After a long, winding road, which for some teams began way back in July, the day has finally come. It’s the day of the Champions League final! And if you’re not excited, well, you’re probably jaded by life in general.
This year’s UEFA Champions League final has already made history: it’s the first time two teams from the same city will meet in the final game of the tournament. Today in Lisbon, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid will play out the 265th edition of El Derbi madrileño on one of the world’s biggest stages.
(READ MORE: PREVIEWING LISBON’S MADRID DERBY)
But for one side, the stakes are even higher than usual. Real Madrid are fighting to win their 10th European Cup, a trophy they’ve been striving for since 2002, when Zinedine Zidane put in a spectacular goal to ensure los merengues triumphed over Bayer Leverkusen.
Twelve years have passed since Real Madrid made it to the final. But they arrive in Lisbon not on the back of a bout of good luck, but because reaching the final has been their goal the entire season. Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday,
We began the season thinking in this objective, to reach this final, to win ‘La Decima.’ We have achieved that. For all madridistas, tomorrow is a special day. Everyone knows the importance of this competition for Real Madrid, and my job is to do the best. I said that on first day I came here, I would do the best I could to win this competition, and we are very close.
Close, perhaps, but that tenth trophy isn’t in hand yet. And considering their opponents won La Liga this season, Real can’t be expecting that their crowning will be a mere formality.
Super agent Mino Raiola has injected a ray of light into the hopes of both Juventus and Real Madrid fans when it comes to Paul Pogba.
The terrific midfielder has been widely reported as an imminent arrival at Manchester United, but Raiola has taken to Twitter to blast journalists who’ve reported the move and medical as done.
[ RANIERI: Mahrez will stay at LCFC ]
Pogba was photographed in Los Angeles amid claims he was undergoing a physical at United. Multiple reports have said he passed the medical and that Juventus has agreed to sell Pogba to United for a world record fee.
Raiola says different, though taken with the grain of salt that he’s set to make as much as $30 million on the deal and his job is to squeeze every possibly penny from suitors.
Claudio Ranieri seems to be genuine and honest in his evaluations, as we’ve seen in his dealings with Jamie Vardy and N'Golo Kante amongst others.
And the manager is making no bones about what he thinks is best for another Leicester City star in Riyad Mahrez.
[ MORE: Gameiro joins new club ]
Ranieri says the Algerian will face far more pressure at a new club then he will face still competing in the UEFA Champions League with the Foxes.
In other words, the 25-year-old should stick around. From Sky Sports:
“I speak often with him and say stay with us, it’s much better for your future, I think he is an intelligent man and he will stay,” Ranieri told Sky Sports News HQ.
“We support him very well, this is important, when you change teams maybe you don’t find team-mates who help you at the same level.
“He improves more if he stays with us for another year, maybe next year he can think about another solution. If he goes for a lot of money, everybody will be expecting something special. He can do something special, but with us.”
We tend to agree. Whereas N’Golo Kante was prepared to use Leicester as a stepping stone — and it seems Ranieri knew it — Mahrez has been with the Foxes since 2014 and seen his stature skyrocket.
Let’s see what happens, Riyad. Cool?
MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid says it has acquired French striker Kevin Gameiro from rival Spanish club Sevilla.
In exchange, Atletico has agreed to loan Argentine striker Luciano Vietto to Sevilla for one season.
Atletico says Gameiro will sign a four-year contract after undergoing a standard medical exam.
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The 29-year-old Gameiro scored 67 goals during three seasons with Sevilla, helping it win three Europa League titles.
Gameiro will join countryman Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres to form the attack of an Atletico side that reached the final of the Champions League last season.
Atletico did not reveal the financial details of Gameiro’s transfer.
NEW YORK (AP) A former Guatemalan soccer federation president has pleaded guilty in New York to charges related to a sprawling corruption investigation of world soccer.
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Brayan Jimenez pleaded guilty Friday to federal racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges, each carrying up to 20 years in prison. It’s unclear when he’ll be sentenced.
The 62-year-old Jimenez is among 40 people from around the world charged in a FIFA bribery scandal over lucrative broadcasting rights.
Prosecutors say Jimenez accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Florida-based sports marketing company. They say in exchange for the money Jimenez awarded the company media marketing rights to the Guatemalan soccer team’s World Cup qualifying matches in 2018 and 2022.
Jimenez’s attorneys haven’t returned a message seeking comment on his guilty plea.