‘Does this ever stop?’ – Ajax star De Jong tired of Barcelona transfer speculation

Frenkie de Jong insists he is no clearer on reported interest from Barcelona as rumours of a switch from Ajax continue to swirl. 

The 21-year-old laid on seven assists in 22 Eredivisie appearances last season and his impressive performances have led to rumours that La Liga champions Barca are considering a move for the Netherlands Under-21 international.

Ajax, however, have continued to deny a deal with be struck.

It is thought that a transfer could be dependent upon whether Ajax qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, with De Jong playing the full 90 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Sturm Graz in the first leg of their second round of qualifying tie.

And De Jong remains none the wiser over the possibility of a move.

 

“The talks about a possible transfer are still going on. I see all the newsflashes, everybody tells me stuff,” he told Voetbal International.

“At first I thought it was kind of funny, but after a while I was thinking ‘does this ever stop?’ But besides all that, my summer was quite normal.”

Barcelona have already flexed their financial muscle in the transfer market this window, signing Bordeaux’s young Brazilian star Malcom for €41 million (£36.5m/$48m) this week.

The winger joins compatriot Arthur and Sevilla centre-back Clement Lenglet in moving to Camp Nou.

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World Cup winner Lemar reveals why he chose €60m Atletico Madrid transfer

Thomas Lemar said discussions with fellow France internationals Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez influenced his decision to join Atletico Madrid as he arrived in the Spanish capital to finalise his transfer.

The 22-year-old signed a preliminary agreement to join Diego Simeone’s side in June , after impressing during three seasons at Monaco where he won the Ligue 1 title in 2016-17.

Lemar made one appearance for France at the World Cup, playing 90 minutes of a 0-0 draw against Denmark before Les Bleus went on to win the tournament and, as he prepared for his medical, he revealed that Atletico players Griezmann and Hernandez had helped him make his mind up about his future.

“I chose Atleti because I like the club and I’ve been following the team for a while,” Lemar told the club’s official website.

“Once the opportunity arose, it didn’t take long for me to make my decision.

“Atleti have been interested in me for quite some time and after what Antoine and Lucas told me, I really wanted to come.”

Lemar was a regular goalscorer in Monaco’s title-winning side, finding the net nine times and providing 10 assists in a side that also featured Kylian Mbappe and Benjamin Mendy.

He only managed two goals in 2017-18 as Monaco finished second but his performances were enough to persuade Atletico to sign him in a deal reported to be worth €60m (£52.9m/$70.5m).

“I’m very happy to be in Madrid and I can’t wait to meet my team-mates,” Lemar continued.

“I want this [chapter] to start in the best possible manner. I can’t wait to start.”

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Arsenal starlet Smith Rowe earned his chance against Atletico Madrid, says Gunners boss Emery

Unai Emery paid tribute to Emile Smith Rowe’s hard work in training after the 17-year-old scored a brilliant equaliser in Arsenal’s International Champions Cup match against Atletico Madrid, saying the academy product earned his chance in the first team.

Smith Rowe started the match in the Singapore National Stadium and linked up well with Alexandre Lacazette in the first half, playing just behind the Frenchman and alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reiss Nelson.

Two minutes into the second half, Smith Rowe darted past two defenders on his way to unleashing a venomous shot into the top corner of the net that levelled the match at 1-1, and though Arsenal eventually lost 3-1 on penalties, Emery expressed his satisfaction with what he saw from his young players.

“It’s a moment for the young players to show their quality, like Smith,” Emery told reporters.

“Arsenal needs to give them the opportunity to work with us and show their quality in each match. Today I think every player plays well in this big game, and this goal [by Smith Rowe] is very good for him and for the team.

“He has grown up in the academy. We need to give the young players the opportunity to play matches like today.

“I’m very happy with his work on the pitch, not only today but every day. He started because his performance is good in each training session.”

Emery handed the captain’s armband to Aaron Ramsey against Atletico and said the Wales midfielder possessed the right qualities to lead his team in 2018-19.

Ramsey is currently involved in negotiations to extend his Arsenal contract, which is due to expire in 2019, and the new manager said he wanted to keep the 27-year-old in North London.

“Aaron is an important player for us,” said Emery.

“For me I want him to stay with us, to work with us, to give the team big performances. I think he is going to stay here with us.”

On the question of Ramsey becoming captain permanently, Emery said: “It’s not yet official, the decision.

“I want five captains in the team. Aaron has the qualities to be the captain.”

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Ronaldo given two-year prison sentence after striking deal over tax charges

Cristiano Ronaldo will accept a two-year prison sentence and a fine worth  €19 million (£16.9m/$22.15m) after striking a deal with Spanish authorities over tax charges. 

The ex-Real Madrid striker, now at Juventus, pleaded guilty to four charges of evasion between 2011 and 2014 worth a total of €14.7m. 

According to EFE, that amount has been reduced in his guilty plea to €5.7m, although taking into account fines, interests and other cost the sum ascends to €19m. 

The charges were initially denied by Ronaldo and his management company Gestifute, with the player answering tetchily whenever questioned over the matter. 

After reports emerged that the Spanish government had rejected an initial offer to settle the case, Cristiano wrote on Instagram “Don’t try to spoil the beautiful moment I’m living through with fake news,” while on another occasion he insisted:  “I do things the right way and I will continue to do so.”

As a first-time offender Ronaldo’s prison sentence will not be made effective, meaning that he will not spend time behind bars. 

Under Spanish law, though, if the Portugal striker re-offends during the duration of the sentence he would then be open to a custodial sentence. 

Ronaldo’s sentence still must be confirmed, which will occur when the star presents himself before Madrid’s Pozuelo de Alarcon court to hear the final verdict. 

The charges and prospective sentence are almost identical to those initially handed down to Ronaldo’s great rival, Barcelona wizard Lionel Messi. 

Messi and father Jorge had been sentenced to 21 and 15 months in prison respectively for tax fraud, having failed to pay some €4.1m owed on image rights. 

But in July the pair saw their sentences commuted in return for the payment of additional fines. 

Other footballers that have fallen foul of Spanish tax authorities in recent years include Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and former Argentina captain Javier Mascherano. 

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Mainz confirm Newcastle move for Muto

Mainz have confirmed the sale of Japan international Yoshinori Muto to Newcastle United, in a deal reportedly worth £9.5 million ($12.4m).

Muto moved to Mainz in 2015 after starring in the J League for FC Tokyo. 

The forward made a total of 71 appearances for the Bundesliga side, scoring on 23 occasions. 

And he is now gearing up for a Premier League switch after agreeing terms with Rafa Benitez’s team. 

“News on Yoshinori Muto. The Japanese is about to change Mainz for Newcastle,” the club announced on Twitter. 

A statement from Mainz added: “Yoshinori Muto will not return to the Bruchweg as planned on Friday after his extended World Cup vacation.

“The Japanese striker is facing a possible move to England in the Premier League.

“The clubs are, as far as the terms of the contract, largely agreed, however, are around the change still time-consuming formalities to be done.”

Muto would be the fourth new face at St. James’ Park this summer, after Newcastle confirmed the signing on Fabian Schar on Thursday. 

Sparta Prague goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and ex-Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung have also arrived, while Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba are the two highest-profile Magpie departures so far.

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