File photo of Tottenham Hotspur's Bale reacting after winning their English Premier League soccer match against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent

World Records: Tracking the evolution of soccer’s transfer mark

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Gareth Bale’s $132 million move to Real Madrid makes the former Tottenham Hotspur the world’s most expensive purchase, marking the fifth time in a row the Spanish titans have raised that bar. From Figo to Zidane, Kaka to Ronaldo, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez seems to be competing with himself to make sure his record keeps climbing, with 13 years having passed since another club held the mark.

Here’s the evolution of the world transfer record over the last 20 years – 10 transfers that have led to Bale’s new mark:

Note: Because of how the deals were reported and how the record is tracked, we’ve kept the values in British pounds.

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United, £15 million (1996)

In four years at Blackburn, Shearer averaged 28 league goals per season, leading Rovers to a Premier League title in 1994-95. At the end of the 1995-96 season, Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United surprisingly won a bidding war against Manchester United, luring the then 26-year-old to Newcastle. Though he’d score 25 goals in his debut season, the English international would only average 14.8 goals per season during his decade at with the Toon.

Ronaldo, Barcelona to Internazionale, £19.5 million (1997)

The Brazilian superstar never settled at Barcelona, and after one year in Catalonia, Inter Milan came in and paid his buyout. In his first year in Italy, Ronaldo scored 25 league goals, but injuries prevented him from playing another full season with the Nerazzurri. Over the next four years, Ronaldo would score 24 league goals in 35 appearances, eventually leaving to become one of Perez’s Galaticos.

Denílson, São Paulo to Real Betis, £21.5 million (1998)

The one name that stands out as a relative bust, Denílson was plucked from Brazil at 21 but never fully established himself in Spain. He’d make 186 La Liga appearances for the Seville-based club, scoring only 13 goals. After seven seasons, the winger moved to Bordeaux then Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia before briefly playing for Dallas in Major League Soccer. In 2010, after four more stops, Denílson finally retired, having played with 10 clubs in six different countries.

Christian Vieri, Lazio to Internazionale, £32 million (1999)
Hernán Crespo, Parma to Lazio, £35.5 million (2000)

After one year at Lazio, helping the Aguile to the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Vieri was scooped up by Massimo Moratti, who increased the world transfer record by nearly 50 percent. Vieri would go on to score 103 goals over six years for the Nerazzurri.

A year later, Lazio took their Vieri money and bought Argentine international Crespo, who went on to lead Serie A with 26 goals during his first year in Rome. After one more season, though, Crespo was off to Inter Milan, the start of a journey that would take him to Chelsea, AC Milan and back to Inter before finishing his career with stints at Genoa and Parma.

Luís Figo, Barcelona to Real Madrid, £37 million (2000)

One of the more controversial transfers of all time (certainly, the most angst-inspiring on this list) the Portuguese star elected to cross the world’s greatest rivalry, leaving the Nou Camp for the Santiago Bernabeu. He was Florentino Perez’s first Galactico, the acquisition beginning a three-year run where Real Madrid won La Liga, Champions League, and La Liga consecutively. Barcelona fans, however, have never fully forgiven him for moving to Real, even though you will occasionally see the former Ballon d’Or winner taking in games at Camp Nou.

Zinedine Zidane, Juventus to Real Madrid, £46.6 million (2001)

The second Galactico was Perez’s most dramatic swoop, tabling what was then an irresistible offer, increasing the world transfer record by over 25 percent. In his first year at the Santiago Bernabeu, Zidane hit his memorable match-winning volley in the 2002 Champions League final. In 2006, Zidane retired while with Real Madrid, having won one league, one European title with the club.

Kaka, Milan to Real Madrid, £56.6 million (2009)
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United to Real Madrid, £80 million (2009)

After a brief time away from the club, Florentino Perez returned to Real Madrid’s presidency in 2009. How did he ring in his new tenure? By embarking on a second Galacticos run.

Kaka, signed in early summer, leaving as Milan felt compelled to cash in on another irresistible Perez offer. Later in the same window, Real crushed their own transfer record to pull Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.

Despite all the spending, the Merengues would end the season trophy-less.

Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, £85.3 million (2013)

It took four years and a slew of new television and commercial revenue being injected into the game, but Real Madrid finally broke their own record. Again. As the history of the record shows, the most expensive player isn’t necessarily the world’s best; rather, he’s often a reflection of circumstance, demand, and in the case of the Galactico-crazed Merenques, prestige.

In Bale’s case, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy undoubtedly played a part, with the notoriously shrewd negotiator helping Real and Bale make history on Sunday.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal ]

In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).

Week 26: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Top-four battle royal

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, lifts the ball over Leicester City’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel but fails to score during their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at the White Hart Lane stadium in London Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Whoever says, “No one could have ever predicted Leicester City would be top of the league on Valentine’s Day,” is wrong.

One group of Premier League savants knew: the PL schedule makers, which is why this Sunday shall henceforth be known as “Super Duper Mega Uber Sunday,” as it’s 3rd versus 1st, and 4th versus 2nd.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Top-four battle royal, part 1

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — Sunday, 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Will Arsenal “Arsenal it up?” Will Leicester finally fall apart and blow the PL title, as they were supposed to have done weeks months ago? The battle of narratives in so strong in this one. Are Leicester really title favorites? Upon further review, they are. No PL team has won more points away from home this season than Leicester (28). Is another giant-slaying on the cards for the Foxes? At this point, who would be crazy enough to doubt them?

[ MORE: PL schedule, stream links ]

Top-four battle royal, part 2

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Sunday, 11:15 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The last time Tottenham were ahead of Man City this late in the season will have to have been the final day of the 2009-10 season, when Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League just ahead of City. Heading into Sunday, a single point is all that separates the sides. When they met earlier this season, Spurs hammered City, to the tune of 4-1. The importance of three points speaks for itself, as either side could surge into a commanding place in the title race with a victory on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings | Schedule | Stats ]

Man United’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread

Sunderland vs. Manchester United — Saturday, 6:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

As the PL’s top-four teams have kept winning in recent weeks, so too have Man United, to an extent. With that, the Red Devils are no closer to Champions League qualification today than they were three weeks ago before their mini-run of 11 points from six games. Only Aston Villa (10), who are rock bottom of the league, have won fewer points at home this season than Sunderland (12). United are currently six points back of 4th, so with at least two of the four sides ahead of them guaranteed to drop points on Sunday, it’s a big, big weekend for United to take of their own business and apply a little pressure.

[ MORE: The latest on those Mourinho-to-United rumors ]

The Fallen On Hard Times But Someone Has To Win (Maybe) Derby

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)

When 2016 began, Crystal Palace were 5th in the PL. Unfortunately for them, the clock also struck midnight on what had been a hugely successful season to that point — five losses and one draw since, and they’re now 12th in the league table. The story is eerily similar for Watford, who were 7th after a Boxing Day draw with Chelsea — five losses, a draw and a win later, they’re 10th. A single point is all that separates Saturday’s combatants desperately hoping to regain their early-season form.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Is Roberto Martinez’s employment under review? It might be

Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Everton will be a fascinating club to watch as the 2015-16 season winds down. There’s essentially no chance of them finishing in the top-four or -five (12 and 6 points back, respectively), and they look essentially the same side that massively disappointed en route to an 11th-place finish last season — they’re atrocious and hugely naive defensively, which has been a characteristic of Roberto Martinez-managed teams since, well, the beginning of his managerial career. $100 million is a lot of money to spend over four transfer windows without any discernible progress.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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