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Messi injured in Argentina return; likely to recover for Man Utd clash

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Lionel Messi made his first appearance for Argentina in 265 days on Friday, and that’ll be his final involvement during the current international break after he felt a pain in his groin following the 3-1 friendly defeat to Venezuela.

[ MORE: Mourinho “preparing” for next job; expects to start “in June” ]

Messi finished the game and played all 90 minutes. The injury was described as a flare-up of an existing problem.

The Barcelona superstar has since been ruled unavailable for Tuesday’s friendly against Morocco.

[ MORE: Sterling’s hat trick gets England off to flying start in EURO qualifying ]

With Barcelona set to face Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, April 10, skipping any further involvement with Argentina will net Messi an extra seven days of rest before his club side returns to La Liga action next Saturday.

Mourinho ‘preparing’ for next job; expects to start ‘in June’

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If you thought Jose Mourinho would simply vanish from the public eye of management after the highest-profile embarrassment of his career, being fired by Manchester United, think again.

[ MORE: Sterling’s hat trick gets England off to flying start in EURO qualifying ]

Not only does Mourinho expect to be back on the manager’s hot seat one day, he expects that day is fewer than three months away. Speaking this weekend, the 56-year-old Portuguese is “preparing” himself for a return to the game “in June” — quotes from the BBC:

“I would like to be back in the summer in June for a new club and a new pre-season. I know exactly what I don’t want. I know what I want, in terms of not the specific club but the nature of the job, the dimension of the job.”

According to Mourinho, he could have already taken his next job as he has had “three or four” offers since his dismissal from Old Trafford in December, but he preferred the extended sabbatical instead.

It is unclear whether or not the recently-filled Real Madrid job was, or wasn’t, one of the “three or four” offers. Of course, Mourinho would only ever tell you it was, whether or not that is actually the case.

Valencia again targeted by Batman creators for bat logo

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MADRID (AP) Batman is coming after Valencia’s bat logo.

The Spanish soccer club is again being targeted by DC Comics over the use of its logo, which serves as the centerpiece of its centennial celebrations this year. The comic book makers, who created the superhero Batman, have made another complaint about how the team is using the bat logo.

“The parties have requested an extension of the `cooling off’ period to negotiate a possible deal,” the law firm representing Valencia, Garrigues, said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday. “This period can be extended until Oct. 30, 2020.”

DC Comics filed a complaint with the European Union’s office of intellectual property opposing the trademark application made by Valencia for its centennial logo on a claim there was a “likelihood of confusion” with some of the designs of Batman’s symbol.

If a deal is not reached between the parties, the intellectual property office will rule on the case.

Valencia and DC Comics also had a logo dispute a few years ago, but the two sides reached an agreement and the club said at the time that that particular design of the bat was not going to be used.

Valencia said it will not comment on the dispute, and its press office did not answer questions about whether the club would continue to use the logo created for the centennial.

A request for comment from the lawyers representing DC Comics in Spain was not immediately answered.

The new symbol – a modern-looking bat-shaped figure with open wings – has been used in different colors during the team’s centennial celebrations this week. The images remain on the team’s website and mobile apps, as well as in some online videos.

The design was on the celebratory plaque unveiled at the club’s birthplace in the Spanish city on Monday, the date of the centenary. The team’s festivities will continue on Sunday with a “legends match” involving former Valencia players.

When the new symbol was introduced before the season started, the club said the logo would complement the team’s traditional badge and would not be limited to the centennial season.

“The club reinforces its association with the bat, which is one of the most emblematic symbols of the city,” Valencia said at the time. “It’s an innovative design that looks into the future.”

After DC Comics first complained of Valencia’s use of a new bat design for a line of casual clothing in 2012, the club said “a bat has been incorporated into the club’s official crest since 1922,” and “the official crest and the bat have been trademark registered worldwide and their use has not been subject to any legal challenge.”

The team’s main badge has a different-shaped bat and the colors yellow and red, although this season it is predominantly black and gold because of the centennial celebrations.

The Batman character made its first appearance in a DC Comics publication in 1939, 20 years after Valencia was founded.

Valencia is a six-time champion in the Spanish league, with its last title in 2004. It will be trying to win its eighth Copa del Rey title in this year’s final against Barcelona.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Ronaldo learns fine for mocking Simeone with groin grab

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Diego Simeone was fined around $23,000 for his groin-centered celebrations when Atletico Madrid beat Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie, and now Cristiano Ronaldo has been nipped the same fee for the same gesture.

Ronaldo’s came on the field following his hat trick, as Juve stormed back to thump Simeone’s Atleti and march on to the UCL quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Hazard, Real, and the back-up plan ]

Charged by UEFA earlier this week, Ronaldo has now learned his punishment. It’s almost $1000 more.

How will he afford it?!!?!?! He reportedly makes just under $700,000 per week.

To be fair, it couldn’t be exactly the same price, given the sentiment behind such a fine is that it’s mean to rile up a crowd. Ronaldo’s move would’ve been viewed as a slight at Simeone and hence just a bit more of an antagonistic one.

Chelsea rejects Real’s $78m Hazard offer; Anderson back-up plan

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Chelsea wants more than $150 million for Eden Hazard which could lead Real Madrid to look to a different part of London for its next playmaker, according to Sky Sports.

A Thursday report says Chelsea has shot down a $78 million bid for Hazard and is expecting at least twice that amount as desperate Real Madrid looks to revolutionize its team after a European trophy-free 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Man Utd stars set for exit? ]

The Blues may not sell at all because of its impending transfer ban, despite Hazard being able to walk away for free after the 2019-20 season.

And Hazard isn’t exactly shying away from his long-held interest in a move to Real in this sly exchange with Belgian outlet HLN:

Interviewer: “Look, I have a friend who has been playing in the Premier League for seven years. At a club that plays in blue. He has won everything there and he is ready for a new challenge. He is now in the interest of another club, one in a white outfit. What would you recommend to that boy?”

Smiling, Hazard replied: “Well, buy that friend a white shirt.”

So Real is training its eyes on West Ham United’s Felipe Anderson to the tune of an $85 million bid, a figure which would see the Irons profit in a big way following a $48 million purchase just last summer.

Anderson, who turns 26 in April, has been very good as the Irons bid for seventh place and a possible Europa League spot next season. The Brazilian has nine goals and five assists across all competitions for Manuel Pellegrini.

Hazard is two years older than Anderson, and has produced at a world class level dating back to his 20-goal, 18-assist Ligue 1 season at Lille in 2011-12.

Although, even with the transfer ban, maybe Chelsea will take the money and its medicine without Hazard, who is one of the only players who have been a part of the Blues teams to quit on Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte (and possibly tried to do the same to Maurizio Sarri).

Do you want the bitter Belgian playing out the string? West Ham fans probably hope the answer is, “Nope.”

Get ready for a summer of speculating that Real might buy any player on Earth outside of Lionel Messi, given chairman Florentino Perez’s penchant for hunting Galacticos; In the past week alone, Real has been linked with Neymar, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Hazard, and Anderson. Wow.