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Gelson Martins
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Monaco’s Martins suspended six months for shoving referee (video)

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Gelson Martins is learning a costly lesson after shoving a referee last month.

Martins has been suspended for six months by the French league for a Feb. 6 incident in which he pushed referee Mikael Lesage, who had sent off teammate Tiemoue Bakayoko.

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The 21-times capped Portuguese winger, 24, will not be eligible to return to AS Monaco until July 1.

Suspensions for physical incidents with referees will almost always be harsh given the importance of the position in the sport and the freedom necessary to do their jobs. There’s also increased focus on protecting referees in recent years.

Referees in Berlin protested increased incidents of violence earlier this year, while Franck Ribery and Neymar have both been suspended for making contact with officials. In 2014, an American referee was killed after a player punched him in the face after a red card incident. The player was sentenced to eight years in prison. A lower-league playoff match in the U.S. was abandoned this Fall after a referee was punched by a coach.

Martins left Sporting Lisbon for Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2018, going on loan to Monaco after a half-season. Monaco purchased him Atleti last summer.

He has eight goals and three assists in 37 league matches for Monaco over parts of two seasons. Martins leads the team in dribbles per game (2.4) and is averaging 1.3 key passes per contest via WhoScored.

In other words, it’s a big loss.

Monaco sits seventh in Ligue 1, six points back of the European places.

Agent Jorge Mendes, major Portuguese clubs under investigation

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities conducted extensive raids Wednesday as part of an investigation into suspected tax evasion in soccer transfers.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that 76 searches were being carried out. According to public statements, some of those searches included soccer agent Jorge Mendes’s home, the offices of Benfica, Porto, and Sporting Lisbon, as well as the office of Cristiano Ronaldo’s lawyer, Carlos Osorio de Castro.

The targets were the premises of soccer clubs, agents and lawyers. More than 180 police officers, 101 tax inspectors and 16 magistrates took part in the operation.

The investigation covers transfers and other deals since 2015, the statement said. Authorities are looking into whether tax evasion and money laundering occurred.

The statement provided no further details, citing Portugal’s judicial secrecy law which prohibits the publication of information about ongoing investigations.

Bruno Fernandes the key to United’s top four hopes?

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Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot speak highly enough of new signing Bruno Fernandes.

United’s new playmaker had himself quite the week as he bagged an assist in the big win at Chelsea on Monday, then won and scored a penalty kick and had another assist in United’s 3-0 win against Watford on Sunday.

Safe to say the $88 million arrival from Sporting Lisbon is settling in well in the Premier League and his manager is adamant that Fernandes’ early form proves it was money well spent.

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“In today’s market I think we got a good deal,” Solskjaer said. “He has come in and done really well, given everyone a boost, that means more than getting a player in. He has done something to the crowd. You can see with the supporters, they are used to players with that personality, mentality and quality, all the attributes of a Manchester United player the fans have seen many, many times before. From day one, the first minute, he has felt like a presence in the group, demanding the ball from his first training session. Some players take time warming up, but he felt confident straight away.”

Fernandes, 25, is a proper playmaker, one who loves to get on the ball, dictate the tempo of the game and loves to make surging runs forward. He has shown that at Man United already.

His 64 goals and 36 assists over the past three seasons for Sporting proved he has a cutting edge and his creativity and ability to unlock defenses in the final third is exactly what Man United needed all season long.

Which previous Man United players would Solskjaer liken him to?

“He’s a bit of a mix between Scholes and Veron to be fair, the temperament of Veron and a lot of the quality of him and Scholes,” Solskjaer said. “He has done fantastically. He is showing his personality, he’s a Manchester United character who wants to step out at Old Trafford, wants the ball all the time, wants to control the rhythm, help out his team-mates and conduct the play. The way he took the penalty was fantastic.”

A mixture of Juan Sebastian Veron and Paul Scholes? My goodness. Solskjaer is putting no pressure on the shoulders of Bruno Fernandes whatsoever…

With Man United now in fifth place in the Premier League and three points off fourth-place Chelsea, they are right in the thick of the battle for UEFA Champions League qualification. They do face Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Sheffield United in their next four PL games and that will be pivotal in deciding if they’re going to reach the Champions League next season.

Given Man City’s European ban and the potential for a UCL spot to move down to fifth-place, Man United are exactly where Solskjaer hoped they would be right now.

Fernandes will give them that extra push for the rest of this season and beyond and even without Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba they look like a team heading in the right direction.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

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It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Wolves signs Olympiakos attacker Daniel Podence

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Wolverhampton Wanderers completed the club’s first winter signing a day before the deadline, bringing in Olympiakos forward Daniel Podence on a four-and-a-half year deal.

A Sporting CP youth product, Podence has spent two year with the Greek side, scoring 13 goals and assisting 14 more in 68 appearances across all competitions. The 24-year-old scored a goal against Spurs back in September in a 2-2 Champions League group stage meeting.

[ MORE: Perez to Roma | Spurs loan full-backs ]

Podence’s arrival grows an already heavy Portuguese presence at Wolves, with experienced internationals Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho both already playing major roles for Wolves, plus highly rated assets in Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota. Podence has yet to earn his first international cap for Portugal, but was involved in the November Euro 2020 qualifiers, on the bench as an unused substitute for the 6-0 win over Lithuania.

No fee was reported publicly in the Wolves release, but reports have the cost at around $22 million, which would represent nearly a tripling of his value from the $7.7 million Olympiakos purchased him for two years ago.

“I’m very excited. It was always a childhood dream of mine to play in the Premier League and I look at this achievement as a dream come true,” Podence said to the club website upon announcement of the signing. “Wolves are a team with a big project, with ambitious goals to look forward to, where I’ll get to meet former team-mates with whom I had the pleasure to play with in the past and I hope to be very successful here. My individual goals are to play as much as possible, help the team with goals and assists and collectively, I’d like to qualify for the Champions League. That is a goal that’s within our reach, and I hope we can have a better season than last year.”