Chinese takeover of Southampton completed

Leave a comment

Southampton Football Club have confirmed a new “partnership” with the Gao family of China.

Pro Soccer Talk understands that the Gao family have purchased roughly 80 percent of Saints for a fee close to $272 million, while current owner Katharina Liebherr will own the other 20 percent of the club.

Through their Lander Sports Development company Mr Jisheng Gao and his daughter, Nelly Gao, have been pursuing a deal for Saints for almost 12 months. However with complications surrounding the deal via Lander, Gao has used his personal wealth to fund the deal.

There had been reports that the Gao family had failed in their bid to buy Southampton with the Premier League requesting more details regarding the Owners and Directors test for new ownership, but with a few weeks left in the transfer window, good news has arrived for Southampton.

“Following extensive and fruitful work, we are entering into a partnership with the Gao family and I am excited about what we will achieve together,” Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her father Markus in 2010, revealed. “Today is the start of a new and exciting chapter for our club. Mr Jisheng Gao and his daughter, Mrs Nelly Gao, with whom I have built a close relationship, share our values and ambitions.

“As a team, we will strive to build upon the strong foundation that is in place towards sustainable long-term success. Mr Gao, Nelly and I have full trust in Ralph Krueger and his management team. We wholeheartedly support their plans to follow the Southampton Way in the years ahead.”

It is believed significant investment will now arrive at the club with Mauricio Pellegrino tasked with pushing Saints towards a European return and challenging for the domestic cups.

West Bromwich Albion are the only other Premier League with a majority owner from China, while second-tier Aston Villa, Reading, Wolves and Birmingham City have all been bought by Chinese investors in recent years.

The Liebherr family has owned Southampton since 2009 when they were on the brink of extinction. Markus Liebherr, Katharina’s father, bought the club after advice from Swiss-Italian banker Nicola Cortese for just $20 million. Since then the Liebherr family have also invested over $80 million in the club and will now retain a 20 percent stake to oversee its stewardship with chairman Ralph Krueger to remain in charge.

In 2009 Saints were in the third-tier of English soccer on -10 points, but after back-to-back promotions they returned to the Premier League in 2012 and have now had four-straight top eight finishes in the PL as well as playing in the Europa League and being runners up for the EFL Cup in 2017.

Nine years after her father bought the club Katharina has acknowledged that outside funding is needed and that’s where the Gao family come in.

“I am honored and humbled to become a partner of Southampton Football Club alongside Katharina Liebherr, who, together with her father, has been such a great steward of the club, its growth and success,” Jisheng Gao said in a statement. “Together, we have the passion and motivation to build on Southampton’s excellent progress in recent years as we look forward to an exciting next chapter for the club.”

The first thing fans will ask about is new players arriving and the potential for captain Virgil Van Dijk to remain at the club despite his public transfer request last week. All of that will be sorted out in the near future but this deal is all about Southampton pushing on to the next level with increased finances to buy players and not needing to sell their current stars which hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Southampton have become a model Premier League club since 2012 for investing wisely in new players, promoting youngsters from their academy and selling on stars for huge profits.

This new investment will help them to try and challenge for another top six finish and solidify their spot within the top 10 of the Premier League.

Ailing LA Galaxy could miss as many as 10 players this weekend

LA Galaxy / Facebook
Leave a comment

We’re less than a month into the new Major League Soccer season, and one club is already left scrambling to find players for its next match.

[ MORE: A deeper look at the USMNT roster ]

Between injuries, international call ups and a suspension, the LA Galaxy could be without as many as 10 players this weekend.

Ola Kamara, Romain Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos are among the notable names likely to be absent for Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but seven more players could be left unavailable for Sigi Schmid’s squad.

Kamara was the latest player to be named to his respective national team, with the striker being called up to Norway on Monday.

Meanwhile, both Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos have earned call ups to Mexico, and Emrah Klimenta has been selected by Montenegro for its next friendlies against Cyprus and Turkey.

Both Dos Santos brothers are battling injuries of their own, so they may not feature for El Tri, but that won’t necessarily help the Galaxy either as they are kept sidelined.

Of the ten players possibly missing the Whitecaps match, five of them (Michael Ciani, Cole, Gio dos Santos, J. dos Santos and Kamara) started in the Galaxy’s last game — a 2-1 loss to New York City FC.

Report: Chelsea, Real Madrid could make sensational swap

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

Real Madrid’s interest in a certain Chelsea star has been well-noted for some time, and with the World Cup nearing this summer, Los Blancos may finally be able to get their man.

[ MORE: Brazil to play Austria in final World Cup tune-up ]

Eden Hazard has long been a Madrid target, and with the Belgium international seemingly more and more interested by a move away from Stamford Bridge, the veteran attacker could see himself join Real after the World Cup in Russia.

According to Spanish outlet Diario Gol, Real could secure a move for Hazard this summer, while sending young attacker Marco Asensio to Chelsea.

While hypothetical at this point, the move makes sense for both clubs, particularly from a Blues perspective as they look for young attacking players.

The 22-year-old Asensio has been seeking regular minutes at Madrid, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale regularly included in the starting squad, that has been nearly impossible for the Spanish international.

Meanwhile, Real would be gaining another incredibly talented attacking piece to go along with Ronaldo and Bale, although the latter has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu for some time.

Real has also been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar, who has spent less than a season in France.

It’s a ways away from happening, but a front three of Hazard, Ronaldo and Neymar would certainly make El Clasico even more intriguing than usual, with Real facing off against a Barcelona squad that currently boasts Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.

Andrija Novakovich: “It’s a good feeling” to earn USMNT call up

Leave a comment

As the U.S. Men’s National Team continues its transition towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, a new face has emerged for the Stars and Stripes ahead of its upcoming friendly against Paraguay.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

Striker Andrija Novakovich earned his first call up on Sunday when U.S. manager Dave Sarachan named the Telstar player in his squad, which will play the South American side on March 27 in Cary, North Carolina.

The 21-year-old forward has been nothing short of brilliant in his first season with the Dutch second-division club, scoring 18 league goals for Telstar — who sit fourth in the Eerste Divisie.

“It’s a good feeling to get the call-up and hopefully it will be a very good experience,” Novakovich said. “They [the U.S. national team] sent the club and myself an email saying that I was on the preliminary roster and we were just waiting, and then this week I got another email saying I was on the final roster.

“I called my Mum right away and she’s proud, she’s happy.

“I’m just there for the experience — of course I want to play, of course I want to get the opportunity and hopefully that will happen, It’s an honour to be called up and I’m very proud and very happy.”

Novakovich, a Wisconsin native, is currently on loan at Telstar from English Championship side Reading.

The young USMNT player moved to England back in 2014 to join Reading’s academy, despite originally planning on playing for Marquette University following high school.

Despite this being his first senior-team call up, Novakovich is familiar with the U.S. national team setup. Novakovich has previously represented the Under-17, U-18 and U-20 national teams.

Lionel Messi suggests 2018 will be his final World Cup

Leave a comment

Lionel Messi’s track record as a professional has encompassed just about every imaginable accolade, but one that has eluded he and his Argentina national teammates is winning the World Cup.

[ MORE: Kekuta Manneh added to USMNT squad ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

The Barcelona star has played a significant role for the Albiceleste since debuting for Argentina back in 2005, and even helped guide the South American power to the 2014 World Cup final, however, harsh criticism from local media could push Messi and many of his teammates towards not returning to the national team.

This wouldn’t be the first time Messi has contemplated international retirement, though.

Following the 2016 Copa America Centenario final — which resulted in a Chilean victory over Messi’s Argentina — the Blaugrana attacker announced his retirement from the Albiceleste. While he has since returned to the international scene, it appears Messi is once again considering a halt from representing Argentina.

“It’s just the feeling that this group of players has. It seems that having reached three straight finals didn’t mean anything,” Messi told La Cornisa TV. “Obviously, we depend on results and unfortunately, we reached three finals and we didn’t win them.

“A lot was said about us. The criticisms hurt back then. But the demand is going to be there for this group to get it done. We think that if we don’t do it, we are going to get a lot more [criticism] and we are not going to have another possibility.”

Argentina has fallen in three consecutive major finals dating back to 2014, including two Copa America competitions and the World Cup.

Messi says these shortcomings have weighed heavily on him, and that winning a World Cup is still the one goal that has left him hungry.

“I’ve cried many times for lost finals,” the Barca forward said. “I cried for not being able to fulfill the dream of our nation. My desire is the same as every Argentine, which is to lift the World Cup.”

He continued: “To win a World Cup is not easy. It doesn’t happen often. The last time we did things well but due to minor details we didn’t get it done. We are very enthusiastic and eager to lift the cup for our country. I hope God helps us and it happens.”

Messi has scored 61 international goals in his international career for Argentina, the most of any player from his native country.