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La Liga

Benzema leaves Real Madrid after 14 years at club

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Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema will leave Real Madrid as a free agent in the close season after 14 trophy-laden years, the LaLiga club said on Sunday, with the striker set to move to Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run Al Ekhbariya television station reported that Al Ittihad had reached an agreement with Benzema on a two-year contract, with club officials in Madrid to hammer out a “record deal” with the striker.

The 35-year-old Frenchman had looked set to stay at the Spanish club for one more year after a 2022-23 season in which he struggled with injuries and missed out on France’s World Cup campaign in Qatar due to another injury.

However, an offer estimated by media to be worth more than 100 million euros ($107.05 million) from Saudi Arabia reportedly made him reconsider his future.

The Frenchman decided to void the one-year extension clause he had in his contract, with Real saying he had “earned the right to decide his future”.

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“Real Madrid and our captain Karim Benzema have agreed to bring his brilliant and unforgettable time as a player at our club to a close,” the club said in a statement.

“Karim Benzema’s career at Real Madrid has been a shining example of conduct and professionalism, and he has represented the values of our club.”

Benzema could follow his former Real team mate Cristiano Ronaldo to the Gulf country after the Portugal forward signed a 2-1/2 year contract estimated to be worth more than 200 million euros with Al Nassr in December.

REAL’S SPEARHEAD

Having joined Real in 2009 from Olympique Lyonnais, Benzema became the spearhead of the club’s attack and their main goal-scoring threat after Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

Benzema scored more than 350 goals for Real to sit second on the club’s all-time scoring list behind Ronaldo.

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He had his best season in the 2021-22 campaign when he scored 44 times in all competitions to lead the side to a record-extending 14th European title as well as the LaLiga crown.

In the Champions League, Real made remarkable comebacks from losing positions in the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals against Paris St Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City respectively — with Benzema scoring in each of the second legs.

His pivotal role earned him the Ballon d’Or crown, making him the first French player to win the trophy since Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and the fifth Frenchman overall.

He finishes his career in the Spanish capital with a record 25 trophies with the club, including five European Cups, four LaLiga titles and three Copas del Rey.

Benzema’s exit comes a day after Real announced Eden Hazard was also leaving the club after agreeing to terminate his contract a year early.

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Real also confirmed the exits of attacking midfielder Marco Asensio and striker Mariano Diaz, leaving holes in the attack for club president Florentino Perez to plug in the close season.

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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La Liga

Napkin used by Barcelona to sign Messi sold for nearly $1 million

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A signed and framed napkin on which soccer club Barcelona promised to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi is displayed at the Bonhams auction house in London, Britain May 8, 2024. REUTERS/Will Russell/File Photo

The napkin on which Barcelona promised to sign Lionel Messi when he was a 13-year-old has been sold for 762,400 pounds ($969,000, auction house Bonhams said on Friday.

The napkin was signed in December, 2000 by Barca’s former sporting director Carles Rexach and transfer advisor Josep Minguella along with Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli over lunch at a tennis club.

Messi became one of Barcelona’s greatest players, winning over 30 trophies and leaving the Catalan club as their all-time leading scorer with 672 goals.

He also won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player and led Argentina to the World Cup crown in 2022. Messi now plays for U.S. club Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

“Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi’s career,” Ian Ehling, the head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said in a statement.

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“It changed the life of Messi, the future of FC Barcelona, and was instrumental in giving some of the most glorious moments of football to billions of fans around the globe.”

-Reuters

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La Liga

Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match –

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Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match -

Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr has heard racial slurs directed at him from the stands before, but when a fan allegedly approached just to racially insult him during a Spanish third-tier league game last Saturday, he decided he’d had enough.

“I grabbed him and asked why he was insulting me. My attitude was not aggressive, I just wanted to ask him why,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Tuesday of the incident in Sestao, a working-class town in northern Spain, which led to the game being abandoned.

“Other times it could be seen as something playful or a joke. However, this was not the case on Saturday, as it was something horrible and I could not stop myself. It was a very sad and ugly thing what they were saying,” he added.

The match between Sarr’s Rayo Majadahonda and Sestao River Club was suspended in the 84th minute after the altercation first led to Sarr being expelled by the referee, who was too far to hear the alleged insults, and then his team mates leaving the pitch in protest.

Racism in sport has been a hot topic in Spain, especially after Real Madrid’s Brazil winger Vinicius Jr, who has suffered from several incidents of racist abuse and is part of a campaign against racism, last year called LaLiga and Spain racist.

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On Saturday, he spoke out in support of those affected on social media again, citing “three despicable cases of racism” on that day alone, including Sarr’s.

Sevilla’s Argentina defender Marcos Acuna and coaching staff were also the target of “racist and xenophobic insults” from fans in a LaLiga game at Getafe, the club said.

Sarr said he was thankful that Vinicius had tagged him on social media showing support.

“If more players said no to racism like he does, they (racists) wouldn’t have the power they have now,” he said.

Reuters

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Sex-convict, Alves Spends First Day Of Provisional Freedom With All-night Party –

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Former Barcelona star, Brazilian Dani Alves, who was provisionally released from prison after over a year in prison celebrated his temporary reprieve with an all-night party.

Although his release from prison was temporary, after he was convicted and faces a 4-and-a-half-year prison sentence, Italian newspaper,  Corriere dello Sport reported that the Brazilian organized a noisy party to celebrate his father’s birthday.

The newspaper indicated that Alves held this party last Tuesday, and continued until five in the morning in the presence of family and friends, to celebrate his father on the one hand, and also to enjoy his freedom on the other hand after spending a long period behind bars.

The camera of the Spanish “Telefónico” network was following the steps of the legend of the oldest Brazilian player to participate in the World Cup, until he arrived at his home, located 25 minutes from downtown Barcelona.

The first thing Alves did after arriving at his home was to order a large amount of “burgers” for dinner, the first meal that the former right-back ate after his release from the “Brian 2” prison in Barcelona.

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According to several Spanish media outlets, Alves distributed his belongings  such as clothes and a small fan to the prisoners who had been by his side for more than 430 days,

Alves, 40, was accused of raping a woman in a nightclub, and was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison last February, before a decision was issued for his conditional release

 

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