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Real Madrid yet to emerge from Cristiano Ronaldo and Zidane’s shadows: McManaman

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Kolkata : When Steve McManaman, winner of two Champions League gongs and as many La Liga titles, mentions it would be difficult for Real Madrid three times during the conversation, you know how deep he thinks the crisis is this term. Quality reinforcements need to be got but the possibility of being cup-tied in the Champions League means big players joining in the January transfer window is very rare, he said.

“It is easy to say they should get Neymar or (Kylian) Mbappe, or (Eden) Hazard or Harry Kane but they are not available. The best players across the best teams in Europe are all taken and the more Real Madrid struggle, the less attractive the option is,” said the midfielder who made 94 appearances for Real between 1999 and 2003.

“To be honest, I think Real Madrid have been fortunate that Barcelona haven’t been playing very well either,” said McManaman, here for a screening of Sunday’s Clasico arranged by La Liga.

The reasons for Real’s season being ‘more than a little strange’ are many but foremost is the inability to deal with two departures, he said. “The shadow of Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Zinedine Zidane leaving…they have not been able to replace them. They have to find somebody who can score a goal a game like Cristiano. I know it is impossible to do that but what you can do is bring in somebody who has quality.”

Investing in young players — a tectonic shift from the Galacticos’ era — and integrating them with the experience of Luka Modric, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema had Real Madrid doing well but McManaman said, “there comes a point when the team starts to come down because the majority of the players are getting on the other side of 30. That time is now.”

Unrest at Real, which completed a hattrick of Champions League titles earlier this year, with rumours about players wanting to leave isn’t helping. “Whether it is Modric wanting to go to Inter Milan or Marcelo being linked to Juventus, there is a lot of talk coming out of Real Madrid and, normally, everybody wants to stay there until they retire.”

The early surge of Espanyol, Alaves, Sevilla, Valladolid and Levante and Valencia getting into the Champions League does question if not debunk the idea that La Liga is about two or three teams. Going into Sunday’s matches only three points separated the first seven teams. “La Liga is a lot more competitive than it has been,” said McManaman.

A big growth in revenue — a Deloitte report put La Liga’s earnings at 2.9 billion euros in 2016-17, boosted by a 20% growth in sale of television rights which followed a 26% hike in the previous season, making it the second richest football league in the world removing Bundesliga which held that position for over a decade — has helped clubs invest in players, said McManaman.

But revenue of 5.3 billion euros makes the Premiership 86% larger than Spain’s top tier, according to the report. And that could be an important reason why McManaman said Manchester City and Liverpool are the biggest clubs in Europe at the moment.

“The record of La Liga clubs is a lot better in European football but the Premiership is now certainly starting to catch up. Particularly this year. I think it could be their turn in the cycle of being successful in Europe. I think the strongest teams in Europe now are Liverpool and City. Barca are doing okay, they invested well in the summer but are really waiting for them to click,” he said.


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Stokes, Hales fined but free to play for England

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London : All-rounder Ben Stokes and right-hand batsman Alex Hales were fined for their involvement in a nightclub altercation but were cleared to play for England after match bans were either suspended or declared served.

The duo had appeared before a two-day disciplinary hearing after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) charged the pair with bringing the game into disrepute following the September 2017 incident in Bristol.

Stokes was handed an eight-match ban by the disciplinary panel, which accepted that he had already missed that number of games and, therefore, remained eligible for immediate selection.

The player, who was cleared of affray at Bristol crown court last August, was also fined a total of 30,000 pounds ($38,193.00) with half to be paid to charity.

Hales, who faced no criminal charges, was given a six-match ban from England white-ball (one day) matches, of which two had been missed already and the rest were suspended for 12 months — leaving him also available for selection.

He was fined a total of 17,500 pounds, with 10,000 of that sum also suspended.

The pair, who have both resumed their international careers, had risked anything from a warning to the termination of contract.

Each was charged with two counts of breaching an ECB directive concerning acts “which may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket or any cricketer or group of cricketers into disrepute.”

England take on West Indies in three Tests, five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals from January to March.

Stokes had been accused of knocking out Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale in a brawl in Bristol, southwest England, just hours after he had played in a one-day international against the West Indies in September last year.

His lawyer had said in a statement after he was cleared of affray that the case had cost the player the England vice-captaincy as well as his place on an Ashes tour to Australia and other England matches.

“Cricket and family are my life,” the 27-year-old Stokes said in a statement on the ECB`s website.”This incident has been a huge burden for the last 15 months. I am relieved to get back to playing the game that I love without this hanging over me.Although the disciplinary process is now over, I have learned lessons that will stay with me for much longer,” he added.

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Guardiola confident Man City will not face Champions League ban

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London : Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he has received assurances from the club`s hierarchy that they will not be banned from the Champions League over allegations of a breach of UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

European football’s governing body are investigating allegations made in German publication Der Spiegel last month that City`s Abu Dhabi owners inflated sponsorship agreements in order to comply with FFP requirements.

In response, Premier League champions City said information had been “hacked” and that they were victims of an “organised and clear” attempt to damage the club`s reputation.

Punishment for clubs found guilty of breaking the rules could extend to being excluded from the Champions League.

Guardiola, appointed with the task of trying to win Europe`s biggest club prize, said he was calm about the situation.

“We will not be banned, no. That`s what I think because I trust in my chairman (Khaldoon al-Mubarak), with my CEO (Ferran Soriano), what they have explained to me. I trust in them,” the Spaniard was quoted as saying by British media.

“If it happens, because UEFA decide that, we will accept it and move forward.”

Der Spiegel`s report, based on documents received by the whistle blower platform Football Leaks and reviewed by Reuters, in partnership with European Investigative Collaborations, a network of international media, alleged that some of City`s Abu Dhabi sponsorships were three times more lucrative than independent experts deemed they were worth.

City said the claims were “erroneous conclusions and assertions.”

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KU students bags gold medal in 4th International Thang Ta Championship

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Srinagar: Adil Pervaiz Wani -a student of The Business School (MBA-FM) University of Kashmir brought laurels to the Varsity by winning Gold medal in 80+kg weight category in 4th International Thang Ta Championship held at Imphal Manipur after defeating the counterparts from Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and eventually Russia in the finals.

A felicitation ceremony was organised by Directorate of Physical Education and Sports University of Kashmir to honour Adil Parvaiz for shining the name of University at international level.

Dr. Nisar Ahmad Khan, Coordinator Directorate of Physical Education and Sports KU voluntarily presented cash prize as a goodwill gesture for encouragement to Adil Parvaiz and praised his efforts and performance at international level.

He also assured all possible support to him and other athletes in future too.

Dr Khan appreciated the efforts of State Thang Ta Association for deputing him for the event and supporting talented students who excel at National and International level.

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