SportsNet - May 2013
This was always a battle looking for somewhere to happen. As it happens, it will be in France and there is a real irony in that it is Platini`s home country. The current Ligue 1 clubs have introduced rules similar to those incorporated by the Premier League and the EUFA FFP rules which limit unfair financial intervention by rich owners. What also complicates this particular matter is that Monaco is a separate state within the remit of the French Football League. Monaco has a very low tax level so it has an unfair advantage over French clubs who have to pay a much higher rate of tax. That in itself has always rankled the other indigenous French clubs, but now, with the intervention of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, the matter has come to a head, with Ligue 1 saying that Monaco will be banned from entering Ligue 1 unless there is some financial compensation paid to the other Ligue 1 clubs. Quite how that would work is anybody`s guess, but it remains within the remit of the Ligue 1 clubs to decide who they allow into their association, in the same way that Rangers were expelled from the Scottish PL.
Roland Garros is a place where Rafa Nadal can presumably hang his hat at the end of every May----he’s only ever lost one match in Paris, and has won 53 matches. He’ll go down as the best of all-time on clay, and in Monday’s first round action he looked disturbingly mortal. A German named Daniel Brands made a solid effort of taking down one of tennis’ giants, but fell short, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3.
Rafa has looked like his former self so far in the spring of this year after taking a seven-month hiatus to rehab his knee. Since coming back, Nadal has won 32 of his 34 matches on clay and six titles. If Rafa can outlast the likes of Djokovic and Federer he would become the first man to ever win eight championships at a single slam event.
One of the perennial events in La Liga in recent years is the fire sale of players to ensure financial survival; this especially so at Sevilla. Sevilla are in deep financial difficulties and they will need to sell both Navas and Negredo to make ends meet and ensure they are able to play next season without any financial fears.
Surprisingly, it is Tottenham Hotspur who is interested in Negredo as they look for two new strikers for next season. It is likely that Adebayor will leave Spurs as they look to add David Villa in a £15m deal from Barcelona.
Navas is the type of winger with pace and the necessary guile to break down stubborn defences in the Premiership, as well as his ability to take players on and beat them. He is also a very good crosser of the ball and this will be augmented by the addition of Villa as he is more of a traditional centre forward.
With Pelegrini almost certainly taking over as manager at the Etihad, it would not be a problem for Navas to make the move to England. He will fit in very well with like-minded players like Nasri, and it is also rumoured that Isco might also be on Pelegrini`s shopping list.
It has taken six long years, but the San Antonio Spurs are Western Conference Champions once again.
What a statement they made too.
Their 93-86 victory in Memphis over the Grizzlies ensured a 4-0 series sweep, the first in a conference finals since 1993, when the Nets swept the Pistons to claim the Eastern Conference championship. The Spurs have swept two out of their three opponents in the Playoffs thus far, demonstrating the sort of class and team-unity that has become the benchmark of the Popovich era in San Antonio.
There's just no substitute for experience.
Despite their regular season record of 58-24, many believed the Playoffs would be too much strain on this ageing group, who have been wrapped in cotton wool for most of the season, guaranteeing their freshness for the postseason. It seemed to be a bridge too far last season, blowing a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma City and falling at the final hurdle. With another year on the clocks of their star players, it would take a great deal of effort and man-management to get there again.
In a fraught battle with their North London rivals, it appears that Tottenham are the winners for the coveted signature of David Villa, the Barcelona striker, in a deal reported to be worth around £15m. Sources in Spain have suggested for some time now that the Spanish striker would be allowed to leave after a frustrating time at the Catalan club; Villa never fully recovered from a horrific broken leg which almost finished his career.
The move will be seen as a statement of intent from Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, ion the battle to be the `top dog` in North London, with their fiercest rivals, Arsenal, once again pipping them to the coveted fourth place in the Premier League table, thus ensuring a place in the Champions League play offs in July. The signing will almost certainly spell the end for Emanuel Adebayor, who has had a hit and miss period at the club. It will also mean that Jerome Defoe will also fall down the pecking order.