Xavi ‘very happy to be in Saudi Arabia’ as Barcelona aim to retain Spanish Super Cup in another El Clasico

Xavi ‘very happy to be in Saudi Arabia’ as Barcelona aim to retain Spanish Super Cup in another El Clasico
Xavi’s Barcelona team are looking to retain the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid on Sunday. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 January 2024
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Xavi ‘very happy to be in Saudi Arabia’ as Barcelona aim to retain Spanish Super Cup in another El Clasico

Xavi ‘very happy to be in Saudi Arabia’ as Barcelona aim to retain Spanish Super Cup in another El Clasico
  • The Spanish champions play Real Madrid in the final at Al-Awwal Park on Sunday
  • “Yamal is a great player and we want to see his potential and skills, and this depends on the game situation,” Xavi said

RIYADH: Xavi Hernandez praised the warm welcome that Barcelona have received in Saudi Arabia as his side look to win back-to-back Spanish Super Cup finals against rivals Real Madrid in Riyadh.
The Barcelona manager this time last year guided his team to a 3-1 El Clasico victory over Real Madrid in the Saudi Arabian capital city. And after beating CA Osasuna 2-0 in their semifinal on Thursday, Xavi says Barcelona are determined to retain the Spanish Super Cup and win the competition for the 15th time in their history — more than any other club.
The El Clasico final takes place at Al-Nassr’s Al-Awwal Park on Sunday at 10 p.m. Saudi Arabian time.
Speaking at the pre-final press conference, Xavi said: “We are here in Saudi Arabia and all the time everybody respects us, and everybody supports us. We are very happy to be here, and I think Saudi football is going to improve a lot in the coming years because they have everything in order to have the best players in the world.
“An El Clasico match with such intensity as this cannot be predicted and its outcome will be played out on the field. We will compete for a cup that we won last year, and last year we played excellently. We will show our opponents that we are hungry and excited to win, but playing against Real Madrid is always a strong match and we will give everything we have to win the title.
“We do not focus on one player in Real Madrid because they have many excellent players, led by Jude Bellingham, who is performing at a great level.”
Barcelona’s goals at Al-Awwal Park on Thursday came from Robert Lewandowski and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, who came off the bench to net in injury time and seal the result. Xavi has no doubts of Yamal’s talents, regardless of whether he starts or is asked to come on as a substitute.
“Yamal is a great player and we want to see his potential and skills, and this depends on the game situation,” Xavi said.
Real Madrid earned their place in this year’s Spanish Super Cup final by defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid 5-3 in Wednesday’s semifinal in Riyadh, and the Barcelona manager took the opportunity to praise his opposition counterpart Carlo Ancelotti at the press conference.
Xavi added: “Ancelotti is one of the best managers in the world and has succeeded in all the places in which he has coached. He is a role model for coaches and a great coach.”
This year’s Spanish Super Cup — the fourth time the tournament has been played in Saudi Arabia — is the latest illustration of the Kingdom’s commitment to host the very best international events across all sports, with football at the forefront.
Last year’s Barcelona win was preceded by Real Madrid beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in Riyadh in 2022 and Los Blancos defeating Atletico Madrid on penalties in Jeddah in the first tournament on Saudi soil in 2020.


Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through

Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through
Updated 17 May 2024
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Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through

Coach Thomas Tuchel says he’s still leaving after talks on extending Bayern Munich stay fell through
  • “We found no agreement on further cooperation so the agreement from February remains in force,” he said
  • In the three months since Bayern said Tuchel was leaving, they have tried and failed to sign a series of high-profile replacements

MUNICH: Thomas Tuchel says he is still leaving Bayern Munich after talks on extending his stay at the club fell through.
Bayern said in February that Tuchel would leave at the end of the season, but the coach said Friday that he held talks with the club on a “180-degree turn” that would have seen him stay after all.
“We found no agreement on further cooperation so the agreement from February remains in force,” he said.
In the three months since Bayern said Tuchel was leaving, they have tried and failed to sign a series of high-profile replacements.
Xabi Alonso is staying with Bayer Leverkusen after beating Bayern to the Bundesliga title, Tuchel’s predecessor Julian Nagelsmann signed an extension with the German national team, and Ralf Rangnick remains with Austria.
Bayern are without a trophy this season for the first time since 2012 after losing the Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen, but Tuchel’s team were praised for reaching the Champions League semifinals before a narrow loss to Real Madrid.
There was also a petition from some Bayern fans calling on the club to keep Tuchel.
Strong European performances prompted the club to reach out to him in an attempt to persuade him to stay, the coach said.
“Above all, the feedback after Real Madrid over this last week was the basis to think again about the 180-degree turn, but we didn’t reach any agreement,” he said. “I don’t want to go into the individual points and the motivations behind them. That is behind closed doors and stays that way.”
There was tension last month after Tuchel said he had been insulted by comments from the club’s honorary president Uli Hoeness claiming the coach “doesn’t think he can improve” the team’s young stars.
Tuchel said at the time that Hoeness’ comments were “so far removed from reality” and added: “On the one hand it insults my honor as a coach, because I think we’ve shown as a coaching team for the last 15 years that young players, especially from the academy, always, always, always have a place with us in training and that they have a place on the field with their performances.”
Tuchel is heading into his last game with Bayern at Hoffenheim on Saturday with second place in the Bundesliga on the line. The injury list is as long as ever in a season when he has rarely had his first-choice team available.
Striker Harry Kane is undergoing treatment on a reported back injury, while Leroy Sané, Kim Min-jae, Kingsley Coman, Raphael Guerreiro and Jamal Musiala are also injured and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is unavailable with flu, Tuchel said. Right back Sacha Boey has been granted personal leave.
Bayern’s two-point advantage over third-place Stuttgart and superior goal difference mean that a draw with Hoffenheim — which is seventh and chasing European qualification — should be enough to guarantee second position. Stuttgart host Borussia Moenchengladbach.


FIFA orders legal review of Palestinian call to suspend Israel

FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers his speech at the FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers his speech at the FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2024
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FIFA orders legal review of Palestinian call to suspend Israel

FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers his speech at the FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
  • Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants

BANKOK: Soccer’s world body FIFA ordered an urgent legal evaluation on Friday of a proposal by the Palestinian Football Association to suspend Israel over the war in Gaza, promising to address it at an extraordinary meeting of its council in July.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino took the decision at an annual Congress in Bangkok, where the PFA president made an emotional plea to delegates to hold a vote to suspend Israel from all club and national competitions, accusing it of multiple breaches of FIFA statutes.
The Palestinian proposal accuses the Israel Football Association of complicity in violations of international law by the Israeli government, discrimination against Arab players, and inclusion in its league of clubs located in Palestinian territory. The IFA rejected that.
The request for sanctions against the IFA comes two years after FIFA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competitions over its invasion of Ukraine.

HIGHLIGHT

The request for sanctions against the IFA comes two years after FIFA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competitions over its invasion of Ukraine.

“FIFA cannot afford to remain indifferent to these violations or to the ongoing genocide in Palestine, just as it did not remain indifferent to numerous precedents,” PFA President Jibril Rajoub said.
“How much more must the Palestinian football family suffer for FIFA to act with the same urgency and severity as it did in other cases? Does FIFA consider some wars to be more important than others and some victims to be more significant?“
Since an Oct. 7 cross-border raid by militant group Hamas that Israel says killed more than 1,200 people, the Gaza offensive has left more than 35,000 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants.
Rajoub said 193 Palestinian players had been killed, football infrastructure destroyed, its leagues suspended and its national team required to play World Cup qualifiers abroad.

‘Cynical, political and hostile’
The proposal was sent to FIFA in March and added to the Congress agenda with the support of the Algerian, Jordanian, Syrian and Yemeni federations.
The Asian Football Confederation gave its backing on Thursday for action against Israel.
IFA chief Shino Moshe Zuares said the proposal was based on motives and ambitions that “have nothing to do with the spirit of sports or the FIFA value of separating sports from politics.”
“Today, maybe more than ever, I believe that football must be a key element in healing the fractures and the wounds, helping us and everyone to recover,” he told the Congress.
“Yet, once again, we are facing a cynical, political, and hostile attempt by the PFA to harm Israeli football.
“I am holding myself back and will not speak about the true motives out of respect for this institution,” he said.
Infantino expressed extreme shock over the Oct. 7 attacks and the offensives in Gaza and said due to the “obvious sensitivity of the issue,” independent legal experts would be brought in urgently to analyze the Palestinian allegations.
Those findings would be referred to the FIFA Council, its main decision-making body outside of the Congress, to convene an extraordinary meeting in July and take appropriate decisions, he said.

 


Slot confirms he will replace Klopp as Liverpool manager

Slot confirms he will replace Klopp as Liverpool manager
Updated 17 May 2024
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Slot confirms he will replace Klopp as Liverpool manager

Slot confirms he will replace Klopp as Liverpool manager
  • “There hasn’t be an official announcement yet — but I don’t think it will come as news to you that I will be coach there next season,” Slot told reporters.
  • The BBC said last month that Slot’s deal to replace Klopp was worth up to £9.4 million

THE HAGUE: Feyenoord coach Arne Slot confirmed on Friday that he would be replacing Jurgen Klopp as manager of Liverpool next season.
“There hasn’t be an official announcement yet — but I don’t think it will come as news to you that I will be coach there next season,” Slot told reporters.
The BBC said last month that Slot’s deal to replace Klopp was worth up to £9.4 million (10.9 million euros).
“The feeling that I’m leaving here is getting stronger. There are some people you don’t simply just want to shake hands with,” Slot said ahead of his last game at the club.
“At those times, it’s not about whether you have become a champion or won the cup, but more about the appreciation between people,” he added.
Slot moved to Feyenoord in 2021 after impressing in his first managerial role at AZ Alkmaar.
He led the Dutch giants to the inaugural Europa Conference League final at the end of his first season, in which they narrowly lost 1-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Slot then delivered just a second league title in 24 years to De Kuip last season before penning a new three-year deal.
“You can see people are genuinely sorry you are leaving,” he said.
“You can say that with words, but when you see it in people’s faces, it affects me quite a lot.”
The Feyenoord club website said a farewell party was being organized at the raucous De Kuip stadium after Slot’s final game, against Excelsior.
Feyenoord have enjoyed a strong season, winning the Dutch Cup and coming second to an all-conquering PSV Eindhoven side with one game remaining.
But Slot has only lost two league games all season and noted: “If we win (on Sunday), we will have 84 points and we will be the second best Feyenoord team in club history.”
Under Slot, Feyenoord have delighted the fans in De Kuip with an attacking brand of football and the 45-year-old won praise from Klopp himself.
“I like the way his team plays football. If he is the one, I like that he wants it,” Klopp told reporters last month.
“It’s the best job in the world, best club in the world. Great job, great team, fantastic people. A really interesting job,” said Klopp.
Liverpool captain and fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has also hailed Slot’s attacking mindset, saying it would suit the philosophy at Anfield.
“I think the way of playing and the philosophy he has, that he could be a Liverpool coach,” said Van Dijk.
A fan of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Slot was a slick forward as a player with a reputation as an accurate passer of the ball — so much so he has a move named after him.
The Arne Slot Pass is a slight deflection from a forward with his back to goal which splits the defense and releases a winger running off the ball.
Klopp will step down as Liverpool manager at the end of this season after a nine-year reign which brought the Champions League title in 2019 and Premier League trophy a year later.
Initially, Bayer Leverkusen boss and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso had been the favorite to succeed Klopp.
However, Alonso has committed to staying at Leverkusen after leading them to a first-ever Bundesliga title.


Unbeaten Leverkusen facing three finals in a week, says Alonso

Unbeaten Leverkusen facing three finals in a week, says Alonso
Updated 17 May 2024
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Unbeaten Leverkusen facing three finals in a week, says Alonso

Unbeaten Leverkusen facing three finals in a week, says Alonso
  • Leverkusen are on a season-long unbeaten run of 50 games, already breaking a 59-year-old UEFA record
  • Alonso’s men face Atalanta in the Europa League final in Dublin on Wednesday, followed by the German Cup final against second-division Kaiserslautern three days later

BERLIN: Unbeaten Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen are facing three finals in one week in their bid for a treble, coach Xabi Alonso said on Friday.
Leverkusen are on a season-long unbeaten run of 50 games, already breaking a 59-year-old UEFA record.
Leverkusen can become the first ‘invincible’ team in Bundesliga history by avoiding defeat at home against Augsburg on Saturday.
Alonso’s men face Atalanta in the Europa League final in Dublin on Wednesday, followed by the German Cup final against second-division Kaiserslautern three days later.
“Tomorrow is our first final,” Alonso said. “We can achieve something historic.
“To stay unbeaten in the Bundesliga — we’ll be the first team and we’ll be a part of history.”
Leverkusen will be presented with the Bundesliga trophy for the first time in their history after Saturday’s match.
Long derided as “Neverkusen” for often finishing second and never winning a top-flight crown, Leverkusen are close to a remarkable treble.
“(We are) not thinking about Wednesday (Europa League final) — we’re thinking about tomorrow and about Augsburg,” Alonso insisted.
The Spaniard, who is in his first full season as a head coach, said his players “don’t have time” to celebrate “too much” on Saturday.
“We can celebrate with our fans, but from Monday we need to be fully focused on our final week.
“They’re professional and I don’t need to tell them. We need to be intelligent.”
Alonso said star midfielder Florian Wirtz, who has not started in the league for five games, had overcome a leg injury and “can start” against Augsburg.
“There are no limitations for tomorrow. He feels much better and doesn’t have any pain.”


Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction

Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction
Updated 17 May 2024
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Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction

Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction
  • An agreement in principle to sign the-then 13-year-old Messi was written on the napkin almost 25 years ago
  • An undisclosed percentage of the sale price pays administrative fees for the online auction

LONDON: The famous napkin that linked a young Lionel Messi to Barcelona sold for $965,000 on Friday, British auction house Bonhams said.
An agreement in principle to sign the-then 13-year-old Messi was written on the napkin almost 25 years ago at a Barcelona tennis club. A more formal and detailed contract with the club followed soon after.
An undisclosed percentage of the sale price pays administrative fees for the online auction, in what’s called the buyer’s premium.
Bonhams said the auction was on behalf of Horacio Gaggioli, an agent from Messi’s home country of Argentina who was part of the deal.
The contract language, written in blue ink, was intended to reassure the teenager’s father, Jorge Messi, that the deal would go through.
Jorge Messi had threatened to take his son back to Argentina because negotiations with Barcelona had stalled.
The napkin, containing the date Dec. 14, 2000, bears the signatures of Gaggioli, another agent, Josep Maria Minguella and Barcelona’s then-sporting director, Carles Rexach, who met at a tennis club.
Rexach had asked a waiter for paper and was given a blank napkin.
The starting price was 300,000 pounds ($379,000).
Messi spent nearly two decades with Barcelona after arriving from Argentina at 13 to play in their youth squads. He made his first-team debut in 2004 and played 17 seasons with the main squad. He helped the club win every major trophy including the Champions League four times and the Spanish league 10 times.
Messi left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021. He has since joined Inter Miami.