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AC Milan’s masterplan: Spend their way back to relevance

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ROME (AP) It’s the type of freewheeling spending spree that has been the domain of Middle East sheikhs and Russian oligarchs in recent years.

Only this time it’s the new Chinese owners of AC Milan who have been dominating football’s transfer market.

The signing of prized Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from six-time defending Serie A champion Juventus on Friday boosted Milan’s offseason spending to 211 million euros (nearly $250 million) – easily the most in Europe.

Other recent signings by the Rossoneri have included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio), and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

With teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma having agreed to extend his contract until 2021 and another big forward signing expected, Milan could be in position to challenge for its first Serie A title since 2011.

It’s the type of outlay made by the likes of Roman Abramovich when he took over Chelsea in 2003, Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City in 2008 and the Qatari investors in Paris Saint-Germain in 2011.

The overhaul reminds former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi of when Silvio Berlusconi took control of the club three decades ago and quickly acquired the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard.

The important thing, Sacchi said in an editorial in the Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday, will be for the new owners to give Milan coach Vincenzo Montella the time to mold a proper squad.

“Berlusconi and (former Milan vice president Adriano) Galliani were extraordinary and determined with me, showing confidence and respect for me even though we were far from the top by Christmas,” Sacchi wrote.

“Montella’s job won’t be easy,” Sacchi added. “He’s going to have to create the right chemistry and find a system of playing that makes all of these players thrive.”

Milan went on to win two European Cups under Sacchi and ushered in a period of dominance by Italian clubs.

With seven European and Champions League titles in all, Milan sits second only to Real Madrid’s 12.

But after three years without any appearances at all in Europe, Milan is looking to regain its place among football’s elite.

The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash.

By the time Serie A starts in mid-August, Milan’s starting 11 could consist of nine new players.

While Bonucci is considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying something in a nation that prides itself on its defending – the last piece of Milan’s transfer puzzle could be the one that alters the balance of power in Serie A.

If Bonucci, as he has intimated, is able to convince former Juventus teammate and current Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata to join him at Milan, the Rossoneri might just have enough firepower to end Juve’s stranglehold on the “scudetto” (title).

The other forwards Milan is considering signing include: Andrea Belotti, who scored 26 goals for Torino last season; Nikola Kalinic, the scrappy Fiorentina striker; or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the still-improving Borussia Dortmund marksman who ended his youth career with Milan.

Whoever Milan chooses, he will pair in attack with the 21-year-old Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, whose transfer cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

In an unusual move, Milan will also make Bonucci the club’s captain before he even plays a match for the team.

“The truth is they’ve gone beyond expectations,” former Milan stalwart Demetrio Albertini said of the new owners. “But if amount of money invested were the only measure that counted, Paris Saint-Germain should have won at least a couple Champions League titles by now.”

Transfer news: Icardi to PSG, Hendrick to Milan

Hendrick to AC Milan
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Jeff Hendrick has been loyal to two English clubs for long tenures but could be looking to a very different arena for his next step as a footballer.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland midfielder is out of contract at season’s end and Sky Sports is linking Hendrick with a move to — wait for it — Serie A mainstays AC Milan.

MORE: Premier League remaining fixtures ]

Hendrick, 28, has played 139 times for the Clarets since 2015, scoring 10 times with seven assists.

54 times capped by Ireland, Hendrick hit the pitch 215 times for Championship side Derby County prior to his Turf Moor move, scoring 26 times with 19 assists.

Burnley wants to keep Hendrick but the two have not agreed to a contract. Having had a taste of the Europa League with the Clarets and performing well, he may want to see how the seasons plays out for both sides. Milan sits in Serie A’s final UEL slot, while Burnley is four points back of sixth in the PL.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

Meanwhile, rumored Newcastle and Juventus target Mauro Icardi may not get the chance to test the transfer waters this summer.

The combustible Argentine striker, 27, is going to stay at Paris Saint-Germain next season after the Ligue 1 champs agreed a big fee to permanently sign the loanee from Inter Milan.

The fee is said to start at $55 million and have the potential to rise another $9 million with incentives.

Icardi scored 20 goals with four assists during his first season in France after scoring more than 150 goals during his time in Italy between Sampdoria and Inter.

La Liga return: State of play in Spain ahead of June 11 restart

La Liga return
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La Liga will return on June 11 and El Clasico’s heated rivals will restart a battle for the top of Spain’s top flight.

Catalan clubs face drama at both ends of the table with Barcelona in first and Espanyol in 20th. Between there is mayhem.

MORE: Premier League remaining fixtures ]

Barca holds a two-point edge on Real Madrid in its bid for a third-straight La Liga crown and fifth in six seasons. Real will need a slip-up from Quique Setien’s men as there is not a Clasico to be found on the fixture list.

The other two Champions League spots will be hotly-contested with four sides within two points between third and sixth, especially considering the side bringing up the rear is powerful Atletico Madrid (45 points). Sevilla currently sits third with 47 points, with fourth-place Real Sociedad and fifth-place Getafe on 46.

Valencia is also in the picture with 42, and seventh-place will be a Europa League spot should Real Sociedad win the Copa del Rey or rivals Athletic Bilbao (37 points) win it and climb into sixth.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

The bottom half of the table is a relegation picture, even if 11th-place Osasuna counts a nine-point lead on the bottom three of Mallorca (25 points), Leganes (23), and Espanyol (20).

The matches will, of course, be played behind closed doors, though Spanish authorities have hope for fans in the 2020-21 season.

Matchweek 28 will be played from June 12 to June 15 with the full La Liga schedule below, while there are also details on how you can watch on TV in the USA.

La Liga schedule

  • TV Channels: beIN Sports USA
  • Stream LiveVia beinSports
  • When: From June 11 to July 17

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 27 18 4 5 63 31 32 13-1-0 5-3-5 58
 Real Madrid 27 16 8 3 49 19 30 9-4-0 7-4-3 56
 Sevilla 27 13 8 6 39 29 10 6-5-2 7-3-4 47
 Real Sociedad 27 14 4 9 45 33 12 8-2-3 6-2-6 46
 Getafe 27 13 7 7 37 25 12 7-4-3 6-3-4 46
 Atlético Madrid 27 11 12 4 31 21 10 8-5-1 3-7-3 45
 València 27 11 9 7 38 39 -1 8-6-0 3-3-7 42
 Villarreal 27 11 5 11 44 38 6 6-4-3 5-1-8 38
 Granada 27 11 5 11 33 32 1 8-2-3 3-3-8 38
 Athletic Club 27 9 10 8 29 23 6 7-3-3 2-7-5 37
 Osasuna 27 8 10 9 34 38 -4 5-5-4 3-5-5 34
 Betis 27 8 9 10 38 43 -5 7-3-4 1-6-6 33
 Levante 27 10 3 14 32 40 -8 7-3-3 3-0-11 33
 Alavés 27 8 8 11 29 37 -8 6-5-3 2-3-8 32
 Valladolid 27 6 11 10 23 33 -10 3-7-3 3-4-7 29
 Eibar 27 7 6 14 27 41 -14 6-1-7 1-5-7 27
 Celta Vigo 27 5 11 11 22 34 -12 4-5-4 1-6-7 26
 Mallorca 27 7 4 16 28 44 -16 6-2-6 1-2-10 25
 Leganés 27 5 8 14 21 39 -18 4-3-7 1-5-7 23
 Espanyol 27 4 8 15 23 46 -23 1-5-7 3-3-8 20

Havertz makes history in Bayer win

Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen recap and video highlights
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Kai Havertz made more Bundesliga history as Bayer Leverkusen got back in the win column with a 1-0 win at scrappy Freiburg on Friday.

Havertz became the first player in history to score 35 Bundesliga goals before the age of 21 with the match’s early second-half opener, assisted by Leon Bailey. He turns 21 on June 11.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores ]

Havertz has 11 goals and five assists in Bundesliga play this season including five goals since the end of the coronavirus pause.

Bayer pulls in third place with 56 points, one ahead of RB Leipzig and one back of Borussia Dortmund. Gladbach lurks three points back.

Freiburg may have waved goodbye to its sixth-place hopes, now four points back of Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

There were hints of danger for both teams in the opening throes.

Leon Bailey missed an early chance for the visitors, and Vincenzo Grifo saw a turnover at the other end denied by a sliding challenge.

Bailey was dangerous but not clinical as Bayer controlled the first half but, like many, couldn’t find away through Freiburg’s cagey, Burnley-like compactness.

Freiburg broke the other way and had a glorious chance to steal a lead when Roland Sallai sent Lucas Holer on goal, but Lukas Hradecky cut down the angle and Holer missed wide on a chance to score in consecutive matches.

Bailey played his part well in setting up Havertz’s post-halftime opener. The Jamaican dribbled into an out of traffic before cutting a path onto Havertz’s path.

Havertz rolled the ball between the legs of Freiburg star backstop Alexander Schwolow to make it 1-0 in the 55th.

Freiburg had one more big chance to get a point, as Christian Gunter crossed for Nils Petersen but the latter couldn’t get enough on the shot to beat Hradecky.

Bundesliga preview: Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund preview
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Last-place Paderborn is running out of time to make a run out of the drop zone, and a visit from Borussia Dortmund wouldn’t normally inspire too much.

But Sunday’s match between the two sides sees Dortmund taking the pitch for the first time since seeing its title hopes dashed in a fierce Klassiker, and Paderborn’s picked up points in all three matches since play resumed from the coronavirus pause.

Not only that, the sides drew 3-3 in November at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, BVB firing back from a 3-0 halftime deficit thanks to goals from Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Axel Witsel.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

Paderborn has been playing well for a last-place side, ornery and collecting more cards than most teams in the Bundesliga.

As for Dortmund, the black and yellow side performed well enough to get a result from Bayern but lost on a Joshua Kimmich wondergoal and will likely still be lamenting what could’ve been if VAR reviewed an apparent Jerome Boateng handball in the box.

Still, there’s too much talent here, even at a desperate host. In a non-coronavirus world, the home crowd changes our opinion a little on the score line. We’re feeling a blowout, Dortmund 4-0.

Below is how to watch Borussia Dortmund v. Paderborn on TV in the USA this Saturday, while above you can follow the action live, as the three points are so valuable to both clubs but for very different reasons.

Bundesliga schedule

  • TV Channels: FS1
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • When: Saturday, May 30 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)