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Hazard hints at Chelsea exit, has ‘preferred destination’ in mind

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This summer could very well turn into a watershed moment in the history of Chelsea, as Antonio Conte has already departed the Premier League side after two seasons as manager, and the club’s most valuable superstar appears intent on following in his footsteps.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba to Barca? Madrid wants Neymar ]

Should Eden Hazard — who made some alarmingly eye-opening comments following Belgium’s 2-0 victory over England in the 2018 World Cup third-place game on Saturday — leaves Stamford Bridge in the coming days or weeks, a whole host of other key players could very well follow suit — quotes form Sky Sports:

“After six wonderful years at Chelsea it might be time to discover something different. Certainly after this World Cup. I can decide if I want to stay or go, but Chelsea will make the final decision, if they want to let me go. You know my preferred destination.”

Considering Real Madrid has been the club most commonly linked with a mega-money move for Hazard in recent weeks — and doubly so following Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus — many have chosen to infer Los Blancos as Hazard’s “preferred destination.”

[ MORE: Chelsea reveal new manager Sarri, midfielder Jorginho ]

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has curtailed his exorbitant, free-spending ways (to a degree) in recent years — much to the chagrin and disdain of Conte, which ultimately played a part in his departure — and the Blues fell back into the pack last season, finishing fifth in the PL. New manager Maurizio Sarri has an experienced, but aging, squad to work with. A widespread makeover will be necessary inside 24 months, and selling Hazard for a fee approaching $200 million wouldn’t be the least effective way to fund such an undertaking.

Real Madrid categorically denies any Neymar interest

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Real Madrid has looked to shut down any speculation regarding their reported interest in Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar.

The Spanish club released a statement on Friday to categorically reject any of these reports, shutting down any moves for the former Barcelona winger.

“In the face of the constant reports linking PSG’s Neymar Jr. to our club, Real Madrid C.F. wish to clarify that the club has no intention of making any offer for the player,” Madrid said in a statement released on Friday afternoon. “The two clubs enjoy an excellent relationship and, as such, if Real Madrid were at any stage to consider securing the services of a PSG player, they would approach the club in the first instance.”

Reports of Real Madrid’s interest in Neymar throughout the Spanish media of late had intensified, with Marca reporting earlier on Friday that Real Madrid had sent an “emissary” to meet with Neymar’s agent – who happens to also be his father. There have also been reports throughout Europe in the last 24 hours that PSG was set to offer Neymar a significant raise over his already exorbitant contract to fend off interest from the Spanish giants.

Neymar was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in Brazil’s stunning defeat at the hands of semifinalists Belgium, and left Russia with mixed results. He was a dangerous attacking player for the entirety of Brazil’s run through the tournament, but also reinforced his reputation as a serial flopper with several embarrassing moments.

Croatia’s Lovren puffs chest, backs Modric for Ballon d’Or

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Dejan Lovren is feeling Wednesday’s Croatia win over England in the World Cup semifinals, and he is feeling it deeply.

The Liverpool and Croatia defender will be one of four players in the World Cup Final versus France who were also a part of the UEFA Champions League Final (Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, and Mateo Kovacic are the other three).

[ MORE: Tyler Adams to Bundesliga? ]

And Lovren is hoping that another strong tournament gets him a little relief from his critics (From BeIn Sports, video below):

“It’s something for me especially,” Lovren said. “I had people saying I had a difficult season but I don’t agree with that. I’ve shown why I took Liverpool to the Champions League final. Now with my national team we are in the final and I think people should recognize that I am also one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”

He was also asked about Croatia captain Modric, who won the UCL Final with Real.

“Modric, he’s the best midfield player in the world and if we win, he deserves the Ballon d’Or.”

He also talked about his team’s legacy in Croatian history.

Official: Juventus sign Cristiano Ronaldo for $123 million

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The Cristiano Ronaldo era at Real Madrid is over. The Ronaldo era at Juventus is just beginning.

Real Madrid confirmed multiple reports on Tuesday, stating that it had agreed a transfer with Juventus for the Portuguese star forward. Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport reports that the transfer was agreed for $123 million, with Ronaldo signing a four-year contract worth more than $35 million per season.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Real Madrid released a statement thanking Ronaldo for his nine seasons with Los Blancos in Spain’s capital.

“Real Madrid CF communicates that, in response to the will and request expressed by the player Cristiano Ronaldo, he has agreed to transfer to Juventus FC. Today, Real Madrid wants to express its gratitude to a player who has proved to be the best in the world and who has marked one of the brightest times in the history of our club and world football.

(more…)

Reports: Juventus could announce Ronaldo signing on Tuesday

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What began as a laughable, implausible rumor could become reality in just a few hours.

Multiple reports in Italy claim that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo met with Juventus president Andrea Agnelli in Southern Greece, where Ronaldo is vacationing after a long season and World Cup. In addition, other reports state that Ronaldo spoke with Juventus coach Max Allegri, while reports out of Spain state that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would absolutely accept Juventus’ transfer offer of $117 million.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The latest reports , whether true or not, give more credence to the idea that Ronaldo’s time at Real Madrid is actually coming to an end after nine incredible seasons. Ronaldo’s become Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer with 416 goals in all competitions. He’s delivered countless assists, taking off his shirt countless times celebrating goals, and moodily sulked away after defeats.

But overall, he goes down as a member of Real Madrid’s Mount Rushmore, potentially being remembered as the club’s greatest player.

In a way, leaving now is good timing for Ronaldo, before fans really see him begin to decline. He’s lost the pace he had when he was a hot-shot young winger a decade ago, but his finishing ability is second to none (Messi included) and he’s leaving after a season in which he still managed 45 goals in all competitions.

At 33, now may be the best time for a change of scenery for Ronaldo, going to a league where it’s played at a bit of a slower pace, and he can take advantage of his quick movements in the box to find space to finish.