Real Madrid open investigation into Di María after Monday’s controversial ‘natural movement’

2 Comments

Ángel Di María spent Tuesday trying to put out fires ignited on Monday, with the Argentine winger’s momentary adjustment to the front of his shorts having sparked controversy in the wake of Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Celta de Vigo. Though 25-year-old has issued an apology through the club’s website for any misunderstandings, Real Madrid has still opened an investigation into what’s being called a crotch-grab, with many seeing the gesture as targeting the Santiago Bernabéu’s crowd.

“I didn’t make any gestures to anyone,” Di María said in a post-match radio interview. “I was simply making myself comfortable.”

“Anybody else does that, nobody notices,” the Real winger said in a separate radio interview, “but if I do it, it’s front page news.”

Di María went on to blame part of the controversy on the Spanish press, citing his reluctance to do interviews as a potential motive for portraying Monday’s gesture in a negative light.

According to Marca, Real Madrid isn’t exactly buying Di María’s investigation, with the club already considering sanction against their winger should they decide the action was malicious.

Di María’s reaction has not gone down at all well at the club, however, and so it is hoped that the disciplinary procedure will sort out what happened. Di María could receive a financial sanction if the club decides that he made an offensive gesture to the Bernabéu fans.

One day after the gesture, Di María took a  more conciliatory tone. From the club’s website:

“I did not plan to do anything aimed at the fans or the manager; it was something normal, but if there is anyone who was offended by this, I apologize …”

“The truth is that if anyone was offended by it I apologise, but it is like I have said. I made a natural movement which was not aimed at anyone in particular. On the TV you can see that it is a fraction of a second. It is nothing. I did not spend a long time deliberately doing it 

The explanation matches the video (available at Marca), but there’s also enough there for a more cynical observer to read see something malicious in the gesture. That’s why Di María welcomes the club’s investigation:

“I think it is the right thing to do. Not just for them, who have started the investigation, but also for me as it means I can explain the situation and what happened, as I have also already explained to several Argentine radio stations. I think it is good as I can talk to them directly and explain what happened on the pitch”.

Aside from being able to read Di María’s mind, it’s unclear how you’d go about such an investigation. Maybe you could subject him to a lie detector test, but that seems disproportionate. Short of a confession, whomever is conducting the process will be left treating film of yesterday’s substitution as if it were taken on the grassy knoll.

Zooming in, slowing down, considering all the detail of a momentary crotch-grab? Whoever has that task in their job description should consider finding another line of work.

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.

Ballack acknowledges difficult decision ahead for John Terry

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the better part of 19 years John Terry has been a staple of Chelsea’s backline.

[ WATCH: Zaha nets first international goal for Ivory Coast ]

With his future at Stamford Bridge becoming more and more in doubt though, it appears it’s time for the 36-year-old to move on from his longtime club, and that’s a decision that another former Chelsea player doesn’t envy.

[ MORE: Everton’s Coleman breaks leg on Ireland duty ]

Ex-Blues midfielder Michael Ballack knows that Terry has options, whether it be in Major League Soccer, the Chinese Super League or even with another Premier League club, but the German says it’s difficult because of what the centerback has meant to Chelsea.

“He is a player with that history and charisma,” Ballack, who spent four years with Chelsea during his playing days, told Sky Sports. “He’s such a Chelsea boy and they love him there.

“I know what it means if your career comes to an end and you’re getting older. You don’t know whether you extend your contract, play for another club or go abroad to America.

“I’m sure he has some options but if you think long-term, you have to feel comfortable with the decision.

For the first time in years, Terry has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular largely due to Antonio Conte‘s three-back system. The 36-year-old has appeared in just five PL matches this campaign, while making 10 appearances overall for the Blues, who currently sit atop England’s top flight and are in position to go for the double with the FA Cup semifinals lurking.

Terry himself has acknowledged that his career is nearing its end, but knowing the competitive drive that has made the Englishman great throughout his almost 20-year career, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll just give up his playing days without a fight.

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
1 Comment

A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”