Samuel Eto'o

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Tagliafico announces stay at Ajax for another year

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There may be an exodus of young talent from Dutch side Ajax this coming summer as the club continues its stunning run through the Champions League, but they are doing their best to convince as many players as possible to stick around.

The club announced Friday that Argentinian international Nicolas Tagliafico would not be leaving this summer, and while there was no contract extension to go along with the announcement, it was a short and sweet statement from the defender to help ease fans before the impending sales to come.

The 26-year-old left-back, who was a consistent starter for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup and has since worn the captain’s armband for a few post-World Cup friendlies in Lionel Messi’s absence, joined Ajax last summer from Argentinian club Independente and signed a four-year deal through the summer of 2022.

The announcement marks a slight change in heart for the Argentinian, who just a month ago admitted he could leave the Dutch side soon. “I think in the summer it could be a natural time to take the step,” Tagliafico said in early April. “But I try not to think about taking that step just yet because we have many important games to focus on. Yes, it [the transfer speculation] is flattering because I think it’s the most competitive league. When you are a child, the target is to come to Europe and play in a top league like the Premier League. I came to Ajax because of the philosophy, the style of football and the club.”

Tagliafico’s announcement comes just a month after goalkeeper Andre Onana committed his long-term future to the club with a contract extension signed in late March. “I like to play and here I have the opportunity to play and that’s why I extend my contract,” the 23-year-old goalkeeper said to the club’s official website after signing his extension through 2022. “Ajax did so many things for me and that’s why I extend my contract. For me it’s important to give something back. It was a difficult decision but when you’re a young player, it’s important to choose game time, not only going to a big club when you’re not going to play.”

Onana joined Ajax from Barcelona’s youth academy in 2015, having made his way to Spain through Samuel Eto'o‘s academy in Cameroon. His previous deal was set to expire in 2021, meaning this summer would have been the two-year mark, a popular selling time for a club that wishes to cash in on a player before his value diminishes. He had been linked with a number of top sides including Manchester United and a return to Barcelona, but the extension will give Ajax firm control over anyone who wishes to come make an offer.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong has already been officially sold to Barcelona, while fellow young Dutch stars such as Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt have been highly touted and are widely speculated to be leaving the club this summer, along with Moroccan international Hakim Ziyech. Ajax will no doubt profit greatly from their departure, but will want to learn from the mistakes Monaco made after allowing a wealth of young talent like Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoue Bakayoko all leave the club in one summer, leaving the club in a dire position this season battling relegation.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who now serves as the club’s CEO, addressed the potential departures, admitting that is the way the club stays afloat and continues the pipeline, but cautioned against selling too much.

“We know that’s a fact. That’s the history of Ajax all along. It has been in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so we know that,” he said to BT Sport before the Champions League first-leg match against Tottenham earlier in the week. “That also gives space for the younger players, guys who are 19 or 20. In two years time, they will be playing at this kind of level. We’re not going to sell seven players. We need to make sure we can stay competitive. We like this stage of the competition and we like the recognition, so we’re not going to break up the complete team. Of course that’s Ajax development, giving young players a chance.”

The presence of Tagliafico alongside veterans Daley Blind, Lasse Schone, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, plus Onana’s stay will give the club a solid base to flow more young talent through the ranks.

Liverpool duo, Aubameyang are CAF Player of the Year finalists

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Mohamed Salah‘s bid to become the third player to win consecutive African Player of the Year awards faces some stiff competition.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines, Wk 21 ]

Salah (Egypt) is joined by Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) as finalists for the confederation’s award, set to be handed out Jan. 8 in Senegal.

The Egyptian won in 2018 — his first year as a finalist — edging second place Mane and third place Aubameyang last year. Aubameyang won the award in 2015, and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez claimed the honors in 2016.

Salah will be the heavy favorite despite Aubameyang’s outstanding year, if only because he was the lone member of the three to appear in the 2018 World Cup.

Still injured from a Sergio Ramos challenge in the UEFA Champions League Final, Salah scored both of the Pharoahs goals as Egypt failed to claim a point in a group with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay.

Salah already won the BBC’s award. Surprisingly, Aubameyang was left off the BBC’s five-man shortlist, which instead chose Kalidou Koulibaly, Mehdi Benatia, and Thomas Partey. That’s trying a bit too hard, in this man’s view. Alex Iwobi and Wilfred Ndidi were also denied by the CAF.

El Hadji Diouf, Samuel Eto'o, and Yaya Toure were the others to win back-to-back African POTY honors.

Ronaldinho reportedly marrying two women at same time

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Ronaldinho always had a knack for making the difficult look simple.

He’d better hope that skill extends to a pretty unique marital arrangement.

The retired 2002 World Cup champion is going to marry two women at the same time, Priscilla Coelho and Beatriz Souza, in August.

[ MORE: Commisso “hopeful” of $500m USSF deal ]

Apparently he’s been living with the pair since December, having dated Coelho since 2013 and Souza beginning in 2016.

Ronaldinho, 38, co-existed in a three-pronged offense with Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o, so maybe?

From Yahoo! Sports:

Bigamy and polygamy are illegal in Brazil, but Ronaldinho’s case is a little different. He’s not planning to marry one woman, and then the other; he’s planning to marry both at the same time. That’s considered a three-person civil union, and they do exist in Brazil. The first one, between two women and a man, was recognized in 2012. Another was recognized in 2015, between three women who intended to raise a child together.

LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day – Window closed

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The day has arrived.

Teams looking to make mid-season improvements or jettison want-away players have until 6 p.m. ET to do so, with a flurry of deals set to take place between now and then.

[MORE: Latest transfer news]

Arsenal started the day off with a bang, signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a record fee, and there are more deals expected to be completed today, including Olivier Giroud to Chelsea and Michy Batshuayi to Chelsea. In addition, with the World Cup six months away, some other players will be looking for a loan around Europe for more playing time.

And remember, there is a live Deadline Day show on NBCSN and online from 5 p.m. ET today which you can steam by clicking on the link below.

[STREAM: Deadline Day show]

Let’s get stuck in…

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Completing the trident: Why they’ll line up for Barca

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The 2008-09 season was the year Lionel Messi’s numbers went from promising to gaudy, the Argentine wizard overtaking Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry for the team lead in goals.

Since then, he’s annually summited Barca’s goals table aside from Luis Suarez’s almost absurd 59-goal season in 2015-16. You have to say almost absurd because Messi has thrown up 50 or more goals five times, including an actually absurd 73.

[ MORE: Four keys for the USMNT ]

Here are Barca’s leading goal scorers the last nine seasons:

2008-09: Messi-38, Eto’o-36, Henry-26, Xavi-10, Bojan-10
2009-10: Messi-47, Pedro-23, Ibrahimovic-21, Bojan-12
2010-11: Messi-53, Villa-23, Pedro-22, Iniesta-9
2011-12: Messi-73, Fabregas-15, Sanchez-15, Xavi-14, Pedro-13
2012-13: Messi-60, Villa-16, Fabregas-13, Sanchez-8
2013-14: Messi-41, Alexis-19, Pedro-17, Fabregas-13, Neymar-12
2014-15: Messi-58, Neymar-39, Suarez-25, Pedro-11
2015-16: Suarez-59, Messi-41, Neymar-31, Rakitic-9
2016-17: Messi-54, Suarez-37, Neymar-20, Turan-13, Rakitic-9

So of the 30 top-scoring seasons in soccer history, Messi has three and Suarez has one. Cristiano Ronaldo has done it thrice as well, wo players have done it in Wales’ top flight, one in Estonia, and Mario Jardel scored 55 for Sporting CP in 2001-02. That’s it for this century.

All of that is a loooooong preamble to say the following: with Messi and Suarez still very much near the top of their games, the remaining tip of the trident is the most attractive spot in soccer.

So for those who might see how Liverpool’s started and wonder, “Maybe Coutinho is having second thoughts!”, or take a look at reports that Riyad Mahrez is fine as a “Plan B” despite being a former Premier League Player of the Year, and wonder why, here’s why: Any player who gets the chance to sit on the other side of that duo is going to bury at least 20 goals and have an experience few other players have had.

Even if the purported acrimony between Barca’s hierarchy and players is real, Messi isn’t leaving and Barca remains Barca.