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Aaron Ramsey has agreed on a five-year deal with Juventus worth £36m and will join the Italian champions on a free transfer at the end of the season. The midfielder has been discussing a move for weeks and will leave Arsenal after 10 years at the club.


It had been clear the Wales international would move in the summer and Juventus had been the frontrunners to secure the 28-year-old’s signature. Ramsey will be paid around £140,000 a week (£7.2m a season), making him Juventus’s second-highest earner behind Cristiano Ronaldo but ahead Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa.


Juventus, who have won the past seven Serie A titles, signed Ronaldo for €100m last summer and are nine points clear of Napoli in second place after 19 games. They have reached two of the last four Champions League finals, albeit losing both, to Barcelona in 2015 and Real Madrid two years later. They are in the last 16 of this season’s competition, where they face Atlético Madrid.


The Juventus manager, Max Allegri, and the director Fabio Paratici are huge admirers of Ramsey, who is likely to be given a place in the Juventus starting XI, most likely playing with Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi in a three-man midfield. He is likely to replace one of Emre Can, Rodrigo Bentancur and Sami Khedira, with the latter possibly leaving the club in the summer.


Ramsey signed for Arsenal from Cardiff for £4.8m. He has played 252 top-flight games for the club, scoring 52 goals. He won three FA Cups, scoring the winning goal in the 2014 and 2017 finals.


He played arguably the best football of his career during Euro 2016 when Wales reached the semi-finals, although he was suspended for the last-four game when Portugal beat Chris Coleman’s team 2-0.


Ramsey has had his injury problems but Juventus are delighted to have secured him on a free transfer, while Arsenal will regret seeing a player in the prime of his career leave under these circumstances.


With Arsenal choosing to renew the contract of Mesut Özil – another star whose deal was due to expire this summer – they put themselves in a position where they could not re-sign Ramsey too. The Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, also had major reservations about both Özil and Ramsey fitting into his plans and the style he wants to play.


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Chelsea is on the verge of signing Gonzalo Higuain, Marca reports.


Maurizio Sarri is desperate to bolster his attacking options in the January transfer window and Higuain is his top target.


The Argentine thrived under Sarri’s guidance at Napoli and broke the Serie A record with 37 goals in the 2015/2016 season.


The pair will now be reunited once again as Higuain has reportedly “said yes” to Chelsea’s offer.


The deal could now be finalized “in the coming hours”, as Chelsea are willing to pay Higuain’s salary, as well as a potential €40million (£36m) transfer fee to make the loan move permanent in the summer.


Higuain is currently on loan at AC Milan, but the 31-year-old has struggled for form, with just eight goals in 20 appearances this season.


Higuain’s arrival could also pave the way for Alvaro Morata’s exit at Stamford Bridge. The Spain international’s agent has held talks with Sevilla’s sporting director over a potential return to La Liga on loan.

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Former Barcelona midfielder, Andreas Iniesta, has admitted a return to the club for Neymar, will be “difficult”.

Brazilian Neymar has been linked with a return to Barcelona ever since he moved away from the Nou Camp.


There was even reports last month that the sensation was so desperate to come back his staff made 'constant calls' to his former club.


The 26-year-old megastar left Spain to link up with the French champions Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €220million move.


Since then he's constantly linked with a move away from Paris. Real Madrid was a mooted destination, but his heart was said to be in Barcelona .


But any deal to return will be extremely complicated due to the way he left the Nou Cam, however, with his father pushing hard for a move away.


And this view is shared by Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta.


 The midfielder was asked his view on the Brazilian's return during a recent interview with RAC1's Tu Diràs programme.


"I personally see it difficult for me to return even though in football we have seen a hundred thousand things, years ago and nowadays.


"He is one of the best but I can not visualise it".


But Iniesta did hail Neymar's compatriot Arthur, who joined the club in the summer.


"He has the profile that this club or this team likes and has personality," said Iniesta.


"He has left to continue growing but it will be important because he also has Busquets, Rakitic next to him".


And Arthur is not as sure Neymar won't be joining him at the Nou Camp.


When asked last month about the frontman's possible return, Arthur told Mundo : "I personally am praying for him to come. "I think that the better players the team has, the better.


"Personally, I'm doing a lot of work to get him back.


"He knows what he's doing and I do not know how deep those negotiations are, if there are options for him to come or not.


"But he is a personal friend and a professional that I admire a lot and would be very happy if he could come back here."


IrishMirror

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Ronaldo, the former Brazil striker and current majority shareholder of Real Valladolid, has said he would be in favor of the club playing La Liga games outside of Spain.


Ronaldo bought a 51 per cent stake in Valladolid in September, with the stated aim of establishing the team in the top flight after they were promoted last season.


Staging fixtures abroad has become a controversial issue in Spanish football. La Liga were keen to hold a fixture between Barcelona and Girona in January in Miami but Barca have withdrawn their support due to a lack of consensus on the idea.


Ronaldo, however, has said he would be in favor if Valladolid was asked.


“I am in favor but our fans are the ones who decide,” said Ronaldo on Thursday.

“If it’s good for the fans that we go to play a match abroad, to me it would seem a very interesting project for our club and our brand.”


La Liga want to develop Spanish football in the United States but their plan has encountered strong opposition, primarily from the Spanish Football Federation and the players’ union, AFE.


“Everything we do is for the progress of our project and Valladolid has to be recognised nationally and internationally,” added Ronaldo.


The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, who played for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan, said he had looked in England as well as Spain for a potential club to buy.


“I had been looking for a team to buy for two years,” Ronaldo said.

“I studied the Spanish and English markets and some other markets and Valladolid came as a perfect gift.”

He added,  “We have a simple challenge and that is to stay in the first division, it is our one and only goal this season.”


(AFP)

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It's been a dramatic week of Champions League action, but football is not the only matter of intrigue in Europe right now, with the January transfer window fast approaching.


Our friends at Football Whispers are here to round up the latest news from the continent's sports pages.


Germany

Bayern Munich have stepped up their pursuit of Thorgan Hazard. The Belgian has shone for Borussia Monchengladbach this season and has also attracted interest from the Premier League. With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery set to leave Bayern at the end of the season, the winger would be a natural replacement for one of the veterans. Monchengladbach, however, are determined to extend Hazard's contract, which expires in 2020. (Kicker)

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Manchester City and Barcelona are monitoring German 19-year-old Kai Havertz. The Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder has scored six and assisted six goals in the Bundesliga this season and is valued at €55m. (SportBild)


Spain

Real Madrid have nearly lined up their first signing of the winter window. They're close to finalizing a deal for River Plate's Exequiel Palacios, who will join after the FIFA Club World Cup. (Marca)


Inter Milan's failure to qualify for the knock-out rounds of the Champions League could give a boost to Real Madrid. They may renew their interest in Mauro Icardi, hoping that the 25-year-old striker's vision of Inter's future has been dented by the exit and that he is more open to a departure. (AS)


Frenkie de Jong says he hasn't made a decision on his future, despite reports that he will be joining Paris Saint-Germain. The Ajax 21-year-old is also a Manchester City and Barcelona transfer target, but said "I still haven't taken a decision," after the club's Champions League game against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. (Mundo Deportivo)


Ivan Rakitic might be set to leave Barcelona. Or he might not be. Catalunya Radio claim there is an agreement in place to sell him in the summer for below his €125m release clause, with PSG very interested, while Mundo Deportivo deny the truth of this rumour. (Catalunya Radio and Mundo Deportivo)


Italy

Paul Pogba is wanted by Juventus and might try to buy him back for less than he was sold for. The Italian club have €80m they're willing to spend and are weighing up Pogba or Real Madrid's Isco. (Tuttosport)


Inter are considering hiring a new coach next season following the club's exit from the Champions League group stage. Luciano Spalletti is being held responsible for Inter's failure to progress from Group B and, as a result, the Zhang family owners are weighing up approaches for Antonio Conte and Diego Simeone. (Corriere della Sera)


Chelsea are keen to close a deal for highly-rated Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella. The Blues are willing to pay £40m for the 21-year-old and there is a hope that Gianfranco Zola's personal relationship will help bring the player to Stamford Bridge. Atletico Madrid are also interested. (Unione Sarda, via Sport Witness)


Andorra

Gerard Pique may soon be a club owner. He's in talks to buy FC Andorra, who currently play in the Spanish fifth-tier. Pique, as part of his investment company Kosmos, is also heavily involved in tennis, where he is behind a revamped Davis Cup. (Diari d'Andorra)


France

Liverpool target Nabil Fekir has been coy about his future at Lyon. The club wants to extend his contract, and he doesn't envisage himself leaving in the summer "but, you know, in football. "Am I leaving? No, not for now, but you never know in football," he said after Lyon's 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. (L'Equipe)


Karim Benzema has emerged as a possible replacement for Edinson Cavani at PSG. The Uruguayan has been strongly linked with an exit and, should he leave, the club will target the Real Madrid forward. However, if they fail to lure the Frenchman back to Ligue 1 10 years after leaving Lyon for the Spanish capital, the French champions will turn their attention to Inter striker Mauro Icardi. (France Football)

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Paul Pogba's "concerning" performance in Valencia will not have convinced Jose Mourinho to play him at Liverpool, says Craig Bellamy.


United ended their Champions League group-stage campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Valencia that saw them miss the chance to finish top of Group H above Juventus, who slumped to a surprise loss at Young Boys.


United take on Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Renault Super Sunday, and former Reds forward Bellamy has cast doubt over Pogba's participation in the fixture.


"Pogba was poor again tonight," he told The Debate.


"Mourinho isn't getting the best out of Pogba, that's clear. There is a lack of interest from Pogba. His performance in Valencia was concerning.


"I'm not sure if he is as good as a lot of people make out.


"There's a massive game on Sunday, Liverpool versus Manchester United is the biggest game in the Premier League between the teams who have won the most trophies, an incredible fixture.


"If you're Mourinho, after Pogba's performance today, it will be very difficult to say he has to play, he has to leave him out again."


Pogba has failed to start United's last two Premier League games, starting the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on the bench, while he was an unused substitute in Saturday's win over Fulham.


Bellamy believes the France international's display at the Mestalla was evidence that he is going backwards.


"Usually, these kind of performances convince the manager he would be of use in games like the one on Sunday, but going off the back of the performance in Valencia that is not the case," he added.


"We get reminded that Pogba won the World Cup every time we talk about him, but for a player that is used to playing in big games, he doesn't look like he's improving, he's going backwards."


Jack Wilkinson(SkySports)

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Rangers International FC of Enugu on Wednesday assured teeming fans of its resolve to defeat Algerian Cup Champions, Union Sportive Madina Bel Abbes (USMBA) on Saturday.


The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Rangers and USMBA will be trading tackles on Dec. 15, in Algeria in the first leg, the first round of Total/CAF Confederation Cup 2018/2019 season.


Rangers’ coach, Olugbenga Ogunbote, said in an interview with journalists in Enugu that the Rangers, nicknamed Flying Antelopes, were full of confidence going into the round of the second-tier CAF Club competition.

 

He said: “We are glad that we are through the preliminary round and heading into the first round with a date against an Algerian side, I believe that we can safely negotiate through.


“We shall give the match all the attention it deserves, home and away. We are taking each game as it comes but we have our sights fixed at the trophy.


“There is no better way to show appreciation to our teaming supporters, especially Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state, for all he has done and still doing for us, and to continue to do to enable the club win more matches.“


Ogunbote, however, said that with God everything is possible, adding, “with the right attitude of my players, I am very optimistic about getting a favorable result in Algeria.“


“We may know very little of our opponent but we are not disturbed as we hope to play our game and get our strides right.


“Let our fans continue to pray and support us as we promise not to disappoint them.’’


Rangers dispatched enterprising Flying Angels Football Academy, Enugu 3 – 0 in a friendly match on Tuesday evening inside the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu (The Cathedral).


The club also demolished Ethiopian Champions, Defence Force S.C. 5 – 1 recently on aggregate in the preliminary round.



 

(NAN



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Claudio Ranieri revealed on Thursday that Jose Mourinho was the first manager to welcome him back to the Premier League when he was appointed Fulham boss last month.


Fulham visit Old Trafford on Saturday, where Mourinho’s Manchester United will hope to secure their first Premier League victory in five games, reuniting the pair for the first time since Ranieri’s departure from Leicester.


It was after that dismissal, just nine months after leading the Foxes to the title, that Mourinho wore the Italian’s initials, CR, in a show of solidarity with a fellow manager and Ranieri has revealed they have remained in regular contact.


The Portuguese has frequently clashed with other high-profile managers and had previously criticised the job Ranieri did at Chelsea and in Serie A with Roma when they were both managing in Italy.

But the Fulham manager said: “He was the first who sent me a message to say ‘welcome back’. He is a very friendly friend.

“He told me, ‘Welcome back, all the best’. We speak about everything. It was a text message. Sometimes we speak. He’s a fantastic man.

“I have known him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea and when he was in Italy, and he was very polite with me. He’s a great man, coach, manager. Bottom side Fulham produced an encouraging performance in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Leicester, giving the 67-year-old Ranieri one victory, one draw and one defeat from his three matches in charge. In United they face a team that are under pressure and struggling for form, but Ranieri insists his side will need to be “perfect” if they are to succeed. “Manchester are one of the best teams in the Premier League and also in the Champions League,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic team and stadium and we want to make a point. We know it’s hard, but nothing is impossible.” 

AFP

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"Inspirational" wrestler Thomas Billington, known as "The Dynamite Kid", has died on his 60th birthday.


Mr Billington, of Golborne, Greater Manchester became a worldwide star in the 1980s with his cousin Davey Boy Smith.


The pair fought in a tag team known as "The British Bulldogs", with their English Bulldog mascot Matilda.


His ex-tag team partner's son Davey Boy Smith Jr said he was "an inspiration" who "revolutionised" wrestling.



In a tribute, he said:

"I was really happy and glad I got to see 'Dynamite' one last time last June in the UK.
"Dynamite was certainly an inspiration to myself and many others and really revolutionized professional wrestling as we know it today.
"He flew high, and gave it his all every match."


The cause of his death has not yet been released but it is thought he had been suffering from ill health for a number of years.


He passed away on his 60th birthday. 


About 'The Dynamite Kid'

Mr Billington came from a boxing family and fought in the UK and across the world.


The British Bulldogs won the WWF World tag team title from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania II in 1986.


A World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) spokesman said Dynamite got into wrestling to "avoid a life as a coal miner".


He added: "Although somewhat undersized, he possessed a ferocity and determination that earned him the nickname The Dynamite Kid."


His former partner Davey Boy Smith, from Bolton, died suddenly in May 2002 aged 39 while he was on holiday in British Columbia, Canada.


An inquest found he was suffering from an enlarged heart.

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This is what you should know just in case you didn't already know, Pele is the whole of football so comparing him with Lionel Messi is just wrong.

Football legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé has stated that he isn't in anyway in the same league with Lionel Messi and therefore, there is no basis for a comparison of any sort.


Pele said, Lionel Messi “only has one skill”, and even his fellow Argentine Diego Maradona was “much better” than him, reports Goal.com.


Pele made his point by stating that the 31-year-old is one-dimensional and too reliant on his left foot to be compared to other iconic figures at the top of the football game.


The man, who netted over 1000 goals in his career and won the World Cup on three occasions told Brazillian media, Folha de Sao Paulo,

“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?”


“How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers.”

Pele added, “As far as I’m concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever. If you ask me, ‘Was he better than Messi?’ Yes, he was. Much better.

“[Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff were also excellent players.”

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