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Gareth Bale set to re-sign with Tottenham – But is it a good deal for the Welshman?

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Gareth Bale is ready to commit at least one more year to Tottenham Hotspur after agreeing in principle to a new contract with improved wage terms and a release clause that can be triggered at the end of next season.

While the contractual specifics are still being worked out, The Guardian is reporting that Bale’s new salary will top off at £150,000 per week and that the deal will likely include a £50m release clause that can be triggered at the close of next season. The contract would represent a significant wage increase on Bale’s current deal where he’s already Spurs’ highest-ever wage earner at £100,000 a week.

The current contract, which Bale signed last July, still has three years remaining on the deal. If formally offered, the new deal would mark the sixth contract Spurs have offered Bale in six years at the club. And apparently, the club isn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer as chairman Daniel Levy has informed Bale that there is no prospect of him being sold this summer.

No prospect? How does Daniel Levy figure?

Has he already forgotten what happened when he tried to pin down Luka Modric with this ‘no sale’ line of bull? That’s what Levy told the Crotian playmaker in the summer of 2011 when he expressed his desire to move on to a larger club. And for 12 months Modric sat in the corner like a child on ‘time-out’ with his face buried in his hands, bewildered and lost. Until finally, one of his peers finally nudged him and explained that regardless of the drivel that comes out of his shafting chairman’s mouth, Modric, is the one with the real power.

And so he walked. Went AWOL. Gonzo. And what happened?

It worked. Modric got his transfer to Real Madrid while Levy pissed and moaned over accepting a £30m transfer fee.

Point being, Bale needs to know that he is the one with the power here. Not Levy.

Bale is the one with the speed of a cheetah and heart of a lion. Bale is the one with the blessed left foot and the ability to dominate in any number of positions on the field. Bale is the one who’s 21 league goals earned him the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year, PFA’s Young Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and the Barclay’s Premier League Player of the Year.

So why would Bale want to stay at Spurs?

First and foremost, he’s a homebody who likes to be close to his family. Makes sense. The £50,000 increase in salary also makes a difference as well. Not to mention the fact that Bale has a new endorsement with BT Sport and that he genuinely seems to like the Spurs family. All good reasons.

So why should the Welshman consider leaving White Hart Lane?

It starts with money. Let’s be honest – £150,000 per week is not a lot of dough, especially when you’re the best player in the league. At that rate he’ll still be miles behind the likes of Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, who are all on more than £200,000 per week. Ridiculous.

Yes, one could argue that if he were to join Real Madrid or Barcelona he would have to give up as much as half of his image rights, but he’d be doing so at a major salary increase and on a better platform to command greater endorsements. For example, Bale currently has a modest Adidas deal worth approximately £2m a year. If he were playing at either of the Spanish giants or a club like Bayern Munich, there’s little doubt that Adidas would be doubling or tripling that money.

A move to the continent would also provide Bale with Champions League football. It’s a stage that all the best footballers want to perform on but for someone like Bale – who, as a Welshman, is unlikely to ever play in the World Cup or the Euros – it’s absolutely crucial. Another season of bashing around in the Europa League simply isn’t going to do him any good, physically or psychologically.

Finally, a move to a larger club will reduce the weight on his shoulders. Contrary to popular opinion, Spurs are by no means a ‘one-man club’ but there’s no getting around the fact that by scoring nine game-winning goals he handed his club an additional 18 points, the difference between finishing 5th and 8th. He simply can’t be expected to duplicate that feat next year. And, if surrounded by the world-class players of Barca, Madrid or Munich, he won’t be expected to do so.

What a relief that could be.

After January camp, USMNT looks to rosters for World Cup, Olympic qualifying

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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The United States men’s national team finished its experimental January camp with a 2-0 record, and now trains its eyes on World Cup and Olympic qualifying.

The last part is critical not just because of the ramifications of a potential second-successive Olympic absence for the men’s U-23 side.

[ USMNT: Tops Iceland 3-2 | Knocks off Canada, too ]

The Yanks have to deftly divide their player pool because March 25 and 29 are not only the dates for the next round of World Cup qualifying matches — a home-and-home series with Guatemala — but also the dates for the U-23s’ pair of matches with Colombia.

That’s why Jordan Morris isn’t likely headed to Guatemala City, and the same is true for impressive January camper Jerome Kiesewetter and new Chelsea defender Matt Miazga.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

Bobby Wood, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also eligible for the U-23s, but there’s the rub. All three are in good form for country, and only Yedlin isn’t playing well for his club (That’s because Sam Allardyce isn’t using him much at all. His substitute appearance against Liverpool was his first action since Jan. 9).

New England midfielder Lee Nguyen impressed Jurgen Klinsmann during January camp, and it’s hard to ignore the impact of Steve Birnbaum’s goal and assist.

Assuming health, here’s our best guess at who’s making the squad for Guatemala on March 25 and 29. It’s worth noting that six MLS clubs play on March 26 (NYC, New England, Vancouver, Houston, DC and Dallas):

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson

Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Jonathan Spector, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Lee Nguyen, Darlington Nagbe

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Aron Johannsson

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

JPW at Stamford Bridge
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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.