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.

Podolski goal powers Vissel Kobe to 1st win in J-League

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KOBE, Japan (AP) German striker Lukas Podolski scored late in the second half on Sunday as Vissel Kobe beat Cerezo Osaka 2-0 for its first win of the J-League season.

Naoyuki Fujita gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute and Podolski secured the win on a left-foot shot with eight minutes remaining in regulation.

It was the first goal of the season for Podolski, who last year moved from Turkish club Galatasaray after signing a deal with Kobe estimated to be worth $5.3 million.

Elsewhere, Thai midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin scored late in stoppage time to lift Consadole Sapporo to a 2-1 win over V-Varen Nagasaki.

Takuma Abe scored midway through the second half to give Vegalta Sendai a share of the points in a 1-1 draw with Shimizu S-Pulse, while Diego Oliveira scored his first goal of the season as FC Tokyo beat Shonan Bellmare 1-0.

Mu Kanazaki scored the only goal as Kashima Antlers beat Sagan Tosu 1-0, Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol finished 2-2 and Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Jubilo Iwata ended in a goalless draw.

LIVE, FA Cup: Leicester v. Chelsea

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Leicester City host Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET) in an FA Cup quarterfinal clash between two Premier League clubs.

[ LIVE: Leicester v. Chelsea ]

Claude Puel has Leicester in eighth in the Premier League table and the Foxes can smell an upset with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in fine form.

Chelsea have had a long week with Antonio Conte‘s men going to Barcelona and being taught a lesson by Lionel Messi as they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League but played well apart from Messi’s heroics. Conte’s admission that he doesn’t see the FA Cup as being too important may give Leicester an extra boost.

In team news Leicester start Kelechi Iheanacho up top after his fine display off the bench last week, while Chelsea are pretty much at full strength with Cesc Fabregas dropped, Thibaut Courtois rested and Alvaro Morata starting up top.


Leicester City


Hughes defiant after debut win as Saints boss

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Mark Hughes got off to the perfect start at Southampton as the new manager led his team to the FA Cup semifinals.

Saints beat third-tier Wigan 2-0 at the DW Stadium on Sunday to reach the last four of the FA Cup for the first time in 15 years. They are in the relegation zone in the Premier League but are two points from safety with a game in hand.

Second half goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cedric did the job for Southampton as Hughes’ side weathered and early Wigan storm. Speaking to the BBC after the game, Hughes, who was sacked by Stoke in January, was in a defiant mood.

“People have questioned this group before I arrived and maybe questioned my appointment as well. It is only a start but a statement of intent,” Hughes said. “We have work to do in the Premier League but we will enjoy this moment. A Wembley semifinal which will be a great experience for our fans.”

Hughes’ side did what Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City couldn’t in knocking Wigan out of the FA Cup as Paul Cook’s team fairytale run was ended.

In truth Saints could’ve won by a more comfortable scoreline in the second half as Manolo Gabbiadini had a penalty kick brilliantly saved by Christian Walton, but given Wigan’s dominance in the first half, 2-0 was a fine result. Saints looked more dangerous in a 4-4-2 formation and Hughes knows there is plenty more work to do but confidence will perhaps grow with a trip to Wembley coming up.

When it comes to Hughes’ future at Saints he only has a deal until the end of this season. He has eight games to turn their fortunes around following Mauricio Pellegrino‘s firing earlier this week after just five wins in 30 PL games this season.

It appears that Hughes believes he can not only get the Saints out of trouble but also make some waves in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley next month.

“It has been a difficult week for the guys,” Hughes said. “I am really pleased with the amount of talent I have to work with with this group.”

Southampton beat Wigan, reach FA Cup semis

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  • Wigan’s fairytale ended
  • Hojbjerg, Cedric score first Saints goals
  • Saints reach FA Cup semifinal for first time since 2003
  • Gabbiadini’s penalty kick saved

Southampton beat third-tier Wigan Atheltic 2-0 at the DW Stadium on Sunday as Mark Hughes‘ first game in charge ended in a victory in the FA Cup quarterfinal.

Saints were second best in the first half but Wigan spurned several chances, while Southampton went ahead via Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s first goal for the club as he finished well from a corner.

Christian Walton then saved Manolo Gabbiadini‘s penalty kick brilliantly but a late goal from Cedric Soares sent Saints into their first FA Cup semifinal since 2003.

For Wigan, their fairytale run is over as they knocked out Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City to reach the last eight.

Wigan started well enough as the Latics settled into the game on a difficult surface. Southampton caused some problems for Wigan goalkeeper Walton who dropped a cross but Guido Carrillo couldn’t make the most of it.

Will Grigg then raced clear after a rapid counter from Wigan and his shot was deflected wide with Southampton caught out. Soon after another deflected shot found Cheyenne Dunkley in the box but he couldn’t get anything on the ball with the goal gaping. A massive chance for Wigan.

Gary Roberts then had another great chance for Wigan as a loose ball found him in the box but he looped his effort over the bar. The Latics continued to look the better team and took the game to Saints with 10 corner kicks, as Max Power’s corner almost crept in at the near post.

Jacobs curled a shot just over after half time as Wigan threatened but Southampton improved. Sofiane Boufal curled a free kick onto the top of the net and then Gabbiadini had a glorious chance.

Dan Byrne accidentally played in Southampton’s Italian striker and 10-yards out he only had to beat Walton but Wigan’s goalkeeper produced a fine stop.

Walton denied Hojbjerg’s header soon after as Saints cranked up the pressure and from the resulting corner they took the lead.

Dusan Tadic‘s corner found Hojbjerg and he finished well to score his first goal for the club and the first of Hughes’ reign.

Southampton should have sealed it late on as Gabbiadini was brought down in the box but his penalty kick was superbly saved by Walton to keep the score at 1-0.

Wigan threw everything at Saints late on as Noel Hunt almost equalised but the visitors broke and sealed the game.

Nathan Redmond released Cedric and the right back, in the left wing position, ran free and finished superbly to make it 2-0 and send Saints to Wembley.