Putting rivalries aside, Roma unites soccer to help migrants

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For Roma President James Pallotta, the immediate priority is not about toppling Juventus in Serie A or hoping for an upset against Champions League holder Barcelona on Wednesday.

From his Boston base, when the American financier started to see images of the refugee crisis escalating in Europe he realized he had to harness the power of football to help. And not just at Roma.

“When you see a three-year old dead on the beach when he should have had his whole life ahead of him, if that doesn’t make you pause and think I don’t know what does,” Pallotta told The Associated Press.

While several clubs, particularly in Germany, have individually pursued goodwill initiatives for some time, Pallotta believed a more unified approach was required.

With the campaign launch coming straight after the $2.4 billion-plus summer transfer window closed in Europe, “Football Cares” seems an antidote to criticism that football is an industry awash with cash that only lines the pockets of players and agents.

Roma gave an initial 575,000 euros ($651,665), including 250,000 euros from Pallotta. Putting rivalries aside, Inter Milan and Fiorentina are among the Italian clubs to join “Football Cares,” while the Los Angeles Galaxy has also signed up. The United Nations Refugee Agency, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the Red Cross will be the recipients of the donations.

“The amount of money being thrown around in the transfer market is fairly significant and I think most of the teams, ownership and players give a damn about what’s going on in the world,” Pallotta said in a telephone interview. “It’s not always easy to figure out how to solve issues … this is an opportunity to create a massive collaboration around fans and players.”

While football clubs have felt a duty to act, the sport’s embattled governing body, with $1.5 billion in cash reserves, has seemed silent as the crisis has deepened in Europe and calls have grown to find homes for the refugees.

FIFA, which did donate $200,000 to help Syrian refugees in Jordan in 2013, spent $27 million buying a hotel close to its Zurich headquarters last year. Asked three times throughout last week if it had considered giving over any rooms to refugees, FIFA did not respond to the AP’s e-mails.

“I don’t know what FIFA is going to do. They do have a fair amount of cash,” said Pallotta, while keen to avoid criticizing the governing body.

Pallotta is also treading carefully to ensure Roma’s initiative does not becaome entangled in the wider political debate around the growing numbers of migrants coming to Europe, particularly to escape the conflict in Syria.

“We really didn’t want to make this a political thing at all,” Pallotta said. “We look at it as a really humanitarian crisis. This is a short term situation where money is needed for housing, for food.”

Inevitably, the migrant crisis will drop off the front pages.

Pallotta does not want the energy behind “Football Cares” to fade, believing this should be the start of a formalized mechanism for football to respond with a unified approach to humanitarian situations where relief is required.

“When things slow down on this (crisis) as they tend to do … this could be the platform going forward when we want to engage our fans for something like the refugee crisis or another really important issue,” he said.

Police enter headquarters of Spanish club Malaga

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) Police entered the headquarters of Spanish club Malaga on Wednesday to seize documents related to a court case involving the second-division team.

[ MORE: Christian Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter “still confident” ]

Authorities did not release further details because the search-and-seizure action was part of an investigation being conducted under secrecy.

Police would not confirm Spanish media reports that the action was about a case in which Qatari owner Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani is being sued by minority owners over alleged administrative irregularities.

[ MORE: Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale ]

Al-Thani took over the club in 2010.

Malaga last month fired coach Victor Sanchez del Amo after an intimate video was released online.

The team from southern Spain is 16th in the 22-team second-division standings.

Bale’s agent denies loan reports; ‘not many clubs can afford him’

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Gareth Bale‘s agent Jonathan Barnett has called recent reports claiming the Real Madrid superstar could be loaned elsewhere “ridiculous” on the basis that “there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

[ MORE: Daniel Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Bale ]

Bale has reportedly been unhappy in Madrid and at odds with manager Zinedine Zidane, leading to months of speculation that he could leave the Santiago Bernabeu. However, due to his nearly $600,000-per-week wages, very few — if any — clubs in the world can afford his wages, let alone the transfer fee required as well.

Therefore, a loan move would seem to make sense, only Barnett seems to be offended that a player of Bale’s caliber would ever be discussed as a loan candidate — quotes from the BBC:

“Why would one of the best players on Earth go on loan? That’s ridiculous. At the moment, he is going to be playing football for Real Madrid and he has got two and a half years left on his contract.

“He is happy and hopefully he will win a couple of more things with Real Madrid.”

“Things can change, but loans are ridiculous and there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

Bale’s contract runs through the summer of 2022. He has scored just two goals in nine league games this season.

Bayern signs Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Spain right back Alvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid on Wednesday to help ease its defensive worries after a spate of injuries.

[ MORE: Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter “still confident” ]

The Bavarian powerhouse said the 24-year-old Odriozola signed a deal to the end of the season after successfully passing a medical examination.

“We decided to fulfill our head coach Hansi Flick’s wish to strengthen the defense and decided for Alvaro Odriozola,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “We’re very happy with the transfer and thank the management at Real Madrid for the very friendly and cooperative talks.”

Bayern defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez are out with injuries and 23-year-old Benjamin Pavard — a center back — had been filling in at right back. Odriozola’s arrival will free the French player to return to his usual position.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Madrid paid a reported $33 million to sign Odriozola from Real Sociedad in 2018, but the winger has barely played since. He made only four league appearances this season, with Dani Carvajal preferred at right back.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane gave the go-ahead for Odriozola’s transfer on Tuesday. Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao were also reportedly interested.

Odriozola has one goal in four appearances for Spain.

Bayern is hoping to claw back a four-point deficit on Bundesliga leader Leipzig to claim a record-extending eighth straight title.

Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter ‘still confident in this deal’

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Christian Eriksen met with chairman Daniel Levy on Tuesday in his latest attempt to secure his Tottenham Hotspur exit during the January transfer window, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale ]

Eriksen already has a pre-contract agreement with Inter Milan in place, but the Danish playmaker and the Serie A club are hopeful of completing the signing this month. Inter submitted a $14.5-million bid (plus bonuses) for Eriksen earlier this week, but Levy is said to be holding out for his $22-million valuation, fully guaranteed, of the player.

Eriksen’s agent is also expected to meet with Levy following Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) in yet another attempt to broker a deal between the two clubs.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Inter Milan chief executive Giuseppe Marotta remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached this month, as he told Sky Italia, “We’re waiting and we’re still confident in this deal.”