Chinese Super League

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Watford re-hires Quique Sanchez Flores

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Quique Sanchez Flores is heading back to Vicarage Road, taking over for fired Javi Gracia at Watford.

Flores managed the Hornets from 2015-16, and has since led Espanyol and Shanghai Shenhua.

[ MORE: Kane scores hat trick v. Bulgaria ]

The Hornets have just one point from four matches to start the Premier League season, having drawn Newcastle United 1-1 in Week Four. Their only win came against Coventry City in the League Cup.

The club announced that Gracia was fired earlier Saturday, and that a new hiring was imminent. Gracia led Watford to the FA Cup Final and was the first manager in nine to manage the Hornets for more than 50 matches (51).

Flores, 54, won 16 matches, drew nine, and lost 19 in a single season at Watford. The Hornets finished 13, eight points clear of the drop zone, drew Chelsea twice and beat Liverpool 3-0 amongst their more memorable results of the season.

Watford also made it to the semifinals of the FA Cup, knocking Newcastle United and Arsenal out of the competition.

Reports: Bojan, Ola Kamara up for MLS moves

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DC United is making a huge push for the Eastern Conference and beyond.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff says the Black-and-Red may be bringing Ola Kamara back to Major League Soccer from the Chinese Super League.

When it comes to MLS, Kamara has simply scored goals. The 29-year-old has bagged 48 in three MLS seasons spent between Columbus and the LA Galaxy.

Goff reports that the transfer fee to bring Kamara back Stateside is $2.5 million, and that DC also has to send a quarter of a million dollars to Colorado for the top spot in the allocation order.

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Multiple reports out of Quebec say that the Impact are looking to make a huge splash in attack, again, adding Bojan Krkic to the squad.

Bojan, 28, is four seasons removed from his 7-goal Premier League campaign with Stoke City.

He’s had trouble firing since that point, with just six goals between three seasons spent between Mainz, Alaves, and Stoke.

Seeing what Carles Gil has done with New England, though, you cannot help but think Bojan has the skill set to light the East on fire.

Both teams are amongst eight still very much in the race to finish first in the East. Kamara to DC is a near-automatic hit. If Montreal can clear room to add Bojan to an attack with Saphir Taidir, Orji Okwonkwo, and the returning Ignacio Piatti, then look out for the Impact.

Bale’s agent: Real Madrid called off China transfer

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Gareth Bale‘s agent has been talking about the collapse of Bale’s proposed move from Real Madrid to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning.

Bale, 30, was set to earn $1.23 million per week in China but various reports have spread the blame for the deal not happening, as the move was called off on Sunday.

Sources close to the club said that Bale and his family want to stay in Europe so told his agent to look for other deals, while other reports suggest that Real’s president, Florentino Perez, and the board demanded a transfer fee for Bale at the last minute.

“Any stories suggesting that Gareth or his family were the reason the deal did not take place are completely false,” Barnett told Sky Sports.

He also told ESPN that Real Madrid “changed their minds” and that reports Bale didn’t didn’t want to go to China were “fake news” and nothing else.

Hmmm.

If Real did indeed change their minds at the last moment, this is a big, big problem for Zinedine Zidane.

His Real team have already lost talented attacker Marco Asensio for the season after he ruptured his ACL during the preseason win against Arsenal last week, while they were also battered 7-3 by crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in New Jersey on Friday.

This has been a pretty horrible first preseason back in charge at Real for Zidane with injuries mounting up, and his failure to move on Bale after saying it was “best for everyone” if he left this summer is now undermining him. Especially if Real’s board didn’t want to sanction the move for the Welsh superstar as Jiangsu Suning weren’t going to pay a fee for him. They knew that not getting rid of Bale will make Zidane look quite silly.

What does this mean for Bale’s future?

The Chinese Super League transfer window shuts on Wednesday, so a move there now seems dead in the water. European clubs have yet to offer a permanent deal for him. Real have ruled out sending him on loan for the season.

Bale does have one option. He has three years left on his current contract and if things continue to go the way they are, Real could be in serious trouble in the opening months of the season and Zidane may be fired by December. That won’t change the fact that Bale is booed by his own fans and that he’s a little alienated from the rest of the squad, but Zidane being fired would give him a fresh start, of sorts.

This is now a massive power struggle and if Bale doesn’t want to leave, he probably won’t. That will cause Zidane a massive headache and further underline that the players have all the power, no matter which club you’re at.

A Premier League club could offer Bale an escape route with a loan deal in the final days of the summer window, but if Real weren’t keen to lose him to China for nothing, surely they won’t sanction sending him to the PL and subsidize some of his $620,000 per week wage in the process.

‘It’s a different world’: Dembele embracing ‘culture shock’ in China

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Leaving the western world behind for a late-career adventure in China isn’t for every professional footballer, that much is for certain after the last few years of mega-money transfers to the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: Report: Bale to stay at Real Madrid after move to China canceled ]

The key, according to recently arrived midfielder Mousa Dembele, is to embrace the “culture shock” of living in a place that feels like “a different world.”

“If you come here only for the money and you don’t enjoy the experience and lock yourself away in your hotel then it’s bad,” he says. Unlike some players who appear to move to China without considering the adjustments required in their everyday lives, Dembele says he actively sought out that kind of challenge for himself and his young family and that they’re enjoying themselves after making the transition.

“But people who know me know I never regret my choices. It’s a shame for me but I didn’t regret it for one second.”

“Money is a thing in moving here, of course. People who come here earn good money but it depends. If you earn good money and you enjoy the culture then it’s a good experience.

“I told the players at Tottenham that in the last few years of my career I wanted to go to a different country. When China came, I was happy because it’s a big challenge and I wanted to have a culture shock.

“It’s very different, including how the people react to you in daily life. It depends how you are as a personality. I know a lot of people who come here and think it’s rubbish and hate it but if you’re open-minded it’s very cool.

“It’s so funny to think the plane ride is ‘only’ about 12 hours but it’s a different world when you get here – and it’s totally different on the pitch as well.”

“I’m here with my wife and kids. My kids are young – four and two – and they enjoy it because they have a nice set-up, they can swim a lot. They look at everything positively.

“For my wife at the beginning it was a bit difficult because she loved London. The language is hard but now she really enjoys it. It’s always negative to be a bit far from your family but she enjoys the rest of it.”

The world may never know how well, or unwell, Gareth Bale and his family would have adjusted and enjoyed life in China, as the Real Madrid star’s proposed move to CSL side Jiangsu Suning was canceled by the La Liga club’s directors on Sunday.

Zidane says Bale refused to play as saga continues

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Zinedine Zidane has responded to being called a “disgrace” by Gareth Bale’s agent.

And Zizou isn’t standing down in this situation, as he revealed that Bale refused to play in their friendly against Bayern Munich in Houston, Texas on Saturday.

Talk about doubling down…

Real Madrid’s manager said last week that Bale would be leaving the Spanish giants and it would be “best for everyone” if it happened quickly. That prompted an angry response from Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, who believed his client deserved more respect after winning four UEFA Champions League trophies, a La Liga title and Spanish Cup in his six seasons at Real.

Zidane has confirmed that Bale is training with Real in the U.S. and may play against Arsenal in Washington D.C. later today. But the situation is far from resolved.

“The first thing is that I’ve never disrespected anybody – certainly not any player. I’ve always said the same. Players are the most important thing here. If there is a player here, I will be with them. Secondly, I said the club were trying to find a way out for Gareth,” Zidane explained.

“Thirdly, which is the most important, is that the other day he didn’t get changed for the game because he didn’t want to. The club are trying to find a way out for him. For now, Gareth is a Real Madrid player, he’s going to train normally with us and we will see what happens on Tuesday.”

Bale, 30, is reportedly not keen on taking a huge pay cut from his $620,000 per week contract at Real and his family are settled in Madrid. He has another three years left on his monster contract at Real, and this is a huge problem for Zidane to sort out. Bale’s agent has also said that his client will not be leaving on loan, and that really puts Real in a tough position.

After signing the likes of Rodrygo, Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic this summer, Real’s attack has a whole new feel to it with Karim Benzema, Mariano Diaz and Lucas Vazquez all still around too.

Our own Nick Mendola broke the situation down over the weekend as to where Bale could move, with the likes of Bayern Munich, Tottenham and PSG listed as possible destinations, while a move to the Chinese Super League seems increasingly likely.

Reports suggest both Jiangsu Suning and Beijing Guoan will pay Bale over $1.3 million per week to get him to move to China, and if he is to leave Real this seems like the best option right now as many of Europe’s top clubs are balking at his huge wages, let alone stumping up a transfer fee for him.

It isn’t Bale’s fault Real offered him this huge amount of cash. And it isn’t his fault that Zidane doesn’t seem to rate him and Real’s fans boo him. The supporters have latched onto stories that Bale doesn’t speak Spanish after seven years in Madrid, plus the fact he enjoys being out on the golf course a lot and they blame that for many of his injuries.

That said, Bale has scored 102 goals and added 65 assists in 231 appearances for Real, which include star displays in Champions League and Spanish Cup finals. Real and Zidane want to get rid of Bale, but he isn’t going to go anywhere if he doesn’t want to.

Player power will win this battle, as it always does these days.