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Bayern wins sixth straight Bundesliga crown – with help from Heynckes

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BERLIN (AP) Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has earned his retirement at the end of the season.

Again.

After returning to the helm in October, Heynckes’ Bayern won its record-extending sixth straight Bundesliga title on Saturday with a 4-1 win at Augsburg.

No other team has come close since Bayern claimed the treble in 2013 under Heynckes, who has said he will go back into retirement at the end of this season – despite Bayern’s attempts to keep him on.

Bayern sealed its record 28th German championship, including the solitary pre-Bundesliga title in 1931-32, with five rounds to spare.

Here’s a look at why Bayern keeps winning in Germany:

HERO HEYNCKES

Bayern’s lackluster start to the season is all but forgotten due to the rapid turnaround instigated by Jupp Heynckes on his return for his fourth stint as coach in October.

Bayern was five points behind Borussia Dortmund after slipping to two draws and a defeat in its opening seven league games, but Heynckes started with a 5-0 win over Freiburg, led the side back to the top and claimed the title with 18 wins in 21 games, including the victory in Augsburg.

A perfect record in the German Cup – four wins from four – and Champions League – seven from seven – sees Bayern well placed in both competitions for a possible repeat of the treble achieved in Heynckes’ previous stint in 2013.

The only issue Bayern has with Heynckes is that he won’t continue. The 72-year-old former striker has long maintained that he will go back into retirement once the season is done.

Bayern coach Heynckes and Franck Ribery (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

TACTICS

Jupp Heynckes reverted to the 4-2-3-1 system he favored in the treble-winning season for most games this time round, but he has also shown willingness to tinker with the system depending on the opponents.

He also coaxed a better work-rate from his players, starting with league top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who pressurizes defenders for the ball and helps to win back possession.

Heynckes returned to the wide areas as key facets of the side’s attack. Franck Ribery, despite celebrating his 35th birthday against Augsburg, has enjoyed a renaissance on the left wing. Kingsley Coman (before his injury) and Arjen Robben have also excelled, helped by overlapping pace from David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich.

IMPROVEMENT

Arturo Vidal was criticized by Jupp Heynckes shortly after returning, saying the combative midfielder wasn’t working hard enough and that others were ahead of him in the pecking order.

But the Chile midfielder, familiar to Heynckes from their days together at Bayer Leverkusen, responded as Heynckes undoubtedly knew he would and has since emerged as one of the team’s key players in fighting for midfield possession. Vidal has also chipped in six goals.

James Rodriguez is another player to have blossomed under Heynckes, returning to the form that prompted Real Madrid to pay a reported 80 million euros for his services in 2014. Madrid could yet regret letting him go.

MONEY

Bayern is by far the richest club in Germany thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals, TV money, ticket sales and other sources of revenue. Last season the club posted a record turnover of 640.5 million euros ($759 million) with profits up 22.2 percent on the season before.

Borussia Dortmund, the next nearest challenger, lags well behind with turnover of 405.7 million euros for 2016-17.

Bayern’s financial clout means it can afford to turn down mega-money advances for its best players. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently ruled out Robert Lewandowski moving to Real Madrid. Bayern can also cherry-pick the best of what the rest of the Bundesliga has to offer.

Schalke’s Leon Goretzka is joining for free next season.

COMPETITION

Bayern had no challengers for the title after Borussia Dortmund’s early promise collapsed. Schalke, the best of the rest, is clearly not at the same level, despite its improvement under new coach Domenico Tedesco. Bayern has scored almost twice as many goals.

Faced with the added strain of European football, last year’s runner-up Leipzig was unable to mount a challenge.

Dortmund faces another summer of rebuilding, while Bayer Leverkusen has been too inconsistent to mount a challenge under new coach Heiko Herrlich.

“It looks like we’ll also be German champions next year,” Heynckes said last month.

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.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Everton make $65.6 million bid for Richarlison, Mbappe, and more

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For the second-consecutive season, Everton is set to bring in another big-money signing.

On the heels of last year’s nearly $60 million deal to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton looks set to sign Watford winger Richarlison for a $65.6 million transfer fee. Everton manager Marco Silva coached Richarlison when Silva was Watford manager and has been looking to reunite with the 21-year-old Brazilian.

[READ: Argentine World Cup drama]

Richarlison began his time at Watford in fine form, scoring give goals by the end of November and looking dangerous along the wings. But the goals dried up and defenders began to figure out how to mark him out of the game, neutralizing his danger.

At Everton, Richarlison is going to be expected to lift this side back into a strong position in the table, following a rough year for the club.

Here’s more transfer rumors from across the Premier League, Europe and North America:

(more…)

Roma’s American owner Palotta banned for three months by UEFA

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AS Roma owner James Pallotta has been punished by UEFA for calling the officiating “an absolute joke” after Roma were bounced by Liverpool in last year’s UEFA Champions League.

UEFA announced on Friday that Pallotta had been given a three-month ban for “improper conduct.” UEFA stated that Pallotta is banned “from carrying out his function during UEFA competition matches in which he would otherwise participate, starting from AS Roma’s first UEFA competition match of the 2018/2019 season. In particular, the official may not be in the technical area or communicate directly or indirectly with the team’s players and/or technical staff during the match and may not enter the dressing room or tunnel before or during the match.”

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pallotta made headlines around the world for his reactions in Rome, including jumping into one of the city’s many famous fountains after Roma knocked out Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.

However, against Liverpool, Roma’s dream run came to an end, with the Reds winning 7-6 on aggregate in a wild 180 minutes of action. Pallotta, speaking after Roma was knocked out, stated it was “an absolute joke” that UEFA didn’t have video assistant refereeing, which may have helped give Roma a penalty kick on two occasions.

While Pallotta may appeal, this suspension isn’t too serious. It appears that Pallotta can still sit in the owners box and attend UEFA matches, just not be in the technical area or in the tunnel before and during the game.

Messi, Mascherano confronted Argentine coaching staff at World Cup

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After two games at the 2018 World Cup, Argentina was in serious trouble.

With an aging team that lacked world class defenders, the Albiceleste managed just a draw with Iceland while eventual World Cup finalists Croatia reminded Argentina what it used to have in midfield with a dominating 3-0 win.

The defeat put Argentina in a precarious position, needing a win on the final group stage day and some luck to go through into the knockout stage past Nigeria and Iceland. Now, a new book by Argentine journalist Ariel Senosiain could shed some light on what happened between the match against Croatia and Nigeria.

According to Senosian’s digital book, called El Mundial es Historias, Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano ordered a meeting with manager Jorge Sampaoli and his coaching staff, and it did not go down well.

“We don’t get what you say, we don’t trust you anymore and we want to have an opinion,” Messi and Mascherano are reported to have said to Sampaoli, which surprised the veteran manager. When Sampaoli asked the players what they wanted an opinion on, they responded, “everything.”

Messi was reportedly also upset with Sampaoli for the manager asking Messi who he thought should come on as a substitute during the match.

“You asked me 10 times which players you wanted me to see on and which ones I didn’t and I never gave you a name,” Messi reportedly said.

In the days following the defeat to Croatia, many reports emerged out of the Argentina camp that Messi had essentially organized a mutiny, and he was going to select the squad and tactical instructions. The team made the switch from a three-man backline to a more standard 4-4-2, and it delivered some better performances, even though Argentina’s defense was still shambolic, especially in the 4-3 defeat to France.

With 15 members of the 23-man roster over the age of 30 and no head coach, the Argentina National Team is set for a huge upheavel, and there’s not much in terms of youth players who could replace the likes of Mascherano, Banega, Otamendi and of course Messi and Sergio Aguero in the lineup.

These alleged quotes are just the beginning of what should be a messy year for Argentina, as it tries to get itself back on track, renewing its youth development and forming the next generation of Albiceleste stars.

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