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La Liga & Serie A: Villarreal close in on UCL; Napoli keep title race going

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Villarreal 2-0 Getafe

Villarreal are eight points clear with six games to go in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification after knocking off Getafe at home on Sunday. Denis Suarez (15th minute) and Cedric Bakambu (84th) provided the goals for Marcelino García Toral’s side as they inched three points closer to locking up fourth place. Villarreal could also qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning this season’s UEFA Europa League (they hold a 2-1 lead over Sparta Prague after the first league of their quarterfinal tie).

Valencia 2-1 Sevilla

With Villarreal all but locking up fourth place, Sevilla’s only chance of getting into UCL next season is to win this season’s Europa League. Good news for them: they’re UEL ringers, having won the competition each of the last two seasons and currently holding a 2-1 lead over Athletic Bilbao in this year’s quarters. However, Sunday’s loss to Valencia puts them in danger of failing to even qualify for UEL next season, should they fail to win it this year. For 85 minutes, they looked like 1-0 losers (Daniel Parejo opened the scoring in the 41st minute), then from minutes 86-90 they looked certain for a 1-1 draw (Kevin Gameiro equalized on 86 minutes), then it was all undone by Alvaro Negredo’s 91st-minute winner.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sporting Gijon 0-1 Celta Vigo
Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Rayo Vallecano

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Barcelona 32 24 4 4 87 27 60 14-1-1 10-3-3 76
Atlético Madrid 32 23 4 5 54 16 38 11-3-1 12-1-4 73
Real Madrid 32 22 6 4 93 29 64 14-1-2 8-5-2 72
Villarreal 32 17 9 6 41 26 15 12-3-2 5-6-4 60
Celta Vigo 32 15 7 10 45 52 -7 7-5-4 8-2-6 52
Athletic 32 15 6 11 50 40 10 9-4-3 6-2-8 51
Sevilla 32 13 9 10 45 39 6 13-0-3 0-9-7 48

Napoli 3-0 Hellas Verona

No Gonzalo Higuain — he of 30 goals scored in 31 league games this season — no problem for Napoli against bottom-of-the-league Hellas Verona. Manolo Gabbiadini, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon each chipped in with a goal apiece (below videos). That’s four wins in five for Napoli, but nowhere near enough to keep pace with league leaders and champions-elect Juventus (21 wins in their last 22 league games) in the race for the title. With six games to go, Juve lead Napoil by six points. The gap between Napoli and third-place Roma, who play on Monday, is currently seven points.

Empoli 2-0 Fiorentina

At one point this season, Fiorentina looked legitimate contenders for the title. Now, with six games to go, they’re holding onto UEL qualification for dear life. Sunday’s loss away to Empoli makes it six games without a win for Paulo Sousa’s side. Manuel Pucciarelli and Piotr Zielinski bagged the goals that sentenced the Viola to yet another disappointing result, dropping them from fourth, where they began the weekend, to fifth, where they’re one spot away from falling all the way out of European competition next season.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-1 Atalanta
Sampdoria 2-0 Udinese
Palermo 0-3 Lazio

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 32 24 4 4 58 17 41 12-2-1 12-2-3 76
Napoli 32 21 7 4 66 27 39 13-3-0 8-4-4 70
Roma 31 18 9 4 66 32 34 10-4-1 8-5-3 63
Inter Milan 32 17 7 8 42 30 12 10-2-4 7-5-4 58
Fiorentina 32 16 8 8 51 35 16 10-4-2 6-4-6 56
AC Milan 32 13 10 9 42 35 7 9-4-3 4-6-6 49

Dietrich quits as club president of crisis-hit Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Wolfgang Dietrich quit as president of German second-division team Stuttgart on Monday after saying he no longer wants to be made a scapegoat for all that’s wrong at the crisis-ridden club.

The 70-year-old Dietrich, who took over as president in October 2016 and whose term was due to run until 2020, said he never expected such “hostility and malice” as he experienced at the club’s annual general meeting on Sunday.

[READ: Tyler Boyd signs with Besiktas]

The AGM had to be cancelled after about 4,500 members were unable to vote for the club’s management board because of Wi-Fi problems. Dietrich broke off the meeting to loud jeers and protests and was accompanied by bodyguards from the interior of the stadium.

Dietrich said he no longer wants to “be in charge of an organization that is neither willing to stand up to these interests against me nor is able to guarantee the smooth running of a general meeting.”

Dietrich was already under fire for his links to investment company Quattrex Sports, which provided loans to several of Stuttgart’s rivals. In his 3+ years at the club, Stuttgart has had three coaches, two sporting directors and was relegated from the Bundesliga last season.

Should Tottenham sign or pass on Bale?

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Tottenham just broke its transfer record with the signing of Tanguay Ndombele. Could it break the bank for a second time this summer?

However unlikely that could be, Spanish publication Marca reports that Tottenham has continued to express interest in bringing Gareth Bale back to White Hart Lane and Northwest London. The report states that Tottenham is willing to spend between $56 and $67.6 million to sign Bale but that it could not afford Bale’s $19 million yearly salary after tax. Even more, it could only afford to pay half of that, or $9.5 million per season.

[READ: Fabian Delph moves to Everton]

There’s no doubt that, on paper at least, Bale would improve Tottenham’s squad and could potentially even immediately step into the starting lineup. But that’s assuming Tottenham could sign him anyway.

It seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago, after Daniel Levy and the club went an entire calendar year without spending money on a new player, that it could spend more than $100 million on two players to improve the squad. But perhaps now, with television revenues growing and more seats to sell at Tottenham’s new stadium, Levy feels he can spend big this summer to take Tottenham to the next level.

Whether due to luck or not, Tottenham took advantage of its opportunity and manager Mauricio Pochettino did a masterful job guiding the club to the UEFA Champions League final. But to challenge Manchester City at the head of the Premier League, it’s going to take a talent like Bale coming in.

That being said, that are the chances that Bale, who turns 30 on Tuesday, can dramatically regain his fitness after years of recurring injuries, are low. So the big question now is, is it worth it for Tottenham to spend more than $60 million on re-signing Bale, and is it worth it for Bale to leave, instead of getting to stay on his salary for the next three seasons.

Bale’s agent Jonathan Barrett has long stated his client wants to retire in Madrid. It’s seeming less likely by the day, and yet, as Bale doesn’t move, perhaps he’ll call it quits ahead of schedule, and turn down a chance to return to Tottenham.

Delph completes transfer to Everton

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Everton has added an England international in a move to bolster its midfield.

The club announced that it had signed Fabian Delph to a three-year contract, after an undisclosed permanent transfer from Manchester City. Delph comes to the blue half of Liverpool after spending the last four seasons at Manchester City, where he began as a central midfielder but was quickly pushed out wide as a left back, and only featured 20 times in all competitions for the Sky Blues last season.

“Every time I have played against Everton, whether it was home or away, straight away the first thing that comes to mind when you see the fans is passion,” Delph said on Everton’s website. “The Everton fans seem to know football, seem to understand it, it seems to be in their blood and they really back the team. You are always going to hear Evertonians and I’m excited to play at home and hear them when I am playing. I’m really happy to be here, I’m going to give absolutely everything – nothing less than 100 per cent.

Although it feels like he’s been around forever, Delph is actually still only 29-years-old, and should still have a few years left in the tank to help propel Everton to the next level. At the least, Delph adds steel and technical ability in the middle of the park, where he could likely partner with Andre Gomes, who made his move to Everton permanent this summer from Barcelona.

Delph also adds versatility, and that should help him stay in the Everton lineup, should it need him out wide or to play in the center of the park.

However, the most important aspect Delph brings is the winning mentality. Even though he didn’t play a massive role, Delph has had the opportunity to train and play alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, all winners in their careers who do whatever it takes to get three points and win a title.

Bringing that attitude and mentality to Everton is huge for the club, which needs a lift after the departure of Wayne Rooney and other big names who have departed since the end of the David Moyes era.

Report: Ajax in negotiations to sign El Tri’s Alvarez

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One of the Mexico National Team’s brightest stars appears to be heading to Ajax, where he could potentially be the replacement for one Matthijs de Ligt.

According to a report in Voetbol International, a publication in the Netherlands, Ajax technical director Marc Overmars confirmed the club’s interest in signing Club America and El Tri defender Edson Alvarez. Club America are reportedly demanding nothing less than nearly $17 million for Alvarez, who has in just two years become a regular for El Tri.

[READ: USMNT’s Boyd signs with Besiktas]

The report states that Wolverhampton Wanderers – which has Alvarez’s El Tri teammate Raul Jimenez – and PSV Eindhoven were also interesting in signing Alvarez.

The 21-year-old made his debut for Club America as a right back under long-time Liga MX manager Ricardo La Volpe in 2016, and just a few months after his club debut, he was already playing for the national team. He was included and featured at the 2017 Gold Cup, becoming Mexico’s youngest scorer in the competition (at age 19) and he then started all four of Mexico’s games at the 2018 World Cup, including against Neymar and Brazil in the Round of 16.

Alvarez has continued his strong play over the past year and has moved into more of a centerback and holding midfielder role at times. He played as a No. 6 for Mexico in its 1-0 win over the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup final, at times dropping into the back line to defend while providing support in the attack.

As Alvarez is still young but continues to grow, it’s a perfect time for him to join Ajax. There, he’ll face even better attackers than in Liga MX, and he’ll have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to play for a prestigious club like Ajax. The pressure to perform will only make him better, like it’s helped countryman Hirving “Chucky” Lozano across the Netherlands at PSV Eindhoven.

Interestingly, Alvarez would be the second summer signing for Ajax with a North American connection. Defender Kik Pierie was actually born in Boston, while his father was studying at Harvard Medical School, though he’s been raised almost entirely in the Netherlands and has featured for the Oranje internationally.