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Villa, NYCFC show courage with comeback win against Red Bulls

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Entering the 2017 MLS season, New York City FC had only defeated their cross-river rivals once.

[ MORE: Valeri’s scorcher helps Timbers run past Galaxy on Sunday ]

Now, in fairness to the team, it was a very small sample size of matches against the New York Red Bulls, but the results were certainly lopsided in the head-to-head series.

Fast forward to this season, and there have been changes within this NYCFC squad. Drastic chances. Noticeable changes that have pushed the team to another level.

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Patrick Vieira’s men traveled to Toronto last weekend to take on arguably the best side in the Eastern Conference and MLS, in Toronto FC, and NYCFC laid an egg with a brutal 4-0 defeat at the hands of Sebastian Giovinco and company.

The disappointment and anger that lingered from that match was not present on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, though, as NYCFC came back and knocked off the Red Bulls in front of a packed 33,679-supporter crowd in the Bronx.

Perhaps the fight in the squad and ensuing result came because of the fact that club was facing its undoubted greatest rival. Or it was a result of NYCFC’s growing confidence and ability to exhibit short-term memory loss, even after a devastating defeat like they suffered north of the border last Sunday.

A club always expects its top players to be on their game at the biggest moments, and captain David Villa displayed that grit and tenacity in his play against the Red Bulls, which was something that the former Spanish international had had a difficult time doing in the past against Jesse Marsch’s group.

I try to do my best always, in the training facility or in games,” Villa said. “I try to show the young players I arrived to where I arrive because I always give 100 percent on the pitch.

“Sometimes you can play well like today and score three goals and sometimes you can play bad like in Toronto the other day, like I did, but it is mandatory to give 100% and I try to do that. If they show me like a leader, it is a pleasure to me.”

Not only did Villa score his first-ever MLS hat-trick, but the 35-year-old goalscorer helped his side come back from a 2-1 deficit with less than 20 minutes remaining in the rivalry match.

“I don’t like to come back every time, I hope we’re not always in the same situation, but it’s great,” Villa said following his three-goal performance. “If you look at the team it is great, the whole feeling. Today the team went down then back up so it was great.”

On top of that, NYCFC can boast the fact that they have captured the season series against their Harrison-based foe, which was something that they couldn’t say during the first two years of this growing rivalry.

To Vieira, though, the result doesn’t matter if NYCFC doesn’t build off of the result and establish consistency in its future endeavors.

“We are not a big team yet because a big team plays like this every week,” Vieira said.

He continued: “We are getting close to the Red Bulls (in terms of stature) and games like tonight show we are close.”

“I told them I want them to enjoy the win but keep their feet on the ground and focus on the details game by game.”

NYCFC will hit the road next weekend when Vieira and his side head west to take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday night.

Neymar says he’s staying at PSG; rumors “invented by the press”

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Neymar insists he is going nowhere this summer, that he’ll spend (at least) one more season at Paris Saint-Germain, and he intends to bring another handful of trophies back to the French capital in doing so.

[ MORE: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for N’Golo Kante, but must sell first ]

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, his first media availability session since Brazil were eliminated in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals, the 26-year-old superstar went so far as to say that reports linking him with a move to other European mega-clubs (most notably, Real Madrid) were “invented by the press” — quotes from ESPN:

“Yes, I will stay in Paris. I have a contract with PSG. The speculation? The majority of it is invented by the press.

“I have a contract and people know the objective, the reason why I went to PSG. I want to win with this club and I hope this season will be wonderful.”

While it seems a no-brainer that PSG would want Neymar to stay, there’s unquestionably a case to be made that selling him would give them the financial flexibility needed to address needs elsewhere in the squad. N'Golo Kante, for instance, is reportedly transfer target no. 1 at the Parc des Princes, but sales will have to be made before a fee of that size can be paid, due to financial regulations.

Report: PSG in “advanced negotiations” for Kante, but must sell first

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N'Golo Kante might just be the best midfielder in the world, and he might just be leaving Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days or weeks, as French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that the defending Ligue 1 champions are in “advanced negotiations” over a mega-bucks contract with the World Cup winner.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The report goes so far as to say that a “provisional contract” has already been agreed. “Provisional,” in this instance, means there has likely been little — if any — contact between the two clubs thus far.

One major sticking point remains: following last summer’s outlandish spending spree, in which they shelled out nearly $500 million to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are in serious danger of failing to comply with financial regulations set forth by UEFA and could/would be banned from European competition should they fail to achieve compliance.

The likes of Angel Di Maria, Goncalo Guedes, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese Rodriguez and Alphonse Areola have had their names floated as possible departures to recoup the necessary funds before paying another fee of (presumably) over $100 million.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

After helping the Blues to the Premier League title two seasons ago (and doing the same with Leicester City three campaigns gone by), Kante was powerless in saving Chelsea from themselves in 2017-18. They finished fifth in the PL and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Given his age — 27 — it’s wholly understandable that Kante would prioritize playing in club soccer’s top competition (while also making even more money) every season going forward. Throw in the fact that uncertainty is the only certainty at Stamford Bridge these days, and trading west London for Paris — where Kante was born — starts to sounds pretty good, pretty quickly.

18-year-old Vinicius ready to fight for minutes at Real Madrid

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Following in the footsteps of Neymar and Kaka, and Ronaldinho and Ronaldo before them, Vinicius Junior has been dubbed the next transcendent Brazilian superstar, and he’s ready to show why after being unveiled by Real Madrid on Friday.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The 18-year-old from the famed Flamengo youth academy will make his European debut next month when the new La Liga season kicks off, and he has every intention of being part of the first-team squad from the very beginning. While many South American starlets will move to a club the size of Real Madrid and spend a season or two (or more) out on loan as they continue to develop and adjust to life abroad, Vinicius is bullish on his ability to make an immediate impact — quotes from ESPN:

“I am staying at Real Madrid with the first team. I will play some games with Castilla [the youth team] to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I can do everything I did at Flamengo, and do better. I will show I am ready to play and show everything possible as quickly as I can. I know the adaptation will not be easy, but I am ready to do whatever is necessary.

“I am coming from Flamengo, another club with a lot of pressure. The people around me are here to help me with this. I never think of failing, just succeeding, winning as much as possible.”

“Football is a bit different here, but coach Lopetegui is helping me a lot, telling me what I must do, how I can improve. This is the best opportunity a football player can have.

“I will sacrifice a lot to show I deserve this opportunity. But sacrifice is not something new for me. I come from a very simple family, and am very proud of all they did for me and the values they have taught me.”

Vinicius’s $52-million transfer was agreed last summer, but FIFA rules stipulated that the player must be 18 before making the move abroad.

Sports court overturns AC Milan’s ban from Europa League

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — In a legal victory over UEFA, AC Milan is back in the Europa League after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ban imposed for overspending.

[ Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton bid for Richarlison, latest on Mbappe ]

The court said Friday the punishment was “not proportionate” following a takeover completed last week, even though UEFA was right to judge Milan had broken financial monitoring rules.

The seven-time European champion had failed to approach breaking even on player transfers and wages over several seasons in which it failed to qualify for the top-tier Champions League.

UEFA was ordered to review the case and apply a “proportionate disciplinary measure,” the court said in an urgent ruling.

Milan’s reprieve was largely due to the takeover by a United States-based hedge fund which last year provided key finance to a Chinese-led purchase of the storied club.

In a statement Friday, European soccer body UEFA noted without comment that the case returns to the judging section of its club finance panel.

[ MORE: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled ]

The verdict was given Friday without detailed reasons from a three-judge panel, one day after a hearing at the highest court in world sports.

An urgent ruling was needed because the case affected Italy’s entry in the Europa League second qualifying round next week.

Milan’s legal win restores the club’s place in the group stage which kicks off in September. Atalanta, which placed seventh in Serie A, goes back into the qualifying rounds and plays Sarajevo in a first-leg game in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday. Fiorentina, which placed eighth last season, is now withdrawn from the Europa League.

Milan broke UEFA’s financial fair rules which monitor finances over a three-year assessment period of all clubs qualifying to enter the Champions League or Europa League.

When it was banned last month, Milan said it failed to break even on soccer-related business in the period from July 2014 to June 2017 — before its spending spree one year ago.

[ MORE: Goalkeeper Alisson completes record transfer to Liverpool ]

Milan spent nearly $250 million on new players. This was despite questions over the financial stability of the Chinese-led consortium that purchased the club from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April 2017.

The team finished sixth in Serie A, missed out on the four Italian places in the Champions League, and qualified for the Europa League.

However, the court said UEFA had not “properly assessed” some relevant points in Milan’s case, and the club’s finances improved after the takeover.

Elliott Management has promised to inject $66 million in capital.

Former owner Li Yonghong missed a deadline to repay part of a loan worth more than $350 million from the hedge fund. Elliott repossessed the holding company in Luxembourg that Li used to buy Milan.

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