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According to Andre Villas-Boas, Gareth Bale’s future is at Tottenham

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One week after triggering anxiety over Gareth Bale’s possible departure from Tottenham this summer, manager Andre Villas-Boas has back-tracked claiming he would be “extremely surprised” if the Welsh winger left the club.

Following quickly on the heels of Bale’s impressive coup of the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year Award, Villas-Boas claimed Thursday that the player would remain at White Hart Lane next season, regardless of whether Spurs qualify for the Champions League. The manager’s announcement set straight statements he made last week that Bale might leave the club if a Top 4 finish isn’t achieved.

“The information that I have from the club, which was mistakenly written about last week, is that the player is here to remain, independent of the objectives of Champions League qualification being achieved or not,” Villas-Boas said. He continued, “I would be extremely surprised (if he left). . . . In football anything can happen. It’s impossible to predict, but this is the assurance I have had from the club.”

With Thursday’s announcement of Bale’s FWA honors – adding to the Professional Footballers’ Association double he snapped up earlier in the week – Villas-Boas admitted that the accolades have sparked recognition from both interested clubs and media. But the Portuguese insisted that the attention only underlined the importance of the club needing “to move forward by holding onto its best players.”

Earlier in the week Real Madrid sporting director Zinedine Zidane explained that Tottenham could command £40-£60m for the Welshman’s services and that while only three or four teams in the world “can pay that sort of transfer fee and it won’t put them off.”

But Villas-Boas now rubbishes such insinuations claiming, “[w]hatever price tag the player has doesn’t matter to us because he’s our player.” And apparently, the manager intends to keep it that way. “He’s a player we have to hold onto for the remaining seasons to make sure that we reach our objectives and continue to progress as a club.”

While Villas-Boas claims that he’s been given assurances by the club, he admits that anything can happen in football and “[i]t is impossible to predict.”

When it comes to this situation, there are two things that are impossible to predict. First is how Spurs chairman Daniel Levy reacts when he is presented with an offer. Sure, he wants to build a squad around Bale. But when £60m is put in front of him things begin to change. With that kind of money Levy could drastically hedge his club’s liability and increase its productivity by adding 2-3 world class players while still having some money left in the bank.

The second thing that’s impossible to predict is how Bale himself will react when the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich come calling. No matter how much of a home-body the 23 year old claims to be, the likelihood of raising domestic and Champions League trophies is much higher at Madrid or Munich than at White Hart Lane. And then factor the possibility of being able to do that while making double the money and things start getting real. Like, life-altering real.

Are you still sitting there thinking that forcing a transfer is beyond Bale?

Don’t make me laugh. Professional football is not a game, it’s just a business. Deal with it as you will.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.