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.

La Liga: Sevilla win late to move even with Atletico Madrid in 3rd

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MADRID (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder scored three minutes after entering the game to give Sevilla a late 2-1 win over 10-man Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Thursday.

The victory moved Sevilla even on points with third-place Atletico Madrid with four matches left. Third place guarantees an automatic spot in the Champions League next season, while the fourth-placed team has to go through a playoff.

Ben Yedder netted the winner from close range after a low cross by Samir Nasri in the 79th minute, beating a defender to the ball and hitting the top of the net with a right-footed shot.

“It was a complex game but the team was able to overcome the difficulties,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

Joaquin Correa put the host ahead after halftime, and Iago Aspas equalized by converting a penalty kick just minutes later. Aspas did not celebrate the goal out of respect to fans of his former club.

Sevilla dominated from the start and was pressuring vigorously in search of the winner, especially after Celta went a man down when midfielder Pablo Hernandez was sent off with a second yellow card in the 56th with the game 1-1.

Sergio Escudero and Nasri each struck the crossbar a few minutes apart late in the second half, and Vicente Iborra also had hit the woodwork earlier in the game played under steady rain in Seville.

It was the third win in four matches for Sevilla after a streak of five games without a win.

Sevilla and Atletico are level on points, but the Madrid club is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Top PL Storylines: Bye-bye, St. Totteringham’s Day? So long, Sunderland?

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Ahead of Week 34 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

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Cancel St. Totteringham’s Day?

8,018 days (otherwise known as 22.9 years) have passed since Tottenham Hotspur last finished above Arsenal in the Premier League. First of all, that’s a lot of days. Secondly, the time to reset that clock is nearly upon us, as Tottenham take a 14-point lead into Sunday’s North London derby (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) — perhaps the final one to be played at White Hart Lane. With Arsenal having only five games left to play after Sunday, a 17-point deficit would be mathematically impossible to overcome, and would guarantee Spurs’ first PL finish above Arsenal since the spring of 1995.

The fact that Spurs could end that embarrassing, heinous streak in a game against Arsenal, in perhaps their next-to-last game at White Hart Lane, and maybe even close to within a single point of Chelsea in the title race… it’s almost all too timely and too perfect to believe it could really happen… to Spurs.


Finish the job

With all due respect to Middlesbrough (home), West Bromwich Albion (away), Watford (home) and Sunderland (home), Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they’ve lost on their last two visits (all competitions) and they’ll take on seventh-place Everton (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com), is far and away the toughest remaining fixture on Chelsea’s schedule as they chase a fifth PL-era title (fifth in all eras). Having booked their spot in the FA Cup final by beating Spurs last weekend, Antonio Conte is dreaming of — and a favorite to win — a double in his first season at Stamford.


Someone has to finish top-four

Ahead of the weekend, two points separate Liverpool (third), Manchester City (fourth) and Manchester United (fifth), with Arsenal another four back in sixth (but possessing a game in hand). Given all the points dropped by each of the aforementioned sides in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that someone has to finish third and fourth in the PL this season.

We’ve already discussed Arsenal’s titanic task, so here’s the challenges facing the other three this round: Liverpool, at Watford (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com); Man City, at Middlesbrough (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, on  NBCSports.com); Manchester United, vs. Swansea City (7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com).


So long, Sunderland?

For five seasons now, Sunderland have flirted with relegation from the PL; and every previous season, they’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and managed to stay up. This season, though, under David Moyes, there appears to be no rabbit. With five games to go, safety is a whopping 12 points away, which means a loss to Bournemouth on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com), coupled with a win or draw by 17th-place Hull City, would officially send Sunderland to the Championship next season. If the Black Cats somehow find their way out of this predicament, a northeastern knighthood awaits Mr. Moyes.

French authorities investigating 2018, 2022 World Cup bids

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PARIS (AP) French financial prosecutors are investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and have heard former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

A person with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday that France’s financial prosecutor services (PNF) opened the investigation on grounds of private corruption, criminal association, influence peddling, and benefiting from influence peddling relating to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Blatter was questioned in Switzerland last week as a witness, the same person told the AP.

The office of the attorney general of Switzerland said in a statement that “at the request of and in the context of proceedings being conducted by French justice authorities, it has questioned Mr. Joseph Blatter in his capacity as a person providing information on the 20th April 2017 in Zurich.”

The PNF opened its investigation last year.

FIFA has also been targeted by investigations led by Swiss and US authorities. Last month, FIFA sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general. The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

Blatter said last week that he met with U.S. Department of Justice investigators and insisted he was not a suspect in their bribery and corruption case linked to FIFA.

Blatter was suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

Johannsson expected to leave Bremen this summer — is MLS next?

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Aron Johannsson’s time at Werder Bremen is all but finished, as the 26-year-old American-born, Icelandic-raised striker is expected to leave the club this summer after 22 months with Die Werderaner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Having failed to make much of an impact during his second season in the Bundesliga, following a few promising days early in the fall of 2015, the German press stated on Thursday, in no uncertain terms, “Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club” — quotes from Kicker (translation courtesy of Google Translate):

In addition, Aron Johannsson is leaving the northern club. The US boy was not able to get through the hard competition in the storm, claimed more time, which can hardly be guaranteed in the next season. The fact that Baumann is already talking about finding a meaningful solution with the striker in the summer can be interpreted as follows: Johannsson will leave Werder.

Since various bits and pieces are lost in the above translation, allow us to offer a translation of the translation: the “hard competition in the storm” refers to the three or four strikers presently ahead of him in the pecking order. Johannsson fell down the depth chart due in large part to a hip injury which cost him the final seven months of last season.

Johannsson was recently quoted as saying, “It’s not my desire to leave, but at the end of the day it’s important that I play. I love football, but I need to play to be happy.”

[ MORE: John Brooks hip injury is worrying ahead of World Cup qualifiers ]

So, what’s next for Johannsson?

He can probably forget about a move to a top-division team in any of Europe’s premier leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France). A move back to Holland, where he starred at AZ Alkmaar (39 goals in 81 games) before moving to Bremen, would make sense if his goal is to stay in Europe at all costs. Another strong season (just a half, even) could earn him another shot with a first-division side roughly the size of Bremen.

Then, there’s MLS, which Johannsson’s been linked with before, and has publicly expressed a desire to join one day. As a current U.S. national team player, a move to MLS would mean a trip through the league’s allocation order for Johannsson. As of this posting, the Houston Dynamo hold the no. 1 spot in the allocation order, with Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Minnesota United and Orlando City SC rounding out the next five.

[ WATCH: If you haven’t Darlington Nagbe’s latest golazo ]

Any team in MLS could land Johannsson by acquiring the top spot in the allocation order, via trade, and agreeing (what would almost certainly be) a Designated Player contract with him.

At the age of 26, Johannsson will likely feel there is still something left for him to accomplish in Europe. A strong showing in this summer’s Gold Cup (he’s a perfect candidate for Bruce Arena’s “B-team”) could open plenty of eyes — and doors. Money talks, though, just as the opportunity to be the face of the franchise and score a boatload of goals in MLS might also do.