equaliser, but it was not to be. If Manchester was historic, they will have to do something even more extraordinary in Munich.
For much of the first half, it felt perfectly possible. Carlos Joaquín Correa and Sergio Escudero had first combined as early as the second minute and it was from their left wing that the first chance came. Escudero’s wonderful ball sought out Wissam Ben Yedder and, as Matts Hummels tried to intercept, the ball fell at the feet of Sarabia nine yards out. Sarabia, though, curled it wide. The lament did not last. Just after the half-hour Escudero delivered again, this time long towards the far post. Juan Bernat was slow to the bounce, seemingly unaware of the threat behind him, and Sarabia jumped in front, controlling on the chest and finishing, running to the corner redeemed.
The noise, already deafening, found a way of increasing somehow, the roar rolling round, but Bayern took just six minutes to draw level, fortune favouring the Bavarians. James Rodríguez received from Thomas Müller and, amid the din, spread the play to the left where Franck Ribéry ran at the Sevilla defence. Opening out his body to bend the ball in right-footed, Ribéry instead hit Navas; the ball changed direction and squeezed past David Soria at the near post. Until then a simple catch from Thiago’s long shot was as difficult as it got for a goalkeeper surprisingly included ahead of Sergio Rico.
8 min: Marcelo goes down hurt after a challenge by Dani Alves as the pair contested a bouncing ball. Alves immediately rushes to his compatriot’s assistance and waves at the referee to stop play. There was no foul, but Marcelo looks in serious distress. You can hear his screams of pain being picked up by the pitch-side microphones.
7 min: Real Madrid continue to press and press and press, not giving PSG’s players a second to settle on the ball. After Kroos forces a save from Alphonse Areola after hsooting through a thicket of bodies, PSG eventually get out of their own half and in behind the Madrid defence with a sortie down the left.
4 min: Real Madrid have started at an unbelievable lick here and have PSG in all sorts of trouble. Ronaldo lashes a volley across the face of goal after latching on to a through ball from Isco. Soon after, Marquinhos, PSG’s skipper for the night, almost diverts the ball into his own net.
2 min: You know those goal-line officials that idiot pundits who should know better claim don’t do anything? I’ll bet you any money the referee consulted one of those before making up his mind on that penalty decision. his whistle was halfway to his mouth before he decided against blowing it.
1 min: Ferocious early pressing from Real, who win a corner straight away. Toni Kroos plays it short to Isco, who returns the favour. The ball’s lumped into the box and Yuri Berchiche appears to foul Kroos. Real appeal for a penalty and the referee thinks long and hard about it. No spot-kick is forthcoming.
Real Madrid v PSG is go!
Out they march …
Not long now …
A gamble by Unai Emery …
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain line-ups
Unai Emery speaks
Zinedine Zidane speaks …
Early team news …
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain preview
Good evening and welcome
The Champions League last-16 games returns tonight. I’ll be focusing on the first leg between Real Madrid and PSG.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm but stay with me for all the pre-match build-up. Team news is expected at 6.45pm.
Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 to complete a 5-1 victory on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday, dominating its fiercest rival without the need of Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale.
Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema provided the goals in the second leg for a Madrid side that showed every ounce of confidence that Barcelona sorely lacked.
While Bale was rested on the bench, Ronaldo watched the game from the Santiago Bernabeu stands as he completed the first game of a five-match ban for pushing the referee who sent him off in Sunday’s 3-1 first-leg win.
Asensio filled in perfectly for Madrid’s star, scoring five minutes into the match for his second goal in the season’s curtain raiser. Benzema added a second goal in the 39th after Lucas Vazquez had already hit the post for the hosts.
Last season’s Liga and Champions League winners, Madrid also beat Manchester United to win the European Super Cup last week.
“We played very well in the away leg and we had a great game tonight, above all in the first half, which was spectacular,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We have to congratulate the players because they were fantastic. You couldn’t notice the changes (to the starting lineup).”
Barcelona struggled to score for a second match since the shocking departure of Neymar on a world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. The closest it went to scoring was Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork in the second half after the title was already in Madrid’s grasp.
After seeing his team be soundly beaten on its home pitch in his debut with the team on Sunday, Barcelona’s new coach Ernesto Valverde decided to revamp both his starting 11 and its formation.
He ditched Barcelona’s classic 4-3-3 formation for a 3-5-2, with only Messi and Suarez up front. Neymar had accompanied them for the past four seasons before he bolted for PSG.
Valverde also gave starts to midfielders Andre Gomes and Sergi Roberto and defender Javier Mascherano, in place of Sunday’s starters Aleix Vidal, Gerard Deulofeu and the injured Andres Iniesta. It didn’t matter.
Barcelona had no answer for Madrid’s pressure, lost ball after ball in its own half, and clearly missed Neymar’s presence on the left flank to start quick attacks.
“They showed more energy in their pressure and we suffered when they recovered the ball,” Valverde said. “It’s obvious that we have to recover our spirit quickly.”
The only bright spot on another long night for Barcelona was the positive contribution of Roberto, who provided the only consistent attacking spark besides Messi.
Zidane also rested Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and Casemiro, who went on late. Luka Modric was back from suspension and outplayed all of Barcelona’s midfielders.
Asensio picked up right where he had left the first leg, stunning goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a long strike that floated overhead before landing in the net.
Asensio earned a place in Zidane’s starting 11 after going on as a substitute on Sunday and capping Madrid’s victory by scoring a 90th-minute goal with a long shot that Ter Stegen failed to stop.
The 21-year-old forward started the second leg with a similar superb strike, bending a left-footed shot from well outside the area over a flatfooted Ter Stegen.
Messi needed over 10 minutes to finally touch the ball, and once he did Barcelona showed signs of life with two Messi-led attacks that made Madrid work in defense.
But despite having five midfielders, Barcelona never established control. A bad pass by Mascherano almost led to a goal from Vazquez, who hit the post in the 33rd.
That was just a warning of was about to come when Sergio Busquets lost another ball near Barcelona’s area. Madrid left back Marcelo pounced by sending a low cross into the area, when Benzema twisted around Samuel Umtiti and swept in his goal.
It took almost an hour for Messi to finally produced Barcelona’s first serious threat when he forced Keylor Navas to palm his shot onto the bar in the 53rd.
Suarez headed a rebound of Messi’s strike parried by Navas off the upright in the 71st. The striker finished the match favoring his right knee after running into Navas.
Madrid starts its defense of its Spanish league title on Sunday at Deportivo La Coruna, while Barcelona will try to rebound at home against Real Betis.
Real Madrid will miss the services of their star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, in the next five matches in the Spanish league.
As predicted Sunday, the Spanish Football Federation banned Ronaldo for five matches today.
He was punished for pushing the referee after he was shown a red card against Barcelona in Real Madrid’s 3-1 Spanish Super Cup first leg victory on Sunday.
Ronaldo was sent off in bizarre fashion, collecting a yellow card for taking his shirt off during a goal celebration before being shown a second for diving.
Upset by referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea’s decision to dismiss him, Ronaldo shoved the official, which landed him in further hot water.
RFEF issued Ronaldo with a 3,005 euro ($3,543.20) fine and a four-match suspension in addition to the automatic one-game ban the player was due to serve for his red card.
Ronaldo, who struck a spectacular second goal for a dominant Madrid, will miss the Super Cup second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday and the club’s first four La Liga matches.
Having featured in the Confederations Cup for Portugal, the striker only returned to training earlier this month. He came on as a substitute in the UEFA Super Cup win over Manchester United on Aug. 8.
Can’t argue with the outcome, really – you always sensed Real had another gear there too. But United did have chances in the second half: Lukaku should have scored another in an up-and-down game from him, while Rashford had a great opportunity to equalise too.
The performance of Matic was a big plus in midfield, I think, too – if Mourinho gets the right blend around him, he’ll be a fine addition.
The prizegiving is now taking place. Mourinho congratulates Real’s players individually and gives Ronaldo a friendly pat on the cheek.
But the man with the big ‘L’ is the mighty one, Pogba, the ones-biggest-pay-in. He failed to impress the fans and the social media is on fire over his laziness and the inability to justify the big pay checks he receives weekely. Well, the fans always has something to say.
If Matic can’t FREE Pogba, Mourinho should go and sign Michael Scofield
— Anda (@LazyWrita) August 8, 2017
So even after Unlocking Pogba, he still needs original Charger to function properly. pic.twitter.com/DbosoGK5Ct
— Olisa Covfefe 🐦 (@oliskyz) August 8, 2017
Pogba has been fucken awful tonight, my clit can do more damage ffs
— Cazza ❤️ (@CarolineBusson) August 8, 2017
Seems the only way to unlock Pogba is to goan flash him at Computer village.
— MANÈ LIKE SALAH™ (@TCharis_DRO) August 8, 2017
— Omoniyi Israel (@omoissy) August 8, 2017
Dear Pogba – when they said Matic would free you up, they didn’t mean to have the night off.
— PrestwichBlue (@PrestwichBlue) August 8, 2017
If Pogba cost 100 million, then each Real Madrid midfielder should cost at least 4-5 times more than that
— Juan (@socraticjuan) August 8, 2017
Well, let the debate continue…
Spanish prosecutors have accused the Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo of defrauding the authorities of millions of euros in tax.
The prosecutor’s office in Madrid says it has filed a lawsuit against the Portuguese player.
He is accused of evading tax of 14.7m euros (£13m; $16m) from 2011 to 2014.
In a statement, representatives of the world’s highest paid footballer said there had never been concealment, or the slightest intention to conceal.
“It is clear that the football player did not try to evade taxes,” Ronaldo’s Gestifute management company said.
It said that the footballer had not hidden any income from the tax authorities or defrauded Spain.
Ronaldo had previously said he was not worried about tax investigations as he had nothing to hide.
On this occasion he is accused of knowingly using a “business structure” to hide income made from his image rights.
In December, leaked documents suggested that Ronaldo had avoided tax on income allegedly held in offshore accounts – allegations he also denied.
When asked about that investigation, he told a journalist from Radio Television Portuguesa (RTP) “Quien no debe no teme”, which roughly translates as “He who has nothing to hide has no fear.”
Ronaldo is the world’s highest-paid sportsperson for the second successive year, according to Forbes’ annual list of the world’s wealthiest people.
He earned $93m (£72m) from salary, bonuses and endorsements last year.
We are just about 180 minutes away from confirming the finalists of this season’s UEFA Champions League. But barring any monumental collapses, we are almost sure the two teams that would qualify. Real Madrid threw down the gauntlet at Atletico Madrid as Juventus exploited the naivety of Monaco. These are six things we saw from those two matches:
Higuain is a ‘fat’ goal scorer
Often derided on social media as being fat and lugging a big ass, Gonzalo Higuain answered in the most appropriate way on Wednesday by scoring the two goals away at Monaco to give the Italian champions a very comfortable first leg lead. The brace made it 31 goals for the season in all competitions. The Argentine can argue all he wants that he is not physically fat but he is definitely goals-fat.
Ronaldo is six steps away from the Ballon d’Or
If – and these are valid assumptions; Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real Madrid to a successful defence of the Champions League [getting through the second leg and the final] – something that has not been done since the tournament metamorphosed in 1992. If he can also help Zinedine Zidane and Madrid to hold their nerves in their last four La Liga matches. Six successful matches and you are almost sure that next January, Ronaldo would win his fifth Ballon d’Or – equalling Lionel Messi’s record.
80% sure it would be a Real Madrid versus Juventus final
Can Diego Simeone inspire a comeback from 3-0? Yeah, possible, because anything is possible in football and this season we have already witnessed the minor miracle of Barcelona coming back from the dead against PSG. Would it happen is another question and you have to back Real to score at the Vicente Calderon if Atletico go all out in search of the needed goals. For Juventus, it should be assumed that it is done and dusted. Gianluigi Buffon has not conceded three goals in one match this season – Monaco indeed have to score three goals without conceding. Nah, almost impossible!
No refereeing controversies
Referees Martin Atkinson and Antonio Mateu showed good judgments throughout the first legs of the semi-final. In the 3-0 Real Madrid win over Atletico, Cristiano Ronaldo was supposedly in an offside position when the first cross was delivered by Sergio Ramos but he was not also interfering with play but when the second cross came in – he was onside.
Defensive base would always be a good foundation
The two semis witnessed shutouts from Real Madrid and Juventus – the basis of champions. Whilst many managers are throwing caution to the wind as they try to play beautiful football – the art of defending has supposedly been cast aside. But the two semifinal first leg winners showed that clean sheets would always be the foundation for comfortable victories.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo beat rival Lionel Messi to Continue reading “Cristiano Ronaldo wins Ballon d’Or 2016, beats Lionel Messi”