Gareth Bale urged to stay in England but is Spain a better option?

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As rumors of Gareth Bale leaving Tottenham Hotspur have reignited across Europe in recent days, former Spurs manager and star player Glenn Hoddle has pleaded with the Welshman to stay at White Hart Lane.

Bale is reportedly being targeted by Europe’s top teams, as Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona eye up a massive transfer for the darling of the English Premier League.

But if Bale heads abroad, Hoddle doesn’t think he will reap the benefits straight away.

“If he does move, I think he will settle easier at another club in England. And the only ones he can realistically join are Manchester United and Manchester City.” Hoddle continued. “He could get Champions League football there. But I want him to stay at Tottenham. He is still young enough to secure a move abroad later in life when he could cope better with it.”

With England’s richest club chasing him and Spanish giants readying their checkbooks, how can Bale resist the temptation to move to a team regularly challenging for domestic and European trophies?

Tottenham aren’t budging and have already made it clear that Bale is not for sale, at any price. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy must be sick and tired of addressing Bale rumors.

Recently Andre Villas-Boas claimed he had assurances from the Tottenham hierarchy that Bale would remain in North London. But he did say that things could change.

(MORE: Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup; Bale to Madrid, Villa to Spurs)

One of the reasons why that could change would be because Barcelona or, more likely, Real Madrid, come in with a world-record transfer fee that would be too good to turn down.

Bale’s transfer value is around $100 million, with Madrid President Florentino Perez already speaking out about how they admire the player. Perez now has Ancelotti in charge and with the aim to bring the glory days back the the Santiago Bernabeu, Bale could be the main man for Los Galacticos. Barca have brought in Neymar, so their pursuit of Bale could have ended.

But would Spanish soccer suit Bale? Bale’s explosive pace would unease defenses that usually soak up pressure and have time to mark their opponents. Bale, like Ronaldo, could play anywhere across the front line and roam towards the space and create havoc.

But if the 23-year-old attacker does make the switch to La Liga, he runs the risk of being too fast for his teammates.

That sounds daft. But hear me out. Bale possesses incredible pace and once he gets going he can’t be stopped, if anything he accelerates quicker after the initial 20-30 yards. But in Spain the concise and patient build up of attacks dominates, while the EPL is back and forth and hustle and bustle, where Bale’s quick counter-attacking runs are met with his teammates flooding forward in support.

I can’t see that happening in Spain too often. It may just be Bale against the defense and despite him being an exceptional player, one player versus four or five is only going to end one way.

(MORE: If rumors of Bale leaving are true, Spurs should sell, sell, sell)

Cast you memory back to when Arjen Robben joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2007. The Dutch winger loved to open up his legs and drive at opponents on the break in the EPL. But in Spain he was restricted and he just never looked comfortable in the possession based game. You can see how the more direct style in Germany, following his move to Bayern Munich, has brought out the best in Robben once again.

I’m not saying Bale will fail if he does move to one of the big boys in La Liga. But like Hoddle said, it will take some getting used to and perhaps Bale should remain in the country which suits his style of soccer best. AVB and Spurs will hope that’s the case.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia