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Sampaoli leaves his post as Argentina manager

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The 2018 World Cup body count has risen.

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has been relieved of his duties after he oversaw their departure in the Round of 16 with a loss to France. According to multiple reports, first by Hernan Castillo of TNT Sports, the decision was made after Sampaoli met with Argentina FA chief Claudio Tapia on Sunday.

Sampaoli began as Argentina manager only last June with the team struggling in World Cup qualification. He saw them qualify in the final guaranteed CONMEBOL spot with three draws and a win in his four matches in charge, but the team was far from solid.

[ MORE: Sampaoli is this World Cup’s biggest group stage loser ]

The World Cup for Argentina was a disaster, and Sampaoli was at the heart of their failures. Lionel Messi was left on an island for nearly the entire tournament, and Sampaoli had no answers, chopping and changing the starting lineup hoping that something would stick. He took numerous tactical risks, and changed things significantly with each game.

The results spoke for themselves. After an opening round draw with Iceland where the Argentina attack was almost completely stifled, they were comprehensively walloped by Luka Modric and Croatia. With qualification on the line, they required a late winner from defender Marcos Rojo to save them from group stage elimination. Still, they were overwhelmed by France in the Round of 16, beaten 4-3 in a game where the scoreline flattered them somewhat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

After the loss to France, Sampaoli admitted he wasn’t able to support Messi with the help he needed. “On a personal level it is a great frustration,” Sampaoli said. “We had the best player in the world and we tried to put him in a position to score. We tried to surround him with the right players to take advantage of that talent, it is a talent that no other team has.”

While Sampaoli will still be a highly coveted manager thanks to his success with Chile, his most recent stops at Sevilla and with Argentina will give some prospective employers reason to consider other options.

Sampaoli is the second manager to depart his post after defeat in the 2018 World Cup, following Egypt boss Hector Cuper.

Oxlade-Chamberlain back in Liverpool training

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in Liverpool training, nine months after a horrible injury cost him the chance to appear in the UEFA Champions League Final.

Initially ruled out for the duration of the 2018-19 season following an ACL year, “The Ox” is giving the Reds a boost in Dubai.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

The 25-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain posted five goals and seven assists in his first season at Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has 32 England caps and 283 senior appearances between Southampton, Arsenal, and Liverpool. He left the Gunners in part because of a desire to play a more central role in the midfield.

Oxlade-Chamberlain detailed his recovery late last year. There’s yet to be discussion of when he might be fit to return to match play, but Liverpool will be careful with its industrious playmaker.

Montreal owner Saputo hands presidency duties to Gilmore

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Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo is giving the reigns of his club to a new president.

Saputo announced Tuesday that he’s handing over presidency duties to Kevin Gilmore, the former chief operating officer of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

The Saputo family founded the Impact in 1992, and Joey Saputo shepherded the club into Major League Soccer.

The Impact is coached by Remi Garde, the former Aston Villa boss, and has Designated Players in Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taidir. The Bleu-blanc-noir just started training camp.

Cardiff “very distressed,” “praying for positive news” regarding Sala

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Cardiff City executive director Ken Choo has released a statement on the missing flight from France to Wales which carried new signing Emiliano Sala.

Crews in Wales continue to search for the plane, which disappeared from radar late Monday night.

Fans have flocked to Cardiff City Stadium and Nantes town square to lay flowers in hopes of a miraculous recovery for Sala and his pilot.

From Cardiff City’s official site:

“We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.

“Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.

“We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.

“All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.

“We continue to pray for positive news.”

Ronaldo pleads guilty to tax fraud at Madrid court

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo has pleaded guilty to tax fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.

The Juventus forward, who was facing charges stemming from his days at Real Madrid, was in court for about 45 minutes and signed an agreement which will cost him nearly 19 million euros ($21.6 million) in fines.

[ MORE: Latest on Emiliano Sala ]

Ronaldo arrived at court in a black van and was wearing a black sports coat and black pants. He walked up some stairs leading to the court house and even stopped to sign an autograph.

Ronaldo made the deal to plead guilty with Spain’s state prosecutor and tax authorities last year.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

In 2017, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.7 million). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.

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