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Bayern’s history meets upstart Leipzig in German Cup final

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BERLIN (AP) Their histories, and lists of achievements, couldn’t be more different.

Bayern Munich has won 54 major titles, while Leipzig has none. Bayern has been around for 119 years, Leipzig 10.

Luckily for Leipzig, though, those numbers won’t mean much when the two teams meet in the German Cup final on Saturday.

Bayern won its 29th German league title last Saturday and is bidding for a record-extending 19th German Cup win. But Leipzig will head into the match knowing it’s no pushover.

Leipzig held Bayern to a 0-0 draw in the Bundesliga’s penultimate round – delaying the Bavarian club’s title celebrations by another week – while Bayern needed penalties to get past Leipzig in their only previous German Cup meeting in October 2017.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who won the title with Eintracht Frankfurt against his future club last year, is preparing for his third straight final. Kovac, however, is under pressure after his debut season at Bayern and would boost his case to remain with a win.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, who is really the club’s sporting director, is leading the opposing team on an interim basis this season before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim to take over.

Leipzig’s mere existence is a source of ire for rival fans who object to its fast rise, which was made possible by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull and its co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz. The 75-year-old Austrian billionaire bought a local fifth-tier team, SSV Markranstadt, rebranded it with his company’s name and financed its steady promotion through the lower leagues to the Bundesliga.

Few at the club could have imagined that it would be so successful, so quickly. Leipzig finished second and qualified for the Champions League in its debut Bundesliga season, dropped to sixth because of the added burden of European games in its next, and comfortably finished third after another solid campaign this season.

It would not have been possible without Red Bull, which already had the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana in its portfolio of soccer clubs.

Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff defended receiving a loan of 134.2 million euros ($150 million) from the energy drink behemoth, saying Friday that it was necessary for the establishment of what has become a highly successful club.

“That we had to take a loan as a start-up company, to invest in bricks and legs, is right,” Mintzlaff told the Frankfurter Rundschau daily newspaper. “But if we were to sell everything that was achieved here, purely theoretically, the club would have made a very, very big plus. There would be big double-digit, maybe even a triple-digit million figure remaining.”

Leipzig’s turnover is 250 million euros ($279 million), compared to Bayern’s 657.4 ($734 million) for 2017-18.

Mintzlaff said the club was among the “most transparent soccer clubs,” in contrast to the likes of Volkswagen-backed Wolfsburg.

“We don’t hide anything. We wouldn’t get a license if we didn’t pay our debts,” Mintzlaff said. “Other clubs that get money from other backers do it, too. Borussia Dortmund is a stock cooperation, Hertha Berlin has got an investor on board, Schalke has (food industry billionaire) Clemens Tonnies.”

Bayern is backed by sportswear giant Adidas, carmaker Audi and financial services company Allianz, with each holding an 8.33% stake in the club, which has further lucrative sponsorship deals with Deutsche Telekom, DHL, Siemens, Goodyear, SAP, Paulaner beer and Qatar Airways. The latter is the subject of protest from some Bayern fans.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Felix makes decision; Neymar to leave PSG?

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Benfica youngster Joao Felix, 19, has reportedly decided to join Atletico Madrid.

Reports in Spain from Marca said that a deal for Felix has been agreed between Benfica and Atletico, with the Portuguese star deciding to head to La Liga instead of the Premier League with both Manchester City and Manchester United keen on signing him.

Felix has a release clause of $125 million in his Benfica contract and since the reports broke in Spain his current club have released a statement denying that a deal with Atletico has been done and that Felix’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is set to earn a huge $45 million from the transfer deal.

“In view of the set of news published in these last hours, Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Futebol, SAD clarifies that it is false that any negotiation process is currently under way regarding a possible transfer of player Joao Felix. The conditions for its negotiation are public and known, taking into account the termination clause defined in the amount of 120 million euros.

“More serious, and that deserves our most vehement repudiation and denial, is the false news that refers to negotiations that involve commissions of 30% and which, unfortunately, was echoed in Portugal by the newspaper ‘A Bola’, with intentions and goals that we do not know at all. We repeat: this information is totally false, absurd and has clearly intentional intentions for the reputation and dignity of Sport Lisboa e Benfica.”

The Portuguese international burst onto the scene in 2018-19 as he scored 20 goals from midfield to lead Benfica to the Portuguese title and a deep run in the UEFA Europa League.

With Antoine Griezmann on his way out of Atletico this summer, they will have some serious cash to spend and Benfica have been holding out for Felix’s reported release clause as clubs have tried to haggle it down by $20-25 million. There statement is strong that Felix is going nowhere, for now, but these reports suggest a move to Atletico is imminent.

Felix remains one of the top young talents in European soccer and these reports may well give the likes of City and United a friendly nudge in the right direction if they are serious about signing the free-scoring midfielder.


It appears Paris Saint-Germain are getting pretty fed up with the Neymar and a few of their other superstars.

In an interview with France Football PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was asked about the speculation regarding Neymar’s future and came up with this response.

“I want players willing to give everything to defend the honour of the jersey and to join the club project,” Al-Khelaifi said. “Those who do not want that, or do not understand, we will meet and we will talk to each other. There are of course contracts to be respected, but the priority now is total membership of our project. Nobody forced him to sign here. Nobody pushed him. He came knowingly to join a project.”

Wow. That sounds like a man at the end of his tether.

Neymar arrived from Barcelona in 2017 for a world-record fee of $262 million and Kylian Mbappe arrived from Monaco initially on loan and then for the second-largest transfer fee in history at $200 million.

The former has been linked with a move to Real Madrid throughout the summer, while Mbappe spoke about the possibility of experiencing something new after he was named the Ligue 1 player of the year.

But Neymar is front and center here. Is that harsh given his plethora of injuries for club and country in recent seasons? His conduct off the pitch suggest these stern words from Al-Khelaifi are directly squarely at him.

After he was suspended for three UEFA Champions League games for next season after verbally abusing referees on social media, he was also reprimanded for hitting a fan after PSG’s defeat in the French Cup final to Rennes. His behavior off the pitch has further been called into question after last week a woman alleged she was raped by the Brazilian superstar.

PSG’s main aim is to dominate European soccer but despite Al-Khelaifi leading the charge and their Qatari owners pouring billions into the project, they haven’t got past the last eight stage in the UCL. Even though Thomas Tuchel’s side continue to dominate French soccer with six titles in the last seven seasons, European glory is what PSG crave.

Until Neymar is fully focused on the PSG project, it is unlikely to happen.

No deal: Willian, Wan-Bissaka bids rejected

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According to Sky Sports Chelsea have reportedly rejected $44 million bids from both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona for their Brazilian winger Willian.

Willian, 29, has just 12 months left on his current contract at Chelsea but given their transfer ban and after losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid already this summer, the west London club are not willing to lose a player they believe will be key for them next season.

With Pedro and Christian Pulisic also around in the wide midfield positions, the fact that Callum Hudson-Odoi is recovering from a long-term injury also means that Willian is needed at Stamford Bridge.

He turns 30 soon and he has been linked with a move to Barca in the past. That said, his experience and quality will be needed for this young Chelsea squad and with Hazard gone he can now step up and be the main man cutting inside and scoring goals.


Another London club have turned down a bid, as Crystal Palace have brushed aside an offer of $44 million up front plus another $19 million in add-ons from Manchester United for right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The 21-year-old was Palace’s Player of the Season in 2018-19 and excelled in his first full season as a professional.

Man United are desperate to bolster their defense, with right back and center back key areas where they want to strengthen this summer.

Wan-Bissaka is currently away with the England U21 squad for the European Championships in Italy and Palace know it will be tough to hang on to both him and Wilfried Zaha this summer as the latter has reaffirmed his desire to challenge for trophies and play in the UEFA Champions League.

Sky Sports believe that a straight offer of $65 million would be accepted, and United will likely return to pay what Palace want for one of the most promising right backs in the Premier League.

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 11

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The first double headers of the 2019 Women’s World Cup has arrived, as Groups A and B come to a close on Monday.

Hosts France are already through to the last 16 of the tournament but they face Nigeria who are aiming to finish in second place as they have three points from their first two games, and so do Norway who face South Korea in the other Group A finale.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news

Germany are already through from Group B and a win against South Africa, who sit bottom of the standings, will see them top the group. The real drama will be in the game between Spain and China as both teams have three points heading into their final group game.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Monday, June 17 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group B: China v. Spain – 12 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group B: South Africa v. Germany – 12 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Group A: Nigeria v. France – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group A: South Korea v. Norway – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

USWNT: “We have best team and second best team in world”

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Well, I’m sure this will calm down the folks who believe the USWNT are overconfident and a tad arrogant after scoring 16 goals and conceding zero in their opening two games of the 2019 Women’s World Cup…

Via Andrew Keh from the New York Times, defender Ali Krieger believes that such is the incredible depth of Jill Ellis’ U.S. women’s national team, they actually have the best team on the planet and also the second best team.

“We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world,” Krieger said of the no. 1 ranked team on the planet.

Alex Morgan added that the USWNT have “two starting lineups” and the fact that Ellis made seven changes from the team which beat Thailand 13-0 and the U.S. then beat Chile 3-0 on Sunday says a lot.

All 20 of the USWNT’s outfield players have now played at the World Cup, and ahead of their Group F showdown with Sweden on Thursday for top spot it is likely the U.S. will continue to rotate its starting lineup.

In a month-long tournament, having such a large squad of talent to call on is enviable and Ellis knows it.

The USWNT toned down their goal celebrations from the 13-0 hammering of Thailand to the relatively run-of-the-mill victory against Chile, but their confidence levels haven’t dipped at all.

Just as the fresh legs will take them far in this tournament, so too will a whole squad brimming with confidence after getting valuable minutes at a World Cup.

It will be intriguing to hear what France, England and Germany think about these claims that the USWNT’s reserve squad is better than they are…