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Andrés Iniesta accuses Jose Mourinho of damaging Spanish football

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It’s rare to hear soundbites from Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta but when they come, they’re typically cautious, soft-spoken comments that rarely spark controversy.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday when El Pais newspaper quoted Iniesta as saying that Jose Mourinho did more harm than good to Spanish football during his three-year tenure at Real Madrid.

“You just have to look at the facts,” Iniesta told El Pais. “Yes he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good. But I don’t like talking about that person at all. So if you don’t mind, we’ll leave it at that.”

Mourinho and Madrid agreed to mutually part ways back on May 20th after a tumultuous 2012-13 campaign where the Portuguese manager failed to claim Los Blancos a major trophy. Mourinho has since put pen to paper on a deal to return to Chelsea, where ‘The Special One’ feels “loved” after famously managing the side to two Premier League titles from 2004-07.

Mourinho’s three year stint at Madrid was filled with a series of ugly incidents, which included eye-gouging Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova on the touchline of a Madrid-Barcelona match in 2011, benching club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and most recently claiming that Cristiano Ronaldo can’t be coached because he “thinks he knows it all.”

That being said, is Iniesta’s criticism of Mourinho valid? Or are these just sour grapes remaining after three years of El Clásico fixtures?

It’s tough to say without hearing more from Iniesta. But at the very least, accusing Mourinho of “damaging” Spanish football seems a bit rich. If anything, many would claim that Mourinho’s presence and antics only added to the drama surrounding the El Clásico, solidifying its reputation as the most watched rivalry in world football.

The argument that Mourinho’s antics – while at times, childish and crude – soiled the purity of El Clásico feels a bit over-stated. After all, it’s not like that match has not had its fair share of notable events, including, team buses being pelted with bricks, a long rap sheet of racist incidents and dangerous projectiles being thrown onto the pitch (including a pigs head that was thrown at the feet of Luis Figo in 2002).

Iniesta’s argument feels even less valid when one considers the financial state of La Liga. If anything has “damaged Spanish football” it’s the financial mismanagement (not to mention the outright corruption) that the league suffers. This year alone, eight out of 20 La Liga clubs are either in administration or have had to drastically restructure their debt.

Much of that blame is due to a system that allows clubs to sell their television rights individually, which disproportionately favors Madrid and Barcelona, leaving smaller clubs in shackles.

Of course, Iniesta’s comments could simply be referring to the mental strain that Mourinho inflicted on Casillas by benching him at Madrid. We’ll see much of a toll the benching has taken on Casillas later this month when La Furia Roja heads to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday