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Associated Press

Bayern Munich linked with Leverkusen youngster Bailey

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The vicious Bundesliga cycle may be about to continue.

According to multiple reports around Europe, including ESPNFC’s Raphael Honigstein, Bayern Munich has had a bid rejected for Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey and could be coming back with an increased offer soon.

The 20-year-old Bailey, already a Jamaican international, had a stellar season with Bayer scoring nine goals and assisting six more in 30 Bundesliga appearances, although he fell off a bit at the end of the season with just one goal after January.

According to the ESPN report, Bayern’s initial offer was for a whopping $70 million. Meanwhile, it states that Bayer values Bailey closer to $120 million, so one would expect the two to meet somewhere in the middle. The report also states that Real Madrid has expressed interest as well, and a bidding war could drive the price higher. Honigstein also states that a number of Premier League clubs have “closely followed his progress” and

Bailey arrived from Belgian side Genk just 18 months ago, and could represent a massive return on investment for Bayer this summer.

Report: Saudi Arabia holds key growing influence in FIFA matters

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According to a story by the New York Times, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a growing influential power in the FIFA world, and could have a significant impact on matters such as the 2026 World Cup vote.

Written by London-based journalist Tariq Panja, the New York Times story talks about how Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a massive financial backer of numerous FIFA projects, and as a result, has growing power within the organization, not just as a benefactor but also as a leader of other countries in the Middle Eastern region.

Saudi Arabia’s financial influence stems from a pair of projects the country has backed, including the 24-team league for clubs across Europe. They are also involved in the proposal of a second, unnamed tournament. The report states that the increase in focus on soccer for the country is part of a larger-scale goal to diversify away from oil as the country’s main source of income.

By financially bankrolling these new potential ventures, Saudi Arabia has grown in influence across the region, leading to the formation of the South West Asian Football Federation, a group of 10 countries that will be based in Jeddah and led by Adel Ezzat, the president of the Saudi Football Federation. This group could carry serious weight in the upcoming 2026 World Cup election if they decide to vote as a bloc.

As a result, the report states that members of the 2026 North American World Cup bid, including US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, traveled to Saudi Arabia “recently” to make a pitch to the group.

However, plenty are opposed the the governments of any country getting involved as financial investors or decision makers of any FIFA matters. Nevertheless, the country is doing its best to position itself within FIFA to not only gain influence but secure financial investments in the sport.

Conte says his job at Chelsea shouldn’t rely on FA Cup

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Antonio Conte sounds like a man hoping for the best but preparing for the worst at Chelsea.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup final against Manchester United, Conte said that his job status should never come down to winning or losing one match, even if that match is for silverware.

“There are people to judge your work,” Conte said when asked if his status as Chelsea manager came down to this game. “But it doesn’t depend upon lifting a trophy or winning a league. Sometimes you can win but the club decides to sack you anyway because they have a reason to do this.

Conte also said he is proud of Chelsea’s season, even with a sixth-placed finish and the potential for no titles won all year long. The Blues boss even went as far as to say he’s more proud of this season’s work than last season when Chelsea won the Premier League championship.

“For sure, I protect my work. I’m very pleased about my work, also this season. Because I think, this season, I worked better than last season. And, for sure, I worked harder than last season. As you know very well, there are other people to judge your work, to judge the season. I don’t think I’d be the right person to say: ‘Okay, if we win I plan this situation,’ or if we don’t, ‘we plan another situation’. I’m not interested in this. I’m interested in winning the final.”

Finally, Conte said he doesn’t know if this will be his last game in charge of Chelsea, cracking a joke to diffuse the question.  “I can tell you for sure this will be my last match in this season. For sure. For me and my players, this will be the last game for us.”

Parma promoted back to Serie A, making history in the process

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All Frosinone needed on the final day of the Serie B season was to win at home against Foggia, and they would be promoted back to Serie A two years after finding the drop. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and their failure brought about another fantastic story instead.

An 89th minute equalizer by former Inter youth product Roberto Floriano gave Foggia a late 2-2 draw and denied Frosinone automatic promotion, leaving Parma 2nd in the Serie B table instead. That, along with Parma’s 2-0 win at Spezia, ensured automation promotion for Parma, making history in the process.

Parma becomes the first Italian team in history to earn three straight promotions, returning to Serie A three years after bankruptcy sent them to the cellar of Italian professional soccer.

The Italian club has been a beacon of hope for any professional club that suffers such a dark day in its history. After relegation to Serie D in 2015, the club still managed to sell 9,000 season tickets, which more than doubled the previous Serie D record. They won Serie D that season, and they won the Serie C playoff the following campaign to move up again. Parma started the 2017/18 season poorly, finding themselves in 15th in the table in late October, but a November surge moved them as high as 2nd, and they finished the season with eight wins in its last 11 matches to secure its third-straight promotion.

The club’s strength was its defense, conceding a Serie B best 37 goals over the 42-match season behind 40-year-old club veteran Alessandro Lucarelli – who scored goals in every division after the big drop – and Serie B veteran goalkeeper Pierluigi Frattali. It’s a fabulous story, and one fans should get behind next season as they make their return to the Italian top flight.

Lewis Cook signs new four-year contract at Bournemouth

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21-year-old midfielder Lewis Cook has signed a new four-year contract with Bournemouth, the club announced on Friday.

Cook’s previous deal was set to expire in the summer of 2020, but now he receives a new four-year deal that expires in the summer of 2022, erasing the previous contract.

Cook, who made 29 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth this past season, was selected to the standby England squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He has already made his international debut earlier this season in a 1-1 friendly draw against Italy, coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes.

“This new contract is a really proud moment for me and the icing on the cake for the year we’ve had and all the hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes at the club,” Cook told the official Bournemouth website. “It came as a nice surprise. I was just concentrating on my football and playing games, but when it was spoken about I couldn’t wait to get it signed.

“I’m really enjoying my football here and I’m looking forward to the future with AFC Bournemouth.”

Bournemouth grabbed Cook two summers ago from Leeds United, and he made six Premier League appearances last season before earning a starting spot in the squad this campaign. The club finished 12th in the Premier League table this season, winning its final two games of the year.

“It was important that we get our talented, young players to commit to the future of the club and this is a really important signing for us to make,” Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said in the official release. “Lewis has had an outstanding campaign, highlighted by his recognition with the England team and his place on standby for the World Cup squad. His immediate future is now with us and we can really concentrate on next season.”