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


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.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

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The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro support Morata ]

Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

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BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

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Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

[ MORE: Top PL summer buys ]

Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.