Tim Leiweke denies reports that he’s stepping down in Toronto

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Mike Halford over at Pro Hockey Talk has the write-up of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke skipping Toronto “soon” after just one year on the job. MLSE is the group that operates Toronto FC, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors.

Leiweke (pictured far left) is denying it. Elliot Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada is the source for the news, and that man is extremely-connected. So something crazy had to go down for Friedmann to report the story.

Leiweke previously spent 17 years working with Philip Anschutz in Los Angeles, where he built the Los Angeles Galaxy and helped lure David Beckham to Major League Soccer.

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He made waves upon arriving in Toronto, saying “I happen to think the fans of the Toronto football club deserve that kind of player if you can find them. I’ve been told by the [MLSE] board and the owners if we find the right guy, we’ll be all in.”

Under Leiweke, TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko brought in several high profile signings, including Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. Leiweke also shepherded the BMO Field expansion and has arguably been a massive asset for Toronto.

From PHT:

Leiweke, 57, became the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in June of last year, after serving in the same position of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings.

Leiweke talked a big game upon taking the MLSE gig and rubbed some people the wrong way. After saying he wanted to be a “hero” in Toronto (adding he already had a Stanley Cup parade route planned), the Toronto Star called his comments “laughable,” adding that “in the cultivation of executive arrogance, the new guy in town is intent on scaling new heights.”

Something to monitor as things move forward. As mentioned, Friedman is a respected reporter worth trusting, but so is Cathal Kelly (who published Leiweke’s denial). Something could be amiss here.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.