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Portugal sidesteps Ronaldo’s legal woes at Confed Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) He’s their star player, but Portugal would rather talk about anyone except Cristiano Ronaldo.

On the day Ronaldo was summoned to appear before a Spanish judge on accusations of tax fraud, defender Pepe and coach Fernando Santos tried to pretend the story simply didn’t exist.

Pepe waxed lyrical about a coach he’d worked with briefly 14 years ago. Santos nattered about friendly phone calls with a player from his Porto days.

[ MORE: NUFC linked with trio ]

When they did have to discuss their star player, they kept it general. Legal problems? Ronaldo barely gives them a thought, they suggested.

“Cristiano is one more player who is completely motivated to help Portugal as he has always done,” Pepe said.

“Tomorrow we have a very important game with Russia,” Santos said with a pained expression when asked about Ronaldo. “All the players are concentrated on the Russian game and Cristiano Ronaldo is extremely concentrated with the Russian game which we will play tomorrow.”

When the man himself emerged for training at Moscow’s Spartak stadium, he ignored waiting journalists before giving his teammates a quick nod and starting a ball-juggling exercise.

Last week, Ronaldo was accused by a state prosecutor of four counts of tax fraud totaling 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million). The Portugal forward is now under official investigation and will have to appear in the Pozuelo de Alarcon court No. 1 on July 31. A judge will then decide if there are grounds to charge him with a crime.

The prosecutor last week accused Ronaldo of having a shell company in the Virgin Islands to hide the money he had made from image rights.

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Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing. The accusations against him have caused speculation in Spain that he may seek a move away from Real Madrid.

European champion Portugal goes into Wednesday’s game against Russia on the back of a frustrating 2-2 draw with Mexico – Santos suggested Tuesday he may shake up the squad – while the Russians are riding high in Group A after beating New Zealand 2-0 in their opener.

One man is happy to talk about Ronaldo – Russia forward Fyodor Smolov. Having a megastar in the team is a luxury, he said.

“We don’t have a guy who could compete with Messi or Cristiano for the Ballon D’Or, but I don’t think we need a guy like that,” Smolov said. “It’s hard to build a united team and play as a unit when you have someone like that in the team, because everything revolves around him.”

The Russians have a solid recent home record against Portugal, having won a World Cup qualifier in 2012 and a friendly in 2015.

For many Russian fans, though, Portugal brings back dark memories.

Back in 2004, the 19-year-old Ronaldo scored twice as Portugal demolished Russia 7-1 in Lisbon.

It was Russia’s worst-ever defeat – a record which still stands – and the feeling of national humiliation soon led to younger players being given a chance. That became the genesis of the team which took Russia to the semifinals of the 2008 European championship, its greatest post-Soviet success.

USMNT celebrates winning 2017 Gold Cup – Video

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The U.S. national team won the 2017 Gold Cup title on Wednesday night and the Stars and Stripes celebrated in style.

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After beating Jamaica 2-1 in a tense final in Santa Clara, Calif. the champagne corks were soon popping as veterans and youngsters danced the night away to celebrate the USMNT’s first trophy since their Gold Cup success in 2013.

This was the USA’s sixth Gold Cup title and for many (Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey to name a few) it could be their last piece of silverware for the USMNT.

Watch them drink in the celebrations below as Bruce Arena (celebrating his third Gold Cup title) pulled off a veteran move to remove his suit jacket before getting drenched.

The U.S. are once again champions of the CONCACAF region.


Arsenal confirm Alexis Sanchez will return to training

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alexis Sanchez will return to training with Arsenal this Sunday.

Sanchez, 28, is yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal and has just 12 months left on his current deal, but it appears that Wenger isn’t planning on losing his Chilean superstar anytime soon.

Below is what Wenger has to say about Sanchez and Shkodran Mustafi returning to training this weekend after their exploits in the 2017 Confederations Cup which saw both men play in the final on July 2.

“Alexis and Mustafi, their first training session will be on Sunday, the day we play against Sevilla [in the Emirates Cup],” Wenger said. “They are practising on the day. First of all you make a really good check up of where they are, how much they have worked during their break. After, once you know where you stand, they need an adjusted programme and to see how quickly you can fit them in again.

“Of course it depends as well on what is the need in the squad, what is their quality. All of these things together make your decision. Do you put them on the bench when they are not ready [to start]? It is easier to put a striker on the bench than a defender, sometimes. Because in a short period they can make an impact. We’ll see.”

Manchester City hammer Real Madrid in LA

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Manchester City went full Beastmode on Real Madrid in the second half of their International Champions Cup game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Neymar to PSG on? ]

In front of a record 93,038 fans, City scored four goals in the second half with Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Raheem Sterling all netting before youngster Brahim Diaz finished things off in style.

Kevin De Bruyne was in particularly menacing form with the Belgian at the heart of everything good for Pep Guardiola‘s men.

Despite the hammering Real Madrid did score the goal of the night with youngster Oscar Rodriguez smashing home a beauty into the top corner form distance in the 90th minute.

Click play on the video above to watch the highlights.

City now head to Nashville, Tennessee where they face Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday with both teams finishing off their U.S. tour in style in Music City.

Real Madrid travel to Miami, Florida for the small matter of an El Clasico against Barcelona to finish off the International Champions Cup tournament Stateside.

Report: Neymar agrees five-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain

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Paris, are you ready for Neymar to become the main man?

[ MORE: USMNT win Gold Cup title

The Brazilian has scored all three of Barcelona’s goals during their preseason wins over Juventus and Manchester United in the U.S. but was his game-winner on Wednesday in Washington D.C. his final strike in a Barca shirt?

L’Equipe is reporting that Neymar has agreed terms on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain but that the French giants are now trying to get Barcelona to reduce the $260 million transfer fee which is Neymar’s release clause.

Per the report Neymar will earn over $34.1 million annually while reports in Spain suggest that both clubs want the Brazilian superstar to make a decision and are eager to push the deal through by next week if it’s going to happen.

Neymar, 25, is said to want to leave Barca and be the main man at PSG.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez around at the Nou Camp, it’s easy to understand that Brazil’s captain feels a little underappreciated sometimes but with Messi now 30 years old and Suarez 31, surely Neymar can wait it out a few years before he takes over Messi’s throne at Barca?

Hmmm, with the five-time World Player of the Year recently signing a new contract until 2021, Mess is going nowhere and maybe that was the trigger for Neymar and his representatives to look elsewhere as he’s about to enter his prime.

On top of all that the ongoing investigation from the Spanish authorities into his transfer from Santos looms large over the global superstar, but after winning two UEFA Champions League titles, three La Liga trophies and two Copa del Rey’s during his four years at Barca, would he really walk away?

His teammates and manager have been speaking about that posibility during Barca’s preseason tour of the U.S. and nobody seems too sure if he will remain. If anything the word “hope” is getting thrown around a lot rather than a definitive “yes” or “no” and even Gerard Pique had to back track on a social media post where he posed with Neymar and used the caption “he stays” to sum up the situation.

PSG are reportedly working around the clock to figure out how on earth they can finance this deal but it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are the only club who can afford to sign Neymar and their Abu Dhabi owners are doing all they can to make it a reality.