Are we on track for an all-German Champions League final?

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The question in the headline is a bit absurd. The final UEFA Champions League bracket not drawn until after the quarterfinals (a round later than previous years), meaning we won’t know if Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will be able to avoid each other until Wembley. They may have to play for the right to get there.

So let’s engage in a bid of bad form and rephrase the question. Which two teams are most likely to reach Wembley, and are they both German?

See how cumbersome that is? Regardless, you get the point.

There’s little doubt Bayern Munich’s among the best teams in Europe. Given Barcelona’s recent struggles, Bayern seem to be on their own level. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll reach the final, but they seem the safest bet.

Among the tournaments other contenders are Barcelona and Milan, who meet next week. Paris Saint-Germain has the talent, Málaga’s defending can keep them in any match, while Juventus has shown the steel to compete with anybody. And, of course, there’s the José Mourinho-led Real Madrid, whose contenders’ credentials were affirmed by their win at Old Trafford.

But none of those teams look as good as Borussia Dortmund, a team whose Tuesday thumping of Shakhtar Donetsk forces us to consider the European landscape. This is a team sitting on two straight German titles that bested Real Madrid and Manchester City in group play. Their 3-0 win over Shakhtar was by far the most impressive result an opponent’s posted on the Ukrainians, a team that played Juventus twice.

If you’re judging teams by what happens on the field — whether that be the team’s isolated accomplishments or comparative results — Borussia Dortmund look as good as anybody. And their talent supports that stature. Robert Lewandowski’s an elite scorer. Mario Götze and Marco Reus are menaces at the next level. Ilkay Gundogen is one of the better central midfielders in Europe, while Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic form a formidable pair in central defense.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know Dortmund’s talented. But you also may not be used to the idea of “new” teams being contenders for Champions League. BVB is obviously not a brand new club (they won the title in 1997), but they’re also not Barcelona. Or Manchester United. Or Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or any of the other teams we’re used to competing for Champions League. They are, in that narrow sense, kind of new.

But look around Europe and you’ll see the symptoms of a continental shift. England will be out of Champions League in a weak. Italy has waned. Paris Saint-Germain’s still a project, and neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid are as strong as they’ve been in recent years.

And in the interim, Germany’s grown. Borussia Dortmund may have just lost a one-sided match to Bayern Munich, but it’s becoming and more clear that Bayern’s of another world. They’ve lapped the field, for now.

But as for that field, Borussia Dortmund may be the head of the pack. At least, their results hint they are.

So are we en route to an all-German final? It’s too soon to tell. But does Germany have the two best teams in Europe? That’s an easier question to answer.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.