Identity of potential Aston Villa owner revealed

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Tevfik Arif, a business associate of Donald Trump, has been revealed by The Independent as the front-runner to buy Aston Villa from Randy Lerner. According to the English outlet’s report, the founder of New York-based property firm Baylock Group is one of six to eight parties that have expressed interest in the club.

Lerner’s desire to sell his Birmingham-based club has been known since the near the end of the Premier League season, though his potential deals were reportedly contingent on the team’s Premier League survival. Having ensured its spot in the first division, Aston Villa is set to change hands, though the identity of the club’s suitors were previously unknown.

Thanks to The Independent, however, we not only know the leading candidate but a little of his background. From today’s report:

Arif worked for 17 years in hotel management at the Soviet Ministry of Commerce and Trade, before developing the luxurious Labada hotel in Turkey after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moving to the US, he partnered with Trump on a number of projects including the upmarket 46-storey Trump SoHo hotel and residential tower in New York.

Per the story, Arif has a link to the soccer world as an investor in Doyen Capital – a Londen-based hedge fund that holds ownership stakes in players, including Monaco’s Radamel Falcao. More notoriously:

Arif was arrested and questioned in October 2010 in a high-profile raid by Turkish police over claims that he supplied Russian businessmen and officials with Eastern European prostitutes for up to $10,000 a night … He was acquitted of all charges in April 2011.

As The Independent’s headline hints, the links to Trump, third-party ownership, and an old prostitution investigation makes his potential ownership “controversial,” but those details tell us little about how Arif himself (particularly given his acquittal). In that sense, there’s little we know today about Aston Villa’s future that we didn’t know yesterday.

What we can say for sure: There is a series of candidates; one front-runner; and that front-runner appears to be pretty rich. He also seems to have a toe in the water with the soccer world.

Beyond that, all we can really say is Aston Villa seems destined to have a new owner soon.

 

Scenes from around the UCL final

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We’re just hours away from kickoff in Kiev, Ukraine, and the streets are lined with football supporters ahead of the year’s biggest club final.

Liverpool and Real Madrid will meet at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium on Saturday, as the latter aims for its fourth UEFA Champions League crown in five seasons.

Let’s take a look at the sights around Ukraine and abroad ahead of the UCL final.


Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox took to Twitter to show their support for the Reds, with both teams owned by John Henry.

Los Blancos go for an unprecedented fourth UCL title in five years, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. aim to assert their dominance once again.

Reds legend John Arne Riise took part in Liverpool’s last UCL title in 2004/05, and holds the giant piece of silverware once again.

Supporters from both sides are out in full force in Kiev, with the Reds hoping to spoil yet another UCL triumph for Madrid.

Supporters all over the world will have their eyes on the most important club competition in football, with the Champions League hosting viewing parties in Shanghai, London and Rio de Janeiro.

Report: Napoli’s Sarri in as next Chelsea manager?

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Antonio Conte hasn’t been relieved of his managerial duties at Stamford Bridge; at least not yet, however, reports out of Italy are suggesting the Blues are in line for a new boss.

Gazzetta del Sport is reporting that Chelsea is preparing to hire Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri, who remains under contract with the Serie A side.

The report says that Sarri is preparing his staff to make the move to London, although both managers are currently tied to their clubs.

Additionally, Sky Italy has stated that an agreement in principle has been reached between Sarri and Chelsea, assuming Conte leaves the Blues.

Chelsea wouldn’t have to pay Sarri’s $9 million release clause if they wait until after Thursday to complete a deal.

Conte endured an up-and-down 2017/18 season with the Blues, however, Chelsea did manage to close the year on a high note with an FA Cup title.

Meanwhile, Sarri has held his post at Napoli since 2015, guiding the club to top three finishes in all three seasons in Italy’s top flight.

Video: Modric, Milner show off in training ahead of UCL final

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The UEFA Champions League final hasn’t even kicked off yet, and Liverpool and Real Madrid are already trying to show each other up with some gorgeous golazos.

[ MORE: Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s UCL final ]

Both sides had their final training sessions on Friday, and there were several unforgettable moment for each club.

We start with Real, who even got manager Zinedine Zidane involved in a crossing and finishing drill with some of his players.

This is where Luka Modric’s stunning volley came into play (below).

Meanwhile, in an inter-squad scrimmage amongst Liverpool’s team, James Milner unleashed this brilliant curling effort into the top corner (below).

LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion

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The task is quite simple for the two sides competing at Wembley Stadium on Saturday; win and you’re back in the Premier League.

Aston Villa and Fulham will battle it out for the third and final promotion spot into the PL (12 p.m. ET) after boasting tremendous 2017/18 campaigns.

LIVE UPDATES FOR THE PLAYOFF FINAL 

For both clubs, there is a significance about restoring their role as a PL club, with Fulham last competing in the top flight four seasons ago and Villa two seasons removed.


Aston Villa: Johnstone; Chester, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Jedinak, Hutton, Terry, Elmohamady, Adomah, Grabban. Bench: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn.

Fulham: Bettenelli; Fredericks, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald, Johansen, Cairney, Ream, Targett, Mitrovic, Kamara. Bench: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas.