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.

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

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It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

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Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.