Saturday, 21 May 2016

Barcelona Extend Nike Deal

FC Barcelona have agreed an extension to their kit-manufacturing deal with Nike which Spanish media reported was the most lucrative arrangement of its kind in the world.

The Spanish champions issued a statement saying details of the contract will be specified at their next general assembly.

The Barcelona-based daily newspapers Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo reported that the deal could be worth €155m (£120m) a season and would run until 2026.

“FC Barcelona and Nike, Inc have extended their current sponsorship deal, which was due to end on 30 June, 2018,” Barcelona said on Saturday. “The long-term agreement is a landmark in global football and builds upon a highly successful partnership.“

The club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, added: “We are excited by this new agreement and are confident we will be able to celebrate continued sporting successes together.“

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

View from the Top - Bill Shankly

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Bill Shankly, Liverpool FC

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Footie Quotes - Bob Paisley OBE

'Mind you, I've been here during the bad times too - one year we came second.'

Bob Paisley, Liverpool manager 1974 - 1983

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Del Bosque Leaves Out Costa and Mata

Diego Costa and Juan Mata have both been left out of Spain’s provisional squad for their Euro 2016 campaign by Vicente del Bosque while there is also no place in the two-times defending champions’ squad for Fernando Torres.

Costa has endured a below-par season with Chelsea despite finding the net 16 times and after suffering a hamstring injury in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool earlier this month, Guus Hiddink admitted he was unsure if the Brazil-born forward would recover in time for next month’s tournament in France.

He was also left out of the Spain squad in March for friendlies with Italy and Romania and Del Bosque, speaking at the announcement of his squad, confirmed he was not prepared to risk Costa, who scored just one goal in qualifying, or Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla, who made his return from a long-term knee injury for Arsenal on Sunday.

“We have weighed everything up,” Del Bosque was quoted as saying by ESPN. “We do not want to call up too many people with doubts over their fitness. The Cazorla situation is very like Diego’s – he has been out five months, made a great effort to be ready, but we can’t have many doubts.”

Mata meanwhile has paid the price for a recent dip in form for Manchester United, who have effectively missed out on a place in the top four, while Del Bosque’s decision to omit Torres, whose form has improved in Atlético Madrid’s run to the Champions League final, leaves Spain looking light in attack.

Paco Alcácer, Spain’s highest scorer in qualifying with five goals, also misses out in favour of Atlético’s uncapped forward Saúl Ñíguez, the 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz, Nolito, Juventus’ Álvaro Morata and Real Madrid’s Lucas Vázquez, who is also yet to make an appearance for the national side.

While Costa has been omitted, his Chelsea team-mates César Azpilicueta, Pedro and Cesc Fàbregas have been included along with the Manchester City playmaker David Silva and Manchester United’s goalkeeper David de Gea.

Spain’s 25-man provisional squad for Euro 2016
Iker Casillas, David de Gea, Sergio Rico, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Dani Carvajal, Jordi Alba, Marc Bartra, César Azpilicueta, Mikel San José, Juanfran, Bruno, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Thiago, Andrés Iniesta, Isco, David Silva, Pedro, Cesc Fàbregas, Saúl Ñíguez, Aritz Aduriz, Nolito, Álvaro Morata, Lucas Vázquez.

Liverpool v Sevilla - Preview

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could make his first start since early April in the Europa League final against Spanish side Sevilla.

The England midfielder, 25, returned from a knee injury in Sunday's 1-1 Premier League draw at West Brom.

Striker Divock Origi could also feature in Basel, Switzerland after returning to training following an ankle injury.

Defender Mamadou Sakho is still banned after failing a drugs test as the Reds chase their 12th European trophy.

"I don't expect to start," said Henderson. "I know I've been out a long time and I've only played 25-30 minutes.

"When I've been injured the team has done very well and played in some big games to get to the final.

"I'm ready to play as long or as little as the manager wants me to."

Sevilla - who have won the trophy for the past two seasons - have no new injury worries, with Denmark midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli out with a long-term knee injury.

Liverpool know winning Europe's secondary club competition will earn them a place in next season's Champions League group stage. But defeat would leave the Reds without European football - for the second time in three seasons - after they finished eighth in the Premier League.

"Everyone wants to play in the Champions League but if you look back on a career with no trophies and six seasons in the Champions League, it's not the same," said midfielder James Milner.

"It's all about winning trophies and to win any European trophy is a massive achievement."

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager
I came here because I was really convinced of the quality of these players. At the start I was the only person, but now a few more people know. To see how they deserve this final makes me feel really good. I am happy that they could show how strong they are. This is a big chance to take a big step.

The longer you don't win anything, the harder you try. We already know about the desire of our supporters. We know how much they want to win this cup. They showed us in an impressive way, home and away, travelling around Europe. We would really love to be the team that makes these dreams come true. I can promise that we will try everything. The problem is, Sevilla will do the same!

We have to be organised, prepared, take control of moments – be patient to pass for long enough to create that chance. In a final you need to be ready to make mistakes when the whole world is watching. Football doesn't work without mistakes. It's about finding the next solution.

Unai Emery, Sevilla coach
Every time football gives you a chance you have to take it. What we have achieved in recent years is wonderful but you can't stop there; you have to relive it, you have to experience it again. The Sevilla fans know this: they look upon the club as their second wife or second girlfriend.

Liverpool are among the best ten teams in the world. They have a great history – they have won the European Cup five times, the UEFA Cup, English league titles. The team have changed under the new coach, they are a happy team. They're like Athletic Bilbao the way they press and give 100%.

All my players have special characteristics and we need the best of them against Liverpool; we need everything they have. We want to grow. We can change history and have our names recorded in the history of the competition. We must find a balance, though, to keep our emotions in check so we can be fully focused. We'll need it.

Phildelpia 76ers Win Lottery Pick

The Philadelphia 76ers landed their first No1 overall draft pick in 20 years on Tuesday at the NBA’s draft lottery, putting Australia’s Ben Simmons in line to head to the team that finished the season as the worst in the league.

Philadelphia have endured a dreadful three-year stretch that was a part of a rebuilding plan to restock the franchise with top picks. Their record of 10-72 this past season gave them the best chance at getting the No1 selection for the 23 June draft and it paid off as they came out ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, who will draft second and third.

“My immediate thought goes straight to the city of Philadelphia,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “They have been amazing in allowing us to go through the process we have. We’re excited about the news we have tonight.”

Louisiana State University standout Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram are expected to be the first two choices. Should Simmons go first he would team-up with one of the NBA’s brightest young cores in Brown, who coached Australia at the 2012 Olympics.

Brown’s connections to Australia could open the way for the Melbourne-born teenager to join the Australian Olympic team this year, despite Simmons having already indicated he was unavailable to go to Rio.

The 76ers have given little away about who they will choose with their top pick. Simmons’ biggest threat is Ingram, with some draft analysts suggesting Ingram could be a better fit for the 76ers.

The last time Philadelphia were in this position they chose Hall of Famer Allen Iverson first overall in 1996.

Their recent results have been mixed as they drafted Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid in the top three of the past two drafts. Embiid has yet to make his debut due to foot surgeries, while Okafor is coming off a solid rookie season.

Sharapova In London to Face Panel

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Maria Sharapova faces an anti-doping panel in London on Wednesday knowing she will not benefit from recent confusion surrounding the drug she tested positive for in January.

The 29-year-old Russian stunned the tennis world in March when she announced at a press conference that she had failed a test for meldonium on 26 January, the day she lost an Australian Open quarter-final to Serena Williams.

The Latvian-made heart disease medication had only been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list on 1 January but had been on a watch list for over a year and all national anti-doping agencies were told in October that it would be banned.

With use of meldonium widespread across eastern Europe, Sharapova’s case was the most high-profile in an avalanche of positives in the first four months of the year. As of early May, Wada said there had been 288 positive samples.

But in April the agency was forced to make an embarrassing climbdown when it admitted there was a lack of scientific certainty on how long it takes for the drug to be completely excreted.

Early suggestions that it should be out of an athlete’s system within days gave way to fears it could be present in long-term users, in trace amounts, for weeks, if not months.

This led Wada to issue new guidance, directing that samples collected before 1 March below a certain concentration of meldonium could be discarded, as the athlete might be able to prove they had stopped taking it in 2015.

Last month the Belarusian doubles specialist Sergey Betov, who also tested positive at the Australian Open, was cleared by the International Tennis Federation on these grounds.

This prompted some to speculate that Sharapova, a five-time grand slam winner, could escape without punishment, which was always mistaken as both she and her lawyer John Haggerty had already admitted she had been taking it, on her doctor’s advice, throughout January.

This was underlined by the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, last month, when he told the Russian news agency Tass that the concentration of meldonium in Sharapova’s system was above the provisional limit.

Sharapova, instead, must try to convince an International Tennis Federation panel that the “laundry list” of health reasons that Haggerty referred to in March should qualify her for a backdated therapeutic use exemption (Tue), or sick note.

Whether this will be enough to enable the world’s highest-earning female athlete to avoid any ban at all is highly debatable, as all athletes sign up to the principle of strict liability and Tues should be arranged, and independently verified, in advance.

The maximum punishment available is four years but most anti-doping experts think a more likely ban is between six and 12 months, which would start from the date of her provisional suspension on 12 March, so even a ban at the lenient end of that range would lead to Sharapova missing the remaining grand slams this season, including Wimbledon, and the Rio Olympics.