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Official: Juventus sign Cristiano Ronaldo for $123 million

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The Cristiano Ronaldo era at Real Madrid is over. The Ronaldo era at Juventus is just beginning.

Real Madrid confirmed multiple reports on Tuesday, stating that it had agreed a transfer with Juventus for the Portuguese star forward. Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport reports that the transfer was agreed for $123 million, with Ronaldo signing a four-year contract worth more than $35 million per season.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Real Madrid released a statement thanking Ronaldo for his nine seasons with Los Blancos in Spain’s capital.

“Real Madrid CF communicates that, in response to the will and request expressed by the player Cristiano Ronaldo, he has agreed to transfer to Juventus FC. Today, Real Madrid wants to express its gratitude to a player who has proved to be the best in the world and who has marked one of the brightest times in the history of our club and world football.

“Beyond the conquered titles, the trophies achieved and the triumphs achieved in the playing fields during these 9 years, Cristiano Ronaldo has been an example of dedication, work, responsibility, talent and improvement. He has also become the top scorer in the history of Real Madrid with 451 goals in 438 games. In total 16 titles, including four European Cups, three of them consecutive and four in the last five seasons. On an individual basis, with the Real Madrid jersey he has won four Ballon d’Ors, two FIFA Player of the Year awards, and three Golden Boots, among many other awards.

“For Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo will always be one of his great symbols and a unique reference for the next generations. Real Madrid will always be your home.”

One of the big questions now, for soccer fans in America, is whether Ronaldo will be with Juventus’ squad when it takes on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta on August 1. Ronaldo is still on vacation after another long, grueling season and he may need another 2-3 weeks before he even returns to light training.

But perhaps, to appease the marketing side of Juventus, Ronaldo will make his return a little earlier than expected.

In a letter to Real Madrid fans, Ronaldo said his time in Madrid was the happiest of his life.

These years in Real Madrid, and in this city of Madrid, have been possibly the happiest of my life,” Ronaldo wrote. “I only have feelings of enormous gratitude for this club, for this job and for this city. I can only thank all of them for the love and affection I have received. However, I believe that the time has come to open a new stage in my life and that is why I have asked the club to accept transferring me. I feel that way and I ask everyone, and especially our supporters, to please understand me.

“They have been absolutely wonderful for nine years. They have been nine unique years. It has been an exciting time for me, full of consideration but also hard because Real Madrid is a very demanding club, but I know very well that I will never forget that I have enjoyed football here in a unique way. I have had fabulous teammates in the field and in the dressing room, I have felt the warmth of an incredible crowd and together we have won three Champions in a row and four Champions in five years. And with them also, on an individual level, I have the satisfaction of having won four Golden Balls and three Golden Boots. All during my time in this immense and extraordinary club.

“Real Madrid has conquered my heart, and that of my family, and that is why more than ever I want to say thank you: thanks to the club, the President, the directors, my colleagues, all the technicians, doctors, physios and incredible workers that make everything work and that are pending every detail tirelessly. Thank you infinitely once more to our fans and thanks also to Spanish Football. During these nine exciting years I have had great players in front of me. My respect and my recognition for all of them.

“I have reflected a lot and I know that the time has come for a new cycle. I’m leaving but this shirt, this shield and the Santiago Bernabéu will continue to always feel as my own wherever I am. Thanks to all and, of course, as I said that first time in our stadium nine years ago: Hala Madrid!”

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace

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  • Reds open weekend with 4-point table lead
  • Palace four pts clear of drop zone
  • Reds won 2-0 at Palace in August
  • Liverpool leads all-time 27W-11D-14L

There’s a bit of a rub to the easy storyline here, that league’s stingiest defense hosts one of the least productive attacks when Liverpool entertains Crystal Palace at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Reds have allowed just three goals at home this Premier League season, but Palace has scored 14 of its 20 league goals away from Selhurst Park.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Eagles have also won their last two away matches, beating Man City and Wolves.

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on Andy Robertson signing a new contract“I remember when we signed him back in the summer of 2017, I spoke a lot about ‘his story, his journey’ and how much I loved it and thought it pointed to the type of person and player he would be for us. He has exceeded these expectations. He might be from Glasgow originally, but everything about him screams Liverpool.”

Palace’s Andros Townsend on playing up top“I have thoroughly enjoyed it. At first, I didn’t think it would work. I remember me and Wilf [Zaha] speaking to each other and thinking, ‘how is this going to work? We will get bullied by the centre halves.’ But for one reason or another, it has just clicked and we have enjoyed it. We have both been involved in a lot more of the play, and everything went through us two and we thrived off of that, and ended up doing very well.”

Prediction

The Eagles get on the board against Liverpool, helped by their fullback pair of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick Van Aanholt, but don’t have enough to outlast the Reds. 2-1 Liverpool.

Premier League odds: Chelsea matchweek away favorite at Arsenal

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The reality an away-team win could be in both clubs’ interest might be the place to start with this week’s Super Sunday matchup.

Chelsea is the +135 away favorite on the Premier League odds with host Arsenal coming back at +205, while the draw is priced at +260 on the three-way moneyline and there is a 3.0-goals total for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

[ MORE: Bundesliga 2nd half preview ]

Chelsea, which has three consecutive one-goal wins in its last three away matches, could all but eliminate Arsenal from top-four contention (and the automatic berth in the 2019-20 Champions League), and a Gunners side thinned-out by injuries and turmoil might welcome the chance to put more of its eggs in the Europa League basket.

Eden Hazard (+400 first goal scorer, -125 anytime) will likely feature for Chelsea now that Alvaro Morata is shipping off to Atletico Madrid of Spain. Chelsea by 1 Goal (+350) and Either Team 2-1 (+350) offer good value in Winning Margin and Correct Score Group props at online sports betting sites.

Elsewhere this weekend, Wolverhampton (+130) has won or drawn against Leicester City (+245, draw +225) in nine of their last 10 home matchups and the inconsistent Foxes’ last six away matches have all finished UNDER 2.5 goals. There is a little more value with looking at Wolverhampton 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 (+185) in Correct Score Group props, and Raul Jimenez (+500 first goal scorer, +200 anytime) should be a factor offensively.

Liverpool (-500) and Crystal Palace (+1500, draw +600), in relative terms, both have strong scoring trends with the Reds having scored at least three goals in their last three home games and the Eagles having netted twice in each of their last three away games. Liverpool win/yes (+150) and Yes/Over 2.5 (+125) are the percentage plays in Both Teams To Score props.

Newcastle United (EVEN) and Cardiff City (+335, draw +230) are both in the relegation zone and reeling of late, with Newcastle winless in five games while Cardiff has banked only one win its last seven games (all competitions). Newcastle has injuries to key cogs such as Jamaal Lascelles (hamstring) and Isaac Hayden (back). Those factors make Cardiff enticing on the double chance (+180), while tie/no (+800), that is betting on a 0-0 draw, has good value in Both Teams To Score Props.

Huddersfield Town (+2000) hosting Manchester City (-650, draw +700) for a Sunday  matchup right after sacking manager David Wagner begs the question of how to divine some Man City betting values. The any other score (+175) in Correct Score Group props covers the possibility of City scoring four or more goals in a win where it also concedes; it’s the same payout as No/Over 2.5 in Both Teams To Score props.

And Fulham (+425) hosts a Tottenham (-125, draw +255) side in its first game since learning Harry Kane (ankle) will be out until March. The overall trends, though, show that Fulham’s last six home games against Tottenham have gone OVER 2.5 goals, and the visiting Spurs have won seven of their last nine away games. Kane’s absence could make Tottenham try new modes of attack and winger Dele Alli (+600 first scorer, +200 anytime) could capitalize.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Pep: Fernandinho is amazing, but we need to find him relief

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Pep Guardiola says Manchester City has “three or four” targets in mind as long-term replacements for Fernandinho.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

There is no debate that the club has been markedly better with the 33-year-old in the center of the park, with City losing both of its Premier League matches that the Brazilian missed this season (Palace and Leicester City back-to-back).

“I think with the way we play we need a guy who has of course physicality, is quick in the head and reading where our spaces to attack are,” Guardiola said Friday ahead of a Sunday visit to Huddersfield Town.

“As many things as he can do, the better. I know it is not easy to find one player who can do everything. [You have to deal with] the price, the agents and the club if you want to buy the players so we will see.”

The 49-times capped Fernandinho has been one of the more overlooked players during his time at City, posting big performance scores even before Guardiola arrived at the Etihad Stadium.

But how long can he continue to thrive in that role? Certainly not too much longer if City can’t give him some relief. That’s no indictment on the player, rather a 33-year-old who plays with such physicality and piles up minutes across all competitions.

The Bundesliga is back: What to watch for

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The Winterpause ends Friday, as Bayern Munich visits Hoffenheim with a new feel for its first match of a calendar year: That of the title chaser.

The six-time defending Bundesliga champions enter the second half of the season six points back of Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

Still 2.5 months from the next Der Klassiker (April 6 at the Allianz Arena), Bayern has to navigate a title fight without the chance to directly affect its rivals. Both clubs face Premier League opposition in the Champions League — Bayern with Liverpool, BVB v. Spurs — and neither has a particularly easy start to 2019. Other storylines to watch:

How much will Christian Pulisic’s transfer further affect his playing time? Whether or not Pulisic leaves for Chelsea as a Bundesliga champion is one thing, but many American eyes will be trained upon how often he’s deployed by Lucien Favre at Borussia Dortmund.

Let’s be clear on one thing: Favre has rotated his forwards heavily between Champions League and the Bundesliga. Jadon Sancho has played 1025 minutes, Jacob Bruun Larsen 830, Maximilian Philipp 515, Paco Alcacer 503, and Pulisic 483. Numbers two through eight on the playing time scale are defenders or midfielders (Marco Reus is first with 1483).

Amongst BVB attackers in the Champions League, however, only Reus has played more than Pulisic’s 339 minutes. And while Pulisic played 1 and 2 minutes in consecutive Bundesliga matches, he went 90 against Monaco in the UCL match separating those sub spots.

In other words, this isn’t as much of a quagmire as some Americans would lead you to believe. Yes, ex-Man City man Jadon Sancho has stolen Pulisic’s wonder boy numbers and title, but the kid isn’t being left in the cold.

Is Weston McKennie heading for Liverpool? It seems more likely a new deal is coming at Schalke, but you could easily see Jurgen Klopp liking the versatility of the 20-year-old midfielder as its midfield gets a bit older.

Schalke’s American midfielder Weston McKennie (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

What about the rest of the Americans (and a Canadian)? Almost as many eyes will be on Tyler Adams as the New York Red Bulls product takes the next step at RB Leipzig. FC Dallas’ Chris Richards is also now with Bayern Munich, while Canadian phenom Alphonso Davies begins his much-anticipated time with Bayern.

John Brooks of Wolfsburg is the top-rated American player in the top flight this season via WhoScored.com, one of eight Yanks to take the field.

Here are the Americans abroad in Germany :

Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund — 11 apps, 483 mins, 1G-2A
Weston McKennie, Schalke — 13 apps, 778 mins, 1G-1A
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen —
2 goals in 45 senior minutes
John Brooks, Wolfsburg — 16 apps, 1440 mins, 1G-1A
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig  —  
Arrived in January
Haji Wright, Schalke  —  5 senior games, 1 goal
Bobby Wood, Hannover 96 — 14 apps, 913 mins, 3G-1A
Aron Johannsson, Werder Bremen — Hasn’t played
Fabian Johnson, ‘Gladbach — 11 apps, 543 mins, 1 goal
Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Hasn’t played
Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — 11 apps, 917 mins, 1 goal
Caleb Stanko, Freiburg — Hasn’t played
Timothy Tillman, Nurnberg — Hasn’t played

How low will Schalke finish? A dreadful start to the season has last season’s No. 2 team, Schalke, sitting four points above the relegation playoff spot, nine back of the last Europa League spot, and 13 behind the Top Four.

Schalke’s other route to Europe include the DFB-Pokal, where they next face Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Round of 16, and winning the Champions League (Manchester City is their next opponent).

Will Robert Lewandowski defend his Golden Boot? The Bayern Munich star is chasing his fourth time leading the league in goals since 2013-14, his final year at Dortmund. Here are the current leaders:

Race for the Golden Boot
Pos Name Total
1 Luka Jovic, Eintracht Frankfurt 12
1 Paco Alcácer, Borussia Dortmund 12
3 Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund 11
3 Timo Werner, RB Leipzig 11
5 Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich 10
6 Sebastien Haller, Eintracht Frankfurt 9
6 Thorgan Hazard, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
6 Alessane Plea, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
9 Youssef Poulsen, RB Leipzig 8
10 Alfred Finnbogason, Augsburg 7

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

Will any of the new boys survive? Two teams go down and a third goes to a playoff game against the third place team in 2.Bundesliga (currently FC St. Pauli).

This season, the four latest teams to earn promotion are all in danger of the drop. Here’s how bottom of the table looks:

14. Fortuna Dusseldorf(2018/19) – 18
15. Augsburg (2011/12) – 15
16. Stuttgart (2017/18) – 14
17. Hannover 96 (2017/18) – 11
18. Nurnberg (2018/19) -11