In what has been described as a rather bizarre situation, a Real Madrid logo was spotted on a scorecard at the Camp Nou on Saturday, when Barcelona took on Eibar in their latest La Liga game.
The photos shared below were obtained from the Spanish news agency AS, and it shows a Real Madrid logo stuck on to the scorecard, under the VIP box just below where Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Catalan club’s President sat to watch the Barca-Eibar clash.
Take a look:
Needless to say, the images were quickly picked up by the press, although Bartomeu and his fellow VIPs in the VIP box had no idea what was going on right under their noses.
In the absence of any other explanation, AS reports that it looks like somebody was trolling the Barcelona president, at the end of one of his toughest weeks in a long time.
It has only been a few days since the Camp Nou faithful had called for his resignation, thanks to the social media scandal that rocked the club. In addition, Barcelona’s recent transfers and injury issues have also played a role in fans demanding his exit.
However, none of this seemed to matter to the Blaugrana yesterday as they beat Eibar 5-0, thanks to Lionel Messi’s four-goal special. Up next, it is Real Madrid who will host them in the LaLiga, this coming Sunday (March 1).
The fans are one of football’s biggest strengths. If not for the support of fans through both the good times and the bad, clubs and players would have had a hard time concentrating on the game.
How do clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and so on stay successful for years on end? The answer to that question would be their fans’ support – which is regarded as one of the major reasons why most of these teams are virtually unbeatable in their respective home grounds.
That being said, here is FOX Sports Asia taking a look at the top five football clubs with the highest average attendance this season. Read on!
5. Real Madrid (66,242)
La Liga giants Real Madrid boast of a fortress of a home ground at the Santiago Bernabeu, making it one of the most difficult stadiums in the world for opponents to play. With an average attendance of 66,242 per home match, Real Madrid is the fifth in this list.
Zinedine Zidane’s reappointment as Real Madrid’s manager has seen Los Blancos‘ quality rise dramatically over the past few months, and right now, they are at the top of the La Liga table alongside arch-rivals Barcelona, who are also a part of this list, rather unsurprisingly.
4. Barcelona (72,438)
At the fourth place in the list of highest attendances is Barcelona, having managed to attract an average of 72,438 fans per home match at the Camp Nou so far this season.
The prospect of watching Lionel Messi play football is rather divine, and we bet that not many fans of the sport might want to give it a miss. Messi should also arguably be the biggest reason why Barcelona’s average attendance at home is so high.
3. Manchester United (72,569)
Manchester United is the only Premier League club in the top five, with more than 72,500 fans on average attending each home game of the Red Devils at the iconic Old Trafford Stadium this season.
Despite not playing in the Champions League this season, fans have seemed to continue backing their favourite club, and that is a good sign for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and co as they continue to work hard towards returning to Europe’s premium footballing competition.
2. Bayern Munich (75,000)
The Bundesliga defending champions Bayern Munich are second in the list of highest attendances, with an average of 75,000 fans attending their home matches at the Allianz Arena this season.
Having suffered from a serious dip in form at the start of this season, the fans of the Bavarians definitely would be one of the major reasons which inspired them to fight back as their campaign progressed. And right now, Robert Lewandowski and co are back at the top of the German league table, while also booking a place in the knockouts of this season’s UCL.
1. Borussia Dortmund (81,132)
Given we know how passionate German football fans are, it’s not surprising to see Bundesliga clubs dominating at the top of the list. At second place is Bayern Munich as we have already seen, while at first place, we have a club with very few haters – Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund have seen a mind-boggling 81,132 fans on average, attending their home matches at the Signal Iduna Park so far this season. This includes the recent Champions League games against Barcelona and Inter Milan, and German league matches against Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 among others.
The Sun claims that James Maddison of the Lecester City is keen on joining the Old Trafford outfit and he “would have joined years ago” if it were up to him.
It is no secret that Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been chasing the Leicester playmaker for a while now, and several sources claim that he is all set to bring him to the club as part of a monster £274million summer spree.
The 23-year-old England international is currently under contract at Leicester City until 2023 and is said to be considering putting pen to paper on a new deal with the Foxes, despite his interest to join the Red Devils.
One of the major reasons why the United board has remained doubtful over a potential deal for Maddison, is because they already signed Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP in the recently concluded January transfer window.
But according to various English news agencies, Solskjaer has insisted that he will sign the midfielder, along with Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, in the upcoming summer transfer window.
According to the latest reports, Premier League giants Manchester United have banned their new signing, Odion Ighalo, from using their training grounds due to fears over Coronavirus.
Mirror claims that the striker, who was signed by Manchester United on loan from Chinese Super League (CSL) side Shanghai Shenhua is being made to train away from the AON Complex at Carrington, while he is in the recommended 14-day incubation period.
The virus originated at Wuhan in China, and although Ighalo did not arrive in the UK from Wuhan, United have taken the above precaution to steer clear of any trouble.
The report further adds that the Nigerian forward will continue working with Manchester-based performance coach Wayne Richardson at the GB Taekwondo Centre in Manchester until Friday, when he will join up with the Red Devils’ squad for the first time since his signing in January.
Meanwhile, the Coronavirus has already claimed more than 1,100 lives and there were fears that travellers from China might have issues entering and leaving the UK – which is why United decided not to take any risk with the 30-year-old.
On the loanee’s absence, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager of Manchester United, said:
“Odion will stay in Manchester, because since he has come from China in the last 14 days, the news of the virus there means we’re not sure if he’s going to be allowed back into England if he leaves the country again.”
“So he’s staying here working with a personal coach on an individual programme and his family then can settle in England as well. That’s a plus,” he added further, before concluding:
“Of course, he might have liked to have come with the players and got to know them, but we don’t want to take that risk [of potential border restrictions tightening].”
Transfer fees in football have never been the same since Neymar Jr completed his transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in 2017, for a WHOPPING £200 million.
Back then, Neymar was not for sale at Barcelona although he was interested in leaving, and PSG had to trigger his £200 million release clause to complete the deal successfully. Barcelona had inserted the release clause in his contract assuming that no club would dare shell out so much money to sign him, but they were wrong.
And that marked the beginning of the crazy hike in release clauses across European and world football, as teams tried to secure their best places with sky-high release clauses.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the top ten release clauses in world football right here. Spoiler alert: only two teams feature in this list – Real Madrid and Barcelona, quite obvious if you ask us.
10. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid – £423 million)
Despite Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane’s reported urgency to offload Gareth Bale, the Welshman still remains one of the highest-paid players at the Santiago Bernabeu. He is also the tenth-most expensive player of the world in terms of release clause, as any football club interested in signing him without any hassles or bargaining will have to part ways with a transfer fee of £423 million.
9. Gerard Pique (Barcelona – £423 million)
Despite being 33 years old, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique remains one of the best centre-backs in the world – and that is proved by the fact that he is the only defender on the list, after the Camp Nou outfit slapped him with an eye-watering £423 million as part of his 2018 deal.
8. Lionel Messi (Barcelona – £592.5 million)
It only makes sense that Lionel Messi, who is one of the greatest players of all time is tied down to one of the biggest release clauses of all time, given the value he adds to the Barcelona squad with both his abilities as well as his personality.
Although he is aged 32 and could be permitted to talk to other clubs in the summer, Messi comes with a release clause of £592.5 million – nearly thrice the amount that PSG paid Barcelona to force them to part ways with Neymar.
7. Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid – £592.5 million)
Right now, it might seem a bit crazy that both Lionel Messi and Vinicus Jr have the same amount as release clauses in their respective contracts. One of them is a true legend, while the other one is just starting to find his own footing in a team that is already overflowing with an abundance of talent and skill.
Maybe, in a few years’ time, Vinicius will prove his worth and silence his critics (including myself) brilliantly, thereby making that £592.5 million release clause a worthy addition in his deal.
6. Isco (Real Madrid- £592.5 million)
Targeted by heavyweights like Manchester City, Manchester United and PSG, Isco is one of the most sought-after players in Zinedine Zidane’s squad at the moment. And Real Madrid, on their part, have chosen to insert a £592.5 million release clause in his deal so that no football club will be able to hijack him easily.
5. Marco Asensio (Real Madrid – £592.5 million)
Currently injured and slowly recovering, there is no chance that anybody will pay £592.5 million for Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio, but his incredible talent could see his valuation creep into nine figures when he returns. It has only been a couple of years since the Spaniard was identified as one of the most exciting future prospects in football, and only time can tell if he will get there for real.
4. Luka Modric (Real Madrid – £634.9 million)
While it might seem logical to give a recent Ballon d’Or winner and a FIFA World Cup finalist and Golden Ball winner an extraordinary release clause of £634.9 million, there is no denying that Luka Modric is, in fact, on the decline and will likely leave Real Madrid in the years to come, with full willingness from the part of the club.
In such a situation, his release clause will not even be used, as Los Blancos can be expected to agree on a much smaller transfer fee for him.
3. Brahim Diaz (Real Madrid – £634.9 million)
Brahim Diaz has always been regarded as a top talent at Manchester City, and was expected to be the same at the Santiago Bernabeu as well. However, he has struggled since moving to Spain, and his release clause of £634.9 million is quite unbelievable as of right now.
2. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona – £677.2 million)
Barcelona’s recently-recruited Antoine Griezmann has the second biggest release clause in world football, at £677.2 million. While some may assume that this is because he is a relatively new signing, others find it quite justifiable as they see him as the heir to Lionel Messi’s throne at the Camp Nou.
1. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid – £846.7 million)
Was there any doubt about this one?
Despite being 32 years of age, Karim Benzema is the biggest source of Real Madrid’s goals, especially after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018. And Real Madrid are not ready to give up on him just yet, having made sure that no other club will even try to sign him thanks to mind-blowing £846.7 million release clause.
According to an official announcement made by Paradigm Sports Management – the company that represents Conor McGregor – boxing champ Manny Pacquiao also signed with them on Tuesday, February 11.
According to the announcement, Pacquiao, a reigning welterweight world titleholder, the only fighter to win world titles in eight weight classes and a sitting senator in the Philippines, and his existing team will partner with Paradigm. The agency also said that he signed with them because he is looking to “solidify the final years of his boxing legacy.”
“I am proud to partner with Paradigm Sports Management and am excited for the opportunities that (Paradigm president and CEO) Audie Attar and PSM have to offer,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
“One thing I want everyone to remember is to always think positively. Never think negatively; that is the beginning of your downfall. Everything is possible.”
Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk from both sides about a possible Pacquiao-McGregor crossover boxing match. Earlier, Conor McGregor lost by knockout to Floyd Mayweather in what went on to become the second-highest-grossing combat sports event of all time, behind only Mayweather’s decision win over Pacquiao in their showdown in 2015.
McGregor, who retired from combat sports in 2018, returned to the Octagon earlier in January to defeat Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone in just 40 seconds. Since then, rumours have talked about a possible rematch between him and Khabib Nurmagomedov and another matchup against Manny Pacquiao.
Although Zidane left Bale out of his last few matchday squads as mentioned earlier, he hinted that the 30-year-old will return to the field during Real Madrid’s La Liga game against Osasuna on Sunday.
“We always talk, but I’m not going to tell you [what we say],” Zidane said during Saturday’s pre-match press conference.
“That’s not why I’m here,” he added further.
“He hasn’t been in the last few squad lists because I have to choose [a certain number of players]. I’m counting on him because we know what he can give us. “It’s not a wake-up call when he hasn’t been called up.”
“The problem is me. They have to be okay to play. Real Madrid’s squad is very big,” he explained.
“There’s no solution with Gareth because there’s no problem.”
“It doesn’t mean anything that he hasn’t been called up for the last few games. I know he’s going to give us something by the end of the season. Of course, he’s very capable of training five days a week. He just did,” Zidane added, before concluding:
“[Against Osasuna] He could make the squad list because he’s ready. It’ll be known by 5:00 pm [CET]. He’s all right.”
Chelsea star Jorginho has indicated that he would be open to a move to Juventus in the summer, in order to reunite with Maurizio Sarri and team up with him again, after the Italian boss left London last year.
In a recent interview, it is Jorginho’s agent Joao Santos who revealed that the player would not say ‘no’ to the Bianconeri, should they come calling at the end of the ongoing 2019-20 season.
“Anything can happen inside the transfer market,” he said, according to The Sun as quoted by Goal.
“We would be ready to evaluate the different proposals that will come from Italy, France, England,” he added further, before asking:
“Why should Juventus not be possible?”
“It is the most important team in Italy, the one that has won the most in recent years. We would not say no to the Bianconeri,” Santos explained further.
After playing at Napoli for four years between 2014 and 2018, Jorginho joined Chelsea for a reported €57million after Sarri – who was his boss at Napoli as well – made the move to the Stamford Bridge.
Exactly a year later, Sarri was sacked and he returned to Italy where he accepted Juventus’ managerial offer following the departure of Massimiliano Allegri.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Jorginho has played 86 matches for Chelsea so far, scoring nine times and assisting twice. Seven of those goals and both those assists came this season, in which the Brazil-born-Italian has already recorded 32 appearances across all competitions.
According to the latest reports, La Liga giants Real Madrid are monitoring the situation of Manchester City star Raheem Sterling, ahead of a rumoured summer move for the player.
The Telegraph claims that Real Madrid are closely watching Sterling’s availability ahead of their upcoming UEFA Champions League meeting with Manchester City.
It is already well-known that Los Blancos are long-time admirers of the England forward, having previously tried to sign him during the summer transfer window ahead of the ongoing 2019-20 season. As of now, Zinedine Zidane and co are looking at whether or not he will sign a fresh long-term deal at the Etihad Stadium, as they consider bolstering their attack department.
The 25-year-old is a former Liverpool player, recording 23 goals and 25 assists in 129 appearances for them across all competitions, before moving to City in 2015 for a reported transfer fee of €63.7million.
His performances have improved vastly under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad, and to this date, he has scored 89 goals and provided 71 assists in 226 appearances for the Sky Blues across all competitions.
In the ongoing 2019-20 season, he has recorded figures of 20 goals and 6 assists in 35 matches, including 11 goals and two assists in the Premier League and five goals and three assists in the Champions League.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has said he hopes that Lionel Messi will finish his career at Barcelona amid suggestions that Manchester City want to sign him on a free transfer in the summer.
Guardiola, who managed Messi at Barcelona, was asked on Friday if he might be a target for Manchester City.
“He is a player from Barcelona and he will stay there, that’s my wish for him to stay there,” he replied, before adding:
“I’m not going to talk about players playing for other clubs. I think he will finish his career there, that’s my wish.”
The 32-year-old’s future with the Camp Nou outfit had been questioned earlier this week after he criticised the club’s sporting director and former footballer Eric Abidal following his claim that the squad’s form was the primary reason for Ernesto Valverde’s sacking as head coach in January.
“Many players were not satisfied or didn’t work hard and there was also an internal communication issue,” he had said, to which Messi replied:
“Those responsible for the area of sports management must assume their responsibilities and above all take charge of the decisions they make.”
“Finally, I think that when talking about players, we should give names because otherwise, we are getting everyone dirty and feeding things that are said and are not true,” Messi added further.
The above row between the six-time Ballon d’Or winner and the former Barcelona left-back resulted in suggestions that the former could trigger a clause in his contract that gives him the freedom to leave at the end of the season.
According to the latest reports, La Liga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid have also expressed interest to sign Jack Grealish, after it emerged that the Aston Villa ace is a top target for Manchester United as well.
As per Daily Mail, Manchester United now face competition for Grealish after Barcelona and Real Madrid reportedly joined the race for signing him earlier this week.
The English news agency further claims that Grealish was Manchester United’s “top priority” for the upcoming summer transfer window, but now that both the La Liga defending champions and their arch-rivals have also expressed interest, it appears that they will now have to try really hard to convince him to move to the Old Trafford.
Earlier, it was The Sun who reported that Grealish’s glowing form for relegation-threatened Aston Villa has guaranteed him a move to some of the best clubs in the Premier League, even if his current club got demoted to the EFL Championship.
If the 24-year-old agrees to join a new club, that would be the first time in his entire footballing career when he would play for any club other than Aston Villa, having joined them as a five-year-old in 2001 according to Transfermarkt.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the hunt for new midfielders, in a bid to replace some of their current starters.
Earlier in January, rumours had it Barca had targeted new Manchester United signing Bruno Fernandes, while Los Blancos were keen to add new Inter Milan signing Christian Eriksen and United’s Paul Pogba to their squad.
Michael Zorc – the sporting director of Borussia Dortmund – has revealed that the club are keen to open talks with Real Madrid, to discuss terms on a potential permanent deal for Achraf Hakimi. Hakimi is currently plying his trade at the Signal Iduna Park on loan from the La Liga giants.
“We will have talks with Real Madrid in the next few weeks,” Zorc told Sport Bild, before adding:
“The decision is not up to us, but Achraf’s great development has, of course, not been hidden from anyone in Spain either.”
“He feels very comfortable with us. They [Real Madrid] know that we would like to keep him,” he explained further.
Top 5 Borussia Dortmund goals of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season so far
Hakimi was a part of the Borussia Dortmund side that lost 3-2 to Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal Last 16 clash earlier this week. Meanwhile, in the Bundesliga, the Black and Yellow are at third place on the table, trailing the table-toppers Bayern Munich by just three points.
As mentioned earlier, akimi joined Lucien Favre’s side in July 2018 on a loan deal from Real Madrid. A right-back by trade, he played 61 matches for Los Blancos across both the junior and senior levels, and also recorded six goals and 11 assists for them before signing with the Bundesliga club.
For Dortmund, the 21-year-old has made 58 appearances till date, scoring nine times and also providing 13 assists.
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic came from one set down to beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win the final of the Australian Open 2020 and thereby win the 17th Grand Slam title of his career.
In his speech after being presented with the trophy, the Serbian superstar spoke about the bushfires that ravaged Australia at the turn of the year and Bryant’s death.
“There were some devastating things that started 2020,” he said, before adding:
“The huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world, people dying every day.”
“One person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well with his daughter. I would like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever.”
“Stay close to the people who love and care for you. We are part of professional sport, we compete and try our best but obviously there are more important things in life. It is important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you,” he concluded.
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic came from one set down to beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win the final of the Australian Open 2020 and thereby win the 17th Grand Slam title of his career.
In case you did not know, the Serbian is facing the prospect of a hefty fine for tapping umpire Damien Dumusois on the foot twice, while remonstrating with the French official during the Australian Open final.
He got angry when he was handed back-to-back time violations in the one game for taking too long to serve.
With the score locked at 4-4 in the second set, the second penalty came at break point and cost him a first serve, and that resulted in him losing the game.
Djokovic then furiously marched past the umpire’s chair and tapped Dumusois’s foot and sarcastically exclaimed:
“You made yourself famous in this match. Great job. Especially in the second one. Great job. You made yourself famous. Well done man”.
According to the official Grand Slam rule book, Djokovic could find himself hit with a $20,000 fine, although penalties are discretionary.
The rules state: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site. Violation of this Section shall subject a player to a fine up to $US20,000 for each violation.”
But Djokovic doesn’t believe that he overstepped the mark.
“I thought it was a nice, really friendly touch. I wasn’t aggressive with him in terms of physical abuse.”
“I just couldn’t believe that I got the time violation. It kind of disturbed me. That’s all there is to it.”
“Verbally we did have some exchanges, but no insults because if I did insult him, I would get a warning,” he explained further, before concluding:
“Right now that you tell me that, I want to thank him for not giving me a warning for touching him. That’s all I can say.”