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Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

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Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Michel Hidalgo, who coached France to EURO 1984 glory, dies

Michel Hidalgo
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PARIS (AP) Michel Hidalgo, the coach who led France to the 1984 European Championship title and the 1982 World Cup semifinals, died on Thursday. He was 87.

The French Football Federation confirmed the death.

Hidalgo coached the national team from 1976-84 and led host France to its first major title at Euro 1984 with midfielder Michel Platini scoring nine goals.

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Les Bleus reached the World Cup semifinals two years earlier but lost to West Germany in a penalty shootout.

Soccer purists adored the way Hidalgo’s teams were almost fixated on creativity, even at the expense of defending. The midfield, led by Platini, was known as the “Magic Four” and was arguably the best in the world at the time. Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Bernard Genghini were the other three.

“I would like to express all my affection and my support to his wife Monique, to his family and all of those close to him,” Platini said in a statement. “As a coach, Michel lifted France to the summit of its art, with determination choosing the beautiful game and allowing each one of us to express all of our ability and individual talent.”

Hidalgo coached France in 75 games, behind only Raymond Domenech and current coach Didier Deschamps.

FFF president Noel Le Graet spoke of his “immense sadness and deep emotion” upon hearing of Hidalgo’s death.

“The federation, our football, are in grieving,” Le Graet said. “With his style of play, his personality and his exemplary passion, he contributed to our sport shining at international level and its popularity in France.”

During his playing days from 1952-66, Hidalgo was an attacking midfielder who scored regularly for Le Havre, Reims and Monaco.

He won French titles and French Cups as a player, and scored in the European Cup final when Reims lost to Real Madrid 4-3 in 1956. He put his club ahead 3-2 after the Spanish team rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

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LeBron James praises Liverpool, Kylian Mbappe

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LeBron James, minority owner in Liverpool Football Club, has praised Kylien Mbappe.

That sound you can hear is Liverpool fans everywhere furiously typing out #Mbappe2020 once again.

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The legendary NBA star hosted an Instagram chat on Monday and was asked about his favorite soccer players. Here was the answer James gave.

“Favorite soccer players … I got a few,” LeBron James said. “First of all, every player on Liverpool. Straight up. Every player on Liverpool. Mbappe, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, those guys are legends, I love those guys. Those are just a few of them.”

James also gave praise to Lionel Messi and someone else said Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Zlatan? His crazy ass. He crazy, but he damn good, though,” LeBron James responded. 

It is unlikely Liverpool would sign Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo but the fact James mentioned Mbappe as one of his favorite players is intriguing.

Look, it’s not like James has any say in who Liverpool sign and their transfer policy. Of course he doesn’t. However, with Liverpool moving to Nike as their kit sponsor from this summer, James could be popping up at lot more at Anfield and Mbappe is also sponsored by Nike.

Did somebody say, synergy? Could Liverpool afford Mbappe? Probably not anytime soon. Still, the rumblings about him coming to the Premier League one day continue.

LeBron James is a keen soccer fan and when his playing days are over in the NBA, you could certainly see him branching out and owning a team, maybe in Major League Soccer, maybe in Europe. Who knows?

It remains to be seen if Liverpool fans everywhere will now start to send the Mbappe to Liverpool rumors into overdrive again.

Lower-division clubs among hardest hit by pandemic

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MADRID — A Spanish third-division soccer team had just started selling a special membership package for the decisive portion of the season, hoping to bring in some extra income.

Another was counting on the boost from revenue on the back of ticket sales for the upcoming derby against a regional rival, one of its biggest matches of the season.

They were not expecting the coronavirus outbreak, nor to see soccer come to a halt.

The suspension of competitions across the globe has taken a toll on top teams everywhere, but it will be for the smaller clubs that the financial impact may cause the most damage.

While the stoppage has already forced some teams in the major leagues to cut players’ salaries, the effect of the crisis on lower-division clubs may be even more dire, lasting longer and possibly leading to financial collapse.

“Every team in the third division will suffer serious consequences,” Franco Caselli, president of Spanish third-division club Burgos, told The Associated Press. “Some more than others, depending on their economic situation.”

In most countries, there are no lucrative television broadcast deals for teams outside the first and second divisions. Their income comes mostly from ticket sales, small sponsors, team merchandising, season memberships and youth academy memberships – most of which have been affected by the suspension of games.

Caselli said Burgos, one of the bigger clubs in Spain’s third division, is doing well financially and should be able to withstand the crisis, but not without losses.

“We had put on sale a special membership package for the last matches of the league, and more than 1,000 had already been sold,” he said. “That was a 20 percent increase in new memberships at this stage, so the losses will be important.”

Mérida, also in Spain’s third tier, was looking to pack its 14,600-capacity stadium for the derby against Badajoz just before it was suspended because of the outbreak, jeopardizing one of its biggest revenue sources of the season.

Fourth-division club Sant Andreu, which plays in a Barcelona neighborhood at a small stadium where players’ errant shots can go over the stands and onto the nearby streets, estimated a 30 percent deficit from the current stoppage of play.

“We are facing the unknown,” Manuel Camino, president and owner of the club, told the AP. “We don’t know how long this will last.”

Camino said he also doesn’t fear for the club’s future, but others elsewhere were not so optimistic.

Italian third-division club Casertana was one of several lower-league teams to announce it can no longer pay players’ wages.

Casertana President Giuseppe D’Agostino said the financial strain on his cheese company – which specializes in buffalo mozzarella – combined with the lack of matches, became too much to handle.

“Unfortunately, the state of emergency created by the coronavirus represented an enormous blow to all commercial enterprises … and did not spare my company,” D’Agostino said. “That has made it impossible to respect (a) deadline for players’ wages.”

English clubs also struggled to withstand the crisis. Fifth-tier Barnet had to place all non-playing staff on notice in “emergency measures to preserve the club.”

“We have to consider the impact that COVID-19 will have in the immediate and long-term future,” the club said in a statement.

Club chairman Tony Kleanthous said it was his “responsibility to ensure Barnet FC continues to survive and remains financially stable and therefore, I have had to make difficult decisions.”

In Spain, the Spanish soccer federation, which oversees the lower divisions, said it has been able to guarantee the money destined to smaller clubs thanks in part to the extra revenue it generated by taking the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

“We have guaranteed 100 percent of the help this year and also for next year,” federation President Luis Rubiales said.

Top-division teams in Europe had already shown signs of struggle, with some in Germany making salary cuts. Players for German title challenger Borussia Mönchengladbach this week approached the club with an offer to take reduced salaries, while Scottish club Hearts asked all of its players and other full-time employees to accept a 50 percent pay cut or contract termination.

Clubs in Switzerland and France also took measures to try to reduce the losses caused by the pandemic, which has infected more than 275,000 people and killed more than 11,400 worldwide.

Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said recently that he hoped the leagues could resume as soon as possible, even if the matches are played in empty stadiums.

“If someone says they’re ruling out ghost games (empty stadium games), then they don’t need to think any more about whether we’ll be playing with 18 or 20 pro clubs,” he said, referring to the debate about promotion and relegation for next season. “Because then we won’t have 20 pro clubs anymore.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Matuidi becomes second Juve player to test positive for coronavirus

Matuidi coronavirus
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Add Blaise Matuidi to the growing list of footballers who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Juventus announced the news on Tuesday, six days after teammate Daniele Rugani tested positive for COVID-19. Matuidi entered isolation on the same day, March 11.

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According to Juve, Matuidi “has been in voluntary home isolation. He will continue to be monitored and will follow the same regimen. He is well and is asymptomatic.”

Juve has a one-point lead on Lazio in a bid to win its ninth-straight and 36th-total scudetto.

Matuidi has played in 31 matches with a goal and two assists this season, his third with Juve. He won the World Cup with France and has 84 caps.

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