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Could Bale have a future at Real Madrid?

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It’s hardly a secret that Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale didn’t exactly see eye to eye by the end of last season, shortly before Zidane’s departure.

Now with Zidane back, questions are being asked, could Bale be allowed to leave, or offered to clubs at a cut-rate fee? If Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett is correct, the Welshman isn’t going anywhere.

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In an interview with the BBC, Barnett said that despite some of the optics, Bale is actually happy in Madrid. He also said that Bale wants to stay in Madrid, despite the return of Zidane earlier this week to managing the side.

“Yes, why not?,” Barnett told the BBC. “He wants to play all his career for Real Madrid and if it does not work out, we will talk again. He will talk with Mr Zidane, take it from there and then see at the end of the season.”

Zidane’s frustrations with Bale began due to Bale’s extensive injuries, especially when he tried to rush back from them too soon, according to Spanish publication AS. After limping off with another calf injury in April 2016, Bale didn’t play again until the UEFA Champions League final that year, nearly two months later.

Bale was further marginalized as Zidane went away from the 4-3-3 with Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in favor of a more balanced 4-4-2, with left Bale on the bench. But Bale was still struggling with injuries and even when starting, he wasn’t able to live up to expectations in terms of goals scored or assists created.

In a separate report on the BBC from Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy offered to sign Bale on a one-year loan move, but having not offered to take enough of Bale’s massive salary on-board, the offer never officially made its way to Real Madrid. In addition, with Zidane (and Ronaldo) gone, Bale had a chance to prove himself and the doubters wrong.

Unfortunately for him, it’s been another forgettable season with Los Blancos. The 29-year-old Welshman has just 10 goals in 28 games between La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, as Real Madrid looks set to miss out on a domestic or European title for the first time in many years.

If Bale is to depart Real Madrid for a fresh new start, he’ll have to take a drastic pay cut. However, he could become a regular starter for just about any Premier League team. If Bale however would rather stay at Madrid, he can enjoy earning some huge money, but he’ll continue to play a side role instead of be the main man.

Jozy Altidore sidelined with hamstring injury

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Jozy Altidore‘s hamstring has seemingly failed to cooperate at the worst possible times.

The Toronto FC and USMNT striker has gone down yet again with an injury to his troublesome hamstring and will remain out for 2-3 weeks according to a report by the Associated Press. He was injured in the late stages of a wild 4-3 comeback win over Minnesota United over the weekend.

The injury is troublesome, because it comes less than two months before the United States is set to compete in the 2019 Gold Cup. While he should return in time to be an option for the United States according to the announced timetable, it brings back bad memories for national team fans who recall Altidore pulling up lame in the match against Ghana to open the 2014 World Cup, unable to play the rest of the tournament, an injury which left the United States massively undermanned the rest of the way.

Altidore has had plenty of ill-timed trouble with his hamstring over the years, most notably in 2016 which forced him out of the Copa America, a tournament which saw the United States host and finish fourth, unable to score against either Argentina or Colombia. He also had foot surgery last year around this time, forcing him out for over three months despite the initial 4-6 week timeframe announced.

The injury troubles are clearly frustrating for Altidore, given his outburst after the win over Minnesota last time out, where he criticized the club for parting ways with Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli – who was let go when Sebastian Giovinco was sold – and also hit out at club president Bill Manning for his lack of availability and failure to communicate with the squad. He apologized for the outburst, saying the two met and cleared the air.

“I let my emotions get the best of me when speaking to the media after our wild comeback win against Minnesota,” Altidore wrote on Twitter the following day. “Bill and I connected this morning and I can confidently say we’re on the same page. I know Bill and Toronto FC are committed to pulling out all the stops and dedicated to putting the team in prime position to have a successful season. We move forward together.” Manning also met with the media to downplay the incident, saying that he was planning on bringing back Gueli in a part-time role.

Altidore has not played for the national team since the fateful night in Trinidad & Tobago which saw the United States fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. During that time, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan and new full-time head coach Gregg Berhalter has used the friendlies to explore the talent pool and find options outside of the regular starters. Still, Altidore is widely believed to top the USMNT striker depth chart, and any injury that leaves his status in doubt would give Berhalter a selection headache in his first competitive event in charge.

Mark Clattenburg heads to China as head of officiating

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Mark Clattenburg left England last year at the peak of his refereeing career for a big-money move to Saudi Arabia, and it appears he has his next high-profile move sorted as well.

The recognizable referee announced he has signed on to become Head of the Referee Division and Future Development of Referees for the Chinese Super League after the expiry of his contract at his previous role. He will return to the field in this new role, refereeing Chinese Super League matches as well as overseeing the league’s officials.

“I am excited by the new challenge,” Clattenburg said in the announcement. “The Chinese Super League has grown markedly in recent years and they want the standard of refereeing to grow with it.”

The Chinese Super League has been a popular destination for big-name players nearing the end of their peak years and looking to cash in on one final contract, with players like Javier Mascherano, Paulinho, Graziano Pelle, Oscar, Hulk, and Yannick Carrasco all currently plying their trade in the Far East. Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele both just recently moved from Premier League clubs to the Chinese league. “I’m looking forward to being part of [the league’s growth],” Clattenburg said. “You look at the quality of the players, so many in the peak of their career, and it is clear to see the ambition of the league and the clubs within it.”

Clattenburg was considered the top Premier League official when he retired from on-field duties in 2017, having previously taken charge of both Champions League and Euro finals, and was in line to represent England at the World Cup before abruptly calling time on his career. He transitioned to an overseer role in Saudi Arabia where he replaced Howard Webb and was able to coach officials and also give his opinion on on-field matters. He will now return to the field as part of his new role in China, a surprising development given it seemed he was finished with active refereeing when he departed the Premier League. That leaves the door open to a possible return to officiating in England down the road, and maybe in continental competitions as well.

The move also opens the door to foreign officials refereeing domestic matches outside their home country, not something previously thought of as a common occurrence.

Watch Live: Tottenham-Brighton, Watford-Southampton

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Two Premier League matches with European implications take the field on this Tuesday afternoon as Tottenham hosts Brighton & Hove Albion while Watford welcomes Southampton to Vicarage Road.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Spurs will look to rebuild its lead in the race for the Champions League places in the table’s top four. With Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United all neck-and-neck vying for two spots, the other 3 teams all dropped points this round, leaving Tottenham with a brilliant opportunity to gain ground in third. They’ll go against a desperate 17th-placed Brighton, fighting for its life at the bottom of the table. The Seagulls sit as the last team safe, three points above Cardiff City looking for any kind of a result in a tough road matchup to build the lead over the drop to two games.

Watford, meanwhile, will look to keep pace with Everton in the race for the final Europa League position. The Hornets could guarantee themselves a spot in Europe should they finish seventh, knowing that they would qualify either via the FA Cup or their position in the table. They currently sit eighth, level on points with the Toffees, but back on goal differential. A win or draw against Southampton would restore the slim lead over a red-hot Everton side that is finishing the season strong and pressuring Watford for that final European spot. Southampton sits in 16th on 36 points, five above the relegation zone, and a win today would all but ensure Premier League survival.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Wanyama, Eriksen, Dele, Son, Lucas, Llorente.
Bench: Gazzaniga, Davies, Foyth, Sanchez, Dier, Skipp, Janssen.

Brighton: Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo, Stephens, Bissouma, Gross, Jahanbakhsh, Andone, Locadia.
Bench: Button, Burn, Bong, Balogun, Kayal, March, Murray.


Watford v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deulofeu, Pereyra, Gray.
Bench: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Femena, Chalobah, Sema.

Southampton: Gunn, Bertrand, Bednarek, Yoshida, Stephens, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Long.
Bench: Forster, Vallery, Ramsay, Lemina, Sims, Ings, Austin.

Newcastle focused on extending Bentiez despite interest from others

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According to a report by the Newcastle Chronicle, Newcastle United is desperately trying to lock down manager Rafa Benitez before the expiration of his contract at the end of June, and is rejecting any and all contact from interested parties in a show of good faith to the club’s current boss.

The report states that the latest interested party to have intermediaries make contact has been former United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but the club has to this point turned down his advances while it continues to push towards an extension with Benitez. The report by the Newcastle Chronicle followed up an earlier report by France Football stating the same.

Sporting director Lee Charnley has been attempting to sign Benitez to an extension for nearly two years, but the Spaniard has reportedly turned down all advances to this point. However with Newcastle United over the 40-point threshold usually required for safety, talks have restarted. Benitez has been reportedly asking for more control over the club’s transfer and recruitment process and wants assurances on financial backing in that department.

Still, should talks break down and Benitez moves on, a number of individuals including Klinsmann have made their interest known. Also linked with the position are David Wagner, Bruno Genesio, and Jorge Jesus.

The relationship between Benitez and the front office has not always been rosy, and Mike Ashley’s stinginess has repeatedly been a point of contention for the Spaniard. Still, Benitez is rightly seen as one of Newcastle’s most valuable assets, and if they can convince him to stick with the club through a season in the Championship, they can certainly figure out a way to keep him aboard as they target a top-half finish in the future.