AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid

AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe has decided to extend his contract, where his current deal expires on June 30, after a long period of hesitation with Real Madrid, who were courting him, French and Spanish media reported on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2022

AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid

AP Source: Mbappé to stay at PSG after rejecting Real Madrid
  • The France forward has agreed to a three-year contract extension that is close to being signed
  • Instead of joining 13-time European champion Madrid, which have chased him for so long, Mbappé is staying to try to deliver PSG their first Champions League title

PARIS: Kylian Mbappé is set to stay at Paris Saint-Germain after again turning down the chance to join Real Madrid.
The France forward has agreed to a three-year contract extension that is close to being signed, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the contract talks publicly.
The 23-year-old Mbappé’s contract is expiring in June and he would have been available on a free transfer.
Instead of joining 13-time European champion Madrid, which have chased him for so long, Mbappé is staying to try to deliver PSG their first Champions League title.
Madrid managed to beat PSG in the Champions League this season but not in the transfer market once again.
The Spanish giant’s failure to sign Mbappé is a significant blow for its president, Florentino Pérez, who has been trying to get the transfer over the line for a year.
PSG turned down Madrid’s official bid of 180 million euros ($190 million) — the same amount they signed Mbappé for from Monaco in 2017 — and even another reported amount of 200 million euros ($211 million) was not enough to sell their star despite him having only a year remaining on his contract. Mbappé said he wanted to leave at the end of last season, but only on the right terms for PSG.
The non-transfer reflects the shifting power dynamics in European football. Pérez was one of the architects of the European Super League breakaway from the UEFA Champions League that imploded within 48 hours in April 2021.
PSG opted out of joining the 12 Super League founders, allowing their president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, to gain one of the most powerful roles in the game as head of the European Club Association.
Pérez is still pursuing his Super League dream in conflict with UEFA.
Signing Mbappé would have provided a statement signing for Pérez from a team that only emerged as a rival in the last decade through its Qatari funding.
But the energy expended in pursuing the transfer, and optimism from Madrid, which are chasing their record-extending 14th European Cup win when they meets Liverpool in next Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris, has come to nothing.
The tension between the clubs was evident when PSG were knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 by Madrid in March — despite leading 2-0 overall with two Mbappé goals — and Al-Khelaifi remains under UEFA investigation for allegedly confronting match officials after the loss.
Madrid are being thwarted yet again, having tried to sign Mbappé after he left Monaco in 2017 — and even before that.
He visited Madrid’s facilities aged 14, and was greeted by France great Zinedine Zidane, but he instead chose to launch his stellar career at Monaco.
Mbappé’s first professional goal came at the age of 17 years, 62 days, which beat the Monaco club record held by Thierry Henry.
Henry is France’s record scorer with 51 goals. Mbappé is already on 26 and may well overtake him as a PSG player.
He is PSG’s second-highest scorer with 168 goals and could surpass Edinson Cavani’s record of 200 next season.
However, Mbappe misses out on the chance to play alongside France teammate Karim Benzema for Madrid in what would have been a devastating partnership and the envy of Europe.
Over the past year they have been prolific together for Les Bleus and both netted when France won the Nations League final.
But when France defend their World Cup title later this year in Qatar, they’ll only be teammates on the national team.


Returning Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy has a cut at Saudi glory

Updated 9 sec ago

Returning Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy has a cut at Saudi glory

Returning Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy has a cut at Saudi glory
  • Former UK champion booked for Neom Turf Cup contender on glittering race day
  • Missed The Cut’s trainer George Boughey: I wanted someone to create a bond with the horse

Oisin Murphy will have his first big-race rides since returning from a 14-month ban at the Saudi Cup meeting.

The three-time British Champion Jockey has been booked to ride Missed The Cut in the $1.5 million G3 Neom Turf Cup presented by Altanfeethi at the world’s most valuable racing fixture.

The two-day festival – featuring the $20 million Saudi Cup – kicks off on Friday, Feb. 24, just eight days after Murphy is allowed to return to racing following his lengthy ban. The 2100m Neom Turf Cup presented by Altanfeethi and the Saudi Cup take place the following day.

Missed The Cut’s trainer, Newmarket-based George Boughey, was quick to snap up the services of the Classic-winning jockey.

He said: “Oisin has only ridden one winner for me, but he’s obviously a fantastic rider and I’m delighted to have him on board.

“I wanted someone to create a bond with the horse. He’s done plenty of work on him. He went to Chelmsford to ride him the other morning and he’s delighted with him, so it’s all systems go.”

Missed The Cut did not make his debut until April last year. He quickly completed a hat-trick of wins when landing the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot before ending the year with victory in the Listed Churchill Stakes on the All-Weather at Lingfield.

The form of that most recent run in November is starting to look very good, with runner-up Algiers going on to win two Group 2 races in Dubai by wide margins.

Boughey added: “He’s been in great shape and seeing his form get franked on the world stage just confirmed what he’s been showing us for a while. We’re very excited to see him out in Saudi in a few weeks.

“He’s a horse that was sold out of Shadwell dispersal sale. He was just a standout physically from the get-go. He’s still a big baby. He’s only run six times. We’re taking on much more experienced horses, but his work is improving at a rate of knots. He is the horse that could take us to the next level.”

Missed The Cut, who is likely to head off to America after his run at the Saudi Cup meeting, will be joined by Sir Busker in the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cup presented by Altanfeethi.

His owners are dreaming of a fairy-tale win at the world’s most valuable meeting at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.

The 7-year-old is owned by the 16-strong Kennett Valley Thoroughbreds syndicate and is trained by Newmarket-based William Knight.

Sir Busker has progressed from handicaps to Group company, and hopes are high he can give his enthusiastic owners another memorable payday under big-race jockey Ryan Moore.

Knight said: “He’s come up through the ranks. We always liked him as a 2-year-old, and he’s improved as he’s gotten older.

“To think five years ago I’d be sitting here now talking about going out to Saudi with him — it’s things you dream of. He’s been a star for us.

“He’s owned by a lovely group of people. They’re very passionate owners. When you stand in the paddock before these big races with the owners, who all have 1/16th, it’s great.

“They realize how lucky they are. They realize he’s the horse of a lifetime. He’s given everyone so much enjoyment.”

Sir Busker had the option of running in the G1 $20 million Saudi Cup — the world’s most valuable race — but Knight is happy they have decided to go for the Neom Turf Cup presented by Altanfeethi.

He added: “We’ve talked long and hard about this. I promise you it’s changed daily as to which race we’re going to go for. It’s such an amazing opportunity to run for that sort of money in the Saudi Cup.

“Looking at the entries for both races, I think we have a better chance of being in the first three in the Neom Turf Cup. The extra distance will really suit him, and we know he goes really well on turf.”


Djibouti’s Hassan wins Beppu Oita Marathon in record time

Djibouti’s Hassan wins Beppu Oita Marathon in record time
Updated 06 February 2023

Djibouti’s Hassan wins Beppu Oita Marathon in record time

Djibouti’s Hassan wins Beppu Oita Marathon in record time
  • Ibrahim Hassan set a new record for the Beppu Oita Mainichi Marathon with a time of 2:06:43
  • Shungo Yokota came in fourth in 2:07:47, setting a record for a Japanese student runner

TOKYO: Ibrahim Hassan of Djibouti won the 71st Beppu Oita Mainichi Marathon for the first time on Sunday with a new record of 2:06:43.

Kenya’s Daniel Kipchumba crossed the finish line five seconds later for second place, and Japan’s Tsubasa Ichiyama placed third in 2:07:44.

When the pacemaker came off at 30km, Hassan and Kipchumba jumped out and Hassan took the lead after 35km.

“With the win and course record, I’m very, very happy,” the 26-year-old Hassan said. “The course was very good.”

Aoyama Gakuin University’s Shungo Yokota came in fourth in 2:07:47, setting a record for a Japanese student runner.

This year, the right to participate in the “Marathon Grand Championship (MGC)”, the qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympics, was at stake.


Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown
Updated 06 February 2023

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown
  • Saudi and Asian champions Al-Hilal take on Brazil’s Flamengo, Cairo giants Al-Ahly face mighty Real Madrid in semifinals
  • Al-Hilal and Flamengo met at the same stage in 2019, with the South Americans winning 3-1

It was less than three months ago when Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari scored spectacular goals to defeat Argentina and set the 2022 World Cup on fire.

There is now another massive South American test for the pair as Al-Hilal take on Brazilian giants Flamengo in the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup in Tangier on Tuesday. The prize of a final against mighty Real Madrid or Arab rivals Al-Ahly awaits.

The Saudi Arabian and Asian champions are still recovering from an epic showdown with local heroes Wydad AC on Saturday.

Not only did the Riyadh giants have to come back from a goal down against the African champions — and complete 120 minutes of a tough encounter — but they also had to deal with 50,000 intimidating fans.

Al-Hilal came through in the end thanks to a late equalizer from Mohamed Kanno and then a tense penalty shootout.

Al-Hilal and Flamengo met at the same stage in 2019, with the South Americans winning 3-1. Al-Hilal took the lead thanks to an Al-Dawsari goal after just 18 minutes. Flamengo equalized and then, with 12 minutes remaining, Bruno Henrique — not the player who now turns out for Al-Ittihad — put the Rio de Janeiro club ahead. A late own-goal from Ali Al-Bulaihi sealed Hilal’s fate.

Both Al-Bulaihi and Al-Dawsari should play this time too, with Jang Hyun-soo another survivor from that game.

Jang said: “Facing a Brazilian team such as Flamengo in the semifinals will be difficult.

“We previously faced them in the same tournament. We lost at that time but we always aim to win every game we play, and this is no different.

“We will give everything we have to reach the final and then to be champions.”

Absences make the task harder. Midfielder Kanno, sent off for two bookable offenses on Saturday, is out, while Peruvian winger Andre Carrillo is doubtful.

Given that a quartet of Saudi Arabian internationals — captain Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik and Abdulellah Al-Malki — did not even make the journey from Riyadh, then coach Ramon Diaz has a lot to think about.

With one South American triumph in the last 15 tournaments, Flamengo, led by former Al-Ahli coach Vitor Pereira, would love to take the trophy back home.

They are in decent form back in Brazil, they do not have the injury problems of their Saudi opponents, but have had a lengthy journey.

If Al-Hilal do manage to win, it would put them in a major final, and their fans in dreamland. It would be another major achievement for Arab football; it is hard to imagine what an Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly final would mean to the region.

But first the Egyptians have the matter of a semifinal against Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world.

The Spaniards not only won the European title for a record-extending 14th time last year, but they are also the most successful team in this tournament, with four championships.

For Al-Hilal to beat Flamengo would be seen as a surprise, but Al-Ahly triumphing would be an even bigger shock.

But the Cairo giants are in good form. Ten wins and five draws from the first 15 games of the Egyptian Premier League season have steered them well clear at the top of the standings, and they have already progressed past Auckland City and Seattle Sounders in this tournament, by 3-0 and 1-0 respectively. 

Real Madrid, with stars such as Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, are hot favorites, although they trail rivals Barcelona in Spain by eight points following defeat at the weekend.

Al-Ahly’s Swiss coach Marcel Koller said: “It is a great achievement to set up a date with Real Madrid in the semifinals.

“We will prepare both theoretically and technically for the game and we know it will be a big challenge.”

The Red Giants have faced European champions once before, losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich in 2020 on their way to third place — the same position they finished last year after defeating Al-Hilal in the third and fourth-place play-off.

It is possible that these two giants of Arabian football will meet at the same stage again this weekend — but there is also still time to dream that it will be in the final.


Former Newcastle United winger Atsu missing after Turkiye earthquake

 Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Former Newcastle United winger Atsu missing after Turkiye earthquake

 Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
  • “Praying for some positive news,” Atsu’s former club Newcastle said in a social media post
  • Huge earthquake has killed more than 2,200 people and injured thousands more on Monday

ACCRA: Ghana international winger Christian Atsu is among those missing after the collapse of an apartment building in Hatay, Turkiye, following Monday’s huge earthquake.
He scored a 97th minute winner for Turkish top-flight side Hatayspor on Sunday night as they beat Kasımpasa 1-0, but just hours later was reported missing following the 7.8 magnitude quake that brought down whole apartment blocks in several Turkish and Syrian cities.
Hatayspor vice president Mustafa Ozat told Turkish TV station Play Spor: “Christian Atsu and (club sporting director) Taner Savut are still under the rubble.”
He told BeIN Sports several players and officials had been rescued and the club was working to help others.
Atsu, 31, played in the Premier League for Newcastle United and Everton, on loan from Chelsea, but joined Hatayspor in September.
Newcastle United, who Atsu helped to promotion from the Championship in the 2016/17, tweeted they were “praying for some positive news.” Chelsea also tweeted their prayers.
“We pray for Ghana International Christian Atsu and victims of the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria,” the Ghana Football Association tweeted. “We remain hopeful for positive news.”
Atsu was last selected to play for Ghana in 2019, but has not officially retired from international football.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the survivors, and we pray that our fellow Ghanaian, Christian Atsu, is found safe and sound,” Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted.


Team of the week for Roshn Saudi League round 15

Team of the week for Roshn Saudi League round 15
Roshn Saudi League players of the week by statistical website Sofascore. supplied
Updated 06 February 2023

Team of the week for Roshn Saudi League round 15

Team of the week for Roshn Saudi League round 15
  • Goalkeeper Martin Campana of Al-Batin was the only star of his category

Riyadh: Alejandro Kaku has been voted the Roshn Saudi League player of the week by statistical website Sofascore after an incredible performance in round 15 of the season.

The 28-year-old Paraguayan Al-Taawoun player ranked 9.5 following his assist for the only goal against Al-Batin, securing his team’s victory. He created four big chances and touched the ball 89 times in the match.

Goalkeeper Martin Campana of Al-Batin was the only star of his category.

As for defenders, Santos from Al-Shabab, Saad Natiq from Abha, and Hassan Kadesh from Al-Taawoun were among the top players.

Midfielder Sultan Mandash of Al-Fayha, Abha’s Saad Buguir, Alfa Semedo from Al-Tai, and Carlos Junior from Al-Shabab ranked top of their categories.

Forward Santi Mina from Al-Shabab, Robin Quaison from Al-Ittifaq, as well as player of the week Kaku were the best in their categories.