Casemiro & Thibaut Courtois Insist Gareth Bale Deserves to Play for Real Madrid This Season

​Real Madrid stars Casemiro and Thibaut Courtois have offered their support to teammate Gareth Bale, insisting that the Welshman deserves to play for the club this season.

Bale has been heavily linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu this summer amid rumours that manager Zinedine Zidane isn’t exactly his biggest fan. A switch to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning ultimately collapsed, leaving Bale is somewhat of a limbo.

Speaking after Real’s 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday (via Goal), Casemiro insisted that Bale has been such an important player in the club’s history, and he deserves a place in the team as a result.

David Costas,Gareth Bale

He said: “He has given us titles, he’s scored in finals and he has a lot of respect from us all. He has to play. He’s a great player and is very important for us.”

Zidane surprised many by opting to start Bale against Celta Vigo, and the winger responded by putting in a stellar performance. He created ​Karim Benzema‘s opener and was hugely impressive throughout before being withdrawn late on.

On Bale, ​Courtois added: “He is an important player and played a great match. Everyone loves him and it is important that he plays for us. We are so happy with Bale.”

Zinedine Zidane

Courtois’ feelings were clearly echoed by Zidane, who also insisted that Bale will stay with the club for the upcoming season, and that his decision has nothing to do with the injuries to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard.

Last season, the 30-year-old made 42 appearances in all competitions, racking up 14 goals and seven assists. However, his output dropped hugely following Zidane’s arrival, and Bale often found himself used as a late substitute in games.

Fortunately for Bale, after an impressive pre-season, he appears to have played his way back into Zidane’s team, and his good form on Saturday will likely help him stay there.

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Kane vs Sterling: Premier League Fans Vote on the Biggest English Goal Threat

Premier League fans have revealed who they think is the bigger English talent between Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, in an online poll for ​Virgin Media. 

Debates like this have raged for years in English football, with the two biggest stars from the last generation – Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – polarising opinion, with fans never able to definitively decide who was the superior player. 

Both retired into management in the last few years without ever establishing themselves as superior to the other, and we’ve since moved onto a new generation of English talent. 

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The Gareth Southgate generation has its debates to settle too though, and when Sterling’s ​Manchester City took on England captain Kane’s ​Tottenham on Saturday evening, we saw arguably the two best of this crop of players hash out a 2-2 draw. 

On the day, it was Sterling who showed more of what he can do, as he headed in his fourth of the season to put his side into an early lead, while Kane – after scoring a double against Aston Villa last weekend – was often left isolated up front. 

Their early season form was reflected in the results of the poll, as Sterling emerged victorious with a pretty definitive 66% of the vote.

Of course, the two play in different positions, with Sterling operating as a wide forward while Kane occupies a central role, so it is difficult to fairly compare their vastly different skillsets. 

If you were assessing on goals alone, then Kane would be the clear winner. He’s netted 87 goals in his last 100 appearances at club level while Sterling has managed a ‘mere’ 53 in his last 100.

However, Sterling has also assisted 35 goals in the same time, helping City to successive Premier League titles and an unprecedented domestic treble last season, and it seems fans see his wider contributions to the Manchester City juggernaut over the last few seasons as indicative of a brighter star than that of Kane. 

Only Virgin Media gives you all the football on Sky Sports and BT Sport in one package.

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7 of the Best Moments From an Enthralling Weekend of Premier League Action

Sure, the Premier League returned last weekend, but this weekend it really felt back. Like, really. Great football was had all round: great drama, great goals, great face saves, great everything.

The Best League in the World™ is back. And it’s here to say. Let’s have a look over the Greatest Hits from this gameweek.


Best Goal 

Sadio Mane

Liverpool didn’t play that well against Southampton, but it’s fine, because that’s usually the preface for ‘but, in a champions-elect fashion, they still managed to get the win, COS THAT’S WOT CHAMPIONS DO’. 

While that may not stand up to scrutiny, there’s no scrutinising Sadio Mane’s opener. I’ll admit, I’m almost as big a fan of Roberto Firmino’s squirming second, but there was just something about the consummate ease with which Mane bent that strike, when his side needed it so very badly, that gets him the nod. Welcome back, Sadio. 


Best Assist 

Kevin De Bruyne,Kyle Walker-Peters

If last week was all about Raheem Sterling – which it unequivocally was – this one was all about Kevin De Bruyne. Sure, Sterling wasn’t pushed that far down the page with that unexpectedly well-guided header, but the biggest takeaway (at least from this moment) was that stunning cross from the Belgian. 

It was precision and power personified, with both working in perfect harmony. His second assist wasn’t far off, either.


Best Save

Troy Deeney,Jordan Pickford

This has got to be the picture of the weekend, and it perfectly illustrates the save of the weekend. Troy Deeney was in. He was through. After being marshalled by Yerry Mina and Michael Keane for much of the game, the Watford man finally had a bonafide chance. 

And he struck it well. But Jordan Pickford – who is, by most standards, especially the Belgian World Cup ones, a small goalkeeper – made himself big, and his face did the stopping. Steve Smith WHO?! That’s both in bad concussion protocol faith AND a cricket joke. It won’t happen again, I promise.


Best Nutmeg

Nicolas Pepe

I’ll start by saying I was big fan of Alexandre Lacazette’s opening goal, which contained a whole load of grit, fight, determination AND had a nutmeg at the end of it. 

Still, it wasn’t quite as good, quite as humiliating, quite as stand-up-hands-on-head-and-gasp as Nicolas Pepe’s retirement of Ben Mee. The Ivorian has already made a name for himself on the Arsenal training ground for shaming teammates in rondo, and this was the IRL realisation of those qualities. Keep mortifying those mortals, Nicolas. It’s what we want. It’s what we need.


Best Harkening Back to the Dark Days of Long Ball, Route One Football 

John Lundstram

Sure, it’s not always pretty, but sometimes there’s nothing like a bit of good ol’ fashioned route one lumping. And, against Crystal Palace, Chris Wilder’s reductive Sheffield United side showed just how effective this can be. 

One lump up top from the centre half, a knock down from Callum Robinson, a crashing finish from John Lundstram. Job done. 

…Hold on, I’m getting word the ball didn’t leave the ground, and that it was an intricate, sweeping, slicing move, involving Luke Freeman cutting in like Franck Ribery in his prime and, yes, a crashing finish from Lundstram. Weird. 


Best Homegrown Debut

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For the first 25 minutes of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea(™)’s 2019/20 Stamford Bridge bow, everything was perfect. The crowd was raucous in a way that the Bridge hasn’t seen since title celebrations, willing the ball in with their endless crowing.

Ultimately, this was fulfilled with ventriloquist-like perfection from homegrown debutant Mason Mount, who closed down on Wilfred Ndidi with all the pashun and vigour of a player who is most definitely one of Chelsea’s own, and finished with the composure of the boss himself. 

Sure, the second-half performance left much to be desired, but in that instant, the perfect distillation of what Lampard’s Chelsea could look like was realised. 


Best VARtervention

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Look, Manchester City fans, I sort of feel for you. But in the grand scheme of things, I really, truly don’t. The fulfilling of your VARian Dystopia was, well, close to Utopia for us fans of the mere mortals. 

The fact that it came against Spurs, and paralleled those Champions League insanities was, well, perfect. I mean, not ‘you couldn’t have written this if you tried’ perfect – this was Chekhov’s VAR if I’ve ever seen it – but, sporting narrative perfect.

Still, let’s not get it twisted, it was also the right decision, and one that likely wouldn’t have reached were it not for VAR’s conniving tentacles. Great stuff all round. 


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MLS Cup: Josef Martinez Breaks Goalscoring Record as Atlanta United Beat Portland Timbers

Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez netted for the 11th successive MLS game on Sunday night as his side defeated Portland Timbers 2-0.

With Sunday’s strike, Martinez set the MLS record for goals scored in consecutive games, overtaking previous record holder Diego Valeri.

Josef Martinez

The Venezuelan has been in red-hot form this season and continued his scoring run when he fired past Portland goalkeeper Steve Clarke in the 46th minute after good work from Julian Gressell.

This was the 16th goal Martinez has netted in this eleven-game span, a truly phenomenal run of form. His electrifying pace and composure in front of goal have been contributing factors to his success, and it’s likely that his antics will be catching the attention of a number of European clubs.

The 26-year-old’s goal was Atlanta’s second of the game, with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s stroke having already given his side the lead. Atlanta now sit top of the Eastern Conference following the win at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Martinez’s goalscoring run is sensational to say the least, but is certainly no flash in the pan – as he has been prolific since arriving in MLS. He scored a record breaking 31 goals last term, which, just like this season, included another remarkable run as he netted 19 goals in just 20 games in his full debut season.

He will be hoping to continue his record goalscoring run as he aims to overtake current league top scorer ​Carlos Vela, who has netted 24 times for Los Angeles so far, three ahead of Martinez’s total.

Carlos Vela,Kim Kee-Hee

Martinez, though, will have the opportunity to extend his scoring the run to 12 games, when he and his defending MLS Cup champions teammates face Orlando City on Friday. 

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Mauricio Pochettino Blasts Early Transfer Deadline & Claims it’s a ‘Massive Mistake’

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has blasted the early closure of the Premier League summer transfer window, labelling it a ‘massive mistake’.

Falling the day before the start of the season, the early 8 August deadline prevents Premier League clubs from bringing in new players. However, it doesn’t stop clubs in other countries from chasing players at English sides, with the deadline for most of Europe on 2 September.

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Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are three key Spurs players who have entered the final year of their current contracts. Should any of the trio now leave, Pochettino’s squad would be left shorthanded until at least January.

“I wasn’t in agreement [with the early deadline] but at that moment they believed that was best for the clubs,” Pochettino is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

“A lot of people now realise it was a massive mistake. I hope that we fix the problem for the next season. I think we need to go back and operate in the same way they do in Europe because I think it’s massive when you go to compete in the Europa League or Champions League.

“Champions League teams can create problems in a team like us and it’s so clear that I cannot be happy as a coach that in the last three or four weeks that certain clubs from Europe can unsettle your team. 

“For me it’s not common sense and we need to go back quick, hope they have a good conversation at the Premier League and go back quickly [to how it was].”

Christian Eriksen

The self-imposed early deadline was first seen in the Premier League last summer. It was intended to protect clubs from having their players unsettled by transfers after the start of the season, particularly those whose players were of interest to ‘top six’ clubs.

Yet it can be self-defeating as players at England’s top clubs can still be poached by the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus or other giants, leaving no option to buy a replacement.

Even if Spurs hang on to Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen, transfer speculation that unsettles the players this month could be damaging to Spurs’ season as a whole. Dropped points in August could well be the difference between fourth and fifth come May.

Jan Vertonghen

Only five clubs voted against implementing an early transfer deadline in the original 2017 vote. They were Manchester United, Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Watford. Burnley abstained. That means that Spurs voted in favour of the change Pochettino now despises.

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