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Costa reveals root of conflict with Conte, banishment from Chelsea

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If any Chelsea fan out there were still holding out hope that the conflict between star striker Diego Costa and manager Antonio Conte could be resolved and the Spanish international could return to the field at Stamford Bridge, it’s probably time to move on.

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In an explosive interview with the Daily Mail, from his childhood home in Brazil, Costa has held back absolutely nothing in telling his version of events which led to him being told to train with the reserves and held hostage as he waits for a move away from Chelsea to materialize.

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According to Costa, it all started in January, when he was set to renew his current contract and further commit his future to the club, at which point he believes Conte intervened and betrayed his player — quotes from the Daily Mail:

“In January, things happened with the coach. I was on the brink of renewing my contract and they put the brakes on it. I suspect the manager was behind it. He asked for that to happen.

“His ideas are very fixed and clear. I have seen the sort of person he is. He has his own opinion and that will not change. I respect him as a great coach. He has done a good job and I can see that, but as a person, no. He is not a coach who is very close with his players. He is very distant. He doesn’t possess charisma.”

“I am waiting for Chelsea to set me free. I didn’t want to leave. I was happy. When the manager does not want you, you have to go. If you were to ask all my team-mates, they’d say the same. They send messages saying “I miss you” and that they love me.

“I am always talking with the boys — particularly Cesc Fabregas, David Luiz and Willian. We have banter over WhatsApp. They ask how I am. They really love me for the person I am. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be saying they miss me and love me.”

“Why won’t they let me go if they don’t want me? I have to do what I have to do. I have to think of myself. I’ve been a good boy here and tried to do the right thing.

“My desire is to go to Atletico [Madrid]. I’ve spoken to Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. I said, ‘If the manager doesn’t want me, I want to go to Atletico Madrid.’ I have rejected other offers. They want to sell me to China or other teams. The language is better for me in Spain. If I’m off, I’m going to the club I want to go to — not the club that’s paying the most.

“Diego Simeone wants me. It is very clear. I have always had a bond with him. The fans and people love me there. They respect me.”

“They want me to be there training with the reserves. I wouldn’t be allowed access to the first-team dressing room and I would have no contact at all with the guys. I’m not a criminal. I don’t think it is fair after all I have done to be treated like that.

“They gave me a week extra off but since then it’s fines all the way. They want me training with the reserves. I am not going to do that. I am not a criminal and I am not in the wrong here. So, if they need to fine me, let them fine me. I take the hit every week but I’m not driven by money. The important thing is to be happy with how I live.”

18 days remain in the summer transfer window in Spain. Costa would almost certainly have to accept a sizable pay cut in order to leave Chelsea and return to Atletico Madrid, something he appears wholly willing to do, based on the above quotes.

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli banned for 1 year

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Juventus president Andrea Agnelli was banned for one year by the Italian soccer federation on Monday for his role in selling tickets to hardcore “ultra” fans that encouraged scalping.

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The court also fined Juventus 300,000 euros ($350,000).

The ban comes less than three weeks after Agnelli was elected to chair the 220-member European Club Association.

“Having taken note of today’s decision by the FIGC’s National Tribunal, Juventus preannounces its appeal to the FIGC Court of Appeal in the full conviction of its own good arguments, which have still not found adequate recognition,” the Serie A club said in a statement.

“The club expresses its own satisfaction because today’s sentence, even though it inflicted heavy bans on the president and other people involved, has “after extensive evaluation of the evidentiary material” (page 11 of the sentence) excluded all alleged links with representatives of organized crime.”

Federation prosecutor Giuseppe Pecoraro also said he would appeal for a harsher sentence. Pecoraro requested a 2 1/2-year suspension, a fine and an order to force Juventus to play two home matches behind closed doors.

“I am partially satisfied because we managed to prove everyone’s guilt but the facts are so serious that I think they should be punished more,” Pecoraro told Italian news agency Ansa. “The judgment of another court would be useful, taking into account that the resources coming from the ticket scalping went to a criminal organization, and that is very serious.”

The ban means Agnelli remains Juventus president but cannot represent the club in any official matter governed by the FIGC. He cannot, for example, go into the dressing room during matches or have transfer dealings with players’ agents.

However, the ban has not been extended to UEFA and FIFA – and there is no chance of that happening until all the appeals have been heard. Agnelli’s position as head of the ECA is not at risk for now.

Agnelli allegedly authorized the sale of season passes and other tickets. He has acknowledged meeting with Rocco Dominello, an “ultra” fan linked to the Calabrian `ndrangheta crime mob who has since been sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for scalping.

But Agnelli said the meetings came only with large numbers of other fans at celebratory occasions and that the club never intended to engage in illegal activity.

Juventus security director Alessandro D’Angelo has been banned for 15 months while ticketing director Stefano Merulla and former marketing director Francesco Calvo have also been handed one-year suspensions.

Each of the four has also been fined 20,000 euros ($24,000) for violating sporting integrity and illicit relations with fans.

The 41-year-old Agnelli has led Juventus, the club his family has owned for nearly a century, since 2010. Agnelli has also been a non-voting member of the UEFA executive committee since 2015. He received full voting rights last week at a UEFA meeting in Geneva.

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Dominello’s father, Saverio Dominello, was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a court in Turin in June for his role in the scalping case.

Anti-mafia prosecutors said the `ndrangheta was involved in scalping among Juventus ultra fans for at least 15 years, guaranteeing order in the stadium in exchange for open ticket access.

Juventus has denied any wrongdoing.

Report: NYCFC seeks stadium project near Belmont Park

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New York City FC has found its feet pretty well in MLS, and the club could finally be closing in on a location for its own stadium moving forward.

Newsday Sports is reporting that NYCFC is prepared to bid on land at Belmont Park as the club continues its search to find a permanent stadium for its future.

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The report also states that Belmont isn’t NYCFC’s preferred destination to play matches, with the stadium in Elmont — roughly an 18-mile distance from the club’s current venue, Yankee Stadium.

In the past, Flushing Meadows has been one of many sites discussed as a location for NYCFC to build its own venue, which would make sense given the fact that the land currently houses the New York Mets as well as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

NYCFC has shared Yankee Stadium with MLB franchise, New York Yankees, since the MLS side entered the league in 2015.

A move to Belmont could hinge on what the New York Islanders of the NHL do moving forward as well because the hockey team is reportedly looking at options outside of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they currently play.

UCL Tuesday preview: Dortmund hosts Real; 3 PL sides in action

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Round two of the UEFA Champions League is back on Tuesday, and while clubs cannot book their place in the Round of 16 just yet it’s just as easy for them to put themselves out of contention.

Three Premier League sides will be action on the afternoon, including Tottenham — who has the chance to start Group H play with six points.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester City will also take the pitch in Group E and F, respectively.

The day’s biggest clash of the day though comes in Germany as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid meet in the other Group H fixture. Dortmund will be looking for a positive result after falling to Spurs in their opening day loss in the competition.

[ MORE: Who is the most complete striker in the Premier League? ]

Here’s the full rundown of matches on Tuesday’s UCL docket.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET

Group E

Spartak Moscow vs. Liverpool
Sevilla vs. Maribor

Group F

Manchester City vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli vs. Feyenoord

Group G

Besiktas vs. Red Bull Leipzig
Monaco vs. Porto

Group H

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid
APOEL vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints take in Arsenal match

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The New Orleans Saints will be playing a different sort of football on Sunday at historic Wembley Stadium, but the NFL franchise took in Arsenal’s match today during their trip to London.

[ MORE: PL playback — Who is the most complete striker in the PL? ]

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees posted a picture on Instagram with several of his Saints teammates taking in the Arsenal-West Brom fixture at the Emirates Stadium six days before the NFL team plays the Miami Dolphins.

The Saints-Dolphins matchup is the second NFL game to take place in England thus far in 2017, after the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 44-7, on Sunday at Wembley.

Headed to the Arsenal game in London. Our first Premier League game! Pumped

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