Monthly Archives: March 2019

Messi helped convince me to stay at Barca, says Alves

Alves appeared to be on his way out of Barca having failed to agree a new deal by the end of the season and his tearful speech to fans following their Champions League win last weekend sounded like a farewell.


Due to become a free agent at the end of this month, Alves agreed a new two-year deal on Tuesday with an option of an extra year after some choice words from team mate Messi.

“Messi said to me, ‘Dani where are you going to be better off than here?’,” Alves told a news conference.

“For a long time we have said that we have a very good life here at this club and in a fantastic city with an ideal climate.

“Everything influences you when you make a decision. We had the same conversation a year ago when they were talking about (other clubs) signing Leo and me. We realised that nowhere would we be better off than here.”

Alves spoke angrily at a news conference last month when he said he felt that he was not appreciated by Barca.

He had been singled out for criticism during the first half of the season when the team failed to match the blistering start by Real Madrid but in the last few months he hit form as Barca won La Liga and the King’s Cup, as well as the Champions League.

Alves also said that the decision by Luis Enrique to stay at the club was important in making his mind up. The coach signed a one-year extension to his contract that ties him to Barca until the end of the 2016-17 season.

“He has returned the club to the position where it should always have been,” said Alves.

“He restored the motivation, the possibility of winning the treble.

“Luis Enrique has influenced my decision because I like people who work hard and have character. I would compare myself to him especially how he was as a player.”

(editing by Justin Palmer)

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Villa will offer Benteke a new contract, says CEO

“We will offer Christian Benteke a new deal, of course we will,” the American told reporters after a Sport Industry Breakfast Club meeting.


Benteke has been linked in the media to several top clubs, including champions Chelsea, after helping FA Cup finalists Villa avoid relegation from the Premier League with 12 goals in his last 13 appearances.

Although the player has two years remaining on his current deal, media reports have indicated he has a 32.5 million pounds ($50.39 million) release clause and wants to play for a club who have qualified for European competition.

Fox pointed, however, to the example of club captain Fabian Delph who unexpectedly signed a new four-and-a-half year contract in January.

“No-one in the industry would have thought that was something possible or he even should have done and yet he did it,” he said.

“I think it’s very much about the individual and the relationship he has with the club and what his personal aspirations are.”

Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner has been trying to sell the club for some time and has said he will stand down as chairman regardless of whether he secures a buyer.

Fox said it would be good news for the club, who appointed Tim Sherwood as manager only last February, if Lerner stayed on but recognised that the uncertainty over the sale “certainly creates a dynamic”.

“Will that have an impact on how we do things and how quickly we do them? I can’t sit here and tell you that it won’t,” he said.

“I still believe we will be able to make the changes we need to make in the summer to make the squad more competitive for the start of the season.”

$1 = 0.6450 pounds

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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India’s Dhawan returns with ton vs. Bangladesh

On a perfect batting track, Dhawan and Murali Vijay (89 not out) feasted on the hosts’ limited bowling resources even though heavy showers meant only 56 overs could be played at Fatullah’s Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium.


Vijay survived a couple of leg-before appeals while Dhawan was dropped on 73 but India skipper Virat Kohli eventually had reason to feel vindicated after deciding to bat first.

The left-right opening combination presented contrasting batting approaches with Vijay looking tentative while Dhawan, left out of the side from the Sydney test against Australia in January, was at his fluent best.

Spin was introduced as early as the sixth over and Dhawan greeted off-spinner Shuvagata Hom by hitting him for back-to-back boundaries.

In the next over, the 29-year-old southpaw hit Mohammad Shahid, the hosts’ lone specialist seam bowler in a surprising team selection, for three boundaries.

In the final over, before a steady shower held up play for nearly three hours, Dhawan spooned the ball to short mid-wicket where a diving Hom got both hands to it but could not hold on.

The batsman went on to complete his third century from 101 balls after Vijay had helped himself to his 11th test fifty.

Right-handed Vijay brought up the 200-run opening stand with the only six of the day off Jubair Hossain.

India’s 34-year-old off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has played 101 tests since his debut in 1998 but last featured in March, 2013 against Australia, is back in the team.

For the hosts, Litton Das made his test debut as captain Mushfiqur Rahim cannot keep wicket because of a finger injury.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Ken Ferris)

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Baku will be ‘big bang moment’ for Games – Clegg

On a day when Netherlands surprisingly pulled out of hosting the 2019 edition, Clegg said the event was “here to stay.


Azerbaijan, an unusual choice for the inaugural event starting in Baku on Friday, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into stadiums as the nation looks to expand its market share of top sports events.

“What we have done is we have created a big bang moment for the European Games,” Clegg, a former chief executive of the British Olympic Association, told Reuters in an interview at the organisation’s headquarters.

“If you are going to have a big bang moment, particularly if you are going to fight your way into a congested sports calendar, then you want to have it for the inaugural event.”

New, state-of the-art stadiums dot the capital of the energy-rich nation on the Caspian sea where some 6,000 athletes, representing 50 European Olympic Committees, will be competing until June 28.

Preparations for the Games, which are not too far removed in size from the summer Olympics, were completed in under three years when Olympic hosts have a seven-year organisation time.

“When we were awarded the Games in December 2012 there was not one sport committed to the programme,” Clegg said referring to initial hesitation over joining the new event.


“We now have 20 sports, we turned away seven sports. Of the 16 Olympic sports, 12 are offering direct or indirect qualification for the (2016) Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.”

“This demonstrates the event is here and it is here to stay,” said Clegg, adding that future European Games would benefit from this work.

“My aspiration was to establish at some stage in the future this event as the pre-eminent multisports continental Games across the whole of the globe. That is where we have moved this event.”

Hours after the interview with Clegg, however, Netherlands surprisingly pulled the plug on their 2019 event, less than a month after being awarded the European Games’s second edition.

Not everything is rosy for Baku either, however, as Azerbaijan’s human rights record has long been in the spotlight and more questions will be asked as the Games get closer.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have said their officials have also been barred from entering the country, saying the government is clamping down on critics.

“As the COO of an operations committee I am entirely focused on the event,” Clegg said. “There are certain things in my control. I recognise there are some things outside my control. But political questions have to be asked to politicians.”

The big winner, though, even before the Games start, looks to be Azerbaijan as it eyes a possible summer Olympics bid.

“Azerbaijan is capable of delivering very high level major international sport events,” Clegg said. “That was one of their perceived weaknesses when they bid for the (2016 and 2020)Olympics, that they did not have that track record.”

With a string of international events scheduled for the country in the coming years, including Formula One and Euro 2020 matches, Azerbaijan will continue to be on the sports radar.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris and Justin Palmer)

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Games-Cash-strapped Dutch drop hosting of 2019 European Games

The Dutch were the only bidders for an event similar to the Pan-American and Asian Games when they were awarded the hosting rights less than a month ago but the country’s Olympic Committee said it had since failed to win the government’s support.


In a letter to Parliament, Sports Minister Edith Schippers said central and regional governments were unable to provide the money the Dutch Olympic Committee was seeking.

“The sum requested of 57.5 million euros ($65.02 million)for the 2019 European Games is, in this time of scarcity, a burden on the resources that the authorities have at their disposal,” she said.

Dutch media reported that the cities of Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Utrecht had declined to contribute to the financing of the event.

“In major sports such as athletics, equestrian sports and swimming, it is still unclear if the European Games will have enough top sporting substance, bearing in mind the relevant international federations’ sporting calendars,” Schippers said.

The decision could not have come at a worse time for the EOC, which is desperate to pitch the Games as a valued addition to the already crowded international sports calendar.


“This news is disappointing, but we would like to thank the Dutch for their interest,” said EOC chairman Patrick Hickey in a statement.

“I have no doubt that we will be able to present a strong host for the 2019 European Games, but right now our focus remains on ensuring this inaugural edition is the best possible launch pad for Europe’s first continental Games.”

Azerbaijan spent millions building new venues and refurbishing existing ones for an event that will include 20 sports, 16 of which are Olympic ones.

A dozen sports are offering direct or indirect qualification for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics but athletics and swimming, two of the biggest Olympic federations, will not be fielding their top athletes in Baku, taking considerable shine off the project.

The Dutch Olympic Committee, which had planned for nationwide Games instead of just one city to make better use of existing facilities and keep the costs down, said it was “a great missed opportunity for the Netherlands.”

The EOC said it would now resume talks with other potential hosts but said all discussions will be held in private.

($1 = 0.8843 euros)

(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; editing by Ken Ferris)

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