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Russia World Cup star Cheryshev investigated for doping

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Russian winger Denis Cheryshev, who went from bench substitute to four-goal scorer at this summer’s World Cup in his home country, is under investigation by Spain’s anti-doping agency, according to multiple reports including the BBC and ESPN.

The 27-year-old is reportedly under investigation by the Spanish anti-doping agency AEPSAD for the use of human growth hormone (HGH) after his father Dimitri told a Russian media outlet that his son was taking HGH. The use of HGH without an exemption would be a violation of the anti-doping rules and could lead to a four-year ban.

Dimitri Cheryshev had initially told Russian publication Sport Weekend that his son was taking HGH to treat an injury, but later attempted to clarify his remarks to say he meant vitamin “growth factor” and that his quotes were misinterpreted. Denis Cheryshev missed most of both the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons due to persistent injuries. A hamstring injury nagged him throughout the the 2015/16 campaign with both Real Madrid and Valencia, limiting him to just 7 La Liga appearances that year, eventually needing surgery in May which kept him out of Euro 2016. He made just 11 appearances for Villareal in 2016/17 due to constant muscle problems.

“We have opened an investigation to get more information regarding this case,” an AEPSAD spokesman said to ESPN. “We are investigating the case in collaboration with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and we are in contact with the World Anti-Doping Agency. This case has emerged following the comments made by the player, Cheryshev, and his father. We want to know more information. We have started the process but it’s still early to draw conclusions. We don’t know how long this case will take.”

According to the Telegraph, the Russian Football Union has claimed Cheryshev received platelet-rich plasma injection, which is legal. They also accused the journalist in the initial Sport Weekend story of misquoting Dimitri, and while the newspaper claimed the quote was correct, they also corroborated the father’s claim that he meant “growth factor” claiming he even referred to the treatment as such later in the interview.

Cheryshev was not expected to play a significant part in Russia’s World Cup plans, but when he came off the bench for an injured Alan Dzagoev and scored two goals in the win over Saudi Arabia and scored again in the subsequent victory over Egypt, he was undroppable, contributing heavily in Russia’s surprising run to the quarterfinals. Overall he has five international goals in 18 appearances for Russia.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.