PARIS: Lionel Messi was back in full training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of last year.
The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter.
Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1’s winter break.
PSG announced on January 5 that he was back in France after testing negative but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is only now feeling fit enough to resume normal service.
He missed the French Cup match against Vannes and two league games, the 1-1 draw with Lyon and last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Brest.
Messi’s emotional move from Barcelona to the French capital side has not gone according to the script he, the fans, and his new employers would have liked.
Messi has scored only one goal in 11 league appearances for PSG, although he has netted five times in the Champions League.
He has missed a total of 10 Ligue 1 games since August through injuries, late return from Argentina duty, and then Covid-19.
He resumed individual training last Thursday, after which he told his fans on Instagram: “It has taken me longer than I thought to be OK but I’m almost recovered and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.”
Messi could make his league return against Reims on Sunday.
Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid
Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid
- The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter
- Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1's winter break
PARIS: Lionel Messi was back in full training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of last year.
Real Madrid sign deal worth $380m for Santiago Bernabeu management
- The deal with the US-based companies comes with Madrid close to signing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who would arrive as a free agent but command a club-record salary
- The Bernabeu is undergoing major renovation, getting a new roof, modern video screens and a retractable field in a project that was expected to cost close to €1 billion ($1.05 billion)
MADRID: Real Madrid have signed a stadium management deal for the Santiago Bernabeu worth €360 million ($381 million), the club said Thursday.
The agreement was reached with investment firm Sixth Street and “experiences company” Legends, which specializes in organizing sports and other events and is partly owned by Sixth Street.
The deal with the US-based companies comes with Madrid close to signing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who would arrive as a free agent but command a club-record salary. One of soccer’s top stars, the 23-year-old Mbappe’s contract with PSG expires at the end of this season.
Real Madrid said the money from the deal can be invested in “any of the club’s activities.”
Madrid have not signed any top players in the last few transfer windows and currently hold the league’s highest spending limit at €739 million ($783 million).
The club this season won a record-extending 35th Spanish league title and will be looking to win a record-extending 14th European trophy when it faces Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris.
Sixth Street acquired the right to participate in the operation of certain new businesses of the Bernabeu for 20 years, Madrid said. The exact stake the company will have was not immediately disclosed by the club.
Legends, meanwhile, “will contribute its experience and knowledge in the operation of large stadiums and leisure centers, allowing for the optimization of the management” of the stadium.
“This alliance with Sixth Street and Legends, world leaders in their respective disciplines, will be fundamental in providing unique experiences in a stadium where multiple events can be hosted throughout the year,” Madrid said in a statement. “This agreement strengthens our goal of continuing to significantly increase the stadium’s revenues from both sporting and other types of events.”
Sixth Street said it manages over $60 billion in assets globally and is also linked to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, as well as to Airbnb and Spotify. Last year it invested a majority stake in Legends, which was formed in 2008 by affiliates of the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys.
“Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu is hallowed ground in the world of football, and we are honored to be joining this partnership to invest in the innovative, long-term strategic vision that has guided the club’s consistent success over its storied history,” said Alan Waxman, co-founder and CEO of Sixth Street.
The Bernabeu is undergoing major renovation, getting a new roof, modern video screens and a retractable field in a project that was expected to cost close to €1 billion ($1.05 billion). The goal was to have it completed by the end of the year. Last season, the team played at the small Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at the club’s training center. The renovation work was expedited as fans were not allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Madrid rival Barcelona will also renovate their Camp Nou Stadium. It recently reached a naming rights deal for the venue with streaming company Spotify believed to be worth €400 million ($424 million) over 12 seasons.
Barcelona and Madrid did not join in the Spanish league’s deal with private equity firm CVC, which will bring in about €2 billion ($2.1 billion) in investment to Spanish clubs. They say the deal gives too much power to CVC over the clubs’ television rights deals for the next five decades.
Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy
- The underdogs took the Saudi and Asian champions to extra time after holding them to a 1-1 draw in normal time, before winning 3-1 on penalties
Al-Fayha defeated Al-Hilal 3-1 in a penalty shootout on Thursday to claim the King’s Cup, the first major trophy in the club’s history.
After two hours of football ended 1-1 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, the men from Al-Majma’ah were the ones celebrating after Panagiotis Tachtsidis fired home the decisive spot-kick.
It was a stunning ending to the game, during which a Salem Al-Dawsari goal deep into first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock and put Al-Hilal ahead, before Ramon Lopes equalized for the underdogs midway through the second half.
The Riyadh giants had more of the game in terms of possession and chances but nevertheless found it hard going against determined opponents who have the best defensive record in the country. Had Al-Hilal been a little more clinical during the opening exchanges it might have been a very different evening.
It was a breathless opening by the favorites. Coach Ramon Diaz had talked before the game about how his team needed to take their chances because Al-Fayha have the tightest defense in the country, and had they heeded those words Al-Hilal could have almost put the game beyond reach within the first 10 minutes.
With less than five minutes on the clock, the men in blue almost took the lead when Nasser Al-Dawsari burst through onto a loose ball in the area and lifted his shot over the goalkeeper. It was heading toward the back of the net when, almost out of nowhere, Hussein Al-Shuwaish appeared and hooked the ball clear. Soon after, Al-Fayha goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic got down low at his near post to save well from Odion Ighalo.
Five minutes later, Al-Hilal again came close. Moussa Marega sent over a perfect cross from the right side for Al-Dawsari, who arrived unnoticed and unmarked. Somehow, the winger managed to head wide with the goal at his mercy.
Al-Fayha weathered this early storm during the first 20 minutes, during which they did not even manage to secure one fifth of the possession, before finally starting to venture into opposition territory. At the midway point of the first half, Ahmed Bamsaud sent a header over the bar. By that time, the game had settled into a scrappy affair and it looked likely that the two teams would go in goalless at the break.
But with virtually the last kick of the half, Al-Dawsari struck. Collecting the ball from Salman Al-Faraj just inside the left side of the area, the 30 year old took a touch and, with the goalkeeper perhaps expecting a curler into the top corner, fired a low shot with his right foot that beat the diving Stojkovic at the near post.
The half-time show lasted more than 30 minutes and after the restart it took a little time for the game to rediscover its rhythm but Al-Fayha were noticeably more aggressive. After 66 minutes, the underdogs were back on level terms.
It was not a great goal to concede, from Al-Hilal’s viewpoint. Defender Ali Al-Bulaihi completely missed a cross from the right and Lopes got to the ball ahead of Jang Hyun-soo around the penalty spot. His shot on the turn should have been saved by Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who instead could only palm the ball onto the underside of the bar on its way into the net.
Al-Fayha could have gone on to win the game in normal time but were unable to take their chances. The pace slowed in extra time and the play became cagey once more.
After 98 minutes, Al-Hilal’s two Al-Dawsaris combined down the left but the goalscorer pulled his shot just wide. As you might expect, the Asian champions made almost all the running in the 30 minutes of extra time but were just not able to find a way through.
And so to penalties. The shootout started well for the favorites as Al-Mayouf saved the first spot kick but Ighalo failed to capitalize, hitting the bar. After Al-Fayha got off the mark by scoring their second penalty, Al-Faraj blasted his attempt wide and it was all uphill from there for Al-Hilal, especially after Stojkovic then saved well from Abdullah Al-Hamdan.
In the end, it was left to Tachtsidis to fire home with his left foot, giving Al-Fayha the win and the first major trophy in club history.
Al-Hilal are now left to focus on the league, starting with a massive clash against leaders Al-Ittihad on Monday.
Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three
- Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink
- Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season
LONDON: Everton staged a dramatic fightback from two goals down to preserve their Premier League status with a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace, while Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Thursday.
Frank Lampard’s side recovered from conceding twice in the first half as Michael Keane and Richarlison netted after the break before Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late winner sparked wild celebrations at Goodison Park.
After a nerve-jangling battle to avoid playing outside the top-flight for the first time since 1954, Everton can finally relax with one game to play.
Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink.
Everton are four points above the relegation zone, leaving fourth-bottom Burnley and third-bottom Leeds scrapping for survival.
“It is the character of this club, the fans and the players that dragged us through,” Lampard said.
“The players to a man were incredible. The fans lifted them and we created a special night in Everton’s history.
“The spirit of the club was immense. I’m overwhelmed.”
Burnley, who host Newcastle in Sunday’s final round of fixtures, climbed above Leeds on goal difference thanks to their point at Villa.
They will be safe if they match Leeds’ result at Brentford on the last day.
Whatever happens at the weekend is unlikely to surpass the emotion at Goodison, where fans wept tears of joy during a frenzied post-match pitch invasion.
The celebrations turned nasty when supporters taunted Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who responded by kicking one fan.
Palace had silenced the boisterous crowd with their 21st minute opener.
Vitalii Mykolenko allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta to get in front of him and the Palace forward headed in Eberechi Eze’s free-kick.
Several bottles were thrown toward Mateta and the atmosphere turned even more toxic in the 36th minute when Jordan Ayew poked home after Abdoulaye Doucoure failed to clear.
But Lampard had labelled the game “all or nothing” and Michael Keane gave Everton a vital 54th minute lifeline, the defender applying the finishing touch from Mason Holgate’s header.
Revitalized, Everton laid seige to the Palace goal and Richarlison hooked the equalizer past Jack Butland in the 75th minute.
With Goodison at fever pitch, Dominic Calvert-Lewin completed the comeback in the 85th minute with a clinical header that sparked a jubilant pitch invasion.
At Villa Park, Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet won a penalty on the stroke of halftime when he was bundled over by Emiliano Buendia.
Ashley Barnes sent Emiliano Martinez the wrong way with a cool strike for his first goal since February 2021.
In the 48th minute, Buendia volleyed Villa’s equalizer, with Burnley protesting that a foul throw should have been given in the buildup.
Burnley finished with 10 men after Matt Lowton was sent off for a high tackle on Calum Chambers in stoppage-time.
“Terrific point for us. We’re at home on the last day and it’s in our hands,” Burnley interim boss Mike Jackson said.
Chelsea effectively guaranteed a third place finish with a 1-1 draw against Leicester at Stamford Bridge.
Given their vastly superior goal difference advantage over fourth placed Tottenham, who sit three points behind them, the FA Cup runners-up will not be caught.
James Maddison gave Leicester a sixth minute lead from the edge of the area before Marcos Alonso volleyed home in the 35th minute.
Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season.
Manchester City will be crowned champions for a fourth time in five seasons if they beat Villa at the Etihad Stadium.
But second placed Liverpool, one point behind Pep Guardiola’s team, would steal the title if City drop points and they defeat Wolves at Anfield.
In the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Tottenham need to win at Norwich to be certain of pipping Arsenal, who host Everton and are two points behind their north London rivals.
Manchester United can qualify for the Europa League with a win at Palace, although they would drop into the Europa Conference League with a defeat and a West Ham victory at Brighton.
Teen machines: Alcaraz looks to join elite Grand Slam club at French Open
- Nadal was the last teenage man to win a Slam — a feat which eluded his great rivals Djokovic and Federer
PARIS: At just 19, Carlos Alcaraz is bidding to become only the eighth teenager to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title at the French Open which gets underway at Roland Garros on Sunday.
AFP Sport looks at the seven men to have won majors while still in their teens:
• In 1974, Sweden’s reluctant superstar Borg won the first of his six French Opens having just passed his 18th birthday when he defeated Manuel Orantes 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Borg would win 11 majors, including five in a row at Wimbledon from 1976-1980 before retiring — for the first time — at 26. Borg was the first male tennis player to earn a million dollars in a season in 1979. “It’s tough when you’re No. 1. You don’t have any private life, you can’t even walk anywhere. I think that was one reason why I lost my motivation to play tennis,” said Borg when he quit.
• At 17, Sweden’s Wilander defeated Guillermo Vilas of Argentina 1-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-4 in a marathon four hours and 42 minutes French Open final in 1982 despite being unseeded. Wilander was widely hailed for his sportsmanship in his defeat of Jose Luis Clerc in the semifinals when he requested a replay of match point after a forehand from his opponent was called long. Wilander would eventually become a world No. 1, ending his career with seven Grand Slam titles.
• Becker burst on the scene with his maiden Wimbledon triumph in 1985 at the age of 17. His 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 win over Kevin Curren made him the tournament’s youngest men’s champion and its first unseeded victor. The German served and volleyed and dived right and left, enchanting the Center Court crowd. Becker would win six majors but he fell from grace last month when he was jailed in the UK after a bankruptcy trial.
• Sweden’s Edberg was 19 when he won his first Slam at the 1985 Australian Open, beating Wilander 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 having seen off Ivan Lendl in a marathon semifinal 6-7, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7. The elegant serve-and-volleyer won a second Australian Open in 1987 and also captured four more Slams at Wimbledon in 1988 and 1990 and at the US Open in 1991 and 1992.
• Chang became the youngest male player in history to win a Grand Slam tournament when he claimed the 1989 French Open at 17 years and three months. Chang defeated Edberg 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 having also knocked out world No. 1 Lendl in a 4-hour and 37-minute last 16 tie in which he was cramping and forced to serve underarm. He was the first American champion in Paris since Tony Trabert in 1955. The diminutive Chang was also runner-up at the 1996 Australian and US Opens.
• Just a month past his 19th birthday, ‘Pistol Pete’ won the first of his 14 Slams at the 1990 US Open, beating American compatriot Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the New York final having seen off Lendl and John McEnroe in the previous two rounds. Sampras ended his career with 64 titles, with a majors haul made up of seven at Wimbledon, two at the Australian Open and five US Open triumphs. His last major was in New York in 2002, bringing the curtain down with another victory against Agassi.
• At 19, Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta in the 2005 French Open final, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. It was his first major title and the first of a record 13 Roland Garros triumphs. The Spaniard, who now has 21 majors, won on his Paris debut, the first man to do so since Wilander in 1982. He was also the youngest champion since Chang in 1989. Interestingly, 2005 also saw the French Open debut of Novak Djokovic who made the second round where he retired against Guillermo Coria. Nadal was the last teenage man to win a Slam — a feat which eluded his great rivals Djokovic and Federer.
Dainese becomes first Italian stage winner in 2022 Giro
- Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek) retained the leader’s pink jersey after a 203-kilometer stage which was relatively comfortable other than the heat and wind
REGGIO EMILIA, ITALY: Alberto Dainese (DSM) became the first Italian winner in this year’s Giro d’Italia when he edged the sprint to take stage 11 in Reggio Emilia on Wednesday.
Dainese, 24, who had never previously won a stage in the Giro, beat the Colombian Fernando Gaviria in the dash for the finish. Another Italian Simone Consonni took third.
On the podium, the Italian was treated to the traditional giant bottle of prosecco, like his predecessors.
But significantly, the magnum had been uncorked as a precaution against a repeat of the accident that befell Biniam Girmay on Tuesday when he was injured in the left eye by the cork and subsequently ruled out of the race.
The Spaniard Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek) retained the leader’s pink jersey after a 203-kilometer stage which was relatively comfortable other than the heat and wind.
Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, however, pocketed three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint to climb two places into second, equal in time with the Portuguese Joao Almeida, 12 seconds behind Lopez.
“I saw Carapaz gained some time in an intermediate sprint but I’m not as fast as him. There was nothing I could do,” said Lopez who has been leading since the fourth stage.
“Anyway, I’m very happy to keep the pink jersey for at least one more day.”
Eritrean Girmay, who on Tuesday became the first black African to win a stage at the Giro, pulled out before the start following Tuesday’s cork accident.
Intermarche’s team doctor Piet Daneels said tests showed “hemorrhage in the anterior chamber of the left eye.”
With temperatures hitting 30 degrees, the peloton largely stuck together apart from one wishful breakaway by Luca Rastelli and Filippo Tagliani which was reeled in just after halfway.
Belgian Dries De Bondt embarked on a solo raid 58 kilometers from the finish, which ended just 1,300 meters from the line.
In the sprint, French rider Arnaud Demare, who already has two stage wins to his name in this Giro, attacked from deep.
He was hunted down by Gaviria before Dainese, taking full advantage of the slipstream, came through to take the third victory of his career.
Last year, he finished second in a Vuelta stage, behind Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen.
The peloton faces its longest day in the saddle on Thursday with a mountainous 12th stage of 204 kilometers which crosses the Apennines from Parma to Genoa.