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.

“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Watch Live: Arsenal-West Ham, Stoke-Burnley

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The Premier League has a pair of 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday kickoffs for us this morning, including one of Arsene Wenger‘s final matches at Arsenal.

There’s a London Derby between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners look to stay fresh for Atletico Madrid and the Hammers aim to firm up their Premier League status for next season (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. Aubameyang.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Mario, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Cullen, Evra, Lanzini, Hugill, Carroll, Chicharito.


Stoke City’s climb out of the relegation zone will have to overcome Burnley’s desires for a Top Six place, as the Clarets can pass sixth place Arsenal with a win and a Gunners loss to West Ham (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Badou, Shaqiri; Crouch, Diouf. Subs: Haugaard, Zouma, Ireland, Cameron, Fletcher, Ramadan, Campbell.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Marney, Vokes, Hendrick, Walters, Bardsley.

Ligue 1: Depay’s goal streak hits 5 games; Lyon reeling in Monaco

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MONACO (AP) Lyon won at Dijon 5-2 and moved within one point of second-place Monaco in the French league on Friday.

Lyon’s sixth straight league win kept them level on points with fourth-place Marseille.

The team finishing second qualifies automatically for next season’s Champions League, while the team in third goes into the playoffs. After this weekend, there will be four rounds remaining.

Memphis Depay has scored or created 12 of Lyon’s 16 last goals.

The Netherlands forward opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a close-range volley, and set up the fourth goal for winger Bertrand Traore in the 77th.

Depay almost scored another, just failing to reach right back Rafael‘s cross in the 50th. Midfielder Houssem Aouar followed up and his strike was turned into his own net by defender Valentin Rosier.

Lyon’s other goals came from forwards Nabil Fekir in the 53rd and Maxwell Cornet in the 82nd.


MONACO (AP) — After losing the French title last weekend, Monaco is in danger of throwing away second place after losing at Guingamp 3-1 on Saturday.

The defeat leaves Monaco just one point ahead of Lyon and Marseille as the three sides chase an automatic place in the Champions League with four games left.

Monaco was thrashed by champion Paris Saint-Germain 7-1 last Sunday and the defense leaked easily again, albeit with a little help from one of its defenders.

A makeshift Monaco fell behind midway through the first half after Brazilian defender Jemerson was given a red card for stopping a shot on the line. He was sent off and veteran forward Jimmy Briand netted from the penalty spot for mid-table Guingamp.

Monaco capitulated and trailed 3-0 after 47 minutes. Defender Almamy Toure replied in vain with a consolation goal midway through the second half.


Marseille crushed Lille 5-1 to join Lyon on 69 points. Lyon, which won at Dijon 5-2 on Friday for a sixth straight win, has a better goal difference.

Marseille also has the Europa League and plays the first leg of its semifinal at home to Austrian side Salzburg next Thursday. But Lyon has only Ligue 1 to think about.

Still, Marseille is also brimming with confidence these days, especially winger Florian Thauvin.

He scored twice against Lille to extend his career-best league tally to 19. Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou also netted twice, and forward Lucas Ocampos completed the rout against 19th-place Lille.

In other matches: Amiens won against Strasbourg 3-1; struggling Toulouse beat Angers 2-0, and last-place Metz drew at home to Caen 1-1.

PSG is at Bordeaux on Sunday. Also, Nice is at home to Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne takes on Troyes.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says the Europa League trophy was not damaged after being stolen in Mexico.

The silverware was at a promotional event in the central city of Leon when it was reported by authorities to have been taken from a vehicle.

The theft came ahead of the semifinals of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

UEFA says the “Europa League trophy was in Mexico for a partner event and got briefly stolen. It was quickly recovered and has suffered no damages.”

In the semifinal first legs next week, Arsenal plays Atletico Madrid and Marseille takes on Salzburg.