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Reports: Football Leaks reveals documents alleging fraud against PSG

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Paris Saint-Germain is in the headlines again, this time for financial reasons.

Football Leaks, a website that has published leaked information pertaining to soccer, released to a pair of media outlets, Mediapart in France and Der Spiegel in Germany, documents alleging fraud and greed at the highest levels of European soccer. Pertaining to PSG, documents provided to Mediapart state that the nation of Qatar invested more than $2 billion into the club after purchasing the team in 2011. It was that very year that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules went into effect, and the money brought into the club likely would have led to harsh penalties against PSG, including being barred from the UEFA competitions, including the Champions League.

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The reports make the shocking claim that then-UEFA president Michel Platini and then-UEFA general secretary, now FIFA president Gianni Infantino helped cover up this information, keeping PSG in the Champions League and much of their investment off the books.

At the time, the FFP rules were put into place to promote and force clubs to try and balance the books, that way they wouldn’t be subject to overspending beyond their means and in a few years, become liquidated and destroyed as a club. However, it was around this time when wealthy business people from the Middle East and later east Asia began investing heavily in clubs, leveraging their vast fortunes against the club’s debts and transfer fees.

The second story in Der Spiegel centers around how in 2016, Bayern Munich lawyers were looking into the feasibility of withdrawing from the Bundesliga, not allowing players to play for national teams and potentially joining a European super league. Bayern Munich has denied any involvement in this story but if the reports are true, then it appears that there was serious consideration at the highest levels of Bayern about whether they should leave the Bundesliga to make more money.

Bayern and the rest of the teams that potentially would have been in the super league eventually won concessions from UEFA, including giving the top four nations in terms of coefficient four direct spots in the Champions League group stage, ensuring that the top four clubs in nations like England, Spain, Italy and Germany were reassured that they’d be playing meaningful European games in the fall and potentially in the spring.

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.


U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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