15,000 turn out for FC Barcelona’s training session in Bangkok

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European soccer’s massive Asian fan base delivered again on Tuesday, as 15,000 spectators took in FC Barcelona’s open training session in Bangkok, Thailand’s Rajamangala National Stadium.

Barça will take on Thailand’s national team on Wednesday, followed by a Malaysian selection on Saturday, before returning to Spain in time for the La Liga season to kick off on Aug. 18. The club makes almost a yearly trek to Asia because of the support it receives there.

From FC Barcelona’s write-up on the session, which also includes an impressive photo gallery:

This was the first session open to the public since the team arrived to Thailand on Monday. Some of the attendees who attended today’s session bought tickets, while others were invited by the match promoter and the sponsoring businesses. In addition, some of the fans who purchased tickets for tomorrow’s match also got to follow this evening’s session.

Leo Messi, the last player to come out onto the pitch, was the most acclaimed player by the local fans, many of whom were donning the Barça colours.

Meeting areas, which were personalised with images of the players, were set up outside the 50,000-capacity stadium. Inflatable goals, game zones and rest areas brought a bit of colour to a city that’s eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s match. It’s expected that the stadium will be full for the showdown between Thailand and FC Barcelona.

English clubs have also cashed in on the region for a long time. Every other year since 2003, the Premier League Asia Trophy pits three top-flight English clubs in preseason against a host club.

This year, Manchester City defeated Sunderland in Hong Kong to take home the title. Tottenham Hotspur was the other English club involved. In 2011, Chelsea beat out Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Hong Kong First Division champion Kitchee for the trophy.

The competition has moved from Malaysia to Thailand and China before settling in Hong Kong. While many clubs tour the United States to cash in on the support, facilities and ticket money available Stateside, Asia is another lucrative option for preseason tours.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?