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Nikica Jelavic thanks Everton fans in open letter

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Everton supporters may not have loved the way Nikica Jelavic’s career turned out on Merseyside but there’s no arguing the Croatian international is a class act after he penned a heart-warming open letter to fans one day after sealing a deal to Hull City.

Jelavic, who arrived at Everton from Rangers like a house on fire in January 2012, quickly became a fan favorite after scoring 11 goals in his first 16 matches. Things then turned sour for the striker managing only 10 goals in his next 53 appearances.

The cold streak forced manager Roberto Martinez to look elsewhere for fire power, with the loan deal for Romelu Lukaku proving just the solution. The Belgian’s impact relegated Jelavic to a roll on the bench, a place he couldn’t remain if he was to realize his hopes of making his World Cup dreams come true.

To their credit, Everton fans didn’t turn on Jelavic despite his poor form and for many the man they call “Jellyfish” still holds a special place in their hearts. Judging from Jelavic’s letter on Thursday, the feeling is mutual.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Everton fans from the bottom of my heart for their support,” he wrote.

“They gave me their backing from day one and never stopped believing in me, which is something I will always remember.

“I believe the scoring run which I went on during those first six months (scoring 11 times in 16 appearances) is the real Nikica Jelavic and I’m pleased the Evertonians were able to see and appreciate what I’m really about.

“Everton supporters have a special way of making you feel like one of them, and even when I was not in the team in more recent times I always felt they were behind me.

“Playing for Croatia is something I also take huge pride in and with a World Cup on the horizon I was in the situation of needing to play more games to make sure I remain in Niko Kovac’s thoughts.

“Unfortunately that wasn’t happening at Everton, and Roberto Martinez was very honest and up front with me about his thinking.

“When I went to meet Steve Bruce I realised it was the right move to a club with the potential to become a top Premier League outfit. Steve’s ambition was clear, as was his desire to see me playing and scoring goals.

“While I’m sad to wave farewell to Everton and all my friends; it is time for my next challenge.

“I’m only pleased that I was able to say goodbye with two goals in the FA Cup win against QPR, and share some special celebrations with them one last time.

“I hope to be celebrating many more goals in future, and I’m excited to get going at my new club. But you can guarantee the Toffees will remain in my heart. I hope they can go on to fulfil their ambitions this season and I will always look out for them.

“Thank you and good luck.”

Thibaut Courtois committed to Chelsea despite links to PSG

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on February 3, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.

With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]

Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.

I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.

They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.

I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.

Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.

At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’