Bale: “I want to play for Real Madrid,” as Spanish press turn up the heat

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After Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas confirmed earlier today that talks are “ongoing” between the club and Gareth Bale about a new contract, more sensationalist reports have cropped up in Spain.

According to Spanish outlet Marca, Bale is demanding a move to Real Madrid and has hit out at Tottenham’s Chairman Daniel Levy over “false promises.”

Take this report with a pinch of salt, or a large dose of it, but Marca have repeatedly reported Bale’s potential move to Madrid is edging closer.

All week long reports from the Spanish newspaper have been escalating. Believe what you will. So here’s what they claim the 24-year-old Welshman had to say to Spurs Chairman Levy, as the club aim to keep him at White Hart Lane:

You made me a promise. You promised me if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League and a good offer turned up you’d listen to it. Well that offer has arrived and I want to play for Real Madrid. So keep your word and negotiate. I’m not interested in Manchester United or any other club. I only want to play for Real Madrid.

How have Marca got this information? Who knows. But Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, has been very friendly with the Spanish media since the end of last season, and enraged Spurs fans last month by claiming Bale “would listen to an offer from Real Madrid.”

So, maybe Bale really does want a move to Real, and can you blame him?

source: Getty Images
Is Bale demanding a move to Madrid?

(MORE: Bale agrees to Real Madrid transfer but Spurs say, not so fast)

One thing is for certain, Bale and his agent are a lot closer to the Spanish media than we all previously thought. But we’ve heard this story time and time again, the rumors, Villas-Boas stating he is not for sale and that a new contract is being negotiated.

But we haven’t heard anything from Bale, not one word. And that tells its own story. Actions speak louder than words.

Anyhow, AVB stated this morning that Bale is not participating in Tottenham’s preseason tour of the Far East due to a Gluteal muscle issue. Apparently will be sorted out in the next week and Bale will train with the squad in London.

But if you believe reports… this time next week Bale’s healed Gluteus maximus could be heading to Madrid.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

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On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.