News of all that’s transpired on and off the football field
Gareth Bale struck his landmark 100th Real Madrid goal in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Atletico Madrid but there is a sense that the club’s record signing has been a disappointment in Spain despite a considerable haul of goals and trophies.
Bale’s strike, coming in his 217th appearance for Real, took him into the club’s all-time top 20 scorers, with an impressive ratio of 0.46 goals per game, more prolific than Santiago Bernabeu greats such as Raul Gonzalez and Emilio Butragueno.
He has also lifted 13 trophies since joining from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then world record fee of 101 million euros ($114.36 million), among them a staggering four Champions League crowns, one La Liga title and a Copa del Rey.
But his stock among Real fans and in the public eye is not as high as peers such as Sergio Ramos or Luka Modric due to a constant struggle with injuries and his failure to step into the void vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus.
Bale’s apparent lack of influence in the dressing room, hindered by an inability to speak Spanish despite 5-1/2 years in the nation’s capital, does not help his cause.
Not even decisive displays and goals in the 2014 and 2018 Champions League final triumphs over Atletico Madrid and Liverpool have cemented his place in the hearts of fans.
In an October survey in newspaper Marca, Bale was the player supporters blamed most for their poor start to the season.
Over 70 per cent of respondents to a poll in daily AS, meanwhile, said they would like to see the club sell him.
There is still admiration for the forward’s immense physical qualities and his ability to produce magical moments like his overhead kick against Liverpool in Kiev or his breathtaking solo goal to win the 2014 Copa del Rey against Barcelona.
But there is a widespread feeling that, given his transfer fee and the expectation that he would take the baton from Ronaldo as the team’s galvanising figure, Bale has fallen short.
“We are always measuring Bale for his price, which gave us the fantasy that he was a world star,” said Real and Argentina great Jorge Valdano last year.
“But the last five years do not match up to what Madrid paid for him. Still, every season he seems to score a contender for goal of the year, and we have to applaud him for that.”
Real have made a remarkable recovery from their slump earlier in the season, barging their way into the title race after Saturday’s win over Atletico, their fifth consecutive La Liga victory.
But Bale has had only a peripheral role in their revival, missing most of January with injury and not making the starting lineup against Atletico or in the Copa del Rey semi-final, first-leg clash with Barcelona, losing his place to thrilling Brazilian teenager Vinicius Jr.
Madrid coach Santiago Solari praised Bale for seeing off Atletico and said he was in “phenomenal shape,” but the forward is far from certain to start away to Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League last 16, first-leg tie on Wednesday.
“Vinicius has earned untouchable status for Solari, so now it is time for Bale, the 101 million euro man and the reason why (Paris St-Germain’s) Kylian Mbappe did not come to Madrid, who must reinvent himself,” said an article in AS.
Bale must consistently show he is capable of being more than a highlights player and a decisive substitute if he is not to be regarded as a player who just delivers spectacular moments.
Man United not a laughing stock any more, says Jones
Manchester United were a ‘laughing stock’ at the start of the season but deserve to be taken seriously now after Saturday’s win over Fulham lifted them into the Premier League’s top four, defender Phil Jones has said.
Caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had brought a ‘positivity’ to the club after Jose Mourinho’s departure and while United were not the finished article they were moving in the right direction, he added.
“It was tough for everyone involved, we might have been a bit of a laughing stock at the start of the season, but certainly not now,” Jones told reporters after United’s 3-0 win.
“We’ve proven that in the last 10 or 12 games. Everyone’s got to take us seriously now.”
United were 11 points off the top four when Solskjaer took charge in December and, having won eight of their last nine Premier League games, they moved back into the Champions League spots for the first time since the opening weekend.
The club are undefeated since Solskjaer’s appointment, winning 10 of 11 games in all competitions, and Jones attributed the run to the different approach under the Norwegian.
“(There’s) just a positivity about the place to grind results out when we’re not playing well, to play forward, to play with intent and purpose,” said Jones, who extended his contract until 2023 last week.
Families begin to bury Flamengo fire victims
The funerals of the teenagers who died in the fire that swept through Flamengo’s training ground in Rio have started to take place on Sunday, while the club defended itself over the cause of the blaze in the unauthorised lodgings.
“How can a club as important as Flamengo allow for kids to sleep in containers,” Johnny Vinicius, the uncle of 15-year Christian Esmerio, said during the goalkeeper’s funeral service.
“It’s absurd. Brazil has to do something to stop this so people stop dying with nobody being punished.”
Esmerio was one of 10 boys aged between 14 and 16 who were killed on Friday morning when a fire that started in an air conditioning unit ripped through the makeshift dormitory at Flamengo’s training ground on the edge of Rio de Janeiro.
Three others were injured, one of them seriously.
The city mayor said the club did not have permission to build lodgings but the club said the dormitories were comfortable and adequate.
The club issued a statement on Sunday saying the air conditioning units were checked by the operating company on Feb. 5. Flamengo did not respond to a request for comment about the observations made by Esmerio’s uncle.
Friends and family, many of them wearing Flamengo shirts, cried and chanted as they laid Esmerio to rest.
Other fans laid flowers and messages at a makeshift memorial outside the training ground.
Sorry Brazil miss out on under-20 World Cup
Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 on the final day of the South American under-20 championship on Sunday but the result was no good for either side as Ecuador pipped Argentina to the title with Brazil ending outside the qualifying spots for this year’s World Cup.
Uruguay and Colombia will join Ecuador, who won their maiden title, and Argentina in the finals of the biennial event that kicks off in Poland in May.
Brazil, who have won the South American championship more than any other nation, scored only six goals in nine games and finished fifth in the six-team final group.
They will miss the under-20 World Cup for the third time in the last four.
Though Brazil have been without some top players in the tournament with Real Madrid not releasing Vinicius Junior and Bayern Munich denying permission to winger Paulinho, they have also been hindered by disorganisation.
They played few warmup games before the tournament compared to some of their opponents while there has been continuous changes at the coach’s office.
Current coach Carlos Amadeu took over only a year ago and the chopping and changing meant that Brazil, unlike rivals Uruguay or Argentina, have had no consistent game plan or style, with each new manager bringing his own ideas.
“We feel that in recent years the youth teams have had a lot of different leaders, with lots of changes,” Ney Franco, a former under-20 coach, told O Estado web site.
A lack of interest in the tournament was also evident in coverage with Brazilian media devoting more space to Neymar’s 27th birthday party than their youth team’ defeat by Uruguay the same night.
The Brazilian Football Confederation has also provided no information on their website about the players who went to Chile other than their names.
The elimination might, however, not impact the players or the national team’s future.
Barcelona’s Malcom, Manchester United’s Fred, Felipe Anderson of West Ham United and Everton striker Richarlison all played in disappointing campaigns in the past.
Scholes named Oldham manager
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has been appointed Oldham Athletic manager on a one-and-a-half-year contract, the English League Two (fourth-tier) club said on Monday.
British media reported that Scholes was cleared to take up the position last week when the English Football League decided the 44-year-old’s 10 percent stake in fifth-tier SalfordCity would not represent a conflict of interest.
Scholes, a lifelong Oldham fan who spent his entire playing career at United, won 11 Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two Champions League crowns before hanging up his boots in 2013.
“Paul has won everything there is to win in football,” Oldham owner Abdallah Lemsagam said in a statement.
“He is a man who will bring a lot of footballing knowledge and his hunger to succeed in management will be there for everyone to see.
“It’s no secret how much he has wanted this job in the past and how much he loves this club, so I’m very happy to bring him into our family at Oldham Athletic.”
SalfordCity said Scholes would resign as a club director, but will retain his shareholding alongside former United team mates Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and businessman Peter Lim.
“Although Paul was never operational in SalfordCity he will resign as a director of the football club, allowing him to focus completely on his new role at Oldham,” the National League club said in a statement.
“From the start we have always said that each of the ‘Class of 92’ would offer different levels of commitment dependant on their individual roles.”
Scholes has limited coaching experience, including four matches alongside Ryan Giggs when his former team mate took caretaker charge of United following David Moyes’s sacking in 2014.
The former England international has worked as a television pundit for BT Sport in recent years.
Oldham sacked Frankie Bunn in December and academy coach Pete Wild was put in temporary charge of the team.
A 3-0 victory at CrawleyTown on Saturday was Oldham’s first in the league since New Year’s Day and they are 14th in the table – nine points off the playoff spots.
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